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Archive for April 2nd, 2010

FBI Warns Letters to Governors Could Provoke Violence

pawlenty
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating letters sent by an anti-government group to more than 30 governors warning them to step down within three days or they’ll be removed.

The Associated Press reported that the FBI is warning local cops that the group’s action could provoke violence.

The group,the Guardians of the free Republics, wants to “restore America” by peacefully dismantling parts of the government, the group’s Web site said, according to the AP.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty didn’t seem alarmed by the letter, the AP reported.

“We get all kinds of, shall we say, ‘interesting’ mail, so it’s not out of the norm,” Pawlenty said Friday. according to the AP. “It got more attention because it went to so many governors.”

To read more click here.

The Latest Shakeups in The Justice Department Reporter Ranks

Carrie Jonnson/facebook

Carrie Johnson/facebook

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The game of musical chairs continues for reporters covering the Justice Department in Washington.

The Washington Post’s Carrie Johnson is leaving  the paper Tuesday to cover the Justice Department for National Public Radio. She says she hasn’t done radio before.

“It will be a new adventure,” she told ticklethewire.com. She replaces Ari Shapiro,  who has been assigned to  cover the White House for NPR. No replacement has been named for Johnson over at the Post.

In other changes of late, Josh Meyer, the Justice Department reporter for the Los Angeles Times, quit in January to take a job at Northwestern University. He is  co-director of  Medill School of Journalism’s education and outreach for the National Security Journalism Initiative in Washington.  The program is designed to improve education and training in national security reporting for students and professionals. Meyer has been replaced at the LA Times by Richard A. Serrano.

NeilLewis

Josh Meyer/university photo

Josh Meyer/university photo

At the New York Times, seasoned reporters Neil Lewis and David Johnston, who covered Justice Department issues, recently took buyouts. And Eric Lichtblau, who had covered Justice Department issues, now covers the lobbying, money and influence beat. Charlie Savage is now the Times’ Justice reporter.

Fed Prosecutors Plan to Go After Right-Wing Radio Host Hal Turner Third Time on Aug. 9

Hal Turner/msnbc photo

Hal Turner/msnbc photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In the apparent spirit of never-say-die, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago said Friday it plans to go after right wing-racist New Jersey radio host Hal Turner for a third time in August. The last two trials ended in a mistrial after the juries deadlocked.

“We expect to proceed on August 9th,” said Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Turner is charged with threatening the lives of three Court of Appeals judges in Chicago by posting their photos on the Internet and writing that they were “worthy of death”. The judges had upheld a gun ban.

A change of venue has resulted in the trials being held in Brooklyn.

Samborn declined to say what the jury vote was in the last deadlocked trial.

Regardless, prosecutors face an uphill battle.

The central problem is that Turner had been an FBI informant. And in the second trial he testified that back in 2005 the FBI asked him to take his hateful rhetoric up a notch to help them solve a case involving the murder of a Chicago federal judge’s family members.

The FBI apparently thought the killer might be a white supremacist, Turner’s target audience. Perhaps Turner might be able to draw the person out.

So Turner said he obliged and said at the time the judge was “worthy of death”. Last summer, he posted on the Internet the photos of three Chicago federal judges who upheld a gun ban and wrote that they too were “worthy of death”.

So the bottom line is: Prosecutors will have to convince jurors that there’s a clear distinction between the threats Turner made as an informant and the subsequent threats he made when he was not.

The James R. Hoffa Theory Revisted As Giant Stadium Braces for Wrecking Ball

James R. Hoffa

James R. Hoffa

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

One of the more improbable theories about Teamster James R. Hoffa — that he’s buried under the west end zone at Giant Stadium — is popping up one more time for old time sake as demolition teams get ready to knock down the stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Rumors of the Giant Stadium burial reached a feverish pitch after a self-described mob hit man Donald “Tony the Greek” Frankos mentioned it in a 1989 Playboy interview, according to the Associated Press.

But retired FBI agent Jim Kossler, who worked the case in the 1980s, said the agency had dismissed the possibility by the time the Playboy interview was printed, according to the Associated Press.

“What he was telling us couldn’t have happened because he either couldn’t have been there or he was in jail at the time,” Kossler said, according to AP.

AP reported that the FBI says it has no plans to oversee the demolition.

FBI Re-Examining Evidence in 1980s Colonial Parkway Slayings in Virginia

virginia-map1By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The FBI is trying to jump start a probe into the 1980s killing of as many as eight people in southeastern Virginia known as the Colonial Parkway murders, the Washington Post reports.

The Washington Post’s Maria Glod reports that the FBI is re-examining dozens of pieces of evidence, including hair, and is “putting fresh eyes on a list of about 130 suspects.”

The Post also reports the FBI is reviewing more than 3,500 reports from the case and has asked America’s Most Wanted to feature the unsolved mystery.

“We’re committed to the families,” FBI spokeswoman Vanessa Torres told the Post. “We don’t want to create false expectations. However, there is always hope.”

According to the Post, six people were slain and two others have been missing, but are presumed dead. The murders happened along “the Colonial Parkway, a scenic route that stretches from Yorktown to Jamestown” in Virginia.

To read more click here.

U.S. Changing Screening Policies of Passengers Aboard Inbound Intl. Flights

Airport crowdBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In a world of Jihad Janes and underwear bombers, where it’s becoming more difficult to figure out who the enemy might be, the Obama administration is taking a different tact when screening passengers from inbound U.S. International flights.

The Washington Post reports the U.S. is “abandoning its policy of using nationality alone to determine which U.S.-bound international air travelers should be subject to additional screening and will instead select passengers based on possible matches to intelligence information, including physical descriptions or a particular travel pattern.”

The paper noted that after the Nigerian man tried to blow up his underwear on a Christmas day flight from Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight, the U.S. determined that passengers “from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches.”

The new system will stop passengers who match up to “certain pieces of known intelligence”, the Post reported.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Does Recent DEA Enforcement in Afghanistan Signal Hope in Narco-Terrorism War?

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

In October, 2008 this column pointed out the growing link between international narcotics traffickers and terrorists, especially in Afghanistan. This was not news to federal law enforcement. Still, few politicians or members of the public were aware of this relationship.

Support for a well financed and coordinated international enforcement strategy, despite the best efforts of a few at DEA, seemed to be desperately lacking.

This dim political recognition came despite the alarming facts: The Taliban was expected to receive $70 million from the poppy harvest that year, and half of the terrorist organizations were financed — at least in part– by drug trafficking. The money was used to buy more sophisticated weapons and explosive devices and to train and equip more Taliban fighters.

In 2009 the Obama administration launched a bold strategy to attack narco-terrorism in Afghanistan. A multi-agency task force was established in Kabul to disrupt financial channels. The military targeted dozens of drug lords and began to participate in seizure and interdiction efforts.

And, importantly, the number of DEA personnel stationed in Afghanistan jumped from from 13 to almost 100. Add to that number the dozens of retired federal agents who were sent as contract civilian trainers to advise and assist the Afghan anti-narcotic program.

This ramping up of the anti-narcotic effort did not come without sacrifice. In October of 2009, three DEA agents who were returning from a firefight with Taliban drug traffickers in western Afghanistan were killed when their helicopter crashed. Seven military officers were also lost. The three DEA agents, Forrest Leamon, Chad Mitchell, and Michael Weston, had all volunteered as part of the expansion effort. They thought they could make a difference.

Now their sacrifice and the efforts by others appear to have made some difference. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart announced this week in Kabul that more than 80 combined operations in 2009 had increased the drug seizures there by 924%. These efforts greatly decreased the amount of drugs exported from 2% of the total amount produced to perhaps over 10%, a significant achievement in one year.

Although this anti-narcotics surge has de-emphasized eradication, those efforts have nonetheless borne fruit as well. Eradication in the opium-rich southern region of Afghanistan has reduced cultivation by 30%. Narco-terrorists reacted to this success on Wednesday by detonating a bomb which killed 13 people who had gathered to receive free vegetable seeds as part of a British alternative crop program. Whether these re-education efforts will have the long term effect of helping to re-build the country’s agriculture, or will simply reduce supply enough to keep prices high, is up for debate.

The question, of course, is whether this new strategy represents the beginning of an awareness and commitment on the part of Congress and the Administration that support is needed on a global basis for the resources to enhance a well coordinated and financed enforcement strategy.

We spend billions each month on an uncertain military effort, not to mention the lives lost. So, a few additional million for an increase in law enforcement resources seems a worthwhile investment.

In a relatively small agency like DEA, if we don’t put up the funds and instead just shift resources and personnel, we’ll simply end up reducing enforcement elsewhere. Not smart.

The other issue is whether this growing awareness will make anti-narcotics enforcement a consistent priority both in this country and abroad.

One of the topics President Obama raised with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in their meeting in Kabul this week was the need for more effort against the narco-terrorists in that country. Whether it is even possible to motivate Karzai to get serious about the epidemic, which is destroying his country, given the involvement of so many corrupt Afghan officials, is yet another unanswered question.

Drug investigators and prosecutors have become accustomed to measuring victories through regular announcement of increases in seizures and arrests – all while the war is being lost by insatiable drug demand, inconsistent political commitment and inadequate resources.

Whether this latest development will mark another frustrating chapter may ultimately come down to whether the politicians and public truly understand the battle and the need for resources.

Does Recent DEA Enforcement in Afghanistan Signal Hope in Narco-Terrorism War?

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office. He is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008”.

Ross Parker

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

In October, 2008 this column pointed out the growing link between international narcotics traffickers and terrorists, especially in Afghanistan. This was not news to federal law enforcement. Still, few politicians or members of the public were aware of this relationship.

Support for a well financed and coordinated international enforcement strategy, despite the best efforts of a few at DEA, seemed to be desperately lacking.

This dim political recognition came despite the alarming facts: The Taliban was expected to receive $70 million from the poppy harvest that year, and half of the terrorist organizations were financed — at least in part– by drug trafficking. The money was used to buy more sophisticated weapons and explosive devices and to train and equip more Taliban fighters.

DEA Agent Forrest Leamon died in Afghanistan

DEA Agent Forrest Leamon died in Afghanistan

In 2009 the Obama administration launched a bold strategy to attack narco-terrorism in Afghanistan. A multi-agency task force was established in Kabul to disrupt financial channels. The military targeted dozens of drug lords and began to participate in seizure and interdiction efforts.

And, importantly, the number of DEA personnel stationed in Afghanistan jumped from from 13 to almost 100. Add to that number the dozens of retired federal agents who were sent as contract civilian trainers to advise and assist the Afghan anti-narcotic program.

Read more »