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Archive for May 12th, 2011

Agents’ Opinions Range from Good to Bad to Mixed on FBI Dir. Robert Mueller’s Proposed 2 Year Extension

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

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Nearly everyone in the FBI can agree they were caught off guard by President Obama’s announcement Thursday that he would seek to have FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III stay on for two more years beyond his 10-year term.

What they all don’t agree on is whether it’s a good thing, with opinions ranging from good to bad to mixed. Most agents spoke to ticklethewire.com on the condition that they not be named.

“”It is wonderful,” said one agent. “It is great for our country.”

But some agents thought it was time for Mueller, 66, to go, and were critical of his focus on certain crimes and intelligence issues at the expense of others. They also have long advocated that a former agent — Mueller is a former federal prosecutor — would better understand their mindset and mission.

“I think it was time for a change,” said one agent, who was hoping the new director would be ex-FBI official Mike Mason, the choice of the FBI Agents Association.

Conversely, he said some of the names that had surfaced as potential replacements concerned him.

Mike Mason/fbi photo

“It could have been worse,” he said of Mueller staying.

Another agent expressed mixed views as well.

“I think there are pluses and minuses,” said the agent. “I like Mueller. I don’t agree with everything he does. He’s got the toughest job around. And he’s done a good job.”

The agent said it’s good to have continuity at this time.

“”We just killed bin laden,” the agent said. “Threat levels are up. We’re in times we’ve never seen before. We’ve got wars on two fronts.”

The downside, he said, is that the legislation mandating term limits for the FBI director are “designed to bring in new blood. He also said the term limit was put in place to prevent politics from playing a role in the job, and to keep someone from creating a legacy like J. Edgar Hoover.

“The law was set for a reason. Are we defeating its purpose?” he asked.

Andrew G. Arena, special agent in charge of the Detroit FBI, said: “I think for the sake of the agency, it’s a good thing. It will provide continuity.  We’ll just carry on as we have been.”

With a new person, he noted:”You don’t know if someone is going to come in and change the direction” of the agency. “There was the fear of the unknown.”

Konrad Motyka, president of the FBI Agents Association, which had backed former FBI official Mike Mason as the next director, came out with a statement saying:

“I congratulate Director Robert Mueller on President Obama’s request to Congress to extend Director Mueller’s term for an additional two years.

“President Obama’s request to Congress reflects the critical role that the Director has played in transitioning the Bureau to a post-9/11 world that requires both investigative and intelligence gathering skills. We look forward to working with Director Mueller to continue to enhance the effectiveness of the FBI in the fight against terrorism and emerging threats without compromising the Bureau’s established expertise at both criminal and counterintelligence investigations.”

Mike Mason, who had worked under Mueller,  said Thursday: ” I couldn’t be happier.  I’m glad. He’s got the momentum going on a  lot of initiatives and this keeps the bureau marching in the right direction. ”

Mueller’s 10-year-term expires in September. Congress passed a law putting a 10-year term limit. Congress will now have to pass some type of legislation that would allow Mueller to remain for two more years.

Mueller has generally been warmly received on Capitol Hill, and is unlikely to find much opposition from Congress.

2 U.S. Border Agents Killed After Being Hit by Train

Hector Clark/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two U.S. Border Patrol agents were killed early Thursday morning  in Arizona when their vehicle was hit by a 90-car freight train, authorities said. The agents were assisting in the apprehension of illegal immigrants who entered the country.

The agents were identified as Hector R. Clark, 39, and Eduardo Rojas Jr., 35.

The incident happened about 9 miles west of Gila Bend, Az., in an area patrolled by the Yuma Sector of the Border Patrol, according to Kenneth Quillin, a supervisory Border Patrol agent based in Arizona. The incident happened about 80 miles from the Mexican border at Paloma Road near exit 106 of I-8.

Quillin said the men were in an unmarked SUV when they were hit by a Union Pacific freight train around 6 a.m.

“On behalf of the entire U.S. Customs and Border Protection family, I would like to share our heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends, and colleagues of Hector R. Clark and Eduardo Rojas Jr. as we mourn their passing,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin said in a statement.

Eduardo Rojas Jr/gov photo

Authorities said Clark began his career with the U.S. Border Patrol on August 20, 2001 and was first assigened to the El Centro Sector and was serving as a Lead Border Patrol Agent in the Yuma Sector in Arizona.

Clark, a native of Yuma, Ariz., is survived by his wife and two children.

Agent Rojas entered the U.S. Border Patrol on April 9, 2000, and was assigned to the Yuma Sector, authorities said.

At the time of the accident, he was serving as a Lead Border Patrol Agent in the Yuma Sector. Agent Rojas was a native of El Paso, Tex.,and is survived by his wife and two children, the agency said.

Surprise Surprise: White House Wants FBI Dir. Mueller to Stay on for 2 More Years

Robert Mueller III last year in Denver at IACP / file fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — In a surprise move, President Obama announced Thursday he is seeking a two-year extension for FBI director Robert S. Mueller.

The move took many by surprise considering a search was underway for a replacement for Mueller whose 10-year term was coming to an end in September.

“In his ten years at the FBI, Bob Mueller has set the gold standard for leading the Bureau,” President Obama said in a statement.

“Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time.”

“Bob transformed the FBI after September 11, 2001 into a pre-eminent counterterrorism agency, he has shown extraordinary leadership and effectiveness at protecting our country every day since. He has impeccable law enforcement and national security credentials, a relentless commitment to the rule of law, unquestionable integrity and independence, and a steady hand that has guided the Bureau as it confronts our most serious threats.”

Mueller sent an email to agency employees  notifying them of the White House’s intentions and saying that he would be honored to serve.

The move saves the White House any confirmation battles on Capitol Hill where Mueller seems to enjoy strong support.  However, that being said, there were a lot of pretty safe candidates being mentioned as possible replacements.

Still, the Congress will have to pass some form of legislation to deal with the the extension since the current law specifies that an FBI director can serve only 10 years. The Senate Judiciary committee said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is looking into what needs to be done legislatively to address the issue.

A Congressional aide said that Congress could pass a law changing the term limit for the FBI director or pass narrower legislation just to deal with Muller’s circumstances.

The reactions were mixed at the FBI. Some people were happy. Others had been looking forward to a change. And still others offered pros and cons to the move.

John Hinckley to Get More Visits to Mom’s House

John Hinckley Jr. -abc news photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — John Hinckley, who shot President Reagan outside a Washington hotel in 1981, will be getting more visits to his mother’s house in Virginia, the Associated Press reported.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman on Wednesday approved an unspecified number of extra visits for Hinckley, who is housed at St. Elizabeths Hospital, a psychiatric institution in a tough part of Southeast Washington.

AP reported that the hospital will file a plan by June for additional releases. U.S. Attorney spokesman Bill Miller told AP that the judge will detail the visits in a future court order.

Pakistani Ambassador Compares Hunt for bin Laden to Search for Boston Mobster “Whitey” Bulger

He became a familar fixture on the list.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The Boston Globe editorial page took a little exception to Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani remark defending his nation by comparing the hunt for Osama bin Laden to the perennial search for the FBI Ten Most Wanted fugitive James “Whitey” Bulger — a mobster wanted for multiple murders and other charges,

“If Whitey Bulger can live undetected by American police for so long,’’ Haqqani asked The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “why can’t Osama bin Laden live undetected by Pakistani authorities?’’ Haqqani was a Boston University professor from 2004 to 2008. Bulger has been on the lam since 1994 and authorities are offering a $2 million reward for information leading to his capture.

The Globe Editorial page weighed in on the ambassador’s remark, saying: “In fact, Bulger got away because a person in the FBI tipped him off, just as US officials feared Pakistani authorities would tip off bin Laden. And Bulger’s support network of family and trusted friends seems a bit like the one that appears to have sustained bin Laden in Pakistan, much to the outrage of some Americans.”

Boston Mobster Whitey Bulger

Then the Globe tossed in this zinger: “Meanwhile, the FBI might do well to check out any walled compounds on the South Shore, just to be sure.”

FBI Tells Police Officials No Immediate Threats Following bin Laden Killing

Chief Charles Ramsey/dept. photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Leaders of the nation’s largest police organizations said they were briefed by the FBI after the killing of Osama bin Laden and told there appeared to be no immediate threats or active terrorist plots, USA Today reported.

The paper reported that the briefing came after federal officials were warned to be on guard for any acts of retaliation.

USA Today reported that Philly Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, president of the Major City Chiefs Association, said the FBI provided the briefing last week. Other organizations in attendance included the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs Association.

Meanwhile, various media organizations reported that materials seized at the bin Laden compound showed that he was encouraging attacks on smaller cities in the U.S.

Accused Nazi Guard John Demjanjuk Convicted in Germany

John Demjanjuk/msnbc

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

John Demjanjuk, the suspected Nazi death camp guard,  was convicted in Munich on Thursday of helping force roughly 28,000 Jews to death during World War II, the New York Times reported.

The 91-year-old retired American autoworker was then sentenced to five years in prison, but was released pending his appeal. His lawyers insist he is innocent.

Authorities charged that Demjanjuk worked as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943. The Times reported that he was sentenced to death in Israel in 1988, but five years later the conviction was overturned after it was decided it was a case of mistaken identity.

“Grandad Bandit” Hit Up With 25 Years For Robbing 26 Banks in 14 States

Grandad Bandit/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The FBI  may have thought Michael F. Mara looked grandfatherly when they dubbed the serial bank robber the “Grandad Bandit”.

Wait til he gets out of prison. They may want to consider changing his nickname to the “Great Grandad Bandit.”

Mara, 53, of Baton Rouge, La., was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Richomond, Va., to 25 years in prison for robbing 26 banks in 14 states, authorities announced. He was also ordered to pay $83,868 in restitution.

“Mr. Mara stole tens of thousands of dollars in a brazen crime spree that included robberies in more than a dozen states in just over two years,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride. “One robbery alone is a very traumatic experience, and it takes a long time for the victim to feel safe going to work. Thanks to the great work of the FBI and an alert public, Mr. Mara will spend the rest of his productive life behind bars as punishment for his extensive crimes.”

Authorities said Mara admitted entering each bank and providing a bank teller with a note announcing a robbery and demanding various sums of money.

After each robbery, Mara would retrieve the demand note and exit the bank quietly, authorities said. He admitted netting a total of $83,868 in cash in the robberies.