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September 9, 2011
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Can you believe it has been ten years?
As we head into the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, most Americans will no doubt reflect upon where they were when they first learned of the terrorist attacks. I was sitting on the tarmac at Dulles Airport about to make a trip to Los Angeles for a television appearance on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. Our plane was grounded at the last minute just before takeoff.
Unfortunately, the late conservative commentator and attorney Barbara Olsen, who was also heading out to do the show, was not so fortunate. Barbara was on another flight, American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the west side of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. All 64 people on the plane died, along with 125 innocent people who were in the Pentagon that morning ten years ago.
Our first thoughts on a weekend like this, when we individually remember the attack (or suffer through politically correct official remembrances), are about those murdered that day (you can read all of their names here) and the families and friends they left behind. My guess is that you won’t see the media or many politicians focus on the details of the murders from that day – those who burned to death; fell from the sky at the Twin Towers; or who were vaporized as their planes were turned into missiles. The grim details will be avoided because it might remind people of the evil we face from the Islamic jihadists abroad and in our midst – and justify strong action against and investigations of Islamic radicals, some of whom have been guests of the White House (in both the Bush and Obama administrations).
- Another Half A Mil For “Environmental Justice”
- Food Stamps Become Lucrative Biz
- Illegal Immigrants Fight To Keep Driver’s License
- $4 Mil To House 12 Homeless People
- 10 Years After 9/11, “Weaknesses, Gaps” In Homeland Security
- Health CEO Who Bilked Govt. In Charge Of Obamacare Oversight
- County Bans ICE Holds, Even For Felons
Our next thoughts are about the heroes of 9/11 – the firefighters and police officers who ran headlong into the burning Twin Towers without a thought about their own safety; the ordinary citizens walking the streets of New York lending aid and comfort to the victims and to each other; and ultimately, to the members of our U.S. Armed Forces who have answered the call to hunt down the terrorists, including bin Laden, and terrorist sympathizers responsible for the murder of our fellow American citizens.
And then our thoughts turn to uncovering why the terrorist attacks occurred, seeking justice for those responsible and to making sure nothing like this ever happens again. But I fear our leaders have lost their nerve or, in the case of the Obama administration, are sometimes more concerned about advocating for the alleged rights of terrorists than for the security of the United States. The fact that the co-conspirators of 9/11, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are in our custody, but have yet to face justice and be executed, is an outrage that almost defies belief.
Judicial Watch has always believed in a strong national defense and has, for instance, worked with whistleblower FBI agents concerned about the government’s lackadaisical approach to terrorism well before 9/11. The following is a quick summary of some of our key initiatives related to the ongoing terrorist threat:
- In the days immediately following 9/11, Judicial Watch filed a complaint with the IRS against organizations “reportedly being used as money laundering front organizations for radical Islamic terrorists.” Some of these groups were eventually prosecuted and shut down.
- Judicial Watch filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Afghanistan on behalf of a husband whose wife was murdered at the Twin Towers that day.
- On May 16, 2006, Judicial Watch forced the Department of Defense (DOD) to release video footage of American Airlines flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon on 9/11. The videos had been kept secret by the DOD until Judicial Watch filed the FOIA request and related lawsuit stating that the DOD had “no legal basis” to refuse release of the footage. On September 15, 2006, Judicial Watch released additional videos from the CITGO gas station near the Pentagon, obtained from the FBI in response to the FOIA request. These videos, which received press coverage from virtually every major media outlet in the world, should have put to rest some of the ridiculous conspiracy theories regarding the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
- Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that exposed how 160 Saudi nationals, including members of the bin Laden family, were whisked out of the country in the hours following 9/11, even as commercial airline traffic was grounded. The documents we uncovered exposed some of the curious eagerness to let these potential suspects out of the country before they could be thoroughly investigated. (The Miami Herald had a disturbing story just this Wednesday about a Saudi family that suspiciously fled their Sarasota home two weeks before the 9/11 attacks. Investigators subsequently learned the house had been frequented by the hijackers, including Mohammed Atta, but did not report this finding to Congress and it was never mentioned in the 9/11 Commission report.)
- Judicial Watch uncovered documents from the State Department showing that the Clinton administration knew of bin Laden’s murderous intent, including specific threats against the United States, yet took no meaningful action to stop him. The astonishing documents discuss bin Laden’s travels, his prolonged stay in Afghanistan, financial networks, anti-Western threats in press interviews, his ties to the Khobar Towers bombing and his “emboldened” threats against U.S. interests.
According to a July 18, 1996, declassified report entitled Usama bin Ladin: Who’s Chasing Whom?, bin Laden’s many passports and his private plane allowed him considerable freedom to travel “with little fear of being intercepted or tracked.” The report also warns that bin Laden’s prolonged stay in Afghanistan “could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum.” The intelligence predicted that even if bin Laden were forced to keep on the move, it would prove no more than an inconvenience since, “…his informal and transnational network of businesses and associates remains resilient.” The report goes on to explain that bin Ladin on the move, “can retain the capability to support individuals and groups who have the motive and wherewithal to attack U.S. interests almost worldwide.” I can think of no other document that as effectively indicts the national security failures of the Clinton administration.
- Judicial Watch filed a bar complaint against former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger for stealing classified material from the National Archives, destroying three of the five stolen documents, and lying to federal investigators. Berger was “preparing” for testimony before the 9/11 Commission.
- Judicial Watch sued the Obama administration to obtain documents proving that so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” have been effective in obtaining information in the War on Terror. In fact, these techniques thwarted attacks planned for the U.S. and saved lives according to CIA documents.
(President Obama banned these techniques his first week in office. Two months later he overruled objections from national security officials and released documents detailing the government’s enhanced interrogation program but withheld information detailing the results of this program. Indeed, these techniques provided the information that enabled Navy Seals to ultimately kill bin Laden.)
- Judicial Watch sued DHS for documents related to the potential abuse of “S-Visas,” which are distributed to illegal alien terrorist informants.
- Judicial Watch Civil Litigation Director, attorney Paul Orfanedes, visited Guantanamo Bay in 2008 to monitor military commission proceedings against top 9/11 conspirators. Judicial Watch’s presence provided some balance to the ACLU and other radical groups advocating for the terrorist detainees.
- Judicial Watch successfully represented FBI Special Agent and whistleblower Robert Wright, and his colleague, former Special Agent John Vincent, who were censored and punished for attempting to tell the truth about the FBI’s botched terrorism investigations.
- Judicial Watch was an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s radical decision to bring 9/11 terrorists, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to justice in a New York civilian court. Ultimately, due to public outrage, Barack Obama and Eric Holder folded and announced Mohammed would be tried before a military commission.
- Judicial Watch sued the DOD for documents regarding Able Danger, a DOD operation that reportedly identified 9/11 terrorists, including mastermind Mohammed Atta, well before 9/11. However, DOD attorneys allegedly prohibited the sharing of this critical information with the FBI or other law enforcement authorities.
- Most recently, Judicial Watch sued the Obama DOD to obtain the bin Laden “death photos.”
This 9/11 anniversary is an opportunity to renew our commitment to justice for the terrorists who attacked our nation and who continue to this day to plot its destruction. It is also an opportunity to renew our commitment to rooting out the corruption and incompetence within our own government that enabled 9/11 to happen and continues to put our nation and its citizens at risk. Rest assured, Judicial Watch will continue to work aggressively on both fronts. And I will keep you updated on our progress in this space.
Judicial Watch Fights for Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement in GA, PA
As a federal judge temporarily blocked Alabama’s new law cracking down on illegal immigration, Judicial Watch was aggressive in two other states making sure our nation’s immigration laws are enforced. (As you can see, the battle over illegal immigration continues to rage nationwide and your Judicial Watch is right in the thick of it.)
First, on August 22, 2011, we filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, defending the State of Georgia’s immigration law, known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011 (IIREA). The case is on appeal from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, which enjoined Sections 7 and 8 of the new law, ruling that these provisions were preempted by federal law.
Let’s just take a quick look at these two provisions so you can see what is upsetting the ACLU and illegal alien advocates who challenged the law.
Section 7 of Georgia’s IIREA prohibits three types of violations by persons who have previously committed a separate criminal offense: 1) knowingly and intentionally transporting or moving an illegal alien to further the illegal’s stay in Georgia; 2) knowingly concealing, harboring, or shielding an illegal alien from detection in Georgia; and 3) inducing, enticing, or assisting an illegal alien to enter into Georgia.
Section 8 of the law authorizes a peace officer (local law enforcement) to verify the immigration status of any suspect the officer has probable cause to believe has committed a criminal violation. If the suspect is determined to be an illegal alien, the officer may detain and arrest the subject if doing so is authorized by Georgia and federal law.
That seems straightforward. Certainly nothing that should be considered controversial, let alone unlawful. But that didn’t stop open borders groups from challenging the law or the lower court from ruling against it.
As we stated in our amicus brief, we believe the District Court erred in its June 27, 2011, decision. The IIREA is consistent with federal law, the “historic police powers of the States,” and is supported by well-established court precedent:
In sum, rather than regulating immigration, the State of Georgia has merely invoked its well-established police power and codified the inherent, well-established investigatory powers of state and local police officers. Moreover, in doing so, it relied entirely on federal immigration standards and the federal government’s determination of whether a person is lawfully present in the United States.
Any state has the legal right and constitutional authority to protect its citizens against crimes associated with illegal immigration. (You may also be interested in our landmark legal defense of the State of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law, which is under attack by the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ). We represent Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce, who authored the legislation, as well as the entire Arizona State Legislature.)
In this particular case, Georgia’s new law gives the state’s law enforcement agencies modest new tools to combat sex trafficking, the drug trade, black market labor, and gang violence.
As I’ve said many times, the nation’s problems with illegal immigration enforcement begin at the very top. The Obama administration’s refusal to enforce our immigration law is a crisis and has forced the hand of states such as Georgia. We have a president who has not only failed to address the illegal immigration crisis at the federal level, but actively attacks states for merely trying to protect their citizens. We hope the appellate court pushes back against the Obama administration’s dangerous contempt for the rule of law.
Moving next to the state of Pennsylvania, on August 30, Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha testified before the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee on the “National Security Begins at Home” legislative package. This legislation is designed to address the illegal immigration crisis by shutting down public benefits, employment access and other economic incentives that draw illegal aliens to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Here’s a brief squib from Michael’s testimony, which you can read in full here.
[t]he “National Security Begins at Home” legislative package could not be clearer. Its intended purpose is to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania from the adverse effects of illegal immigration. As a whole, these legislative initiatives mirror federal objectives and further a legitimate state goal. They ensure compliance with federal law and attempt to curb the effects of the estimated 140,000 illegal aliens and to decrease the approximate $1.4 billion yearly costs associated to healthcare, education, incarceration, and other expenses for illegal aliens.
Illegal immigration is a 50-state problem. Every state is now a “border state” in terms of being impacted by the illegal alien invasion. And Judicial Watch is pleased to help any state it can that wants to support the rule of law.
JW Obtains Obamacare Documents from HHS
If you need evidence of the turmoil created by Barack Obama’s socialist health care overhaul, you could certainly look at the myriad of legal challenges currently working their way through the courts. (A date with the Supreme Court is a certainty.) Or you could look at the massive influx of applications from unions and companies scrambling to get out from under the law’s oppressive requirements by obtaining waivers from the Obama administration.
The Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced an arbitrary September 2011 cutoff for waiver applications, but right up to this deadline these exemptions continue to proliferate. According to The Hill, 106 new waivers were granted in July, bringing the total to 1,472 unions and companies that have been granted exemptions from Obamacare. And yet, the Obama administration continues to be super secretive regarding just how these waiver applications are evaluated.
But here’s one thing we do know. Approximately 50% of the waivers granted cover employees of unions even though union workers represent about 12% of the total workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics!
Why are unions seemingly getting a disproportionate number of waivers? That’s just one of many questions at the center of a Judicial Watch investigation.
Recently, for example, we obtained 3,497 pages of Obamacare documents from the Obama HHS pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed on January 4, 2011.
The records include internal HHS email correspondence and strategic documents, as well as email communications with Medicare and Medicaid, and with unions and companies applying for waivers. The records also include preliminary drafts and multiple versions of the health care plan itself, along with comments from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other agencies with concerns and suggestions for revising the plan.
The majority of the email communications relate to the waivers granted by HHS exempting companies and unions from the minimum annual cap on the amount payable to an individual in benefits. (Many companies argue these caps will force them to either drop coverage or raise premiums.) The Obamacare waivers enable these companies and unions to keep their existing plans in place until January 1, 2014, when covered expenses will no longer be limited by a cap. (Just wait and see the chaos that occurs should Obamacare somehow withstand judicial scrutiny and become the law of the land.)
In a general sense, Judicial Watch simply wants to know the criteria by which a company or union is granted one of these waivers. We want to know who got them and who didn’t. We want to know what conditions mandate approval and which mandate rejection. But HHS is mum on these questions. This first batch of 3,500 pages is, believe it or not, just the tip of the iceberg of the thousands of other documents the “transparent” Obama administration continues to withhold from us in contemptuous violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
Which is an especially troubling problem considering the fact that Big Labor seems to be getting big favors from HHS in the form of these waivers.
You may recall Judicial Watch previously obtained documents from HHS regarding closed-door health care meetings between Big Labor and Vice President Joe Biden, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and then-Obamacare Czar Nancy-Ann Min DeParle.
The documents include a list of all of the labor union leaders who attended a meeting with President Obama, along with brief biographical information on each participant. The list included: Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO; Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union; and Jim Hoffa, President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, among other Big Labor leaders.
What assurances did the Obama administration give to labor leaders in exchange for their support of the plan? The documents we previously uncovered suggest that the key provisions of the Obamacare law were written solely to address the concerns of union interests. (And now we see Big Labor getting 50% of the waiver haul.)
Speaking over Labor Day Weekend, at a rally for organized labor attended by Barack Obama, Hoffa attacked the Tea Party and urged attendees to get out the vote for Democrats: “President Obama, this is your army…Everybody here has got to vote. If we go back and we keep the eye on the prize, let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to America where we belong.”
So the unions appear to be getting what they want, a reprieve from Obamacare. And the Obama campaign is getting what it wants, union cash and support. And where does this leave the rest of America? In the dark. The Obama administration continues to push forward with Obamacare under a veil of secrecy, especially the details of these Obamacare waivers.
Waiving the law for 3.4 million Americans is unfair and an affront to the rule of law. And it seems corrupt when political supporters in Big Labor are getting a disproportionate number of waivers from Obamacare. Unions helped write Obamacare and then get exempted from it! And now Big Labor is paying back these waiver favors with campaign support for Barack Obama. Judicial Watch is committed to bringing as much transparency as possible to the thoroughly corrupt Obamacare, especially this ongoing abuse of the “waiver” process.
Until next week…
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