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Tag: Congress

Lawmakers Say Secret Service Needs to Hire More Agents

secret serviceBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Secret Service is so short-staffed that it should seek outside help, two lawmakers said Tuesday.

The two Congressional members said the agency is losing agents faster than it can replace them.

“USSS simply cannot hire enough personnel to keep pace with historic attrition rates,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland noted in a Tuesday letter to Secret Service director Joseph Clancy.

“The committee encourages USSS to explore innovative ways to fill this staffing gap-such as detailing qualified law enforcement officials or [administrative, professional, and technical] employees from other agencies-in the short-term while continuing its long-term efforts to develop a zero-based budget and increase hiring and retention,” they wrote.

The problem has been that the Secret Service has been unable to vacancies quickly enough.

“Nearly every USSS employee who spoke with the [inspector general] said they had serious concerns regarding UD staffing shortages,” the lawmakers observed. “Some employees characterized the agency as ‘hemorrhaging’ employees.”

Congressman Pushes Bill to Rename ATF Headquarters After Slain Agent Ariel Rios

Ariel Rios

Ariel Rios

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Congressman André Carson from Indiana hopes history repeats itself.

The Congressman has introduced a bill to name ATF headquarters at 99 New York Avenue NE in Washington as the Ariel Rios Federal Building.

ATF agent Rios, 28, was murdered by drug traffickers in Miami in 1982 while assigned to then Vice President George Bush’s South Florida Drug Task Force. He was the first ATF agent killed by hostile action.

It’s not such an unusual request considering the old ATF headquarters at 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW was named after Rios in 1985.

In 2007, ATF moved into a more secure headquarters on New York Avenue, but Congress never named the new building after Rios.

“Naming the ATF headquarters after Ariel Rios is an important symbolic reminder of risks faced by ATF’s front line agents and their ongoing service to our country,” said Rep. Carson in a letter to colleagues asking them to co-sponsor the bill. “As a former law enforcement officer, I believe this important recognition  of Ariel Rios will serve as a tribute to every frontline law enforcement officer past, present, and future.”

According to ATF, Rios and another agent, Alex D’Atri,  made arrangements to meet with two suspects at the Hurricane Motel in Miami to make an undercover buy of large quantities of cocaine and machineguns. One of the suspects suddenly became suspicious, drew his weapon and made threats.

Rios struggled with him and was shot. He died shortly after in the hospital. The other agent, D’Atri, was shot and wounded but survived.   

Read Rep. André Carson’s full letter to Congressional colleagues.

Dear Colleague:

I am writing to ask you to cosponsor the “Ariel Rios Federal Building Act”
which  will name the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
(ATF) headquarters in honor of its first special agent killed by hostile
action. This bill will designate the federal building at 99 New York Avenue,
NE Washington D.C. as the Ariel Rios Federal Building. Ariel Rios was a
young ATF special agent murdered by drug traffickers in 1982 while assigned
to then Vice President George Bush’s South Florida Drug Task Force.

In 1985, Congress designated the ATF headquarters building at 1200
Pennsylvania Avenue as the Ariel Rios Memorial Federal Building.  The
designation honored both the personal sacrifice of Ariel Rios and served as
an enduring reminder of the dangers that front line law enforcement officers
willingly confront to keep the rest of us safe.  For nearly 30 years, the
original ATF headquarters building bore the name of Ariel Rios.

Read more »

Terrorism Threat in Europe and U.S. Is ‘Increasingly Lethal,’ House Committee Reports

Rep. Michael McCaul

Rep. Michael McCaul

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. House Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday released an alarming report about terror plots targeting Europe and the disturbing links to ISIS.

The “European Terror Threat Snapshot” also revealed that about 5,000 European citizens have traveled to Iraq or Syria, and more than 1,000 have returned to their countries, the Washington Times reports. 

“ISIS terror operatives have exploited the largest flow of refugees and migrants since World War II to infiltrate Europe undetected. EU member states reported nearly 2 million instances of illegal border crossings involving around 1 million people last year,” the new report noted. “European jihadists are also attempting to radicalize and recruit refugees settling in the European continent.”

In the committee’s monthly terrorism assessment of the U.S., officials warned of increasing danger to the U.S.

“The United States and our allies face an increasingly lethal Islamist terror threat. A global jihadist network operating from safe havens is exploiting Western security gaps to orchestrate a widespread terror campaign, particularly in Europe,” warned Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican and committee chairman.

“Battle-hardened European fighters groomed by ISIS are returning home from Syria to commit acts of terror with the support of local extremist networks, as we have tragically seen in Paris and Brussels. These operatives are also potentially a plane-flight away from our shores. Given the magnitude of the threat across the continent, we are likely seeing only the tip of the jihadist iceberg in Europe.”

Congressman Urges Passage of ATF Enforcement Act to End Gun Hypocrisy

gunsBy Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr.
for Washington Post

Those who oppose gun safety legislation often contend that the president and Congress should enforce existing gun laws before considering any new ones. National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre has said that under current federal law, President Obama “could take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun, and criminal gang banger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock ’em up for five years or more”; House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who holds great power over whether gun legislation sees the light of day, has said that “the federal government is not doing the job they should be doing in enforcing our current gun laws.”

We should call their bluff. The truth is that Congress routinely blocks the power of the federal agency responsible for overseeing and investigating firearms sales: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF is unable to carry out its mission because of the multiple obstacles placed in its path. For example, a 2004 budget amendment blocked the agency from providing data on the tracing of guns used in crimes for any state license revocation action or civil lawsuit. Gun-trace data are critically important for sourcing illegally trafficked firearms and identifying corrupt gun dealers. Another amendment that year banned any requirement that gun dealers keep a physical inventory of their wares. In 2012, Congress said that the ATF couldn’t deny applications to import any shotgun simply because it lacked a sporting purpose. The list goes on.

So what if we didn’t pass new gun safety laws, but instead simply returned to the ATF the authority and autonomy to fully perform its duties? What if this key agency were enabled “to protect communities from violent criminals . . . the illegal use and trafficking of firearms . . . [and] acts of terrorism,” as its mission statement reads, without interference?

Tuesday I will introduce the ATF Enforcement Act, which would restore the agency’s ability to enforce existing gun laws by removing legislative limitations on its operations, enforcement and day-to-day functions. My bill would also allow the person picked to be ATF director to bypass the Senate confirmation process by moving the appointment power to the attorney general. For years, congressional allies of the gun lobby have blocked nominees by both Democratic and Republican presidents. Only one nominee has been confirmed since the position was made subject to Senate approval in 2006.

FBI Director Says Bureau ‘Purchased a Tool’ to Unlock iPhone

Apple-iphoneBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director James Comey said the FBI “purchased a tool” to unlock an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Comey, who made the disclosure during a speech at Ohio’s Kenyon College, didn’t elaborate on the technology.

“The people that we bought this [tool] from – I know a fair amount about them and I have a high degree of confidence that they are very good at protecting it, and their motivations align with ours,” Comey said during a question-and-answer period following his talk, Fox News reports. 

The FBI is expected to share details with some members of Congress.

Comey said the technology only works on an iPhone 5C.

“This doesn’t work on [an iPhone] 6S, doesn’t work in a 5S, and so we have a tool that works on a narrow slice of phones,” he added.

Buffalo News: Congress Must Act to Resolve Issues Between Apple, FBI

congress copyBy Edtorial Board
Buffalo News

One could say that the Justice Department’s finding a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple is unfortunate.

To some, it could further delay serious discussion about privacy rights in this age of fast-evolving technology.

Congress needs to face up to its obligation to have this debate and to come to some reasonable conclusion. It needs to balance privacy rights with the increasingly challenging task of keeping the country safe from those who would commit mass murder.

This is a long-standing and continually developing issue, and one that Congress has largely ignored, as technology changes and becomes a tool of terrorists. Fundamentally, the law has not kept pace with science. But the need for a response is plain, even if the answers are difficult.

More and more Americans keep personal information, sometimes sensitive information, on their smartphones. Constitutionally, they have a right to privacy.

Yet the ability to monitor terrorists, who value body counts above all else, is also tied to technology, as is the investigation of crimes such as the San Bernardino, Calif., massacre that prompted this confrontation.

Both sides have compelling cases, which is a prescription for court action. It would be better for Congress to debate and resolve these questions.

Privacy advocates say they will keep the issue at the forefront, but the Justice Department has withdrawn its legal effort to compel Apple to unlock an iPhone and, in so doing, assist in an investigation of a mass shooting.

The phone belonging to one of the San Bernardino killers, Syed Rizwan Farook, may contain information about where he and his wife, an accomplice in that horrific attack in which 14 people died, may have traveled, who they contacted or any further plots.

Congress to Investigate Claims That Secret Service Agent Coerced Woman into Having Sex

secret-service-3By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Very few people wanted to believe Kristen Miles Anderson’s claim that she was coerced into having sex with a Secret Service agent who was investigating whether she embezzled money from a bank.

It was March 2010, and the agent who first denied the sexual encounter later said the act was consensual, Greenville Online reports. 

Anderson eventually pleaded guilty to embezzling about $90,000 and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. She served 10 months.

A judge dismissed her lawsuit against the agent, the federal government and others, and a grand jury investigation into the alleged sexual encounter resulted in no charges.

But now the U.S. House Committee on Oversight is interested in learning more about what happened and last month requested the inspector general of Homeland Security to turn over a copy of the investigation report.

“I stood up and took the blame, told them what I did and paid the price,” Anderson said during an exclusive interview with The Greenville News. “Then to go back and learn they didn’t even charge him, that’s just devastating. I can’t even tell you.”

The accused agent, Richard Kerns Jr., could not be reached for comment.

Guardian: Congress Finally Did Its Job Over Battle Between FBI, Apple

US CapitolTrevor Trimm
Guardian

Members of Congress did something almost unheard of at Tuesday’s hearing on the brewing battle over encryption between Apple and the FBI: their job. Both Democrats and Republicans grilled FBI director Jim Comey about his agency’s unprecedented demand that Apple weaken the iPhone’s security protections to facilitate surveillance. This would have dire implications for smartphone users around the globe.

Normally, congressional committee hearings featuring Comey are contests among the members over who can shower the FBI director with the most fawning compliments in their five-minute allotted time frame. Hard questions about the agency’s controversial tactics are avoided at all costs. But on Tuesday, in rare bipartisan fashion, virtually every member of the House judiciary committee asked Comey pointed questions and politely ripped apart his arguments against Apple.

One judiciary member questioned how the FBI managed to mess up so badlyduring the San Bernardino investigation and reset the shooter’s password, which is what kicked this whole controversy and court case in motion in the first place. And if the case was such an emergency, why did they wait 50 days to go to court? Another member questioned what happens when China inevitably asks for the same extraordinary powers the FBI is demanding now. Others questioned whether the FBI had really used all the resources available to break into the phone without Apple’s help. For example, why hasn’t the FBI attempted to get the NSA’s help to get into the phone, since hacking is their job?

Comey readily admitted that the San Bernardino case could set a precedent for countless others after it, and that it won’t just be limited to one phone, as the FBItried to suggest in the days after the filing became public. Comey said the FBI has so many encrypted phones in its possession that he doesn’t know the number (that’s not including the hundreds of local police forces that are itching to force Apple to create software to decrypt those as well). Comey also admitted under questioning that terrorists would just move to another encrypted device if Apple was forced to do what the government is asking, and that there are companies all over the world offering similar products.

More than anything, though, the members of Congress expressed anger that theFBI director didn’t follow through earlier on his stated intention to engage in a debate in Congress and the public about the proper role for encryption in society. Instead, he decided to circumvent that debate altogether and quietly go to court to get a judge to do what the legislative branch has so far refused to do.

To read more click here. 

Other Stories of Interest

FBI Agent Testifies About Conversation with ISIS Suspect

FBI Files Pinpoint When Feds Learned of Attack Against U.S.

Ferguson Expected to Reconsider Agreement with Justice Department

Read CIA’s 1953 Report, ‘A Study of Assassination’

Why Airport Security Lines Have Grown Longer