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Archive for June 9th, 2011

Republicans Delay Judiciary Committee Vote on Mueller’s Extension; Gives the Nod to 3 U.S. Attorneys

Sen. Grassley/official photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Legislation that would enable FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to extend his 10-year term by two years seems all but certain to pass.

But it may not be with out a little resistance.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a vote Thursday on the legislation. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) said he wanted more time to get answers to some questions, according to the news website Main Justice. The bill was held over til the next meeting.

Grassley said the process should move forward in an orderly fashion after pressing questions are answered, Main Justice reported.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the panel had an opportunity during a hearing on Wednesday to get answers and that the delay could be risky with a the limited time Congress has with upcoming Congressional recesses.

The committee on Thursday also gave the nod to U.S. Attorney nominees Felicia Adams for the Northern District of  Mississippi, Ronald Sharpe for the Virgin Islands and George Beck for the Middle District of Alabama, Main Justice reported.

Second Hearing on ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious to Include Slain Agent’s Mother

atf photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A second Congressional House hearing on ATF’s controversial “Operation Fast and Furious” gun program — set for June 15 — will include a host of witnesses including Sen. Chuck Grassley and the mother and other relatives of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

The hearing, conducted by the House  Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,  will examine the consequences of the operation, which include allegations that guns purchased in the sting ended up being used to kill agent Terry.

“The reckless decisions of ATF and Justice Department officials in Operation Fast and Furious have devastated lives and put fear into communities on both sides of the border,” said Committee Chairman Darrell Issa in statement. “By exploring this Justice Department sanctioned program, we can better understand the flawed process surrounding the genesis and implementation of an operation that put guns into the hands of criminals.”

The operation encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers, all in the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

The first hearing titled “Obstruction of Justice: Does the Justice Department Have to Respond to a Lawfully Issued and Valid Congressional Subpoena?” is set for Monday, June 13th.

The second hearing witnesses are as follows:

Panel 1

· Senator Charles Grassley, Ranking Member, U.S. Senate, Committee on the Judiciary

Panel 2

  • · Ms. Josephine Terry, Mother of the Late Border Agent Brian Terry
  • · Ms. Michelle Terry Balogh, Sister of the Late Border Agent Brian Terry
  • · Mr. Robert Heyer, Cousin of the Late Border Agent Brian Terry
  • · Special Agent Olindo James Casa, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Phoenix Field Division
  • · Special Agent Peter Forcelli, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Phoenix Field Division
  • · Special Agent John Dodson, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Phoenix Field Division

Panel 3

· Mr. Ronald Weich, Assistant Attorney General, United States Department of Justice

Mexico Cartels Using Bullet-Proof Trucks Known as “Monsters”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The drug cartels are using bullet-proof trucks known as “monsters”, according to CNN.

CNN reports that the trucks are built on a three-axle truck bed and include such features as swiveling turrets to shoot in any direction,a reinforced steel battering ram in front to demolish vehicles and walls and a one-inch-thick steel plate to protect occupants from gunfire and grenades. They can transport about 20 armed people.

Mexican officials say, according to CNN, that the monster trucks are used for transporting drugs and battling rival gangs.

In all, CNN reported that Mexican authorities have seized 20 narco-tanks in northeast Mexico.

Closings in Blago II; He’s a Liar and Swindler and His Testimony Was “Absurd”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Surprise Surprise (not really).

Federal prosecutor Carrie Hamilton delivered closing arguments on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in downtown Chicago, calling defendant Rod Blagojevich a liar and a swindler, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. And oh yes, she said his seven days of testimony was “absurd” and “ludicrous.”

The closings marked the beginning of the end for Blago II, the sequel to the first trial which didn’t go so well for the prosecution. It convicted Blago on only one of 24 counts — lying to the FBI. The jury deadlocked on the remaining counts.

This time around, the prosecution tried to simplify the case after the jury in Blago I complained the case was too complicated.

She asked the jury to keep this in mind, according to the Sun-Times:

“Did the defendant try to get a benefit for himself in exchange for an official act?”

“That’s really all this case and these charges boil down to, and it’s really not any more complicated than that,” Hamilton said.

The Sun-Times wrote that the prosecutor  tried to address what some see as a weakness in the case: Blago talked a lot but never completed any illegal acts.

“The law protects people from being squeezed,” Hamilton said. “The harm is done when the ask is made because that’s the violation of the people’s trust.”

Her closing continues Thursday, the Sun-Times reported.

Mass Indictment in Atlanta Delivers Blow to Mexican Drug Traffickers, Authorities Say

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The DEA on Wednesday announced the break up of a large Mexican cartel organization operating out of Atlanta.

Dubbed “Operation G-60″, authorities said a three- year investigation by the DEA and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force has resulted in the indictment of  of 32 people operating  outlets for Mexican drug traffickers.

Sixteen people have been arrested and others remain at large.

“Operation G-60 has dealt a severe blow to the Mexican drug cartels operating in the metro Atlanta area,” Atlanta U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement.

“Earlier this morning, numerous alleged drug traffickers and money launderers were arrested in neighborhoods all across Atlanta. As a result of the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA and our state and local partners, over seven million dollars worth of cocaine and over a million dollars in dirty drug money have been taken off of the streets.”

The investigation resulted in the seizure  312 kilograms of cocaine (with an estimated wholesale street value of over $7 million), approximately 1,525 kilograms of marijuana and over $1.5 million in drug proceeds.

Someone Inside the Beltway Likes Missouri U.S. Atty. Beth Phillips

U.S. Atty. Beth Phillips/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Somebody inside the Beltway apparently likes Beth Phillips.

In 2009, President Obama appointed her as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City.

Earlier this week,  the White House nominated the U.S. Attorney for a federal judgeship in Missouri.

Before becoming U.S. Attorney she was  an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the same district from 2008 to 2009.

Before that, she  worked at the law firm of Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny from 2001 to 2008.

She also worked  an Assistant Prosecutor with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office from 1997 to 2001.

FBI Warns of Bogus Emails Soliciting Money

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — The FBI in Detroit has issued a warning: Beware of emails that display the FBI seal and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III’s name.

The emails, that have been sent to Michigan residents as well as others nationwide, direct people to contact the Department of Homeland Security and send $350 to obtain a Clearance Certificate.

Failure to do so will result in legal action, the email says.

The FBI noted that it does not send out emails soliciting personal information or asking citizens for money.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

FBI Mueller’s Full Statement Before Judiciary: “FBI Has Never Faced a More Complex Threat Environment”

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III began the process on Wednesday of getting a two- year extension when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Committee is considering a bill that would extend his stay two years beyond the 10-year term, which expires in September.

Currently legislation limits the term of an FBI director to 10 years, a move that was taken after J. Edgar Hoover died. Many thought Hoover had stayed on too long and gathered too much political power.

The following is Mueller’s statement before the Judiciary Committee:

Good morning Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee today.

As you know, my term as FBI Director is due to expire later this summer. In early May, the president asked if I would be willing to serve an additional two years, and I told him I would be honored to do so.

The president has further asked that Congress pass the legislation necessary to extend my term, and the committee is considering that legislation at today’s hearing. If my term is extended, I look forward to working with the committee and the men and women of the FBI to meet the challenges that face us in the years to come.

The FBI has never faced a more complex threat environment than it does today. Over the past year, we have seen an extraordinary array of national security and criminal threats, from terrorism and espionage to cyber attacks and traditional crimes. These threats have ranged from attempts by Al Qaeda and its affiliates to place bombs on airplanes bound for the United States to lone actors seeking to detonate IEDs in public squares and subways, intent on mass murder.

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