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Archive for September 28th, 2011

Atty. Gen. Holder, FBI and Family Seek New Clues in 2001 Murder of Seattle Fed Prosecutor Thomas Wales

Rumor Mill Working Overtime as Controversy Bubbles Between FBI and LA Sheriff’s Dept.

 Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The rumor mill has been working over time involving the controversy between FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Lee Baca is fuming that the FBI didn’t tell him about its investigation into inmate abuse, or the fact that the FBI, in an undercover sting, paid a sheriff’s deputy about $1,500 to sneak a cellphone into an inmate who happened to be an FBI informant. When  Baca learned of it all, he was none too happy.

The sheriff announced an investigation into the whole matter and into the sheriff’s deputy who snuck the phone in the jail. The deputy has since resigned, the LA Times reported. It is a crime to sneak a phone into the jail.

Things have been heating up.

A source tells ticklethewire.com that sheriff’s deputies on Monday night visited the home of the FBI case agent in the matter and told her they planned to arrest her. They did not on Monday. On Wednesday, after ticklethewire.com reported the incident, Sheriff Baca told the Los Angeles Times of the possibility of charging the agent:  “No, I don’t think so. It’s not worthy of pursuing, in view of the greater good.” He said the agent directed the deputies’ questions to her supervisor,and Baca dismissed suggestions the visit by deputies was intended to intimidate the agent.”

At the same time, word began circulating this week that the case agent’s supervisor,  Victor Cockrell, an FBI supervisor in the Los Angeles civil rights division, which was handling the case, suddenly decided to retire. Some suggested there might be a connection between the retirement and the case.

But Cockrell told ticklethewire.com on Wednesday that his decision to retire has nothing whatsoever to do with the case.

“It was time to retire,” he said. “I have served my country and it’s time to do something else.”

He declined to comment on the case, saying it would be inappropriate to comment on any case.

Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI Los Angeles office, told ticklethewire.com on Wednesday via email: “Mr. Cockrell’s comment speaks for itself and we wish him the very best.”

Regarding the overall investigation, she told the Times: “With regard to the investigation, FBI agents at all times were acting within the course and scope of their duties and were in compliance with FBI policy and practices.”

Whatever the case, people in law enforcement in Los Angeles have been talking about the controversy, which is sure to percolate  for a while.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

An Interesting Omission in Press Release About Head of Fla. ICE Being Busted for Child Porn

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The press release issued Wednesday out of the Justice Department seemed a little peculiar if only because of a glaring omission.

“Florida Man Indicted for Transportation, Receipt, and Possession of Child Pornography” the headline of the press release read.

It went on to mention the name of the person, Anthony Mangione, 50, of Parkland, Fla., but made no mention anywhere in the 7-paragraph press release that he happened to be the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Florida,  a very prominent position in law enforcement.

Contrast that press release headline to the one that appeared in the Miami Herald website on Wednesday:

“Top immigration official pleads not guilty to child-porn charges in federal court.”

The Justice Department may not have seen the point in including the job title. But it might be germane considering that ICE has been involved in some of the biggest child porn busts in the nation. In fact, in August ICE was involved in a major child porn takedown involving charges against 72 people worldwide.

Laura Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, responded by saying: “We include information in the release that is reflected in the public record. The indictment doesn’t mention his position or employer, therefore neither does the release.”

What the release did say was that Mangione was arrested Tuesday after an indictment was unsealed on charges that alleged that between March 2010 and September 2010, Mangione “transported and received visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The indictment also alleges that Mangione possessed electronically stored messages that contained additional images of child pornography during the same time period.”

The Miami Herald reported that he showed no emotion during his initial court appearance in West Palm Beach.

He had headed the Florida regional ICE office since 2007.  The Herald, citing sources, said he had not received any child porn in connection with an ICE investigation.

 

ATF Clarifies: Medical Marijuana Users May Not Buy Guns

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Take your pick: Medical marijuana or a gun, but not both.

Responding to multiple questions from federally licensed gun sellers, the ATF wrote an open letter declaring it illegal to knowingly sell firearms to medical marijuana users.

The confusion arrises out of differing legal schemes regarding medical marijuana. Federal law prohibits selling firearms to any “unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance.” Because marijuana is a federally controlled substance, and because there are no federal exemptions for medicinal use, ATF policy is that it is illegal to sell to users of marijuana, the letter says.

“Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition,” the letter states.

“Our advice to FFL’s or Federal Firearm Licensees is that if you are aware that this person is a user of marijuana, then you should not go ahead with the sale of that firearm,” Brad Beyersdorf, ATF Special Agent and PIO for the Denver Field Division told KPAX, of Missoula, Mont. The Denver division covers the state of Montana as well.

You can read the letter here.

Mass. Airport Claims Secret Service Caused $676,048 Damage During Obama Visit

Pres. Obama at press conference/white house photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The president’s entourage rolled through a small Massachusetts airport last year like an untamed rock band wreaking havoc in a hotel room, causing more than half a million dollars in damages. Or so the airport alleges.

Marlborough Airport Properties Inc. filed a suit in a U.S. district court this week against the administration, reports the Boston Business Journal. The suit claims that an agreement had been made regarding the helicopter carrying the president–that it would not damage the tarmac.

Indeed, the helicopter did not damage the tarmac, states the suit, but the 44,000 lb. ‘foam truck,’ and other ground vehicles the Secret Service drove onto the airport caused property damages of up to $676,048.13.  “Turf or grassed-in areas” also were “significantly damaged,” the suit states.

The Business Journal reports that the administration has denied requests for compensation. The airport property company is seeking a jury trial.

St. Louis DEA Fights Growing Heroin Problem

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

DEA agents, in conjunction with local police, arrested more than 50 people in the St. Louis area this week associated with a loose network of heroin trafficking.

Officials hope to double the number of arrests in a fight against a growing problem in the region. A new form of highly-potent and often lethal heroin is selling for as little as $10 a bag, the Columbus, Ind. paper The Republic reported.

“The newer heroin is so potent that some users die before they can remove the syringe from their veins,” The Republic reported. The increased purity has lured suburban and middle-class youths afraid of injecting with needles; the new form can be smoke or snorted and still effective.

“Today isn’t the silver bullet, but this is the beginning of us making our statement and pushing back,” Harry Sommers, DEA’s St. Louis agent in charge, told the Associated Press. In all, Sommers expects to make a total of 104 arrests.

To read more click here.

The Never Ending Debate Over Drug Policy; Ex-DEA Official Asa Hutchinson and Head of Drug Policy Alliance Debate

Watch the Full Debate

The quirky and highly popular blog BoingBoing.net posted the abbreviated version of  this video of Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, and Asa Hutchinson, a former DEA Administrator, about drug policy and enforcement.  The debate was  sponsored by the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) chapter at the University of Arkansas and University Programs.

Also worth checking out is the nascent debate on the BoingBoing blog itself. BoingBoing often has a robust section of comments from their readers, and this video is sure to spark a conversation.  –Danny Fenster

Justice Dept. Fights Release of bin Laden Photos After Killing

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Sometimes curiosity just isn’t enough reason to do something.

At least that’s what the government seems to believe as it fights efforts by the group Judicial Watch, which has asked under the Freedom of Information Act for photos and videos of al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden after he was killed in May.

Politico reports that the Justice Department filed papers in federal court in Washington Monday night saying the release of the videos and photos would reveal military and intelligence secrets and could lead to violence against U.S. personnel. The CIA and the Pentagon are against releasing the materials.

The CIA has described the photos as “gruesome.”

President Obama said, according to Politico:

“It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence. As a propaganda tool. You know, that’s not who we are. You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies. We don’t need to spike the football.”