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Archive for May 3rd, 2011

Column: Atty. Gen. Holder’s Disappointing Appearance Before the House Judiciary Committee on ATF Controversy

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Whether you agree with Atty. General Eric Holder Jr. or not, most reasonable people would conclude that he’s a pretty decent guy and a straight shooter.

That being said, it makes his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday all the more disappointing.

I’m referring to his exchange with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), who started grilling Holder about the controversial and embarrassing ATF program known as Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers — all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the upper ranks of the Mexican cartels. Problem is, ATF lost track of some guns, which may have been used to kill Americans including a border patrol agent.

Issa questioned Holder and tried to figure out who in the Justice Department gave the green light for the program. Holder responded rather tentatively.

Was it deputy Attorney Gen. James Cole, Issa asked. Not likely, Holder said, because “I think” he wasn’t in the department at the time it started. Was it Lanny Breuer, chief of the Justice Department criminal division?

“I’m not sure whether Mr. Breuer authorized it,” Holder responded.

REALLY.

At this stage it’s hard to believe Holder doesn’t know — at least whether the chief of his criminal division authorized it. And perhaps it’s just as bad if he never wandered down the hall to ask.

It’s not too hard to find out.

It was not a pretty performance on Tuesday, not a very credible one.

Holder is better than that.

FBI Warns: Beware of Malicious Software Claiming to Show Osama bin Laden Photos or Videos se

Osama bin Laden

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden may be gone, but a computer virus associated with the al Qaeda leader is making the rounds.

The FBI on Tuesday warned “computer users to exercise caution when they receive e-mails that purport to show photos or videos of Usama bin Laden’s recent death.”

“This content could be a virus that could damage your computer,” the FBI said. “This malicious software, or ‘malware,’ can embed itself in computers and spread to users’ contact lists, thereby infecting the systems of associates, friends, and family members. These viruses are often programmed to steal your personally identifiable information.”

The Internet Crime Complaint Center issued a warning not to open unsolicited (spam) e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.

“Even if the sender is familiar, the public should exercise due diligence. Computer owners must ensure they have up-to-date firewall and anti-virus software running on their machines to detect and deflect malicious software,” the FBI said.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Rep. Issa Presses Atty. Gen. Holder for Answers in Controversial ATF Gun Program

Atty. Gen. Holder before House Judiciary/ticklethewire.com

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In an exchange that was intense and sometimes contentious, Rep. Darrell Issa  (R-Calif.) on Tuesday pressed Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. on who gave the OK for a controversial ATF gun-walking program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Issa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee,  pointedly asked Holder at a Congressional hearing whether deputy Attorney General James Cole or Lanny Breuer, head of the criminal division,  authorized the Fast and Furious program, which encouraged straw purchasers to buy guns in Arizona — all with the hopes of tracing them to the Mexican cartels.  ATF lost track of some guns, and at least one federal agent Brian Terry may have been killed by one of the guns.

Holder said he didn’t think Cole was  in the department at the time it was authorized, and “I’m not sure whether Mr. Breuer authorized it.”

“You have to understand the way in which the department operates…,” Holder said. “This has gotten a great deal of publicity..”

“There are dead Americans as a result of this of this failed and reckless program,” Issa shot back. “So I would say it hasn’t gotten enough attention, has it Mr. Attorney General?”

Holder responded: “We’ll have to  look at that and see exactly what happened….I take very seriously the allegations.”

Issa later said to Holder: “We’re not looking at straw purchasers. We’re looking at you. We’re looking at your key people, who knew, who should have known about this and whether or not your judgment was consistent with good practices…”

Issa, who chairs another committee that has been aggressively investigating the ATF program, also asked about a subpoena he issued to ATF to get documents.

“After 14 days of waiting for a letter to be signed or acknowledged or responded to, we sent a subpoena signed by the clerk of the House. Thirty two days later, last night your people responded by giving us 92 pages representing three documents that were public records already,” Issa said. “And saying that the 400 or so responsive pages were not going to be produced. Do you stand by that and were you aware of that?

Holder: “I think we indicated that the other 400 pages be made available for review,  to be accurate.”

Issa also suggested the Justice Department and ATF were to blame for the deaths of Mexicans and Americans including  Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry as a result of the Operation Fast and Furious.

“I take great exception to what you just said,” Holder said. “The notion that the Justice Department is responsible for those deaths that you mention, that assertion is offensive.

Fed Prosecutors in Blago Trial Go For More Focused Case 2nd Time Around

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Federal prosecutors, after stumbling the first time around, unveiled a blueprint Monday for what they hope is a new and and improved case against ex-Ill. Rod Blagojevich.

The Chicago Tribune reports that in opening statements the prosecution presented a “much slimmer, more focused version of the government’s corruption case.” The first jury complained the case was too confusing and ended up convicting Blago on only 1 or 24 counts.

This time around, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner honed in on the headline grabber in the case: accusations that Blago tried to shake down Barack Obama by getting him to give him a cabinet position. In exchange, Blago would appoint an Obama friend to the vacant Senate seat.

“He was going to shake down the man who was going to become president of the United States,” Niewoehner said in opening statements, according to the Tribune.

“And right there, the crime is complete,” said Niewoehner.

The Tribune reported that “Niewoehner presented a concise view of the case that boiled down to essentially five criminal episodes: the alleged Senate seat sale as well as alleged shakedowns of a road-building executive, a racetrack owner, a hospital official and Rahm Emanuel when he was a former U.S. representative and close political ally of Blagojevich’s.”

But the prosecution left out of the opening a part that confused jurors in the first trial: a complicated scheme in which Blagojevich plotted with convicted fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko to siphon cash from state deals.

Blagojevich’s lawyer Aaron Goldstein in opening statements said the case amounts to no harm, no foul, the Trib reported. He said. Blagojevich talked a lot on the wiretaps, but “what ended up happening?”

“Do you think they found a big bag of cash hidden somewhere?” he said. “No, they found nothing because, in fact, there is nothing.”

To read more click here.

Brink’s Truck Driver Sentenced for Role in Inside Job that Netted $721,309


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — As get rich-quick schemes goes, this was one of the riskier ones.

Just ask Tyronda Ferrell, 23, a former Brink’s armored truck driver who was sentenced Monday in federal court in Washington to 6 years and 8 months in prison for her inside role in a brazen, mid-afternoon armored car robbery last September that netted $721,309, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Authorities said that Ferrell, of Hyattsville, Md.,  planned the robbery with a friend David Reddix, 23, of Washington, who recruited his friend Richard Lee, 32.

Last Sept. 2, Brink’s dispatched a truck to pick up money from banks and businesses in Northern Virginia, authorities said. Ferrell was one of the two guards, and was the driver.

As part of the plan, after doing the normal pickups, Ferrell drove to a Wendy’s restaurant in Northeast Washington.  At 2:40 p.m., she parked the car and Reddix, who was wearing the mask and carrying a gun,  and Lee,  approached  the other guard and ordered that person to open the truck door, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The two robbers entered the truck and ordered the guard to fill the bag with money while they told Ferrell to start driving. The second guard was forced into the rear of the truck and Lee took his gun. Ferrell drove to an alley in Northeast Washington and the two men took off.

That night, the men planned to meet Ferrell to split up the money. But Ferrell was arrested that night and Reddix and Lee were arrested within days.  Reddix and Lee are awaiting sentencing.

Ex-FBI Official Greg Jones Recalls the Hunt for bin Laden