Daily Archives: May 6, 2012

The Revolt Against the NDAA Hits Congress

House Republicans say they’re going to fix controversial provisions in Obama’s defense spending bill. Don’t believe it.

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By Adam Serwer
Fri May. 4, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

Facing a serious civil liberties backlash, Congress is considering changing a controversial counter terrorism law it passed last year. Yet the leading fix, backed by House Republicans, may not be a fix at all.

Last year, during consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress came close to authorizing the indefinite detention of American citizens captured on US soil who were suspected of terrorism. Ultimately, the House, the Senate, and the White House agreed on a compromise that would let federal courts decide whether such detentions were constitutional. That is, when confronted with the knotty question of whether the US government can detain its own citizens within the nation’s borders without charging them with a crime, Congress decided not to decide. Still, activists on the left and right remain concerned, because although President Barack Obama promised not to use that power, the law does not explicitly prevent him from doing so. In the months since Obama signed the bill in January, a strange-bedfellows alliance has raised such a ruckus over the legislation that Congress is now considering three separate proposals to amend the law.

“There has been significant constituent concern” over the NDAA, says Claude Chafin, a spokesman for Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee.

The revolt against the NDAA has brought together organizations and activists that disagree on almost every other issue—tea party activists, the states’ rights Tenth Amendment Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Occupy Wall Street protesters. The NDAA is “waking people up to the idea that the federal government shouldn’t have this kind of power,” says Michael Boldin, the director of the Tenth Amendment Center. “We’re seeing this weird mishmosh coalition of people.” In mid-April, Boldin’s group joined a number of other conservative organizations in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of liberal journalist Chris Hedges’ anti-NDAA lawsuit against the Obama administration.

The NDAA backlash has already fueled action on the state level. In Virginia, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell recently signed a bill that could prohibit state authorities from “knowingly” aiding in the military detention of a US citizen. The Arizona Legislature passed a bill making it a misdemeanor for state officials to help the feds detain US citizens under the NDAA, and the Maine Legislature passed a joint resolution urging Congress and the president to amend the law to make it clear that Americans apprehended on US soil can’t be detained without trial. All three states have legislatures with Republican majorities.

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Congress is now considering three bills designed to quiet the uproar. One, sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), would repeal the detention sections of the NDAA entirely. Another, sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), would ensure that suspected terrorists captured on US soil, whether they are citizens or not, could not be detained indefinitely without trial.

Then there’s a third bill, proposed by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), called the Right to Habeas Corpus Act. Rigell’s bill, which has 32 cosponsors, would do basically nothing. That’s because all it does is affirm the right of American citizens to have a judge evaluate the legality of their detention, and there has been no disagreement over that right since the Supreme Court affirmed it in 2004. The question has been whether the United States could hold suspected terrorists without ever charging them with a crime. Under Rigell’s bill, a future president could still potentially indefinitely detain an American citizen arrested in the United States on suspicion of terrorism, while Smith’s bill would prevent them from doing so.

Rigell’s bill is “addressing a habeas problem that doesn’t exist, and ignoring the real problem, which is indefinite detention without charge or trial,” says ACLU legislative counsel Chris Anders.

Rigell’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. But Anders notes that detention authority can be a “confusing” and “difficult” area in which to legislate, partially because many of the issues aren’t entirely settled. Of the two bills that would actually alter the NDAA, Smith’s has 56 cosponsors in the House. Paul’s bill has five cosponsors.

Republicans in the House, however, seem much warmer to Rigell’s mostly symbolic legislation, with Chafin insisting it would “put to rest any doubt to the…purpose of last year’s NDAA.” The law’s critics don’t believe that. “We don’t trust Congress, who just passed this thing into law, to all of a sudden say, ‘Oh, we were wrong; we’re going to change it,’” Boldin said. That’s probably a safe bet.

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Is Fast and Furious the Next Watergate?

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by Alan Caruba on May 5th, 2012

When suspects in a crime are interrogated, they often develop memory loss. When the crime is running guns to drug cartels on both sides of the border, the crime involves the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol officer, Brian Terry, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Jaime Zapata, and countless Mexican citizens.

Katie Pavlich has written an extraordinary expose, “Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-Up” (Regnery Publishing). She is a veteran agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) who has meticulously documented a story that should result in contempt of Congress action against Attorney General Eric Holder and possibly Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano as well.

It is an appalling story of arrogance, stupidity, and the intimidation of ATF agents who dared to question and expose the operation. It is a story of deception at the highest levels of our government. Both Holder and Napolitano exhibited memory lapses before a congressional committee. Both knew about a federal government authorized gun-running operation to Mexico called “Fast and Furious.”

Pavlich reports that “Fast and Furious was closely followed by Department of Justice officials. On multiple occasions, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke met with Phoenix ATF Director Bill Newell to discuss the progress of the Fast and Furious operation. ‘There were DOJ attorneys and prosecutors who were involved in this since the beginning, giving advice,” testified ATF Special Agent Peter Forcelli.

As Pavlich details it, “Operation Fast and Furious wasn’t a ‘botched’ program. It was a calculated and lethal decision to purposely place thousands of guns in the hands of ruthless criminals.”

The operation was designed to attack the Second Amendment right of Americans to purchase and bear arms, a right considered so essential to the nation that it followed directly after the First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of the press, the prohibition of the establishment of a nationally sanctioned religion, and the right of Americans to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

We are in the grip of an administration that would restrain and erase those rights, and which engaged in a reckless and ruthless operation to achieve that goal. It is an administration that is moving toward the confirmation of a United Nations treaty that would override and eliminate the right to own and bear arms.

The facts regarding Holder’s and Napolitano’s testimony are clear:

“Eric Holder was sent five memos, personally addressed to him, in the summer of 2010 that detailed Operation Fast and Furious.” Holder claimed he first knew about the program in February 2011.

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has feigned ignorance when questioned about Fast and Furious. She claims she only found out about the program after Brian Terry was murdered.”

“She visited the White House with Eric Holder to visit President Obama just a day before Holder testified on Capitol Hill about Fast and Furious, leaving the reason for her visit blank.”

Pavlich writes, “These are the facts: There are still 1,400 Fast and Furious guns missing and ATF agents are not actively trying to track them down. Ten thousand round of ammunition were sold to cartel-linked straw buyers under the watch of the ATF. Eight hundred of the original 2,500 weapons sold through Fast and Furious have already been linked to criminal activity.”

The program, observers believer, was the deliberate effort to blame the violence in Mexico and in some cases in America on the gun shops, but those shops were intimidated into participating in Fast and Furious out of fear that ATF would take away their licenses.

After questioning ATF and Justice Department witnesses, Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa, R), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a January 31 letter to ATF officials saying, “As you may be aware, obstructing a Congressional investigation is a crime. Additionally, denying or interfering with employee’s rights to furnish information to Congress is also against the law.”

On May 3rd Rep. Darrell Issa, (CA) Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent every member of his committee a 64-page draft contempt order against AG Holder, along with a 17-page memo outlining the history of the scandal. Only one attorney general has been found in contempt, Janet Reno in 1975.

Fast and Furious is redolent with memories of the Watergate cover-up.

On March 23, 2011, in a Univison interview, Obama said, “First of all, I did not authorize it” and when further pressed said, “Eric Holder did not authorize it. He’s been very clear that our policy is to catch gunrunners and put them in jail.” The facts strongly suggest otherwise insofar as Fast and Furious literally authorized a gunrunning program under the aegis of ATF.

As Pavlich noted, “Many people in ATF saw what was happening and tried to warn the bureau, but the new corrupt and arrogant culture of management had become too powerful and intimidating. Field agents who spoke up were punished for having an opinion and daring to voice it. Whistleblowers had their reputation, careers, and finances shattered.”

This culture of corruption is endemic to the Obama administration and as more and more examples become known it has been in full panic mode to suppress the truth. No matter what the outcome of the testimony of two of its top appointees, the only way to save America is to vote out President Obama in November and ensure that Mitt Romney has a Republican Congress.

© Alan Caruba, 2012

Fast and Furious: Draft Contempt Charges Show Depth of Agency Involvement

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Cartoon by “Chip” Bok

May 6th 2012

A section of the draft of contempt charges against Attorney General Eric Holder is dedicated to explaining how Fast & Furious branches off into different departments within the Department of Justice (DOJ).

While most know about the operation being based in Phoenix, the strategy was actually developed in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) in Washington, DC. The ODAG decided it would be brilliant to concentrate on identifying the members of the trafficking network instead of seizing the firearms right away.

The goal was to capture the big fish of the cartels. The ATF Phoenix Field Office decided to use this strategy in Fast & Furious. But that wasn’t good enough for them and in late January 2010 the office “applied for Fast and Furious to become an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) case.” In order to do that the agents had to tell all about their investigative strategy, i.e. gunwalking. It was approved and was given new funding. Also, since it became a prosecutor-led OCDETF Strike Force case, other departments would come in. Those include FBI, DEA, IRS, and ICE under the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona. Fast & Furious came to the attention of ATF headquarters on December 8, 2009. The ATF’s Office of Strategic Information and Intelligence (OSII) told senior personnel about the operation, especially about recoveries of weapons in Mexico. But the more statistics they received, the more concerned they became about the operation.

Deputy ATF Director Billy Hoover called for an exit strategy in March 2010. He received one in May, but we all know it didn’t happen. The office continued to delay the indictments and ATF headquarters never demanded them to arrest the straw purchasers. Operation Wide Receiver, a gun tracking operation during the George W. Bush administration, is often brought up to deflect from Fast & Furious. Most people on the other side want to prosecute that case instead. Well, as it turns out, the DOJ’s Criminal Division sent prosecutors to Arizona to help the US Attorney to prosecute cases, including Wide Receiver. Indeed, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer was very interested in the operation. James Trusty, senior official in the Criminal Division’s gang Unit, said Mr. Breuer was very interested in the case and wanted to be briefed on it. A briefing on March 5, 2010, “highlighted the large number of weapons the gun trafficking ring had purchased and discussed recoveries of those weapons in Mexicio.” Steve Martin, Deputy Assistant Director in ATF’s Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information, said everyone knew the guns were being linked to the cartels. However it’s the wiretaps that prove how deeply involved the Criminal Division was with Fast & Furious. It shouldn’t come to anyone’s shock that the DOJ hasn’t handed over the applications to the Committee. After all, the top dogs signed them: Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals Jason Weinstein, Kenneth Blanco, and John Keeney. It’s more than obvious the DOJ can say this was just a local issue. There’s more than enough evidence to prevent them from continuing to brush it off as a rogue field office mistake.

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