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Archive for May 4th, 2011

Justice Department Eyeing College Football Bowl Games

istock photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON—  College football could be in for a rude awakening.

The Associated Press reports that  Justice Department has sent a letter to the N.C.A.A. raising questions about the selection process for Bowl Championship Series (BSC) football games, and whether it  complies with anti-trust laws.

AP reported that critics have pushed for a Justice Investigation into the selection process ” saying that it unfairly gives some schools preferential access to the national championship game and top-tier bowls.” The N.C.A.A. said it will respond after getting the letter.

AP reported that a letter authored by Christine Varney, chief of the Justice Department’s Anti-Trust Division,  asked N.C.A.A. President Mark Emmert why college football doesn’t have a playoff system to determine its national champion like other  NCAA sports do.

The letter also asks what steps the NCAA has taken to create one.

“Your views would be relevant in helping us to determine the best course of action with regard to the BCS,” she wrote.

AP added that Varney wrote that that the Utah attorney general plans to file an antitrust lawsuit against the BCS, and 21 professors recently sent the department a letter asking for an antitrust investigation.

White House Nominates U.S. Marshals for Fla. and Miss.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Presidential appointments in law enforcement continue to trickle in.

The White House on Wednesday announced the nominations of Dennis J. Erby for U.S.Marshal for the Northern District of Mississippi and Edward M. Spooner for U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Florida.

Spooner is currently Assistant Special Agent in Charge within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Erby is a Supplemental Compliance Monitor for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and Planning.

FBI Dir. Mueller Cancels Trip to India in Aftermath of bin Laden Death

Robert Mueller/file fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III called off his trip to India this week where he was expected to brief officials on developments in the Mumbai attack investigation, the IANS news organization reported.

The FBI told ticklethewire.com that Mueller had planned to visit New Delhi on Wednesday and go to other areas in the region. However, Mueller postponed the trip after Sunday’s development with Osama bin Laden so he could attend meetings on the matter.

Mueller is expected to go to the region later this year before he steps down on Sept. 4.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Justice Dept. Signed Off on Wiretap of ATF Gun Program Long Before it Became Controversial, Document Shows

Lanny Breuer

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Documents released Wednesday about ATF’s controversial “Operation Fast and Furious” program is stirring more controversy.

One document, released by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif), who has spearheaded an investigation into the  controversial program, showed that the Justice Department in Washington signed off on a wiretap application more than a year ago for the controversial operation. The document included the name of Assistant Attorney general Lanny Breuer, but was signed by one of his deputies Kenneth Blanco. It does not mention Operation Fast and Furious.

Issa has been trying to find out who gave the green light for the operation. On Tuesday, he pressed Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. for an answer. But Holder said he did not know if Breuer authorized the operation, which is based in Arizona and  encouraged gun dealers to sell weapons to the “straw buyers” — with the hope of tracing them to the Mexican Cartels. Some of the weapons may have been used to kill Americans.

Rep. Issa suggested on his website that the document made clear that “Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer knew about and even approved a wiretap application for suspects targeted in Operation Fast and Furious over a year ago.”

But Justice Dept. spokeswoman Tracy Schamler responded  in a statement saying the wiretap authorization was just one of thousands the Justice Department reviews each year, and was very narrow in scope , and  was in itself not an authorization for Operation Fast and Furious.

In other words, it’s still unclear what Breuer knew.

“The review process for wiretap applications is a narrow assessment of whether a legal basis exists to support a surveillance request that ultimately goes before a judge for decision,” Schmaler said.

“These reviews are not approval of the underlying investigations or operations. As the department has stated, the Fast and Furious operation was approved by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and the ATF Phoenix Field Office. The investigation was subsequently approved by the multi-agency Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program.”

Also released Wednesday was a Jan. 8, 2010 memo from the ATF Phoenix Field Division Office on Operation Fast and Furious, noting that the Phoenix U.S Attorney Dennis Burke was in “full agreement with the current investigative strategy.”

The memo stated that “currently our strategy is to allow the transfer of firearms to continue to take place … in order to further the investigation and allow for the identification of additional co-conspirators who would continue to operate and illegally traffic firearms to Mexican [Drug Trafficking Organizations].”

Issa has repeatedly said that he believes that Border Agent Brian Terry was killed by weapons bought through Operation Fast and Furious, and that the program was a big, deadly mistake.

The program is turning into a highly political, highly controversial matter. Holder and President Obama have both publicly said that they never signed off on the operation.

“The Attorney General takes the allegations that have been raised seriously, which is why he has asked the Inspector General to investigate and made clear to everyone in the Department that under no circumstances should guns be allowed to cross the border,” Schmaler said.

Read Lanny Breuer Document

Read ATF Memo

What’s Next for FBI Dir. Robert Mueller III?

Atty. Gen. Holder (left) and FBI Director Mueller/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — As his 10-year term comes to an end, rumors and speculation are popping up as to what  FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III will do in life.

People who know Mueller say one thing is for certain: He won’t be getting a white belt and white shoes and heading down to Florida to play shuffle board, race to the early bird dinner specials and attend $1 movies.

They say Mueller, who will turn 67 in August, about a month before he steps down,  still wants to stay active professionally.

One rumor — and certainly unconfirmed — is that he has an interest in landing a federal judgeship in California.

One person speculated that he might also have an interest in becoming attorney general if Eric Holder Jr. were to step down after President Obama’s first term.  (Of course, Holder would almost have to if Obama isn’t re-elected).

Another person suggested that Mueller might be a good candidate to take over as baseball commissioner if Bud Selig steps down. Selig first started serving as acting baseball commissioner in 1992 and became the permanent commissioner in 1998.

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

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

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.

Jon Stewart Points Out the Absurdity of Pakistan Not Knowing About bin Laden’s Whereabouts

Prosecution Plays FBI Tapes in Blago Retrial