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Archive for March 30th, 2011

U.S. Offers $5 Million Reward in Murder of ICE Agent and Wounding of Another; Mexico Offers 10 million Pesos

ICE Agent Jaime Zapata killed in Mexico/ice photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON— Federal authorities on Wednesday announced a reward of up to $5 million for info leading to the arrest and conviction in the Feb. 15  murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata and the wounding of another agent Victor Avila.

Additionally, the government of Mexico announced that it is offering up to 10 million pesos for information leading to the arrest in the case.

Meanwhile, the FBI and ICE have set up a 24-hour tip line in the U.S.

People in the U.S. can call the tip line at 1-866-859-9778. In Mexico, people can call +001 800-225-5324. Spanish language speakers will be available for either  number, authorities said.

Additionally, authorities said anyone can email info by visiting https://tips.fbi.gov.

The Mexican government has also set up a tip line: (55) 53-46-15-44 and (55) 53-46-00-00, extension 4748 in Mexico City and 01-800-831-31-96 outside of Mexico city.

Zapata and Avila were ambushed in Mexico on February 15 while traveling in their U.S. government-issued vehicle from the state of San Luis Potosi to Mexico City.

Authorities said that Mexican investigators have detained several individuals in the case and the probe continues.

ATF Needs to Clean the Manure Off Its Boots

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — ATF has stepped into a big pile of manure and it hasn’t been doing a very good job of trying to clean off its boots.

I’m referring to the dust up over Operation Fast and Furious , a program out of Arizona in which ATF let “straw purchasers” buy guns and transport them to Mexico, all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels.

The problem is that ATF couldn’t possibly keep tabs on all those guns. Some reportedly were used in serious crimes. When word of the program got out, folks like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia) demanded answers.

ATF has been slow to produce answers for Congress.  Grassley is now accusing ATF of stonewalling.

The press has had a field day. One story after another has appeared in papers and on television stations around the country.  None of them good. ATF looks like the stuff it has stepped in.

“The feeling is that somebody was sleeping at the switch, although they had good intentions,” one ATF official told me. “It was not a well thought out plan. I think there’s a lot of finger pointing right now.”

Agents say clearly letting so many guns walk was a big mistake. The goal was too ambitious, the risk too great. Maybe the agency was responding to criticism that it needed to go after bigger fish. That’s still not an excuse.

atf file photo

Regardless, agents say they’ve been left in the dark. The ATF honchos at headquarters aren’t telling them anything. They’ve had to rely on  information from the media. Many have been demoralized by the mess.

Plus, it’s caused a strain between Washington and the Mexican officials, who feel that the Americans don’t respect them. Let’s face it: It’s highly unlikely ATF would let that many guns walk if the guns wound up in the hands of American criminals instead of the Mexican cartels.

It was a bad plan. And the Justice Department needs to shoulder some blame since someone fairly high up knew about it and gave the blessing.

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. says he never gave the OK.

“Questions have been raised by ATF agents about the way in which some of these operations have been conducted. I think those questions have to be taken seriously, and on that basis I have asked the Inspector General to look at it,” Holder recently said.

Some are taking a wait and see attitude. They say the facts haven’t all come out. And cracking down on straw buyers isn’t always so easy because their true intent — buying guns on behalf of other people –  can be disguised and made to look legit.

That being said, ATF and the Justice Department need to come clean — as soon as possible.  Whenever I speak before law enforcement groups, be it a police precinct or at a university — I tell them: “Get as much of the story out as possible and be truthful. If you hide things or lie, the press will turn one story into five.”

Best to clean up the mess before the manure becomes a permanent fixture on those boots.

(Just in: CBS reports that Kenneth Melson, head of ATF,  has decided not to testify before a Senate hearing on Thursday where he would likely be asked about the gun program. Not good. He’s the boss. He needs to get out there in public.)

Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin Busted for Drunk Driving

Harley Lappin/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Harley Lappin, the director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, who oversees 116 institutions and about 210,000 convicts, faces drunk driving charges stemming from a February incident in Annapolis, Md., the website Main Justice reported.

Lappin, who announced his resignation last week, told the staff about the drunk driving incident, Main Justice’s Andrew Ramonas reported.

The website reported that he faces three charges related to drunk driving.  The incident happened on Saturday, Feb. 26 around 4 a.m., less than a half mile from his home, the website reported.

Last Friday, Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. issued a statement about the retirement of Lappin:

“During my tenure as both Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, it has been a privilege to work closely with Director Harley Lappin.

“For more than a quarter of a century, including eight years as Director, his service to the Bureau of Prisons has helped improve public safety, strengthen our corrections systems, and advance the Justice Department’s most critical goals.”

John Hinckley Wants More Unsupervised Visits to Mother’s Va. Home

John Hinckley Jr. -abc news photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — John Hinckley Jr., the Jodie Foster-obsessed gunman who shot President Reagan in 1981, wants more unsupervised visits to his mother’s home in Virginia, according to a court filing on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington.

The court papers filed by attorney Barry Levine asks a federal judge to grant the  55-year-old more unsupervised visits. The papers noted that Hinckley had been granted 12 unsupervised visits, but used them all up. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The filing was first reported by the Associated Press.

“This Court’s July 20, 2009 Order granted Mr. Hinckley a total of twelve (12) visits to his mother’s home for a duration of nine nights,” attorney Levine wrote. “Mr. Hinckley has recently completed his twelfth visit, and therefore is unable to continue progressing with the therapeutic and transitional goals of the visits unless and until there is further relief form this Court.”

“Like his prior conditional release visits, each and every one of Mr. Hinckley’s twelve visits under the July 20, 2009 Court Order were completed in full and faithful compliance with the Court’s order, without any manifestation of mental disease or danger to himself or others, as has been reported to this Court.”

“Consequently, the Hospital is preparing a petition to this Court to request that Mr. Hinckley be given additional time in the area of his mother’s home toward the goal of fully transitioning Mr. Hinckley there.

“During the pendency of the preparation of the petition, Mr. Hinckley and the Hospital respectfully request that this Court enter an Order granting him interim relief of additional visits until such time as the Court enters a new order in order for Mr. Hinckley to maintain his therapeutic and transitional goals.”

Read Court Filing

Woman Threatens to Kill FBI Agent Who Arrested Her 20 Years Ago

By Allan Lengel
ticklethwire.com

Some people hold a grudge a long long time.

That would apparently include Kim Rolene Hutterer, 47, who was charged this week in Minneapolis with threatening to kill and “slowly cut skin off” FBI agent Dean Scheidler who arrested her 20 years ago for threatening to bomb a plane in 1991, the Associated Press reported.

AP reported that the woman sent an 11-page letter to the Minneapolis FBI office in October threatening to kill Scheidler and harm or kill others including judges and Vice President Joe Biden. AP reported that a criminal complaint stated that Hutterer has been threatening the agent for years and even carved a threat on her jail cell 20 years ago.

Rep. Issa Fires Off Letter Critical of Hillary Clinton for Failing to Provide Info on Controversial ATF Gun Program

Hillary Clinton/state dept. photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, took sharp aim Tuesday at Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton over the controversial ATF gun program dubbed Operation Fast and Furious.

In a letter fired off  Tuesday to Clinton, and posted on the CBS News website, Issa chastised Clinton for not providing information to Sen. Chuck Grassley on the ATF program that allowed gun traffickers to pass weapons on to Mexico, all with the hopes of tracing them  to the drug cartels.

“On March 4, 2001, Senator Charles E. Grassley wrote to you requesting basic information about the connection between Operation “Fast and Furious”conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the December 14, 2010 firefight that claimed the life of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry,” Issa wrote. “I understand you have yet to respond and are likely to refuse Senator Grassley’s request for information without a letter from the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Issa/gov photo

“This refusal is mystifying in its own right, given Senator Grassley’s standing as the Ranking Member of that Committee. More inexplicably, your refusal stands in stark contradiction to the promise of transparency promoted by President Obama. During Sunshine Week last year, the President stated that  he had “recommit(ed) (his) administration to be the most open and honest ever.”

“Given the gravity of this matter, this refusal is simply unacceptable,” he wrote. “Therefore, I am joining Senator Grassley’s request for any and all records relating to a meeting involving the then-U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual with Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Mr. Breuer’s deputy, and other officials in Mexico City in the summer of 2010 regarding “on-going investigations” related to Project Gunrunner and its “Fast and Furious” component….Additionally, please explain in detail the reasons behind your refusal to answer the Senator directly.”

Issa asked that doucments be handed over no later than 5 p.m. on April 12.

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