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FBI Says Bank Robberies Dropped in 2009 Despite Bad Economy

bank-robberyBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The economy may still suck, but more thieves are not turning to banks for financial relief, according to the FBI.

The FBI bank robbery stats released Monday showed that the number of bank robberies, larcenies, burglaries and extortions dropped by a little over 11 percent in 2009 from 6,065 to 6,857 in 2008, the FBI said.

The agency said in 2009 there were 5,943 robberies, 100 burglaries, 19 larcenies, and three extortions of financial institutions.

To read the FBI press release click here.

Head of NY FBI Under Internal Investigation in Connection With an Alleged Affair With Underling and Statements About It

Joseph Demarest Jr/fbi photo

Joseph Demarest Jr/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Joseph M. Demarest, Jr., the head of the New York FBI, the agency’s largest office, is under internal investigation in connection with an alleged affair he had with an underling in management, sources familiar with the situation told ticklethewire.com., which broke the story.

Demarest, who has headed the New York office since January 2009,  has been temporarily assigned to headquarters in Washington while the Office of Professional Responsibility investigates the matter, sources said.

As a key part of the probe, according to sources,  investigators are trying to determine how truthful Demarest  was about the matter when he was questioned about it internally.  A website Main Justice reported that his version differed from the woman he had the affair with, and that the probe had been going since January.

A confirmed misconduct in the bureau can result in action ranging from a reprimand to a firing to a forced resignation or a demotion.

It is fairly common for high-ranking FBI officials in the field to be brought back to Washington on a temporary assignment while they are  under internal investigation.  In the past, some of those officials were eventually cleared of wrongdoing.

Demarest began his career with the FBI in 1988 after serving as a Florida sheriff”s deputy for five years. An FBI press release in 2006 said he was married with two children, but he reportedly is no longer married.

Demarest, through a spokesman, declined to comment Thursday.

Michael P, Kortan, the FBI’s chief spokesman, declined to comment on the report. However, he emphasized that Demarest remains in charge of the New York office.

He also said that Demarest was on temporary assignment in Washington to help further develop an FBI management system known as Strategy Performance Sessions (SPS). The program helps monitor and evaluate investigative programs, with an emphasis on the collection of intelligence.

He said Demarest was one of the people who helped originally develop the program for the FBI and his office in New York was noted for having a strong SPS management program.

Guns Used in Pentagon and Las Vegas Court Shootings Came From Memphis Police and Court System

gun rugerBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Simply put: This is something you don’t want to hear: The Associated Press reports that the guns used in the recent Pentagon shooting on March 4 and the Las Vegas U.S. District Courthouse  on Jan. 4 came from the Memphis police and court system.

The AP reported that both guns had originally been seized in criminal cases in the Memphis area and ended being sold by law enforcement to gun dealers before winding up in the hands of the shooters, who were legally forbidden from possessing them. One had a felony conviction and the other suffered from psychiatric problems.

The AP quoted John Timoney, who led the Philadelphia and Miami police departments and served as New York’s No. 2 police official, as saying he doesn’t believe police departments should put guns back on the market.

“I just think it’s unseemly for police departments to be selling guns that later turn up,” he told AP.

To Read complete story click here.

Justice Dept. & Law Enforcement Should Decide on 9/11 Trial Venue– Not Politicians

By Ross Parker

The decision of where and in what forum—civilian court or military commission—to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants has sparked a political firestorm of debate.

“Conservative” politicians and pundits have managed to cast the debate in terms of rights of enemy combatants versus the legitimate security needs of the United States. In other words, which is more important, the lives of Americans or the rights of terrorists? When put that way, it is easy to tell which hand has the chocolate.

The administration has been dithering and straddling on the issue. Reports have it that the President’s advisers are recommending a shift to the predominant or even exclusive use of military commissions and that his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is discussing a deal with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

All of this partisan posturing obscures and politicizes a question which should be decided by law enforcement and Justice Department professionals according to the needs and circumstances of a particular case. Why should we eliminate as an option the criminal justice system which has so successfully resulted in hundreds of double digit prison terms for those convicted of terrorism-related violations?

Some have argued that the terrorism conviction rate in the federal district courts misses the point. However, these numbers are such an overwhelming endorsement of the use of the civilian court system.

Of the approximately eight hundred alleged terrorists charged since 9/11, over five hundred of the less than six hundred whose cases have been resolved have been convicted (almost 90%). About two hundred are still pending. Moreover, the average sentence has been about 16 years. In comparison, the 20 military cases have produced 3 convictions and two of the defendants have already been released. With such statistics, it is difficult to be overly concerned about the procedural disadvantages of the civil system.

The inevitable conclusion is that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, along with the Justice Department prosecutors have been quite effective in terrorism cases. Their experience and professionalism in the use of intelligence, apprehension of targets, and marshalling of persuasive evidence have been unmatched. Moreover, the civilian court system has proven to be efficient, to possess unquestioned credibility, and to pose few obstacles to the presentation of all relevant evidence.

Are there costs involved in a predominant civil court system option in terrorism cases? Obviously there are, including the financial burden of high security trials and the safety issues posed by the prosecutions and incarcerations of these defendants. But these are simply the price of maintaining a democracy based on the rule of law and individual liberties. And, compared to the alternative, these costs are manageable.

Rejecting the civilian court system presents some serious costs which are not so manageable. Some of these costs are intangible, such as the loss of confidence in the traditional reliance on the rule of law and the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. Others are more practical, especially the reduced American credibility and positive relationships with our allies, which are so important to winning the war on terrorism. Extradition decisions, international law enforcement cooperation and our diplomatic efforts on human rights come to mind.

What effect does it have to treat these defendants as enemy combatants rather than accused criminals, as soldiers and warriors rather than mass murderers, to allow them to place the focus on the legitimacy of their cause rather than the nature of their crimes?

Some say that the danger of exposing secret information is too great. The fact is, however, that the risk of disclosure of classified information has simply not been a significant issue in terrorism cases. The Classified Information Procedures Act, though in need of some legislative fine tuning, has effectively enabled federal prosecutors to manage both discovery and trial evidence issues without risk of danger of exposure of sensitive information.

Two decades ago this same fear was expressed in espionage cases, but it has proven not to endanger national security or pose a barrier to effective prosecution. Similarly, the specter of wholesale disclosure of sensitive and legally irrelevant information in terrorism cases is no more than an emotional red herring which obfuscates an intelligent discussion of the real choices to be made.

The military courts have an important role to play in the war against terrorism. No one can question the legitimacy of using this forum on foreign soil or against non-U.S. citizens who are military combatants. Deciding to utilize this system, on a case by case basis, may also prove to be appropriate in other situations.

But the use of our criminal justice professionals and system in the great majority of terrorism prosecutions presents an invaluable opportunity to say to the rest of the world that a free government based on the supremacy of the rule of law will continue to vanquish despotism and anarchy. This is subject which is too important to be left to demagogic politicians hunting for a campaign issue.

There’s Hope Obama Admin. Could Get 9/11 Trial Right

Finally, there is hope that the Obama Administration will get it right. In overruling the Attorney General’s short-sighted and misguided decision to send Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) to a civilian court in New York City, the White House will have acknowledged at least two things that those of us with military and federal government experience have long known.

First, the US Armed Forces has a proven history of fairly and effectively conducting military commissions. Second, the federal courts are not the optimal venue for trying alien enemy combatants who are captured while committing acts of war against our country.

By now, many of us are familiar with the long tradition of military commissions, which dates back to the 1780 trial of Major John Andre, who conspired with Benedict Arnold during the Revolutionary War.

Interestingly, the Army’s Judge Advocate General commissioned artist Don Stivers to memorialize this event, then known as a Board of Inquiry or Board of Officers, in his 1998 Limited Edition Print, entitled, “You Sir, Are A Spy.” Both my copy of the print and Major Andre were promptly hanged.

Though he might still be executed today, MAJ Andre would have considerably more protections afforded him by the Military Commissions Act (MCA).

Notwithstanding the constant claims by various organizations that the MCA provides few procedural protections, the reality is just the opposite.

The accused has a host of rights, which include the right to counsel, the right to be informed of the charges sufficiently in advance of trial to prepare a defense, the right to be presumed innocent until determined to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the right not to testify at trial unless he so chooses, and the opportunity to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution, just to name a few. There are also several rights relating to sentencing, review, and appeal.

Proponents of federal criminal trials for terrorists, and only federal criminal trials for terrorists, point to the terrorism-related conviction rates for support of their position. By doing so, they miss the point.

The issue is not whether an Assistant U.S. Attorney can win a case in court; the issue is whether the federal government will lose more than it will gain. That is, will a federal court be required to turn over sensitive information to an alleged terrorist that a military commission might not, even though it may have no bearing on a terrorist’s guilt?

By doing so, will national security be threatened? Those are at least two of the questions that need to be asked, and if the trial is to be in a civilian courtroom, the answer to both had better be “no.”

FBI Probe Into New Orleans Police Officer Shootings After Katrina Gaining Traction

new-orleans-map-istockBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI in New Orleans appears to making headway in its probe into the shootings of six people on Danziger Bridge just after Hurricane Katrina hit.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that recently retired New Orleans police Lt. Michael Lohman, who helped investigate the shootings, but was not involved with them, is expected to cop a plea on Wednesday.

The paper cited the Associated Press as saying that the ex-official was cooperating with the feds.

The state case against the officers fell apart because of prosecutorial misconduct. In 2008, the feds started investigating the shooting and the investigation into the shootings.

To read the complete story click here.

Tiff Brewing: American Airlines Won’t Let Off Duty Fed Agents Carry Guns If They Fly at Discount Rates or Free

american airlines logoBy Jon Perkins
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A tiff has been brewing between American Airlines and federal agents over the right to carry guns aboard planes.

Bottom line: the airline won’t let off-duty agents carry a gun aboard a plane if they fly at reduced rates or free on “buddy passes” in what’s known in the industry as a “non-revenue”  passenger.

Interestingly, American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith told ticklethewire.com that if off duty federal agents pay full fare they can carry a gun.

That policy hasn’t sat well with Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (F.L.E.O.A), who  fired off a Dec. 10 letter to the airlines.

“We have received reports that American Airlines has repeatedly denied boarding to federal law enforcement officers flying in a non-revenue capacity,” Adler wrote. “From an airline victimized by two terrorist attacks, resulting in the death of thousands of  Americans, we find this policy disturbing for a number of reasons.”

“Their revenue status should have no bearing,” he added later on in the letter. “For American Airlines to essentially say ‘it’s okay if you pay, but not if you don’t’ is absolutely ridiculous. I can assure you that a federal law enforcement officer would not base their reactions to a hijacking on whether they paid full fare or not, nor should American Airlines.”

“It’s not as if when you’re on duty you’re Superman and when you’re off-duty you’re a clumsy Clark Kent,” Adler said in an interview with ticklethewire.com this week , adding that  the agents were “valuable assets” when it came to airplane security.

Earlier this week, the airline conceded that it was reviewing what it now considered a flawed policy.

Read more »

TSA Reports Big Drop in Guns Seized at Airports: Could the Christmas Day Incident Have Helped?

tsa photo

tsa photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Could it be that the Christmas Day underwear bombing incident may have raised the consciousness of the everyday traveler — at least when it comes to bringing guns to the airport?

We may never know for sure.

What we do know is that normally on any given week the Transportation Security Administration finds 25 to 30 guns or more at airport passenger checkpoints in the U.S.

TSA figures  posted for the week of Jan. 11-17 show there were only 8 guns found, an unusually low number.

The TSA did not immediately return a phone call to see if it had any explanation.