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Weekend Series on Crime History: Mobster Bugsy Siegel and Las Vegas

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTmQ3tk6_vU

Justice Dept. “Surprised and Disappointed” With Subpoena Issued for ATF

atf file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — No surprise, politics is surfacing inside the beltway.

The Justice Department on Friday expressed disappointment in a Congressional committee which issued a subpoena for documents from ATF on a controversial gun program,  saying it had already told the committee it planned to cooperate.

“We  are therefore surprised and disappointed when shortly after we notified your staff of our intent to work with the Committee, you nevertheless issued a subpoena a few hours later,” the Justice Department wrote Friday to the committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa. ”  Despite this unnecessary step on your part, we will review the subpoena and work with the Committee to address your concerns.”

The Justice Dept. response came on the same day  Issa, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced he had issued a subpoena to ATF after the agency failed to a meet the Wednesday deadline to handover documents pertaining to the gun-walking programs Operation Gunrunner and its offshoot, Operation Fast and Furious.

Operation Fast and Furious let straw purchasers buy guns, all with the hopes that ATF could trace them to the Mexican cartels. Unfortunately, some of the guns have been used in crimes.

The letter, written by Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich, also stated:

“As you know the Department has been working with the Committee to provide documents responsive to its March 16 request to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Yesterday, we informed Committee staff that we intended to produce a number of responsive documents with the next week.

“As we explained, there are some documents  that we would be unable to provide without compromising the Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into the death of agent Brian Terry as well as other investigations and prosecutions, but we would seek to work productively with the Committee to find other ways to be responsive to its needs.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, who has been pushing the issue and has been critical of ATF, issued a statement on Friday saying:

“According to more than a dozen whistleblowers from the ATF, the bureau knowingly has allowed assault weapons to be sold to these so-called straw buyers, individuals who illegally purchase firearms in the U.S. and then transport the weapons across the border to resell them to Mexican drug cartels. The ATF officials say the practice was intended to trap gun-smuggling networks operating along the southwest border who supply the violent drug –trafficking cartels in Mexico.”

“The agents warned that the practice was headed for disaster. And, their prophecy came true. Instead of intercepting the assault rifles and hand-pistols, the firearms allegedly were allowed to “walk” across the border, without U.S. interdiction, delivering thousands of guns into violent, drug networks in Mexico.

“Tragically, those who might have given the green light to the ill-conceived strategy may now have the blood of U.S. federal agents on their hands.”

“In December, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in a shoot-out along the southwest border near Tucson, Arizona. Two AK-47 type assault rifles found at the scene were among the firearms purchased illegally under an operation known as “Fast and Furious.” The murder of another federal agent in February also may have ties to this practice. Special Agent Jaime Zapata of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was attacked and killed, with a gun purchased by an alleged straw buyer, while on assignment in Mexico.”

Rep. Issa Explains Why He Issued a Subpoena

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36E8WTZRgNo

Rep. Issa Subpoenas Documents From ATF in Controversial Gun-Walking Program

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A show down on Capitol Hill seems to be getting closer.

The head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform announced Friday morning that he was issuing a subpoena to ATF to force it to turn over documents relating to a controversial gun program “Project Gunrunner” and its offshoot “Project Fast and Furious.”

The subpoena, announced by committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), comes in response to ATF’s failure to comply with a request by the committee to turn over the materials. The deadline was Wednesday. The deadline to comply with the subpoena is April 13.

“The unwillingness of this Administration – most specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – to answer questions about this deadly serious matter is deeply troubling,” Issa said in a statement.

“Allegations surrounding this program are serious and the ability of the Justice Department to conduct an impartial investigation is in question. Congressional oversight is necessary to get the truth about what is really happening.”

Drew Wade, an ATF spokesman, said Friday morning shortly before the subpoena was announced: “We aren’t going to discuss matters of ongoing investigations. He could not immediately be reached for a follow up comment.

The controversy centers on a an ATF program that allowed straw purchasers to buy guns — all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels. Some guns have been used in crimes.

A press release issued Friday morning by the committee stated:

“On March 16, 2011, Chairman Issa wrote a letter to Acting Director Kenneth Melson of the ATF requesting specific documents related to Project Gunrunner, its “Fast and Furious” component, and records related to the death of Border Agent Brian Terry. ATF failed to meet the March 30th deadline for producing these documents and furthermore refused to voluntarily commit to any date for producing them. ”

“Media reports have raised questions about the handling of operations involving gun trafficking into Mexico – specifically the allegation that ATF has had a policy of permitting – and even encouraging – the movement of guns into Mexico by straw purchasers.

“This practice may have contributed to the deaths of hundreds on both sides of the border, including federal law enforcement agents. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who has also been pursuing the matter, recently stated, ‘I’m still asking questions and we’re still getting the runaround from the Justice Department, [t]hey’re stonewalling.’”

“President Obama recently stated that neither he nor Attorney General Holder authorized this operation. His statement did not specify whether Attorney General Holder was aware of this policy or who did authorize it. The Committee’s investigation seeks answers to these questions and the true nature of Project Gunrunner.”

The subpoena requests the following documents, according to the press release:

1. Documents and communications relating to the genesis of Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, and any memoranda or reports involving any changes to either program at or near the time of the release of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General report about Project Gunrunner in November 2010.

Read more »

Cleaning Up Madoff Mess Costing Millions of $$$$$$$$$$

Bernie Madoff

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Like many wild parties, once they’re over, the clean up can be a bear.  Well, the party has long been over for Madoff and the very expensive clean up is underway. And it ain’t close to being  over.

The Washington Post’s David Hilzenrath reports that the clean up  has “unleashed a gusher of cash” for lawyers, accountants and consultants.

The Post reports that the clean up costs last year came to $288 million, and it is likely to grow by $1.1 billion in the coming years.

The Post reports that the money comes from a small, government-sponsored nonprofit organization called the Securities Investor Protection Corp. (SIPC), “which manages the liquidation of failed brokerage firms in much the same way the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. backstops failed banks.”

To read more click here.

Washington Post Editorial: The Not-So Honorable Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry

D.C.’s former Mayor Marion Barry, currently a city council member, has had his share of brushes with federal law enforcement. As you recall in 1990 he was busted in an FBI sting smoking crack in a D.C. hotel room. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges relating to failure to file and pay taxes. His legal indiscretions go on and on. The Washington Post editorial talks about his latest indiscretion. The editorial sums it up best with the headline: “Marion Barry, Still Embarrassing D.C.” — Allan Lengel

The Not-So Honorable Marion Barry/gov photo


By The Washington Post
Editorial Page

WASHINGTON — WHAT IS SO distressing about D.C. Council member Marion Barry’s latest escapade is not his belief that he can live outside the law. That’s old news. What’s distressing is that he seems to be correct in his assessment.

How else to explain the apparent indifference of police and other officials to the fact of Mr. Barry tooling around town in a car not properly registered? That Mr. Barry is allowed to continuously embarrass the people he was elected to serve erodes the city’s credibility and ability to manage itself.

The most recent instance of Mr. Barry (D-Ward 8) discrediting his office involves, as The Post’s Tim Craig disclosed, his use of a car that has “inactive” D.C. tags and that was not registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s against the law for anyone to operate a vehicle not properly registered, and violators face a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 30 days in jail.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

President Chips Away at Fed Law Enforcement Nominations: The latest Being U.S. Atty for Ala. and U.S. Marshal for NY

George Beck Jr./law firm photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — After more than two years in office, President Obama is still chipping away at appointments for U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal.

The latest: President Obama nominated private attorney George Lamar Beck, Jr., a former Deputy Attorney General in Alabama from 1971 to 1979,  for the U.S. Attorney post for the Middle District of Alabama. He’s currently  a shareholder with the firm Capell & Howard. He would replace Leura Garrett Canary, who was appointed by President Bush in 2001.

President Obama also nominated David L. McNulty,  a major in the New York State Police, for U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of New York. McNulty rose through the ranks in the New York State Police. He first joined in 1978.

Ex-ATF Offcial Thinks Funds Could Get Cut or ATF Could Be Eliminated if it Doesn’t Cooperate With Congressional Inquiries

Bernie La Forest/facebook

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In the ever too eager climate to slash budgets, ex-ATF official Bernie La Forest thinks ATF could face some serious  cuts — and even elimination — if it doesn’t start cooperating with Congress and give answers about a controversial gun program known as “Operation Fast and Furious.”

“This refusal is exactly what some politicians want. If the ‘failure to cooperate’ continues, ATF is in for another blood bath . . . maybe a fatal one this go-around,” La Forest wrote in an email to retired and current agents he knows.

LaForest thinks it’s a big mistake that Ken Melson, head of ATF,  has been muzzled and has declined an invitation to speak before Congress. He thinks politicians will pounce on that non-cooperative posture being taken by the agency.  La Forest, an author of two crime novels,  once headed up offices in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Detroit and Kansas City.

His sentiments, expressed to former colleagues in an email on Wednesday comes as  Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep.  Darrell Issa have loudly complained that ATF has refused so far to comply with requests for information about the controversial ATF program out of Arizona that let straw buyers purchase guns — all with the hopes of tracing them to the drug cartels in Mexico. Problem is, ATF hasn’t been able to keep tabs on all the guns that have ended up in the hands of criminals. And reportedly some were used in serious crimes.

LaForest shared his email with ticklethewire.com and David Codrea of the Examiner but added: “Would only ask that you make it clear that this was simply an “opinion” of someone who has been “out-of-the-game” for several years.  I was never muzzled as an ATF manager, even when I and others testified before a congressional subcommittee concerning the 1981 –’82 Proposed Abolishment of ATF under the Reagan Administration.”

“Someone could be setting a trap,” he wrote in the email. ” We saw it happen after Waco . . . our Man said nothing at the Congressional hearings—and an almost apocalyptic period of recrimination and payback took place within ATF.

“The FBI Man could not keep his mouth shut! His BS babbling resulted in more FBI agents, two or three more HRT squads, and more money than could be possibly spent . . . well, in a perfect world at most law enforcement agencies.

“Now, another ATF Director is refusing to testify before Congress. I figure they told him to suck it up and stonewall the committee by his DOJ bosses and people in the White House.”

“This refusal is exactly what some politicians want. If the ‘failure to cooperate’ continues, ATF is in for another blood bath . . . maybe a fatal one this go-around.

“It could be an effortless task, a simple matter–while appearing logical to most uninformed citizens. Cost-cutting measures, directed at government employees, are a ready-made excuse to lop off heads. In 1992 – ‘93, ATF appeared to eat their own by purging nonconformist with a disastrous reorganization scheme where smoke and mirrors were the management tools of the day.

” Another contrived metamorphosis may not work, even if the new team of ATF managers gives away the farm. When Bureau was on the ropes after Waco, the FBI peeled away some great jurisdictional “stuff” from ATF’s naive managers at the time.

“Of course, everyone has an opinion . . . . . . . . as they say.”

Read ticklethewire.com column: ATF Needs to Clean the Manure Off Its Boots Now

Tex. Congressman Says Mexican Cartel Members Plotting to Kill American Agents

Michael McCaul

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A law enforcement bulletin is warning that Mexican drug cartel members  have talked about killing U.S. law enforcement agents on the American side of the border, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported that Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas  said Thursday that  the gangsters were overheard talking about killing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Texas Rangers.

AP reported that the plot involved Mexican using AK-47 assault rifles to shoot from Mexico into the U.S. In February, ICE agent Jaime Zapata was shot to death and another agent he was with was wounded in Mexico.

Authorities are offering a reward of up to $5 million in the case.