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Archive for April 1st, 2011

Weekend Series on Crime History: Mobster Bugsy Siegel and Las Vegas

Justice Dept. “Surprised and Disappointed” With Subpoena Issued for ATF

atf file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — No surprise, politics is surfacing inside the beltway.

The Justice Department on Friday expressed disappointment in a Congressional committee which issued a subpoena for documents from ATF on a controversial gun program,  saying it had already told the committee it planned to cooperate.

“We  are therefore surprised and disappointed when shortly after we notified your staff of our intent to work with the Committee, you nevertheless issued a subpoena a few hours later,” the Justice Department wrote Friday to the committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa. ”  Despite this unnecessary step on your part, we will review the subpoena and work with the Committee to address your concerns.”

The Justice Dept. response came on the same day  Issa, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced he had issued a subpoena to ATF after the agency failed to a meet the Wednesday deadline to handover documents pertaining to the gun-walking programs Operation Gunrunner and its offshoot, Operation Fast and Furious.

Operation Fast and Furious let straw purchasers buy guns, all with the hopes that ATF could trace them to the Mexican cartels. Unfortunately, some of the guns have been used in crimes.

The letter, written by Assistant Atty. Gen. Ronald Weich, also stated:

“As you know the Department has been working with the Committee to provide documents responsive to its March 16 request to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Yesterday, we informed Committee staff that we intended to produce a number of responsive documents with the next week.

“As we explained, there are some documents  that we would be unable to provide without compromising the Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into the death of agent Brian Terry as well as other investigations and prosecutions, but we would seek to work productively with the Committee to find other ways to be responsive to its needs.”

Senator Chuck Grassley, who has been pushing the issue and has been critical of ATF, issued a statement on Friday saying:

“According to more than a dozen whistleblowers from the ATF, the bureau knowingly has allowed assault weapons to be sold to these so-called straw buyers, individuals who illegally purchase firearms in the U.S. and then transport the weapons across the border to resell them to Mexican drug cartels. The ATF officials say the practice was intended to trap gun-smuggling networks operating along the southwest border who supply the violent drug –trafficking cartels in Mexico.”

“The agents warned that the practice was headed for disaster. And, their prophecy came true. Instead of intercepting the assault rifles and hand-pistols, the firearms allegedly were allowed to “walk” across the border, without U.S. interdiction, delivering thousands of guns into violent, drug networks in Mexico.

“Tragically, those who might have given the green light to the ill-conceived strategy may now have the blood of U.S. federal agents on their hands.”

“In December, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in a shoot-out along the southwest border near Tucson, Arizona. Two AK-47 type assault rifles found at the scene were among the firearms purchased illegally under an operation known as “Fast and Furious.” The murder of another federal agent in February also may have ties to this practice. Special Agent Jaime Zapata of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was attacked and killed, with a gun purchased by an alleged straw buyer, while on assignment in Mexico.”

Rep. Issa Explains Why He Issued a Subpoena

Rep. Issa Subpoenas Documents From ATF in Controversial Gun-Walking Program

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — A show down on Capitol Hill seems to be getting closer.

The head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform announced Friday morning that he was issuing a subpoena to ATF to force it to turn over documents relating to a controversial gun program “Project Gunrunner” and its offshoot “Project Fast and Furious.”

The subpoena, announced by committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), comes in response to ATF’s failure to comply with a request by the committee to turn over the materials. The deadline was Wednesday. The deadline to comply with the subpoena is April 13.

“The unwillingness of this Administration – most specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – to answer questions about this deadly serious matter is deeply troubling,” Issa said in a statement.

“Allegations surrounding this program are serious and the ability of the Justice Department to conduct an impartial investigation is in question. Congressional oversight is necessary to get the truth about what is really happening.”

Drew Wade, an ATF spokesman, said Friday morning shortly before the subpoena was announced: “We aren’t going to discuss matters of ongoing investigations. He could not immediately be reached for a follow up comment.

The controversy centers on a an ATF program that allowed straw purchasers to buy guns — all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels. Some guns have been used in crimes.

A press release issued Friday morning by the committee stated:

“On March 16, 2011, Chairman Issa wrote a letter to Acting Director Kenneth Melson of the ATF requesting specific documents related to Project Gunrunner, its “Fast and Furious” component, and records related to the death of Border Agent Brian Terry. ATF failed to meet the March 30th deadline for producing these documents and furthermore refused to voluntarily commit to any date for producing them. ”

“Media reports have raised questions about the handling of operations involving gun trafficking into Mexico – specifically the allegation that ATF has had a policy of permitting – and even encouraging – the movement of guns into Mexico by straw purchasers.

“This practice may have contributed to the deaths of hundreds on both sides of the border, including federal law enforcement agents. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who has also been pursuing the matter, recently stated, ‘I’m still asking questions and we’re still getting the runaround from the Justice Department, [t]hey’re stonewalling.’”

“President Obama recently stated that neither he nor Attorney General Holder authorized this operation. His statement did not specify whether Attorney General Holder was aware of this policy or who did authorize it. The Committee’s investigation seeks answers to these questions and the true nature of Project Gunrunner.”

The subpoena requests the following documents, according to the press release:

1. Documents and communications relating to the genesis of Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, and any memoranda or reports involving any changes to either program at or near the time of the release of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General report about Project Gunrunner in November 2010.

Read more »

Cleaning Up Madoff Mess Costing Millions of $$$$$$$$$$

Bernie Madoff

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Like many wild parties, once they’re over, the clean up can be a bear.  Well, the party has long been over for Madoff and the very expensive clean up is underway. And it ain’t close to being  over.

The Washington Post’s David Hilzenrath reports that the clean up  has “unleashed a gusher of cash” for lawyers, accountants and consultants.

The Post reports that the clean up costs last year came to $288 million, and it is likely to grow by $1.1 billion in the coming years.

The Post reports that the money comes from a small, government-sponsored nonprofit organization called the Securities Investor Protection Corp. (SIPC), “which manages the liquidation of failed brokerage firms in much the same way the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. backstops failed banks.”

To read more click here.

Washington Post Editorial: The Not-So Honorable Ex-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry

D.C.’s former Mayor Marion Barry, currently a city council member, has had his share of brushes with federal law enforcement. As you recall in 1990 he was busted in an FBI sting smoking crack in a D.C. hotel room. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges relating to failure to file and pay taxes. His legal indiscretions go on and on. The Washington Post editorial talks about his latest indiscretion. The editorial sums it up best with the headline: “Marion Barry, Still Embarrassing D.C.” — Allan Lengel

The Not-So Honorable Marion Barry/gov photo


By The Washington Post
Editorial Page

WASHINGTON — WHAT IS SO distressing about D.C. Council member Marion Barry’s latest escapade is not his belief that he can live outside the law. That’s old news. What’s distressing is that he seems to be correct in his assessment.

How else to explain the apparent indifference of police and other officials to the fact of Mr. Barry tooling around town in a car not properly registered? That Mr. Barry is allowed to continuously embarrass the people he was elected to serve erodes the city’s credibility and ability to manage itself.

The most recent instance of Mr. Barry (D-Ward 8) discrediting his office involves, as The Post’s Tim Craig disclosed, his use of a car that has “inactive” D.C. tags and that was not registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s against the law for anyone to operate a vehicle not properly registered, and violators face a fine of up to $1,000 or up to 30 days in jail.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

ATF Still Hasn’t Turned Over Info to Congressional Committee; Battle Heats Up

ATF's Kenneth Melson keeping mum/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The battle between Capitol Hill and ATF seems to be heating up.

ATF failed to meet the Wednesday deadline to turn over requested information about a controversial gun-walking operation to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Becca Watkins, a spokeswoman for the committee, told ticklethewire.com Friday morning that the committee is expected to respond to  ATF’s non-compliance later in the day.

The committee has asked for info on the controversial program “Fast and Furious”, which had straw purchasers buying guns and ATF trying to trace them to the Mexican cartels. Some guns have ended up being used in serious crimes.

Rep. Darrell Isa, chairman of the committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley have expressed anger over ATF’s failure to turn over information about the program.  On top of that, Ken Melson, head of ATF, turned down an invitation to appear before Congress.

On Thursday, former ATF official Bernie La Forest released an email to ticklethewire.com he had sent to former colleagues saying Congress may cut ATF’s budget — or worse yet — eliminate the agency if it doesn’t start cooperating.

“This refusal is exactly what some politicians want. If the ‘failure to cooperate’ continues, ATF is in for another blood bath . . . maybe a fatal one this go-around,” La Forest wrote.

ATF did not immediately respond for comment Friday morning.

“We aren’t going to discuss matters of ongoing investigations,” said ATF spokesman Drew Wade.