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Tag: Chicago

Airport Screening Machines to Get Less Personal

file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Good news for those who think the Transportation Security Administration has gone too far in its efforts to screen airline passengers.

The Associated Press reports that TSA is installing news technology at some airports that will show a generic outline of s peson’s body instead of showing an image of the naked body.

AP reported that the new technology will be used in 40 airports including Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Miami and Newark.

The news service said TSA will eventually use the technology at other airports as well.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Column: Traver Likely to Become Acting Chief of ATF; Not Likely to Get Confirmed

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Andrew Traver, the man the White House nominated last November to head up ATF,  is in Washington Tuesday to speak to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.

His arrival comes in the midst of a major controversy — or screw up as some might say — involving ATF’s “Operation Fast and Furious”, which encouraged gun dealers to sell to “straw purchasers” — all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

What’s expected to happen is that Traver, who heads up the Chicago ATF office,  will be appointed acting director of ATF, replacing the acting head Kenneth Melson, who will likely be pressured to resign.

After that, what’s also likely to happen is that Traver will never be confirmed. I could be wrong. But the NRA has launched an aggressive campaign to block his confirmation, claiming he’s very anti-gun rights. The confirmation has been stalled in the Senate.

The Obama White House doesn’t seem to have the appetite for a fight like that. And it’s  not likely to want to spend it’s political capital on Traver — at least not until the 2012 election is over.

So Traver will remain acting chief, certainly past the election. Should Obama win re-election, then he might go for a recess appointment, or just let Traver remain as acting.  Or maybe he’ll find someone who is more acceptable to the NRA, though I think that’s not likely — not if you’re looking for someone to aggressively enforce gun laws.

Unfortunately, acting directors never have the same clout,the same sway as a permanent director.   And just  in case they still have a shot at confirmation, they have to be extra careful as to what they say or what initiatives they launch or who they appoint to executive spots. They can become overly cautious. That can be very stifling and bad for the agency.

But politically, they never want to give Congress ammunition to sabotage the confirmation.

As for Meslon. Well, he was decent guy and a smart one at that. But agents thought the ex-federal prosecutor didn’t really understand the agency culture and the agents’ mindset.

As one veteran ATF agent told me: “A lot of guys thought he wasn’t the best fit. He was a nice man, but at times he could be arrogant. I don’t think he intended to come across that way. I kind of feel sorry for him.”

White House Likely to Replace Head of ATF

ATF's Kenneth Melson /fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Obama White House  had no intention of keeping Ken Melson, acting head of ATF.

In fact, last November it nominated Andrew Traver, head of the Chicago ATF office, to become the permanent head of the agency.  But the confirmation process seemed to hit a big bump as the pro-gun lobbying groups attacked him, claiming he was hostile to gun owners.

But things may be changing.

Wall Street Journal reporters Evan Perez and Devlin Barrett report that the Justice Department is likely to soon oust Melson. The move would come as  the agency is coming   under sharp attack by some Congressional members for a questionable ATF operation known as Fast and Furious, which encouraged gun dealers in Arizona to sell to straw purchasers — all with the hope of tracing the guns to Mexican drug cartels.

Problem was, agents lost track of the guns and authorities say some of the guns were linked to the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry late last year.

The Journal reported that  Traver is set to travel to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

The Journal said the administration is trying to figure out whether it should name Traver acting director or name someone else as “acting” in the interim  while Traver awaits  Senate action.

ATF spokesman Scot Thomasson told the Journal : “Acting Director Kenneth Melson continues to be focused on leading ATF in its efforts to reduce violent crime and to stem the flow of firearms to criminals and criminal organizations. We are not going to comment on any speculations.”

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICE ACT STORIES OF INTEREST

Column: What Does the Blago Verdict Mean for Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald?

Patrick Fitzgerald/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Soon we’ll get the verdict in the Blago II trial and we’ll start to evaluate what it means for Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. The jury begins the fifth day of deliberations on Thursday.

The first trial did not bode so well for Fitzgerald, the rock star among U.S. Attorneys. The jury convicted ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich on only 1 of 24 counts — and that was for lying to the FBI. It wasn’t even a count central to the key charges of shaking down folks and trying to sell President Obama’s Senate seat.

Some argued it was still a victory — particularly those who know Fitzgerald well. They said a felony conviction is a felony conviction, even if it’s on just one count.

I disagree. I say in order for this to be considered a victory for Fitzgerald and his prosecutors, they have to get a conviction on a central count. A conviction on key counts would provide some vindication for Fitzgerald.

What would another embarrassing outcome mean for Fitzgerald?

Probably not a whole lot.

Another embarrassing outcome might tarnish his star power a little. But people forget. And he’s had a lot of big victories in big cases in Chicago. And no one can forget that he came to Washington for a stint as  a dragon slayer — as a special prosecutor —  and convicted Scooter Libby in 2007.

The first Blago trial may have hurt his chances when the White House was recently  considering a replacement for FBI Dir. Robert S. Mueller III (though that has become a moot point since President Obama now wants to keep Mueller on for two more years beyond the 10-year term).

Interestingly, FBI agents who, in general, prefer an ex-agent as a director rather than a prosecutor — seemed Ok with Fitzgerald as a potential replacement.

Nonetheless, the talk inside the Beltway was that the White House wasn’t wild about  the swagger — very Eliot Ness like — that he displayed before the media  when he first announced the charges against Blago in December 2008.

The swagger along with the embarrassing outcome didn’t help. This White House seems to like Robert Mueller’s low-key, fly-under-the-radar style.

So in the end, whatever the outcome in Blago II, Fitzgerald will remain the U.S. Attorney in Chicago.

And frankly, whatever the outcome,  the Blago case won’t short circuit many of his options in the future –including, who knows, even  a run for governor, the office once held by Blago himself.

It’s Blago Time: Chicago Fed Jury Begins Deliberating Friday


Blagojevich as governor/state photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It’s the moment of truth.

Jury deliberations in Blago II — the retrial of ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich —  begins Friday.

Don’t expect a quick verdict.

The jury will have to plow through 20 counts, which should take some time.

Man Convicted in Chicago of Conspiring to Kill Fed Prosecutor and DEA Agent

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A former university research technologist was convicted Monday in Chicago of conspiring to kill a federal prosecutor and DEA agent, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The paper reported that it all began two years ago when Frank Caira told a friend that he wanted to make the prosecutor Shoshana Gillers and DEA agent Patrick Bagley, who were pushing his drug case, go away. From there, the plot began to develop.

The plot also included a plan to kill a dog belonging to attorney Jed Stone,who had represented Caira on charges of manufacturing drugs in his Downers Grove, Ill. home, the Tribune reported.

Authorities learned of the plot from a gang member, the Trib reported.

To read the full story click here.

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No Surprise Here; Blago Testimony Angers Judge


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

If you figured the testimony of ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich at his retrial on corruption charges in downtown Chicago would be filled with shenanigans and piss off the judge, well…. you guessed right.

First off, the U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Wednesday got angry after Blago tried “smuggling” in evidence that had been barred. One example: Blagojevich suggested to jurors that the government had deleted portions of recorded calls that were favorable to him, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

“This is a deliberate effort by this witness to raise something that he can’t raise, to say something that was good was eliminated,” Zagel said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “This is not fair. This is a repeated example of a defendant who wants to say something, by smuggling [it] in.”

“Do you understand what I have just said?” an irritated Zagel asked the defense. “Is that clear?”

Later, outside the presence of the jury, the judge berated defense lawyer Aaron Goldstein, accusing him of using stall tactics so prosecutors couldn’t cross exam Blago til next week, the Sun-Times reported.

“It’s a source of real concern,” the judge said. “I am not uncertain in my conclusion that you are running the clock.”

Zagel said he would give the prosecution the option of questioning Blago on Thursday regardless of when the defense concluded its direct examination, the Sun-Times reported.

FBI Wants to See if “Unabomber” Linked to Tylenol Killings in 1982

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Theodore Kaczynski, aka the “Unabomber”, is a apparently a suspect in the 1982 Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people in the Chicago area, according to media reports.

Bloomberg reported that the FBI wants Kaczynski’s DNA to see if there’s any link to the Tylenol killings.

Bloomberg reported that Kaczynski made the disclosure in court papers in an effort to stop an auction of his belongings by the U.S. Marshals Service, which is now in progress.

In a handwritten court document, Bloomberg reported, that Kaczynski said the prison wanted his DNA “to compare with the partial DNA profiles connected with a 1982 event in which someone put potassium cyanide in Tylenol.”

“I have never even possessed any potassium cyanide,” wrote Kaczynski, 68, a former mathematics professor, according to Bloomberg.

The FBI declined comment, Bloomberg reported.