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Some Rank and File in DEA Hail Nomination of Acting Chief Leonhart for Permanent Post

dea_color_logo
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Some of the rank and file in the Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday  hailed the long awaited decision by President Obama on Monday to nominate acting DEA chief Michele Leonhart for the permanent post. She must now get confirmed by the Senate.

“She’s good for the agency,” said one DEA agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because agents aren’t authorized to speak to the press without permission. “She’s one of us. She came up through the ranks. You get the impression she understands what the working agents go through.”

The agent said she got added kudos among the ranks when she took time to meet with the families of three DEA agents who were killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in October.

Another DEA agent added: “She knows our faults and she knows our strengths. She’ll enhance our strengths and close the gaps on our flaws. She’s very nice, she’s smart, she’s a hard worker.”

The agent acknowledged she may have made a few enemies along the way working for the Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates wrongdoing within the agency.

Also on the downside, agents acknowledged that Leonhart, who has been acting administrator since 2007, has gotten a rap  for being too indecisive at times.

But they said the indecisiveness comes, at least in good part, as a result of being an acting chief who has limited power. They said that should change if she’s confirmed for the top spot.

William Coonce, a retired DEA special agent in charge of the Detroit office, said :”She’s  outstanding. I’m glad for her and I’m glad for the agency.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

A Bizarre Watergate-Like Caper: 4 People Including Son of Acting U.S. Attorney Busted for Tampering with La. Sen. Landrieu’s Office Phones

Sen. Landrieu/gov photo

Sen. Landrieu/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In a bizarre incident that had a vintage Watergate feel about it, the FBI on Monday busted the son of the acting U.S. Attorney in Shreveport, La. and three other people for tampering with the phones of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in her downtown New Orleans office, federal authorities announced on Tuesday.

An FBI affidavit did not specifically say the men were trying to tap the phones, but some media reports did. But there’s no indication that bugging was involved and it’s unclear what their mission was.

The Associated Press reported that conservative activist James O’Keefe, 25, who once posed as a pimp to target the community group ACORN, was in Landrieu’s New Orleans office Monday when Robert Flanagan and Joseph Basel, both 24, showed up dressed like phone repairmen claiming they were there to work on the phones . Flanagan is the son of acting U.S. Attorney Bill Flanagan.

Flanagan and Basel then asked for access to a reception desk phone and the phone closet, according to the news service  and an FBI affidavit. And O”Keefe videotaped the two men on his cellphone, authorities said.

U.S. Marshals arrested the men. A fourth man, Stan Dai, 24, was also arrested, the AP reported, saying he was allegedly involved in the planning of the scheme.

Authorities did not say why the men were tampering with the phones.

Read New Orleans Times-Picayune Story

Acting DEA Head Michele Leonhart Nominated to Take Post Permanently

DEA's Michele Leonhart/dea photo

DEA's Michele Leonhart/dea photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — As expected, President Obama has nominated acting head of the DEA Michele Leonhart to take on the post on a permanent basis.

The announcement came in a White House press release issued on Monday. She had been one of four candidates being considered for the job. Ticklethewire.com  first reported last year that she was expected to get the nod from Pres. Obama.

One of the other candidates, John Pistole, deputy director of the FBI, had been considered the lead candidate for a while, but that changed.

Leonhart, a former Baltimore cop, joined the DEA in 1980 and rose through the ranks to become deputy administrator in 2004. In 2007, she became acting administrator, the top post in DEA, after Karen Tandy resigned.

N.Y. U.S. Atty Charges ex-Guatemala Pres. With Money Laundering Stolen Cash

Ex-Pres. Portillo

Ex-Pres. Portillo

Update Tues: 4:10 p.m.: The U.S Attorney’s Office announced that President Alfonso Portillo, who had been on the run, was arrested this afternoon in the Guatemalan state of  Izabal.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara  said former Guatemala President Alfonso Portillo — who is on the run — had converted the presidency into “his personal ATM.”

That pointed remark accompanied an announcement on Monday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had indicted Portillo for embezzling millions of dollars from charities and government coffers and laundering the money in American and European banks.

“Alfonso Portillo is charged with converting the office of the Guatemalan presidency into his personal ATM,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

He served as president from 2000 to 2004.

Read more »

Could N.Y. Trial of Pakistani Scientist be Preview of the Pending Trial of 9/11 Suspects?

new york city3 cabsBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Manhattan federal trial of a Pakistani scientist accused of trying to shoot U.S. soldiers while being detained in Afghanistan continues to be a reminder of what troubles could lie ahead when suspected 9/11  mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others stand trial in the Big Apple.

The New York Times reported that scientist Aafia Siddiqui was twice ejected from court Monday for loudly proclaiming her innocence.

On top of that, “a spectator who pointed his thumb and index finger like a gun at the jury while mouthing an expletive was taken into custody and later released,” the Times reported.

The paper reported the judge later dismissed two jurors who said they felt threatened.

”They were visibly upset,” a court official said, according to the Times.

To read more click here.

Blago’s Name-Dropping Attorney Invokes the Names of Tony Soprano, Pres. Obama and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

tony-sopranoBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s not everyday, within the confines of a five-page court filing, that a defense attorney gets to cram in the names Tony Soprano, President Obama and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But Sam Adams, who represents the fiesty ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich,  did just that the other day in a response to a government filing.

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

As part of the pretrial discovery process,  Adams is asking that the government turn over interviews by the FBI  of “White House family and staff, not the least of whom is the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”

“What justification can the government offer for the government’s refusal to provide material?” he asks, and goes on to cite the government’s reluctance to provide a witness list out of concern for the security and possible harassment of witnesses.

“The government’s alleged concern about the harassment and security of witnesses… cannot be taken seriously,” he wrote. “This defendant is Rod Blagojevich, not Tony Soprano. This is the trial of the former governor for alleged non-violent offenses, not a replay of the “FAMILY SECRETS” trial.

Khalid Sheik Mohammad

Khalid Sheik Mohammad

“A government confident enough in its own rectitude to try purported terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed  in a United States District court in New York should likewise be secure enough to provide the accused former Illinois with the requested statements of the President of the United States. What next, a government motion to limit the tapes to only those the government wants played at trial?”

Read Motion

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Nebraska Man Pleads Guilty to Attacking Scientology Websites

No invite from Cruise/paramount pictures photo
No invite from Cruise/paramount pictures photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Don’t expect to see Brian Thomas Mettenbrink at the next red carpet event for Scientologists Tom Cruise or John Travolta.

Menttenbrink, 20, of Grand Island, Nebraska, pleaded guilty Monday in Los Angeles  federal court  to participating in a ploy to shut down the Church of Scientology websites in January 2008, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Under his plea agreement, he will serve a one year prison sentence.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Mettenbrink participated in the attack on the Scientology websites that was orchestrated by a group that labeled itself ‘Anonymous.’”

Authorities said the group led protests against the Church of Scientology at various locations across the country, and in January 2008 announced a new offensive against Scientology.

Mettenbrink admitted downloading computer software from an “Anonymous” message board to bombard Scientology websites with  an inordinate amount of traffic to shut them down, authorities said.

Dmitriy Guzner, of Verona, N.J. was sentenced last year to one year and one day in federal prison for her role in the attacks.

Detroit Area Man Who is Popular Muslim Singer Charged with Lying About Links to Hamas

detroit1By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A suburban Detroit man charged with lying about his ties to a Hamas-linked charity, the Holly Land Foundation, is a well-known singer in the Muslim world, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The paper reported that Mohamad Mustapha Ali Masfaka, 47, of Farmington Hills, Mich., who is also known as Abu Ratib, sings frequently to Muslim and Arab audiences in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, his attorney Doraid Elder told the Free Press on Monday.

The Syrian born man was arrested last week while trying to enter the U.S. from Canada via the  Ambassador Bridge,  authorities said.

He is charged with attempted naturalization fraud, making false statements to FBI investigators and immigration officials, and perjury, a press release said.

Authorities alleged that he misled them when they were probing the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based Muslim charity that was convicted in 2008 of helping to fund Hamas.

The Free press reported that he sang at Holy Land events and was paid by check for his help. Authorities say he ran the group’s Detroit area operation in the late 1990s.

For Full Story