Judicial Watch • Eric Holder

Eric Holder Archives | Judicial Watch

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on September 5, 2013, it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking access to all records of communications between DOJ and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform relating to settlement discussions in the Committee’s 2012 contempt of Congress lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder. The contempt citation stemmed from Holder’s refusal to turn over documents to Congress related to the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal (Judicial Watch v. DOJ (No. 1:13-cv-1344)).

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Judicial Watch filed the FOIA lawsuit as part of its continuing investigation of the Fast and Furious scandal, where the Obama administration allowed weapons to “walk” across the border into the hands of Mexican drug cartels directly resulting in the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and countless Mexican citizens. On August 13, 2012, the House Oversight Committee sued Holder to enforce subpoenas in its probe of the Fast and Furious operation. On March 18, 2013, after a breakdown of settlement talks between the Committee and DOJ, a federal judge ordered the two sides to enter into mediation.

Judicial Watch now seeks access to the following records pursuant to its original FOIA request submitted on March 20, 2013:

Any and all records of communications, correspondence, and contacts between the Department of Justice and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform concerning or relating to a settlement in Committee on Oversight and Government Reform v. Holder, 1:12-cv-01332, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). Such records include, but are not limited to, records of the settlement discussion themselves. The timeframe for this request is October 1, 2012 to March 20, 2013.

By a letter dated May 3, 2013, the Civil Division of DOJ informed Judicial Watch that it would refuse to comply with the FOIA request citing “among other things, court-imposed non-disclosure requirements” involving the Oversight Committee contempt citation and resulting settlement talks. The DOJ response did not indicate whether a search for responsive records had been undertaken, how many responsive records were being withheld, or under which FOIA exemption the records were being withheld. By a letter on May 20, 2013, Judicial Watch appealed the Civil Division’s determination.

On June 19, 2013, the DOJ Office of Information Policy, again without identifying any FOIA exemption, affirmed the Civil Division’s action, stating, “Please be advised that the records responsive to your request are subject to court-imposed, non-disclosure requirements under the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Therefore, in this instance, the Civil Division lacks the discretion to consider this information for release to you.”

In its September 5 FOIA lawsuit, Judicial Watch asked the District Court to order the DOJ to comply with FOIA law by conducting a search for all responsive records, producing “any and all non-exempt records,” and enjoining the DOJ from continuing to withhold all non-exempt records.

This is not the first lawsuit Judicial Watch has filed against the Obama administration seeking records related to the Fast and Furious scandal. On October 11, 2011, the organization sued the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to obtain Fast and Furious records, including all records submitted to the House Committee on Oversight.  On September 13, 2012, it filed a lawsuit against the DOJ after the agency denied its October 2011 FOIA request for records regarding President Obama’s claim of executive privilege after Holder’s refusal to produce records for the House Oversight Committee. On February 15, 2013, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia John Bates stayed that FOIA lawsuit, relying, in part, upon the DOJ’s assertion that the case moving forward would interfere with the ongoing settlement discussions between the DOJ and the Oversight Committee.  After waiting for nearly seven months, Judicial Watch is now suing for the records of those purported settlement discussions.

“Eric Holder is using his legal battle with Congress to keep the American people from knowing the full truth about the Obama administration’s Fast and Furious killings and lies,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And yet, Eric Holder has been dragging out the ‘settlement’ talks to the point where Congress has called them a ‘waste of everyone’s time.’ The Obama gang would rather stall for time than defend the Obama’s administration secretive claims of executive privilege on Fast and Furious in court.”

Obama DOD: Mainstream Conservative Views “Extremist”

Did you ever think there would come a day in this country when the federal government would compare a person speaking about “individual liberties” to a member of the Klu Klux Klan? Unfortunately, such is the state of affairs in Obama’s America.

Judicial Watch recently obtained “educational” materials from the Department of Defense (DOD) depicting conservative organizations as “hate groups” and advising students to be aware that “instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”

The documents repeatedly cite the leftwing Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a resource for identifying “hate groups.”  (More on this contemptible group here.)

Pursuant to our original Freedom of Information (FOIA) request, filed on April 8, 2013, JW sought from DOD:  “Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the preparation and presentation of training materials on hate groups or hate crimes distributed or used by the Air Force.”

And here’s what we have received so far: 133 pages of lesson plans and PowerPoint slides provided by the U.S. Air Force.  Included in these documents is a January 2013 Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute “student guide” entitled “Extremism.”  The document is marked “for training purposes only” with the instruction “do not use on the job.”  Highlights include:

  • The document defines extremists as “a person who advocates the use of force or violence; advocates supremacist causes based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or national origin; or otherwise engages to illegally deprive individuals or groups of their civil rights.”

 

  • A statement that “Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publically espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”

 

  • [W]hile not all extremist groups are hate groups, all hate groups are extremist groups.”

 

  • Under a section labeled “Extremist Ideologies” the document states, “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements.  The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.”

 

  • In this same section, the document lists the 9/11 attack under a category of “Historical events.”

 

  • [A]ctive participationwith regard to extremist organizations is incompatible with military service and, is therefore prohibited.” [Emphasis in original]

 

  • The document details the “seven stages of hate” and sixteen “extremists’ traits.”

 

  • The SPLC is listed as a resource for information on hate groups and referenced several times throughout the guide.

 

  • Of the five organizations besides the SPLC listed as resources, one is an SPLC project (Teaching Tolerance) and one considers any politically or socially conservative movement to be a potential hate group (Political Research Associates).

 

  • Other than a mention of 9/11 and the Sudan, there is no discussion of Islamic extremism.

In April 2013, following a terrorist shooting at the Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters that occurred in August 2012, Judicial Watch filed multiple FOIA requests to determine what, if any, influence SPLC’s branding of hate groups had on government agencies.

On its website, the SPLC has depicted FRC as a “hate group,” along with other such mainstream conservative organizations as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, and Coral Ridge Ministries. At the time of the shooting, FRC president Tony Perkins accused the SPLC of sparking the shooting, saying the shooter “was given a license to shoot … by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Though the document released by Judicial Watch was obtained from the Air Force, it originated in the Pentagon, and is likely to have been used throughout the military.

After all, the language used by the DOD to characterize conservative Americans is eerily similar to descriptions used by the Internal Revenue Service to target “Tea Party” and conservative organizations, slamming these groups with unnecessary audits, releasing their confidential financial information and stonewalling the tax-exempt applications of organizations deemed hostile to the president’s Big Government agenda.

The Obama administration has a nasty habit of equating basic conservative values with terrorism. And now, in a document full of claptrap, its DOD suggests that the Founding Fathers, and many conservative Americans, would not be welcome in today’s military.

After reviewing this document, one can’t help but worry for the future and morale of our nation’s armed forces. And for our national security in general!

Consider this. At a time when the FBI is purging its training materials and organizational vocabulary of any term that might offend radical Islam – say, for example, the term “radical Islam” – the federal government has no problem tagging American citizens who believe in traditional American values with labels like “extremist” and “hateful.”

Make no mistake. The ramifications of these types of activities go far beyond hurt feelings. The Obama administration labels conservatives “extremists” to delegitimize opposition to its radical socialism and to justify government oppression against them. (See IRS.) And the Obama administration’s refusal to plainly identify and focus on radical elements within Islam demonstrates a willingness to overlook real threats to our security in the name of political correctness.

Department of Justice Sues Texas over Voter ID Law

Well that didn’t take long.  A little more than 60 days after the United States Supreme Court invalidated a key portion of the Voting Rights Act that required certain jurisdictions to obtain “pre-clearance” from the Department of Justice (DOJ) before enacting changes to election laws, Attorney General Eric Holder filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas over its voter ID law.

As reported by Politico:

Attorney General Eric Holder will sue to challenge the Texas voter ID law, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The Justice lawsuit will allege that the Texas law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which was among the elements of the law that remains in effect after the Supreme Court invalidated the preclearance requirements in June.

Justice will also seek to intervene in a separate lawsuit against Texas over the state’s redistricting laws, arguing that the state should still be forced to submit to federal preclearance.

“Today’s action marks another step forward in the Justice Department’s continuing effort to protect the voting rights of all eligible Americans,” Holder said. “We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights.”

For the attorney general to use the phrase “eligible Americans” to describe the people the DOJ intends to protect is simply laughable. Voter ID laws have only one purpose: To make certain that every vote cast is legitimate. The purpose of the DOJ lawsuit is political.  Liberals, specifically the Obama campaign organization, is focusing on turning Texas “blue” or Democratic.  And to the degree that liberals rely on illicit votes to get elected, voter ID is a hindrance to their plans.  Hence, the new lawsuit from politician Holder.

(We saw this playbook in action in 2012.  Click here for more on the DOJ’s scheme to try to steal elections for liberal candidates, including the president himself, and JW’s legal counter-campaign.)

Texas Governor Rick Perry labeled the DOJ’s lawsuit “an end run” around the Supreme Court. That sounds about right. Barack Obama and Eric Holder have rarely allowed the Constitution or the rule of law to obstruct their plans. So they are certainly not going to let a Supreme Court ruling stand in their way.

Our friends over at Pajamas Media, former Justice Department officials and election integrity experts J. Christian Adams and Hans von Spakovsky, have done a great job tearing apart the government’s legal arguments. (You can check out their analysis here.)

J. Christian Adams has characterized the government’s complaint as the work of “a progressive snake oil salesman,” noting that Holder has populated the DOJ’s Voting Rights division with attorneys that have “streaks of radicalism.” Click here for his full report compiled by Pajamas demonstrating how Holder has so egregiously politicized this Justice Department.

With respect to the federal government’s case against Texas, Hans Von Spakovsky, now with The Heritage Foundation, maintains that the Holder DOJ is engaging in a little fuzzy math to “distract” the public and, presumably, the courts. For example: citing minority population statistics that include convicted felons, illegal aliens, and individuals who are explicitly prohibited from voting, in order to beef up the numbers of people who the government claims could be “disenfranchised” by the Texas voter ID law.

Hans also points out that the DOJ justifies its lawsuit based upon examples of discrimination dating back to 1927. He closes with this recommendation for Texas public officials: “Texas needs to fight this case the same way South Carolina fought Justice over its voter-ID law — and won.”

Folks, this is a legal battle that can be won and must be won if we are to protect the integrity of our electoral process. As you know, Judicial Watch has been fully engaged in this epic battle, supporting voter integrity measures in states across the country, including Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania and, yes, South Carolina. You can be sure we will be active in Texas as well.

If our nation’s Department of Justice won’t stand for the rule of law, JW will step up to the plate.

Judicial Watch Considers Obamacare Challenge

How bad is Obamacare? In July, President Obama himself unilaterally rewrote the law. Why?  Businesses started cutting hours, slashing benefits and reducing staff to avoid paying hefty $3,000 per-employee penalty/fine/tax – whatever you want to call it – mandated by Obamacare.

And what did the Obama administration do? It simply announced that the employer mandate, scheduled to go into effect in January 2014, would be delayed one year.

“We have listened to your feedback,” Treasury official Mark Mazur said on July 2, announcing the delay in the implementation of the employer mandate, “and we are taking action.”

Is anyone buying the claim that the Obama administration’s move was in response to listening to feedback from American business?  Didn’t think so.

This is about politics. Hardest hit by the resulting job cuts were low-wage employees, a key voter demographic for Democrats. Remember, we’re heading into mid-term election season. The last thing the president needs is for his loyal base to abandon the Democrats’ cause at a time when he cannot afford to lose seats in Congress.

But regardless of the president’s reasons, the key question is this: Does he have the authority?

Per The New York Times, “Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and an author of the health law, questioned whether Mr. Obama had the authority to unilaterally delay the employer mandate. ‘This was the law. How can they change the law?’” he asked.

How indeed?

There is no provision in the law allowing for a delay. And, as pointed out by former judge Michael McConnell in the Wall Street Journal, who compared the president to King James II, Obama cannot simply refuse to enforce laws he doesn’t like (no matter the reason).

McConnell makes two key points on the matter:

  • “Article II, Section 3, of the Constitution states that the president ‘shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’ This is a duty, not a discretionary power. While the president does have substantial discretion about how to enforce a law, he has no discretion about whether to do so.

 

  • The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which advises the president on legal and constitutional issues, has repeatedly opined that the president may decline to enforce laws he believes are unconstitutional. But these opinions have always insisted that the president has no authority, as one such memo put it in 1990, to “refuse to enforce a statute he opposes for policy reasons.”

(Obviously the president’s position on the employer mandate is not constitutionally based. His administration successfully defended his law’s constitutionality to the Supreme Court.)

While delaying the employer mandate, the president did not rewrite the law to delay the “individual mandate,” which requires nearly all Americans to have Obama-approved health insurance by that same date or pay a tax penalty.

As a result, many Americans are caught in the middle.  They are obligated to have Obama-approved health insurance, but their employers are not obligated to provide it, at least for another year.  As a result, these Americans will be forced to purchase Obama-approved health insurance on an Obamacare-created health insurance exchange or pay the tax penalty. Either way, they’re out-of-pocket.

As you well know, Judicial Watch objects to the employer mandate, the individual mandate, and the entire Obamacare law. In fact, JW filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court making the argument that the mandate to purchase health insurance is flagrantly unconstitutional.

We also understand that, under the U.S. Constitution, the law can only be changed by legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president.  President Obama evidently wants to delay at least some of the ill effects of his health care scheme until after the 2014 congressional elections.  But politics do not trump the Constitution or the rule of law.

For this reason, we are seeking to mount a challenge to Obamacare based on the president’s attempts to rewrite the law. And you might be personally able to join in this legal effort.

If you are going to have to purchase Obama-approved health insurance (which would have been covered by the employer mandate) through an Obamacare-created health insurance exchange or pay a tax penalty because your employer is dropping or does not provide health insurance, you may have a claim to challenge President Obama’s unilateral rewriting of the law.

If you think your circumstances fit the bill and you would be interested in being a plaintiff in a challenge to Obama’s unconstitutional power grab, then please contact us by replying to this email address: [ obamacarechallenge@judicialwatch.org ]. And please feel free to share this email with others you think might also have a claim as described here.

President Obama has repeatedly defied the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law to pave the way for his Big Government agenda. This is one action we can take together to stop him. Please consider joining JW’s cause if you are eligible. And I’ll be sure to update you on the progress of our legal efforts in this space.

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful Labor Day weekend.

Until next week…

Tom Fitton

Judicial Watch Obtains Documents Revealing AG Holder’s Travel Expenses Exceeded $4 Million in Four Years

With a struggling economy and government debt piling up, President Obama promised to look at the budget line by line. Well, I’ve got a few lines he can examine. How about starting with the taxpayer funded personal junkets taken by Obama administration officials (including the First Family)?

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Last week, you’ll recall I told you Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit to get hold of the records detailing the costs of President Obama’s February 2013 “boys’ weekend” in Palm Beach, Florida, as well as the simultaneous vacations of Michelle Obama and Joseph Biden in Aspen, Colorado. (Our previous discoveries regarding the First Family’s vacations can be found here.)

This week JW placed Attorney General Eric Holder’s personal travel under the microscope, by releasing documents from the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealing that between March 27, 2009, and August 24, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder accrued $4,263,704.01 in total travel expenses. This included $697,525.20 in taxpayer-funded personal travel expenses. (We got these records in June in response to an August 2012 Freedom of Information Act request).

Altogether, Holder took 213 out-of-Washington trips during the 42 months for which we obtained records. His 31 personal trips during the time period included two trips to Martha’s Vineyard with a flight-only price tag of $95,184.50, as well as eight trips to Farmingdale, New York, at a flight cost of $118,553.71.

On September 9, 2010, Holder took a one-day personal jaunt to gambling mecca Atlantic City that cost the taxpayers $7,408 in flight expenses alone. (Wasn’t it President Obama who once cautioned American taxpayers that when “times are tough” the American people should “tighten their belts” instead of that “blowing a bunch of cash” on Vegas ?)

Holder’s first taxpayer-funded trip noted in the documents was to an April 2009 “US/Mexico Arms Trafficking Strategy Meeting” (government cost “unavailable”) concerning gun-running between the US and Mexico, an issue in which the attorney general subsequently said he had no involvement. Among other controversial Holder travel expenditures:

  • In April, 2011, Holder charged taxpayers $15,452.50 for a speaking engagement at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in New York City.
  • In June, 2012, Holder charged $38,108.18 in “business and personal” expenses to address LULAC, a liberal group that strongly supports amnesty for illegal aliens, in Orlando and New Orleans.
  • In July, 2012, Holder charged an additional $38,108.18, this time fully billed to the taxpayers, to speak before La Raza, another controversial pro-amnesty group, in Las Vegas.
  • Also in July, 2012, Holder flew on a Department of Defense plane, at unknown cost, to speak before the NAACP convention in Houston.

The documents we obtained also include Holder’s personal expense form reports for room service and lodging.

Now, to be fair, by long-standing presidential executive fiat, attorney general Holder is a “required use” official who must take government aircraft for all travel while in office due to “security and communications needs,” according to a February 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office report. The requirement dates most recently from 2004.

However, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, “For personal trips, Holder is required to reimburse the government for the equivalent commercial coach fare, which is often much less than the total trip costs according to the GAO.”

Here’s the thing. Holder doesn’t fly commercial. He usually flies on a Gulfstream V, the same private luxury jet owned by former Apple chairman Steve Jobs and billionaire businessman Mark Cuban. So no wonder the numbers do not square in favor of the taxpayer.

Now, as you might expect, JW’s records resulted in quite a bit of press interest. And on Tuesday night, I appeared on the Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor” program with guest host Laura Ingraham to discuss these luxury trips. (You can watch the segment here.)

In my interview with Ingraham, I noted the tone deafness of the Obama administration when it comes to these luxury vacations: “[Holder’s] personal trips cost $700,000 or so. He should be more sensitive to the costs his personal junkets are costing the American people…Our debt is out of control and they should cut these costs back.”

And then there is also the question of all of those alleged “official trips.” Take a look at the list above and note the timing of Holder’s speeches, and the groups involved.  Some of these 2012 trips were for speeches to leftist groups essential to the president’s reelection campaign. And, as I said on Fox News, if someone wants to call these specific trips “official business,” then I have a bridge to sell them.

(Of course, the Obama administration has so blurred the lines between official government business and Obama campaign business that it’s difficult to know where one leaves off and the other begins. This is not an excuse for wrongdoing. It’s just an observation on the DC shell game.)

We should hope these documents help Attorney General Holder understand the burden his unnecessary personal travel places on American taxpayers.  The notion that federal officials such as Holder have access to a fleet of luxury jets for discounted personal travel for “security” reasons should strike most Americans as a scam that needs to be reformed.  (And, in case you’re wondering, we criticize Republicans for similar travel abuse.  See this 2008 McClatchy news story, entitled “Attorney general’s private trips have cost taxpayers.”)

In the meantime, JW will continue to do what it can to bring the light of day the costs associated with these luxury vacations, hoping that public scrutiny might lead to some necessary changes.

Judicial Watch Goes to Court to End Los Angeles Illegal Immigration Sanctuary Policy

I’ve said this before in this space many times. Illegal alien sanctuary policies are deadly and dangerous. And right now, Judicial Watch is locked in a battle against the City of Los Angeles to put an end to a sanctuary policy that places the citizens of California at great risk.

In fact, on Monday, we will be in court on behalf of our taxpayer client, Harold Sturgeon, in a lawsuit that has been consolidated with another filed by the Los Angeles Police Protection League (the police union). The ACLU, on behalf of the Coalition for Humane Immigrants’ Rights of Los Angeles and LA Voice, has intervened to defend the LAPD policy.

You can read Judicial Watch’s Court documents here. But let’s quickly review the facts.

In 1994, the California Legislature enacted changes to the California Vehicle Code that required police officers, under certain circumstances to impound the vehicles of unlicensed drivers for 30 days. And here’s why:

  • At the time, an estimated 1,000,000 individuals were driving in California without a license, and an additional 720,000 were driving on suspended or revoked licenses.
  • More than 20% of drivers involved in fatal accidents were unlicensed drivers.
  • A driver with a suspended license was four times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than a properly licensed driver.

So this was a problem of “critical interest,” as the Legislature noted – one that was endangering the lives of the citizens of California. California legislators felt compelled to act, and act they did, implementing changes to the California Vehicle Code that stood unchallenged for 18 years.

That’s when Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and the Board of Police Commissioners decided to put the interests of illegal aliens – who comprise “the vast majority of unlicensed drivers” –  ahead of the citizens of California by enacting Special Order 7, put into effect in April 2012.

As reported by the Los Angeles Daily News, Special Order 7 requires that “vehicles of unlicensed drivers will only be impounded for a day, if that person has insurance, valid identification, has not caused an accident and has not been cited previously for unlicensed driving. An exception may be made in some cases if a licensed driver is immediately available to drive the vehicle away.”

What possible sense does this make so far as the safety and well-being of the citizens of California are concerned? Not a bit. Nonetheless, Special Order 7 has accomplished its objective. The number of cars impounded dropped from 28,796 in 2011 to 16,242 in 2012. So one can surmise that thousands of unlicensed drivers have been allowed back on the roads during this policy, likely leading to more accidents and more deaths.

That’s why we’re in court. Now, let’s get to the legal arguments.

As Judicial Watch noted in its original complaint, according to the California Constitution and California Vehicle Code § 21, “a local government has no authority to regulate or control any matter covered by the California Vehicle Code unless such authority is expressly granted by the State of California….Because the provisions of Special Order 7 are not within the purview of any express authorization granted by the State of California Defendants…were without authority to enact Special Order 7…”

So, in other words, Special Order 7 was not only reckless and dangerous, but also unlawful from the start.

This argument seemed to find some favor in the Superior Court for the State of California, where the case now resides. On January 17, 2013, Superior Court Judge Terry Green refused to dismiss the lawsuit, indicating that he required additional information. The judge also suggested the policy might violate state codes, which Judicial Watch has argued in its court filings.

In the end, with the Motion for Summary Judgment, which will be filed with the court on Monday, our client “seeks to enjoin any further expenditure of taxpayer funds or taxpayer-financed resources to implement, enforce, maintain, or otherwise carry out the provisions of Special Order 7.” Our client further “seeks a judgment declaring that Special Order 7 is unlawful and void,” as it violates both the Vehicle Code and the California Constitution.

These are strange times indeed, when the people at the top of the nation’s third largest police department are flagrantly acting outside the bounds of law, placing the very citizens they pledge to serve and protect at risk. And for what purpose? To throw a bone to the radical illegal immigration crowd.

These types of policies must not continue. Stay tuned…

Judicial Watch Sues CIA for Guest List from bin Laden Assault Awards Ceremony Where Panetta Revealed “Top Secret” DOD Information

On a number of occasions I’ve noted that the Obama administration has taken a schizophrenic approach to the raid that led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

On the one hand, the administration refuses to release the bin Laden death photos and the details of the reportedly honorific burial the terrorist mastermind received at sea. Why? Because the information might harm our nation’s security by getting al Qaeda terrorists upset.

On the other hand, administration officials have improperly leaked information to two Hollywood filmmakers behind the film Zero Dark Thirty because the film was initially timed to boost President Obama’s reelection.

As exposed by liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd:

The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made ‘The Hurt Locker’ will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.

So when Judicial Watch later learned specifically that CIA Director Leon Panetta let loose some secrets at an awards ceremony with Zero Dark Thirty filmmaker Mark Boal in the room (and not properly credentialed), we knew records detailing the event would not be easy to obtain.

We were right. And now we’ve been forced, once again, to go to court to get them.

On June 21, 2013, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the CIA seeking access to records identifying attendees at the June 24, 2011, awards ceremony for individuals involved in the search for and killing of Osama bin Laden. The lawsuit also seeks all records of communications from CIA employees regarding the attendance of Mark Boal at the event.

Specifically, here’s what we’re after pursuant to our original December 19, 2012, FOIA request:

  • Any and all guest lists or other records identifying individuals who attended and/or were invited to attend the June 24, 2011 awards ceremony at CIA Headquarters for individuals involved in the search for, and killing of, Osama bin Laden
  • Any and all records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Central Intelligence Agency and any other party regarding the attendance of Mr. Mark Boal at the aforementioned awards ceremony.

By letter dated December 27, 2012, the CIA acknowledged receiving our request on December 19, 2012. The letter stated that it was unlikely the CIA could respond to the request within 20 working days as required by law, blithely adding, “You have the right to consider our honest appraisal as a denial of your request and you may appeal to the Agency Release Panel.”

Here’s the issue. Because the statement was not technically an “adverse determination” within the meaning of the law, no administrative appeal was possible. Therefore Judicial Watch had to file its June 21, 2013 FOIA lawsuit.

On June 5, 2013 Politico summed up the concerns regarding Panetta’s disclosures during the event:

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal.

Panetta also discussed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the awards ceremony, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.

Now, according to a CIA news release, the purpose of the ceremony was to honor “the dedication and commitment of CIA officers, military service members, and Intelligence Community partners for their work on the historic operation that concluded the hunt for Usama Bin Ladin.” But the guest list also included filmmaker Boal, who had been invited to attend what Fox News reported as “a speech classified as secret to a group of CIA attendees.”

During the speech, according to the draft Pentagon inspector general’s report, “Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name.” The draft report added, “Director Panetta also provided DoD information, identified by relevant Original Classification Authorities as TOP SECRET….”

Curiously, the final inspector general’s report omitted any reference to Panetta’s speech, a Pentagon spokesperson saying the matter had been referred to the CIA IG.

So what was Leon Panetta’s defense for his loose lips? “The CIA isn’t corrupt, it’s incompetent!”

A source close to Panetta said that he was unaware anyone without the proper security clearances was present at the event, which included both CIA and military personnel.

“He has no idea who all is in the audience. He was told everyone got the requisite clearances,” said the source, who asked not to be named.

Whether Leon Panetta was personally aware of Boal’s presence is an open question. (Reason number one why we need the records.) But what cannot be denied is that the Obama administration has knowingly provided classified details to the filmmakers while hiding behind a bogus “national security” argument regarding the photos and burial records.

For example, in August 2012 – after having repeatedly been told by the Obama administration that nothing inappropriate had been leaked – Judicial Watch obtained “overlooked” documents from the CIA and the Department of Defense (DOD) through a FOIA lawsuit regarding meetings and communications between government agencies, Boal, and film director Kathryn Bigelow, in which the filmmakers were apparently provided classified details about the bin Laden assault.

The documents, which the CIA and DOD held back for eight months, revealed that the Obama administration sought to have “high visibility” into bin Laden-related projects, and granted Boal and Bigelow unusual access to agency information in preparation for their film.

In a June 15, 2011, email to Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Benjamin Rhodes, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug Wilson noted that “Boal has been working with us and with the CIA (via George Little) for initial context briefings – at DoD this has been provided by Mike Vickers, and at CIA by relevant officials with the full knowledge and full approval/support of Director Panetta.”

Just one month after the Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit revelations, the Pentagon Inspector General made a criminal referral to the Holder Department of Justice (DOJ) implicating Undersecretary of Defense Michael Vickers in the improper release of classified information.  Obama administration officials later disclosed in sworn court documents related to the Judicial Watch lawsuit that the sensitive information released to Bigelow and Boal could cause an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk” if released to the public. To date, the Holder DOJ has failed to file any charges against those responsible for the leaks.

Panetta’s disclosures at the CIA ceremony with Mark Boal present, along with the leaks revealed in the earlier documents obtained by Judicial Watch, provide conclusive backing to the serious charge that the Obama administration has played fast and loose with national security information in order to help Hollywood filmmakers make a pro-Obama film.

In light of the Manning conviction and Snowden drama, it is clear that the Obama administration is more than a little two-faced when it comes to enforcing the law on illegal leaks.

Until next week…

Taxpayer-funded personal travel expenses alone totaled nearly $700,000 from March 2009 to August 2012

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained documents from the Department of Justice (DOJ) revealing that between March 27, 2009, and August 24, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder accrued $4,263,704.01 in total travel expenses. This included $697,525.20 in taxpayer-funded personal travel expenses.  The documents were released to Judicial Watch in June in response to an August 2012 Freedom of Information Act request.

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Altogether, Holder took 213 out-of-Washington trips during the 42 months for which Judicial Watch obtained records. His 31 personal trips during the time period included two trips to Martha’s Vineyard with a flight-only price tag of $95,184.50, as well as eight trips to Farmingdale, New York, at a flight cost of $118,553.71.  On September 9, 2010, Holder took a one-day personal jaunt to Atlantic City that cost the taxpayers $7,408 in flight expenses alone.

Holder’s first taxpayer-funded trip noted in the documents was to an April 2009 “US/Mexico Arms Trafficking Strategy Meeting” (government cost “unavailable”) concerning gun-running between the US and Mexico, an issue in which the attorney general subsequently said he had no involvement. Among other controversial Holder travel expenditures:

  • In April, 2011, Holder charged taxpayers $15,452.50 for a speaking engagement at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in New York City.
  • In June, 2012, Holder charged $38,108.18 in “business and personal” expenses to address LULAC, a liberal group that strongly supports amnesty for illegal aliens, in Orlando and New Orleans.
  • In July, 2012, Holder charged an additional $38,108.18, this time fully billed to the taxpayers, to speak before La Raza, another controversial pro-amnesty group, in Las Vegas.
  • Also in July, 2012, Holder flew on a Department of Defense plane, at unknown cost, to speak before the NAACP convention in Houston.

The documents also include Holder’s personal expense form reports for room service and lodging.

As attorney general Holder is a “required use” official who must take government aircraft for all travel while in office due to “security and communications needs,” according to a February 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.  The requirement dates most recently from 2004.  According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “For personal trips, Holder is required to reimburse the government for the equivalent commercial coach fare, which is often much less than the total trip costs according to the GAO.” Holder usually flies on a Gulfstream V, the same private luxury jet owned by former Apple chairman Steve Jobs and billionaire businessman Mark Cuban.

“I hope these documents help Attorney General Holder understand the burden his unnecessary personal travel places on American taxpayers,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “The notion that federal officials such as Holder have access to a fleet of luxury jets for discounted personal travel for “security” reasons should strike most Americans as a scam that needs to be reformed.”

On the same week that the U.S. House of Representatives found him in criminal contempt, the nation’s embattled Attorney General professed solidarity with a radical leftist Latino group, proudly celebrating its socialist mission of “uno para todos, todos para uno” (all for one and one for all).

It wasn’t enough for Eric Holder to earn the accolade of being the nation’s first sitting Attorney General to be found in criminal contempt by Congress for stonewalling the investigation of a disastrous experiment conducted by his office. Known as Operation Fast and Furious, the project allowed Mexican drug traffickers to obtain U.S.-sold weapons. Many of the guns have been linked to serious crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.

Judicial Watch has sued the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the various agencies that operate under it for records related to the Fast and Furious. As part of that ongoing investigation, last fall JW obtained internal government records that show the number of crimes connected to the failed gun-running venture is significantly higher than previously disclosed. This led to the broader congressional probe that Holder has impeded.

As the House publicly admonished him, Holder was at a fancy Disney resort in Florida praising a Latino civil rights group—League of United Latin American Citizens LULAC— best known for accusing a Mexican fast-food eatery of a “hate crime” for using a Chihuahua in a commercial. In the 1990s a top LULAC official accused the food chain of the hate crime by saying that “Mexican Americans are treated like dogs, they have to work like dogs, and now they’re being portrayed as dogs.”

Yet there was the country’s top law enforcement officer praising about 1,000 LULAC delegates at an upscale Disney resort, repeatedly chanting “all for one and one for all” in both English and Spanish. Holder bragged that his DOJ has filed more civil rights cases than in any previous period in the nation’s history and he highlighted an ongoing witch hunt against an Arizona sheriff known for cracking down on illegal immigration.

“I want to assure communities in Arizona and around the country, and you, that the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously enforce federal prohibitions against racial profiling and ethnic discrimination,” Holder told the crowd. He also assured that his department is pursuing “careful, thorough and independent” assessments of voter identification laws that Democrats assert discriminate against minorities.

He continued: “On these and other critical issues, you’ve succeeded in bringing a diverse range of partners together. You’ve proven the power of unity – and the virtues of diversity.  And you’ve breathed new life into the old adage that – more than 80 years ago – gave voice to LULAC’s mission and vision: Uno para todos, todos para uno.

This enduring ideal – of all for one, and one for all; and the common understanding – that, here in the United States, we rise and fall as one people, and that we will only succeed if we work together as one nation – has been at the heart of the success we’re gathered to celebrate today – and to advance. “

In a scary development, a major Obama fundraiser who defended a convicted al Qaeda terrorist will become the third highest ranking official at the Department of Justice (DOJ), which, ironically, is charged with defending the interests of the United States.

Northern California lawyer Tony West has been named Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, making him the No. 3 guy at the agency. In 2009 West, who helped Obama raise tens of millions of dollars as finance co-chairman of his first presidential campaign, was appointed to help run the DOJ’s civil division which represents the government, Congress and presidential cabinet officers and handles cases dealing with significant policy issues.

In a statement announcing the promotion this week, Attorney General Eric Holder says West has served the department with “professionalism, integrity and dedication.” Holder also mentions West’s work before coming to the DOJ a few years ago, including a stint as a Special Assistant Attorney General in California and a lengthier career at a large San Francisco law firm.

Conveniently omitted in the press release is that West represented convicted al Qaeda terrorist John Walker Lindh, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Lindh was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 while fighting against the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance as a member of the Taliban army. He actually pleaded guilty to aiding the Taliban and carrying explosives while fighting U.S. troops in the region.

Holder also knows a thing or two about defending terrorists. After all, he was a senior partner in a prestigious Washington D.C. law firm (Covington & Burling) that represented more than a dozen Yemeni terrorists held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. While Holder was a senior partner the firm employed a number of radical attorneys to provide the Islamic extremists with thousands of hours of free legal representation, according to a news report.

Another highlight in Holder’s resume is that he orchestrated Bill Clinton’s shameful last-minute pardons, including that of a fugitive financier and a pair of jailed domestic terrorists. In fact, shortly after the pardon scandal, Holder predicted that his public career was over. Under his leadership the DOJ has been embroiled in a number of high-profile scandals, including a gun-running operation (Fast and Furious) in which weapons were sold to Mexican drug cartels. One was later used to murder a federal agent. Judicial Watch has sued the DOJ to obtain records involving the operation.

 

How considerate of the Justice Department to finally cut back on the extravagant work conferences that stick it to U.S. taxpayers with exorbitant tabs for overpriced food, beverages and fancy party planners.Heads turned a few weeks ago when a Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General probe revealed that the bloated agency blew more than $120 million to host law enforcement conferences that featured “extravagant and wasteful” costs for food, beverages and event planning. The details were astounding.Examples listed in the inspector general’s report include $16 muffins for breakfast, $76 lunches, $10 cookies and candy bars that cost more than $7 each. The agency also wasted thousands on event planning “consultants” and their travel between venues. Considering the DOJ hosted nearly 2,000 conferences between fiscal years 2008 and 2009 that translates into $121 million.In a sampling of 10 conferences that took place in less than a year, investigators determined that the DOJ doled out more than $4.4 million. For 10 government conferences paid entirely with taxpayer dollars! A big chunk of it went to “wasteful” event planning services, food and beverages, according to the agency’s inspector general.This week Attorney General Eric Holder announced that, as part of the agency’s cost-cutting measures the DOJ will graciously limit conference spending to only those that may be “essential.” He also took the opportunity to pat himself on the back for already yielding “significant reductions in conference spending” during the first three quarters of fiscal year 2011. That means conference spending is down $14 million over the same period last year, according to Holder.“The Department of Justice is seeking ways to do more with less while we maintain our commitment to our critical law enforcement mission and our most important public safety priorities,” Holder said after announcing a series of other cost-cutting measures at the DOJ. He said the cost-saving will help the agency utilize its “limited resources in the most effective way possible.”Other measures that will save the agency some cash include streamlining operations, consolidating or reducing office space, a temporary hiring freeze and limiting travel and training. These brilliant ideas were discovered by the Attorney General’s Advisory Council for Savings and Efficiencies, which Holder credits with saving taxpayers $51 million. Created in 2010, the special council provides a framework to identify and implement practices for saving taxpayer money, realizing efficiencies and monitoring savings progress.

In what could be viewed as a waste of taxpayer resources during a financial crisis, Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has distributed $83 million in “second chance” grants to ensure that prison inmates become “productive, law-abiding citizens” upon completing their sentence.It’s part of an innovative plan devised last year by Attorney General Eric Holder to help convicts who may have difficulty integrating into society after serving time for major crimes. Holder created a special Federal Interagency Reentry Council he claims will help reduce recidivism, save taxpayer dollars in the long run and make communities safer.How? By bringing together numerous federal agencies to assist those returning from jail in becoming productive citizens. This, in turn, will save taxpayer dollars by lowering the direct and collateral costs of incarceration. Reentry council members include several Obama cabinet secretaries, including Ken Salazar of the Department of the Interior, Kathleen Sebelius at Health and Human Services, Tom Vilsack at the Department of Agriculture, Hilda Solis at the Labor Department and Arne Duncan at the Department of Education.Together they work to assist former inmates by, among other things, ensuring that they have access to federal benefits immediately upon release to “help stabilize the critical first days and weeks after incarceration.” Announcing the multi-million-dollar grant this week, Holder stressed that “we must use every tool at our disposal to tear down the unnecessary barriers to economic opportunities and independence so that formerly incarcerated individuals can serve as productive members of their communities.”The announcement came with a special brochure (“Reentry Myth Busters”) warning employers and others about laws that protect the “formerly incarcerated” when seeking jobs, housing and federal assistance or benefits, voting rights and Medicaid eligibility. The new publication insinuates that employers who don’t hire convicts violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion or sex. The reasoning is that automatically barring everyone with a criminal record is likely to limit the employment opportunities of workers because of their race or ethnicity.Here is another great myth buster. The federal government does not have a policy that precludes employment of people with criminal records from all positions. In fact, the federal government frequently employs people with criminal records as long as they have the “requisite knowledge, skills and abilities.” Agencies are actually required to consider people with criminal records when filling positions if they are the best candidates.Also noted is that most states don’t enforce a federal lifetime ban on convicted drug felons receiving welfare benefits. The states that bother to enforce the ban are listed so convicts can avoid them upon release. They include Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, South Dakota and West Virginia. Another myth buster is that people can get food stamps without an official state identification or a mailing address.

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