Monthly Archives: January 2011

Phoenix-area gun store, ATF sting may be linked to border shootout


Senator links gun buy to border agent’s death

http://colonel6.com/2011/01/31/atf-assualt-weapons-sold-to-straw-buyers-were-used-in-the-killing-of-u-s-border-patrol-agent-investigated-by-u-s-senator-charles-grassley-of-iowa/

Bandits who gunned down a U.S. Border Patrol agent during a December firefight near Nogales may have been armed with assault rifles purchased from a Valley gun store in conjunction with a federal sting operation and subsequently smuggled into Mexico, according to a key member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

In letters to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, suggests that negligence by federal agents who failed to keep the firearms out of Mexico may have played a part in the slaying of Agent Brian Terry, a member of the Border Patrol’s elite tactical unit known as BORTAC.

Grassley said he had information that the AK-47s


recovered at the shooting scene were traced to Project Gunrunner, an ATF program designed to stem the illegal flow of U.S. guns to Mexican narcotics cartels. It is not unusual for law-enforcement agents to allow illegal transactions to occur so that they can follow contraband, identifying ringleaders and key players in organized-crime organizations.

“Members of the Judiciary Committee have received numerous allegations that the ATF sanctioned the sale of hundreds of assault weapons to suspected straw purchasers, who then allegedly transported these weapons throughout the southwestern border area and into Mexico,” the senator wrote in a letter Thursday to acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson.

“According to the allegations, one of these individuals purchased three assault rifles with cash in Glendale, Arizona, on January 16, 2010. Two of the weapons were then allegedly used in a firefight on December 14, 2010, against Customs and Border Protection agents, killing CBP Agent Brian Terry.”

A source within the justice system familiar with the case confirmed to The Arizona Republic last week that one or two weapons recovered from the border shootout had been traced to Lone Wolf Trading Co., a Glendale gun store, but did not confirm they were part of Project Gunrunner.

Terry and his teammates were hunting for rip crews, robbers who target illegal immigrants and smugglers, when they spotted five armed men near Rio Rico. The Republic source, who requested anonymity, said BORTAC agents called out, “Policia!” and attempted to arrest the suspects. When the shooting started, the source said, agents returned fire with non-lethal bean bags, then bullets.

One suspect was wounded, but four others ran off in the confusion, disappearing into the night. Agents swarmed the area and conducted a search, locating several men who claimed to be illegal immigrants unconnected to the gunbattle. According to the justice-system source, FBI agents now believe that those detainees were telling the truth and that four assailants escaped across the border.

Six weeks after the murder, no one has been charged, although the source said an indictment was expected against the wounded suspect.

Grassley has requested a briefing from the ATF, adding that he had received documentation in support of the allegations.

“There are serious concerns that the ATF may have become careless, if not negligent, in implementing the Gunrunner strategy,” he wrote.

ATF Director Melson could not be reached for comment Monday.

Tom Mangan, an ATF spokesman in Phoenix, said he was “unaware of any guns allowed to go south of the border,” either intentionally or inadvertently. “I am not aware of any internal investigation that’s going on regarding Project Gunrunner.”

Manuel Johnson, an FBI agent in Phoenix, declined to comment, as did the U.S. Border Patrol.

At a Phoenix news conference last week, the ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced indictments of 34 people in connection with firearms smuggling to Mexico. Bill Newell, ATF special agent in charge for Arizona, said five separate cases, all part of Project Gunrunner, demonstrate the corruptive reach of Mexican cartels using straw buyers to acquire guns in Arizona for illegal shipment south.

After the news conference, Newell was asked if agents purposely allowed firearms to enter Mexico as part of an investigation. He answered, “Hell no.”

However, he said, suspects under surveillance sometimes elude agents, which could result in guns winding up in Mexico.

Although Grassley’s letter does not specify which Glendale store sold the assault rifles used in the shooting, transaction details match information in a 53-count indictment against Jaime Avila, identified as the leader of one Arizona smuggling ring.

In a statement Monday, Lone Wolf owner Andre Hunter said he has been cooperating with authorities. “We have worked closely in conjunction with several federal agencies,” Hunter wrote.

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ATF assualt weapons sold to straw buyers were used in the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent investigated by U.S. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa


COLONEL SIXX:  THIS INVESTIGATION IS GOING TO LEAD TO THE DISCLOSURE OF WHAT MANY OF US IN THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY HAVE KNOWN FOR YEARS:

THE MAJORITY OF ASSAULT WEAPONS USED IN VIOLENT CRIMES  BY THE MEXICAN  DRUG CARTELS COME THROUGH AND FROM THE ATF,  SUPPOSEDLY A UNITED STATES “LAW ENFORCEMENT” AGENCY.

NOTICE THAT THEY WANT TO JUMP ON THE WHISTLE BLOWER.  THE ONLY REASON TO TURN ON THE MESSENGER IS BECAUSE THE MESSAGE IS TRUE. REMINDS ME OF INFORMATION ABOUT A CERTAIN STATE ARMY NATIONAL GUARD.

In the context of United States federal gun laws, straw purchase is defined as any purchase from a dealer holding a Federal Firearms License where the buyer conducting the transaction is acting as a proxy for another person. The law does not distinguish between someone who is purchasing on behalf of a person who legally cannot purchase or possess a firearm, and one who is not.

Monday, 01.31.1

BY JACQUES BILLEAUD

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHOENIX — A U.S. senator is examining a claim that two guns sold in purchases sanctioned by federal firearms agents were later used in a December shootout that left a Border Patrol agent dead near the Arizona-Mexico border.


Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said in a letter provided Monday to The Associated Press he had received information that appears to partially corroborate the claim received by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the guns.

“Members of the Judiciary Committee have received numerous allegations that the ATF sanctioned the sale of hundreds of assault weapons to suspected straw buyers, who then allegedly transported these weapons throughout the Southwest border area and into Mexico,” reads a letter sent Thursday from Grassley to Kenneth Melson, acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The letter does not elaborate on the role possible of federal agents in the sale of the guns, and it could not be determined if the purchases were part of a sting operation.

ATF spokesman Tom Mangan declined to comment. Grassley spokeswoman Beth Pellett Levine declined to comment on the senator’s letter to Melson.

Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry was waiting with other agents on Dec. 14 in a canyon near the Arizona border city of Nogales when a shootout with bandits erupted.

Terry was part of an elite squad similar to a police SWAT team that was sent to the canyon 13 miles north of the border known for robberies, drug smuggling and violence.

No other agents were injured in the attack. The six suspects were being held on felony immigration charges and haven’t been charged in Terry’s death. All have made court appearances, but authorities declined to release their identities and hometowns.

FBI spokesman Manuel Johnson declined to comment on the investigation into Terry’s death. The agency declined an earlier Freedom of Information Act request by The Associated Press to release reports and other records of the investigation.

Grassley said in a letter Thursday that a buyer purchased three assault rifles with cash more than a year ago in Glendale, Ariz., and two of those guns were used in the shootout in Arizona.

“These extremely serious allegations were accompanied by detailed documentation which appears to lend credibility to the claims and partially corroborates them,” Grassley wrote.

In the follow-up letter to Melson, Grassley said an ATF manager in Phoenix questioned an agent who answered questions posed by Grassley staffers about the agency’s initiative to reduce the flow of firearms to Mexico.

The manager accused the agent of misconduct for his contacts with the judiciary committee, Grassley said.

“This is exactly the wrong sort of reaction for the ATF,” Grassley wrote. “Rather than focusing on retaliating against whistleblowers, the ATF’s sole focus should be on finding and disclosing the truth as soon as possible.”

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/01/31/2044011/senator-examines-gun-claim-in.html#ixzz1CgXGCL00

Pakistan will not hand over American man accused of murder


A US government employee who has been accused of a double murder in Pakistan will not be handed to US authorities. 

The man, Raymond Davis, has been in prison under investigation for the double murder.

Lahore High Court Chief Justice, Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, has ordered that Davis remain in prison until next week so Pakistani police can investigate a shooting in which he is alleged to have been involved.

On Monday, hundreds of Pakistani’s went onto the streets to demand the execution of Davis, who supposedly had diplomatic immunity as a US government employee in Pakistan.

Davis, a US consulate official, has been accused of shooting two Pakistani motorcyclists in broad daylight in Lahore last Friday.

A third Pakistani was later run over and killed by a US consulate vehicle which was rushing to the aid of Davis.

Visiting US Congressmen on Monday asked Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to free the US suspect.

Nearly 11 Percent of US Houses Empty


I usually find the quarterly homeowner vacancy and homeownership report from Census pretty lackluster, but the latest one released this morning was anything but.

America’s home ownership rate, after holding steady for a while, took a pretty big plunge in Q4, from 66.9 percent to 66.5 percent. That’s down from the 2004 peak of 69.2 percent and the lowest level since 1998.

Homeownership is falling at an alarming pace, despite the fact that home prices have fallen, affordability is much improved and inventories of new and existing homes are still running quite high.

Bargains abound, but few are interested or eligible to take advantage.

More concerning than the home ownership rate is the vacancy rate. The Census tables don’t tell the entire story, but they tell a lot of it. Of the nearly 131 million housing units in this country, 112.5 million are occupied. 74.8 million are owned, and that’s only dropped by about 30 thousand in the past year. 38 million are rented, but that’s up by over a million year over year. That means more new households are choosing to rent.

Now to vacancies. There were 18.4 million vacant homes in the U.S. in Q4 ’10 (11 percent of all housing units vacant all year round), which is actually an improvement of 427,000 from a year ago, but not for the reasons you’d think.

The number of vacant homes for rent fell by 493 thousand, as rental demand rose. 471,000 homes are listed as “Held off Market” about half for temporary use, but the other half are likely foreclosures. And no, the shadow inventory isn’t just 200,000, it’s far higher than that.

So think about it. Eleven percent of the houses in America are empty. This as builders start to get more bullish, and renting apartments becomes ever more popular. Vacancies in the apartment sector have been falling steadily and dramatically, why? Because we’re still recovering emotionally from the toll of the housing crash.

Younger Americans have seen what home ownership has done to their friends and families, and many want no part of it. Credit has become very nearly elitist. Home prices, whatever your particular data provider preference might be, are still falling.

Google’s Speak-To-Tweet Hopes To Help Egyptians Get The Word Out


Google has devised an easy way to get tweets out of Egypt, even when the Internet’s down.

Monday afternoon the Internet giant introduced a speak-to-tweet service that allows callers to tweet by calling one of three numbers and leaving a voicemail. The project is a collaboration between Google, Twitter and SayNow, which Google acquired just last week, according to the Google blog.

The three numbers to call are +16504194196 or+390662207294 or +97316199855.

The service instantly tweets what’s said in the voicemail, and adds the hashtag #egypt. There’s no internet connection necessary, and people can listen to the messages by dialing the same numbers or visiting twitter.com/speak2tweet.

While the service was put in place in order to help Egyptians trying to tweet amidst the protests, it’s unclear if this service will remain in place in the future.

From the Google blog:

We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there.

Muslim Brotherhood ‘Conspiracy’ to Subvert America


YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THE Muslim Brotherhood


 

Rand Paul: End All Foreign Aid, Including to Israe


Rand Paul: End foreign aid, including Israel
January 27, 2011

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul wants to end all foreign assistance, including aid to Israel.

Paul, a Republican newly elected in Kentucky, was on CNN Wednesday outlining where he would cut the $500 billion in government spending he says is critical to sustaining the U.S. economy. His focus was on the departments of energy, education and housing.

Interviewer Wolf Blitzer then asked about foreign assistance, asking if he wanted to end “all foreign aid.” Paul said yes, and Blitzer asked him about aid to Israel.

“Well, I think what you have to do is you have to look,” Paul said. “When you send foreign aid, you actually [send] quite a bit to Israel’s enemies. Islamic nations around Israel get quite a bit of foreign aid, too.

“You have to ask yourself, are we funding an arms race on both sides? I have a lot of sympathy and respect for Israel as a democratic nation, as a, you know, a fountain of peace and a fountain of democracy within the Middle East.”

Blitzer pressed, “End all foreign aid including the foreign aid to Israel as well. Is that right?” he asked.

Paul answered, “Yes.”

How Far Will the Uprising Spread?


We give aid to every country in the Middle East and it has backfired on us.

You can buy governments and leaders, but not the people of those nations.  Each nation listed is a country that the United States licks the boots of while forking over our money. There has already been trouble in some of the nations and it is coming to the others.

Morocco

Population: 32.3m

GDP: $91.7bn

King Mohammed VI

Notionally a constitutional monarchy, the Moroccan government has been accused of using the courts to imprison peaceful opponents. King Mohammed VI retains the power to dissolve parliament and dismiss or appoint the prime minister.

Criticising the monarchy or Islam is still punishable by law, but the private press has had some success in breaking taboos and investigating government corruption. There has been progress under Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, who took office in 2007, but Morocco still endures high unemployment rates, especially among its younger population.

Tunisia

Population: 10.6m

GDP: $43.86bn

Prime Minister Ghannouchi

Few had suspected such a swift fall from grace for President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who on 14 January caved in to the massive protests and fled the North African nation he had ruled over with an iron fist for 23 years.

Accused over his decades in power of suppressing the opposition, censoring the media and detaining dissidents, Mr Ben Ali had nonetheless managed to maintain his stranglehold on power by providing a reasonable quality of life for citizens. But in recent years inflation and unemployment have hit the country hard, and people have baulked at seeing Mr Ben Ali, his reviled wife and extended family appearing to get wealthier and buy up holiday homes by the sea, while the people languished in poverty. It took the self-immolation of one desperate unemployed university graduate in December last year to set off a chain of protests. News of the dissent spread through Twitter and Facebook, culminating in the huge protests that forced Mr Ben Ali from power earlier this month. Since the popular uprising, the hastily cobbled-together government led by Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi has struggled to maintain law and order, with protesters insisting that the cabinet be purged of any remnants of Mr Ben Ali’s regime.

It remains to be seen if Tunisia will emerge as the Middle East’s second full democracy – a label currently only applied to Israel – with no date set yet for elections.

Lebanon

Population: 4.1m

GDP: $39.1bn

President Michel Suleiman

For once in the fragile world of Middle Eastern politics, Lebanon is not centre stage. The country is still reeling from the 2005 assassination of its former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a car bomb attack. The coalition government in Beirut collapsed last week when a UN report, which is expected to assert that the Iran- and Syria-backed Hezbollah had a hand in Hariri’s murder, was handed to prosecutors in Lebanon and the “Party of God” abandoned the administration.

The party is already back, however, after President Michel Suleiman appointed the Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati as the new head of his government, in what, by Middle East standards, is a highly democratic state. Nonetheless, such is the fear of Hezbollah in Israel that the immediate threat to stability in Lebanon may well come from Tel Aviv, rather than riots from a discontent population.

Jordan

Population: 6.5m

GDP: $27.13bn

King Abdullah II

Power lies squarely in the hands of King Abdullah II, who inherited an absolute monarchy from his father, who ruled for 46 years before his death in 1999. Promises of political reform are yet to materialise, with the King wielding the power to appoint ministers, dismiss parliament and rule by decree.

Jordan languished in the bottom quarter of the 2010 Democracy Index, and discontent is growing. Sporadic protests over inflation and unemployment – which is estimated at between 12 and 25 per cent – broke out across the country after the Tunisian unrest, and an Islamist opposition leader stoked the flames by calling for Jordanians to be granted the right to elect their leaders.

With strong support from the Bedouin-dominated military and financial backing from their allies in Washington, King Abdullah looks to be safe for the time being. The Prime Minister has announced a multi-million-pound food and fuel subsidy package, and the King has in recent days made further promise of reform, even meeting with the Jordanian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered the largest opposition group in the kingdom. The Muslim Brotherhood has, however, called for a fresh round of demonstrations.

Syria

Population: 22.2m

GDP: $59.63bn

President Bashar al-Assad

President Bashar al-Assad has been in power since 2000, succeeding his father and continuing his authoritarian rule with all opposition parties banned, the media strictly controlled and any dissenting voices harshly dealt with.

Syria has been controlled by the Baath Party since it took power in 1963, and those who speak out against the government are frequently jailed on charges of “weakening national morale”. Emergency rule remains in effect in Syria, and authorities are consistently accused of violating civilian rights, arresting activists, detaining bloggers and restricting freedom to travel.

There are conditions for discontent: unemployment is between 10 and 25 per cent, and the population is frustrated at the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Apparently unnerved by the protests in Tunisia, the authorities recently sharply raised a heating oil allowance for public workers, reversing a policy of slashing subsidies in the face of decades of economic stagnation. Then, on Wednesday, users reported that programmes they used to access Facebook Chat had apparently been blocked in what looked like a move to curtail any online protest movement. Syrian media barely reported the overthrow of Tunisia’s Mr Ben Ali.

Iraq

Population: 29m

GDP: $84.14bn

President Jalal Talabani

For decades Saddam Hussein held the dubious accolade of being the region’s most notorious dictator. Since US-led forces ejected him from power 2003, Iraq has seen a messy transition towards democracy, but the power-sharing government has struggled to maintain order over insurgents and militia groups and many Iraqis are worried about what will happen when all the remaining US forces leave by the end of the year.

Elections in March last year proved inconclusive, leading to months of uncertainty. Finally, a power-sharing deal was brokered in November, with veteran Kurd leader Jalal Talabani named as President for a third term.

Saudi Arabia

Population: 25.7m

GDP: $434.4bn

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz

Absolute monarch King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has ruled the desert kingdom since 2005, the latest in a long line of royals in charge. Although the 87-year-old is in ill-health and runs a strict authoritarian state, the distribution of oil wealth largely keeps the populace happy. The royals’ biggest challenge is Islamist extremist groups, and the monarchy cracks down hard on any challenges to their authority. Saudi Arabia, along with other oil-rich Gulf states such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, are generally less susceptible to Tunisian-style uprisings because the population benefit from the spoils of natural resources.

Yemen

Population: 23m

GDP: $30.02bn

President Ali Abdullah Saleh

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Yemen last week to demand an end to the three-decade rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The poorest country in the Middle East and a largely tribal society, Yemen has more problems than most. It has emerged as a new base for al-Qa’ida militants driven out of their traditional sanctuaries on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Yemen is also battling a secessionist movement in the south, an on-off rebellion in the north, and grinding poverty. Its oil reserves, which make up 70 percent of the government’s revenue, are dwindling and the nation relies on US aid. Nearly half of all Yemenis live below the poverty line and unemployment is at least 35 per cent.

Mr Saleh, whom many analysts accuse of overseeing a corrupt regime that has failed to tackle economic grievances, has reacted to the unrest by backtracking on his plans to seek another term in 2013 and denying accusations that he will try to hand over power to his son.

He has also promised to slash taxes and cap food prices and raise the salaries of civil servants and the military.

Mr Saleh won a seven-year term in Yemen’s first open presidential election, in 2006. Observers said the poll was fair but opposition parties complained of vote rigging. The main challenge to Mr Saleh, analysts say, would likely come if the various opposition groups, particularly the rebels in the south and the north, were to look beyond their own particular grievances to mount a broader political challenge.

Egypt

Population: 84.5m

GDP: $216.8bn

President Hosni Mubarak

Egypt has been ruled with a heavy hand by former air force commander Hosni Mubarak since the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat. Now aged 82, President Mubarak is widely viewed as symbolising the old guard of autocratic Arab leaders.

The Human Rights Watch report this year detailed a catalogue of abuses in the Arab world’s most populous nation, including torture by the police, harassment of political opponents, violence against demonstrators and arbitrary detention.

Religious parties are banned – in part to stem the challenge from the Muslim Brotherhood – and although the constitution was changed in 2007 to allow presidential challengers, they arestrictly curtailed to lock out any serious opponents.

Mr Mubarak has not said if he will contest presidential elections due in September, and there are reports that he is grooming his son Gamal Mubarak to succeed him. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has come out as a strong opposition voice. But as the constitution stands, it is almost impossible for independent candidates to stand.

What worries the West most is the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic movement founded in Egypt in 1928, which has significant support among the population. It has influenced religious groups – both moderate and extreme – across the Muslim world.

Libya

Population: 6.4m

GDP: $77.91bn

Colonel Muammar al Gaddafi

The longest-serving leader in the Arab world, Colonel Muammar al Gaddafi has ruled Libya since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1969. The eccentric dictator said he was “pained” by the fall of Mr Ben Ali. But despite his pariah status overseas and corruption at home, soaring oil prices have allowed Colonel Gaddafi to maintain high levels of economic growth, while Libyans enjoy a life expectancy of 75, one of the highest in Africa.

Like many oil-rich states, unemployment among the local population is high, with millions of immigrants employed to do the menial jobs. But despite very little political openness and restrictions on freedom of expression, there is no sign that the Libyans have much inclination to rise up against their 69-year-old leader.

Algeria

Population: 35m

GDP: $159bn

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika

Two people were killed and hundreds of others injured earlier this month as Algerians angry at the high cost of living clashed with the police. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika moved swiftly to cut food prices, and calm has returned for now, but many are unhappy at Mr Bouteflika’s heavy-handed rule, and unemployment is estimated to be around 20 per cent among the young.

Mr Bouteflika was elected in 1999 and won a third five-year term in 2009. But with more than 90 per cent of ballots cast in his favour, there was widespread criticism of vote fraud and accusations that he had quashed all viable opposition. Although there has been an opening up of the media and widening political freedoms, Mr Bouteflika was criticised for extending the presidential term in office and continuing a ban on the Islamic Salvation Front.

Algeria is also under an indefinite state of emergency, which the government claims is needed to combat Islamist militancy, but Human Rights Watch says it also allows widespread restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly.

 

Florida judge rules health care law unconstitutional



Carrie Dann writes:

A federal judge has ruled that the health care reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama in March is unconstitutional.

Today’s decision is the second ruling by a federal judge against the constitutionality of the health care legislation. Two other federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of the law, including its requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

While the lawsuit addressed in Vinson’s ruling is the largest of its kind – with 26 states having signed on – today’s decision is likely just one more step in the law’s march to the United States Supreme Court.

But this is the biggest court victory yet for opponents of the law’s requirement that all Americans by health insurance.