Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch
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The motto of Judicial Watch is “Because no one is above the law”. To this end, Judicial Watch uses the open records or freedom of information laws and other tools to investigate and uncover misconduct by government officials and litigation to hold to account politicians and public officials who engage in corrupt activities.

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Weeks after the House Minority leader blasted President Donald Trump for pledging to investigate voter fraud, a federal appellate court has ruled that a Peruvian immigrant can be deported from the U.S. for illegally voting in a federal election. The decision comes on the heels of a spat between Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and the president.

The California Democrat accused Trump of making false claims of election fraud and said that undermining the integrity of our voting system is “really strange.” Most Democrats in Congress agree with the former House Speaker and strongly oppose an investigation, asserting it will limit access to voting.

Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the mainstream media coverage promotes the Democrats’ inaccurate version of the facts. One news network referred to Trump’s voter fraud claims as “baseless” and simply an excuse to enact restrictive voting laws. Another wrote that “Trump’s ‘iIlegals voting’ comments are false and divisive,” calling voter fraud by undocumented immigrants “patently false.”

In an editorial titled “The Latest Voter Fraud Lie,” a mainstream newspaper writes that the “baseless claims continue to get converted into policy in the form of stricter voting laws like requiring prospective voters to show a photo ID…” A multitude of similar media reports have flooded the news wires in the week’s following Trump’s meeting with congressional leaders to address the issue.

This week’s appellate court ruling provides a jolt of reality that the media has chosen to ignore. Election fraud was a significant concern in 2008 and 2010, which is why Judicial Watch launched an election integrity project in 2012. The project is a legal campaign to force cleanup of voter registration rolls as well as monitor elections. As an example of the pervasive fraud, Judicial Watch uncovered that 1,046 aliens, or residents who are not U.S. citizens, were on the voter rolls in eight Virginia counties leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

If that rate of non-citizen registration held in the rest of Virginia’s counties, that would mean that about 6,500 non-citizens are registered to vote in the state. Additionally, Judicial Watch’s investigation found that 57,923 Virginians were registered to vote in at least one other state as well as 19 deceased individuals. Similar issues have been uncovered in several other states as part of Judicial Watch’s ongoing probe into election fraud.

The Latin American woman in the recent court ruling who voted illegally is hardly an isolated case. Her name is Margarita Del Pilar Fitzpatrick and she lied about being an American citizen on an Illinois Department of Motor Vehicle form. It was that easy. Fitzpatrick, a legal U.S. resident with three kids, voted in two federal elections in 2006 and claims that she had official approval to cast a ballot after presenting her Peruvian passport and green card.

An immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals, the government’s highest administrative body for interpreting and applying immigration laws, determined that Fitzpatrick should be deported because non-U.S. citizens cannot vote in federal elections and can be removed from the country for doing so.

The Peruvian woman did not back down, appealing the decisions in federal court. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the two previous rulings in favor of deportation, though it acknowledged that Fitzpatrick “led a productive and otherwise-unblemished life in this country.” In its decision, the court states that the motor vehicle form sternly warns aliens not to check the U.S. citizen box and that Fitzpatrick is “literate in English and has no excuse for making that misrepresentation.”

Aliens are forbidden to vote in federal elections, the ruling says, adding that “another statute provides for the removal of aliens who vote in violation of either state or federal law.” During oral argument, the appellate judges inquired whether Fitzpatrick is the kind of person the Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security want removed from the United States. “The answer was yes,” the ruling states.

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The Feds are pushing drugs . . . again.

The U.S. government’s multi-billion-dollar effort to counter narcotics in Afghanistan is a humiliating failure that’s resulted in a huge increase in poppy cultivation and opium production. Despite the free-flow of American tax dollars to combat the crisis, opium production rose 43% in the Islamic nation, to an estimated 4,800 tons, and approximately 201,000 hectares of land are under poppy cultivation, representing a 10% increase in one year alone.

Uncle Sam’s embarrassing counter narcotics effort is part of a broader and costly failure involving the reconstruction of Afghanistan. More than $100 billion have been dedicated to help rebuild the war-torn country and much of it has been lost to waste, fraud and abuse not to mention corruption. The drug initiative is a recent example, documented by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in a quarterly report to Congress. The document is painful to read because it goes on for 269 pages, but Judicial Watch created a link for the counter narcotics section, which is around 19 pages and includes informative charts, graphs and the latest available statistics.

As of December 31, 2016, the United States has spent an astounding $8.5 billion for counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since 2002, the report reveals, making it clear that the cash will continue flowing. “Nonetheless, Afghanistan remains the world’s leading producer of opium, providing 80% of the global output over the past decade, according to the United Nations,” SIGAR writes. The watchdog includes statistics from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) confirming a 10% increase in the amount of Afghan land that was under poppy cultivation between 2015 and 2016. Despite Uncle Sam’s generosity, poppy eradiation results were the lowest this decade, the watchdog states. “No eradication took place in the biggest opium-growing provinces because of the grave security situation,” the report reveals, noting a steady rise in production and cultivation in the past decade. “Eradication efforts have had minimal impact on the rise in illicit opium cultivation.”

This, of course, translates into a large increase in opium production—43% in a year—the watchdog reveals, to an estimated 4,800 tons. “The reported production increase reflected the larger area under cultivation, higher yields, and lower eradication results.” Part of the problem, U.S. authorities say, is that between 2.5 and 3 million Afghans are drug users and the country lacks sufficient treatment centers to address the growing drug-abuse problem, particularly for women and children. American cash hasn’t put a dent on that problem either. A State Department branch known as the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) doled out $12.9 million in 2015 for drug treatment and education programs in Afghanistan and has allocated millions more despite past failures. INL also funds a scandalous, multi-million-dollar program called Governor-Led Eradication (GLE) that pays provinces for the cost of eradicating poppies. Between 2008 and 2016 INL disbursed $4.6 million, according to the SIGAR.

Afghanistan reconstruction has been a huge debacle that continues fleecing American taxpayers. Judicial Watch has reported on the various boondoggles over the years, most of them documented in tremendous detail by the SIGAR. Highlights include the mysterious disappearance of nearly half a billion dollars in oil destined for the Afghan National Army, a $335 million Afghan power plant that’s seldom used and an $18.5 million renovation for a prison that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began. Among the more outrageous expenditures are U.S. Army contracts with dozens of companies tied to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The reconstruction watchdog recommended that the Army immediately cut business ties to the terrorists but the deals continued. Another big waste reported by Judicial Watch a few years ago, involves a $65 million initiative to help Afghan women escape repression. The government admits that, because there’s no accountability, record-keeping or follow-up, it has no clue if the program was effective.

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Dozens of Syrian refugees already living in the Unites States may have ties to terrorism and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is downplaying it, claiming federal agents missed “possible derogatory information” about the immigrants due to “a lapse in vetting.” Among those who slipped through the cracks is a man who failed a polygraph test after applying to work at a U.S. military installation and another who communicated with an Islamic State leader.

Information about this scandalous security lapse comes from federal agents with firsthand knowledge of the situation. They spoke to a mainstream newspaper on condition of anonymity, as many Judicial Watch sources who expose delicate information do, out of fear. This is the type of case the government works hard to keep quiet and consequences could be serious for those who blow the whistle. The news article reveals that federal agents are now “reinvestigating the backgrounds” of the dozens of Syrian refugees because somehow DHS discovered that the lapse in vetting allowed refugees with “potentially negative information in their files to enter the country.” The newspaper attributes the information to “U.S law enforcement officials” who were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Coincidentally, on the day this story broke a national newswire service reported that President Donald Trump drafted an executive order to stop accepting Syrian refugees. The president also plans to suspend issuing visas for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries—Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Under President Barrack Obama’s lax immigration policies, large numbers of terrorists from some of these nations entered the U.S., including members of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. They include individuals who have engaged in or attempted to engage in acts of terrorism, conspired or attempted to conspire to provide material support to a terrorist organization or engaged in criminal conduct inspired by terrorist ideology. Some have been convicted and sentenced in American courts.

Additionally, the Obama administration was very generous in granting citizens of Muslim nations special amnesty protections and residency benefits in the U.S. During a five-year period, Obama’s DHS issued around 680,000 green cards to foreigners from Muslim countries, according to the agency’s figures. Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Libya were among the nations. In 2015 Judicial Watch reported on a special “humanitarian” amnesty program offered to illegal aliens from Yemen, an Islamic Middle Eastern country well known as an Al Qaeda breeding ground. Yemen is the headquarters of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the State Department has revealed that AQAP militants carried out hundreds of attacks including suicide bombers, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), ambushes, kidnappings and targeted assassinations.

Circling back to Syrian refugees, as Obama let thousands settle in the U.S. his own intelligence and immigration officials admitted that individuals with ties to terrorist groups used the program to try to infiltrate the country and that there is no way to properly screen them. In 2015 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) confirmed that individuals with ties to terrorist groups in Syria tried to gain entry to the U.S. through the refugee program and that the program is “vulnerable to exploitation from extremist groups seeking to send operatives to the West.” Before that the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Matthew Emrich, admitted during a congressional hearing that there’s no way to adequately screen Syrian refugees because the Syrian government doesn’t have an intelligence database to run checks against. Additionally, FBI Assistant Director Michael Steinbach conceded that the U.S. government has no system to properly screen Syrian refugees.

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The U.S. Border Patrol alters statistics involving the apprehension of criminal illegal immigrants to conceal that thousands are being released, a new federal audit reveals. The frontline Homeland Security agency charged with preventing terrorists and weapons—including those of mass destruction—from entering the country also skews figures to drastically deflate the high recidivism rate of aliens caught entering the U.S.

The distressing details of this crucial agency’s crafty record-keeping practices are outlined in a scathing report issued this month by the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The probe focuses on a Border Patrol system developed to address a smuggling crisis along the southwest border. It’s officially known as Consequence Delivery System (CDS) and is used to identify the most effective and efficient consequences to deter illegal cross border activity in each of the agency’s sectors. For the system to work, the Border Patrol must report accurate information involving illegal aliens who are apprehended.

Instead, it appears that federal agents on the ground are being ordered to fudge the numbers as part of a broader Obama administration effort to protect illegal immigrants and falsely portray the Mexican border as safe. The GAO report suggests that Border Patrol headquarters directed agents to misclassify criminal illegal aliens, presumably to hide the fact that they were being released instead of prosecuted. Officials interviewed as part of the probe “said that agents received oral direction from headquarters to reclassify criminal aliens who cannot be given a consequence of federal prosecution, and that written data integrity guidance to sectors did not include activities for checking the accuracy of alien classifications,” the GAO report states.

The misclassification of apprehended illegal immigrants resulted in nearly 4,000 criminal aliens being returned to their home country rather than prosecuted between 2013 and 2015, the GAO found. After analyzing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data, congressional investigators determined that an astounding 94% (109,080) of the 116,409 aliens given a consequence of warrant or notice to appear still had an open case and “may remain in the United States.” Thousands more escaped criminal prosecution because they were not properly classified. “Specifically, of the approximate 15,000 apprehensions of criminal aliens who were not classified according to CDS guidance between fiscal years 2013 and 2015, 8 percent were recommended for criminal prosecution (3,912 apprehensions) compared to 47 percent of all criminal aliens during that timeframe,” the GAO writes.

In some cases, Department of Justice (DOJ) restrictions limit the number of illegal aliens that can be referred for prosecution, the report says. This leaves agents in a bind and hesitant to apply consequences that require referral to federal partners. Here’s an example: “Rio Grande Valley sector officials said that while agents apprehended over 129,000 aliens in fiscal year 2015, the sector can only refer about 40 immigration-related cases each day to the corresponding USAO District (Southern District of Texas) for prosecution. Once this daily limit is reached, agents must apply an alternative consequence that is not the Most Effective and Efficient as defined by the CDS guide.”

Recidivism numbers are kept down by using an unscrupulous system that only classifies an apprehended illegal alien as recidivist if he or she had been previously caught within a fiscal year. The system doesn’t account for immigrants with no record of removal after apprehension and who may have remained in the United States without the opportunity to recidivate. The Border Patrol guidance also states that a first-time apprehension classification may be used on an alien that has been apprehended by another agency. Congressional investigators determined that the Border Patrol system slashed recidivism numbers in half. In one outrageous case cited in the report an “alien apprehended 54 times in the Rio Grande Valley sector between October 2012 and May 2015 was classified as a First Time Apprehension 6 times.”

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The FBI has confirmed what Judicial Watch reported last week, that the Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooter has ties to radical Islam and carried out the attack on behalf of a terrorist group. During a bond hearing in a south Florida federal court this week, an FBI special agent testified that the shooter, Esteban Santiago, communicated with Islamic terrorists in “jihadi chat rooms” and committed the massacre on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Santiago killed five people and wounded six others during the bloody rampage in the baggage claim area of the Ft. Lauderdale Airport earlier this month. Authorities immediately attributed the attack to mental illness, saying that Santiago was a Hispanic Army veteran that became unhinged after a tour in Iraq. Santiago has been charged with an act of violence at an international airport, which could get him a death sentence. According to the federal complaint, Santiago fired 10 to 15 rounds of ammunition from his firearm, aiming at his victims’ heads and walking while shooting in a methodical manner. At this week’s bond hearing, FBI special agent Michael Ferlazzo testified that Santiago said he was fighting for ISIS and had been in touch with other terrorists who were planning attacks in jihadi internet chat rooms. The judge ruled that Santiago be held without bond and his next court appearance is scheduled for January 30.

Last week Judicial Watch ignited a ruckus after revealing that Santiago is a Muslim convert who years before joining the U.S. Army took on an Islamic name (Aashiq Hammad), downloaded terrorist propaganda and recorded Islamic religious music online. The Obama administration’s efforts to keep the pertinent information quiet in the aftermath of the shooting brought up memories of the Benghazi cover up, in which the president and his cohorts knowingly lied to conceal that Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. Special Mission in Libya. In the Ft. Lauderdale attack the traditional mainstream media coverage promoted the government rhetoric that omitted any ties to terrorism even though early on a photo surfaced of Santiago making an ISIS salute while wearing a keffiyeh, a Palestinian Arab scarf.

Records uncovered in the days after the massacre suggest Santiago (Hammad) is a radical Islamic terrorist that’s seriously committed to Islam. Besides taking on a Muslim name, he recorded three Islamic religious songs, including the Muslim declaration faith (“there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”) known as the Shahada. He also posted a thread about downloading propaganda videos from Islamic terrorists on a weapons and explosives forum. The investigative news site that unearthed this disturbing information connected the dots between Santiago, who is of Puerto Rican descent, and Hammad, an identity he created in 2007.

It’s still not clear why Santiago chose Ft. Lauderdale, out of all the nation’s airports, to carry out his attack. The facility is situated in Broward County, which has a large and growing Islamic community and questions remain involving who Santiago knows in the area. In 2015 Judicial Watch obtained records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) that show an Al Qaeda terrorist who helped plan several U.S. attacks lived in Broward County and graduated from the local community college with a degree in computer engineering. His name is Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, but he also has a Hispanic identity, Javier Robles, and for years he appeared on the FBI’s most wanted list. Back in 2012 Judicial Watch reported on a terrorist front group’s demands that Broward County public schools close twice a year to celebrate Islamic holy days, illustrating the influence that Muslims have in the region.

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A deadly shootout at the construction site of the new American Consulate occurred this week in a Mexican border town where Islamic terrorists and drug cartels plan to launch attacks against the U.S. during the period surrounding the presidential inauguration, high-level government sources tell Judicial Watch. An unknown number of gunmen fired multiple rounds adjacent to the new U.S. Consulate compound in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, a crime-infested city in the state of Tamaulipas that lies directly across from Laredo, Texas.

The Mexican military responded to the attack, law enforcement sources on both sides of the border confirm insisting that their identities be kept confidential for security reasons, and at least three soldiers were either killed or critically wounded in the ambush. A local newspaper in Tamaulipas reported that 13 people died during a shootout in Nuevo Laredo, referring to the deceased as heavily armed “delinquents” with an arsenal that includes 12 automatic weapons, a rocket launcher, grenade, loads of ammunition and drugs in three vehicles, one of them armored. The deceased have not been identified and Mexican authorities will continue to investigate, the article states, attributing the information to a press release issued by Mexico’s Defense Secretary.

Judicial Watch’s law enforcement and intelligence sources say the barrage outside what’s soon to be the new U.S. Consulate is connected to a broad operation between Islamic terrorists and Mexican drug cartels to send President-elect Donald Trump a message by engaging in attacks at border ports. “Cartels usually don’t work with jihadists for fear of having the border shut down,” a veteran federal law enforcement official told Judicial Watch. “But Trump is causing so much disruption in Mexico that they are partnering to send a message as to who is in control. This is as outrageous as a small group of guys crashing planes into U.S. buildings.” Another official who has worked in the region for years said “Trump is causing a huge amount of fear in Mexico throughout all sectors; private, government, business, criminal, police….”

Nuevo Laredo is among the border towns that the terrorists and narcotraffickers plan to launch attacks in, according to intelligence gathered by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Mexico. Others include Matamoros, Reynosa and Ciudad Juárez. In 2015 Judicial Watch reported that ISIS is operating a camp just west of Ciudad Juárez, around eight miles from El Paso. Sources that include a Mexican Army field grade officer and Mexican Federal Police inspector revealed that, during a joint operation, they discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation in El Paso that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.

Just last week Judicial Watch reported that a Jihadi-cartel alliance in the Mexican state of Nuevo León is collaborating to carry out attacks in American cities and ports of entry along the southern border. Confidential U.S. and Mexican law enforcement sources said that, as part of the plan, militant Islamists have arrived recently at the Monterrey International Airport situated in Apodaca, Nuevo León, about 130 miles south of the Texas border. An internal Mexican law enforcement report obtained by Judicial Watch confirms that Islamic terrorists have “people along the border, principally in Tijuana, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas.” Cartel informants tell law enforcement contacts that “they are only waiting for the order and the times to carry out a simultaneous attack in the different ports of entry or cities of the United States of America.”

The area where this week’s shootout originated is a 5.6-acre parcel just south of downtown Nuevo Laredo on Paseo Colon. The State Department predicts that by September the new U.S. Consulate compound, which broke ground in mid-2015 and will cost $155 million, should be completed. It will have multiple buildings, including an office structure, U.S. Marine Security Guard residence, support annex and other facilities for the consulate community. The primary function of consulates is helping and protecting Americans abroad.

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The Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooter is a Muslim convert who years before joining the U.S. Army took on an Islamic name (Aashiq Hammad), downloaded terrorist propaganda and recorded Islamic religious music online, according to public records dug up by the investigative news site of an award-winning, California journalist. This is pertinent information that the Obama administration apparently wants to keep quiet, bringing up memories of the Benghazi cover up, in which the president and his cohorts knowingly lied to conceal that Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. Special Mission in Libya.

Information is slowly trickling out that links the Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooter to radical Islam while the official story from authorities is that the gunman is a mentally ill, Hispanic Army veteran named Esteban Santiago that became unhinged after a tour in Iraq. Only one mainstream media outlet mentions the possibility of Santiago’s “jihadist identity,” burying it in a piece about New York possibly being his initial target. A paragraph deep in the story mentions that investigators recovered Santiago’s computer from a pawn shop and the FBI is examining it to determine whether he created a “jihadist identity for himself using the name Aashiq Hammad…” The reset of the traditional mainstream media coverage promotes the government rhetoric that omits any ties to terrorism even though early on a photo surfaced of Santiago making an ISIS salute while wearing a keffiyeh, a Palestinian Arab scarf.

The public records uncovered in the days after the massacre suggest Santiago (Hammad) is a radical Islamic terrorist that’s seriously committed to Islam. Besides taking on a Muslim name, he recorded three Islamic religious songs, including the Muslim declaration faith (“there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”) known as the Shahada. He also posted a thread about downloading propaganda videos from Islamic terrorists on a weapons and explosives forum. The investigative news site that unearthed this disturbing information connected the dots between Santiago, who is of Puerto Rican descent, and Hammad, an identity he created in 2007.

This week a prominent Ft. Lauderdale businessman and longtime resident addressed a letter to the city’s mayor and commissioners blasting county and federal officials for covering up that “Aashiq Hammad, not Esteban Santiago, attacked our city and county.” The businessman, respected Ft. Lauderdale real estate entrepreneur Jim Morlock, specifically names Broward County’s elected sheriff Scott Israel, Florida senator Bill Nelson, the first to identify Santiago as the shooter on national television, and congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, ousted last summer as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair over a scandalous plot to damage Bernie Sanders during the primary.

“Since when does a US Senator (Bill Nelson), not law enforcement, be the one to so quickly release this terrorist’s Hispanic name but nothing about his more relevant Islamic background?” the letter asks. Obama must have told Sen. Nelson to keep this from looking like a Muslim Terrorist attack during the last 12 days of his watch. Bad for his legacy.” Morlock goes on to state that it’s “better to portray this atrocity as white Hispanic Alaskan mental Iraq war vet gun violence.” The real estate entrepreneur proceeds to reveal that Santiago lives in walking distance to the only mosque in Alaska, was radicalized before he entered the military and was knowingly allowed to serve despite his Islamic sympathies thanks to “Obama’s PC military.”

The letter poses interesting questions, including why this Muslim terrorist chose Ft. Lauderdale out of all the nation’s airports and who Santiago knows in Broward county, which has a large and growing Islamic community. In 2015 Judicial Watch obtained records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) that show and Al Qaeda terrorist who helped plan several U.S. attacks lived in Broward County and graduated from the local community college with a degree in computer engineering. His name is Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, but he also had a Hispanic identity, Javier Robles, and for years he appeared on the FBI’s most wanted list. Back in 2012 Judicial Watch reported on a terrorist front group’s demands that Broward County public schools close twice a year to celebrate Islamic holy days, illustrating the influence that Muslims have in the region.

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Judicial Watch announced that a federal court judge ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to produce this week any “preservation requests” for emails sent to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Chief of Staff Christian Marrone, and General Counsel Stevan Bunnell. The order from U.S District Court Judge Randolph Moss came in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking agency records in the personal email accounts used by the four top Homeland Security officials (Judicial Watch v U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:16-cv-00967)).   The court order, issued last week after a hearing, requires DHS to comply by January 12 (Thursday).

At last week’s January 5 hearing, Obama Justice Department lawyers confirmed that nothing had been done to retrieve government records from Jeh Johnson or the other officials’ accounts.  According to the hearing transcript:

THE COURT: But you say to me there’s no reason to doubt that the agency will pursue the records and that they’ll be returned, but it’s been six months. Is there any evidence that anything has been done to retrieve those documents or records?

[Justice Department Lawyer Bailey] HEAPS: I think that the six months though, your Honor, refers to the time in a FOIA request which is independent of any obligations under the Federal Records Act. And I don’t think we would be in this position with respect to the FOIA case had a valid request been filed or submitted.

THE COURT: But put that aside for a second. I mean, the government has been on notice at least since May though that there’s reason to believe that there are e-mails that are residing on individuals’ private servers that are government records, right?

HEAPS: Your Honor, the first thing I would point out — and I think it’s important because we’re going back and forth between FOIA and the Federal Records Act, is we don’t have reason to believe — or let me be clear, we don’t know that there are federal records that are in the personal e-mail accounts.

THE COURT: So has anyone checked to see if there are? Has anyone asked a question, anything to try and figure that out?

HEAPS: I can’t represent one way or the other to that, your Honor.

Judge Moss’s order, issued shortly after the hearing, reads in part:

On or before 1/12/2017, the Government is to produce, under seal, for in-camera submission, the preservation requests that it sent to all four of the individuals; The Government is also to file a notice on the public record, on or before 1/12/2017, regarding the in-camera filing, and to indicate the individuals intentions with respect to abiding by the preservation requests.

The January 5 hearing came in response to a Motion for Preservation Order filed by Judicial Watch . In that filing Judicial Watch asked the court to issue a “preservation order” for the non-.gov emails of Johnson, Mayorkas and Bunnell because their departure from government service is anticipated upon the installation of the new administration and Homeland Security will no longer have any control over these individuals:

The records at issue are in the physical possession of three current agency officials and one former agency official. With the upcoming change in administrations on January 20, 2017, it is likely that the three officials currently in office (Secretary Jeh Johnson, Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and General Counsel Stevan Bunnell) will leave government service.

Counsel for DHS has informed [Judicial Watch’s] counsel that DHS has “asked” these officials to preserve the agency records in their possession. DHS’ counsel declined to provide any evidence supporting this assertion. Because [Judicial Watch] does not know specifically what DHS asked its employees to do and what, if any, other steps DHS has taken to ensure preservation, Plaintiff is concerned DHS’s mere requests to its employees are insufficient. This will be particularly concerning once the officials possessing the emails leave government employment, as the agency will have no control over the actions of these officials.

***

A court order requiring preservation of these emails is particularly necessary now as DHS has suggested that these officials may have been acting without authorization by sending emails from these accounts…. As such, there is no assurance that these officials will abide by a “request” by the agency to preserve these emails, particularly after their employment ends.

An order requiring DHS to take steps to preserve the agency records at issue is consistent with an agency’s recordkeeping responsibilities to retain and manage government records subject to the Federal Records Act….If the agency officials are permitted to leave their employment while retaining agency records in their personal email accounts, it risks creating a situation comparable to that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In that instance, it is undisputed that only a portion of Secretary Clinton’s emails eventually were returned to the agency.

[Judicial Watch] respectfully requests expedited consideration of this motion in light of the likely imminent departure from government service of the three agency officials possessing agency records in their personal email accounts.

“The Obama gang is creating another email scandal with Jeh Johnson and the Department of Homeland Security,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “We know there are likely government records on Jeh Johnson’s and other top DHS officials’ personal email accounts. That the Obama administration hasn’t lifted a finger to retrieve these public records is criminal.”

In June, Judicial Watch in a related case obtained 693 pages of Homeland Security records revealing that Secretary Jeh Johnson and 28 other agency officials used government computers to access personal web-based email accounts despite an agency-wide ban due to heightened security concerns.  The documents also reveal that Homeland Security officials misled Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) when Perry specifically asked whether personal accounts were being used for official government business.

The waivers were granted to Johnson and other senior staffers after Homeland Security’s Sensitive Systems Policy Directive 4300A was promulgated on April 30, 2014.   The Directive was issued after hackers breached the Office of Personnel Management computer system.  Directive 4300A states, “The use of Internet Webmail (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL) or other personal email accounts is not authorized over DHS furnished equipment or network connections.”

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Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a records request with the California Legislature Joint Rules Committee seeking to examine legislative records regarding the state’s employment of former Obama U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.:

All contracts between the California Legislature and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. or Covington and Burling.

All communications between the California Legislature and former U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. or Covington and Burling about the Legislature’s retention of Holder and/or Covington and Burling.

On January 4, 2017, California legislative leaders announced that they have hired Holder to assist them in anticipated federal challenges to several state policies such as climate change and immigration.

In a statement, Kevin de Leon, California Senate President Pro Tempore said, “With the upcoming change in administrations, we expect that there will be extraordinary challenges for California in the uncertain times ahead.”  The California Attorney General, who represents the State’s interest in court, already has a budget of $190 million.

Holder was one of Obama’s longest-serving and most controversial Cabinet members.

On June 28, 2012, Holder became the first U.S. Attorney General to be held in contempt of Congress on both civil and criminal grounds. The contempt charge came in connection with Holder’s refusal to turn over documents on Operation Fast and Furious, the Obama administration’s gunwalking scandal. Judicial Watch has since exposed numerous atrocities associated with this scandal.

Under Holder the Justice Department dismissed its voting rights case against the New Black Panther Party. The Justice Department originally filed its lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party following an incident that took place outside of a Philadelphia polling station on November 4, 2008. According to multiple witnesses, members of the New Black Panthers blocked access to polling stations, harassed voters and hurled racial epithets. A video of the incident, showing a member of the New Black Panther Party brandishing police-style baton weapon, was widely distributed on the Internet. In March 2011, Judicial Watch sued the Holder Justice Department for records detailing its contacts with NAACP about the dismissal of the lawsuit.

In 2013, the Justice Department was caught spying on The Associated Press by collecting months’ worth of phone records of reporters and editors. Fox News’ James Rosen was among those targeted by Holder’s Justice Department.

Holder left the Justice Department in 2015 to rejoin Covington & Burling.

“Judicial Watch’s records request is designed to expose how California state legislators are wasting tax dollars to take care of another corrupt politician – Eric Holder – under the guise of resisting the rule of law on immigration and other matters,” stated Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.  “His record at the Clinton and Obama Justice Departments demonstrates a willingness to bend the law in order to protect his political patrons.”

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Food-stamp recipients can use their taxpayer-funded benefit to order online from retailers like Amazon under a new Obama administration initiative that aims to facilitate the shopping experience for rural and urban residents. It marks the latest of many costly experiments by the administration to expand the fraud-infested program, which has seen a record-high number of beneficiaries under President Obama. To eliminate the welfare stigma, the administration renamed food stamps Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the rolls swelled to an astounding 46.5 million in 2016. This cost American taxpayers and eye-popping $70 billion, according to government figures.

It’s all part of the president’s longtime goal to eradicate what he and the First Lady call an epidemic of “food insecurity” among the nation’s low-income residents. Part of the problem is that this demographic has limited access to healthy food choices, the administration says, and the government must provide them with nutritional options. This is why taxpayers have been forced to dole out tens of millions of dollars to bring fruits and vegetables to the nation’s inner cities, coined “food deserts” by the administration because they lack healthy fare. The new online ordering program will help address this, according to the federal agency that runs the bloated food-stamp program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (USDA).

“Online purchasing is a potential lifeline for SNAP participants living in urban neighborhoods and rural communities where access to healthy food choices can be limited,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement announcing the new program this week. “We’re looking forward to being able to bring the benefits of the online market to low-income Americans participating in SNAP.” Besides Amazon, a few other online businesses have been approved by the feds to accept food stamps online, including Hy-Vee, Hart’s Local Grocers, Safeway and ShopRite. The USDA acknowledges however, that “online payment presents technical and security challenges that will need to be examined and fully addressed…”

It’s the last thing that an out-of-control government program, long plagued with fraud corruption, needs. Under the Obama expansion SNAP has suffered a multitude of serious problems. Back in 2012 a federal investigation uncovered evidence that food-stamp recipients were using the benefit to buy drugs, weapons and other contraband from unscrupulous vendors. A year later Judicial Watch broke a story, based on testimony and other evidence provided by a whistleblower, about the U.S. government knowingly giving illegal immigrants food stamps for decades. That was followed by another disturbing scheme in which SNAP benefits were being sold online using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and ecommerce websites like Craigslist and eBay.

Earlier this year federal authorities in south Florida busted the largest food-stamp fraud operation in U.S. history. Twenty-two defendants in the largely black and Hispanic areas of Miami-Dade County known as Opa-Locka and Hialeah swindled the government out of $13 million by fraudulently trading food stamps for cash. The crooked vendors operated food and produce stands at a local flea market as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to eradicate “food deserts,” common in poor, minority communities where fresh, healthy food is tough to find or often unavailable. The feds say the business owners and their employees let food-stamp recipients use their welfare benefit to get cash in exchange for a cut of the money. They swiped the recipient’s SNAP card for an inflated amount, doled out cash and kept a percentage. In most instances the recipient didn’t actually get food, according to federal authorities.

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