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Archive for December 2nd, 2011

Justice Dept. Admits “Inaccuracies” in Letter Regarding ATF’s Fast and Furious

atf file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The controversy over the Justice Department and what it knew about ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious seems to be going on and on and on.

The latest: The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Perez reports that the “Justice Department on Friday formally withdrew a February letter about its tactics in investigating gun trafficking, acknowledging in response to congressional criticism that it contained ‘inaccuracies.'”

At issue was a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) from the Justice Department which said the Justice Department made “every effort to interdict weapons and prevent their transportation to Mexico,” according to the Journal.

Problem was that really wasn’t true when it came to ATF’s failed Operation Fast and Furious.

Under the operation,  ATF  was letting guns walk, so to speak, by encouraging gun dealers in Arizona to sell to straw purchasers, all with the hopes of letting the guns into Mexico so agents could trace them to the drug cartels. In other words, agents were not interdicting the guns as the Justice Department suggested.

In fact, agents lost track of many weapons, some which surfaced at crime scenes on both sides of border. Two of those weapons surfaced at the crime scene where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed last year.

The Journal reported that the Justice Department blamed lower level employees at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona and at ATF for providing the inaccurate information.

 

Weekend Series on Crime: The Mongol Nation Bikers

http://youtu.be/kHFvm8C-GKU

Rep Darrell Issa May Recommend that ATF be Folded Into the FBI

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who has led the crusade against Attorney General Eric Holder during the Fast and Furious investigations, said he may recommend merging  ATF into the FBI, Bloomberg reports.

“ATF, perhaps, should be molded completely into the FBI and be done with it,” the California Republican told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast in Washington. “There is no reason you can’t have a special unit under the FBI” that investigates federal firearms laws. Both the ATF and the FBI are under the Justice Department.

Over the years, rumors have circulated that the ATF or DEA might be folded into the FBI.  Lawmakers from time to time have pushed for such changes as well.

To read more click here.

ACLU: FBI Illegally Surveilling Muslims

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

It will always be a line hard to draw, between protecting the nation from another terrorist attack and reaching too far in the name of preemption. The American Civil Liberties Union sees the latter, though, and on Thursday said the FBI is using extensive community outreach among Muslims to gather intelligence secretively and illegally, reports  Jerry Markon of the Washington Post.

FBI agents in California illegally recorded information about individual’s political and religious affiliations while attending mosque gatherings and other events in Muslim communities, the ACLU says, citing internal bureau documents, according to the Post. FBI officials deny the allegations.

Some of the files the ACLU cites show FBI agents working with local communities to fight drugs and crimes. But others show agents recording Social Security numbers and other personal information, noting their political affiliations in at least one incident. The information seems to be used for follow-up investigations, but heavy redactions make it tough to come to firm conclusions, according to the Post.

To read more click here.

One More Officer Sentenced in New Orleans’ Danziger Bridge Incident

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Add five years to the Danziger Bridge prison time count. A former New Orleans police officer was sentenced Thursday to five years for his role on the bridge in the days following Hurricane Katrina, according to a Justice Department statement.

Robert Barrios rode with other officers in a large Budget rental truck to the bridge on Sept. 4, 2005, according to the statement. The bridge was the scene where several officers were involved in a shooting incident that left two dead civilians, seriously injured four others and drew national attention.

Barrios admitted to agreeing with officers to obstruct justice as feds investigated the incident in April of last year. He also admitted to meeting with sergeants investigating the incident, who told him and other officers to get their stories straight before making official statements. Barrios admitted to lying to cover for fellow officers and sought to provide false and misleading information to make the bridge shooting appear legally justified.

Barrios is the fifth officer to cooperate and face sentencing in the Danziger case. Also serving time in federal prisons are former Lieutenant Michael Lohman, former Detective Jeffrey Lehrmann, and former Officers Michael Hunter and Ignatius Hills.

Round 2: Newark Feds Go for Retrial of Ex-Fed Prosecutor

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Round two is coming in the epic battle between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and ex-federal prosecutor Paul Bergrin, a high-profile  Newark defense attorney who was accused of orchestrating a 2004 murder of an FBI witness in a case in which he had a client.

The first round, for all practical purposes, went to Bergrin, after the jury deadlocked the day before Thanksgiving on the charges and the judge declared a mistrial.

Newark U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gay sent a letter dated Dec. 1 to U.S. District Judge William J. Martini stating:

“The Government formally requests to try the balance of the Second Superseding Indictment (Counts 1 through 11 and 14 through 33) on January 4, 2012, though it will not oppose a request to sever the tax counts (Counts 27 through 33). Further, the Government will not oppose any reasonable continuance Mr. Bergrin may need to prepare for trial.”

The government has also theorized that Bergrin allegedly orchestrated the hit of a witness to cover up the fact that he was allegedly supplying cocaine to drug gangs.

11 Arrested in Northern Virginia Guns and Weapons Ring

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

A three-year investigation focusing on drug and weapon rings came to an end with 11 arrests in Northern Virginia on Wednesday, reports the Washington Post. Some of those arrested had ties to street gangs.

The operation was primarily in Manassas and Fairfax County, and resulted in charges against more than 60 people.

ATF agents and local police outfits making up the Northern Virginia Violent Crimes Task Force made the arrests during raids on four houses, according to the Post.

Nine of the men were charged with conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 40 years prison.

To read more click here.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST:

Column: Prosecutors May Be Overreaching in Recommending 15-20 Years for Blago

 

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In political corruption cases, how much prison time is enough?

Fed prosecutors in the case of Rod Blagojevich — the world’s most talkative ex-governor — are recommending that he get 15 to 20 years at sentencing, which is set for Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Yes, Blagojevich was a crook with a stupid chip implanted somewhere in that brain of his underneath that helmet-head of hair. But I think a 15 to 20 year sentence is excessive.

What’s the point of piling on?

Blago, who turns 55 on Dec. 10, four days after sentencing, would be 75 by the time he got released from prison if he were to be sentenced to 20 years. If he gets 10 years, he’ll be 65 by the time he goes free.  It’s not as if, when he gets out, the public will be in danger.

A prison term in this case is supposed to provide sufficient punishment and act as a deterrent to other crooked-leaning pols.

I think 10 to 12 years, as a Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Brown suggests, does the trick.

A sentence of 10-12 is enough to discourage some — certainly not all — crooked politicians from committing crimes.

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