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Archive for June 24th, 2011

Weekend Series on Crime History: The Justice Department Hunts Nazis

Head of Boston FBI Says Speculation That the FBI Didn’t Want to Find Whitey Bulger is “Completely Unfounded”

Richard DesLauriers

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The head of the Boston FBI  Richard DesLauriers responded Friday to public speculation that the FBI didn’t really want to find mobster James “Whitey” Bulger because he had so much dirt on the agency that could surface publicly.  He called the claims  “completely unfounded.”

DesLauriers, in a statement issued Friday afternoon, said:

“There has been some speculation that the FBI knew about the location of Mr. Bulger prior to the initiation of the FBI’s most recent publicity campaign regarding Catherine Greig and James J. “Whitey” Bulger. (Greig is Bulger’s girlfriend).

“To ensure that there is no misunderstanding about the FBI’s search for Mr. Bulger, I want to reiterate statements I made earlier on this matter.

“Any claim that the FBI knew Mr. Bulger’s whereabouts prior to the FBI’s publicity efforts this week are completely unfounded. When we learned his location, he was arrested promptly.”

“The FBI crafted a media plan to reach as many people as possible. As is now evident, this effort was successful and led directly to the arrest of Mr. Bulger, and highlights the importance of the public’s assistance in these matters.”

Some have suggested that  Bulger has much more  dirt to spill on the FBI, the result of  agents using him as an informant, all while letting him get away with crimes as part of Boston’s notorious Irish mob.  Bulger, who was on the lam for 16 years, was charged in 19 murders.

Other law enforcement agencies in the state complained that the FBI at the time protected Bulger, and sabotaged some of their cases. It caused strains between the FBI and some of the law enforcement agencies.

Bulger, 81, and his girlfriend Catherine Greig, who was wanted for harboring a fugitive,  were captured Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. shortly after the FBI launched a nationwide TV campaign that focused on Greig.  The FBI said it received a tip on Tuesday night as a direct result of the public service announcement campaign. Agents found $800,000 in their apartment along with about 30 weapons.

On Friday, the Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen wrote a column that  may have added to the speculation about the FBI’s resolve to find Bulger.

“It was hard to find anyone in the Boston Police Department, the State Police, or the US Drug Enforcement Administration who truly believed the FBI wanted to find Bulger. He was the FBI’s prized, if highly overrated, snitch, and he had murdered many while the FBI protected him and compromised other investigations that other law enforcement agencies mounted against Bulger,” he wrote.

“Bulger used to have the FBI in his pocket; now all he has in that pocket is the potential for revenge, should he choose to exact it. He has told friends — indeed he has even told corrupt FBI agents — that the FBI reneged on their deal to let him run his venal little empire as long as he fed them crumbs on the competition.”

“The obsession with the details of Bulger’s arrest is understandable. But the bigger picture is this: there has been a carefully constructed narrative, one of damage control for the FBI and Justice Department, which is now at risk.”

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Los Angeles, where Bulger was captured, said of the speculation questioning the FBI’s resolve:

“There’s no merit to it.”

After 9 Days of Deliberation, No Verdict in Blago Case; Judge Appears to Have Imposed a Gag Order


Ex-Gov. Blagojevich in happier days

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

After 9 days of deliberation, the Chicago federal  jurors in the retrial of Rod Blagojevich went home Thursday at the end of the day. They won’t t be back til Monday morning, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The paper also reported that it appeared that U.S. District Judge James Zagel had imposed a gag order. However, the paper reported that no one would comment on that (now that’s a real gag order).

The paper reported that there had been a series of sealed court filings in the case after Sam Adam Jr., a defense attorney in the first case, appeared on radio TV last week and predicted an acquital on all 20 counts.

Column: Ex-ATF Official Says System of Presidentially Appointing an ATF Director Isn’t Working

James Cavanaugh was an ATF agent and supervisor for 33 years before retiring in 2010.

James Cavanaugh/atf photo

By James Cavanaugh
For ticklethewire.com

Since 2006 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives has been without a confirmed director to lead its critical missions for America.

I spent more than 33 years in ATF and I have worked for every director and acting director that the Bureau has ever had. They were good men, all (unfortunately we never had a woman).

Today, as the men and women of ATF face great challenges in the field, they also face some of their greatest criticisms. Now, more than ever, ATF needs a permanent director. Unfortunately, we’re not likely to get one under the current system: The Presidential appointment.

It used to be the director was appointed by the Department of Treasury or the Justice Department. That changed and the position was then supposed to be filled by presidential appointment.

The change was done for the right reasons: Respect for position and the agency, plus it was supposed to give ATF more equal footing in the law enforcement community.

Unfortunately, the change has not worked well. We need to go back to the umbrella agency – in this case the Justice Department — appointing an ATF director. It’s the only way we’ll get the permanent director we need.

Let’s face it. St. Peter himself could not get confirmed by presidential appointment as the Director of ATF in these times. I don’t fault lobby groups and political leaders for their concern and views on such matters. The difficulties in getting a presidentially appointed director are monumental based on the political realities of the country. Andrew Traver, who heads the Chicago ATF, was nominated by President Obama last November to become the new director, but his confirmation was stalled in the Senate, the result of strong opposition from the NRA.

Official Washington is obsessed with titles and the supernumerary trappings of power.

Presidential appointments allow access to that certain club of the political world. Anyone who holds a presidentially appointed position should be proud of that appointment.

Nevertheless, a presidential appointment is not required to be a strong and effective leader. And isn’t what this is all about?

Leaders earn and gain their real power not from certificates or anointments, rather from three things: Their integrity, their willingness to accept responsibility and their experience and competence to do the job.

So, in essence, the most effective way to get that leader is to keep it where it had been for the many decades: In the career civil service and in the career Senior executive service. The Justice Department can choose a very able person from that system to head up the agency.

I believe the director of ATF should be an ATF Special Agent, one who has sat out all night in the rain on a surveillance, worked on difficult bombings and arson cases, made undercover buys from violent felons, worked with victims of violent crime, talked to gun and explosives dealers and understands their issues, obtained and served dangerous search warrants, testified many times as a witness, worked with informants, heard shots fired in anger, and listened to the hate filled rants of Klansmen and militiamen neo-Nazis.

In other words,  a  leader who understands and has experienced the unique challenges that ATF faces.

Let’s fix this now.

Boston Columnist Says FBI Needs to Let Other Agencies Help Restore Public Confidence in Whitey Bulger Case

Updated Bulger photo/wbur

By Kevin Cullen
Boston Globe Columnist

For the past 23 years, Whitey Bulger was the FBI’s worst nightmare.

Now he’s their prisoner.

It was hard to find anyone in the Boston Police Department, the State Police, or the US Drug Enforcement Administration who truly believed the FBI wanted to find Bulger. He was the FBI’s prized, if highly overrated, snitch, and he had murdered many while the FBI protected him and compromised other investigations that other law enforcement agencies mounted against Bulger.

Bulger used to have the FBI in his pocket; now all he has in that pocket is the potential for revenge, should he choose to exact it. He has told friends — indeed he has even told corrupt FBI agents — that the FBI reneged on their deal to let him run his venal little empire as long as he fed them crumbs on the competition.

The obsession with the details of Bulger’s arrest is understandable. But the bigger picture is this: there has been a carefully constructed narrative, one of damage control for the FBI and Justice Department, which is now at risk. It was a narrative that held that Whitey Bulger was protected by a rogue FBI agent, John Connolly, and a rogue FBI supervisor, John Morris, both of whom had been dealt with: Connolly was given a life sentence and sent off to prison, and Morris was given immunity and sent off to disgrace.

To read the full column click here.

ATF Hosts Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month Program at HQ

Rep. Barney Frank

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

ATF had a gathering at headquarters in D.C. the other day that wasn’t  typical of the ones you see in federal law enforcement.

The agency on Wednesday hosted its first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month program at its headquarters, with Acting Director Kenneth Melson providing remarks along with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), an openly gay Congressman.

ATF billed the event as a celebration “in recognition of the accomplishments and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to ATF and the nation, and to promote awareness of the LGBT culture.”

“ATF works to ensure sexual orientation discrimination and prejudice are not tolerated in our workplace,” said Melson. “ATF is an equal employment opportunity environment where effective and equitable participation is encouraged.”

2 Men Charged With Plotting to Attack Military Processing Center in Seattle

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two men who converted to Islam were arrested Wednesday and charged with plotting to kill recruits and employees at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Seattle, the U.S. Attorney’s announced Thursday.

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, aka Joseph Anthony Davis, 33, of Seattle, and Walli Mujahidh, aka Frederick Domingue, Jr., 32, of Los Angeles, were charged in a criminal complaint with buying machine guns to carry out the attack, authorities said. They also planned to use grenades.

Authorities said the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force  began “monitoring” the two as the plot was developing “to prevent the attack and protect the public.” They said the guns provided to the men “were inoperable”.

“The complaint alleges these men intended to carry out a deadly attack against our military where they should be most safe, here at home,” U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement. “This is a sobering reminder of our need to be vigilant and that our first line of defense is the people who live in our community. We were able to disrupt the plot because someone stepped forward and reported it to authorities.”

Authorities first became aware of the plot when a man, who had been approached about participating, tipped off Seattle police.

The tipster than agreed to work with authorities, and the FBI began monitoring their activies, videotaping and recording conversations.

“Driven by a violent, extreme ideology, these two young Americans are charged with plotting to murder men and women who were enlisting in the Armed Forces to serve and protect our country. This is one of a number of recent plots targeting our military here at home,” said Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “The threat was averted by the combined efforts of the federal, state and local law enforcement officers that make up the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

Bulger Makes Court Appearance: Feds Found $800,000 in Calif. Apt. And About 30 Guns