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Archive for April 19th, 2010

Column: NYPD “Cowboy Behavior” Screws FBI in Terrorism Case

Len Levitt wrote the police column “One Police Plaza” for Newsday for 10 years and has worked for several other publications including Time magazine. His website is nypdconfidential.com

len levittBy Len Levitt
nypdconfidential.com

There is more cause for concern about the NYPD’s Lone Cowboy behavior the more we learn about the department’s dealings with the Queens imam who jeopardized the investigation into the most serious threat to national security since 9/11.

It now appears that the NYPD spoke with Imam Ahmad Wais Afzali not once, as has been reported, but at least three times, urging him to spy on suspects in a plot to blow up New York City subways.

And the police apparently did this without informing their own partners in the terrorism investigation — the FBI.

The result: Instead of helping the investigation, the NYPD’s meddling led the imam to warn ringleader Najibullah Zazi that authorities were on to him, short-circuiting the crucial evidence-gathering surveillance and forcing the FBI to make arrests prematurely.

To read full column click here.

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FBI Has Doubled Number of Agents Assigned to Counterterrorism since 2001; Numbers Down for Criminal Matters

fbi logo largeBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In what really comes as no surprise, the FBI has doubled the number of agents assigned to counterterrorism since 2001.

Jeff Stein of Spy Talk, a blog for the Washington Post, reports that Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine reported in fiscal 2009 “the FBI used 26 percent of its field agents to address counterterrorism matters, while using 51 percent to address criminal matters.”

“This is a significant change from FY 2001 when the FBI used 13 percent of its field agents on counterterrorism matters and 72 percent on criminal matters,” Fine said, according to Stein.

The report goes on to say that “we found that the FBI generally issued field agents in line with its allocation for its highest national priorities in FY 2009, including counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cyber crime, and civil rights. However, the FBI continued to use fewer field agents than allocated to address its lowest national priorities, including criminal enterprises, white collar crime and violent crime.”

Read more »

Chinese Man Gets 70 Months in Prison For Buying Millions of Contraband Cigarette Cartons From Undercover ATF Agents With Cash and Ectasy Pills

marlboros2By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A resident of Flushing, N.Y., who hailed from China, is headed off to prison for buying illegal cigarettes from undercover ATF agents and paying in cash and with Ectasy-like pills, authorities said.

Rui Bai Wang, 33, was sentenced last week to 5 years and 10 months in prison in Alexandria, Va. Authorities said he will be deported after serving his sentence.

According to authorities Wang was part of a conspiracy that bought about 2.4 million low-taxed cigarettes cartons in 2009 in Virginia from ATF agents with $165,000 and 22,000 Ectasy-like pills. The pills commonly sell for $15 to $20 a pill on the street, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The cigarettes were then sold in New York where the tax on each carton is much higher. Had they purchased the cigarettes in New York City, they would have had to pay $4.25 in taxes for each pack. Instead, they paid the 30 cents per pack in Virginia, according to a court document.

Willie Brownlee, acting special agent in charge of the ATF Washington field Division, which includes Virginia, said on Monday that the sale of contraband cigarettes is a big problem.

” A lot of this money could be used for organized crime, violent crime organizations and things of that nature,” he said.

Fear of Pro-Gun Lobby Groups in Election Year Leaves ATF Without Senate-Confirmed Leader

Kenneth Melson/fbi photo

Kenneth Melson

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — There have been times when ATF has felt like the stepchild in the world of law enforcement — particularly when compared to the FBI.

This may be one of those times.

Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff reports that 15 months after President Obama has taken office, the White House has yet to appoint someone to head ATF.

ATF agents have been saying all along that the White House doesn’t want to deal with appointment before the upcoming elections, fearing it would dredge up some hot button issues like gun control and rally the powerful pro-gun lobby against anti-gun candidates.

James Cavanaugh/ticklethewire.com photo

James Cavanaugh

Consequently, the acting director, Kenneth Melson, was recently demoted to deputy director. A law limits how long acting chiefs can head up federal agencies, Newsweek reports.

“It’s shocking and indefensible,” says Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control group, “that when you have a huge problem from gun trafficking and gun violence, they have left this agency leaderless.”

“The message that’s sent to the employees is, ‘You don’t matter,'” Jim Cavanaugh, a 33-year bureau veteran who retired this month as the agent in charge of the Nashville office told Newsweek.

To read more of Newsweek report click here.

New D.C. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen Comfortable in the Streets

D.C.’s new U.S. Attorney Ron Machen says he’s comfortable on the streets and in any environment. That may help a guy who heads up a U.S. Attorney’s Office that not only handles federal cases but local crimes as well.

Ron Machen Jr./doj photo

Ron Machen Jr./doj photo

By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Then-U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder sat on the sofa of his fifth-floor office 13 years ago and listened to the young lawyer tell him what needed to change: Prosecutors spent too much time in their offices and the courthouse, and not enough time in the community.

Ronald C. Machen told his future boss in a job interview that they needed to have a regular presence throughout the District by attending community forums, meetings in church basements, youth summits and the like. Waiting until a crime is committed, Holder recalled Machen telling him, was too late to develop relationships.

“He had such fully formed ideas,” said Holder, now the country’s attorney general. “He knew that it wasn’t enough to just show up at a crime scene, but to be there to explain what the office was about in non-stressful times. He had a vision then, and now his time has come.”

To read full story click here.

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