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Entries in FBI (13)

Wednesday
Apr102013

FBI Visits McConnell Headquarters in Ashley Judd Tape Investigation

Office of Sen. Mitch McConnell(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Federal investigators visited Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s campaign headquarters in Louisville on Wednesday, and campaign staffers handed over information pertinent to the investigation of a leaked tape that revealed the campaign’s strategy against potential challenger Ashley Judd, a source connected to the McConnell campaign tells ABC News.

The visit is a sign that the leak is being considered seriously by the FBI, which was alerted to the incident Tuesday. McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested that liberal forces in Kentucky bugged his campaign headquarters and leaked a tape of a strategy session to Mother Jones magazine.

In a radio interview, campaign manager Jesse Benton told Mike Huckabee that FBI agents were at headquarters for about an hour.

“They tell us that they’re running down some leads,” Benton said. “For various reasons they need to be very cautious about what they share with me and then what I’m allowed to share on the public side. I can’t comment any further, but this is an ongoing criminal investigation.”

The McConnell campaign is committed to making sure “this is prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” according to Benton, who was among the aides in the room for the session that was captured on tape.

The tape revealed the McConnell campaign’s plan to attack Judd as “emotionally unbalanced,” and to focus on her religious beliefs. Judd last month announced that she would not seek the Democratic Senate nomination, after several months of publicly flirting with a run.

In the aftermath of the tape’s release, McConnell has attacked the political left for what he called “Nixonian tactics” of bugging his campaign headquarters, though it’s still not clear who made the tape and who distributed it. The campaign is already fundraising off of the controversy.

Also on Wednesday, Benton claimed Mother Jones mistakenly transcribed the speaker at the beginning of the presentation. He said the line, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, thank them three times, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through” should instead read, “So I just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, in their free time, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through.”

“Jesse” may refer to Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, but the word “LA” probably refers to legislative aides or legislative assistants, people who work in McConnell’s senate office.

The distinction is important, because the line Mother Jones reported raised the question of whether McConnell’s aides violated campaign law.

ABC News reporters listened to the recording several times but could not make a definitive judgment on what was said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr252012

Senator Wants FBI to Investigate ‘Girls Gone Wild’ Internship

Angela Weiss/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- An eye-popping story about a softcore pornographer and a U.S. Senate office may be too good to be true.

The founder of the Girls Gone Wild video series said he bought an internship with Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and plans to use it to send the winner of his “Search for the Hottest Girl in America” contest to Capitol Hill.

Of course, he said it’s all about taking a stand for women’s rights.

“At this time more than ever, women need strong representation in Washington,” said Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis in a news release Wednesday morning.  “Women’s issues and rights have been completely assaulted by the Republican candidates during this year’s Republican primaries.”

Francis said he bid for the internship at a charity event for a temple in Los Angeles.

Officials in Pryor’s office said it is a hoax and a publicity stunt, that they never put an internship up for auction and have no intention of allowing Francis to choose any of their upcoming interns.

In a statement to Buzzfeed, Pryor spokeswoman Lisa Ackerman said the senator wants to get law enforcement involved.

“Our office does not sell, auction or donate internships,” Ackerman wrote. “We believe someone outside Sen. Pryor’s office has broken the law by fraudulently impersonating a U.S. senator, fraudulently attempting to sell a government position and using the Senate seal without authorization. We have asked the FBI to fully investigate who is perpetrating this fraud against the senator and the U.S. Senate.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct202011

GOP to FBI Director: Did Fast and Furious Gun Kill Border Agent?

U.S. Border Patrol agents salute while standing vigil over the boots and helmet of slain comrade Brian Terry during his memorial service on January 21, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller Thursday, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tried to get a definitive answer as to whether or not any of the guns from the Fast and Furious program killed border agent Brian Terry, and an explanation as to why there have been inconsistent stories about Terry’s death.

“As you know, two weapons recovered at the scene of Agent Terry’s murder have been traced to Fast and Furious,” the GOP lawmakers wrote. “Yet the FBI has released very little information about the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting. Anonymous Justice Department sources initially told the press that the two Fast and Furious guns had been ballistically excluded as the murder weapon and that the murder weapon had not been recovered. However, we obtained a copy of the report, and in actuality, it does not exclude the Fast and Furious guns. Rather, it is inconclusive. So, apparently someone from the Justice Department attempted to deceive the press.”

Terry was killed last December, shot in the back by Mexicans suspected of being involved in criminal enterprises. Guns found at the scene have since been tied to a controversial U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program in which individuals suspected of buying guns in order to illegally traffic them were allowed to do so, in the hope that they would lead investigators to bigger fish in Mexico. Thousands of powerful guns were allowed to “walk” to Mexico, and have since been tied to crime scenes.

In ABC News' interview with President Obama on Tuesday, he said that “people who have screwed up will be held accountable....Our overarching goal consistently has been to say we’ve got a responsibility not only to stop drugs from flowing north, we’ve also got a responsibility to make sure we are not helping to either arm or finance these drug cartels in Mexico.”

“It’s very upsetting to me to think that somebody showed such bad judgment that they would allow something like that to happen,” he said. “And we will find out who and what happened in this situation and make sure it gets corrected.”

The Senate on Tuesday voted to ban funding for any future gun-walking programs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Oct122011

Biden: 'Nothing Off the Table' After Iran DC Terror Plot

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that "nothing has been taken off the table" when it comes to the U.S. response to an alleged plot by Iran to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. and unleash deadly terrorist bombings in Washington, D.C.

"It is an outrageous act that the Iranians are going to have to be held accountable," Biden told ABC News' Good Morning America. "This is really over the top."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday the DEA and FBI had disrupted a plot "conceived, sponsored and... directed from Iran" to murder the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in or outside a crowded Washington, D.C. restaurant which potentially would have been followed up by bombings of the Saudi Arabian and Israeli embassies. The U.S. said an Iranian-American, 56-year-old Manssor Arbabsiar of Corpus Christi, Texas, was working for elements of the Iranian government when he attempted to hire hitmen from the feared Zetas Mexican drug cartel to carry out the hit, but Arbabsiar was unwittingly speaking to a DEA informant from the start.

Senior Obama administration officials had previous told ABC News the U.S. response would not include the possibility of an armed conflict with Iran and -- though a complaint filed in federal court directly tied Iran's elite Quds military unit to the plot -- there was no information that Iran's top leaders were aware or had any role.

Biden said the U.S. was in the process of "uniting world opinion" against Iran as it goes forward with a response. The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday sanctions against five Iranians allegedly tied to the plot.

A lawyer for Arbabsiar has not returned requests for comment, but the man's wife, Martha Guerrero, said he was wrongly accused.

"I may not be living with him being separated, but I cannot for the life of me think that he would be capable of doing that," she told ABC News' Austin affiliate KVUE, noting the two had been separated some time. "He was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm sure of that."

Iranian officials have strongly rejected the U.S. accusations, calling them a "fabrication." The head of the Iranian mission to the United Nations penned a letter Tuesday to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressing "outrage" at the allegations.

"The U.S. allegation is, obviously, a politically-motivated move and a showcase of its long-standing animosity towards the Iranian nation," the letter says. "The Islamic Republic of Iran categorically and in the strongest terms condemns this shameful allegation by the United States authorities and deplores it as a well-thought evil plot in line with their anti-Iranian policy to divert attention from the current economic and social problems at home and the popular revolutions and protests against United States long supported dictatorial regimes abroad."

The new case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when Arbabsiar unwittingly approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

Arbabsiar reportedly claimed he was being "directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government," including a cousin who was "a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform," according to a person briefed on the details of the case.

Arbabsiar and a second man, Gohlam Shakuri, an Iranian official, were named in a five-count criminal complaint filed Tuesday afternoon in federal court in New York. They were charged with conspiracy to kill a foreign official and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, a bomb, among other counts. Shakuri is still at large in Iran, Holder said.

Holder identified Shakuri as an Iran-based member of the Quds force.

Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed "utter disregard for collateral damage" in the planned bomb attacks in Washington, according to officials.

The complaint describes a conversation in which Arbabsiar was allegedly directing the informant to kill the Saudi ambassador and said the assassination could take place at a restaurant. When the informant feigned concern about Americans who also eat at the restaurant, Arbabsiar said he preferred if bystanders weren't killed but, "Sometimes, you know, you have no choice, is that right?"

U.S. officials said Arbabsiar met twice in July with the DEA informant in the northern Mexico city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, and negotiated a $1.5 million payment for the assassination of the Saudi ambassador. As a down payment, officials said Arbabsiar wired two payments of $49,960 on Aug. 1 and Aug. 9 to an FBI undercover bank account after he had returned to Iran.

Officials said Arbabsiar flew from Iran through Frankfurt, Germany, to Mexico City Sept. 29 for a final planning session, but was refused entry to Mexico and later put on a plane to New York, where he was arrested.

Officials said Arbabsiar is now cooperating with prosecutors and federal agents in New York, where the case has been transferred.

"Though it reads like the pages of a Hollywood script, the impact would've been very real and many lives would've been lost," FBI Director Robert Mueller said of the foiled plot.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Sep172011

DHS Task Force Criticizes Immigration Fingerprint Program

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A draft report by a Department of Homeland Security task force has found serious concerns with a deportation program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because of confusion about the program and tensions the effort has created for state and local police.

Police have traditionally run fingerprints through an FBI database to search for an arrestee’s criminal history and any outstanding warrants. Established in 2008, “Secure Communities,” the deportation program, allows the fingerprints to also be searched in ICE’s databases for possible immigration violations.

The program is designed to find criminal aliens and serious violent offenders. But it has generated growing criticism from those who think it turns up low-level criminals or people with no previous record.

“Mixing individuals who have no criminal convictions or who have only low-level convictions with serious offenders is having the unintended consequence of undercutting the credibility of the entire Secure Communities program,” said the report.

The task force was created earlier this year by ICE director John Morton and DHS after criticism from some cities, police groups and immigrant rights groups.  Almost 50 percent of state and local police jurisdictions have begun using the program. DHS intends it to be nationwide by 2013.

The report notes, “Although Secure Communities has resulted in the identification and removal of many individuals posing a risk to public safety, serious concerns have been raised about the program, including its design, activation, implementation and unintended negative impact on local communities.”

The task force findings and recommendations will be reviewed by the Homeland Security Advisory Council, a group that advises DHS leadership. The report recommended that ICE reach out to and work with state and local law enforcement agencies to develop trust in the program.

“To the extent that Secure Communities may damage community policing, the result can be greater levels of crime. If residents do not trust their local police, they are less willing to step forward as witnesses to or victims of crime,” the report noted.

The task force recommended that ICE should focus on criminal aliens who pose substantial public and national security risks.

Under the program ICE has identified more than 77,000 who have been convicted of crimes, including over 28,000 felons linked to violent crimes such as rape and murder. Last year ICE deported 392,000 individuals as part of immigration removal operations, up from 291,000 in fiscal year 2007.

Some members of the Task Force decided to resign from the board rather than agree with all of the findings, including representatives from the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents ICE officials. 

In response to the report, DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler said, “We thank the members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Secure Communities for their service. The task force’s draft report has been transmitted to the Homeland Security Advisory Council membership who will review and finalize the task force’s recommendations prior to submission to ICE Director Morton.”

“In order to ensure that all input is received, Director Morton has invited the AFL-CIO, AFGE and others who chose not to include their names on the draft report to meet with him and discuss their concerns as he reviews the final recommendations,” Chandler said.
 
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

FBI Agents Search Home of Former Aide to Gov. Walker

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(MADISON, Wis.) -- A team of FBI agents descended on a quiet street in Madison, Wis., to raid the home of a former top aide to Gov. Scott Walker.

On Wednesday, shortly before 7 a.m., the agents -- from the FBI’s Milwaukee office -- entered the home of Cynthia Archer, who until recently worked as a senior aide to Walker in Wisconsin’s Department of Administration. FBI agents wearing latex gloves were seen carrying at least one large box out of her home. A spokesman for Walker told ABC News his office had “no comment.”

Archer, 52, served as a top deputy in the Wisconsin agency that oversees state contracts before she abruptly left the Walker administration last month, citing “personal family matters.”  The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the raid coincides with “a growing John Doe investigation” into allegations that Walker staff members were doing campaign work in government offices while Walker served as a Milwaukee County executive.

Archer, who has denied any involvement in the investigation, served as a top aide to Walker in Milwaukee before following him to Madison after he was elected governor last November.

A spokesman at the FBI’s Milwaukee field office told ABC News he was not aware of any arrests being made during Wednesday morning’s raid at Archer’s home.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul282011

Senate Unanimously Confirms FBI Director for Two More Years

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- These days there’s nothing the Senate can seem to agree on.

But on Wednesday, there was at least one thing the lawmakers all agreed to: the Senate voted unanimously to extend the term of FBI Director Robert Mueller for another two years, with a vote of 100-0.

President Obama had asked Mueller to stay on past the end of his 10-year term to provide continuity for the White House national security team.  Congress passed legislation earlier this week to allow that extension.

Mueller’s term was set to expire on Aug. 2.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May122011

Obama Wants FBI Director Mueller for Two More Years

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama wants FBI Director Robert Mueller to stay on the job for another two years, and has asked Congress for permission to extend what is typically a 10-year term.

“In his ten years at the FBI, Bob Mueller has set the gold standard for leading the Bureau," the president said in a statement Thursday. "Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time."

“I am grateful for [Mueller's] leadership," Obama said, "and ask Democrats and Republicans in Congress to join together in extending that leadership for the sake of our nation’s safety and security.”

Mueller's term is set to expire on September 4.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

FBI Director Says Gov. Shutdown Impacting Morale at Bureau

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- At the House appropriations committee Wednesday morning, FBI Director Robert Mueller said talk of the looming government shutdown is already having a negative impact on morale at the FBI.

"Its adversely affecting morale in the Bureau because a number of persons don't know if they are going to be here on Monday, they don't know if they are going to get paid...it's tremendously disruptive to somebody who has given their service to a place like the Bureau. "

"I do expect our investigations will continue unhindered...but we have to evaluate every day....it's difficult."  Mueller said.

Director Mueller said matters such as training and new initiatives could be impacted.

While most FBI agents, especially in national security positions will not stop working during the shutdown it is unclear what will happen to many FBI analysts and linguists who work with agents at FBI Headquarters and in the FBI's field offices.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar302011

FBI Director Warns Against Government Shutdown

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- FBI Director Robert Mueller warned that a looming government shutdown could leave the bureau unable to fill as many as 1,100 positions, hampering critical FBI operations.

Testifying at one of the last congressional hearings he is likely to attend before his September retirement, Mueller said that if Congress does not find a way to keep the government running, it will leave the nation's top law enforcement agency in a lurch.

"Under the current levels in the continuing resolution, the FBI will have to absorb over $200 million in cuts; and without any changes, the current continuing resolution will leave us with over 1,100 vacant positions by the end of the year. Put simply, these cuts would undermine our efforts to continue to transform the bureau and undermine our efforts to carry out our mission."

According to FBI officials, if a budget is not passed the agency will have to operate under 2010 budget levels. Officials say that the 1,100 empty positions would be a mix of agents, analysts and professional staff.

The current FBI jobs website, which includes online applications to become an FBI special agent, a linguist or analyst or a member of the elite Hostage Rescue Team, is currently frozen. "At this time, federal agencies are operating under a Continuing Resolution with limited funding," says a message on the site. "As a result, the Department of Justice has ordered a temporary freeze on agency hiring. Until the budgetary restrictions are lifted and the FBI has funding to support hiring additional personnel, applications will not be accepted for any positions. Please return to this website for updates to our hiring opportunities. Thank you for your continued interest in FBI employment."

Mueller, who has led the bureau since 9/11, told the committee, "The support from this committee and Congress has been an important part of transforming the FBI into the national security agency it is today. But for our transformation to be complete, we must continue to hire, train and develop our cadre of agents, analysts and staff to meet the complex threats we face now and in the future."

The FBI is seeking funds to expand several operations, including the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) and the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, to deal with computer crimes and cyber security issues.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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