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Secret Service Honors Its First Black Secret Service Agent Charles L. Gittens on 65th Anniversary

Charles L. Gittens, first black special agent for the Secret Service.

By Steve Neavling

Monday marked the 65th anniversary of Charles L. Gittens becoming the first black special agent for the Secret Service. 

“February 1 carries special meaning to the men and women of the United States Secret Service,” the agency wrote in a tribute to Gittens.

Gittens spent 23 years rising through the ranks of the Secret Service, first serving in Charlotte, N.C., before moving on to posts in New York City, San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Washington D.C. Field Office, where he became special agent in charge in 1971.

Gittens continued to break racial barriers. In 1977, Gittens became the first African American to serve as the agency’s deputy assistant director of the Office of Inspection, a position he held until he retired in 1979. 

During his career, he protected Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B .Johnson, in addition to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. He also participated in notable undercover investigations and was a member of “The Special Detail,” which was tasked with curtailing counterfeiting actives in the U.S. and abroad. 

“Looking back, when I enlisted in the Service, I knew everybody,” Gittens later said. “Knew every agent personally. It is a lot different now. We have steadily expanded, both in size itself or in the area of our responsibility. But the Service is a lot like home, even now. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Gittens died on July 27, 2011 at the age of 82. 

At the time of his death, then-Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said, “The passing of Deputy Assistant Director Gittens represents a sad day for the Secret Service family. Mr. Gittens’ legacy of accomplishments will live on with all those who knew him, as well as all of us who benefitted from the path he created and standards he set as the first African American agent in the Secret Service. His contributions to this agency and this country cannot be overstated.” 

Donald M. Voiret Named Special Agent in Charge of FBI’s Seattle Field Office

FBI Special Agent in Charge Donald Voiret.

By Steve Neavling

Donald M. Voiret, who most recently was serving as the FBI’s attaché to London, has been named special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office. 

Voiret became an FBI special agent in 2002, primarily working counterterrorism cases at the Providence Resident Agency in Rhode Island, under the Boston Field Office. 

In 2007, Voiret began serving as supervisory special agent at the Counterterrorism Division at FBI headquarters. 

Voiret transferred to the Washington Field Office in 2010, serving as a supervisor of the Extraterritorial Counterterrorism Squad.

In 2013, Voiret was promoted to assistant inspector in the Inspection Division, which conducts internal investigations and special inquiries and reviews operational performance and use of enforcement authorities across all investigative programs.

In 2015, Voiret was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Salt Lake City Field Office, where he oversaw the cyber, counterintelligence, and intelligence programs covering Utah, Idaho, and Montana.

In 2017, Voiret became inspector in the Inspection Division. A year later he was named legal attaché in the London office. 

Before joining the FBI, Voiret worked as a law enforcement officer for 16 years in Florida. He graduated from Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Paul Abbate Takes Over #2 Spot at FBI


By Allan Lengel

Paul M. Abbate has been named deputy director of the FBI — the #2 spot in the agency, just under Director Christopher Wray.

Paul Abbate

As deputy director, Abbate will oversees all FBI domestic and international investigative and intelligence activities. He was promoted from the job of associate deputy director at headquarters.

Abbate joined the FBI in 1996 and was first assigned to the Criminal Division in the New York Field Office. He was also a member of the SWAT team.

In 2003, he was promoted to supervisory special agent and transferred to the Iraq Unit of the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters.  He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and served as the senior FBI liaison officer to the Department of Defense.

In 2006, he moved to the Newark Field Office, where he served on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. In 2008, he deployed to Afghanistan as the FBI’s deputy on-scene commander where he led FBI counterterrorism operations. 

He returned to the Counterterrorism Division in 2009 as an assistant section chief, providing oversight of U.S.-based international terrorism investigations. The next year, he moved to the Los Angeles Field Office as the assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism matters.

After several more moves, in 2013, he took over the Detroit FBI Office. A couple years later, he was promoted to head up the Washington Field Office. Near the end of 2016, he was appointed as the executive assistant director for the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch at FBI Headquarters.

Two years later, he was named the FBI associate deputy director.

He replaces David Bowdich. 

Time to Revive Long-Delayed Plan to Build New FBI Headquarters, WP Argues

FBI headquarters, via FBI

By Steve Neavling

The long-planned construction of a new FBI headquarters languished under President Trump. 

Now it’s time to revive the plan “now that facts are back in fashion,” The Washington Post argues in an editorial. 

The Post writes:

Mr. Trump’s meddling derailed an important project that would have saved money and enhanced the security of thousands of FBI employees. Now that he’s gone, the Biden administration should revive the FBI’s relocation to a nearby suburban Virginia or Maryland site.

“The move’s rationale hasn’t changed in the decade since the federal government concluded that the J. Edgar Hoover Building, completed in 1975, had become obsolete to the FBI’s needs. Today, thousands of bureau employees, for whom there is no space at headquarters, are scattered in office buildings around the D.C. region, at significant cost to taxpayers. The danger to pedestrians posed by falling chunks of concrete is such that netting has been installed on the building’s east facade.

The Post said relocation is necessary because the current headquarters is too small to be rebuilt, suggesting a “a nearby suburban campus — of the sort that has worked well for the CIA, in Virginia, and the National Security Agency, in Maryland — would enable the bureau to consolidate headquarters staff in one location, at a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“A new suburban headquarters would also allow for the construction of other features long deemed priorities, including a separate facility for inspecting trucks and a detached utility plant.”

Read the full editorial here.

TSA Workers Authorized to Mandate Masks at Checkpoints

By Steve Neavling

TSA workers, who have been hammered by the coronavirus, can finally require travelers to wear masks at checkpoints and “throughout the commercial and public transportation system.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske signed the mandate Sunday, offering long-needed protection for TSA employees and travelers. The mandate goes into effect on Feb. 2 and remains active until May 11.

“The purpose of this Executive Order is to save lives and allow all Americans, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry, to travel and work safely,” Pekoske’s declaration states. “I specifically direct the Transportation Security Administration to use its authority to accept the services of, provide services to, or otherwise cooperate with other federal agencies, including through the implementation of countermeasures with appropriate departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States in order to address a threat to transportation, recognizing that such threat may involve passenger and employee safety.”

Since the pandemic began in the U.S. in March, COVID-19 has infected 6,304 TSA employees and killed 14.

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Gambino Crime Family

Update: Ex-FBI Attorney Clinesmith Sentenced to Probation for Altering Email in Carter Page Surveillance Case

Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith.

By Steve Neavling

Updated: 7:44 p.m. Sunday-– Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in D.C. to probation for altering an email used to obtain continued surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The prosecutor in the case had asked for prison time.

________________________________

From Friday

The former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty in August to altering an email used to seek the continued surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page is scheduled to be sentenced today.

The Justice Department is seeking a prison sentence of between two to six months for Kevin Clinesmith, who admitted he doctored the email, which was submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). 

Attorneys with special counsel John Durham previously said in a court filing that the case “filed public disgust of the FBI and entire” FISA program.

“An attorney — particularly an attorney in the FBI’s Office of General Counsel — is the last person that FBI agents or this Court should expect to create a false document,” prosecutors Anthony Scarpelli and Neeraj N. Patel wrote. “This Court’s sentence should be designed, in part, to send a powerful message to the community that this type of conduct — falsifying information to hide facts from a court — will not be tolerated.”

Clinestmith faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, but the sentencing guidelines call for zero to six months behind bars. 

Clinestmith’s attorneys are requesting probation and community service. 

“By altering a colleague’s email, he cut a corner in a job that required far better of him. He failed to live up to the FBI’s and his own high standards of conduct,” lead Clinesmith defense attorney Justin V. Shur wrote in a sentencing request.

Clinestmith’s guilty plea stems from the investigation into how the Obama administration investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The email suggested that Page was not a source for the CIA, even though he had a relationship with the agency.

Clinesmith admitted he was guilty but said he believed at the time that his statement about Page was true.

Longtime D.B. Cooper Suspect Died As Skyjacking Case Remains Unsolved

FBI sketches of D.B. Cooper.

By Steve Neavling

Sheridan Peterson, once considered the chief suspect in the D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, has died at the age of 94. 

He died in California on Jan. 8, according to his obituary on Legacy.com, as first reported by The Oregonian on Thursday.

Peterson was a former Boeing employee, experienced skydiver and World War II Marine Corps vet. 

The FBI never determined the identify of D.B. Cooper, making the case the only unsolved skyjacking in U.S. history. But Peterson was long a suspect and one of the few people whom the FBI tested for DNA in 2004. The FBI never publicly cleared Peterson.

A man who went by Dan Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Flight 305 in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 24 and claimed to have a bomb. He forced the plane to fly to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where he got $200,000 in ransom money. He subsequently parachuted from the plane and was never found.

The FBI said it had ended its investigation in 2016, saying the suspect may have died during the treacherous jump. But a year later, the bureau said it may resume the search after a team of private investigators coordinated by a filmmaker found “an odd piece of buried foam” that they believed may be material from Cooper’s parachute backpack.

On the 56th anniversary of the hijacking in 2017, the FBI publicized a letter that someone claiming to be the suspect sent to newspapers.

Ralph Himmelsbach, the lead FBI agent in the case, died in October 2019.

After his retirement, Himmelsbach wrote the book “Norjak: The Investigation of D.B. Cooper” and “The Secrets of the FBI.”