Tag Archives: FBI

Cohen pushes to remove J. Edgar Hoover’s name from FBI HQ

Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis is pushing to have J. Edgar Hoover’s name removed from the FBI headquarters building in Washington, reports Michael Collins.

Hoover’s well-documented attempts to silence civil-rights figures like (Martin Luther) King and to ferret out and fire gays and lesbians working for the federal government left a bad stain on the nation’s history, Cohen said.

“J. Edgar Hoover did some awful, terrible things in his life and as FBI director,” he said. “He was the opposite of justice.”

Cohen is leading a campaign in Congress to cleanse the FBI of what he and many others consider Hoover’s ill deeds. The Memphis Democrat recently filed a bill to remove Hoover’s name from the FBI headquarters, arguing that his questionable tactics during the 37 years he ran the law-enforcement agency don’t reflect the values of the FBI and its agents of today.

Hoover’s “is not a name that is worthy of being honored,” Cohen said.

Cohen is far from the first member of Congress to push for the removal of Hoover’s name from the FBI building. Similar campaigns have been launched by other lawmakers over the years as more details of Hoover’s tactics have come to light. All of those efforts have come up short, and Cohen knows his bill will probably go nowhere in a Congress in which both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans.

It’s still an issue worth pursuing, he said.

At a recent hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Cohen pressed Comey, the FBI’s current director, on whether Hoover’s legacy represents what the FBI stands for today.

“The FBI today is vastly different than it was under its first director,” Comey replied.

Comey refused to get drawn into the debate over whether Hoover’s name belongs on the side of the agency’s headquarters building. Hoover did a lot of good things for law enforcement, Comey said, but he did a lot of other things that, through the lens of history, are rejected as improper. Regardless, from a historical perspective, it’s important “to take the total measure of the person,” Comey said.

FBI investigating TDOT contracts, raids road company offices

The FBI raided the offices of a Williamson County construction company as part of an ongoing investigation into nine Tennessee Department of Transportation and two Metro Nashville Airport Authority contracts, reports The Tennessean.

The agents seized payroll records, contract files, work orders and computer hard drives from the College Grove offices of G&M Associates. Jones Brothers, one of the largest road contractors in the Southeast, and two of its affiliate companies are implicated in the investigation, according to a search warrant.

Jones Brothers and the two affiliated companies, Mountain States Contractors and Hot Mix Asphalt, were allegedly involved in a scheme to fraudulently land government contracts intended for companies that promise to subcontract a certain percentage of the work to women- or minority-owned small businesses, the search warrant documents state.

The investigation is focused on the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which is supposed to help jumpstart businesses owned by women and minorities. The government, which has been cracking down on procurement fraud, can recoup up to three times the contract amount and levy fines.

Mt. Juliet-based Jones Brothers, according to the warrant, named a minority-owned firm in its contract, but instead did work the subcontractor G&M Associates was supposed to do, even going as far as to cover the company logo on their trucks with the minority-owned contractor’s logo. According to the search warrant, the FBI has evidence that “the primary contractors obtained various contracts fraudulently, aided and abetted by G&M.” The FBI raid took place in May.

The federal investigation was prompted by a 2012 whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former employee of Jones Brothers, who said he was fired after raising concerns about fraudulent activity. A federal judge has given the government until June 1 to decide whether to intervene in the whistleblower suit and bring charges against Jones Brothers, its affiliated companies and G&M Associates.

A spokesman for Jones Brothers said the company has cooperated with the federal inquiry by providing hundreds of pages of documents, which the company says show there was no wrongdoing. G&M Associates referred questions to its attorney, who also denied the company had done anything wrong.

FBI, IRS Raid Pilot Flying J Headquarters (AP story)

By Steve Megaree, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents on Monday locked down the headquarters of Pilot Flying J, the truck stop business owned by the family of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and his brother, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.
FBI spokesman Marshall Stone told The Associated Press that the move was part of an ongoing investigation, but he would not provide additional details. FBI and IRS agents were expected to remain in the building into the evening, he said.
The FBI was keeping all traffic away from the company property, and Knoxville police patrol cars and officers could be seen outside the headquarters.
“Any details that would be released to the public would not be available for some time,” Stone said.
The company doesn’t know why FBI officials closed the headquarters but is cooperating with authorities, spokeswoman Lauren Christ said in a statement. Pilot Flying J retail operations remain open, she said.

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Documents on FBI Informant’s Reporting on Martin Luther King Released

The National Archives and Records Administration has released 785 pages of documents related to Ernest Withers, a photographer and free lance newsman acting as an FBI informant on activities of Dr. Martin Luther King as part of a legal settlement between the FBI and The Commercial Appeal, which filed a lawsuit seeking the information.
The CA has a report on what’s said in the documents in Sunday’s newspaper that begins as follows:
James Bevel flashed a wide smile, looking more like a guest at a cocktail party than a suspected subversive whose picture was about to land in an FBI file.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s head of “direct action,” Bevel was in Memphis on this March 1968 afternoon to help organize a massive demonstration King planned. And when news photographer Ernest Withers began shooting pictures, as he routinely did at civil rights meetings throughout the South, Bevel grinned without a hint of concern.
Yet, unknown to Bevel and others at this gathering at LeMoyne-Owen College, Withers, a paid FBI informant, passed photos he snapped that day to an FBI agent, along with details he overheard. His report fueled deepening skepticism within an already hostile FBI as to whether King intended to keep his movement nonviolent.
“He (Bevel) gave a most virulent black power talk,” agent William H. Lawrence wrote after debriefing Withers. Reportedly saying whites will use economic pressure to “attempt to exterminate the Negroes in the United States in some form of genocide,” Bevel encouraged the group to read the black separatist newspaper, Muhammad Speaks, and “come into the black power movement.”

Corporations Can Vote — Or at Least Authorize People to Vote For Them?

Jim Balloch reports on new curiosities coming to light in a Pigeon Forge liquor-by-the-drink referendum that was decided by 100 votes with, reportedly,, 303 more people voting than were registered to cast ballots in city elections. It’s already inspired a lawsuit and now it appears the FBI is interested.
But the real curiosity is the apparent move by some companies to make people eligible – as property owners – by giving them an interest, temporarily, in property within the city limits. An excerpt
Pigeon Forge City Hall is a split precinct. Besides city voters, many county residents who live outside the city vote there in countywide, state and national elections.
In sworn depositions, poll workers say they were instructed to allow nonresidents to vote in the referendum, that many who did not live in the city were given liquor by the drink ballots, and that there was a lot of confusion that day because different ballots were required for combinations of races.
“I’m sure that contributed to the problem,” Francis said. “I cannot disagree with (poll workers’ statements) that it was a chaotic and confusing day.”
Sevier County property records show some spurious land transactions that were the basis of votes cast by more than a dozen nonresidents who voted as property owners. The votes were perfectly legal, according to state election officials, even though the property ownership claimed by those voters was a 1 percent interest in extremely valuable commercial properties.
Those interests were given — for free — shortly before the election, by four Knoxville-based corporations with numerous links to developers and restaurant businesses in Pigeon Forge.
There are also questions about the validity of what are listed on voter rosters as residential addresses for some Pigeon Forge voters. These include mail drops, a vacant lot, and a building that houses a tattoo parlor and check cashing business.
The News Sentinel was unable to locate some of those individuals for whom those addresses were listed. Some others were found residing in Pigeon Forge residences, and said they used other locations as a mailing address that should not have been listed as their residences.
The News Sentinel has learned that two FBI agents from the Knoxville office recently met with about six members of Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, a group that opposed liquor by the drink and has filed a lawsuit challenging the election.
The FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation, or even say if it has made a preliminary inquiry about a possible investigation
…”I was told that whoever came to my table, if their name was on my roster, they got to vote on the referendum,” even if they did not have a Pigeon Forge address or property, poll worker Mary Louise Beck said in a sworn deposition. She was one of four Election Commission employees subpoenaed to give depositions in CCCPF’s lawsuit challenging the election.
More depositions are being taken this week. Trial is set for Jan. 10-11.

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John Wilder Once Targeted by FBI, Records Show

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The late John Wilder only once came into the crosshairs of an FBI investigation during his record 36 years as Tennessee Senate speaker.
From his election as speaker and lieutenant governor in 1971 until he lost the post in 2007, the Mason Democrat mastered shifting political alliances and avoided a series of corruption scandals that ensnared fellow lawmakers to become the longest-serving presiding officer of a legislative chamber in modern U.S. history. He retired from the Senate in 2008.
The Associated Press obtained Wilder’s FBI file through a Freedom of Information Act request filed after he died in January 2010 at age 88.
The entire 1,047-page file is from a single 1977 investigation into whether Wilder was involved in a scheme to pay off politicians in exchange for the state issuing permits allowing Amax Coal Co. to open strip mines on the Cumberland Plateau.
It took more than a year for the government to produce the FBI documents and they are heavily redacted to obscure most names, many dates and a series of other details, ranging from a newspaper headline to the number of cigarettes one person smoked each day.
The records include no references to later FBI operations that rocked the Statehouse, like the Rocky Top bingo investigation in the late 1980s or the 2005 Tennessee Waltz sting that sent five former lawmakers to prison.

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Tennessee Top State in Gun Crime Rate

People were more likely to be victims of a violent gun crime in Tennessee than in any other state in the nation, according to a Tennessean analysis of FBI statistics.
Only Washington, D.C., had a higher rate of gun violence. Tennessee came out worst in the nation in the rate at which its residents are victims of aggravated assaults with a firearm and fifth-worst in robberies.
(Tennessee had 13,132 gun crimes in 2010, according to the FBI figures, which translates into a rate of almost 214 gun crimes per 100,000 residents. Washington, D.C. had a rate of 377 per 100,000 population. But other states were all lower than Tennessee with Delaware (189) and South Carolina (185) listed as next in line.)
…The high rate is difficult to explain. Officials at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation declined to comment, saying they didn’t collect that data and couldn’t comment on analysis the agency hadn’t performed.
Academia doesn’t offer much help, either.
“You would almost have to go in and look at every individual crime report across the nation,” said Don Green, executive director of the University of Tennessee’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center.
But Green offered three possibilities for the high rate: better police reporting, a large number of gang and drug-related crimes, or perhaps Tennessee’s high rate of gun ownership.
“One thing you could say would be if there are a number of firearms accessible to individuals, then they would be more inclined to use those during a heated argument,” Green said.

CAIR Wants FBI To Investigate Anti-Muslim Road Rage Incident

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, via news release, is calling for an FBI investigation into a road rage incident in Murfreesboro Tuesday evening. It’s over an incident described by WSMV-TV thusly:
Converted Muslim Lisa Sallaj, 43, of Murfreesboro said, she hasn’t slept a wink since the road rage incident.
“I’ve been sick to my stomach. I’ve been shaking, nervous, lying in bed tossing and turning,” Sallaj said.
It all started on Medical Center Parkway near Interstate 24 in Murfreesboro around 8:30 p.m.
“He had just received his driver’s license. I was in the car with him,” the mother said.
Sallaj’s 18-year-old son was in a left turn lane, but needed to go straight. When the traffic light changed to green he pulled out right in front of a black Mustang.
“The guy went ballistic,” said Sallaj. “He went nuts.”
It got much worse.
“He started yelling and cussing saying you (expletive) need to learn how to drive,” said Lisa Sallaj. “Then I look over and he has a knife out shaking at me saying, ‘I’ll kill you.'”
Sallaj told her son to pull over so she can get the tag number. She started driving, but ended up right next to the black Mustang at a traffic light where the driver revved up his engine.
She said, he then started using anti-Islamic slurs.
Sallaj said, “He started saying ‘la, la, la, la, la, la, la,’ and making like racial slurs.”
The mother said, she really got scare when the man began yelling at her son.
“He said he would put a red bullet dot in the center of his eyes,” said Sallaj.

The CAIR news release is below.

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Feds Investigate Missing ‘Multicultural Chamber of Commerce’ Money

According to the Chattanooga Times-Free Presss, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday demanded the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce say how and where the agency spent $545,000 in federal dollars on a Business Solutions Center that’s never been built.
And the holder of a separate $574,000 loan to the minority chamber said a decision could be made within days whether to foreclose on two of the chamber’s five properties on M.L. King Boulevard.
HUD spokesman Joe Phillips said the department is seeking documentation such as bills and invoices spelling out how the chamber spent the $545,000 grant it received in 2005 and 2006.
He said the Multicultural Chamber has 15 days to respond when it receives HUD’s letter of inquiry. He referred all other questions to the HUD Office of Inspector General, where a spokesman Wednesday said the office had no immediate comment.
David Johnson, president of Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise and Chattanooga Community Development Financial Institution, said the FBI has asked him about the $574,000 loan the financial institution made to the chamber in 2008 to help develop the business center.
“I asked if the CDFI or staff was the target of an investigation,” Johnson said. “The answer was no.”
He said the FBI asked about Multicultural Chamber Executive Director Sherrie Gilchrist’s involvement at a September board meeting where the loan was approved. Gilchrist serves on the CCDFI board.

FBI Records Show Ned McWherter Never Implicated in Corruption Scandals of His Era

By Erik Schelzig
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ned McWherter, one of the most powerful Tennessee Democrats during his quarter century in public life, never got caught up in any of the FBI undercover investigations that pushed another governor out of office early and led to several prison sentences and suicides for others in his party.
The Associated Press obtained the 217-page FBI file on McWherter, who died in April, through a Freedom of Information Act request.
A 1995 background check into McWherter’s life and political career ruled out any involvement in an undercover investigation that rocked state government while he was governor.
“Although Mr. McWherter was surrounded by individuals who were involved in the bingo scam … he at no time was a subject, witness, or a target in the Rockytop investigation,” according to the memo.

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