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Tag: Justice Department

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.

Report Suggests Justice Department Mishandled Sexual Misconduct Cases

justice-dept-photo-with-woman-and-court1By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department has mishandled sexual harassment and misconduct cases because of sloppy management, according to the department’s Office of Inspector General.

“We identified significant weaknesses in the Civil Division’s tracking, reporting, and investigating of the 11 sexual harassment and misconduct allegations that we reviewed” during fiscal 2011-2016, the report said, “as well as inconsistencies among penalties imposed for substantiated allegations.”

The report, revealed by the Washington Post, suggests that the Justice Department acted like the Catholic Church did when a suspected pedophile priest was reassigned to a new parish: The offenders were “flushed” to other offices.

In another case, a male attorney accused of spying on two female lawyers who were pumping breast milk was absolved by his male supervisor.

“The investigation into the allegation consisted of the male attorney’s supervisor speaking with him,” according to the report. “Thereafter, his supervisor accepted the male attorney’s explanation of the incident as an honest mistake and imposed on him an informal disciplinary action of oral counseling.”

The treatment of attorneys suspected of sexual misconduct left many women with the impression that the accused were lightly punished or even rewarded.

“What is alarming about the Civil Division and what rings true for the entire labor force is the lack of accountability for individuals committing acts of sexual misconduct due to the absence of punitive procedures,” said Wanda Killingsworth, president of Federally Employed Women. “Without any internal system to protect employees from sexual harassment the fight to effectively combat workplace sexual harassment is directly inhibited and the current report on the Department of Justice just proves that lack of awareness is a breeding ground for abuse.” The division’s cases, she added, “are not unique to any single agency, but nonetheless present in many sectors of the workforce.”

DOJ: Resignation Letters of Ousted U.S. Attorneys Are Not Public’s Business

foiaBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department denied a newspaper’s request for copies of the resignation letters from nearly 50 U.S. attorneys who were removed by the Trump administration, but there’s a caveat.

The Justice Department denied the request from the Burlington Free Press without having read any of the letters, public records show. 

Lawyers for the DOJ said the reason for not releasing the records was that they are so “inherently personal.”

The records you have requested are inherently personal and protected from disclosure,” senior Justice Department counsel Vanessa R. Brinkmann wrote, citing a section of the Freedom of Information Act that “pertains to information the release of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of the personal privacy of third parties.”

“None of this information is appropriate for discretionary disclosure,” Brinkmann added.

Open-government advocates and even Sen. Bernie Sanders were astounded, saying the public has a right to see the contents of the resignation letters.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, The Canary in the Coal Mine, Already Gasping for Air

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.

Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a former U.S. Attorney from Baltimore, is the canary in the coal mine for the Justice Department. In very short time, in that role, he’s already gasping for breath, having been put smack in the middle of the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

The phrase “canary in the coal mine” refers to caged canaries miners would carry down into the mine tunnels. If dangerous gases collected, the gases would kill the canaries before killing the miners. In this case, the dangerous gases could be the dubious demands by President Donald Trump that could compromise the Justice Department, and ultimately kill the canary’s government career.

Skeptics of the Trump administration have always expected that Attorney General Jeff Sessions would play politics and try to please his boss, the president.  But Rosenstein, a career prosecutor who has worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has a reputation as a straight shooter. The expectation is that he’ll stand up and say no if Trump tries to compromise the department. If Trump pushes too far and won’t back off, everyone assumes he’ll get fired or quit.

But very quickly, he’s already gasping for air.

Rosenstein authored a letter for the president detailing how Comey acted inappropriately during the Hillary Clinton email probe and implied he should be fired, but never said it outright. Trump then shot off a letter to Comey, saying he was going by the recommendation of Rosenstein and Sessions to fire him. Skeptics found it hard to swallow that Trump had concerns for Clinton.

Yellow canary - Serinus canaria on its perch in front of a white background

Rosenstein apparently felt duped, or at least that’s how it’s being portrayed in the press.

The Washington Post reported that Rosenstein threatened to “resign after the narrative emerging from the White House on Tuesday evening cast him as a prime mover of the decision to fire Comey and that the president acted only on his recommendation, said the person close to the White House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.”

People will be closely observing, paying close attention to see if  the chirping continues to come from Rosenstein’s new office at Justice, or whether at some point, it’s silenced.

 

Justice Department Declines to Charge Baton Rouge Cops in Alton Sterling’s Death

Alton Sterling

Alton Sterling

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department is expected to announce today that it has closed the investigation into the death of Alton Sterling and won’t prosecutor Baton Rouge officers for possible wrongdoing in a case that sparked unrest across the city.

Sterling’s family told the Washington Post on Tuesday that the Justice Department had not informed them of its decision. 

“We have not heard nor received an update and are unaware of any charges that may or may not be filed,” said Ryan Julison, a spokesman for the Sterling family’s attorneys. “We have not received word, nor has the family been given any notice of upcoming updates regarding this case.”

Many civil rights advocates have been nervous about the direction of the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has already questioned the oversight of police departments.

The Justice Department has declined to comment.

The Washington Post wrote:

By the police account, officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake saw Sterling, 37, outside a convenience store in July after it was reported that a man had threatened someone there with a gun. Sterling, who was selling CDs outside the store, fit the description of that man, according to a search warrant affidavit in the case.

A video of the shooting shows Sterling lying on his back with two officers on top of him. One of the officers appears to yell, “He’s got a gun!” and then shots ring out. A detective wrote in the search warrant affidavit that officers had observed the butt of a gun in Sterling’s front pants pocket. At issue in the investigation was whether Sterling was reaching for the weapon, as officers claimed, when he was shot and killed.

Amid Threats of Charges, WikiLeaks Founder Assange Still Waiting to Hear from U.S.

Julian Assange on Fox News

Julian Assange on Fox News

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The U.S. government said more than a week ago that it’s preparing criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and other members of his organization, but so far Assange has not heard from the government, his lawyer told Mother Jones. 

“The only thing that’s happened is there’s been a very vibrant rumor mill,” Barry Pollack, Assange’s US-based lawyer, tells Mother Jones. “Obviously there’s been a lot of chatter, but the only thing I’ve seen is that the Department of Justice has sort of confirmed that it is looking at the Vault 7 leak,” —WikiLeaks’ March 7 dump of thousands of pages of CIA hacking tools.

The Department of Justice has not gotten back to me in any way or answered any of my repeated attempts to enter a dialogue with them to tell us what they’re actually doing,” Pollack says.

Pollack says it’s unclear what the government is planning.

“It is uncommon, in fact unprecedented in my experience, that they’re not willing to engage in a broad conversation about the status of the investigation and where a particular person fits in with respect to an investigation.”

Assange has been living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid being picked up on sex charges from Sweden.

DOJ Official Leading Trump-Russia Investigation Unexpectedly Leaving

The DOJ's Mary McCord is stepping down during Trump probe.

The DOJ’s Mary McCord is stepping down during Trump probe.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The high-ranking Justice Department official who is heading the government’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign announced unexpectedly that she is leaving the DOJ in May.

Mary McCord, acting assistant attorney general for national security, told staff that she is leaving in mid-May, according to NPR. 

“The time is now right for me to pursue new career opportunities,” May told NPR.

The departure leaves an important position unfilled and raises questions about what’s next for the investigation.

NPR writes:

Her exit leaves a huge vacancy at one of the Justice Department’s most important divisions, at a time when the Trump administration is struggling to fill the ranks. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is the only leader so far in the building to have secured Senate confirmation. His picks for deputy and associate attorney general await votes by the full Senate. The administration has not yet announced political appointees for other top posts.

Protecting national security is the top Justice Department priority no matter which political party is in power. The National Security Division, created after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, has filed criminal charges against Chinese and Russian hackers, sent Americans inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaida to serve decades in prison and launched counterintelligence probes involving suspected spies.

The investigation into Russian election meddling is one of the highest profile matters in the division’s short history. It’s not clear whether the probe will result in criminal charges against anyone. But both the Justice Department and the FBI are taking it seriously.

Other Stories of Interest

Love Lost? Trump Administration Prepares to Charge Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

Julian Assange on Fox News

Julian Assange on Fox News

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Donald Trump praised the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks while he was running for president.

Now, his administration is preparing charges against the group’s founder, Julian Assange, according to CNN

The charges may include conspiracy, violating the Espionage Act and the theft of government property.

The decision to charge Assange, who revealed troves of damaging e-mails from the Hillary Clinton campaign, belongs to the Justice Department.

U.S. authorities are responding to WikiLeaks releasing 8,000 documents last week revealing secrets about the CIA’s spying capabilities.

Attorney General on Thursday called Assange’s arrest a “priority.”

“We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks,” he said. “This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.”

Assange’s lawyer responded.

“We’ve had no communication with the Department of Justice and they have not indicated to me that they have brought any charges against Mr. Assange,” Barry Pollack said. “They’ve been unwilling to have any discussion at all, despite our repeated requests, that they let us know what Mr. Assange’s status is in any pending investigations. There’s no reason why WikiLeaks should be treated differently from any other publisher.”