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DEA to Open New Office to Combat Prescription Painkiller Abuse

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA is opening if first new field office in nearly 20 years in an effort to combat prescription-opioid abuse.

The DEA’s 22nd office will be based in Louisville, Kentucky, where prescription painkillers have been especially problematic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday.

USA Today reports that at least 90 federal drug agents will be redeployed to the Louisville office to open a new front on the battle against prescription painkiller abuse. 

“I know that this crisis is daunting,” Sessions said, referring to government estimates that 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses last year. “But we can, and we will turn the tide.”

FBI Taps Brian Brooks for HQ Post as Assistant Director of the Operational Technology Division

Brian Brooks (FBI photo)

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Brian Brooks is moving up to the post of  assistant director of the Operational Technology Division for the FBI at headquarters.

Brooks most recently served as the deputy assistant director for the Technical Operations and Development Branch in the Operational Technology Division, the bureau said in a press release.

Brooks started his career with the FBI in 1996, and was first assigned to the New York Field office where he investigated counterintelligence matters.

After the Sept. 11 attacks,  Brooks was assigned to an investigative response squad, which focused on pending international terrorist threats to the New York City area. He also served on the New York SWAT Team.

Throughout his FBI career,  Brooks has held a number of leadership positions in the Counterintelligence Division at headquarters and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

FBI Monitored Black Lives Matter Protests Over Fears of Violence

Black Lives Matter poster on a window in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. government has been monitoring Black Lives Matter protests because of fears of potential violence, according to newly released documents from the FBI and Homeland Security.

The surveillance began after a gunman shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas, in July 2016 during a rally against police brutality, Al Jazeera reports

Although the FBI acknowledged the gunman acted alone and was not part of the Black Lives Matter movement, the bureau began warning of “attacks against law enforcement,” using racially charged language, according to a series of emails.

“Due to sensitivities surrounding recent police shootings, the threat of copycat attacks against law enforcement exists,” one email read, adding that “there is a threat of black supremacist extremists attempting to violently co-opt the upcoming DNC/RNC”, referring to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

The emails refer to “black supremacist extremists attempting to violently co-opt the upcoming” Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, told Al Jazeera that the report was misleading because it involved the “blending of activities” of protesters.

“If I’m a police officer on the street trying to address the concerns raised in this report, obviously, I’m going to be focusing on black people,” German said.

In August, an FBI report warned of “Black Identity Extremists” targeting police.

“The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremists perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will likely serve as justification for such violence,” the report, dated August 3, read.

Air Force Failed to Report Dozens of Service Members to FBI Gun Database

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Air Force acknowledged Tuesday that its failure to report the criminal history of a former airman who went on to kill 26 people at a Texas church in early November was “not an isolated incident.”

The Air Force indicated the failure was part of a pattern of “reporting deficiencies” that resulted in dozens of its service members never being reported to the federal gun background database, despite being charged or convicted of serious crimes.  

Dozens of Air Force service members charged with or convicted of serious crimes were never reported to the federal gun background-check database as required,

The revelation follows the disclosure that the Air Force failed to report the domestic violence conviction of the Texas church gunman, Devin Kelley, who should have been prevented from buying a gun that was used in the attack, the New York Times reports.

In a statement on the progress of its internal investigation, the Air Force pledged to change how it reviews and registers offenses with the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

“The error in the Kelley case was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations,” the Air Force said in a statement. “Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking.”

The case of Kelley prompted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to order a federal review of the background-check database used by the FBI and ATF to ensure all military cases are properly reported.

FBI Investigates Murders of Syrian-American Journalist And Her Mom

Halla Barakat was murdered in Syria in September. Photo via Twitter.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating the September murders of a Syrian-American journalist and her mother in Turkey, but local Turkish authorities are refusing to cooperate.

Halla Barakat, 23, and her mother, Orouba Barakat, 60, were found dead on Sept. 21 and were active in the Syrian opposition against the government of President Bashar Assad. They were stranded and stabbed to death in a shared Istanbul apartment.

Investigators believe the murders were carried out by professionals because their bodies were doused with a chemical solution that delays the decomposition of remains, ABC reports.

Because Halla Barakat was born in the U.S., the FBI has legal jurisdiction to investigate the homicides overseas.

“The TNP is awaiting forensic evidence to be analyzed and currently has a suspect in custody who is strongly believed to be the perpetrator of the homicide of Halla and Orouba Barakat,” Piro wrote to the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the letter. “Due to jurisdictional legalities, the TNP will continue to work this matter and provide updates to our Legal Attache office in Ankara.”

The bureau told CAIR that Turkish National Police “respectfully declined the FBI’s assistance.”

Conservative Group Sues to Get Robert Mueller Fired

Special counsel Robert Mueller

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A conservative watchdog group filed suit in an effort to remove Robert Mueller as special counsel appointed to investigate possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign team and Russia.

Freedom Watch alleges Mueller should be removed for “gross prosecutorial misconduct” because of leaks of grand jury information and because of “obvious conflicts of interest among staff,” The Hill reports.

“Robert Mueller is not a ‘man of integrity’ as the Washington, D.C., Democrat and Republican political establishment like to spin,” Klayman said in a statement. “He is just another pol who is representing his establishment benefactors in both political parties who want to see the presidency of Donald Trump destroyed.”

In addition, the complaint alleges Mueller has politicized the investigation by relying on Democrats to assist in the probe.

New Signs That Flynn Is Turning into State Witness in Trump-Russia Probe

Former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An attorney for Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has met with special counsel investigators in a move that could spell serious trouble for the president and his campaign.

The meeting between Flynn’s lawyer and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team raises an obvious question: Has Flynn turned into a state’s witness as part of a future plea deal?

Monday’s meeting, which was first reported by ABC News, comes after Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, alerted Trump’s legal team that he is no longer communicating with them.

Flynn has been the subject of Mueller’s investigation and an FBI probe, in part because of undisclosed conversations he had with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

ICE Seeks Help from Social Media Companies to Spy on Visa Holders

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Trump administration’s increasing battle against illegal immigration may soon include tracking the social media feeds of foreign visitors.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement told software providers that it’s seeking “algorithms that would assess potential threats posed by visa holders in the U.S. and conduct ongoing social media surveillance of those deemed high risk,” ProPublica reports. 

The move appears to be part of Trump’s demands for the “extreme vetting” of visitors from Muslim countries, raising criticism from immigrants and civil liberties advocates.

ICE is searching for “risk-based metrics” to indicate potential dangers posed by visa holders, who could remain under continuous surveillance while in the U.S., according to Louis Rodi, deputy assistant director of ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ National Security Program, who spoke at a recent tech industry conference in Arlington, Va.

“We have millions and millions and millions of people coming every year, and subsequently departing, so we have to be smart about it,” said Rodi to a room of representatives from companies like Microsoft, Accenture, Deloitte and Motorola Solutions. “And I’m sure there are tools out there that can help.”

The program, however, has not begun, stressed ICE spokeswoman Carissa Curttel.

“The request for information on this initiative was simply that—an opportunity to gather information from industry professionals and other government agencies on current technological capabilities to determine the best way forward,” Cutrell wrote in an email.