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Archive for June 26th, 2017

Off-Duty Border Patrol Agent Kidnapped, Beaten After Protecting Family

Fernando Puga

Fernando Puga

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An off-duty Border Patrol agent was kidnapped and brutally beaten by two strangers in Northeast El Paso after he tried to keep them away from his family.

Agent Lorenzo Hernandez, who is assigned to the agency’s Deming area, was helping his mother at her food truck when two suspicious men, one of whom had gun, asked Hernandez for a ride on June 9, saying their car had broken down, according to FBI affidavits obtained by the El Paso Times. 

Concerned the men, later identified as Sergio Ivan Quiñonez-Venegas and Fernando A. Puga, would harm his mother and minor brother and nephew, Hernandez offered the strangers a ride in his 2014 Ford Focus.

“When one of the subjects paid for some tamales purchased from BP Agent Hernandez’s mother, Hernandez noticed a large amount of cash in the subject’s wallet,” according to the affidavit by FBI Special Agent Jesus Nieto of El Paso. “BP Agent Hernandez also observed that one of the subjects had a handgun in the waistband of his pants. BP Agent Hernandez stated that he felt compelled to give the subjects a ride to a nearby gas station because he had become concerned for the safety of his mother and his minor brother and nephew who were present at the food truck.”

One of the suspects stuck a gun into Hernandez’s ribs and said, “This is a kidnapping.”

During a 50-mile drive to an area outside of Las Cruces, the suspects threatened to kill him. When the car stopped, Hernandez confronted the men outside of his car.

“Although BP Agent Hernandez reported he was able to gain control of the handgun in a struggle, it was of poor quality and he was unable to fire it at the subjects,” according to the affidavit. “As a result, BP Agent Hernandez threw the handgun away into the field/desert area adjacent to the dirt road. During a physical struggle and foot chase, BP Agent Hernandez was assaulted and struck/stabbed multiple times with a machete by Puga.”

Hernandez was taken to the hospital with fractures to his skull and arms and severe stab wounds to his body and fingers.

Quiñonez-Venegas was arrested June 13 and told FBI agents that he was forced to participate in the kidnapping by Puga. Two days later, the FBI and a local sheriff’s office arrested Puga, who claimed he was kidnapped by Quiñonez-Venegas.

Both men face federal kidnapping charges.

FBI, Justice Department Offer Starkly Different Positions on Trump’s Budget Cuts

Photo via FBI

Photo via FBI

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Top officials for the FBI and Justice Department are at odds over the impact of President Trump’s proposed budget cuts.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe offered Congress starkly different positions on whether Trump’s spending reductions would hurt FBI operations, Politico reports.

McCabe told the House Appropriations subcommittee that “every program” in the bureau would be adversely affected and would force the reduction of employees, including agents.

“It will certainly impact us in many ways. It is a broad and deep reduction that will touch every program. it will touch headquarters. It will touch our field offices,” McCabe told a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday. “It is a reduction that is not possible to take entirely against vacancies. It’s a reduction that will touch every description of employee within the FBI. We will lose agent positions. We will lose analyst positions and, of course, professional staff.”

Rosenstein seemed to suggest McCabe was exaggerating and that the spending cuts would not impact national security or violent crime.

“I believe that if you look at the budget, we are not cutting the critical areas — violent crime, terrorism, the areas that you’ve raised are areas where there will be no cuts, cybercrime, all those areas,” Rosenstein said at a parallel Senate hearing, under questioning by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “And so the effort in this budget, as I understand it, is to reduce only in areas that are not critical to those operations.”

According to Rosenstein, the number of FBI agents would increase by 150 to 12,484.

But according to the FBI’s website, the bureau has about 13,500 agents.

Russian Cyberattacks on Election Systems Adds Pressure to Homeland Security

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Mounting evidence that Russia used cyberattacks to impact the presidential election has turned up the heat on Homeland Security to protect America’s democratic system from hackers.

Homeland Security officials told the Senate Intelligence Committee last week that they have evidence to suggest Russian operatives targeted election systems in 21 states.

The Hill reports that lawmakers are urging the department to help states protect their election systems. 

“I’m deeply concerned about the danger posed by future interference in our elections,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chairman of the intelligence panel, said Wednesday. “We have elections in 2018, but in my home state of Virginia, we have statewide elections this year. So this needs a sense of urgency.”

Senators asked Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to provide more details about the targeted election systems, including which states were targeted.

(D-Ore.). “We obviously need to know about vulnerabilities, so that we can find solutions, and we need better cybersecurity to protect elections from being hacked in the first place.”

Bernie And Jane Sanders Hire Lawyers Amid FBI Probe of Alleged Bank Fraud

Jane and Bernie Sanders, via Twitter

Jane and Bernie Sanders, via Twitter

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane Sanders have hired high-profile defense lawyers in light of a federal investigation into allegations of bank fraud.

The FBI investigation involves a multimillion-dollar loan that Jane Sanders secured while president of the now-defunct Burlington College.

CBS reports the FBI is investigating allegations that Jane Sanders falsified school donor levels in 2010 in an attempt to buy 33 acres of land for the school, which closed in 2016. 

Bernie Sanders has hired Burlington attorney Rich Cassidy, while his wife has retained Larry Robbins, a Washington-based defense attorney.

Sanders has declined to discuss details of the investigation, but said in May that the investigation was politically motivated and would show his wife did nothing wrong.

Russia Recalling U.S. Ambassador Kislyak Amid FBI Investigation

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who has been the subject of an investigation into his country’s alleged meddling in the U.S. presidential election, is being recalled after 10 years on the job.

Buzzfeed reports the Kremlin has ordered its U.S. ambassador to return to Russia amid growing investigations by the FBI and Congress into whether the foreign government tried interfere in the election to help Donald Trump. 

The FBI is probing meetings held between Kislyak, 66, and Trump’s campaign team. Among those who met with Kislyak are Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former national security adviser Mike Flynn. During Sessions’ confirmation hearing, he failed to disclose at least two meetings with Kislyak, whom one U.S.-based diplomat responded “could use some time away.”

At other times, Kushner and Flynn denied now-confirmed meetings with the ambassador.

Russia has yet to confirm when Kislyak is returning to Russia  or whether he’ll be reassigned.

Analysts: Robert Mueller’s Team Could Become Targets of Cyberattacks

cyberattack-hackers-fbiBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s high-powered team assembled to investigate the extent of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election may become targets of cyberattacks by the very people they are investigating, analysts told the Washington Times.

That may help explain why some of the 13 attorneys on the team have yet to be identified. 

Intelligence agencies have said Russian operatives penetrated the system of the Democratic National Committee and the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and targeted state election systems. So it’s no stretch to fear the hackers may try the same thing with Mueller’s team.

“There is no question that anyone involved in a matter this high profile is going to be a target for some sort of attempted cybersurveillance,” said R. David Edelman, director of the Project on Technology, Economy and National Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former director of international cyberpolicy at the White House National Security Council.

Mueller is expected to add “several more” attorneys to his team. So far, officials have confirmed the identities of eight members of the team.

Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined to say what precautions that team is taking to head off a cyberattack.

“Naming these individuals publicly makes them targets,” Edelman said. “Every day you can delay, that helps protect them from adversaries — foreign and domestic.”