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Cousin of Slain Border Agent Thanks ATF Agents For Speaking Up and Risking Jobs

Robert Heyer (far right) sits on panel with agent Terry’s Mother and ATF agents/ticklethewire.com photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A teary eyed cousin of slain U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry urged ATF to be forthright and provide info to Congressional investigators  about a controversial program — “Operation Fast and Furious” — that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers– all with hopes of tracing them to Mexican drug cartels.

Some of those weapons have been linked to the death of Terry, who was killed in Arizona last December.

Cousin Robert Heyer, a Secret Service agent, at times choked up and unable to speak, testified Wednesday morning before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,  and also talked about what an outstanding person his cousin was and how some of this co-workers referred to him as “superman.” He read a statement on behalf of the family.

He also thanked three ATF agents on the panel who  were highly critical of the program.

“We would like also like to acknowledge the courage and intergry of the three special agents of ATF’s Phoenix field division sitting with us on this panel,” he said.

“We recognize the professional risk you face by coming forward and speaking to the public about an invesitigation that you believe was ill conceived and reckless.”

Agents who testified were highly critical and said investigators  were sometimes pulled off of surveillances’ of the straw purchasers without good reason.  Agent Peter Forcelli called the program a “collosal failure of leadership.”

ATF agent John Dodson said when agents questioned some tactics , he said he was told: “They didn’t have to explain anything to me.”

Committee members said they were concerned the guns in the sting might show up in crimes for years to come on both sides of the border.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the committee, said that Ken Melson, head of ATF, was well aware of the program and got regular updates.

He said Melson was “very much in the weeds” on the investigation.

Agent Terry’s mother Josephine Terry said she wasn’t satisfied with the answers she was getting from the federal government in the case.

It Can’t Hurt to Hire Ex-FBI Director When Going Up Against the Justice Dept.

Louis Freeh

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

If you’re going to hire someone to help in a federal criminal matter, it can’t hurt to get an attorney who use to head up the FBI.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was hired by  Minnesota businessman Nasser Kazeminy, who was under investigation for allegations that he gave Sen. Norm Coleman illegal campaign contributions,  the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Freeh conducted an independent investigation of the allegations.

On Tuesday, attorneys for Kazeminy announced that the Justice Department had decided not to file criminal charges against either one, the paper reported.

The paper reported that late in Coleman’s failed campaign bid for re-election allegations  surfaced that Kazeminy tried to funnel $75,000 to the family of former Sen. Norm Coleman through a Minneapolis insurance company that employed Coleman’s wife, Laurie.

Robert Weinstine, one of Kazeminy’s attorneys, said the allegations had “no credibility,”  account to the Star Tribune.

The paper reported that Freeh, who was hired by Kazeminy to investigate the allegations against him, said that although “these allegations were entirely false, they were repeated in hundreds of local and national media reports” that left the reputations of the two men “injured and tarnished.”

Coleman, who lost to comedian Al Franken,  issued a statement saying the Justice Department’s decision “is welcomed but not a surprise” and that his “political opponents turned those lies into multimillion-dollar attacks against my family and Nasser Kazeminy.”

The paper reported that  Freeh reviewed the facts in the case.

Ron Rosenbaum, a Minneapolis attorney serving as a spokesman for Kazeminy, said Freeh reviewed the previous investigation of the allegations along with numerous documents, according to the paper.

“He went over everything,” Ron Rosenbaum, a spokesman for Kazeminy said. “In criminal defense work, you don’t rely on your client’s word. Kazeminy wanted this investigated from top to bottom because he wanted a clean bill of health.”

The paper reported that On Tuesday, Freeh said that “we found that there were gifts that were made.” He said that Coleman and Kazeminy “have a long-term, personal relationship that goes back to when he was mayor. … We looked at the gifts and we found no wrongdoing and no impropriety with respect to that exchange.”

FBI Wants Colo. Restaurant Video of Confrontation Between Lance Armstrong and Ex-Teammate

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI has an interest in a French restaurant in Colorado — and not for the the Escargots à la Bourguignonne or “Loch Duart” Scottish Salmon on the menu.

The New York Times reports that FBI has requested surveillance video from the Aspen restaurant Cache Cache to look at a Saturday night confrontation between world-famous cyclist Lance Armstrong and former teammate Tyler Hamilton, who is a witness in a doping investigation targeting Armstrong.

Jodi Larner, a co-owner of the French restaurant, told the Times Tuesday that the FBI told her it would subpoena the surveillance tape.

The Times reported that investigators want to see if the confrontation amounted to witness tampering.

Report Says ATF Agent Predicted Death and Congressional Inquiry After ATF Launched Controversial Gun Program; Agents Worried Guns Might be Linked to Gabrielle Giffords Shooting

atf file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

One ATF agent told Congressional investigators  that someone was going to die  from ATF’s controversial gun-walking program dubbed “Operation Fast and Furious”, and he predicted the program would become the subject of a Congressional inquiry.

That prediction by agent Larry Alt was noted in a  51-page report released Tuesday Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.).

It detailed critical comments from four ATF agents made to Congressional investigators about the gun-walking program. The agents worked on the controversial operation that encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels. Some of the guns ended up being used in crimes including in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, authorities have said.

Agents told how they raised grave concerns about the gun program, and were distressed about it all,  but were told to back off.

One agent, John Dodson said, according to the report, that a supervisor was downright giddy that the guns were linked to crimes, saying the supervisor thought it was proof they were on the right track.

“Whenever he would get a trace report back . . . he was jovial, if not, not giddy, but just delighted about that, hey, 20 of our guns were recovered with 350 pounds of dope in Mexico last night. And it was exciting. To them it proved the nexus to the drug cartels. It validated that . . . we were really working the cartel case here,” Dodson said.

The report, released on Tuesday, was part of a blitz this week by Rep.  Issa  and Sen. Grassley to find out information about the ATF program, and to apply more public pressure on the Justice Department and ATF to come forward with information.  Issa, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, held a hearing on the issue on Monday and has scheduled another hearing for Wednesday morning.

“ATF agents have shared chilling accounts of being ordered to stand down as criminals in Arizona walked away with guns headed for Mexican drug cartels,”  Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said in a statement about the report.“With the clinical precision of a lab experiment, the Justice Department kept records of weapons they let walk and the crime scenes where they next appeared. To agents’ shock, preventing loss of life was not the primary concern.”

“These agents have risked their lives working for the ATF and they’ve risked their careers by coming forward to speak the truth about a dangerous strategy that was doomed from the start,” added Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.),. “The report shows the street agents’ perspective on this risky policy to let guns walk. It should help people who are wondering what really happened during Operation Fast and Furious understand why we are continuing to investigate.”

The report, which is highly critical of the Department of Justice, concluded: “Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, DOJ continues to deny that Operation Fast and Furious was ill-conceived and had deadly consequences.”

The report also said that the shooting of  Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords created a “state of panic” within  the group conducting the operation because it initially feared a “walked” gun might have been used.

Agent  Dodson was also  quoted as saying about the operation:

“But every day being out here watching a guy go into the same gun store buying another 15 or 20 AK-47s or variants or . . . five or ten Draco pistols or FN Five-sevens . . . guys that don’t have a job, and he is walking in here spending $27,000 for three Barrett .50 calibers at . . . walks in with his little bag going in there to buy it, and you are sitting there every day and you can’t do anything, you have this conversation every day.”

“And quite frankly, it is unfathomable to me how both sides or any person isn’t completely livid about what we have been doing here. I cannot see anyone who has one iota of concern for human life being okay with this…,” he added.

The Justice Department on Wednesday pointed to a comment from Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. when first learning of ATF agents’ concerns about the controversial proogram:

“Fighting criminal activity along the Southwest Border – including the illegal trafficking of guns to Mexico – has been a priority of this Administration and this Department of Justice.

“The Attorney General takes the allegations that have been raised by some ATF agents about the Fast and Furious operation seriously, which is why he has asked the Inspector General to investigate the matter. The Department has also made clear to law enforcement agencies and prosecutors working along the Southwest Border that under no circumstances should guns be allowed to cross the border into Mexico.”

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Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald Defends Plea With American Terrorist

Patrick Fitzgerald/doj photo

By Sebastian Rotella
ProPublica

The chief prosecutor in a landmark terrorism trial that ended last week in Chicago says a plea bargain with a confessed American terrorist was justified because of his value as a source of intelligence and as a key witness in any future prosecutions.

Jurors last Thursday convicted Tahawwur Rana, a Chicago businessman, after a trial that revealed unprecedented details about the alliance between Pakistani militant groups and that country’s intelligence service. In addition to investigative work by the FBI in the United States, Pakistan, India and Denmark, the case centered on five days of testimony of David Coleman Headley, who confessed to doing reconnaissance for the 2008 Mumbai attacks and a failed plot in Denmark.

Jurors convicted Rana on two of three counts of support of terrorism for letting Headley, a childhood friend, use his immigration consulting business as a cover for his plotting overseas. Headley described the Mumbai attacks as a joint operation directed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group. He testified as part of a plea agreement that enabled him to escape the death penalty for his role in the killings of 166 people, including six Americans, in Mumbai.

Defense attorneys argued that using Headley, a former drug dealer and DEA informant, to go after Rana was comparable to using a whale to catch a minnow.

But in a telephone interview Friday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of the Northern District of Illinois said the information that Headley provided about the inner workings of terrorist groups and the ISI was unprecedented in its scope and detail.

Headley will testify in any future prosecutions of fugitive masterminds such as al-Qaida chief Ilyas Kashmiri and Lashkar’s Sajir Mir, who is charged with a lead role in the Mumbai plot, Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald declined to discuss details of the case such as the politically sensitive decision to indict a suspected ISI officer who served as Headley’s handler and is known only as Major Iqbal.

“In addition to Rana, what we got from Headley was a lot of intelligence,” Fitzgerald said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we would have been derelict in our duty if we didn’t go after a deal with someone who had sat down with Kashmiri, with Sajid Mir, with Major Iqbal, someone who knew so much about these groups and these plots. He gave us 34 more targets in India. It was a no-brainer to me.”

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Rep. Issa’s Committee Probing ATF Released Sealed Document in Criminal Case

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In their apparent zest to learn the truth about a controversial ATF program “Operation Fast and Furious”, and generate public pressure,  staffers working for House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) may have gone too far — at least according to committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

The website Talking Points Memo (TPM) reported that Cummings fired off a letter Monday to Rep. Issa saying the committee improperly disclosed a sealed document which could have compromised a criminal investigation.

Cummings letter said Justice Department officials met with committee staffers on May 5 and told them they had wrongly released the document sealed by a federal judge.

“Your staff stated that they were unaware that the document was under seal when they disclosed it to the press, but they discovered the breach soon afterwards,” Cummings wrote in the letter to Issa, according to the website.

“At the conclusion of that meeting, and at the request of the Department, your staff seemed to agree that consultation would help avoid such mistakes in the future.”

TPM said an Issa spokeswoman did not respond for comment. TPM noted that the letter came after Cummings warned at a hearing on Monday that there was a “dangerous potential to compromise criminal prosecutions” when congressional committees looked into active investigations.

“Some committees have conducted investigations during open federal prosecutions, but in these relatively rare cases, committees have consulted meticulously with the Department to ensure that their actions do not negatively affect ongoing prosecutions,” Cummings said.

“For example, they have reached agreements to consult with the Department before publicly releasing documents or reports, to refrain from obtaining documents relating to certain sensitive sources or methodologies, and to secure limited information against public release.”

Interestingly, TPM noted that back in 2007 Issa argued that the Oversight Committee should hold off investigating Blackwater until the State Dept. finished its probe. The Dems had pushed for the investigation.

“We’re supposed to allow the administration to do its investigation and then we do oversight,” Issa said at the time, according to TPM. “We’re not investigators.”

FBI Forensic Team sent to Yemen to Investigate Attack on Prez Compound

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An FBI forensic team has been sent to Yemen to investigate the attack on the presidential compound that wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the website Global Post reported.

“The FBI is aiding Yemeni law enforcement in their investigation in the attack on the presidential compound. The FBI team arrived in Sanaa last Wednesday,” said a senior Yemeni government official, according to the website.

The website said that the request underscores the close relationship between Yemen and the U.S.

News reports had initially said that the attack might have been the work of a rival tribal group. But some reports say the FBI will be looking at whether al Qaeda was involved, or someone within the presidential circles.

“They are concerned about how the attack was carried out. Everyone is a suspect,” the Yemeni official said, according to the website.

Insurance Firm Isn’t Giving Up on Collecting Money After FBI Agent Smashed $750,000 Ferrari

Latest model of Ferrari F50

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT –– The case of the smashed up $750,000 Ferrari simply won’t go away for the FBI and the Justice Department.

Reporter Ed White of the Associated Press reports that a Southfield, Mi. insurance firm, which is suing the feds to recover money from the crash,  is wondering about the suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident. FBI agent Fred Kingston was driving the stolen 1995 F-50 Ferrari when he crashed it in 2009.

The car had been stolen in 2003 from Rosemont, Pa. and was recovered in Kentucky five years later.

AP reports that Motors Insurance said in a court document filed last week that there was “good reason” to believe that an FBI agent and a federal prosecutor “were taking an extremely rare and exceedingly fast Ferrari out for a joyride.” The car was in the custody of federal authorities after it was recovered.

AP reported that the U.S. Justice Department has claimed it has civil immunity from paying for the smashed car.

The Justice Department had released an email from Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Hamilton Thompson, who was a passenger, AP reported. It said he was invited for a “short ride” before the Ferrari was to be moved from an impound garage, AP reported.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn met privately with both sides on Monday, AP reported. The news agency said the Justice Department declined comment.

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