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Archive for December 3rd, 2013

Santa’s Helper, a Giant Elf, a Cuban Inmate Uprising and the Salvation Army

A note from Greg Stejskal: “Despite not having sold the screen rights & in an effort to make this story a Holiday classic, we’re running this story again. Happy Holidays!”
 
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

This is a Christmas story, but it really began just before Thanksgiving in 1987, at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The Cuban inmates had rioted and had taken control of a sizeable portion of the penitentiary. The catalyst for the riots happened years before that in 1980.

The Mariel boatlift, a massive exodus of Cuban refugees from Cuba to the US, had among its refugees, convicted criminals. Fidel Castro had apparently thought the boatlift was an opportune time to decrease his prison over-crowding.

Upon arrival in the US those Cubans who were determined to be criminals were detained and placed in US penitentiaries with no clear plan as to what to do with them in the long term.

This uncertain future led predictably to unrest and ultimately to the prison riots.

When the inmates rioted and took control of part of the Atlanta Penitentiary, they also took some of the staff hostage.

The FBI was tasked with negotiating with the inmates and providing SWAT teams should it become necessary to retake control of the penitentiary by force and rescue the hostages.

SWAT teams from many of the large offices were called to respond to Atlanta. Our Detroit team was one of those teams.

So on a cold, rainy November night, an Air Force C-141, flying a circuit, landed at Detroit Metro Airport to pick up our team. Already on board were teams from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. We arrived in Atlanta early the next morning.

The Atlanta Penitentiary is a foreboding place. It was built in phases beginning in the late 1800s, into the first few decades of the 1900s.

It has 60-foot walls with watch towers on each corner. Upon our arrival we climbed to the top of one of the watch towers and looked down into the prison yard. It looked like a scene from a post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” movie.

Inmates were walking around the yard, all carrying homemade weapons: long-knives, swords, etc., made from scrap metal and sharpened on some of the prison machine tools.

After seeing that scene, we all assumed we were going to be in Atlanta for awhile. We knew we would prevail if it came to having to use force. After all they had made the critical tactical mistake of bringing knives to a gun fight. But they had hostages and a large supply of non-perishable food in their control.

The next morning I was walking to the Penitentiary administration building for the shift change briefing when I saw a tent where free coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts were being served. It was the Salvation Army tent. The Salvation Army was there every day of the insurrection including Thanksgiving serving coffee, donuts, smiles and kind words. I’ve been on a lot of SWAT operations, but I had never been offered coffee, donuts or kind words from the neighborhood in which we were operating.

Read more »

Column: Santa’s Helper, a Giant Elf, a Cuban Inmate Uprising and the Salvation Army

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.
 
A note from Greg Stejskal: “Despite not having sold the screen rights & in an effort to make this story a Holiday classic, we’re running this story again. Happy Holidays!”

Greg Stejskal

 
By Greg Stejskal
ticklethewire.com

This is a Christmas story, but it really began just before Thanksgiving in 1987, at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The Cuban inmates had rioted and had taken control of a sizeable portion of the penitentiary. The catalyst for the riots happened years before that in 1980.

The Mariel boatlift, a massive exodus of Cuban refugees from Cuba to the US, had among its refugees, convicted criminals. Fidel Castro had apparently thought the boatlift was an opportune time to decrease his prison over-crowding.

Upon arrival in the US those Cubans who were determined to be criminals were detained and placed in US penitentiaries with no clear plan as to what to do with them in the long term.

This uncertain future led predictably to unrest and ultimately to the prison riots.

When the inmates rioted and took control of part of the Atlanta Penitentiary, they also took some of the staff hostage.

The FBI was tasked with negotiating with the inmates and providing SWAT teams should it become necessary to retake control of the penitentiary by force and rescue the hostages.

SWAT teams from many of the large offices were called to respond to Atlanta. Our Detroit team was one of those teams.

So on a cold, rainy November night, an Air Force C-141, flying a circuit, landed at Detroit Metro Airport to pick up our team. Already on board were teams from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. We arrived in Atlanta early the next morning.

The Atlanta Penitentiary is a foreboding place. It was built in phases beginning in the late 1800s, into the first few decades of the 1900s.

It has 60-foot walls with watch towers on each corner. Upon our arrival we climbed to the top of one of the watch towers and looked down into the prison yard. It looked like a scene from a post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” movie.

Inmates were walking around the yard, all carrying homemade weapons: long-knives, swords, etc., made from scrap metal and sharpened on some of the prison machine tools.

After seeing that scene, we all assumed we were going to be in Atlanta for awhile. We knew we would prevail if it came to having to use force. After all they had made the critical tactical mistake of bringing knives to a gun fight. But they had hostages and a large supply of non-perishable food in their control.

The next morning I was walking to the Penitentiary administration building for the shift change briefing when I saw a tent where free coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts were being served. It was the Salvation Army tent. The Salvation Army was there every day of the insurrection including Thanksgiving serving coffee, donuts, smiles and kind words. I’ve been on a lot of SWAT operations, but I had never been offered coffee, donuts or kind words from the neighborhood in which we were operating.

Read more »

Head of Chicago’s FBI Looks For Ways to Help Crack Down on Violent Crimes

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

Answering calls to help crack down on Chicago’s violent crime rate, the new head of Chicago’s FBI office said Monday that he plans to find new ways for his agents to lend a hand, the Associated Press reports.

But that won’t be easy.

In one of his first interviews since taking the position about a month ago, Robert Holley said about a quarter of his agents work on violent-crime cases.

“Could I move resources from one investigative branch to another? I could,” said Holley. “But I would have to take away from other programs, and I don’t know if I am willing to accept that risk right now.”

Holley’s background is in terrorism, the AP wrote.

Rep. Darrell Issa Accuses FBI of Stonewalling Investigation into IRS

Darrell Issa

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A leading California Congressman is threatening to subpoena FBI Director James B. Comey Jr. if the agency isn’t more forthcoming about its investigation into the federal government’s handling of a conservative group, the Washington Times reports.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa is accusing the FBI of stonewalling his inquiry about whether the IRS unfairly targeted True the Vote for scrutiny.

Six months into the investigation, the FBI still has not turned over a document and won’t brief him in person, the Washington Times wrote.

“The department’s tactics have impeded a congressional investigation and interfered with the comittee’s access to documents and information. Obstructing a congressional investigation is a crime,” Issa wrote in a letter to Comey.

Former FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce to Fight Crime in Private Sector

Sean Joyce

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Less than a month after Sean Joyce retired as the FBI’s deputy director, he is bringing his skills as an investigator to PwC, a private firm that helps groups manage operational and cyber threats, according to PR Newswire.

“We are proud to welcome Sean Joyce to PwC and look forward to working closely with him to help our clients strategically and proactively manage external and internal threats to their organizations,” said Erik Skramstad, U.S. Advisory Forensics Leader. “Sean’s background, skills, experience and leadership make him an exceptional addition to our practice and an incredible asset to our clients.”

Joyce’s career with the FBI began in 1987. His various positions gave him experience with counterterrorism, counterintelligence and weapons of mass destruction.

Former Governor of Tamaulipas, Mexico Is Indicted on Racketeering Charges

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The former governor of the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico has been indicted on charges that he allowed large-scale drug rings to operate in exchange for large bribes from drug traffickers, the FBI announced Monday.

Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba, 56 was charged with the RICO statute and several conspiracy charges.

Ruvalcaba, who served as governor from 1999 to 2004, is accused of helping with the shipment of massive amounts of cocaine, much of which ended up in the U.S.

Yarrington also is charged with collecting bribes from businesses that wanted to do work for the state.

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