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Archive for May 24th, 2017

Guardian: Trump Seems Primed to Return the FBI to the Hoover Era

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover

By Editorial Board
The Guardian

The country is still reeling after the bombshell report that Donald Trump asked the former FBI director James Comey to shut down the bureau’s investigation into Michael Flynn. Did the president fire Comey to slow down the FBI Russia investigation? Did Trump obstruct justice?

These questions are getting the attention that they deserve. But the focus on Comey’s firing is obscuring the issue of who Trump will hire to replace him – and the threat that this appointment poses to Americans’ civil liberties and civil rights.

Recently, the journalist Ashley Feinberg uncovered Comey’s personal Twitter account; he had used the pseudonym “Reinhold Niebuhr”. Tellingly, the real Niebuhr was a theologian, public intellectual, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient targeted for FBI surveillance because of his lawful opposition to the Vietnam war.

Niebuhr wasn’t alone. The FBI has a long history of abusing its power to serve political ends. In the early 20th century, J Edgar Hoover created his Radical Alien Division to conduct dragnet surveillance of American immigrants. It surveilled Marcus Garvey to collect evidence used in his deportation to Jamaica. It wiretapped Dr Martin Luther King Jr during the civil rights era. At President Dwight Eisenhower’s direction, Hoover compiled a “list of homosexuals” to root out gay people working for the government.

Comey had serious flaws. But he understood the past misdeeds of the FBI. He kept a copy of the original order to wiretap King on his desk and required new FBI agents and analysts to visit King’s memorial on the National Mall. As Comey put it in 2015, he tried to “to ensure that we remember our mistakes and that we learn from them”.

Trump, on the other hand, seems anxious to return to the Hoover era.

Justice Department Tries to Force Sanctuary Cities to Cooperate Under Budget Proposal

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump is not giving up on his plan to strip federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities.

A month after a judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked Trump’s  efforts to starve municipalities of federal money for failing to fully cooperate with immigration enforcement, the Justice Department is trying to change the law to give the federal government more leverage over localities when it comes to immigration enforcement, the Washington Post reports.

Local law enforcement agencies have expressed numerous reason for refusing to fully cooperate. Some police departments and sheriff’s offices are opposed because it’s an unfunded mandate, has legal implications and makes the community more unsafe because undocumented immigrants are afraid to report crimes.

The Post wrote:

Justice Department officials have said that under current law, holding illegal immigrants upon request is voluntary. And in a memo Tuesday, Sessions seemed to concede that his power in the matter was limited.

He declared that sanctuary cities, even under Trump’s executive order, were only those places that violated the particular federal law that stops local officials from putting any restrictions on information sharing with ICE. Only such jurisdictions, he said, were at risk of losing federal funding.

If the Justice Department’s proposal were to become law, though, all jurisdictions that do not honor detainer requests will be at risk. The law would block cities from enacting policies that stop compliance with legal Department of Homeland Security requests, including “any request to maintain custody of the alien for a period not to exceed 48 hours.”

Trump Considers Appointing First Woman to Lead 82-Year-Old FBI

Fran Townsend, via Twitter

Fran Townsend, via Twitter

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Trump is reportedly considering appointing the first woman to head the FBI after firing Director James Comey earlier this month under suspicious circumstances.

Politico confirmed that Fran Townsend, the former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush, was approached by the Trump administration about the coveted job. 

“I’ve talked to folks in the administration about it,” she said.

Acknowledging that her candidacy is “history-making,” Townsend would be the first woman to take the helm of the FBI since the bureau was founded in 1935. “The fact that women are in that mix says a lot about how far we’ve come. That hasn’t been true before,” she said. “Regardless of whatever decision is made, we have begun to shatter a glass ceiling about what is the population of people who are qualified and competitive to hold such a position.”

Asked whether she’d take the job if its was offered, Townsend dodged the question.

As for whether she’d take the job if offered, the former Bush official demurred: “You know what? I learned in the White House I don’t do hypotheticals,” she said, “but I will say I was quite honored and quite flattered to be approached.”

Trump’s Search for New FBI Director Starts from Scratch Again

President Trump, via White House

President Trump, via White House

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Just a week after President Trump said he was “very close” to choosing a new FBI director, his administration is now starting from scratch, a senior administration official told CNN.

That means former Sen. Joe Lieberman is no longer the leading candidates.

Trump, who sources said had narrowed down his choices to just a handful of finalists, now wants more candidates from which to pick.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a big role in the process, interviewing candidates, including acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former congressman and FBI special agent Mike Rogers, and Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security adviser to President George W. Bush. If appointed, Townsend would be the first woman to lead the FBI in the bureau’s history.

What’s unclear is whether Trump’s often combative relationship with the intelligence community and his treatment of former FBI Director James Comey would make the job less appealing to qualified candidates.

Among the candidates who have already bailed out are former Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher, Associate Judge Michael Garcia of the New York Court of Appeals, career FBI official Richard McFeely, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn and South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy.

Special FBI Agent’s Brush with Death Doesn’t Slow Her Down


By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An 11-year veteran of the FBI, Special Agent Diane Wehner believed she was in good physical shape.

After all, she worked out daily at the gym at the FBI’s Charlotte Field Office and passed her required annual fit tests.

But after completing the fit test in September 2015, the 36-year-old said she “didn’t feel very well. My neck hurt, my back hurt,” she told the Charlotte Observer. 

Just when she thought she was beginning to feel better, she began to slur her speech.

“When we first met Diane, she was in the middle of having a stroke and with strokes, time is very important,” said Dr. Joe Bernard, an Endovascular Neuro Surgeon at Carolinas Medical Center where Wehner was eventually airlifted.

Likely from doing sit-ups during the fit test, Wehner dissected both parties in her neck.

The doctor wasted no time and operated to remove the clot before it was too late.

“Sometimes we have hours to be able to do this. Sometimes we just have minutes,” Dr. Bernad said.

After her near brush with death, Wehner returned to the FBI, focusing on counterintelligence, white-collar crime and terrorism.

Dr. Bernard said Wehner is alive today because she didn’t hesitate to go to the hospital.

“Diane’s unusual because most strokes happen in older patients, but part of the awareness that needs to be broadcast is strokes can happen to anybody,” Dr. Bernard said.