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Archive for November 23rd, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from ticklethewire.com

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful
that thorns have roses.”Alphonse Karr

*******
“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Column: Ex-FBI Official Mike Mason Challenges Comment by FBI Profiler on Penn State Scandal

Michael Mason, a former assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, retired as the executive assistant director at FBI headquarters in 2007. His column is in response to a column ex-fed prosecutor Ross Parker wrote in the form of a  letter to his son about the Penn State Scandal in which he quoted Jane Turner, an FBI psychological profiler, who said: “It takes enormous strength to put one’s moral integrity over your personal inclination to protect fellow colleagues who have committed malfeasance, or criminal activity. The FBI, like Penn State and the Catholic Church, are entities that allows their personnel to report allegations up a chain of command but those in positions of power or change, fail to take immediate or strong actions.”

Mike Mason/fbi photo

 
 
By Michael Mason
for ticklethewire.com

I have tried for the past two days to get beyond Ross Parker’s letter to his son and specifically the reference he made to the FBI via a piece apparently written by FBI profiler Jane Turner.

I too, have sons and have always taught them to stand tall when faced with moral imperatives.

I have shared with them many times that never in my FBI career was I ashamed to look at myself in the mirror for my conduct or that of my colleagues regarding the decisions we were called upon to make on a daily basis. I have shared with them times when agents have gone astray and been held accountable for doing so. I have shared with them the times I had to take a stand against conventional wisdom and against my own best interest and proudly did so.

I am not alone in any of the above. I did not inhabit an insular world. As you know I left the FBI as an Executive Assistant Director and there is not a single day of my entire career for which I am ashamed of or would be afraid to put on the front page of the Washington Post or New York Times.

I am proud of the many internal discussions we had in the FBI about choosing the right course of action in a myriad of situations most would find extremely challenging. Did we always choose the right course of action, perhaps not, but I can tell you and the readers of Ticklethewire that we left those meetings believing we had done so.

I never left any such meeting with my head hung low, ashamed that I, or one of my colleagues, had not spoken up when the occasion required us to do so.

I believed I wrestled with enough truly challenging decisions over the course of my career that teaching a masters level philosophy course would have been a natural role for me and many others to fill in retirement. So when I read comments about the FBI, even from FBI employees such as Jane Turner, I find myself wondering to what, specifically, they are referring.

Now that I am in the private sector, I can assure you the significant decisions made by the FBI are more exposed to the light of public opinion than virtually any such decisions made in this arena.

My point here is not to suggest the FBI was or will ever be flawless in their decision making processes or in the execution of their sworn duties. However, throughout my career I worked with some of the hardest working, most honest people I have ever met. I have seen FBI employees give more of themselves than the average American will ever be asked to give.

Every day of their respective careers they tried desperately to do the right thing. So try as I might to simply read Parker’s article and move on, I have been unable to do so. What was essentially a “drive-by” comment linking the unfortunate incident at Penn State to the general environment at the FBI demands a response. Parker’s use of Turner’s piece in his letter to his son suggest at a minimum he agrees with her statement. I categorically do not.

I have no doubt that both Jane Turner and Ross Parker are very fine individuals who served the public well. I have no doubt Parker’s son, if he follows his dad’s advice, will become a fine young man as well.

However, I believe the exact same thing about my two sons and dozens of other sons and daughters of FBI employees who have dispense similar advice to their children.

Far from an “insular world” the one I inhabited while serving in the FBI dealt with extraordinarily complex situations which often called for very difficult decisions. Never did I find my colleagues shrinking from their responsibility to try and make the right call.

Retired FBI Employee Who Helped Crew in “J. Edgar” Reflects on Movie and Power of Hollywood

Rex Tomb served in the FBI from 1968 until his retirement in 2006. For most of his career he served in the Office of Public Affairs, retiring as Chief of its Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit.
 

Rex Tomb

By Rex Tomb
for ticklethewire.com

About a year ago I received a telephone call from my former boss at the FBI. No biggie. Usually they call to tell me that a former colleague is retiring or that maybe someone I know is ill or transferring. This call however, was different. He told me that some people were coming to town and that they were producing a feature film about the life of J. Edgar Hoover. Would I give them a tour of Mr. Hoover’s old office? I immediately agreed to do so.

I am not a historian, nor can I claim to have known Mr. Hoover, though in a couple of those “my brushes with fame” moments, I did catch glimpses of him and even exchanged a few words with the man (very few). To say however, that I knew him? When he was alive, I worked in the mail room and conducted FBI tours. We weren’t on a first name basis. I served under him for the first four years of my FBI career which, by the way, stretched from 1968 until my retirement in 2006.

In the early 1970s, I was given an assignment that enabled me to obtain a very good knowledge of how Mr. Hoover’s office had been laid out: Who sat where, where the entrances were, where some of the furniture stood, etc. Mr. Hoover’s office was in the Department of Justice Building which is located in Washington, D.C. Several years ago the building underwent an extensive renovation. Much of the building’s interior was gutted and rebuilt, making it much harder for newer people to know exactly where things were. Since I live only a few miles away and was available, I was called.

While some parts of Mr. Hoover’s office suite no longer exist, I was still able to show them Mr. Hoover’s old conference room, his working office as well as his secretary’s office. The movie production people that I met with could not have been nicer. I liked them then, and I still do. They were intelligent, courteous and very kind. I also tried to recommend that they telephone some people who actually knew Mr. Hoover. Believe it or not, there are still a few around. They were appreciative, but it was obvious that they had already been in touch with some of them. Researchers who work on major film productions are notoriously efficient.

After the tour, I eagerly anticipated the film’s release, and several weeks ago, “J. Edgar” which was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer, came to Washington area movie theaters. The night I went to see it the theater was packed.

 

I was impressed with the production’s attention to detail. The cars, clothes, and sets were spot-on. Even the office scenes, which were filmed in a Hollywood studio, looked very realistic. An acquaintance of mine, who worked in that office after Mr. Hoover died, asked me if scenes were actually filmed there. I also thought that DiCaprio’s and Hammer’s performances were very good. The movie follows a timeline starting when Mr. Hoover and Mr. Tolson were very young and takes them well into old age. The actors had to convince us that 50 years had passed and I think that they succeeded. They certainly took me along with them. That was no small feat either. DiCaprio and Hammer had to do their work wearing a ton of makeup. They also had to change the way they walked, talked, etc. Hoover and Tolson looked, moved and sounded quite a bit different in 1972 than they did in 1932.

In the movie, DiCaprio probably pulled off the aging scenes a little better than Hammer did, but that might be because, in real life, Hoover aged better than Tolson. While watching Hammer’s performance I was reminded of the time that a colleague showed me a picture a young Clyde Tolson. He looked nothing like the shuffling, stooped figure I had just seen in the hall. Age and ill health had really taken a toll on him. In keeping with that progression, Hammer’s Tolson, looked nothing like the younger man he portrayed earlier in the movie. That took considerable skill.

The film also documents Hoover’s rise in the Department of Justice as well as the political turmoil faced by the nation in the early twentieth century. The film credits Hoover for his meticulous attention to detail as well as some of the innovations that he introduced to American law enforcement.

What I found less satisfying was the portrayal of Hoover and Tolson’s personal relationship. Mr. Hoover and Mr. Tolson were certainly close. When I first started at the Bureau, from time to time I would hear colleagues make snide remarks about them. It didn’t happen as much as one might expect though. Perhaps it’s because until relatively recently, women were largely excluded from clubs, schools and other organizations. Also, remember that up until 1973, only guys were drafted into an almost exclusively, all male U.S. military. Over the years, millions and millions of men were compelled to go through this male rite of passage.

Additionally, almost all professional work environments were male dominated. You could visit factories, churches, corporate offices, laboratories, newsrooms and even movie studios and see only a handful of professional women. Seeing two men regularly lunching together? So what? Restaurants back then looked like men’s clubs with plenty of lunchtime alcohol and dangerous amounts of cigar and cigarette smoke. Hoover and Tolson seen together back then would have looked like just about everyone else.

Since the release of the movie, I’ve read stories that Hoover and Tolson dressed alike, lived together and apparently went to great lengths to ensure that their private lives remained that way. My own observation was that they certainly dressed better than most. They also seemed to favor dark suits. That they dressed alike, though? I never saw or heard of it, and I don’t think something like that would have gone unnoticed in an organization like the FBI. Of course, back then conformity was considered a virtue, and tons of people including many of Mr. Hoover’s assistant directors, Agents and yes, even some of his super loyal, self-serving clerks (like me), wore dark suits too. Take a look at photographs of other government executives from that period. Hoover and Tolson fit right in, sartorially speaking, anyway.

As for their living arrangements, Mr. Tolson lived in an apartment near American University. Mr. Hoover owned a house several miles away. The only time that I am aware of Mr. Tolson ever staying with Mr. Hoover was the time just after he had had open heart surgery. Mr. Hoover had a live-in domestic who could look after Mr. Tolson during his convalescence. Under these circumstances, not allowing Mr. Tolson to stay at his house would have been pretty uncharitable. By the way, Mr. Hoover’s secretary, Miss Gandy, also lived within easy walking distance. There was plenty of help if Mr. Tolson needed it.

Were they more than just good friends? We’ll never know, but of the numerous people I’ve talked to over the years, who really knew them, all have told me that there was nothing more to their relationship than friendship. This, I guess, is why I’m so skeptical of all of this talk about them being secret lovers. I mean why should I accept the notions of those who never knew them, never saw them, never met them, never talked to them and in some cases weren’t even born yet?

In recent conversations I have had with some of my former colleagues, I don’t think that most of us really care about the nature of Mr. Hoover and Mr. Tolson’s relationship. I know I don’t. Many of us believe, however, that both Mr. Hoover and Mr. Tolson would care.

If this were a film about a ”fictional” FBI director, in the same way that “Citizen Kane” was a movie about a “fictional” press baron, I wouldn’t be too concerned. This movie, however, deals with real flesh and blood people and just to make sure we know that, they even used the main character’s name for the film’s title. Millions of people will see this movie and will draw conclusions from it. For the record, there is absolutely no credible evidence that J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde A. Tolson were either closeted or openly homosexual. Likewise, while there is a popular notion that Mr. Hoover blackmailed the Kennedys and others over the span of his very long career, I have never seen solid evidence that it actually happened. Indeed, I find it dubious that anyone could intimidate 535 members of Congress and every President from Calvin Coolidge to Richard Nixon for nearly 50 years. This is America and not the Soviet Union. While the film does not come out and say it, it certainly does infer these things about Mr. Hoover. Is it accurate? Is it fair? What impressions will viewers take away with them, not only of Mr. Hoover, but of the thousands of men and women who over the years worked for him, and in some cases sacrificed their lives while serving under his leadership?

Hollywood rightly calls attention to the unchecked power of elected and career government officials. What I sometimes fear they miss, however, is the power of their own industry. They can re-write the entire life of an individual in several languages, and it will be believed, sometimes unquestionably, by a vast worldwide audience. With nothing but the box office or advertisers to serve as a check and balance, the entertainment industry has the ability to demonize or beatify almost anyone they choose. Now that’s power! I wouldn’t want it any other way. Censorship has no place in America. But still, we really place a lot of faith in the entertainment industry, and that puts a very heavy responsibility on their shoulders. What does the Bible tell us? “. . . unto whomsoever much is given, unto him shall be much required.”

So true, so true.

Blago Fundraiser Gets 10 1/2 Years for Extorting Millions

By Danny Fenster
ticklethwire.com

A top fundraiser and advisor to ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich got handed a stiff sentence Tuesday in Chicago federal court for extorting millions of dollars in exchange for regulatory approval or business.

Fundraiser  Antoin “Tony” Rezko was sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison — a sentence that prompted Rezko’s daughter to burst into tears, reports the Chicago Tribune. Judge Amy St. Eve told Rezko his “selfish and corrupt actions” have threatened people’s trust in government.

The tough sentence could be the preview as to what’s to come next month when none other than Blagojevich himself is sentenced.

Rezko has been in prison since his 2008 conviction, but the sentencing was delayed because federal prosecutors thought he may have needed to be called a witness at other key trials related to the probe of the Blagojevich administration, the Tribune reported.

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called the sentence “a wake-up call.”

“I don’t know how many times we’ve had sentences of 10 1/2 years” in public corruption cases, Fitzgerald said, according to the Tribune.

Which raises a question. As ticklethewire.com reported previously, some see the upcoming Blagojevich sentencing as a chance for Illinois to send a very strong, very pubic message against widespread corruption in local and state government. Could this be the stern warning, the “wake up call” that was needed? Would that mean a lighter sentence for Blagojevich? Or is this only the beginning of an overdue crackdown?

Blagojevich conducted an extensive media campaign covered by the national press before his guilty conviction. While most Chicagoans know the name Tony Rezko, he does not have the national profile that Rod Blagojevich does. A stiff Blago sentencing would surely send a stronger, or at least louder, message.

Only time will tell. Balgojevich’s sentencing is set for December.

To read more click here.

Civic, Corporate Leader Arrested for Financial Fraud

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com
 

A corporate leader and former member of the executive committee of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors was arrested by the FBI agents, the Berkeley Daily Planet reported on Tuesday.

Todd Hansen, former president of global advertising firm Posterscope and of Clear Channel Outdoors San Francisco division, has been charged with orchestrating a financial fraud  to enrich himself by inflating company earnings.

Hansen and a former colleague at Posterscope, “are accused of engaging in a five-year, $19.75 million accounting fraud scheme to make it appear that the Company was meeting certain performance targets when it was not, so that they could receive higher salary increases, bonuses, and stock options,” according to the FBI. Hansen boosted his income by $1.1 million a year for his five years at the company. He is also accused of mishandling company funds for personal purchases.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST:

 

DEA, New York Police Shootout Leaves Suspect with Stomach Shot

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

A shootout involving undercover DEA, NYPD and the State Police task force left one suspect wounded in upper Manhattan, reports the New York Post.

At 10 p.m., the officers spotted a group of armed men about to rob a known drug dealer when they tried to bust the thieves, the Post reported. The thieves drew weapons and a shootout ensued, leaving one suspect with a shot in the stomach, who is in stable condition. Another received a graze wound and three others were taken into custody.

No officer was hurt.

 

Brit Official Denies Report FBI is Sending Armed Agents to 2012 London Olympics

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
Reports that the FBI is sending an army of armed agents to the 2012 Olympics just ain’t true, at least according to the a Brit official.

The website News24 reported that Chris Allison, the national security co-ordinator for the games, “sharply rejected reports that armed FBI agents would be taking part in securing the games, insisting on Tuesday that Britain did not need outside help to keep the event safe.”

Specifically, he rejected reports in the Guardian newspaper that said the U.S. would send armed FBI agents to protect U.S. interests.

“There will be no foreign armed personnel here,” Allison said, according to the site.