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Judicial Watch, the public interest organization that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has uncovered an intelligence document detailing the September 2004 attack by Chechen Islamic militants on a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia, in which 380 of the 1,100 hostages (children, parents, teachers, and visitors) held captive for three days were murdered. The document was obtained from the State Department by Judicial Watch in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on August 26, 2005.

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The document, jointly released by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is dated October 12, 2004, and analyzes the Beslan terrorist attack with a view toward gleaning lessons for potential attacks on schools in the United States. While the ultimate conclusion of the report is that such attacks pose no immediate threat to the U.S., the bulletin details “several items that law enforcement, school administration and security personnel may consider when developing school security and emergency response plans.”

According to the Department of Justice Program Office, the Obama administration blocked out these recommendations, citing a “deliberative process exemption,” which Judicial Watch is appealing.

Operational details discussed in the bulletin regarding the raid on the Beslan school include transportation, techniques for overcoming security, prepositioning of weapons and explosives, terrorist surveillance and planning, controlling hostages by separating children from parents and teachers, and terrorist efforts to thwart Russian government counterterrorism techniques and teams. The bulletin highlights Russian failures at the scene include failing to implement a comprehensive response plan and failing to establish an effective cordon around the school during the incident. The bulletin closes with the observation that “Emergency medical treatment for children is significantly different from adults and should be factored into any plan or exercise.”

Previously, Judicial Watch uncovered a Defense Intelligence Agency document detailing al-Qaida’s 1998 activities in Chechnya, which included a “direct route to Chechnya from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Turkey and Azerbaijan.”

“The alleged purpose of the intelligence briefing was to glean information to help protect school children from a potential terrorist attack. What sense does it make for the Obama administration to keep secret the bulletin’s important recommendations for schools and emergency responders? The Chechen terrorists behind Beslan have been tied to al-Qaida. Importantly, these terrorists groups in Chechnya first used many of the terrorists techniques that became widely adopted elsewhere, such as IED’s and the use of women suicide bombers,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

As the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches the U.S. government still lacks a system to adequately protect the nation, despite investing hundreds of billions of dollars and huge amounts of manpower to fulfill the mission.This may seem unbelievable to most Americans considering that a monstrous federal agency (the Department of Homeland Security—DHS) with more than 200,000 employees and a $50 billion annual budget was created after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Never the less, typical of government, the investment has not quite paid off for U.S. taxpayers.A new congressional audit released this week reveals that DHS must still address “weaknesses” and “gaps.”Over the years a number of probes, conducted by the same investigative arm of congress (Government Accountability Office—GAO) have reached similar conclusions. You’d think that DHS would have ironed out most of the kinks, considering the nation’s safety is at stake and all.Among this probe’s findings is that DHS still lacks an effective system to detect foreigners who overstay their visas like some of the 9/11 hijackers did or a reliable tool to detect explosives in luggage at airports. Despite investing huge sums of money, the agency has failed miserably to develop enhanced explosive detection technology that could help prevent another terrorist attack.DHS has also failed to ensue that air cargo screening is being properly conducted, the GAO found. This is nothing new and in fact has been documented in various audits over the years. As early as 2007, federal investigators found that only a small percentage of air cargo bound for the U.S. from foreign countries is inspected.Separate probes have exposed shameful lapses in security at many of the nation’s busiest airports. During covert exercises, guns and bombs regularly got past inept airport screeners from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Homeland Security agency created after 9/11 to secure mainly aviation. The agency also came under fire for approving background checks for a dozen illegal immigrants working in sensitive areas of a busy U.S. airport.These are all serious lapses that have occurred over the years and continue to take place. That’s why this latest tenth anniversary GAO report doesn’t bother making recommendations. In fact the GAO points out that it has made “about 1,500 recommendations to DHS” and the agency has “addressed about half of them.”

Four years and tens of millions of dollars later, the inept Homeland Security agency charged with protecting the nation’s public buildings from a potential terrorist attack or other violent acts still can’t do its job adequately.It’s yet another unbelievable—but true—story of how the U.S. government pours huge sums of taxpayer dollars into perpetually troubled agencies with little oversight and nothing to show for the investment. In this case the Federal Protective Service (FPS) can’t fulfill its mission despite getting $35 million to improve its notoriously deficient security system.With 1,200 full-time employees and 13,000 contract guards, the FSP is responsible for protecting 9,000 public facilities around the U.S. as well as the 1 million federal employees and members of the public who work in and visit them. But the agency, which has a $1 billion annual budget, has come under fire over the years for lacking properly trained guards who don’t carry out their duties.In fact, a few years ago a congressional probe revealed that security was so dismal at buildings guarded by the FSP that investigators easily smuggled explosive materials into ten facilities and constructed lethal devices that they carried around undetected. Incompetent guards failed to detect the explosives even though the brief cases that stored them went through the conveyer belt of an X-ray machine. In some instances guards didn’t even bother looking at the X-ray image as the explosives slipped by.The government’s solution was to give the FSP big bucks to correct the problem. But years later virtually nothing has changed, according to a new federal audit published this week by the investigative arm of Congress. In fact, the FSP created a flawed system that lacks a process to verify training and certification for more than 13,000 contract guards and doesn’t incorporate crucial security measures that were supposed to be implemented last year.It gets better. The system that was supposed to miraculously improve the agency’s performance was only supposed to cost $21 million, but the FSP has already blown $35 million and now claims it will take an additional $22 million before it works properly. Congressional investigators put it mildly by characterizing it as “significant expenditures” for a system that “is not functional.”

Despite getting more than $1 billion from the U.S. government to bolster security, the nation’s passenger train system—known as Amtrak—remains vulnerable to a terrorist attack because the money wasn’t spent efficiently to adequately protect the most vulnerable stations.It’s the last thing Americans need to hear in the tumult of an epic budget crisis and record-high unemployment, that tax dollars were wasted by yet another incompetent government agency with a bloated budget. It’s an old, worn out story that gets repeated way too often.In this case the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) failed to ensure that more than $1 billion in grants were appropriately spent to secure Amtrak’s 22,000 miles of passenger rail lines or its 500 stations sprinkled throughout 46 states. Nearly 30 million passengers use Amtrak annually and, to protect them from becoming victims of a terrorist attack, Homeland Security officials singled out high-risk stations in need of protection.Then they doled out the tax dollars but never bothered to follow up that the projects got done, according to a DHS Inspector General investigation. DHS never required Amtrak to develop a corrective action plan to address its biggest vulnerabilities, approved lower risk projects and didn’t document roles and responsibilities for the grant award process. “As a result, some rail stations and the traveling public may be at a greater risk to a potential terrorist attack,” the IG wrote in a report that was recently made public with extensive redactions.Investigators visited four high-risk stations and observed that Amtrak did not take actions to mitigate some of the “more critical vulnerabilities” that had been identified years ago. As an example, they said that at one unnamed station “terrorists could access….” The information was redacted for security reasons, no doubt. Other examples were completely blacked out in the report.The bottom line is that, $1 billion taxpayer dollars later, the nation’s train system is quite vulnerable to a terrorist attack. In fact, in its report the DHS Inspector General warns that terrorists will continue to target trains (remember Madrid and Mumbai?), explaining that “passenger rail stations are especially attractive to terrorist targets because of the large number of people in a concentrated area.” Furthermore, a terrorist attack in these areas with high passenger and cargo volumes could lead to a significant loss of life and economic disruption.Homeland Security officials took their spanking gracefully, essentially agreeing with the IG’s findings and promising to right the wrong. The agency concurred with all of the IG’s recommendations, which include ridiculously basic things like ensuring that “Amtrak uses grant funds to protect rail stations from terrorism.”

It may seem inconceivable but nearly a decade after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history the government has yet to develop or implement an adequate security program to keep foreign extremists from carrying out a sequel.Two recent reports illustrate this astounding failure by the government to protect the nation from a catastrophe similar to September 11, 2001. Several of the Middle Eastern terrorists who carried out that horrific foray entered the U.S. legally and remained in the country with expired visas while they planned their sophisticated plots.With that in mind, Congress allocated huge chunks of money to develop a reliable security system that would prevent a repeat. Incredibly, as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, critical gaps in the program allow terrorists to continue entering the U.S. It’s as if no lesson has been learned from the tragedies that violently ended the lives of thousands of innocent Americans.The lapse was brought to light recently after authorities discovered that two Iraqi nationals with terrorist ties had been living in Kentucky for several years. The men were granted visas to enter the U.S. despite having fingerprints that linked them to roadside bombs in Iraq. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul called for an investigation and last week the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held a hearing to look into the matter.After the hearing Paul said he remains “deeply concerned” that the U.S. continues issuing visas despite a backlog that hinders the screening process and allows potential terrorists to enter the country. “If our screening process is broken because of a backlog, then let’s fix it,” Paul suggested. “By continuing to allow people into the country without having all relevant information, we put ourselves in grave danger.”A separate federal audit made public on the same day of the senate hearing reveals that four “gaps” cripple the security program that’s supposed to prevent terrorists from entering theUnited States. Keep in mind that multiple federal agencies have joined forces and spent millions of taxpayer dollars over the last decade to perfect the failing system.Whether it’s bureaucracy, incompetence or a combination of both, it’s not effective and terrorists continue to enter the U.S. with government-approved visas like the 9/11 hijackers. Why? Because the U.S. doesn’t share information about known and suspected terrorists with foreign governments, doesn’t address the use of fraudulent travel documents—including easily counterfeited or doctored low-quality passports—and fails to combat corruption among immigration officials that allow terrorists to pass through checkpoints.Those who refuse to believe that their government can be so negligent need only read the summary of the 44-page report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress. It offers appalling details and examples of the seriousness of the matter. Agencies mentioned in the in the report include the departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security.

Did Obama Justice Department Protect Alleged Terrorist-Connected Omar Ahmad for Political Reasons?

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Washington, DC — June 28, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to respond to its request for public records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 11-01121)). The documents relate to a decision by the DOJ not to prosecute the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its cofounder Omar Ahmad, who has been linked by federal investigators to the terrorist group Hamas. The decision not to prosecute reportedly was made over the objections of special agents of the FBI and prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas, Texas.
On May 9, 2011, Judicial Watch sent a FOIA request to the DOJ’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) seeking access to the following:

  • The March 31, 2010 memorandum entitled “Declination of Prosecution of Omar Ahmad from
    Attorney General David Kris to Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler.
  • “Any and all communications, contacts, or correspondence between the Office of the Attorney General (AG), the Office of Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Office of the Associate Attorney General (Assoc. AG) and the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) or any CAIR groups concerning, regarding, or relating to the prosecution or declination of prosecution of Omar Ahmad.”
  • “Any all communications, contacts, or correspondence between the Office of the AG, the Office of the DAG, or the Office of the Assoc. AG and the U.S. Congress concerning, regarding, or relating to the prosecution or declination of prosecution of Omar Ahmad”
  • “Any and all communications, contacts, or correspondence between the office of the AG, the office of the DAG, or the office of the Assoc. AG and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas concerning, regarding, or relating to the prosecution or declination of prosecution of Omar Ahmad.”

On May 9, 2011, Judicial Watch also filed a similar request with the DOJ’s National Security Division (NSD) seeking access to contacts and correspondence between the NSD and CAIR, Congress, and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas regarding the decision not to prosecute. The time frame for these requests is January 20, 2009, to May 1, 2011.Both DOJ divisions have acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s request, and were required to respond by June 14 and June 13, 2011, respectively. However, to date, both have failed to produce responsive documents or indicate when a response is forthcoming.Omar Ahmad served as senior executive on the Palestine Committee, an umbrella organization of U.S.-based Hamas support groups. Moreover, according to sworn testimony by an FBI agent during the prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which was convicted in 2008 of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas, Ahmad moderated a conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in October 1993, during which participants discussed ways to support Hamas.A ruling by U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis in the Holy Land Foundation lawsuit referenced the specific purpose of the Philadelphia meeting:

The Philadelphia conference essentially laid out the path that the Palestine Committee would take to accomplish its goal of supporting Hamas in the future. Wiretaps from the Philadelphia conference reflect that Ahmad participated…in a number of meetings related to the goals, strategies, and American perception of the Muslim Brotherhood. Topics discussed included redefining the perception of the suborganizations due to their work for the Palestinian cause, and the legal hurdles…faced when raising funds for Hamas and other Palestinian causes or when taking orders from overseas leaders.”

Judge Solis also declined an attempt by CAIR to remove the organization’s designation as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Holy Land Foundation lawsuit, ruling that the government “has produced ample evidence to establish the associations” of CAIR with Hamas.“The American people have a right to know why the Obama Justice Department decided against prosecuting a terrorist-connected Muslim extremist over the objections of federal investigators,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The case against Ahmad and CAIR is substantial. And given the politicization of the Justice Department under Eric Holder, it certainly appears that Justice officials dropped this case in order to appease radical Islamic groups. The pattern of this Justice Department is to stonewall even the most basic requests for information under the law. The cover-up and secrecy is, frankly, like nothing we’ve ever seen.”

Contact Information:
Press Office 202-646-5172, ext 305

Washington, DC — June 9, 2011

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has joined the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD). In the lawsuit Judicial Watch is seeking access “to all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency (No.11-00890)).
Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with the CIA on May 4.The CIA has 20 business days legally to respond to a FOIA request. While acknowledging receipt of the FOIA request on May 23, the CIA has since failed to produce any documents or demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production. The agency has not indicated whether, or when, any responsive records will be produced. Judicial Watch filed an identical FOIA request with the DOD on May 2, and is now engaged in an active lawsuit against the DOD, and now the CIA as well, for failure to produce the photos and videos.“The American people by law have a right to know basic information about the killing of Osama bin Laden. President Obama’s personal reluctance to release the documents is not a lawful basis for withholding them. The Obama administration will now need to justify its lack of compliance in federal court. This historic lawsuit should remind the administration that it is not above the law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

The Homeland Security agency primarily responsible for shielding the country from foreign threats and removing dangerous illegal immigrants has been quite busy confiscating internet websites that help users download copyrighted music and movies.Its part of the Obama Administration’s effort to regulate the internet and control its content, though the official explanation is that the government simply wants to crack down on piracy and protect intellectual property. The feds are seizing the domains seemingly at will, according to industry insiders who claim that many don’t even host copyrighted material.So far Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has shut down 128 file-sharing music and movie websites as part of “Operation In Our Sites.” Anyone who clicks on the confiscated domains is greeted with a message that says they’ve been seized by ICE-Homeland Security investigations and reminds that copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.Six websites were seized over the weekend, according to a blog that covers digital issues and has closely tracked the government operation since it was launched last year. All were shut down without warning because they were “associated with copyright infringement and counterfeiting.” The owner of one domain said the seizure was “pointless” and will soon be back with a different name.Halting the unauthorized sharing of hip-hop tunes may seem strange for a federal agency that claims on its web site to have a primary mission of promoting homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration. All the while, ICE fails to do its most important job of deporting violent illegal immigrant criminals and punishing companies that knowingly hire large numbers of undocumented workers.A number of cases in the last year help illustrate the agency’s shortcomings in these areas. For instance a drunken illegal alien with a criminal history and a revoked license killed a nun inVirginia because ICE released him on his own recognizance after two previous arrests. Judicial Watch has sued the Department of Homeland Security for records related to how the agency dropped the ball in the tragic case.A few weeks after the nun’s death another illegal alien, released by the agency while he awaited deportation, killed two people in a working-class Massachusetts city. A number of similar cases have also been reported through the years.ICE has also been derelict in punishing companies that hire large numbers of illegal immigrants, even after audits determine rampant violations. Internal ICE records obtained by a Houstonnewspaper last year reveal that the agency has allowed hundreds of companies throughout the U.S. to get away with hiring illegal aliens by closing audits that determine high percentages of workers with “questionable” documents. Maybe if the businesses download pirate music, they’ll get busted.

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