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Archive for April 8th, 2011

Sen. Grassley Wants to Know If ATF Agents Have Been Advised to Stonewall Congressional Inquiries

Sen. Grassley/official photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley on Friday expressed concerns that ATF agents are possibly being encouraged not to fully cooperate with Congressional inquiries into a controversial  ATF gun-walking program.

In a press release issued Friday, Grassley said his concerns surfaced after documents released by AFT through the Freedom of Information Act included an email to ATF Deputy Director Billy Hoover “regarding suggestions on how ATF agents should be directed to respond to congressional requests, like those from Grassley. ”

He did not indicate who wrote the email and the name of person was redacted in a copy he released. It did show the person was part of the “SMO”, which in the Justice Department stands for Senior Management Offices.

In an April 8  letter to Kenneth Melson, head of ATF, Grassley writes of the email:

“It appears to contain proposed guidance to ATF employees about how to respond to contacts from my office. The guidance instructs ATF employees that they “are in no way obligated to respond” to questions from Congress. It also attempts to prevent direct communications with my office by instructing that ATF employees “should refer congressional staff who seek information from you to the ATF’s office of congressional affairs.”

“The guidance further attempts to prevent direct communications with my office by claiming that ATF employees “are not authorized to disclose non-public information.”

“It is unclear from the email released through FOIA whether this guidance was actually communicated to ATF employees. However, it is of grave concern because, as you know, such attempts to prevent direct communications with Congress are not a lawfully authorized activity of any officer or employee of the United States whose salary is paid with appropriated funds.”

Grassley said in the press release:  “Since our investigation began, I’ve continued to be contacted by agents and others within the ATF about wrongdoing regarding Fast and Furious at the ATF and the Justice Department. If people have concerns they should be able to express themselves without feeling pressure from their bosses.”

Operation and Fast and Furious encouraged straw purchasers to buy weapons, all with the hopes of tracing them to the higher levels of the Mexican cartels.

But critics complained ATF lost track of some guns, and some were used in serious crimes.

ATF did not immediately respond for comment.

Read letter to Ken Melson

Detroit Fed Judge Sets August Plea Deadline for Underwear Bomber

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marshals photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The man dubbed the Underwear Bomber has until Aug. 19 to hammer out a plea deal, the Associated reported. Trial is set for October.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried blowing up an Amsterdam to Detroit bound Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas day in 2009, appeared in U.S. District Court on Thursday in downtown Detroit.

Prosecutors had asked for the plea deadline for Abdulmutallab, who is representing himself, AP reported.

Knowledgeable sources have privately said that Abdumutallab, should he choose to knock out a plea, won’t have much bargaining power since he was caught in the act in front of a number of witnesses.

They say he might be able to negotiate for certain conditions in prison, but isn’t likely to get much more.

Justice Dept. Threatens to Withhold Funds From Police Depts. That Don’t Require Body Armor

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — No body armor, no cash.

That’s what the Justice Department is saying.

USA Today reports that the Justice Department is threatening to withhold millions of federal dollars from  local police departments that don’t require uniformed officers to wear body armor.

The threats come in wake of a spike in fatal shootings of cops. Body armor is not required at 41 percent of the nation’s police departments, USA Today reports.

“What struck us is the number of agencies that don’t have a mandatory policy … a potential huge vulnerability,” Jim Burch, acting director of the department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, told USA Today. “If we’re investing federal dollars, we should require agencies to have policies.”

FBI’s Tape Recorder Went Dead During Portland Terrorism Probe

Mohamed Mohamud

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Despite all the advances, human error can still trump  modern technology.

The Portland Oregonian reports that the FBI’s efforts last July to record Mohamed Mohamud  first talking about taking part in a terrorist bombing plot in Portland failed because the tape recorder went dead.

“Put simply,” the government wrote in court paper filed Thursday, “it was human error: the device was accidentally turned on hours before the meeting time and therefore ran out of battery power as the meeting began.”

Mohamud’s lawyers have claimed their client was entrapped into participating in a plot to kill and maim thousands at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland on Nov. 26.

The paper reports that the first utterances in the case could be very significant.

The paper reported that legal scholars say “the FBI’s botched recording will make for interesting arguments in court because first utterances of criminal intentions are pivotal in entrapment cases.”