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Archive for February 17th, 2011

Public Hearing on Anthrax May Be Inevitible

Anthrax Suspect Bruce Ivins

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – Though the FBI and Justice Department are thoroughly convinced that scientist Bruce Ivins mailed the deadly anthrax letters in 2001, it seems almost inevitable now that some very costly and protracted public hearing will be conducted to review the whole case.  Unfortunately, Ivins killed himself in July 2008 before any charges could be filed against him.

The case once again came alive on Tuesday when the National Research Council released a 170-page report commissioned by the FBI that showed that the Justice Department and FBI  overstated their case when they definitively concluded that the anthrax used in the deadly mailings came from a flask from Ivins’  government laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland labeled RMR-1029. The report said it could not rule out other possible sources.

“The scientific link between the letter material and flask number RMR-1029 is not as conclusive as stated in the DOJ Investigative Summary,” the report said.

However, Lehigh University President Alice P. Gast, who led the 16-member National Research Council Committee that reviewed the cutting-edge science used in the investigation, said: “We find the scientific evidence to be consistent with their conclusions but not as definitive as stated.”

Unfortunately,  the study only examined  the sciences in the investigation and didn’t taken into account other key aspects — interviews, the behavior of Ivins, fingerprints, etc. And it avoided at all costs the thing everyone really wanted it to do: Say whether Ivins was the guy.

I spoke to folks on Tuesday at the FBI and Justice Department who insist, in totality, the evidence against Ivins is overwhelming, that the science was only a component of the investigation.

But I also spoke to Ivins attorney Paul Kemp who insisted the study showed the government’s smoking gun — the flask –  was merely smoke and mirrors. He wants a public review, possibly a Congressional hearing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley  (R-Ia.) chimed in on Tuesday and insisted it was time for a public review as did Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J).

It may not be what the FBI and Justice Department want. But they may have no say in the matter. The cries of the skeptics may be too much too ignore. And maybe a hearing would satisfy the skeptics — and maybe not.

White House Needs to Stop Being Wimpy About Gun Rules Tied to Mexico


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – What’s it going to take for the White House to figure out that the situation in Mexico — endless bloodshed over money, drugs and power — is an “emergency”?

The ambush of two ICE agents on Tuesday in which one died?  The deadly ambush last March of a woman from the American Consulate and her husband?  The endless murders of tens of thousands of Mexicans including plenty cops?

It’s simply disturbing how Wimpy the White House has been — how it has bowed to NRA.

I’m referring to a very simple rule it refuses to implement. ATF last December announced that it hoped the White House would quickly implement an emergency request  calling for gun dealers in four border states  to report sales of two or more assault weapons to one person within five days.  The idea is to keep better track of the guns and gun traffickers who are helping supply the murderous drug war in Mexico.

The NRA opposes the regulation. So what. The White House needs a backbone. This is an emergency.

Former colleague James Grimaldi of the Washington Post reported on Feb. 5 that the White House had rejected the emergency request, which will delay implementing the regulation for at least two months. The White House claims it wants to be more transparent and get more public feedback.  Michael Isikoff of NBC reported that the White House just didn’t see it as “emergency” under federal rules.

No one expects this to be the magic bullet, so to speak, that will turn things around.  You need lots and lots of things to collectively create a magic bullet.  But this  could help. And it certainly couldn’t hurt.

I spoke to James Cavanaugh, a thoughtful and  respected former ATF official the other day who simply said of the White House: “It’s not a profile in political courage.  Everybody is beating their chest saying how much they want to stop  the slaughter of Mexican citizens down there. ”

“You either need to change the law that describes what an emergency is or change the leader who made the decision that it isn’t.”

Man Sentenced to Life in Brooklyn for Plotting to Blow Up JFK Airport

jfk airport

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A federal judge in Brooklyn on Thursday sentenced Russell Defreitas to life in prison for conspiring to blow up fuel tanks and pipelines under John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens.

A federal jury convicted Russell Defreitas and co-conspirator Abdul Kadir in July 2010 after a nine-week trial, authorities said.

Evidence at trial showed that Russell Defreitas, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana, originated the idea to attack JFK Airport and its fuel tanks and pipelines. He had worked at the airport as a cargo handler.

In 2006 and 2007, he recruited recruited Abdul Kadir and others to join the plot during multiple trips to Guyana and Trinidad, authorities said.

Between trips, Defreitas did video surveillance of JFK Airport and transported the footage back to Guyana to show Kadir and their co-conspirators.

Authorities said “Kadir, a trained engineer with connections to militant groups in Iran and Venezuela, provided the conspirators with links to individuals with terrorist experience, advice on explosive materials, and a bank account through which to finance the terrorist attack.”

On Dec. 15,Kadir was sentenced to life. Another defendant, Abdel Nur was sentenced in January to 15 years in prison and a fourth man, Kareem Ibrahim, still faces trial.

As Expected White House Gives Nod to Thomas Harrigan For #2 Spot at DEA

Thomas Harrigan/dea photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — As expected, the White House Wednesday nominated Thomas M. Harrigan as the number two person at DEA.

Harrigan, who must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, is currently Chief of Operations for DEA, a post he has held since 2008.

Harrigan, a well respected figure in the DEA, started his career with the agency in 1987 and was assigned to the Bangkok in 1991.

Since then, the White House said “he has served as Group Supervisor in the Newark Field Division, Staff Coordinator in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, Chief of the Dangerous Drugs and Chemicals Section, and Deputy Chief in the Office of Domestic Operations. He also served as Senior Advisor to the Chief of Domestic Operations and as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge in the Washington Field Office.

In 2004, Mr. Harrigan was appointed to the Senior Executive Service to serve as the Chief of Enforcement Operations.

Column: White House Needs to Stop Being Wimpy About Gun Rules Tied to Mexico’s Violent Cartels

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — What’s it going to take for the White House to figure out that the situation in Mexico — endless bloodshed over money, drugs and power — is an “emergency”?

The ambush of two ICE agents on Tuesday in which one died?  The deadly ambush last March of a woman from the American Consulate and her husband?  The endless murders of tens of thousands of Mexicans including plenty cops?

It’s simply disturbing how Wimpy the White House has been — how it has bowed to NRA.

I’m referring to a very simple rule it refuses to implement. ATF last December announced that it hoped the White House would quickly implement an emergency request  calling for gun dealers in four border states  to report sales of two or more assault weapons to one person within five days.  The idea is to keep better track of the guns and gun traffickers who are helping supply the murderous drug war in Mexico.

The NRA opposes the regulation. So what. The White House needs a backbone. This is an emergency.

Former colleague James Grimaldi of the Washington Post reported on Feb. 5 that the White House had rejected the emergency request, which will delay implementing the regulation for at least two months. The White House claims it wants to be more transparent and get more public feedback.  Michael Isikoff of NBC reported that the White House just didn’t see it as “emergency” under federal rules.

No one expects this to be the magic bullet, so to speak, that will turn things around.  You need lots and lots of things to collectively create a magic bullet.  But this  could help. And it certainly couldn’t hurt.

I spoke to James Cavanaugh, a thoughtful and  respected former ATF official the other day who simply said of the White House: “It’s not a profile in political courage.  Everybody is beating their chest saying how much they want to stop  the slaughter of Mexican citizens down there. ”

“You either need to change the law that describes what an emergency is or change the leader who made the decision that it isn’t.”

I couldn’t agree more.

If Captured Bin Laden Might Go to Gitmo, CIA Head Says

bin Laden said getting weapons of mass destruction was a "religious duty"

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – After almost 10 years, it seems like nothing more than a lot of “what ifs” and fantasy on the part of the U.S. government when it talks about what to do  with Osama bin Laden if he’s ever captured.

Still, CIA Director Leon Panetta testified Wednesday before a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill that the administration would probably take him to the military prison at Gitmo, the Associated Press reported.

AP’s Eileen Sullivan went on to write “that suggests that, at least under current law, bin Laden would not be transferred to US soil to be tried in the civilian court system.”

Bin laden has been indicted in federal court in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.

But the new White House spokesman Jay Carney said, according to AP:

“The president remains committed to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, because as our military commanders have made clear, it’s a national security priority to do so.

“I’m not going to speculate about what, you know, would happen if we were to capture Osama bin Laden.”

Mexican Authorities Say Drug Cartel Shot and Killed ICE Agent

ICE Agent Jaime Zapata/ice photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

No surprise.

Mexican authorities are saying that two ICE agents who were shot in the northern part of the country Tuesday were ambushed on a road about four hours north of Mexico City by drug cartel gunmen, the Washington Post reports. One died and the other was wounded and is stable condition.

The paper reported that the governor of San Luis Potosi, Fernando Toranzo, where the shootings took place, were killed by the same cartel that has wreaked havoc in his state.

The paper reported that the agent killed has been identified as Jaime Zapata, 32. The other agent, whose name has not been released, was taken to a hospital in Houston. They were assigned to the ICE attache in Mexico City.

The paper reported that the Mexican government bans U.S. law enforcement personnel from carrying guns.

A press release said that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. had decided to form a joint task force, led by the FBI, to track down the perpetrators.

Agent Zapata joined ICE in 2006 and was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Special Agent in Charge in Laredo, Tex., where he served on the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit as well as the Border Enforcement Security Task Force, ICE said in a statement.

He began his federal law enforcement career with the Department of Homeland Security as a member of the U.S. Border Patrol in Yuma, Az. A native of Brownsville, Tex., he graduated from the University of Texas at Brownsville in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

Slain Dep. Marshal Had Been With Agency For a Little Over a Year

Dep. U.S. Marshal Derek Hotsinpiller/facebook

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A deputy U.S. Marshal killed Wednesday while trying to serve a warrant in West Virginia has been identified as Derek Hotsinpiller, 24, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. He had been a deputy Marshal for just over a year.

Two other deputy Marshals were shot, but suffered non-life threatening wounds, according to the Charleston Gazette. The gunman was shot and killed.

The Marshals, along with West Virginia State police, had gone to the house of Charles E. Smith, 50, in Elkins, W. Va.  to serve an arrest warrant for Smith who was wanted on drug charges. After the deputy Marshals entered the home, Smith opened fire with a shotgun. Hotsinpiller was shot in the neck, authorities said.

The Officer Down Memorial Page reported that the slain Marshal was the son of a former police officer. His brother is also a police officer in West Virginia.