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Archive for June, 2017

House Committee Strips Funding for Long-Delayed New FBI Headquarters

The FBI's current headquarters in Washington D.C.

The FBI’s current headquarters in Washington D.C.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The long-delated project to build a new FBI headquarters just hit another major snag.

A House Appropriations subcommittee on Thursday approved rescinding $200 million for a new headquarters in Maryland or Virginia, the Baltimore Sun reports. The current headquarters has become cramped and obsolete.

By stripping the money, 11,000 new jobs also are at stake.

“It is reprehensible that House Republicans are playing politics with our national security by rescinding $200 million in funding for the new, fully consolidated FBI headquarters,” Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland and Anthony G. Brown of Prince George’s County said in a joint statement. “House Republicans must stop delaying this project.”

Democrats are hoping to restore the funding.

GOP Senator Calls for Vote on Trump’s FBI Director Nominee by July

Christopher A. Wray

Christopher A. Wray

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is calling for the Senate to vote on President Trump’s nominee to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey by July.

Trump officially nominated Christopher Wray for the position earlier this week, but Democrats have expressed numerous concerns about the nominee.

“It’s been my intention of having the nominee before the committee during the month of July and hopefully get it done in time so that he can be confirmed before our summer break,” Grassley told reporters on Thursday. 

The Senate’s recess begins in August. 

Grassley met with Wray on Thursday to begin the process of pushing the nominee through the Senate during an already packed schedule.

Among the concerns expressed by Democrats are Wray’s involvement with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally who has declined to say whether he played a role in Wray’s nomination.

Updated: FBI Agent Indicted for Allegedly Lying about Oregon Refuge Standoff

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was the spokesman of the occupation. Via YouTube.

Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was the spokesman of the occupation. Via YouTube.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Update: 10:15 a.m. Thursday —  FBI agent W. Joseph Astarita, a member of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) based in Quantico, Va., was arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland on three counts of making false statements and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Astarita was one of a number of FBI agents assigned to the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He was present during the shooting of Robert LaVoy Finicum on Jan. 26, 2016, in Harney County, Oregon.

Finicum was stopped by a roadblock, where he allegedly challenged officers to shoot him. He was shot and killed by state troopers while moving his hands toward his pocket, where he had a loaded weapon.

The indictment alleges, according to a Justice Department press release, that Astarita knowingly and willfully made false statements to FBI supervisory special agents, knowing that the statements were false and material to the FBI’s decision not to investigate the propriety of an agent-involved shooting.

Specifically, Astarita falsely stated he had not fired his weapon during the attempted arrest of Mr. Finicum when he knew he had in fact fired his weapon. Astarita also knowingly engaged in misleading conduct toward Oregon State Police officers by failing to disclose that he had fired two rounds during the attempted arrest. Neither round hit Finicum.

___________________________

Posted on Wednesday.

An FBI agent accused of lying about shooting at a rancher during the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon has been indicted.

Sources familiar with the case told the Oregonian that prosecutors allege the agent made a false statement with intent to obstruct justice.   

The agent, who has not yet been identified, was the subject of a yearlong investigation by the Justice Department inspector general. He will be identified in federal court on Wednesday.

As local, county and federal authorities moved in on the occupiers, the Deschutes County sheriff said an FBI agent shot twice at the spokesman of the occupiers, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a 54-year-old Arizona ranger. 

The bullets missed, but in the chaos that ensued, state police troopers fatally shot Finicum as he reached in his pocket, where he had a loaded handgun.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the FBI agent is on leave or has been fired.

ATF: Medical Marijuana Cardholders Barred from Buying Guns

medical marijuanaBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The continuing battle between states and the federal government over medical marijuana just got a lot more intense.

The ATF said Wednesday that medical marijuana cardholders are not allowed to buy guns from licensed dealers, 40/29 News reports.

Although medicinal cannabis has been approved in 29 states, marijuana is still illegal on the federal level. Under President Trump’s administration, the feds are increasing the crackdown on medical marijuana.

People who buy gun from a licensed dealer are required to disclose whether they’re an unlawful marijuana or drug user. Because marijuana is illegal federally, that means anyone who uses it is an unlawful user, said ATF spokesman Kevin Moran.

Storied FBI Agent Carlos Fernandez Retires After Combating Terrorism

FBI Agent Carlos Fernandez, via LinkedIn

FBI Agent Carlos Fernandez, via LinkedIn

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Carlos T. Fernandez, the legendary FBI agent who spent most of his career fighting terrorism, is retiring after 21 years.

The 50-year-old agent in charge of New York’s counterterrorism division has accepted a job with media giant Viacom, where he’ll lead their global security at their Times Square headquarters, PageSix.com reports. 

During his illustrious FBI career that began in 1996, Fernandez investigated terrorism in Yemen after the USS Cole bombing, in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and in Libya after Benghazi.

New York City police will miss Fernandez.

“There’s been no better collaborator (with the NYPD) than Carlos, and he spent his entire career protecting New York City from acts of terrorism,” NYPD Assistant Commissioner J. Peter Donald told Page Six. “We’ll miss him — he’s the best.”

He’ll also be missed by colleagues.

“Carlos is a great American, a great agent and a great friend,” Jeffrey Ringel, who worked with Fernandez at the FBI for 19 years, said. “His retirement is a big loss for New York, but his legacy will live on at the FBI.”

Page Six wrote:

He became a supervisor within the Counterterrorism Division of the New York Field Office in 2010, and in 2015 he became the Special Agent-in-Charge overseeing the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Keeping New Yorkers safe, his division has thwarted attacks such as a Times Square massacre plotted by ISIS sympathizer Mohamed Rafik Naji, who intended to drive a garbage truck into a crowd before his 2016 arrest. They also foiled a Hezbollah strike with the 2017 arrest of Ali Kourani, who cased JFK for an attack. Last week, Bronx man Saddam Mohamed Raishani was arrested for trying to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

Senate Intelligence Committee Expects to Soon Review Comey Memos

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies about President Trump before the Senate Intelligence Committee in early June.

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies about President Trump before the Senate Intelligence Committee in early June.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is expected to soon review memos written by former FBI Director James Comey to document his conversations with President Trump.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Wednesday that he’s received assurances that committee leaders will receive the memos, the Chicago Tribune reports. 

Warner called the memos “critical information we have to have as part of our review process.”

Also on Wednesday, committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he hopes the panel will be able wrap up its investigation by the end of the year.

As part of the investigation, the committee is expected to interview Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, at a yet-to-be-determined date.

Large Drug Bust in Colorado Targets Marijuana Grown for Out-of-State Sales

Photo by Steve Neavling.

Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The DEA, along with local and state police, arrested 43 people as part of a major drug bust in Colorado that involves thousands of pounds of marijuana that was intended to be shipped outside of the state.

Authorities, who are calling “Operation Toker Poker” the state’s largest marijuana bust, said the suspects in the multi-state scheme were exploiting Colorado’s law that allows the sale of recreational marijuana, CBS4 in Denver reports. 

According to law enforcement, many of the suspects moved their marijuana grow operations to Colorado to pose as cannabis caregivers in order to launder more than $200,000 per month.

The marijuana was grown out of the suspects’ homes.

Nearly 20 suspects are still on the loose.

“When you think the Denver Police Department and the DEA are going after users, I can tell you, after 30 years of doing this, we don’t care about marijuana users, we never have and we never will,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent-In-Charge David A. Schiller. “We care about those coming into our state, taking advantage of the laws.”

Owner of Gigantic Lobster Angry That TSA Photographed ‘Dinnah’

Giant lobster posted on the TSA's Twitter account.

Giant lobster posted on the TSA’s Twitter account.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Georgia man is irate after discovering that his 20-pound lobster was photographed by TSA agents and went viral on the agency’s Twitter account.

“They are dumb,” Christopher Stracuzza told the New York Times of the TSA. “They are like the dumbest people in the world.” 

While on a trip to a market in Connecticut, Stracuzza bought 12 standard lobsters and the gigantic one.

The 32-year-old auto-body repairman spent $700 on the lobsters, which he planned for a cookout at his home in Savannah, Ga.

Stracuzza checked a cooler with the lobsters with his luggage at a Boston airport. When he arrived home, he noticed the cooler had been tampered with.

Then a friend told him his giant lobster was posted by a TSA agent and another official on the agency’s official Twitter account.

“We share images through social media to provide helpful travel tips and to better inform the traveling public about T.S.A.’s mission,” an agency spokesperson told the New York Times.

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