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Archive for October 1st, 2013

FBI Agents Talk About the Harmful Impact of Budget Cuts

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Budget cuts are taking a bite out of FBI operations, and harming the fight against all types of crimes,  from corruption to counterterrorism to battling gangs and violence.

The FBI Agents Association on Monday released a new report — Voices from the Field — that provides FBI Agents’ first-hand accounts of the impact of the budget cuts on daily operations and investigations.

“As FBI Agents, our commitment to our work is unwavering,” the association’s President Rey Tariche said in a statement “We will continue to make the personal and professional sacrifices to do our jobs and protect this country. However, we are releasing Voices from the Field to ensure that Congress, the Administration, and the public are aware that the resources available to support the work of FBI Agents have been stretched to the breaking point.”

The report notes that even agents’ basic transportation needs are being compromised and some agents are being told they can’t use official FBI vehicles because there is no funding for gas.

The following are some testimonials  in the report from agents in the field:

Undermining Counter-Terrorism Investigations

“I … work International and Domestic Counterterrorism. Budget restrictions have and will continue to limit the resources available to include personnel and equipment. … Restrictions in surveillance technology means the necessary facilities used for terrorist communications won’t be monitored.”

Exposing Vulnerable Populations to Greater Risk

“Here is how the sequester will affect my little slice of the Bureau. …No gas means cases don’t get worked – period. Nothing is close to anything on the reservation. Witnesses and victims don’t have phones. We have to drive to them. They are too poor to drive to us. … Fewer guys – fewer cases get worked. That is the cruel truth. Real people won’t get justice. The face of the sequester is a molested Navajo kid or a beaten Apache woman, neither of whom will see justice. Our victims are the poorest, most vulnerable … people in this country.

Halting Counter-Intelligence Cases

“We have approximately 10 very important CI cases that we would open … but we can’t open them because we don’t have the [Special Agents] to work the investigations and the other agents on the squad already have full case loads. These are national security cases that could lead to the loss of highly sensitive classified information if we don’t address them. … It will only get worse with furloughs.”

Closing White Collar Cases

“I work white collar/fraud/public corruption. … The impact of the sequestration is already being felt and will continue to hinder our productivity. I am closing cases and not looking to open new ones. …Current investigations and informant development have been hindered because of lack of funds.

Limiting Mortgage/Financial Fraud Cases

“The hiring freeze has prohibited our team from adding new agents to combat the significant surge in investment fraud and mortgage loan modification fraud. Resources are stretched and not able to completely address the financial losses experienced in our area of responsibility. With the loan modification fraud, many victims lose their home and life savings because of the scheme. … Several new targets have recently been identified; just this past week, four known fraudsters were advertising in the classifieds for employees to expand their current fraudulent schemes, however, with our lack of resources and now the additional cuts and furloughs, we are not able to address the progressing schemes.

Constraining Use of Official Vehicles

“In the beginning of March when the sequestration began, the division was told we are now on a strict gas budget and were pretty much not allowed to use our [Bureau] cars. This severely affected work performance and disrupted investigations as we did not have enough money to put gas in a work car to go do something as simple as an interview, let alone anything else of significance with regards to investigative matters.”

Losing Informants

“I … investigate street gangs. Recently … we have been facing funding shortages on the criminal side for the last couple of  years. There are certain gangsters I can’t go after with a Confidential Human Source (CHS) or any other way as ‘drug buy’ money is not sufficient. These subjects are at a certain point where the CHS can’t buy small amounts of drugs. Most of our larger targets only sell in big amounts. With dwindling resources, we have had to let these subjects go as investigation against them would be futile. … Being that most of my gang CHS’s motivation are financially driven, I am running the risk of the CHS’s turning back to a life of crime if I can’t make payments for their services. 

Impeding Surveillance

“The existing hiring freeze and budget restrictions have forced my squad to conduct investigations in a less effective manner. Many interviews are now conducted telephonically; thus, limiting the agent’s interaction with the person being interviewed. This limited interaction also minimizes the intelligence that can be obtained throughout the interview. The limited communication has also minimized opportunities for Source development and information collection. Surveillances have also been cut short and completely eliminated because of financial restrictions or lack of agents to conduct the surveillance.

Harming Local Cooperation

“The impact on local law enforcement is completely negative because we can’t support where we have traditionally. [Local law enforcement] depend[s] on us for support in larger cases and we depend on them for support and back-up because we are a small office. Once we walk away from working traditional criminal programs … we will lose the support of local law enforcement.”

Reducing Field Time

“The administrative burden that is now put on Agents … that was previously handled by support personnel has caused Agents to  spend an unprecedented amount of time at their desks versus being out on the street conducting interviews and recruiting [Confidential Human Sources].

Increasing Retirements

• “For the first time in my 10 year FBI career, I am strongly considering ending my FBI employment and going back to theprivate sector.”

• “I am actively seeking to retire and move on to my next career sooner than I want to because of the issues in Washington. I have four more years left before … mandatory retirement. If I retire, that leaves two criminal agents in the [Resident Agency].”

 

ACLU Recommends Budget Cuts Amid Imminent Government Shutdown Threats

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

New FBI Director James Comey may have to make big cuts to the bureau’s budget because of a government shutdown and last year’s sequester.

The ACLU has some ideas about “programs that deserve to get the axe, because they’re ineffective, undermine innocent Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, or simply offend American values.

The recommendations are: Stop identifying neighborhoods by race in order to investigate them; quit collecting information on innocent Americans a part of “Domain Management;” end intrusive programs called “assessments” that target people or groups without any reason to believe they broke the law; do away with the new database, eGuardian, because it encourages racial discrimination; and end the collection of all U.S. telephone call data.

“Spying on innocent people rarely helps find guilty people,” the ACLU wrote. “We hope that by giving Director Comey a few ideas about FBI programs that can be cut to save expenses, he can turn his attention to other abusive FBI practices documented in the ACLU report. Ending practices that violate civil liberties won’t necessarily put the FBI’s budget back in the black, but it is still the right thing to do.”

Tech Companies Urge Congress to Shed More Light on Secret Information Requests

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

More than two dozen companies and numerous trade groups are endorsing bills that would open more light on the government’s secret information requests, the Verge.com reports.

The businesses and trade groups are showing their support for bills that would allow them to reveal when they receive requests for national security-related data.

Among those who signed the letter to Congressional members are Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.

Those same companies have been forced to turn over information without the ability to disclose it.

The argument is that barring the disclosure of information to users violates free speech rights.

Federal Government Can’t Cut Most Homeland Security Employees

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A vast majority of Homeland Security employees cannot be forced off the job because of a government shutdown, the Washington Post reports.

About 86% of the department’s 231,000 employees are considered “essential,” which means they must remain on the job for the “safety of human life or protection of property,” regardless of budget conditions.

One of the most protected components of DHS is the Transportation Security Administration, where 93% of employees are considered essential.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano Takes Over as UC President

Janet Napolitano

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano took over as the president of the University of California on Monday, but she’s already facing challenges.

A group of student activists are asking for a “no-confidence” vote to express disapproval over her hiring, the Associated Press reports.

The activists said Napolitano is a bad choice because she’ll be overseeing a campus where protests and residents living in the U.S. illegally are going school, the AP wrote.

“There are a lot of students with some very large concerns centered around her past history in Homeland Security,” University of California Student Association President Kareem Aref said. “Students are concerned that her presidency may be accompanied by a militarization of the UC.”

Judge Drops Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Against Former FBI Agent

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

A former FBI agent who filed a $2.2 million federal lawsuit against the FBI claiming retaliation and racial discrimination lost her case, WFMJ-NBC reports.

U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson dismissed the case, saying the former agent, Sheila Lawson, never made herself available for depositions.

Lawson, who worked for the FBI between 2002 and 2006, has been largely inaccessible during the case, the WFMJ reported.

Lawson was acting as her own attorney.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

Counterfeiting in the 21st Century and the Response by Michigan State University

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Counterfeiting brings to the public mind a rare fake $20 bill, knockoff handbags (spelled “Gucchi”), and a bootleg Tom Cruise DVD. The typical consumer attitude about product counterfeiting ranges from tolerance to apathy, nothing threatening or particularly sinister.

But the reality today is more sobering. Not only does counterfeiting and product fraud mean global big bucks, but it directly affects all of our everyday lives in areas we do care about—food safety, organized crime, pharmaceutical drug fraud, whole industries at risk, and health and safety in the Third World.

Dr. Jeremy Wilson, the Director of Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program (hereafter A-CAPPP) at Michigan State University, estimates the annual global trade in counterfeit goods to exceed $600 billion, about 5-7% of world trade. The FBI figure is roughly the same. Not only does the practice wreak havoc on the economies of industries and governments, it threatens the health and safety of individuals worldwide.

Take food, for example. A-CAPPP estimates that inferior products make their way to almost every American’s dinner plate. Examples are endless, from watered down milk, vodka laced with methanol, diluted olive oil, tomato sauce, candy bars, virtually every kind of food we eat.

The counterfeit product list goes on to other categories involving public safety. Shoddy auto parts, weakened medicine and pharmaceuticals, unsafe propane tanks, even a fake nuclear reactor component (in Michigan no less). Over half of the drugs used in Third World countries are counterfeit. Dr. Wilson estimates that counterfeit goods are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries around the world every year.

I would guess that despite the salutary efforts of several federal law enforcement agencies (FBI, FDA, DHS, ICE to name a few), out of the law enforcement dollar less than a penny is spent on counterfeiting and product safety investigations and prosecutions. In a world that wakes up each day to a new mass murder or terrorist plot, product safety rarely grabs a headline. And stretched-thin federal law enforcement budgets are focused on other crimes which the public considers more important.

Read more »

Parker: Counterfeiting in the 21st Century and the Response by Michigan State University

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. He is the author of the book “Carving Out the Rule of Law: The History of the United States Attorney’s Office in Eastern Michigan 1815–2008″.
By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

Counterfeiting brings to the public mind a rare fake $20 bill, knockoff handbags (spelled “Gucchi”), and a bootleg Tom Cruise DVD. The typical consumer attitude about product counterfeiting ranges from tolerance to apathy, nothing threatening or particularly sinister.

But the reality today is more sobering. Not only does counterfeiting and product fraud mean global big bucks, but it directly affects all of our everyday lives in areas we do care about—food safety, organized crime, pharmaceutical drug fraud, whole industries at risk, and health and safety in the Third World.

Dr. Jeremy Wilson, the Director of Anti-Counterfeiting and Product Protection Program (hereafter A-CAPPP) at Michigan State University, estimates the annual global trade in counterfeit goods to exceed $600 billion, about 5-7% of world trade. The FBI figure is roughly the same. Not only does the practice wreak havoc on the economies of industries and governments, it threatens the health and safety of individuals worldwide.

Take food, for example. A-CAPPP estimates that inferior products make their way to almost every American’s dinner plate. Examples are endless, from watered down milk, vodka laced with methanol, diluted olive oil, tomato sauce, candy bars, virtually every kind of food we eat.

The counterfeit product list goes on to other categories involving public safety. Shoddy auto parts, weakened medicine and pharmaceuticals, unsafe propane tanks, even a fake nuclear reactor component (in Michigan no less). Over half of the drugs used in Third World countries are counterfeit. Dr. Wilson estimates that counterfeit goods are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries around the world every year.

I would guess that despite the salutary efforts of several federal law enforcement agencies (FBI, FDA, DHS, ICE to name a few), out of the law enforcement dollar less than a penny is spent on counterfeiting and product safety investigations and prosecutions. In a world that wakes up each day to a new mass murder or terrorist plot, product safety rarely grabs a headline. And stretched-thin federal law enforcement budgets are focused on other crimes which the public considers more important.

Read more »