JANUARY 02, 2015
Judicial Watch on the Case: Three Lawsuits over Terrorist Release
Photos Show Bloody Consequences of Fast and Furious Corruption
Obama Continues to Fly High at Taxpayer Expense
District of Corruption Documentary Movie Now Available on iTunes
According to the Obama administration, the five Guantanamo terrorists they traded for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are “no longer a threat to U.S. national security.” That’s what now former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel concluded when he signed the document setting them free. But we’re not so sure. We’d like to know what kind of information the secretary used to make this determination. Did the five detainees have a genuine conversion experience during their time in prison? Are they no longer prone to violence? The American people deserve to have more insight into some very questionable decision-making. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) correctly observed that the dangerous terrorists released by Obama “are the hardest of the hard-core. These are the highest high-risk people.”
That’s why we have filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD) asking a federal court to force the Pentagon to respond to our FOIA request for this information.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl left his post and was held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan from June 2009 until May 2014. The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance and subsequent capture have become the subject of intense controversy. He was released on May 31, 2014.
There has been a fair amount of back and forth between Judicial Watch and the DOD, which has asked for some points of clarification. We took the opportunity to make it clear that copies of any “determinations” made by the Secretary of Defense indicating that the released detainees are no longer a threat to U.S. national security are not limited to the memos the secretary signed authorizing their release. They must also include documents that detail the rationale behind the release. The lawsuit, which was filed after the DOD failed to comply with our FOIA request, is actually the third we have filed in the Bergdahl case.
On November 18, 2014, Judicial Watch filed FOIA lawsuits against both the DOD and the State Department in an effort to obtain records concerning arrangements made between the U.S. government with third parties or another state regarding agreements and monetary payments to secure the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from captivity in Afghanistan.
Earlier, an August 22, 2014, Judicial Watch Corruption Chronicles article reported that the Obama administration violated “clear and unambiguous” law when it made the highly controversial, secret exchange:
The nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), confirmed this week that the president broke a “clear and unambiguous” law when he swapped the high-level terrorists for Bowe Bergdahl, an Army sergeant who went AWOL in Afghanistan in 2009. According to rules issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the violation is serious and can carry severe consequences. They include fines, imprisonment, administrative discipline, suspension from duty without pay or removal from office, the rules specifically state …
…Congress must be notified before acts of this magnitude are committed and the president completely disregarded the legislative branch. In fact the Department of Defense (DOD) failed to notify Congress at least 30 days in advance of the exchange, a flagrant violation of the law, and misused nearly $1 million of a wartime account to make the transfer, the GAO report says. The DOD used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, congressional investigators found. This means the DOD violated a measure known as the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from incurring obligations exceeding an amount available in appropriation.
The apparent violation of the Antideficiency Act, by the way, carries potential criminal penalties. I think it worth quoting the GAO’s summary of the penalties for violating the law:
Federal employees who violate the Antideficiency Act are subject to two types of sanctions: administrative and penal. Employees may be subject to appropriate administrative discipline including, when circumstances warrant, suspension from duty without pay or removal from office. In addition, employees may also be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.
In reference to Antideficiency Act, the GAO further details that violators:
“shall be subject to appropriate administrative discipline including, when circumstances warrant, suspension from duty without pay or removal from office.”
In addition, an officer or employee who “knowingly and willfully” violates any of the three provisions cited above “shall be fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned for not more than 2 years, or both.
It won’t surprise you to learn that the GAO reports that “no officer or employee has ever been prosecuted, much less convicted, for a violation of the Antideficiency Act.” If there is to be a first time, this might be it. The contempt for the law and our nation’s security warrants a criminal investigation. This might be a good area of inquiry for the U.S. Senate to pursue with President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch.
Barack Obama is on a mad dash to empty GITMO of terrorists, the law and public safety be hanged. It began with the release of bin Laden’s bodyguard and ended with the “transfer” of five more terrorists just before the New Year, bringing the total of terrorists released by Obama in 2014 to an astonishing 28.
And don’t be persuaded by the lies about these enemy combatants being “reformed.”
The track record for terrorist rehabilitation is not very good. In fact, as Judicial Watch first exposed, the U.S. government is now offering a $5 million award for the capture of a Gitmo detainee who was released from prison. Most unfortunately for our national security, the president’s goal is to close the prison and relocate the world’s most dangerous terrorists, all too often to countries that seem to share the terrorists’ agendas. Still left at the facility are 9/11 masterminds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi as well as USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Judicial Watch is a designated observer of the military commission proceeding there and our representatives have traveled to Gitmo well over a dozen times.
Meanwhile, the DOD remains tight-lipped about events surrounding the disappearance and captivity of Bergdahl. In a terse statement released on December 22, 2014, the U.S. Army said:
After a thorough investigation and a comprehensive legal review, the investigation concerning Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been forwarded to a General Courts Martial Convening Authority, Gen. Mark Milley, commanding general of Forces Command. Gen. Milley will determine appropriate action – which ranges from no further action to convening a court martial. The Army cannot discuss or disclose the findings of the investigation while disciplinary decisions are pending before commanders.
Aside from any legal trouble for Bergdahl, the circumstances of his release deserve intense investigation, which is exactly what Judicial Watch is doing. Three federal lawsuits, to start, is the least that can be done considering the potential high level criminal wrongdoing and risk to innocent lives caused by Obama’s and his appointees’ contempt for the rule of law.
Another Obama administration Fast and Furious cover-up has been undone by Judicial Watch. The Fast and Furious photos JW has obtained from the site of a 2013 gang-style assault on a Phoenix, AZ, apartment building are gruesome. They are graphic. And they dramatically illustrate the results of Obama administration abuse of power and the public trust. The photos were produced by the Phoenix Police Department in response to this lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. City of Phoenix (No. CV2014- 012018)). Other documents forced out through the lawsuit had already traced the gun to the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning program.
I must warn you that these crime scene photos are not for the squeamish, but they include:
As you know, Fast and Furious was a joint Justice Department-Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gun running operation that the Holder Department of Justice perpetrated in the hopes that it would bolster their gun control proposals in the U.S. The idea was to allow guns to find their way into the arms of Mexican drug cartel members who would use them in criminal operations. Some of the weapons used in Fast and Furious have been implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of innocent Mexicans.
But the violent impact of Fast and Furious — and its cover-up — continues to this day.
In the weeks following the July 29, 2013, assault in Phoenix, four suspects were apprehended in a raid conducted jointly by Phoenix police detectives and investigators from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to press reports at the time “numerous rifles and handguns” were found when, “Detectives from the Phoenix Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations served federal search warrants.” The presence of DHS investigators immediately raised questions because Phoenix was the central location of the ATF’s deadly Fast and Furious gunrunning operation.
On October 16, 2014, we announced that, based upon information uncovered through our October 2 public records lawsuit, the U.S. Congress had confirmed that the rifle was tied to the Fast and Furious operation. Attorney General Eric Holder has already admitted that guns from the Fast and Furious scandal are expected to be used in criminal activity on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border for years to come.
It is worth noting that local officials and federal officials have been less than cooperative with information requests. Despite the fact that the crime scene photos obtained by Judicial Watch clearly revealed a serial number that would show that the AK-47 used in the commission of the crime was a Fast and Furious weapon, the City of Phoenix and Department of Justice failed to turn over the incriminating photos to Congress, despite longstanding requests for such information. According to our sources, investigators knew at the scene and subsequently that the AK-47 was a Fast and Furious weapon.
The failure to provide Congress with reports about the Phoenix crime scene is not the first time the Obama Justice Department has been accused of withholding Fast and Furious information. On June 28, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives over his refusal to turn over documents about why the Obama administration may have lied to Congress and refused for months to disclose the truth about the gunrunning operation. It marked the first time in U.S. history a sitting Attorney General was held in contempt of Congress.
Separate Judicial Watch litigation for these documents, which had been subjected to an extraordinary executive privilege reelection season claim by President Obama, forced their release. Attorney General Holder announced his surprise retirement two days after the federal court ruling that led to the disclosure of the documents and to President Obama’s abandoning all of his controversial executive privilege claims that had kept the documents secret for nearly three years.
As with the IRS and Benghazi cover-ups, JW has forced the release of Fast and Furious information that Congress was simply unable to get. Even as the evidence and casualties mount, the Obama administration is still secreting information about its reckless program.
So we will keep digging and keep you fully posted on future developments.
Once again, Judicial Watch has found that President Obama is flying high at taxpayer expense in order to push his political agenda. Due to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by JW against the Secret Service, we have found that President Obama’s fundraising trip to Denver, Colorado on July 8 and 9 in 2014 cost the taxpayers a pretty penny. That’s what we found after totaling the security and transportation costs. These figures add up to $896,277.80 in taxpayer expenses. So the question becomes: Is the president doing the public’s business, or is this another political junket? Actually, the answers are abundantly clear.
According to The Associated Press, Obama arrived in Denver, Colorado, on July 8 and spent his first night “letting loose” by playing pool and drinking beer, while “face-to-face with a man wearing a horse-head mask.” He spent the night in Denver, during which he was even offered a hit of weed. Yes, you read that right. The good news is that Obama was sharply criticized by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) in light of that summer’s border crisis. Cuellar questioned why Obama would refuse to visit the southwest border of the United States, despite the massive flood of illegal alien children who were swarming into Texas at the time, more or less at Obama’s invitation.
The next day Obama spoke at a rally in Denver’s Cheesman Park, where he criticized Republicans and touted a strong economy. The White House billed the event as a policy speech in order to give it the official veneer necessary to bill taxpayers for even a greater portion of the Denver fundraising trip. Obama then attended a fundraiser for Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), who opted not attend the event himself. Political candidates, campaigns, and parties reimburse the federal government for only a small portion of the costs of presidential political travel. The Obama White House keeps the formula for such cost-sharing secret.
The newly released documents show transportation for Obama’s security in Denver, Colorado fundraisers cost taxpayers $17,124.10 and that hotel rooms for Obama’s security detail in Denver, Colorado fundraisers cost taxpayers $183,259.60. A recent report by a special panel for the Department of Homeland Security found that the Secret Service “is stretched to and, in many cases, beyond its limits.” While effective security is a necessity, it’s clear that some of this travel can be curtailed to save the taxpayers and unburden Secret Service agents who are already stretched thinly.
There’s history here.
We have also obtained records from the United States Air Force revealing the flight cost for President Obama’s Labor Day 2014 weekend trips for fundraising, personal business, and politicking came to a total of $1,539,402.10 in taxpayer-paid transportation expenses. The documents regarding the transportation expenses came in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on September 2, 2014.
These records show that flights for Obama’s 2014 Labor Day weekend fundraising trips to Westchester, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island, cost taxpayers $527,192.50. And it doesn’t stop there. The transportation for Obama’s round-trip flight from D.C. to Westchester, New York, to attend a wedding cost taxpayers $358,490.90 and the flight for Obama’s trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to speak at “Laborfest 2014” cost taxpayers $653,718.70.
The abuse of travel privileges within the federal government certainly did not begin with Obama, though he has certainly taken it to record highs. In 2007, the General Accountability Office put out a 50-page report highlighting abusive travel spending by over a dozen federal agencies. The report focused on travels that took place between July 2005 and June 2006. The results were disconcerting, as the report found at least $146 million worth in travel was unauthorized or unjustified. The State Department was among the worst offenders racking up almost $180,000 in unauthorized premium class travel in just six months.
Federal rules say government employees must fly coach unless the flight takes longer than 14 hours or the employee received agency approval based upon a legitimate and documented medical condition. Other exceptions include security concerns or lack of availability of coach seats. Needless to say, these rules have not been tightly observed or enforced in recent years.
Members of Congress have been fully complicit in this abuse. Each year, many of them travel abroad to visit military bases, meet with foreign officials and attend a variety of conferences on what are most commonly known as “political junkets.” In 2008, federal lawmakers spent $13 million on these excursions, according to a newspaper analysis. (Judicial Watch has long monitored this wasteful congressional travel and helped ground Air Pelosi. Our reporting on then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) travel abuses caused her successor, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) to disavow the use of government planes to get him back and forth to Ohio.)
So, it looks like there’s some work here for the new Republican Congress going into 2015. House and Senate leaders could do worse than to reform presidential – and congressional — travel so that taxpayers aren’t gouged for political junkets. It ought to be a bipartisan issue and appeal to Americans who don’t want their taxes to help politicians of either party run for office.
We are pleased to report that our hard-hitting documentary, “District of Corruption” is now available for download through iTunes. The film highlights our long-running battles against government scandal, secrecy and corruption through the last three presidential administrations, with specific emphasis on the scandals of the Obama administration, including Operation Fast and Furious, illegal alien amnesty, election integrity, crony capitalism and bailouts, and Solyndra. The trailer is available here. The film is written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon, the writer/director of Occupy Unmasked and the Sarah Palin film The Undefeated. It is produced in association with Constant Motion Entertainment and co-produced by Dan Fleuette. The new digital availability on iTunes follows success for the movie on cable.
The movie opened on October 26, 2012, in three states: Florida, Ohio and Texas. It opened later in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 9, 2012. It scored the second highest per-screen average at the box office on its opening weekend. The film averaged $7,374 per theater, finishing behind one other debut film, vaunted film festival favorite, “The Loneliest Planet.”
The Judicial Watch documentary movie comprehensively exposes the Obama administration’s scandals from his first-term, including: Operation Fast and Furious; crony capitalism; Solyndra and other “green energy;” federal bailouts and earmarks; ACORN and voter fraud; illegal alien amnesty; the assault on election integrity; as well as other attacks on government transparency and accountability. And if you want some background on the Clinton machine and how President Bush’s administration failed to follow the law, there’s plenty here for you. Government corruption isn’t limited to one political party and did not begin and will not end with this administration.
“District of Corruption” features interviews with yours truly and my colleagues who are responsible for so much of the good work we’re able to do — Director of Litigation Paul Orfanedes and Director of Investigations and Research Chris Farrell. The film also includes some of the conservative movement’s most influential and cutting-edge voices, including J. Christian Adams (Election Law Center), Matthew Boyle (Breitbart.com), Mike Flynn (Breitbart.com), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Vern McKinley (author, Financing Failure: A Century of Bailouts), Anita Moncrief (former ACORN insider), Katie Pavlich (Townhall.com), Kerry Picket (Breitbart.com), Peter Schweizer (Author, Throw Them All Out), Mark Tapscott (The Washington Examiner), Hans von Spakovsky (Senior Legal Fellow, Heritage Foundation) and Matthew Vadum (Author, Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayer).
The film is a companion piece to our New York Times best-selling book, The Corruption Chronicles, Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government.
Given the ongoing corruption crisis here in DC, the film’s importance cannot be overstated. Please pass the word.
Until next week …