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FBI data shows spike in U.S. firearm purchases in 2011

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The FBI performed a record number of instant background checks on would-be firearm buyers in 2011 as Americans went on an apparent gun-buying spree, according to new government data.

The FBI said it fielded nearly 16.5 million queries from firearms sellers last year, checking that customers buying guns did not have criminal records or other red flags that made them ineligible to purchase weapons.

That was up 15 percent from 2010, when the FBI performed 14.4 million screenings using its so-called National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) -- and the highest number of annual screenings performed since 1998, when the checks went into effect.

The FBI cautioned that each background check did not necessarily represent an individual firearm sale, in part because some would-be buyers fail to pass the screening.

But FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer said the background checks are correlated with weapon purchases. So the uptick in screenings last year suggests that an increase in gun sales the agency has been tracking for several years was continuing.

Fischer declined to analyze or comment on the jump in firearms purchases, saying the bureau's responsibility was only "to operate and maintain the NICS system."

But Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said he believed the political uncertainty surrounding next year's general election was prompting would-be gun buyers to accelerate purchases.

Arulanandam said the jump in sales since 2006 largely reflected concern that the Democrats swept into office in recent years, including President Barack Obama, would curb the right to bear arms.

BUYING SURGE SINCE 2006

Purchases of handguns and rifles, which had held steady throughout the early part of the decade, began to surge in 2006 and have nearly doubled since then, FBI data showed.

Kentucky, which ranks 26th nationally in terms of population, topped the state rankings for pre-purchase background checks in 2011, the FBI said.

Gun sellers in the Bluegrass State, which has just 4.3 million residents, generated almost 2.3 million instant background checks in 2011 -- accounting for roughly one of every seven the FBI processed during the year.

But Fischer said Kentucky's numbers were distorted because the state runs a fresh background check every month on gun owners with state-issued concealed weapons permits.

Texas, which ranks No. 2 in population according to the Census Bureau, ranked No. 2 in the background check rankings as well, with 1.15 million screening requests in 2011.

Texas was followed by Utah, which accounted for nearly a quarter of the overall increase in checks and sales in 2011.

Utah is an increasingly popular place for gun owners from all over the country to get a concealed-firearms permit because it is cheap, easy to apply for even if buyers don't live in Utah, and recognized in nearly three dozen other states.

"PACKING HEAT"

The FBI data for 2011 was released close to the January 8 one-year anniversary of the shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona, that killed 6 people and injured 13, including Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

That incident raised serious questions about the background checks after it emerged that Jared Lee Loughner, the accused shooter, had legally purchased the gun he allegedly used in the attack from a sporting goods store -- despite having engaged in bizarre, disruptive behavior well before the shooting.

While the FBI data show the number of background checks have risen, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says there has been no progress on legislative efforts to tighten gun control in the wake of the Tucson shooting.

Dennis Henigan, the group's acting president, told Reuters the only gun bill that has come for a vote in Congress since Tucson has been the so-called "Packing Heat On Your Street" bill, officially known as "National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011" (H.R. 822).

That measure, which has passed the House of Representatives but stalled in the Senate, would make it easier for people to carry concealed handguns across state lines.

"Really it is a national disgrace that the only piece of gun-related legislation to come to a vote since Tucson was this legislation that would have enabled dangerous concealed carriers like Jared Loughner to carry their guns across state lines," Henigan said.

But the National Rifle Association says H.R. 822 would only require states to recognize each others' concealed carry permits the same way they recognize each others' driver's licenses, eliminating confusion and potential legal problems for traveling gun owners.

(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor. Editing by Cynthia Johsnton and Peter Bohan)

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The FBI's Role in a War Zone

The FBI's role on the front lines of the nation's fight against terrorism.

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FBI Docs: How George Steinbrenner Made An Ass Of The FBI Director [The Steinbrenner Files]

FBI Docs: How George Steinbrenner Made An Ass Of The FBI DirectorThe year was 1989. A group of luminaries had gathered to schmooze aboard the USS Intrepid, the World War II-era aircraft carrier on the west side of Manhattan. Among them: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and then-FBI director William Sessions. The two men couldn't have been more dissimilar. Steinbrenner was a swaggering, recently pardoned felon. Sessions was his Eagle Scout antonym. But there they were, meeting for the first time on a floating museum. For a brief while, they were thrown together by fate. This is their story. It's not long. But it is an entertaining anecdote about the behavior of baseball's most ignominious owner.

As described in a prior post, we obtained a cache of Steinbrenner-related FBI documents after I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request while reporting a story about Howie Spira, the gambler who sold dirt on Dave Winfield to Steinbrenner in the '80s. (You can read about the sordid affair here.) When the skullduggery became public, the FBI arrested Spira, who was convicted of extorting Steinbrenner, who, in turn, was banned from baseball. Media reports that Steinbrenner used his FBI contacts to impel an indictment of Spira triggered an internal FBI investigation into Steinbrenner's association with the bureau's Tampa office. The documents we have are from that investigation. They arrived after we published my story, but they still show how Steinbrenner could make his personal planet spin a little easier on its axis. (In case you're wondering, the FBI somehow found itself innocent of any wrongdoing.)

A few days after his initial meeting with Sessions, Streinbrenner followed up with a Yankees "care package" for the FBI director tha! t includ ed a ballcap, a nylon jacket, and a carrying bag, among other gimcrackery. It's unlikely that Steinbrenner had any grand designs on Sessions. He just liked to get chummy with people who could put him in cuffs. Down in Tampa, Steinbrenner showered FBI agents with free tickets to Buccaneers games, free booze at cocktail parties, and, in some instances, easy money after agents retired and Steinbrenner hired them.

But Sessions was a different case, and the next interaction he'd have with the Yankees owner—it would occur later that year in November 1989—caused Sessions some trouble after the FBI launched its internal investigation into the Spira affair. The meeting was a banquet in Sessions's honor at the University Club in Tampa. It came about because of the snug relationship Steinbrenner had fostered with the FBI office in Tampa, where his American Shipbuilding Company was based. Steinbrenner's FBI connections ran through Phil McNiff, the former FBI special agent in charge of the Tampa office. Steinbrenner had hired McNiff out of the FBI to be his troubleshooter. And McNiff certainly shot the trouble. He used his FBI ties to do background checks for Steinbrenner. He helped expedite Steinbrenner's application for a presidential pardon. He may even have gotten the FBI to go after Spira, who by all accounts (including my own) was more a nuisance than a threat.

McNiff's successor at the Tampa office, Bob Butler, appeared to be cut from the same kiss-ass cloth, at least with respect to Steinbrenner. In 1984, a year after Steinbrenner moved his shipbuilding business from Cleveland to Tampa, Butler arranged for The Boss to be a speaker at an FBI National Academy conference. Steinbrenner handled the entertainment for the conference. Butler also made sure that an FBI investigative report concerning Steinbrenner's application for a presidential pardon reflected Steinbrenner's assistance to the FBI in counterintelligence operations. (More on this in later posts.)

By the fall of 1989, Butler an! d Steinb renner had pretty much slashed palms and swapped blood. It was around that time that Butler mentioned that Sessions would be in the Tampa area on Nov. 13 to attend an "organized crime drug enforcement task force conference." Steinbrenner grew excited at the prospect. He wanted to host a "small sit-down dinner (for approximately eight people)" to honor the FBI director. Butler got right on it.

On Nov. 2, Butler called Sessions to invite him to the dinner. Sessions didn't want to go, but Butler told him it was important to the Tampa FBI office and the Tampa community. Sessions relented. Four days later, Butler mailed a follow-up letter to tell the FBI director that Steinbrenner planned to invite a few people to the dinner—the mayor, a couple judges, some members of the law-enforcement community. Just a few people. Maybe 10 to 12, Butler told Sessions's assistant. In his letter, Butler also offered the following guidance for Sessions's "brief remarks" at the banquet:

I really believe that any subject you chose would be appropriate and interesting.

FBI Docs: How George Steinbrenner Made An Ass Of The FBI DirectorA kiss-ass, I said. Two days later, invitations went out for the party. Here we can really see how in thrall the Tampa FBI office was to Steinbrenner. Attached at left you'll find a copy of an invitation (to General Norman Schwarzkopf, no less; a year before Desert Storm, no less). Note that the invitation is drafted on letterhead from Steinbrenner's American Shipbuilding Company. Note also that both Steinbrenner and Butler have signed the invitation. (I believe the third redacted signature to belong to McNiff.) It's difficult to imagine the discriminating judgment that permits a man in charge of an FBI office to affix his s! ignature to the corporate letterhead of a recently pardoned felon. At the very least, it doesn't inspire confidence in badges.

Regardless, the invitations went out. Many of them. Many more than anticipated, given Steinbrenner's exuberance. Just before Sessions left for Florida on Nov. 13, Butler called the director's office to mention that the guest list might have swelled. Sessions's assistant "interpreted this to mean that there would be several additional people at the party." But when Sessions arrived at the University Club at 6 p.m. that day, he found "approximately 125" guests waiting for him, swilling drinks at the bar. Otto Graham was there. So was a Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State in the employ of the Yankees. His name was redacted in the documents (attached below), but it could only have been Howard "Hopalong" Cassady.

Steinbrenner picked up the tab for the event: $ 6,152.43. Ever gracious, he also declined a seat at Sessions's table. He did this to avoid the limelight, according to Butler. But Steinbrenner was never one for the backdrop. After dinner, he got to his feet with an unexpected announcement. From Sessions's sworn testimony:

Mr. Steinbrenner, who was not seated at my table, rose from his seat, introduced me, and advised the group that I was the main speaker for the evening. This surprised me as I had previously expected to make only a few brief remarks. Although I did not have a prepared speech, I spoke at some length about the FBI, our programs and mission and focused on the national drug problem [...]. I don't recall that any other speeches were made that night.

Sessions spoke for about 20 minutes about the war on drugs. You can read the cold reproach in his statement above. This is not a man who enjoys surprises. He could not have enjoyed learning later that he'd been bundled into an internal FBI investigation into his own agency's relationship with Steinbrenner. But the real takeaway is that Steinbrenner played Sessions. The Y! ankees o wner got what he wanted when he wanted it, even if what he wanted was the head of an intelligence agency, and even if that meant the head would have to speechify extemporaneously in front of Steinbrenner's cronies. The Boss's life was one long and mean power trip. And for a few months in 1989 and 1990, an FBI director was entangled in the wreckage Steinbrenner left in his wake.

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FBI Warns Of Scams; Victim Speaks To NBC4

The FBI released new numbers for December, and the scammers didn't take the holidays off.

Tonight at 5 p.m. NBC4 talks to one of the targets and victims of scams that cost her thousands of dollars.

Here is the release from the FBI.

For the month of December, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center received 552 complaints from Ohio residents who reported being victims of some type of scam involving the internet.

Of those 552 complaints, 236 victims reported some amount of monetary loss, with 108 of those victims reporting a loss of over $ 1,000.00.

The majority of the reported scams involved the Non-Delivery of Merchandise. Simply, people who make purchases involving the internet often fall prey to unscrupulous individuals who hide behind the anonymity associated with non face-to-face purchases.

An example of this Non-Delivery of Merchandise scam often involves a victim who is looking for a particular item to purchase through the classified ads of online services.

When they find the item they wish to purchase, the victim responds to the ad expressing their desire to purchase the item.

The "crook" responds to the victim and says that they'll only accept payment by money order, wire transfer, or through a third-party escrow service to facilitate the exchange of money and merchandise.

Most savvy online shoppers know never to send money orders or use wire transfers to people you don't know because there is little or no way to trace the receiver of the money.

Use of a third party escrow service sounds safe and serves as a reasonable alternative.

But what the victim doesn't know is that the "crook" has compromised a true escrow service site and, in actuality, created one that closely resembles a legitimate escrow service.

The "crook" sends a link to the "phony escrow service" to the victim. The victim follows the link to the "phony escrow service" and because it looks legit, the victim sends payment to the "phony escrow service" and receives no merchandise in return. By the time the victim realizes their mistake, the "crook" - and the victim's money, are long gone.

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Phone Hacking, FBI OKC CCTV, Hemingway's Hell - New World Next Week

Welcome back to NewWorldNextWeek.com - thevideo series from Corbett Report and Media Monarchy that covers some of the most important developments in alternative news and open source intelligence. This week Story #1: Murdoch Tabloid Under Fire After Hacking Into Murder Victims Phones ur1.ca Related Update: Families of 7/7 Victims 'Were Targets of Phone Hacking' ur1.ca Story #2: OKC Bombing Videotapes 'Might Have Been Misfiled, Impossible to Know Where' ur1.ca Video Flashback: Secret FBI Storage Drive to Shield Evidence from FOIA? ur1.ca Story #3: Ernest Hemingway 'Driven to Suicide Over FBI Surveillance' ur1.ca Related: Summer of Hemingway - 'Papa' Still Casts a Long Shadow ur1.ca Subscribe to NewWorldNextWeek.com to get hi-quality episodes to download, burn and share. And as always, stay up-to-date by subscribing to the feeds from Corbett Report http and Media Monarchy ur1.ca Thank you. Previous Episode: Time Test, Mega Quake, False Floods ur1.ca

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Sparta man sentenced for gun possession by convicted felon

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East St. Louis, IL (KSDK) - A 31-year-old southern Illinois man was sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois Stephen Wigginton said.

According to court documents, officers with the Sparta Police Department responded to domestic abuse complaint on April 22, 2011. Police said the female victim told them her boyfriend, identified as Alvin Young, struck her in the face and said he'd rather "shoot it out with police before going back to jail." The woman also told police Young distributed drugs.

When police arrived at Young's home, he fled and foot and dropped a small bag. Police eventually caught Young and recovered the bag. Police found a loaded Hi-Point S&W .40-caliber handgun, 16 rounds of ammunition and two magazines for the gun, just four feet from Young's front door. They also located a digital scale with traces of marijuana and cocaine. The bag police recovered contained cocaine.

During his guilty plea on September 23, Young admitted to owning the gun.

Alvin Young was previously convicted on October 18, 2005 of attempted delivery of a controlled substance. On November 1, 2002, Young was convicted of aggravated battery. Both crimes occurred in Randolph County, Illinois.

Following his sentence, Young must serve three years of supervised release.

KSDK

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