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Archive for May 18th, 2011

If Congress Extends Dir. Mueller’s Term 2 Years, Let’s Not Do it Again For Anyone Else

Robert Mueller/file fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON –– I have mixed feelings about the White House proposal to have FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III stay two years more beyond his 10-year term, which expires in September. The opinions of newspaper editorial boards around the country reflect my ambivalence.

All recognize the need for continuity in such uncertain times. All praise Mueller for taking on the job at a time of rapid change. They also note that after Hoover’s death in 1972, Congress passed legislation to limit the term to 10-years, pointing to the politics and power Hoover amassed, and how he abused his position and stepped over the line and made many important people, including presidents, fear him.

Continuity. Sure it’s important. But change is constant, a part of life, a part of Washington.  And as the Washington Post rightfully asks:”But when are continuity and stability at the FBI not critical?”

The Post editorial goes on to say: “The president’s request that Congress tinker with the 10-year term limit sets a bad precedent that should not be repeated, if Congress goes along this time. It may be the path of less resistance to retain an FBI director, easier than identifying and winning confirmation for a new nominee. But staffing an administration on schedule is part of the president’s job. For the independence and integrity of the bureau, this shouldn’t happen again.”

Conversely, The Tulsa World editorial page stated:

“There is a good reason why the director of the FBI is limited to a 10-year term. That reason is J. Edgar Hoover. There also is a good reason why there should be an exception to that rule. That exception is Robert S. Mueller III.”

“Mueller took the FBI from being primarily an agency dedicated to criminal investigations to one that is a major factor in the nation’s war on terror.

“He was appointed by President George W. Bush and is now being asked to extend his service by Obama. The post is truly nonpartisan….Obama’s request is likely to be honored. We hope it will be soon.”

The FBI post is somewhat  non-partisan.  But it’s not totally without politics.

We saw that from some of the jockeying going on while the selection process was underway to find a replacement for Mueller. Sen. Charles E. Schumer  (D-NY) was openly lobbying for NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to be the next director. The FBI Agents Association was pushing for ex-FBI official Michael Mason. And assuredly, there was there was lobbying going on for other candidates.

That being said, after the selection process and the confirmation hearing, which is also very political, the politics of selecting a new FBI director ends for 10 years. This proposed  extension seems to brings politics back in play for  a short two-year stint before we go at it again when the White House looks for a new director.

Most members of Congress will quickly pass legislation to approve the extension. But you can count on some, at minimum, questioning the wisdom.

Besides the Hoover issues, there are  good arguments to be made to move on and find a new director.

Fresh eyes. Fresh ideas.

As to reports that  the White House couldn’t find a good candidate to replace Mueller, I say: Hard to believe.

Granted, some prime candidates may not have wanted the job. NBC’s Mike Isikoff reported that folks like former deputy Attorney General James Comey didn’t want it. Ditto for  U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Merrick B. Garland.

Still, there were plenty good candidates out there. To say there weren’t,  is simply a cop out.

The ACLU, perhaps not the FBI’s biggest friend, has also weighed in on the matter.

“FBI Director Robert Mueller should be thanked for his public service during an extraordinarily challenging period in American history,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero in a statement.

“It was for good reason that Congress chose to limit the tenure of future FBI directors. By setting a 10-year term, Congress sought to protect both the FBI director from undue political influence and our democratic institutions from allowing an unelected official to hold the power to examine the lives of Americans, including political leaders, for longer than is appropriate.

All in all, I have to say, if Congress agrees to extend Mueller’s term, it should pass legislation tailored to his specific situation, and leave the 10-year limit intact for all future directors.

The Beltway has was too much politics as it is. We don’t need more.

ICE Agent Busted for Selling Stolen Gov Property on eBay

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

An ICE agent was arrested Tuesday on charges of stealing tens of thousands of dollars of government property and selling it on eBay, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark said.

Steven Kucan, 47, of Wood Ridge, N.J., was arrested by agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General and ICE, Office of Professional Responsibility.

Authorities said Kucan supervised an administrative group at ICE’s offices in New York since the 1990s, and was responsible for obtaining, storing and controlling ICE equipment.

Between December 2004 and February 2011, authorities alleged that he regularly stole ICE property including printing cartridges, film, batteries, camera lenses, combat lights for ICE’s M-4 rifles and an immersion suit designed to prevent hypothermia in cold water.

Authorities alleged that Kucan had an eBay account under a relative’s name and sold $37,000 in ICE property.

ICE employees reported seeing  Kucan wheel ICE property out of the offices on carts, including on a Saturday.

A raid at his home turned up about $40,000 in ICE property including  personal computers, printers, keyboards, police batons, flashlights, work gloves, safety glasses, lifejackets, helmets, handcuffs, gun holsters, camera lenses, emergency lights and sirens, and two-way radio systems, authorities said.

FBI Agent Charged With Allegedly Lying About Helping Informant He Had Affair With

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Toss in an FBI agent, an informant and allegations of sex and you’ve got scandal.

The U.S. Attorney’s  Office in Manhattan announced Tuesday the unsealing of an indictment charging  FBI agent Adrian Busby, 37,  with making false statements to protect a married confidential source he was allegedly having an affair with.

Busby, who now resides in El Paso, Tex.,  was charged with trying to protect the woman from identity-theft charges in a Queens State Criminal Court trial and then lying about it to authorities. He surrendered Tuesday in Texas to authorities.

It all began in 2008 when Busby, who was investigating mortgage fraud, started using a female real estate loan officer as a confidential source. He also began having an affair with her.

On Feb. 5, 2008, the source was arrested and subsequently prosecuted by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office for identity theft and related charges.

Authorities charged that Busby “actively assisted with her criminal defense, met with her attorneys on multiple occasions, and during trial “provided her defense attorney with confidential, law enforcement reports…related to her case….in violation of FBI regulations.”

In December 2009, she was convicted.

Beginning in January 2008, authorities said Busby made numerous false statements regarding the things he did to assist her in the trial.

Busby denied wrongdoing to The New York Daily News.

“Was she a suspect in my case? She wasn’t a suspect in my case,” Busby told the paper. “Was she a confidential informant? That’s something that the FBI would have to give out.”

“If [the Justice Department investigators] did not find anything, then apparently my actions were appropriate,” he added.

Wounded ICE Agent Still not Back to Work; Wants to Testify Before Congress

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — ICE agent Victor Avila Jr. who was shot in February in an ambush in Mexico along with agent Jaime Zapata is moving about, but has yet to return to work, said the agency spokesman Brian P. Hale. Zapata did not survive the shooting.

Hale said Avila is in daily contact with ICE and recovering in the U.S.

Avila was spotted last week in Washington at Police Week, an annual gathering of law enforcement. Events during Police Week include a candlelight vigil for slain law enforcement officers.  Avila and  Zapata were ambushed on a road about four hours north of Mexico.

Avila wants to testify about his case, according to a Congressional committee.

In late March, Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management, which was conducting a hearing on U.S. Homeland Security and Mexican drug cartels, said:

“I’ve been in contact with the Department of Justice after meeting with Agent Avila, who expressed his willingness to testify here today.

“However, the Department of Justice objected to that request as he is a material witness in an ongoing criminal investigation and for his personal safety. Better judgment, in my view, was to not call him as a witness, but I do believe that his story needs to be told.”

Juan Osun Gets Nod as Permanent Dir. of Justice Dept’s Exec. Office of Immigration Review

Juana Osuna/cspan

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Former Associate Deputy Attorney Juan Osuna, who has been acting director of the Director for the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) at the Department of Justice will become the permanent director, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

“Having served with the department for over a decade, Juan has developed an extensive knowledge of immigration litigation and issues, and demonstrated himself to be a diligent and thoughtful advocate and manager,” said Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. in a statement. “I am confident he will lead this office with the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and dedication.”

EOIR was created on Jan. 9, 1983, through an internal department reorganization which combined the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) with the Immigration Judge function previously performed by the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the Justice Department said.

Osuna has served as Acting Director of EOIR since December 2010. Prior to that, he worked as an Associate Deputy Attorney General focusing on immigration policy, Indian country matters, pardons and commutations and other issues, the Justice Department said.

“I am honored by the Attorney General’s appointment and look forward to continuing to serve the department and the American people on these important issues,” Osuna said.

Before joining the Deputy Attorney General’s office, he worked as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the department’s Civil Division.