MARCH 10, 2009
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents from the Department of Defense (DOD) detailing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s multiple requests for military air travel. The documents, obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), include internal DOD email correspondence detailing attempts by DOD staff to accommodate Pelosi’s numerous requests for military escorts and military aircraft as well as the speaker’s last minute cancellations and changes. The following are a few highlights from the documents, which are linked in full below:
- In response to a series of requests for military aircraft, one Defense Department official wrote, "Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi’s team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?…[T]here’s no need to block every weekend ‘just in case’…" The email also notes that Pelosi’s office had, "a history of canceling many of their past requests."
- One DOD official complained about the "hidden costs" associated with the speaker’s last minute changes and cancellations. "We have…folks prepping the jets and crews driving in (not a short drive for some), cooking meals and preflighting the jets etc."
- The documents include a discussion of House Ethics rules and Defense Department policies as they apply to the speaker’s requests for staff, spouses and extended family to accompany her on military aircraft. In May 2008, for example, Pelosi requested that her husband join her on a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) into Iraq. The DOD explained to Pelosi that the agency has a written policy prohibiting spouses from joining CODEL’s into combat zones.
- Documents obtained from the U.S. Army include correspondence from Speaker Pelosi’s office requesting an Army escort and three military planes to transport Pelosi and other members of Congress to Cleveland, Ohio, for the funeral services of the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Pelosi noted in her letter of August 22, 2008, that such a request, labeled "Operation Tribute" was an "exception to standard policy."
- The documents also detail correspondence from intermediaries for Speaker Pelosi issuing demands for certain aircraft and expressing outrage when requested military planes were not available. "It is my understanding there are no G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable…The speaker will want to know where the planes are…" wrote Kay King, Director of the House Office of Interparliamentary Affairs. In a separate email, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, King writes, "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset [s]peaker."
- During another email exchange DOD staff advised Kay King that one Pelosi military aircraft request could not be met because of "crew rest requirements" and offered to help secure commercial travel. Kay King responded: "We appreciate the efforts to help the codel [sic] fly commercially but you know the problem that creates with spouses. If we can find another way to assist with military assets, we would like to do that."
Speaker Pelosi came under fire in 2007 for requesting a 42-seat Air Force carrier to ferry the Speaker and her staff back and forth between San Francisco, CA and Washington, DC. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was allowed access to a 12-seat commuter jet for security reasons after the events of 9/11.
"Taken together, these documents show that Speaker Pelosi treats the Air Force like her personal airline," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "Not only does Speaker Pelosi issue unreasonable requests for military travel, but her office seems unconcerned about wasting taxpayer money with last minute cancellations and other demands."
- Pelosi staff emails
- Pelosi staff emails
- Pelosi staff emails
- Pelosi authorization letters
- DOD FOIA response letter
- Documents regarding travel on military aircraft in the custody of the US Air Force
- US Air Force Weekly Travel Reports
- Pelosi authorization letters and CODEL participants lists from the US Army
- Pelosi authorization letters and CODEL and Tribute documents from the US Navy
- DOD documents regarding former Speaker Dennis Hastert’s use of military aircraft
- Comparison of Pelosi and Hastert flights