From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Judicial Watch Uncovers New Report Detailing Sharp Increase in Violence on Mexican Border
If you’ve been reading this Weekly Update for any length of time, you know that Judicial Watch has been tracking the deteriorating situation on our nation’s southern border very closely. Judicial Watch has led the charge to uncover government documents detailing hundreds of intentional incursions by Mexican government operatives into the United States in recent years.
This week we learned that the situation is getting worse.
On Tuesday, we released a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report titled, BorderStat Violence, FY 2008 Year in Review, which documents a sharp increase in violence on the U.S. border with Mexico. Judicial Watch forced the allegedly transparent Obama administration to release this document through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit we filed against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on January 27, 2009.
Here are the headlines:
There were a total of 147 incursions at and between the Ports of Entry for all Customs and Border Protection (CBP) components for FY 2008 when compared to 32 incursions for FY 2007, an increase of 359%.
There were 1,325 incidents of violence occurring at or between the Ports of Entry against CBP Agents and Officers, resulting in a 23 percent increase from 1,073 in FY 2007.
97 percent of all incidents of violence against CBP Agents and Officers occurred on the southwest border.
The San Diego sector sustained the largest increase in assaults, 48 percent, for FY 2008 when compared to FY 2007. The Yuma sector experienced the largest decrease, 56 percent.
There were 227 assaults against CBP Officers at the Ports of Entry in FY 2008 as compared to 85 in FY 2007, an increase of 167 percent.
In the face of what is obviously an indisputable crisis on our border with Mexico, what has been the Obama administration’s response?
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano recently turned down an offer for increased funding from the Senate Committee on Homeland Defense to address the problem of violence on the southern border. The Obama administration also rejected an appeal from Texas Governor Rick Perry and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops to help quell border violence. Instead, the Obama administration announced a plan to temporarily send 360 federal agents to the border, a plan which has little chance of succeeding.
The Obama administration has been tone deaf on the issue of border security. Our Border Patrol agents are being attacked and our sovereignty violated at alarming rates. The symbolic gestures offered by the administration are virtually meaningless in light of these numbers. When will the Mexican government be held to account for its purposeful incursions into our sovereign territory?
It can’t be soon enough.
In the meantime, we think there may be more documents that are being illegally withheld by Obama’s DHS. So it looks like our court fight will continue.
Democratic Congresswoman Snared in Influence-Peddling Scandal
Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman is at the center of a media firestorm this week due to an influence-peddling scandal involving two lobbyists, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a coveted post as head of the House Intelligence Committee.
One of the leading House Democrats on intelligence matters was overheard on telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency agreeing to seek lenient treatment from the Bush administration for two pro-Israel lobbyists who were under investigation for espionage, current and former government officials say.
The lawmaker, Representative Jane Harman of California, became the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee after the 2002 election and had ambitions to be its chairwoman when the party gained control of the House in 2006. One official who has seen transcripts of several wiretapped calls said she appeared to agree to intercede in exchange for help in persuading party leaders to give her the powerful post.
There was really one party leader in the Harman gang’s crosshairs, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And here’s how the quid pro quo was supposed to work. Harman would work her contacts in the Bush administration to get the two lobbyists, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, off the hook. And, in exchange, Rosen and Weissman would pressure their billionaire friend, Haim Saban, to withhold campaign contributions from Speaker Pelosi unless Harman was named chair of the committee.
Looked good on paper. It did not work in practice.
Harman apparently overplayed her hand. Pelosi, reportedly disinclined to name Harman to the position due to some personal issues between the two Democratic leaders, was apparently annoyed at the aggressive lobbying campaign initiated by Harman. Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes ultimately earned the post. Pelosi has admitted that she had been briefed on the Harman wiretaps, but did nothing about it (except maybe deny Harman the coveted Intelligence Committee post).
Nonetheless, during an event on Tuesday, Pelosi called Harman a "patriotic American" who would never do anything to hurt her country.
We shall see.
There’s another angle to this story that reflects poorly on the Bush Justice Department. According to Congressional Quarterly, a preliminary Justice Department review of the Harman scandal was halted by former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez because he wanted Harman’s help in convincing the New York Times not to publish an article that exposed the government’s secret terrorist surveillance program. The Gonzalez part of the story is still developing, but if true is absolutely outrageous.
The speculation now is that the Obama Justice Department, thanks to adverse court rulings, is prepared to drop the case against Rosen and Weissman. (Apparently disclosing national defense secrets isn’t really much of a crime these days.)
As for Harman? Well, according to press reports, the Democratic congresswoman signed off on one of her calls with the lobbyists saying, "This conversation doesn’t exist." Well, the conversation did exist. And apparently the government has the tapes to prove it.
Will Pelosi now hold Harman to account? Ask her directly at (202) 225-4965.
Feinstein Accused of Helping Funnel Money to Husband — Again
Senator Feinstein is apparently at it again, allegedly abusing her position in Congress to help line her husband’s pockets.
On the day the new Congress convened this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband’s real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms, the Washington Times reported on Tuesday.
Mrs. Feinstein’s intervention on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was unusual: the California Democrat isn’t a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance payments – not direct federal dollars.
Feinstein apparently made the initial offer to secure funds for the FDIC, just a few days before the agency awarded Blum’s firm the lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties.
So, in other words, at the very least it appears Senator Feinstein greased the wheels at the FDIC with an offer of a large chunk of cash at the very moment the agency was considering Blum’s firm for a lucrative contract. Then once her husband got the deal, she delivered the goods.
As you are probably aware, Senate ethics rules state that members must not only avoid conflicts of interest but also "the appearance of a conflict of interest."
Feinstein has obviously failed this test.
Of course the California Democrat denies there is any connection between the legislation and the contract awarded to her husband. But there is a precedent for this type of corrupt behavior by Feinstein.
As you may recall, in 2007, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on military construction, Feinstein reviewed military construction government contracts, some of which were ultimately awarded to URS Corporation and Perini, companies then owned by Blum. While the Pentagon ultimately awards military contracts, there is a reason for the review process. The Senate’s subcommittee on Military Construction’s approval carries weight. Senator Feinstein, therefore, likely had influence over a decision making process that enriched her husband (and herself!).
And here we are again.
The latest Feinstein scandal is a good example of how politicians can enrich themselves with taxpayer dollars. It is also a good example of how the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac mess is not about markets out of control, but corrupt government meddling that puts our entire financial system at risk.
My colleagues on our investigations team are sending out a Freedom of Information Act request out today on the Feinstein scandal.
So this issue won’t be going away for Senator Feinstein.
Until next week…
Tom Fitton President
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