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Shake Up at the Phoenix ATF Division Related to Operation Fast and Furious

William Newell

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — There’s been a shakeup at the Phoenix office of ATF, which has come under heat for the controversial gun walking program dubbed Operation Fast and Furious, ticklethewire.com has learned.

Thomas E. Brandon, special agent in charge of the Detroit office, has been temporarily assigned to head up the Phoenix office, according to knowledgeable sources.

Brandon will fill in for the Phoenix special agent in charge, William D. Newell, who has been sent to Washington to help prepare and answer questions about Operation Fast and Furious for Congress and the Office of Inspector General, the sources said.

Newell joins Jim Needles, an assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix Division, who has been temporarily assigned to Washington to also help prepare answers for the various inquiries, sources said. Another assistant special agent in charge of the Phoenix office has taken a sick leave. It is unclear where all the agents involved in the moves will wind up, and whether they’ll return to their old posts.

Scot L. Thomasson, chief spokesman for ATF, did not immediately respond to a call from ticklethewire.com for comment.

Some key members of Congress have been highly critical of the Fast and Furious program and have been pressing for answers.  The program encouraged straw purchasers to buy guns, all the with hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels.  ATF lost track of some of the guns which ended up being used in crimes.  That triggered a public outcry from Congress and the Mexican government.

Column: Barry Bonds Fed Trial About “America’s Discomfort With Prominent, Powerful, Wealthy Black Men”

Editors Note: The jury in the Bond’s case begins its fourth day of deliberations on Wednesday. He faces charges of making false statements to a grand jury about steroid use and obstruction of justice.

By WILLIAM C. RHODEN
The New York Times

The trial of Barry Bonds has always been more than a simple case of pursuing a bad guy and proving that he lied. The chase and the subsequent trial have been as much about a baseball era driven by vanity and greed, and fueled by performance-enhancing drugs.

But the eight-year pursuit of Bonds also reflects America’s discomfort with prominent, powerful, wealthy black men.

That might seem like an incredible statement to make in a nation that elected Barack Obama as its first black president. But Obama, who has had his citizenship questioned and has been heckled by a member of Congress, has a place among men including Jack Johnson, Paul Robeson, Muhammad Ali and Bonds.

In good conscience one could never put Bonds on par with Ali or Robeson and certainly not with the president of the United States.

Bonds’s historical antecedent is Jack Johnson, who became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908.

Johnson lived a fast, unapologetic lifestyle. He incensed some blacks and enraged many whites by openly keeping company exclusively with white prostitutes and marrying at least one.

To read more click here.

Ex-FBI Agent Responds to Column

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office. He writes a column for ticklethewire.com. Stejskal sent this response to William Rhoden and shared it with ticklethewire.com. The response below by Alan Gershel was also sent to Rhoden and shared with ticklethewire.com.

The author (right) Greg Stejskal and University of Michigan coach Bo Schembechler

By Greg Stejskal

I generally agree with your premise about the prosecution of Barry Bonds as a misuse of money, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to compare the Bonds prosecution to that of Jack Johnson.

If Bonds did lie to the Grand Jury, it is a felony and arguably the Grand Jury process would not be viable if witnesses were allowed to lie under oath with impunity.

There is precedent for such prosecutions of perjury in similar circumstances. In the Michigan Fab 5 case, only Chris Webber, of all the University of Michigan players who testified, lied about having received money from Eddie Martin. Those that admitted having received the money were not prosecuted. Webber was prosecuted for perjury and he ultimately pleaded to a felony.

In the FBI steroid case (Equine) I was involved in, we did not pursue users no matter whether they were high-profile athletes. We focused only on the dealers, but at the culmination of the case in 1994, I warned MLB (Major League Baseball) about the problem and was ignored.

I’ve often wondered if we shouldn’t have prosecuted some of the athletes. In the long run it might have avoided some of these problems.

I wrote a piece about why Roger Clemens should be prosecuted. Despite what you say about that prosecution being forced on the Department of Justice, I think the arguments I make apply to both cases.   (Here’s a column I wrote on the steroid problem and Clemens)

Ex-Federal Prosecutor Alan Gershel Also Responds

Alan Gershel worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for nearly 30 years, and was chief of the Criminal Division from 1989 to 2008. He is currently a full-time professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills, Mi.

Alan Gershel/cooley law school photo

By Alan Gershel

Dear Mr. Rhoden: as a former federal prosecutor, I read your article regarding the prosecution of Barry Bonds with great interest. You have stated that Barry Bonds was prosecuted for his “unlikability” and that the government’s effort”was a colossal misuse of time and money…”

You also seem to suggest that protecting a grand jury investigation is an “altruistic goal” not worth pursuing. I respectfully disagree. The prosecution of Barry Bonds is eminently justifiable.

A grand jury investigation is a search for the truth. Its success depends almost entirely on witnesses, who have been placed under oath and who are advised of the consequences should they fail to do so, telling the

truth. Perjurious testimony is an anathema to a search for the truth.

I am assuming we can agree that the nature and scope of the government’s investigation was a serious and legitimate one. If you do concur, then witnesses who may have information regarding the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball are legitimate witnesses. Once called and placed under oath, they cannot intentionally lie with impunity.This is what the prosecution is about.

It is not about the personality or race of Mr. Bonds. To have ignored his alleged false testimony, would have been giving Mr. Bonds favorable treatment because of his celebrity or the government’s fear of controversy. An unacceptable result, assuming there was sufficient evidence to prosecute.

Finally, an important deterrent message flows from a case of this nature that hopefully will have an impact on future investigations.

Tall Order: FBI Officials Try to Recruit an NBA Forward

Gerald Wallace/wikipedia

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI knows about good public relations. Portland, Ore., is a case in point.

The TV station FOX 12 in Portland reports that FBI agents showed up to a Portland Trailblazer basketball practice in suburban Portland this week to reach out to player Gerald Wallace, 28,  as a potential recruit and remind him to keep the bureau in mind.

The station reported that when the 6- foot 7 forward arrived in Portland “he mentioned he’d like to join the FBI when he gets done in the NBA.”

So, special agent in charge Art Balizan, assistant special agent in charge Alan Peters, public affairs specialist Beth Anne Steele and retired Portland FBI agents Bob Hanis and Dick Bittner showed up, the station reported, and gave Wallace an official FBI hat, sweatshirt and honorary badge.

The station reported that the agents also gave Wallace some information about joining.

The station reported that new agents must between 23 and 37 and have a four year degree and working experience.

FBI Document Raises Questions About Authenticity Of Nazi ID in Demjanjuk Trial

simon wiesenthal center

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An FBI report is creating a major stir for the Ukranian-born John Demjanjuk, who is on trial in Germany for Nazi war crimes.

The Associated Press reported that a newly declassified FBI document from 1985 raises questions about the authenticity of a Nazi ID card that shows Demjanjuk, 90, served at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.  The ID is considered a key piece of evidence. Demjanjuk has denied the allegations of war crimes that center around murders at the camp.

The FBI report suggests the Soviets may have forged the ID.

AP reported that defense attorney Ulrich Busch gave the AP story on Tuesday to the judges in the Munich trial and said he wants them to suspend the trial to give him time to look into the matter. The judges made no immediate ruling.

The story shows “prosecutors did not introduce all the possibly exculpatory evidence from the United States here,” Busch told the court, according to AP.

Prosecutor Hans-Joachim Lutz told the court the card has been examined by several experts who insist it is genuine.

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NY Crime Boss Testifies in Court; Makes Mafia History

Joseph Massino/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In what’s being billed as a first, a boss of one of the five New York crime families took the stand Tuesday to testify in court for the government.

No New York boss had ever done that before, though it’s generally accepted that the code of silence aint’ what it used to be in the mob.

Joseph C.  Massino, 68, who headed the Bonanno Crime Family in New York for 14 years, and is now behind bars, testified in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn against his successor,  Vincent Basicano,  who is accused of killing Bonanno associate Randolph Pizzolo, the New York Daily News reported. Basciano is already serving a life sentence for a murder and racketeering conviction in 2007.

Massino testified Tuesday that while in prison with Basicano, he  recorded him talking about the killing, the Daily News reported.

“He told me that he had him killed,” Massino testified.  “He said he was a scumbag, a rat, a troublemaker, a bad kid.”

The New York Times reported that Massino became a government snitch after his July 2004 conviction for murder and racketeering. At the time, the government talked about going after the death penalty against Massino. But Massino, as part of his plea,  pleaded guilty to eight more murders and got two consecutive life terms. On the upside, his wife and daughter were allowed to keep their homes.

After his conviction, the Times reports, that Massino offered up info that Basciano was plotting to kill a federal prosecutor and U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, who is presiding over the current trial.

Attorney Barry Levin, who represented Basciano in a 2006 trial,  told the Times that Massino was a “pathological liar” and that the government “had welcomed him with open arms only to prove they could break a boss.” He also said the prosecution was a waste of millions of dollar of government money considering Basciano is already serving a life sentence.

Basciano faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

Read NY Daily News Story

Read NY Times Story

FBI Intercepted 30,000 Phone Calls in NY Public Corruption Probe

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

That’s a whole lot of chatter.

The New York Daily News reports that the FBI intercepted 30,000 phone calls in a corruption probe involving N.Y. state Sen. Carl Kruger, who is charged with allegedly taking $1 million in bribes to help a developer, a lobbyist and two hospital execs.

The feds also indicted Brooklyn Democrat Assemblyman William Boyland and six others on corruption charges, the Daily News reported.

Prosecutors said Kruger often spoke cryptically,according to the Daily News. He was overhead on a wiretap saying he was “anti-mail … emails are never innocuous … even the weather report.”

FBI Commemorates Deadly 1986 Shootout That Killed 2 Agents and Wounded 5 Others

FBI Dir. Robert Mueller/fbi file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and former director William Webster were among several hundred law enforcement folks who gathered in North Miami Beach Monday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of one of the most horrific events in the agency’s history that ended with two agents dead and another five wounded, the Associated Press reported.

The incident happened in Miami when William Webster headed up the FBI, and resulted in the agency using more powerful weapons and taking other action to better prepare agents for potentially deadly confrontations, AP reported. Agents Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry Dove were killed.

Others attending the ceremony included  retired agent John F. Hanlon Jr. who was wounded in the incident, AP reported.

“I’m very, very proud of what we did that day. We all did our duty. And we did the best we could,” Hanlon said, according to the AP. “They laid down their lives gallantly for their country.”

On April 11, 1986, the FBI agents tracked down two bank robbers who were responsible for shooting several guards. They forced the robbers in a car  to pull over.

The robbers opened fire with a shotgun and a .223-cal. Ruger Mini-14 rifle, “which packed more power and carried more ammunition than anything the agents had,” AP reported. “Some had semiautomatic handguns and one had a 12-gauge shotgun, but many only were armed only with difficult-to-reload revolvers. Only two wore body armor, and even that wasn’t strong enough to stop the rifle’s rounds.”

Five other agents were shot and wounded including Edmundo Mireles Jr., who shot and killed both suspects, AP reported.

Mueller described the shootout as “one of the most difficult and dangerous days in the history of the bureau,” AP reported.

Since 1925, 36 FBI agents have been killed in the line of duty, AP reported.