In a dangerous power grab that will jeopardize government transparency, the Obama Justice Department wants to redefine federal public record law so that it becomes the sole arbiter in disputes between agencies and individuals who submit requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The unprecedented move would give the Department of Justice (DOJ), an extension of the executive branch, scary authority to determine if and how public records are disseminated throughout government. It would also strip those duties from the agency— Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)—that was created by Congress as a neutral party to mediate FOIA disputes and assure compliance among all federal agencies.
This is not the sort of story you’ll see in the mainstream media since, not surprisingly, the Obama Administration is keeping it under the radar. However, Judicial Watch has obtained an inside congressional document outlining the DOJ’s unscrupulous plot to become FOIA ombudsman. It comes from one of the most influential and powerful chambers in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder, the California congressman who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee (Darrell Issa) says the proposed modification will have a negative impact on government transparency. The letter also requests documents involving efforts to modify OGIS’s statutorily established FOIA dispute resolution authority by shifting the duties to the DOJ. Holder has until this week to comply with the committee’s request.
The House investigative committee also reminds Holder that the DOJ’s proposal to become the referee for public records disputes clearly contradicts Congress’s intent and is an apparent contravention of FOIA law. “DOJ has important but limited statutory responsibilities concerning the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),” the letter says. “These responsibilities include making information about agency FOIA programs publicly available; issuing recommendations and guidelines to agency FOIA offices, and encouraging agency FOIA compliance. DOJ’s responsibilities under FOIA, however, do not include offering dispute resolution services between agencies and FOIA requesters.”
Congress created the OGIS more than four years ago as a crucial neutral party that offers a range of mediation services to resolve public records disputes and to assure government-wide compliance. The agency, which is headquartered at the U.S. National Archives, has had tremendous success, directly helping resolve more than 1,200 FOIA disputes from virtually every state. No wonder Issa asks Holder to “reconsider the proposed modification and comply with current law.”
The Obama Justice Department is going after a San Diego-based U.S. Border Patrol agent for supposedly “kneeing and choking” an “unidentified alien” during a shift near the Mexican border over the summer.
Specifically, the feds are charging the agent, Luis Fonseca, for depriving the rights of the mystery illegal immigrant at the Border Patrol station in Imperial Beach California last July. Based on the Department of Justice’s account, a federal grand jury indicted Fonseca on a single charge of deprivation of rights under color of law. The charge, a civil rights violation, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.
The case is problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the government’s secrecy surrounding details. In the one-page indictment the illegal immigrant is identified only as “UA#1.” The document also claims that, as a result of the use of “unreasonable force” the undocumented alien sustained some kind of “bodily injury” yet no further details are provided.
Additionally, the grand jury indictment is dated April 12, 2012 which means the feds dragged their feet, probably because they knew it was a weak case. Fonseca was arrested on Friday during a shift at the Border Patrol’s Imperial Beach station and is currently on paid leave. He pleaded not guilty in federal court this week.
Here is why the DOJ is going after the particular agent, according to the federal prosecutor handling the case: “People detained at the border should be treated with human dignity and respect by federal agents. It is important for the public to know that the Department of Justice takes alleged civil rights violations seriously. We have processes in place to investigate and will take action where appropriate to protect those rights.”
Now the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General is investigating the matter. Perhaps when that report is finished, more information will be revealed to the public. For instance, the “victim’s” identity and the exact “bodily injury” that he or she supposedly suffered at the hands of the Border Patrol agent accused of committing the choking and kneeing.
The U.S. government has worked hard to protect illegal immigrants and their “constitutional” rights in the last few years. This has empowered them to file a number of lawsuits against local and federal law enforcement agencies for violating their rights. In Connecticut a group of illegal aliens sued the government for violating their constitutional rights during the operation that led to their apprehension.
In New York an illegal immigrant with a lengthy criminal record got a $145,000 settlement from the state for having his civil rights violated during one of his many arrests. In Maryland an illegal immigrant from El Salvador sued the sheriff’s department for unlawfully and unconstitutionally detaining her based on race and in California illegal aliens sued a city for banning them from seeking work on public streets.
While the Obama Justice Department works to bring racial diversity to the nation’s workforce and education system, the administration ignores the perplexing homogeneity at on at one of the largest employers in the capital region, the taxpayer-funded Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
This may seem ironic considering the administration, mostly via the Department of Justice (DOJ), has implemented a variety of controversial programs to promote and protect blacks and Latinos in the name of diversity. Examples will be listed below, but first let’s check out the outrageous lack of racial diversity at the sprawling transit system that serves the area surrounding the White House.
Nearly all of the bus and train operators in the system are black, according to an investigation conducted by a local newspaper. This week the paper is publishing a three-part series outlining the findings, which are downright astounding. The first article reveals that 97% of the bus and train operators in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are black, with only six white women out of more than 3,000 drivers.
This unbelievable lack of diversity has led to a series of lawsuits, the story reveals, and a culture of corruption in which favoritism—rather than merit—plays a role in promotions. Here is a typical example straight from court and transit records; a black man who served an eight-year prison sentence for dealing drugs was promoted to a high-level management job after his release while whites in the same positions as blacks with far less seniority are inexplicably paid less.
Even in entry-level occupations typically dominated by Hispanics, there are virtually none in the system, the records show. Only one laborer out of 67 is Hispanic; of 540 landscapers, carpenters and cleaners, only 22 are Hispanic. An attorney representing a dozen white women in a lawsuit against the metro system says “the odds of such a disparity occurring by chance are statistically infinitesimal. There appears to be an entrenched network of African-American employees at WMATA that is able to steer jobs, promotion, training and other career enhancing benefit to persons of their own racial or ethnic group.”
The system does have a “civil rights” office that hears discrimination complaints, but it too lacks racial diversity because all 17 employees running it are black. White and Hispanic transit workers who have reported discrimination have encountered a “deaf ear at Metro’s civil rights office,” the article states.
All this is occurring in the president’s back yard, indicating that he cares only about selective affirmative action. In the last few years the administration has implemented a number of measures to shield and promote minorities in the workforce as well as public education. The movement started with a new Office of Diversity and Inclusion to help build a “diverse and inclusive workforce” at all federal government agencies.
The DOJ’s bloated civil rights division has committed to eliminating workplace tests that may be viewed as discriminatory against minorities. Known as “disparate impact,” the racial discrimination created by written exams is especially rampant in the nation’s police and fire departments, according to Thomas Perez, the Assistant Attorney General who heads the DOJ’s civil rights division. In the name of diversity, he has vowed to do away with the racist exams.
A few months ago the administration issued official government guidelines to promote diversity in the nation’s public education system. The joint venture between the DOJ and the Department of Education (DOE) aims to “reduce racial isolation among students,” by, among other things, blending the rich with the poor. The guidelines are expected to be implemented by the nation’s elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities that receive taxpayer dollars.
The administration has even proposed a special plan to make the airwaves more ethnically diverse by holding broadcasting rights hostage for those who don’t pass a “public value” test. Under that brilliant Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal broadcasters would be required to reflect ethnic diversity and a commitment to public affairs programming to keep their license.
It appears that the Obama Administration is once again utilizing the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a political tool, this time to challenge voter identification laws—like one already upheld by the Supreme Court—that Democrats claim discriminate against minorities.
As the presidential election nears and Obama’s poll numbers plummet, who can blame party loyals for taking measures to get their boss reelected? After all, under this far-fetched discrimination theory a chunk of citizens that would normally vote Democrat couldn’t cast ballots because they can’t prove their identity.
That’s because they are either too poor or too ignorant to get a valid identification—provided free in many of the states that have passed voter ID laws—that proves they are who they say they are. This unbelievable theory has gained momentum in the last few months, with the powerful chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz) calling ID laws a “full-scale assault” on minority voters designed to “rig” elections for Republicans.
Eight states have strict laws that require a voter to provide picture identification in order to cast a ballot. All but two of the states—Georgia and Indiana—passed their measures this year and the DOJ’s bloated civil rights division has vowed to ensure that they don’t have a racially discriminatory purpose or effect. Targets of the DOJ’s discrimination probe are Kansas, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Mississippi.
Reiterating the administration’s “commitment to robust civil rights enforcement,” Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez confirmed last week that DOJ lawyers are reviewing some of the recently-enacted state laws to ensure that they are not racially discriminatory. “We have received numerous inquiries about recently enacted state laws relating to voter identification requirements, voter registration requirements and changes to early voting procedures,” Perez said, adding that “we are carefully reviewing these laws.”
In 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s voter ID law, ruling that the state’s interest in protecting the integrity of the voting process outweighed the insufficiently proven burdens the law may impose on voters. “There is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters,” the nation’s highest court said in its decision.
The ruling makes the DOJ’s aggressive intervention all the more questionable, like some of its other politically-motivated actions. Earlier this year Judicial Watch obtained internal government records that show political appointees at the DOJ ordered a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party dismissed. Clad in military attire and armed with weapons, members of the radical group intimidated white voters with racial insults and profanity during the 2008 presidential election and were scheduled to be prosecuted.
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced that it filed today separate lawsuits against the Obama Department of Energy and Office of Management and Budget to obtain records regarding the taxpayer funded government loan provided to the now bankrupt green energy company Solyndra. On September 5, 2011, Judicial Watch submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking the following information:
- Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the issuance of loan guarantees to Solyndra LLC, Solyndra Inc., Solyndra Fab 2 LLC, and/or 360 Degree Solar Holdings Inc.
- Any and all records of communication between any official, officer, or employee of the Department of Energy and any official, officer or employee of any other government agency, department or office regarding concerning or related to Solyndra LLC, Solyndra Inc., Solyndra Fab 2 LLC, and/or 360 Degree Solar Holdings Inc.
- Any and all records of communications between any official, officer or employee of the Department of Energy and any official, officer or employee of the following entities [Solyndra investors] regarding concerning or related to Solyndra LLC, Solyndra Inc., Solyndra Fab 2 LLC, and/or 360 Degree Solar Holdings Inc.:
a. Argonaut Private Equity LLC
b. Madrone Capital Partners LLC
c. U.S. Venture Partners (USVP) LLC
d. Rockport Capital Partners LLC.
Both agencies have acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests. The Department of Energy provided two compact discs on October 7, 2011, that contained a partial response to the request while noting that “[a]dditional responsive documents exist and are being reviewed in preparation for public release.” However, to date no further response has been received.
The Office of Management and Budget has failed to produce any records responsive to Judicial Watch’s request or demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production. Nor has it indicated whether or when any responsive records will be produced.
“Our new FOIA lawsuits show the Solyndra scandal is heating up and that the Obama administration is in cover-up mode,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The American people are set to lose $535 million dollars and want to know why it happened. Obama administration lies and potential criminal misconduct by high-ranking government officials make this a scandal of the first order.”
A Justice Department program that annually distributes hundreds of millions of dollars to combat juvenile delinquency is under fire for giving a famously corrupt leftist group—Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)—money that was fraudulently spent.
It marks the latest of several controversies for the DOJ’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) which has managed to maintain a copious budget through the years despite multiple allegations of cronyism. During the George W. Bush Administration, the OJJDP was accused of giving money to politically-connected groups that didn’t necessarily meet the agency’s goals.
This week the DOJ Inspector General released a report that exposes corruption surrounding a $138,130 grant that OJJDP awarded to an ACORN branch in New York City. The audit found that there were internal control weaknesses, unsupported grant expenditures, lack of contractor monitoring, weaknesses in budget management, inadequate grant reporting, unmet conditions and deficiencies with the program’s overall performance.
The IG also describes the New York group as a “pass-through entity” for ACORN, the crooked nonprofit that’s raked in huge sums of taxpayer dollars over the years. In 2009 Congress actually passed a law (Defund ACORN Act) to ban federal funding for ACORN after a series of exposés about the group’s illegal activities, which include fraudulent voter registration drives and involvement in the housing market meltdown. The group also has close ties to President Barack Obama.
Earlier this year a Judicial Watch probe found that the Obama Administration violated the ban on federal funding for ACORN by giving the beleaguered group nearly $80,000 to “combat housing and lending discrimination” against minorities. After sorting through droves of government records, Judicial Watch investigators discovered that an ACORN affiliate in New Orleans, ACORN Housing Corporation Inc., got $79,819 as part of a larger $40 million allocation to “fair housing organizations” that educate the public and combat discrimination.
This year Judicial Watch also published a special report (“The Rebranding of ACORN”) about the organization’s transformation into various spinoffs and affiliated groups. Amid a massive fraud scandal and a series of criminal probes, ACORN supposedly dismantled but the reality is that it simply changed its name. For instance, under the rebranding New England United 4 Justice, ACORN has been one of the driving forces behind the movement to end economic segregation and social injustice in the U.S. (Occupy Wall Street).
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained three new documents that provide additional information about Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) while she served as solicitor general. Justice Kagan has said she was not actively involved in the Department of Justice (DOJ) discussions regarding Obamacare. Moreover, the Supreme Court justice did not recuse herself from the High Court decision in April 2011 not to “fast-track” for Supreme Court review Virginia’s lawsuit challenging Obamacare.
The following are highlights from the documents obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed on February 24, 2011. (Judicial Watch’s lawsuit has been consolidated with a similar FOIA lawsuit that had been first filed against the DOJ by the Media Research Center.):
- An October 13, 2009, exchange between Kagan and former Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal. Katyal informs Kagan, “We just got Snowe on health care,” referring to Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). (The bulk of the email exchange reflects a discussion about Kagan, and also provides instructions regarding a hiring decision within the agency, although the nature of the position is unclear. When Katyal asks if Kagan wants to handle the hire via email or in person meeting, Kagan responds, “In person. I’ll call a meeting when I return.”)
- A March 21, 2010, email from Kagan to then-Senior Counselor for Access to Justice Laurence Tribe: “I hear they have the votes Larry!! Simply amazing…” Tribe responds, “So healthcare is basically done! Remarkable.”
- A March 16, 2010, email from Kagan to David Barron, then-acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, asked if he had seen an article by Michael McConnell published in the Wall Street Journal that discussed a strategy by Democrats to “‘deem’ ObamaCare into Law without voting.” “Did you seee [sic] Michael McConnell’s piece in the wsj?” Kagan writes in an email with the subject line “Health care q.” “YES, HE IS GETTING THIS GOING,” replied Barron.
“These new emails are bound to raise additional questions about whether Justice Kagan ought to participate in High Court deliberations on Obamacare. Certainly, if these documents were known at the time of her confirmation, there may have been quite a different Senate debate. The Obama Justice Department dumped these documents just before a holiday weekend, hoping they would go unnoticed. This slow-walking of documents out of the Obama Justice Department is scandalous and makes one wonder what other information they are sitting on,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
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- All records of communication, contracts and correspondence between ATF Director Kenneth E.
Melson and any official, officer, or employee of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) regarding ATF Phoenix Operation Fast and Furious.
- All records regarding, concerning, or related to, the October 26, 2009 meeting/telephonic conference call between DAG David Ogden, Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Lanny Breuer, ATF Director Melson, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Michelle Leonhart, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller, and other DOJ officials regarding the Southwest Border Strategy (including, but not limited to, any agendas, minutes, transcripts, notes, or presentations).
- All records prepared for, or submitted to, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform regarding, concerning, or related to, ATF Operation Fast and Furious.
Judicial Watch filed a similar FOIA request with ATF on the same day. Neither agency has responded by the statutorily mandated deadline, prompting Judicial Watch’s lawsuit.Judicial Watch is investigating the genesis of the Fast and Furious operation, which was reportedly discussed during the October 26, 2009, telephonic conference call, as well as information being provided to and/or withheld from Congress.“We’ve asked for basic information and we haven’t received one document from the Department of Justice or ATF regarding Fast and Furious. And, given their dissembling, Justice and ATF are apparently in cover-up mode. We think it is important that an independent investigation of this scandal take place and our lawsuits are a good way to do it,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.