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Whistleblowers Accuse High-Ranking DOJ Official of Injecting Politics into Hiring

By Steve Neavling

Two whistleblowers have accused a high-ranking Justice Department official of injecting politics into the hiring process by appointing an inexperienced attorney over more qualified candidates. 

Jeffrey Bossert Clark was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s Civil Division when he conducted a bogus interview process for the assistant director position of the Civil Division, the whistleblowers alleged in documents obtained by NPR.

The whistleblowers are calling for an investigation in a letter to House and Senate lawmakers and the DOJ’s inspector general. 

The appointment came just days before Clark left the post in January. 

The five-page letter states that Clark appointed an attorney who “volunteered and was part of the DOJ litigation team defending a controversial Trump administration policy … that barred pregnant, unaccompanied minors in federal immigration custody from obtaining abortions.”

In an email to CNN, Clark defended the appointment. 

“Civil Division managers sent me three candidates to interview, each of whom they rated well-qualified. I interviewed all three using the same process I had used for other positions. I think it’s very unfortunate that the disappointed applicants would attack their own colleague’s selection,” he said. “That candidate had strong leadership qualities and was the best qualified. Pointing to that lawyer’s work on the Garza litigation, with a D.C. Circuit decision that came out years befoe I joined the Civil Division, is just a baseless attempt to cast aspersions.”

Senate Confirms Merrick Garland as Attorney General

By Allan Lengel

Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Well, the second time was the charm.

After failing to even get a vote before the Senate on his Supreme Court nomination in 2016, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Merrick Garland as the new attorney general.

The vote was 70-30, with nearly half the Republicans voting in his favor.

Garland is known as a moderate.

Before the vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Garland had a “long reputation as a straight-shooter and legal expert” and that his left-leaning views were “within the legal mainstream,” the Washington Post reports.

Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, issued a statement after the confirmation:

“We congratulate Judge Garland on his successful confirmation vote today. During this confirmation process, we were encouraged to hear that he agrees with us on many very important drug policy issues, such as allowing states to regulate marijuana without fear of federal intervention, eradicating the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, and ending mandatory minimums.”

Biden Administration Calls on Iran for Answers on 14th Anniversary of Robert Levinson’s Disappearance

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared while in Iran.

By Steve Neavling

On the 14th anniversary of Robert Levinson’s disappearance on Tuesday, President Biden’s administration called on Iran to return the former FBI agent to his family and provide answers about what happened to him. 

Levinson, whose 73rd birthday is today, disappeared while on Kish Island, a tourist spot off the coast of Iran. He worked part-time for the CIA, and U.S. officials believed he died while in Iranian custody. 

“For 14 years the Iranian government has denied the U.S. government, the FBI, and most importantly, the Levinson family any answers about the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said. “The FBI continues to mourn the loss of our beloved friend and colleague, and the Levinson family continues to grieve the loss of their husband, father, and grandfather. It’s appalling that the Iranian government has yet to cooperate, and we, along with our interagency partners, remain resolute in our efforts to investigate and seek the truth of what happened to Bob.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Levinson’s family.

“I was honored to speak with the Levinson family yesterday,” said Blinken, according to a State Department release. “Since his abduction in 2007, Bob, a father and husband, has missed graduations, marriages and the birth of all but one of his grandchildren. Bob’s family continues to advocate for the answers about what happened after he went to Kish Island in Iran 14 years ago.”

Blinken added, “We call on the Iranian government to provide credible answers to what happened to Bob Levinson, and to immediately and safely release all U.S. citizens who are unjustly held captive in Iran.”

Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. “will remain resolute in our support to the Levinson family and our commitment to pursuing justice for Mr. Levinson and his family.”

“After 14 years and repeated, persistent efforts to secure Iran’s cooperation in locating Mr. Levinson, we are still without answers,” Psaki said. “Nevertheless, we will continue to demand answers and to hold Iran accountable for his abduction, detention, and probable death. We will not relent until all of our citizens who continue to be wrongfully detained in Iran and around the world, are returned to their families.”

FBI Releases New Footage of Washington D.C. Bomb Suspect

Screenshot of the pipe bomb suspect.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI on Tuesday released new security footage of the person believed to have planted pipe bombs outside the Republican and Democratic national committees in Washington D.C. on the day before the U.S. Capitol riot. 

The devices were placed outside the headquarters sometime between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 5. The suspect was wearing a face mask, gray hooded sweatshirt, and black and gray Nike Air Max Speed Turf shoes with a yellow logo. 

“The American people have provided invaluable assistance in this investigation, and the FBI and our law enforcement partners are very grateful for that cooperation,” Steven M. D’Antuono, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said in a statement. “We still believe there is someone out there who has information they may not have realized was significant until now. We know it can be a difficult decision to report information about family or friends—but this is about protecting human life. These pipe bombs were viable devices that could have been detonated, resulting in serious injury or death. We need the public’s help to identify the individual responsible for placing these pipe bombs to ensure they will not harm themselves or anyone else.”

The FBI previously released photos of the suspect, along with suspect’s shoes, the devices, and kitchen timers. 

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call the bureau at (800) CALL-FBI or send an email to tips.fbi.gov. Tips may be anonymous.

Record Number of Migrant Children Stuck in CBP Facilities, Waiting for Shelter Space

By Steve Neavling

A record number of unaccompanied migrant children are stuck in CBP facilities intended to briefly hold adult men. 

Of the more than 3,200 migrant children in the facilities, nearly half were held beyond the three-day legal limit, according to documents obtained by CBS News. The agency is required to transfer children to shelters no longer than 72 hours after they were taken into custody.

About 170 children in CBP custody are under the age of 13. 

By comparison, nine unaccompanied children were held beyond the three-day limit on Feb. 21. 

The children are waiting to be transferred to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HHS told CNN that the Office of Refugee Resettlement “is aggressively working with our interagency partners to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are safe and unified with family members or other suitable sponsors as quickly and safely as possible.”

FBI Was Digging for Fabled Cache of Gold in Pennsylvania Forest, Emails Show

Gold bars, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling

The FBI was digging for a legendary cache of Civil War-era gold in a Pennsylvania forest three years ago this month, according to recently obtained emails. 

In March 2018, FBI agents, led by treasure hunters, trekked to a remote site about 138 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, where legend has it that a gold shipment was lost or hidden during the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, according to the Associated Press.

Since then, the FBI has been mum about why they were digging. The bureau has repeatedly said no gold was uncovered.

The emails were obtained by a father and son who led FBI agents to the state-owned site and have believed the dig did not come up empty. But many documents related to the dig remain sealed, leaving the father and son searching for more clues. 

CBP Makes ‘Massive’ Meth Bust at Laredo Port of Entry

Methamphetamine found in 28 containers. Photo via CBP.

By Steve Neavling

CBP officers at the Laredo Port of Entry seized more than $24.5 million worth of methamphetamine from a tractor-trailer carrying a shipment of acrylic paint. 

The bust comes at a time when federal authorities are seeing a huge increase in meth seizures. 

 “The nation continues to experience an epidemic of drug trafficking and drug dependence,” Acting Port Director Eugene Crawford, Laredo Port of Entry said in a statement. “Nevertheless, as this massive methamphetamine seizure illustrates, our frontline CBP officers maintain heightened vigilance and bring all of our high tech tools and resources to bear against criminal organizations attempting to smuggle contraband into the United States.” 

CPB officers assigned to the cargo facility encountered the shipment on March 3 and referred the tractor-trailer for a canine and non-intrusive imagine system inspection. Officers discovered 28 containers filled with about 1,235 pounds of meth. 

CBP turned the investigation over to ICE-Homeland Security Investigations. 

In October, the DEA made the biggest meth seizure in American history – 2,224 pounds of the drug recovered in California. The announcement came just three days before CBP announced its second largest meth seizure on Oct. 9 at the Otay Mesa Port Entry in San Diego. CBP officers seized more than 3,100 pounds of methamphetamine, along with 64 pounds heroin, 29 pounds of fentanyl powder and 37 pounds of pills. 

Last year, meth overdoses rose 25%. 

Democrats Cite New COINTELPRO Movie in Push to Remove Hoover’s Name from FBI Headquarters

The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington D.C., named after J. Edgar Hoover.

By Steve Neavling

Democrats who are leading a push to remove J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters building are citing a new film that explores the bureau’s former attempts to discredit civil rights activists under a subversive program known as COINTELPRO.

COINTELPRO, or Counter Intelligence Program, existed from 1965 to 1971 and subjected African Americans to illegal FBI surveillance.  

“You take a poll and I would bet 90% of the society has no clue what COINTELPRO was,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn, who was among 23 co-sponsors of a bill to remove the longtime FBI director’s name, said, Yahoo News reports. “This is an ugly part of our past that is not well known.”

The film “Judas and the Black Messiah” depicts the stories of Fred Hampton, the charismatic leader of the Black Panther Party, and Bill O’Neal, the FBI informant who betrayed him. 

Cohen says he hopes the film will spur action on his longtime effort to remove Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters. 

“That movie has gotten a grand reception, and it showed the interactions between the Chicago police and the FBI in the murder of Fred Hampton,” Cohen said. “That was part of COINTELPRO, J. Edgar Hoover’s organized effort to make sure there was not a Black leader who would rise up for civil rights and better conditions in the Black community.”