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Archive for July 7th, 2011

FBI Returns Stolen Ancient Artifacts to Iraqis

Some of the artifacts returned/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Terracotta plaques and other ancient artifacts stolen in Iraq by defense contractors in 2004 were returned Thursday by the FBI to the Iraqi government in a ceremony at the Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington.

The FBI said it seized the invaluable items during a 2006 investigation.

The items included two pottery dishes, four vases, an oil lamp, three small statues, and the seven terracotta relief plaques, the FBI said. They ranged in age from 2,500 to 4,000 years old—from the Old Babylonian period to the Neo-Assyrian or Neo-Babylon periods.

“These artifacts are truly invaluable,” said Ron Hosko, special agent in charge of the Criminal Division in the Washington Field Office. “The FBI is pleased to be able to return them to their rightful owner.”

The FBI said the artifacts—some small enough to be held in the palm of a hand — were seized during a public corruption investigation conducted by the FBI’s International Contract Corruption Task Force, a multi-agency task force tasked with stop fraud and corruption related to U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere overseas.

The FBI said the artifacts were stolen by Department of Defense contractors who were traveling through the Babylon region of Iraq.

Investigators discovered that contractors collected the items and used them as gifts and bribes or sold them to other contractors who then smuggled them into the United States, the FBI said. Two of the contractors were sentenced to prison for their roles in the fraud scheme.

“Working abroad does not entitle anyone to remove historic artifacts and treat them as mementos for illegal sale,” Hosko said.

The FBI Supervisor Who Really Wanted Bulger; Didn’t Trust Bulger as Informant

Whitey Bulger

By DEBORAH BECKER and LISA TOBIN
WBUR Radio

BOSTON — When Bob Fitzpatrick was brought in as second-in-command of the Boston FBI office back in the early 1980s, it didn’t take him long to figure out something wasn’t right.

“It was almost immediate upon my arrival,” he said.

It would be 20 more years before one of Fitzpatrick’s agents, John Connolly, would be convicted of corruption stemming from his relationship with alleged Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, who was working as an FBI informant at the time.

But for Fitzpatrick, it became appallingly clear the first time he went out to do an assessment on Bulger with Connolly and his supervisor, John Morris. Twenty years later, Morris, too, would confess to corruption.

To read the full story and interview click here.

LISTEN Now to radio interview

Here’s a Book By Drug Policy Wonks Worth Reading

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

How many books have you read recently that actually changed your thinking on opinions you have held near and dear for decades?

Not many, I wager. In my case, damn few. Like most people I read for entertainment, education, reinforcement, seldom to challenge firmly held views.

As a three-decade drug prosecutor, I admit to some biases and assumptions, which place me among the anti-drug ranter ranks.

Not an “Okie from Muskogee” (Merle Haggard 1969) ranter, but one who is nevertheless skeptical of policy wonks, social “scientists,” and any “expert” who claims to have the answer to the cluster you-know-what which drug use, trafficking, and enforcement have been for the last 80 years in this country.

The book “Drugs and Drug Policy; What Everyone Needs to Know” by Mark A.R. Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins and Angela Hawken (don’t let the deadly title scare you off) challenged some of my views and probably some of those of the readers of this paper. I haven’t converted to a legalization advocate or anything. Nor are the authors of this book.

But they do ask and try to answer some tough questions that permeate this confusingly complex subject. Or else they admit that the question is presently unanswerable.

The book avoids the vocabulary employed by experts in the field that is intended to demonstrate that their academic expertise puts them on a higher plain than the rest of us.

Even technical terms like capture rates and demand elasticity are deciphered in plain English sufficiently to make the point.

Kleiman, a professor of Public Policy at UCLA,   and his two partners, don’t claim to have all the answers or that progress will be easy. But they do ask the right questions, and their answers and discussions can benefit anyone connected to the subject—users and enforcers, policy makers and implementers, innocent bystanders and citizens.

Some of their suggestions do not pass the squirm factor, some seem impractical, others unlikely to ever claim a consensus. But a good number seem worth serious consideration and debate, including a few that concern law enforcement. Here are a couple:

1. Focus enforcement, especially the sanction of longer sentences, on traffickers who use violence and destruction, menace neighborhoods, and cause collateral damage to others. Conduct, not drug volume, should drive enforcement. Dealers not in these categories should be subject to routine attention and sanctions.

2. Eliminate long-delayed punishments for drug dealers like ineligibility for public housing, educational loans, and the like. These serve only retribution and make it more difficult for those who want to join the mainstream.

3. Reduce the number of dealers in prison from the present half million. Reducing sentences for non-violent, run-of-the-mill dealers would have no effect on drug supply and would free up more resources to target more culpable dealers. Plus reduce the pressure on governments to transfer education dollars to prisons.

Drugs and Drug Policy proposes over a dozen other suggestions in areas like treatment, health care, international supply control, harm reduction programs, alcohol and cigarette taxes, consumer marijuana cultivation, and a bunch more.

There will be the temptation for policymakers to applaud the ones they already agree with and reject the others. As if the status quo is so rosy we can’t afford some fresh thought on the subject.

Not all wonks are created equal. These three are worth reading with an open mind.

Column: Ex-Fed Drug Prosecutor Says He’s Found a Book by Drug Policy Wonks Worth Reading

Ross Parker was chief of the criminal division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit for 8 years and worked as an AUSA for 28 in that office.

Ross Parker

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

How many books have you read recently that actually changed your thinking on opinions you have held near and dear for decades?

Not many, I wager. In my case, damn few. Like most people I read for entertainment, education, reinforcement, seldom to challenge firmly held views.

As a three-decade drug prosecutor, I admit to some biases and assumptions, which place me among the anti-drug ranter ranks.

Not an “Okie from Muskogee” (Merle Haggard 1969) ranter, but one who is nevertheless skeptical of policy wonks, social “scientists,” and any “expert” who claims to have the answer to the cluster you-know-what which drug use, trafficking, and enforcement have been for the last 80 years in this country.

The book “Drugs and Drug Policy; What Everyone Needs to Know” by Mark A.R. Kleiman, Jonathan P. Caulkins and Angela Hawken (don’t let the deadly title scare you off) challenged some of my views and probably some of those of the readers of this paper. I haven’t converted to a legalization advocate or anything. Nor are the authors of this book.

But they do ask and try to answer some tough questions that permeate this confusingly complex subject. Or else they admit that the question is presently unanswerable.

The book avoids the vocabulary employed by experts in the field that is intended to demonstrate that their academic expertise puts them on a higher plain than the rest of us.

Even technical terms like capture rates and demand elasticity are deciphered in plain English sufficiently to make the point.

Kleiman, a professor of Public Policy at UCLA,   and his two partners, don’t claim to have all the answers or that progress will be easy. But they do ask the right questions, and their answers and discussions can benefit anyone connected to the subject—users and enforcers, policy makers and implementers, innocent bystanders and citizens.

Some of their suggestions do not pass the squirm factor, some seem impractical, others unlikely to ever claim a consensus. But a good number seem worth serious consideration and debate, including a few that concern law enforcement. Here are a couple:

1. Focus enforcement, especially the sanction of longer sentences, on traffickers who use violence and destruction, menace neighborhoods, and cause collateral damage to others. Conduct, not drug volume, should drive enforcement. Dealers not in these categories should be subject to routine attention and sanctions.

2. Eliminate long-delayed punishments for drug dealers like ineligibility for public housing, educational loans, and the like. These serve only retribution and make it more difficult for those who want to join the mainstream.

3. Reduce the number of dealers in prison from the present half million. Reducing sentences for non-violent, run-of-the-mill dealers would have no effect on drug supply and would free up more resources to target more culpable dealers. Plus reduce the pressure on governments to transfer education dollars to prisons.

Drugs and Drug Policy proposes over a dozen other suggestions in areas like treatment, health care, international supply control, harm reduction programs, alcohol and cigarette taxes, consumer marijuana cultivation, and a bunch more.

There will be the temptation for policymakers to applaud the ones they already agree with and reject the others. As if the status quo is so rosy we can’t afford some fresh thought on the subject.

Not all wonks are created equal. These three are worth reading with an open mind.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Sen. Grassley Questions Why Fed Prosecutor With Child Porn on Work Computer Was Not Prosecuted

Sen. Grassley/official photo


By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday issued a press release questioning “why the Justice Department declined to prosecute an Assistant United States Attorney after the department’s Inspector General found at least one image of child pornography on the attorney’s work computer.”

Grassley said the Inspector General also determined that the attorney had spent hours viewing adult content during work hours.

Grassley said that the Inspector General’s report indicated that the Assistant U.S. Attorney acknowledged he had spent a significant amount of time each day viewing pornography.

He said the IG report indicated that the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case and as of May 31, 2011, and disciplinary action was still pending.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Grassley questioned the department’s decision to not prosecute and delay disciplinary action against the attorney.

Additionally, he asked what types of cases the attorney worked on and the steps the department has taken to update its technology to keep pornography off its computers.

Update: Thurs, 8:15 p.m. — Justice Department Responds:

We are aware of the OIG report. As a general practice, when there are criminal allegations of misconduct involving an Assistant U.S. Attorney, those matters are sent to a different office to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.

The Department took immediate and appropriate action in this case and the AUSA ceased working in the district in late April 2011 and left Federal Service in early May 2011.

Last year, Grassley learned that 33 employees at the Securities and Exchange Commission had viewed pornography during work hours and “were not terminated and were given uneven and light disciplinary action.”

The following is the letter he sent Attorney Gen. Holder.

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

On May 31, 2011 I received a report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG) in response to a request Senator Coburn and I made to all Inspectors General to provide semiannual reports on closed investigations, evaluations, and audits that were not disclosed to the public.

This report contained what appears to be an inexcusable mishandling of serious allegations against an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) which calls into question the DOJ’s internal controls and prosecutorial discretion. The report cites the following OIG investigation of an AUSA:

Read more »

Mexican Man Gets Life for 2008 Slaying of Border Patrol Agent in Calif.

Luis Aguilar

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A Mexican man was sentenced to life in prison in San Diego Friday for striking and killing U.S. Border Patrol agent Luis Aguilar with a Hummer filled with drugs in January 2008 at California’s Imperial Sand Dunes, the Associated Press reported.

Jesus Navarro testified during his two-week trial that he wasn’t driving the car and that he confessed to the crime only after authorities beat and threatened him, AP reported.

“What is being done is an injustice and I will be here on appeal,” he told U.S. District Judge Michael Annello on Friday, according to AP.

But the judge didn’t buy that, saying: “This was a particularly brutal, violent and heinous crime,” AP reported.

The agent’s wife Erica told Navarro that she hears her son crying in the shower, “Why did he have to die? Why did you have to kill him?”

“You are selfish person with no sense of humanity or integrity,” she told Navarro.

DEA Busts Cop of the Year Who Was Instructor at Teen Academy

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

So much for awards.

The DEA has busted Boynton Beach, Fla. cop David Britto, who was named “Officer of the Year” of his department last year, according to the website Gawker.

The website reported that the DEA agents arrested Britto — a four year veteran of the force — on Tuesday on charges that he “had and intended to sell more than 500 grams of methamphetamines between June 2009 and March 2011.”

Britto is a mentor and instructor at the “Teen Police Academy” and a relationship coach, the Gawker reported. He also has a website HowToWinMyExBack.org.

Video of the Florida Cop

http://youtu.be/5DFKwbSV4GQ

Justice Dept. Barks Back: Accuses Rep. Issa of Ginning Up Controversy in Fast and Furious Probe

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The war of words is heating up between the Justice Department and key Republican Congressional members over the controversial ATF program known as Operation Fast and Furious.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) this week renewed accusations that the Justice Department is stonewalling a Congressional inquiry into the controversial gun program Operation Fast and Furious, which encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to middlemen or straw purchasers, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

Issa sent a July 5 letter to Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. renewing those accusations after acting ATF director Ken Melson talked to Congressional investigators over the July 4 weekend. Melson allegedly claimed the Justice Dept. was obstructing the Congressional inquiry.

But the Daily Caller reported that Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich responded in a July 6 letter accusing Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) of ginning up controversy. He also denied their allegations that the Justice Department hasn’t been transparant.

“We are puzzled by your criticism of the Department for its efforts to facilitate the Committee’s access to documents and witnesses,” Weich wrote, according to the Daily Caller. “Indeed, those concerns seem flatly inconsistent with statements that Chairman Issa has made on this subject in the recent past.”

Weich also noted that Issa said at a June 15 hearing that the Justice Department had made a breakthrough by producing documents and other information, according to the Daily Caller.

“Yet, just a few weeks later and notwithstanding the Department’s continuing production of documents, that ‘breakthrough’ has been re-characterized as an effort to prevent the Committee from receiving the information it requested,” Weich wrote.