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DEA Arrests 600+ As Part of 6-Month Investigation of Fast-Growing Drug Cartel

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The DEA agents arrested more than 600 people nationwide as part of a six-month investigation into members of one of the world’s fastest growing drug-trafficking organizations.

The joint DEA-DOJ operation, dubbed “Project Python,” targeted members of the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), led by the drug lord known as “El Mencho.”

The cartel is known for transporting massive amounts of methamphetamine.

“Project Python marks the most comprehensive action to date in the Department of Justice’s campaign to disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately destroy CJNG,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski, of the Criminal Division, says in a news release.  “When President Trump signed an Executive Order prioritizing the dismantlement of transnational criminal organizations, the Department of Justice answered the call and took direct aim at CJNG.  We deemed CJNG one of the highest-priority transnational organized crime threats we face.  And with Project Python, we are delivering results in the face of that threat for the American people.”

Added DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon, “This strategic and coordinated project exemplifies DEA’s mission: to disrupt, dismantle, and destroy drug trafficking organizations around the world and bring their leaders to justice. Today, DEA has disrupted CJNG’s operations, and there is more to come as DEA continues its relentless attack on this remorseless criminal organization.”

House Democrats Question Top TSA Official about Measures to Protect Workers, Passengers

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Congressional Democrats questioned the top TSA official Wednesday about what the agency is doing to protect workers and the public from the quickly spreading coronavirus.

On Tuesday, three screeners at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in Northern California tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fielding questions at a Homeland Security subcommittee hearing, TSA Administrator David Pekoske told lawmakers that TSA agents regularly clean checkpoints and are allowing passengers to carry on large quantities of sanitizers.

“It’s going to require a little bit more screening on our part because we have to verify that that is, in fact, hand sanitizer in the bottle, but we do want to increase that volume to make it easier for passengers, particularly those that don’t check bags, to bring a volume of sanitizer with them,” Pekoske said, The Hill reports. “Because, as you know, you can go to another city and find none available on the shelves.”

Lawmakers asked Pekoske to ensure the TSA checkpoints are clean.

“Coronavirus is just one of many others to come, so we need to make sure that your workforce is prepared to address these health issues, as well as terrorist issues that are coming at us,” Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., said.

Appeals Court: DOJ Must Disclose Grand Jury Material to Democrats on House Committee

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to give House lawmakers secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, The Washington Post reported.

The 2-1 decision is a partial victory for House Democrats who have been trying to obtain the grand jury material. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals, which upheld a district court ruling a year ago, can be appealed to the full court or the Supreme Court.

That means the secret material from the investigation does not yet have to be disclosed.

3 TSA Screeners Test Positive for Coronavirus in Northern California

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Three TSA screeners in northern California have tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency said Tuesday.

The employees work at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport and are the first TSA screeners to test positive with the coronavirus.

The agency didn’t disclose the identities of the workers.

“The officers are receiving medical care and all TSA employees they have come in contact with over the past 14 days are quarantined at home,” the TSA said in a statement.

“Screening checkpoints remain open and the agency is working with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), as well as the California Department of Public Health and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to monitor the situation as well as the health and safety of our employees and the traveling public. We will update as more information becomes available.”

The positive tests are troublesome because screeners have contact with thousands of passengers a day.

On Sunday, the FBI confirmed one of its employees from the San Francisco Division tested positive for the coronavirus.

The FBI also has ordered $40,000 worth of face masks and hand sanitizers in the event of a pandemic.

FBI Calls on Iran to Release Robert Levinson on 13th Anniversary of Disappearance

Robert Levinson, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The FBI is calling on Iran to release former FBI Agent Robert A. Levinson on the 13th anniversary of his disappearance in 2007.

Calling him the “longest-held hostage in U.S. history,” the FBI issued a statement Tuesday renewing its repeated call on Iran to live up to its commitment to share information about Levinson’s whereabouts.

“Bob’s wife and family have been waiting for his return for 13 years, waiting for the government of Iran to make good on its commitment to help make that happen,” FBI Director Christopher Wray says in a new release. “Over those years Bob’s FBI family of agents, analysts, and professional staff have been working on his behalf with our interagency partners and will never cease the efforts to bring Bob home. We call on Iran to provide the necessary assistance and end this long wait so Bob’s family and friends get him back.”

Levinson, whose 72nd birthday is today, disappeared while on a CIA operation on Kish Island in Iran.

The Iranian government initially responded that it had detained Levinson but soon backed off that story and has since maintained it has no idea about Levinson’s whereabouts.

Some intelligence officials believe Levinson may be dead, but that hasn’t stopped the search.

The Department of State Rewards for Justice Program announced up to a $30 million reward last year for any information leading to Levinson’s whereabouts. The FBI is also offering a $5 million reward.

Ex-DHS Inspector General Charged with Stealing Government Software And Databases

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

Homeland Security’s former acting inspector general has been indicted on charges of stealing government proprietary software and databases containing personal information on more than 250,000 government employees – all in an effort to elevate his private business.

Charles K. Edwards, who was tasked with exposing waste, fraud and abuse as acting inspector general from 2011 to 2013, was indicted on 16 counts, Washington Post reports.

His 54-year-old former subordinate, Murali Yamazula Venkata, also was charged with similar crimes and destroying records.

Edwards, 59, of Sandy Springs, Md., and Venkata are accused of conspiring to steal property information from the inspector general’s office from October 2014 to April 2017. Prosecutors say the theft enabled Edwards’ company, Delta Business Solutions, to sell an enhanced version to the Agriculture Department.

The DHS and Postal Service investigation is ongoing.

FBI Employee Tests Positive for Coronavirus; Bureau Prepares for Possible Pandemic

SARS-CoV-2 is the cause of the coronavirus, via Wikipedia.

By Steve Neavling

ticklethewire.com

The coronavirus has infected an FBI employee from the San Francisco Division.

In a statement, the FBI said the employee works at a small satellite office, and his coworkers have returned home.

The FBI statement:

An employee of the FBI San Francisco Division has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (coronavirus). This employee works in a small satellite office. The other employees at the site have returned to their homes until further notice, and everyone known to have been in contact with the infected employee has been notified of possible exposure.
The FBI has contacted local health officials as well as the Centers for Disease Control and the Bureau will take all necessary remedial and precautionary measures to protect our employees, their families and our community.
At this time, we assess our operations have not been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and we will continue steadfast in our mission to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.

The FBI also has ordered $40,000 worth of face masks and hand sanitizers in the event of a pandemic, CNBC reports.

The masks and disinfectants “are to be stored throughout the country for distribution in the event of a declared pandemic,” according to the bureau’s purchase order.

Weekend Series on Crime History: An Undercover DEA Agent