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Archive for October 4th, 2011

Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith Wants Independent Counsel to Investigate Atty. Gen. Holder; He Denies Any Impropriety

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr./doj file photo

 Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The controversy over  ATF’s Operation and Fast and Furious is roaring once again.

The latest: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chair of the House Judiciary, asked President Obama on Tuesday to appoint a special counsel to investigate Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. as to what and when he knew about the operation, the website Main Justice reported.

“Allegations that senior Justice Department officials may have intentionally misled members of Congress are extremely troubling and must be addressed by an independent and objective special counsel,” Smith wrote in a letter to the president, which was posted on his website.

Under Operation Fast and Furious, the Phoenix Division of ATF encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to middlemen or “straw purchasers”, with the hope of tracking the weapons to the Mexican cartels.

The agency lost track of some of the guns, and some surfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the border. Once word of the “gun walking” operation became public, there was  outcry and Congressional hearings on the matter in which Holder testified.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler issued a statement Tuesday evening saying Holder did not know the details of the questionable tactics of the program at the time of operation.

“The Attorney General’s testimony to both the House and the Senate was consistent and truthful. He said in both March and May of this year that he became aware of the questionable tactics employed in the Fast and Furious Operation in early 2011 when ATF agents first raised them publicly, and at the time, he asked the Inspector General’s office to investigate the matter.”

CBS News reported that documents show Holder was sent briefings on the matter as far back as July 2010, contradicting testimony before a Congressional committee on May 3, 2011 when he said:

“I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

Rep. Lamar Smith/gov photo

But Schmaler said that “the weekly reports provided to the offices of the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General are compiled each week from entries submitted by 24 divisions and components with offices around the country. These routine reports provide general overviews and status updates on policy and legislative issues, public events, news clips, ongoing cases and investigations as well as key filings, hearings and expected rulings.

“As the documents provided to Congress show, not a single one of these reports referenced the controversial tactics that allowed guns to cross the border, and in fact, in one example provided to Congress consisted of a single sentence referencing a Phoenix-based operation.

“These reports are compiled to provide regular updates to Department leadership and can contain references to hundreds of cases, investigations, filings, court opinions and initiatives going on around the country at any given time. None of the handful of entries in 2010 regarding the Fast and Furious suggested there was anything amiss with that investigation requiring leadership to take corrective action or commit to memory this particular operation prior to the disturbing claims raised by ATF agents in the early part of 2011.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.) have been investigating the program and trying to figure out who in Washington gave the ok and knew about the matter.

Read full text of the letter.

 

 

Underwear Bomber Explodes in Court; Yells “Anwar is Alive”

Suspect Abdulmutallab/u.s. marshals photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The notorious Underwear Bomber’s  bomb may never have exploded, but apparently he did Tuesday morning in the opening of his federal trial in Detroit when he yelled out “Anwar is alive.”

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab outburst was in reference to  Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric killed by US forces in Yemen last week. Abdulmutallab has told authorities that al-Awlaki was a big influence in his life.  Interestingly, he has previously told reporters they should stop reporting that Osama bin Laden was dead.

Abdulmutallab,  24, of Nigeria,  boarded  Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit during Christmas of 2009 with explosives he intended to detonate. The explosives failed and passengers pounced on Abdulmutallab when they saw flames. The plane was carrying 279 passengers and 11 crew members.

Abdulmutallab, who is representing himself in the trial, has been denied several requests by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, including his request to wear a “Yemeni belt with a dagger” and for the trial to be judged under Islamic law, according to the AP.

Abdulmutallab, facing eight charges including conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, has pleaded not guilty.

Fundraiser for Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Pleads Guilty

Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick

Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Another person close to former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has fallen.

Longtime fundraiser for the “hip hop mayor” Emma Bell  pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Detroit to tax evasion, admitting that she received more than half a million dollars from various campaign fundraisers and never reported the money to the IRS, federal authorities said. Bell has agreed to cooperate with the feds for a lower sentence.

Bell described the last year of her life as hell, according to the Detroit Free Press. “After all of this time, I think it’s the right thing to do. It’s a lot of pressure on you,” she said of her guilt plea.

The statutory maximum sentence Bell is facing runs up to ten years in prison or a fine of $500,000, or both, but, because of her cooperation, prosecutors are recommending the sentence be lowered to 18 months, according to an FBI press release.

The guilty plea is more bad news for Kilpatrick, who faces a host of public corruption charges in federal court.

Last month, Derrick Miller, 41, a Kilpatrick confidante who worked as the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, pleaded guilty to corruption and tax charges and agreed to cooperate and testify for the feds against Kilpatrick.

 

EPA Investigator Pleads to Lying About Affair With FBI Agent

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
A former special agent with the Environmental Protection Agency pleaded guilty Monday to lying in a civil case about having an affair with an FBI agent he was working with.

Keith Phillips, 61, of Kent, Texas, who worked in the EPA Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Dallas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Louisiana to lying under oath and obstructing justice, the Justice Department said. The charges stemmed from his sworn testimony in a pending lawsuit in the Western District of Louisiana.

Authorities stated that Phillips and a female FBI agent from September 1996 to Dec. 14, 1999 investigated a criminal case that resulted in the indictment of Hubert Vidrine Jr. and several others.

The criminal charges against Vidrine were ultimately dismissed, and Vidrine turned around and filed a lawsuit against the federal government for malicious prosecution, authorities said.

Authorities said that during a deposition taken in Vidrine’s civil suit, agent Phillips “allegedly falsely testified that he did not have an affair with the FBI special agent, when, in fact, he did. The indictment alleges that it was material to the civil lawsuit to determine any potential motives of the criminal investigators in investigating and prosecuting the charges against Vidrine, and that Phillips committed perjury when he testified falsely about the affair and obstructed justice when he provided this false testimony.”

The indictment also alleges that he then contacted the FBI agent and tried to convince her not to confess to the affair.

Did Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Know About Controversial ATF Program Before He Publicly Said So?

A Whale of a Crime; Va. Man Pleads to Trafficking Sperm Whale Teeth

 

istock photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

It may not be the crime of the century, nonetheless, the feds say it’s a whale of a crime.

Richard M. Ertel, of Spotsylvania, Va., pleaded guilty Monday in Richmond, Va., to importation and illegal trafficking of sperm whale teeth, a violation of the Lacey Act, which prohibits the trading in endangered marine mammal parts.

Sperm whales are classified as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The Justice Department said it is illegal to import parts of the sperm whale into the United States without the requisite permits and certifications, and without declaring the merchandise at the time of importation to U.S. Customs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sperm whale teeth are commonly used for such things are jewelry and crafts, and it usually entails etchings or engravings in the teeth. The Justice Department said Ertel admitted that from April 2002 to June 2007, he bought sperm whale teeth from the Ukraine, and then sold to customers in Virginia and elsewhere in the United States, mostly via the Internet.

2 Somali Pirates Get Life in Deaths of S/V Quest Hijacking

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two Somali pirates involved in the hijacking of the S/V Quest, which resulted in the death of four Americans, were sentenced Monday in Norfolk, Va. fed court to life in prison.

Muhidin Salad Omar, 30, and Mahdi Jama Mohamed, who is about 24, admitted in the plea agreements that they participated in the hijacking off the coast of Somalia in February , but said they did not shoot any of the victims, authorities said.

“Somali piracy is a scourge on the world stage, and it continues to grow more widespread and more violent,” said Virginia U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride in a statement. “Armed attacks on the high seas carry a very real threat of death to those taken hostage, a threat that was tragically made evident in this case. That threat remains for hundreds of hostages held hostage in Somalia, and a life sentence sends a strong message to anyone who chooses to engage in piracy against U.S. interests that they will face severe consequences.”

“Muhidin Salad Omar and Mahdi Jama Mohamed will spend the rest of their lives behind bars, far away from the high seas they terrorized,” added Janice K. Fedarcyk, head of the New York FBI.

 

Medical Marijuana Growers Selling to Black Market, Complicating Matters

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Difficulties seem to be sprouting up like weeds as local governments across the country experiment with new laws and regulations concerning medical marijuana; the drug is still illegal and listed as a controlled substance by the federal government.

A top federal law enforcement official in Oregan has declared that medical growers are selling their products onto the black market, outside of the limits of the state that regulates the industry, reports The Bulletin, of Bend, Ore.   The result has been a number of busts by the DEA.

U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton told The Associated Press on Friday that Oregon medical growers sold marijuana to buyers in Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Idaho and Missouri illegally.

“We hear from patients when I’m on radio call-in shows,” Holton said, according to the AP. “Inevitably, we get a call in saying, ‘I can’t find marijuana.’ If cardholders can’t find marijuana, we’ve got to figure out where it is going, and there is a ton of it growing in the state. The answer is we know where it is going.”

Advocates of the drug’s legalization place the blame more with the disconnect between the federal ban of the drug and the increasing acceptance of its use in various states.

“Until cannabis prohibition ends and we get some kind of regulation system in this country as a whole, we cannot stop the criminals, we can’t stop the black market,” said Lori Duckworth of Southern Oregon NORML.

She said advocates are eager to work with the feds to stop the illegal sales, which are a burden on the patients that need the drug.

“Patients are not criminals. But patients are being punished for the actions of a few bad seeds,” she said.

One indicator of the illegal sales were patient complaints that they were often unable to obtain marijuana from legal dispensaries and caregivers due to a lack of supply, said Holton, the US attorney.

“An informal list of medical marijuana seizures in the past year kept by prosecutors showed 50 pounds going to Texas, 43 pounds going to Florida, 75 pounds going to the East Coast, and 120 pounds going to Arkansas,” reports The Bulletin.

“I think what is new about this, or different about what we have seen so far — not this particular case — is the excess amount of marijuana that must go someplace — especially when we’ve got cardholders saying they can’t get marijuana,” Holton told The Bulletin.

To read more click here.

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