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Tag: Atlanta

J. Britt Johnson Named Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta Division

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

J. Britt Johnson, who began his career with the FBI in 1995 and spent much of his time combating violent crime, will serve as special agent in charge of the bureau’s Atlanta division, the FBI announced Monday.

FBI Director James B. Comey tapped Johnson for the role.

Johnson was most recently the deputy assistant director in the Criminal Investigative Division.

According to the FBI:

In April 2002, Mr. Johnson was promoted to supervisory special agent in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Unit within the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters. In August 2004, he was promoted to chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Countermeasures Unit and managed the FBI’s counterterrorism response policy and program management for the FBI’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Counterterrorism Programs.

Mr. Johnson transferred to the Atlanta Field Office in April 2005, where he oversaw the domestic terrorism and threat squad on the JTTF. In December 2005, he became the supervisory special agent of the division’s Field Intelligence Group. In October 2008, Mr. Johnson was promoted to assistant special agent in charge over the intelligence, surveillance, and aviation programs.

Mr. Johnson was promoted in August 2009 to section chief of the Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), where he supervised transport aircraft, field aviation surveillance, and ground surveillance programs.

In February 2012, Mr. Johnson became a deputy assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters and was responsible for strategic intelligence analysis and collection and targeting against priority global threats. In June 2012, he was re-assigned as deputy assistant director of the new Analysis and Strategic Issues Branch in the Directorate of Intelligence.

In January 2013, Mr. Johnson was designated as acting assistant director of CIRG and oversaw all aspects of the FBI’s rapid response to and management of crisis incidents.

He was promoted to deputy assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division in March 2013.

A Georgia native, Mr. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Auburn University.

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 »

NPR: How Technology Helped FBI Agents Track Down Bombing Suspects

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Technology has come a long way since Atlanta’s Olympic Park bombing nearly 17 years ago, NPR explains in an audio cast.

The FBI examined more than 10 terabytes of video and images from the Boston Marathon bombing.

To put that into perspective, it would take one person more than five years to look at all of the video and images.

To listen to the audio cast, click here.

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

 
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.

Knowing the Salvation Army was there for us, had me thinking that I owed this selfless organization a debt – a pay it forward kind of thing.

The penitentiary insurrection was resolved peacefully after about two weeks. The key factor was that no social order was developed among the inmates just anarchy. They went through several months food supply in days. (There are a lot of good stories from the “siege” of the Atlanta Penitentiary, but those can be told another time.) We all went back to our respective homes.

I didn’t forget the Salvation Army’s generosity. I decided every holiday season for a few hours, I would volunteer to ring the bell and tend the red kettle in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Some years later, I was ringing the bell at a local super market with my wife. We had both donned our Santa hats and were wearing the Salvation Army issue red vests. It was snowing lightly, the Christmas lights were shining and Christmas carols were playing on the stores PA system.

We were at one door of the store greeting shoppers and collecting donations in our kettle, when all of a sudden there was a commotion at the other door.

A man ran out of the store. He was closely followed by two other men in white butcher smocks. The men in the smocks tackled the man in the parking lot. They were trying to hold him down, but he was struggling & screaming as they pulled several cuts of meat from under his coat. The erstwhile meat thief continued to yell, flail and kick.

I turned to my wife and said, “I should probably go help them.” I kept flex-cuffs (large heavy duty zip-ties) in my car. I grabbed some flex-cuffs, walked over and knelt next to the struggling man.

He was facing away from me. In my “soothing,” authoritative voice, that I used for arrests and reading someone their rights, I told him, we could let him up, but he needed to let me put these cuffs on him.

The man turned his head to look at me, and his eyes got very big.

I’m about 6’4” and weighed about 235 lbs. I had forgotten I was wearing a Santa hat and a big red vest. After staring at me for a few moments, he asked, “who are you?” I smiled and replied, “I’m Santa’s helper.”

He immediately stopped fighting and struggling. He submissively allowed me to place the cuffs on him. The butchers and I stood him up, and he placidly waited for the police to arrive.

I have often thought there might be some profound Dickens type message to be derived from this incident. I don’t know if the meat thief was stealing prime rib for his family, sort of a protein version of Jean Valjean, or maybe he was planning to host a barbecue at a homeless enclave.

There is certainly some irony in collecting donations for the Salvation Army at one door of a grocery store, and at the same time, to have an economically disadvantaged meat thief fleeing from the other door.

Maybe the message is as simple as, if you’re poor and hungry at Christmas time, there are places other than your local grocery store you can go that care, like the Salvation Army.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

This column first ran last Christmas season. 

Public Corruption Cases Take Off in Metro Atlanta Under Stronger Enforcement

Steve Neavlng
ticklethewire.com

 An increased focus on public corruption has resulted in a surge in convictions in metro Atlanta, from a county commissioner who swapped a vote in exchange for $30,000 in casino chips to a detention officer who pocketed more than $26,000 by selling drugs at a jail, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The newspaper analyzed federal crime statistics and found a recent spike in public corruption cases.

Other cases involve a former Army captain accused of stealing $2.7 million from the federal government and public officials who allegedly took bribes to approve contracts, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote.

Federal authorities credited the surge to aggressive enforcement, not necessarily a rise in corruption.

Two TSA Officers Indicted on Charges of Smuggling Cocaine Through Atlanta Airport

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Two Transportation Security Administration  officers were indicted Tuesday on charges of conspiring and attempting to smuggle cocaine through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Richard C. Cook II, 27, of Henry County, Ga. and Timothy G. Gregory, 25, of DeKalb County, Ga. were indicted by a grand jury on multiple drug counts.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Our nation’s well-being depends, in part, on the security of its airports,” Atlanta U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. “Moreover, the citizens of this district are entitled to law enforcement officers who obey the laws that they have sworn to enforce. The crimes with which Cook and Gregory are charged created a breach in the security of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and betrayed the trust of millions of passengers who travel through this airport each year.”

 

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

 

FBI Investigating Atlanta’s $3B in Airport Vendor Contracts

Shoshanna Utchenik
ticklethewire.com

Accusations are flying in Atlanta that airport concession contracts have been rigged to favor the Mayor’s campaign contributors, reports WSBTV.

The FBI has apparently contacted several of the losing bidders to interview them about the bidding process. One bidder told WSBTV, “I answered their questions that I had a feeling things went on, but I couldn’t provide hard evidence”.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed held a fundraiser just four days before the airport bidding started. $3 Billion in contracts would be awarded, some of them to the Mayor’s key contributors. Mack Wilbourn, a prominent businessman who hosted a fundraiser for Mayor Reed, had also recently hosted President Obama. Wilbourn won upward of $350M in airport contracts.

Atlanta spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs said the city has not been contacted by the FBI, and insists “The procurement process has been fair and transparent and not a single shred of evidence has been produced to substantiate any of the losing bidders’ claims.”

… So far.

To read more click here.

 

Atlanta U.S. Atty. Finds No Bias in Cases Stripper-Loving Fed Judge Handled

Judge Jack Camp/daily report

Judge Jack Camp/daily report

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Jack Camp, you might recall, was the wild and crazy federal Atlanta judge who got busted with guns and buying drugs for a stripper he was carrying on an affair with.

He went off to prison for a very brief time — three weeks — and was set free in May 2011.

Long after he’d been released, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta continued to exam cases he had handled to determine if there was any racial bias or signs of mental impairment. There were allegations by the stripper, who cooperated with the FBI, that Camp made some racist remarks. There were also some who claimed his judgment might have been impaired following a serious bicycle accident and subsequent drug use.

Well, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the U.S. Attorney has now concluded that in 28 cases in which defendants had requested a second look at their cases before Camp, there was no evidence of racial bias or mental impairment in sentences or rulings.

“Today, the U.S. attorney has publicly confirmed what I never doubted throughout this ordeal,” Camp said Thursday in an emailed statement to the Atlanta paper. “I am pleased the report vindicates that my decisions were fair, impartial and true to the law.”

To read more click here.

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