by Tom Fitton –
… “We caught you because Judicial Watch did a FOIA Request”
Were it not for Judicial Watch, the so-called “lost” IRS emails, where former IRS head Lois Lerner discussed an agency-driven campaign to target Tea Party organizations, would have remained a well-kept Obama administration secret.
And if you don’t believe me, then consider what Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a subcommittee hearing on Wednesday: “My theory is this, Mr. Koskinen, you guys weren’t ever gonna tell us until we caught you. And we caught you because Judicial Watch did a FOIA request.”
I highly suggest you watch the exchange for yourself. TheBlaze.com has the video link. There you can see Rep. Jordan pin Koskinen to the documented facts as the IRS official tries to tap dance around them. Koskinen’s best defense? “You don’t understand how large organizations function,” he tells the Congressman when pressed as to why it took so long for the IRS to notify the committee that the Lerner emails had been lost.
Well, at Judicial Watch, we know well how large government organizations function. And here it is in a nutshell: When the government has information that makes government officials look bad, too often “large government organizations” run by corrupt political appointees and bureaucrats will do whatever they can, legal or illegal, to conceal the evidence. They will lie. They will cheat. They will destroy documents. They will stonewall. And they will exhibit selective memory.
All of these dirty tricks have been on display in the IRS scandal. But Judicial Watch wouldn’t let them get away with it. We pressed and pressed, ultimately taking the nation’s tax collecting agency to court. And through these persistent efforts, our attorneys and investigators uncovered the “smoking gun” evidence that has the Obama administration on its heels.
And now, as I write this update, another breaking story has hit the newswires related to those “lost” emails. Evidently back-up tapes do, in fact, exist that might just include Lerner’s missives with officials inside the IRS and with officials from other federal agencies.
Per Fox News:
The head of the IRS confirmed Wednesday that investigators looking into missing emails from ex-agency official Lois Lerner have found and are reviewing “backup tapes” – despite earlier IRS claims that the tapes had been recycled.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before a House oversight subcommittee, stressed that he does not know “how they found them” or “whether there’s anything on them or not.” But he said the inspector general’s office advised him the investigators are reviewing tapes to see if they contain any “recoverable” material.
The revelation is significant because the IRS claimed, when the agency first told Congress about the missing emails, that backup tapes “no longer exist because they have been recycled.”
(Yes, this is how large organizations function, Mr. Koskinen.)
Now, these back-up tapes are significant in that they could be yet another way to recover the Lerner emails. The Obama administration claims Lerner’s hard drive “crashed” in 2011. The House Ways and Means Committee issued a statement on Tuesday suggesting that the Lerner’s hard drive might only have been scratched and not damaged “beyond repair.” The committee notes that one IT tech who inspected the drive said the data might have been recoverable. However, IRS officials testified under oath that Lerner’s hard drive was, indeed, “wiped clean by the IRS and sent to an outside disposal company to be “shredded” – likely torn apart and melted down.”
A little convenient, wouldn’t you say, given that this all took place when the IRS initiated its attack campaign against Tea Party and “patriotic organizations”?
And that leaves the tapes, which are supposedly being reviewed by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) investigators.
Senior leadership at the Department of Justice (DOJ) knew about Lerner’s “crashed” hard drive back in February 2014 but they neglected to mention that fact to congressional investigators during hearings and meetings in March, or to Judicial Watch in its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking to obtain the emails.
The DOJ has been corrupt, incompetent, or both in prosecuting its duties in this investigation. Clearly the DOJ cannot be trusted (especially when Justice Department officials might themselves be implicated in coordinating a campaign to potentially jail Tea Party organizers and other “opponents” of this administration who allegedly “lied” on tax-exempt applications.)
But thanks to your Judicial Watch, the spotlight is on the IRS Justice Department full blast. Congress is paying attention – especially Rep. Jordan. And this will certainly make it all the more difficult for shenanigans to continue at the IRS and Justice.
In the meantime, the IRS has another round in court with Judicial Watch on August 11, when they must present sworn testimony, which will be interesting reading in light of this week’s revelations, about Lerner’s emails and any recovery efforts. And then the IRS must submit to the supervision of a federal magistrate judge as he oversees discussions between Judicial Watch and the IRS about how to get this magical email that may or may not exist.
Please click here to read some more of the background information on the scandal and JW’s leading role in the IRS investigation. And stay tuned as this investigation continues full speed ahead. As I wrote you earlier this week, you can see that your JW is effective and, unlike Congress, we are in federal court now holding the Obama IRS to account for its abuse and “missing” emails. Frankly, the almost daily revelations of more IRS dishonesty means we will have to devote more resources to our court investigations.
So any help you’d like to give during this tremendous period would be welcome. And please get the word out about JW to your family, friends, neighbors, and churches about our work, which is so important for the future of the Republic.
Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department for Records on Obama’s Massive Effort to Grant Clemency to Criminals
With a little more than two years left in the Obama administration, this president seems to have given up on any pretense to abide by his oath of his office accomplish his leftist goals.
Perhaps the most obvious example is illegal alien amnesty. At first, the administration tried negotiating with Congress. When that failed, Obama simply nullified the law and implemented “deferred action” (amnesty) for young illegal aliens and virtually anyone else who had made it across the border and hadn’t gotten caught for doing something else terribly criminal. Congress, including a complicit Republican leadership, watched, complained a little bit, but did little under their awesome constitutional powers to uphold the rule of law. And we’ve seen the results, as tens of thousands of illegals are streaming across the border, bringing crime, chaos and disease.
As if the situation at the border is not dangerous enough on its own, now the Obama Department of Justice wants to bust through prison walls and release tens of thousands of drug criminals onto the streets. And what’s the explanation? Drug laws are “unjust” and “outdated.”
To get to the bottom of this under-the-radar scandal, on June 23, 2014, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against Justice to obtain records of communication between the Office of Deputy Attorney General James Cole and a claque of far-Left organizations behind something called “Clemency Project 2014.”
The Clemency Project supports an initiative announced by the DOJ in April that would empower President Obama to grant mass clemency to as many as 20,000 convicted felons now serving time for drug-related sentences.
Here’s what we’re after with our March 10, 2014, FOIA request and subsequent lawsuit:
Any and all records of communications between employees or officials of the Office of Deputy Attorney General James Cole and representatives of the Federal Defenders, the ACLU, FAMM, the ABA, and NACDL related to, or in connection with or regarding the ‘Clemency Project 2014’ from January 1, 2014 to the present date.
On April 23, 2014, Deputy Attorney James Cole announced the Obama clemency initiative saying it would encourage federal inmates sentenced under what he termed “out-of-date laws” to petition to have their sentences “commuted, or reduced, by the President of the United States.” The clemency initiative is part of the Obama administration’s effort to end alleged racial discrimination in drug-related sentences.
But the effort actually started back in 2010, with the signing of the Fair Sentencing Act, which for the first time in decades relaxed drug-crime sentences. The measure severely weakened a decades-old law enacted during the crack cocaine epidemic that ravaged urban communities nationwide in the 1980s.
But the Fair Sentencing Act is not retroactive so the president launched his broad plan in April to help those sentenced under the older, stricter law that required mandatory prison for first-time offenders and a five-year sentence for trafficking offenses involving more than five grams of crack cocaine.
Do you see the pattern? When changing the law does not yield the drastic results sought by Obama – although most would argue gutting drug laws is a very drastic and harmful move – the president simply chooses to ignore the law altogether.
And who benefits from releasing 20,000 drug criminals onto the streets? The American people, who must now deal with a potential tidal wave of resulting crime in their neighborhoods? Certainly not. No, it’s the leftist network supporting this president’s anti-law and order crusade. These radical outside groups, especially through the Justice Department, have been wagging the dog inside the Obama administration from Day One.
In announcing the administration’s clemency initiative, Cole acknowledged the role of “numerous groups and individual attorneys” who had been working with the DOJ to free the convicted drug offenders:
In January, I gave a speech to the New York State Bar Association in which I called upon private attorneys to volunteer to assist potential candidates in assembling commutation petitions – ones which provide a focused presentation of the information the Department and the President will consider – in order to meaningfully evaluate whether a petitioner qualifies under this initiative. Since that time, dedicated and experienced criminal defense and nonprofit lawyers have responded to that call. These numerous groups and individual attorneys, who are calling themselves Clemency Project 2014, will be working with inmates who appear to meet the six criteria and request the assistance of a lawyer.
Among the groups that comprise Clemency Project 2014 are Federal Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the American Bar Association (ABA), and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
Judicial Watch has now filed suit for DOJ communications
with each of the organizations.
Cole’s statement also included an announcement that DOJ Pardon Attorney Ron Rodgers had abruptly resigned his position. Though Cole characterized the Rodgers resignation as “in the tradition” of senior executive service attorneys who ask for reassignment, there was some indication that it may have come about as a result of Rodger’s disagreement with the Obama clemency initiative.
And here we see yet another Obama administration pattern on display: Dissent is not tolerated inside the Obama administration. It’s a “get in line or get out of the way” system that will only grow in efficiency as the days tick off towards the end of the Obama administration.
Rodgers, who is known for his opposition to clemency requests, was replaced by Deborah Leff, who worked with the Access to Justice Initiative, a DOJ agency aiding low-income defendants in court. According to the liberal publication The American Prospect: “For those hoping to see a robust clemency push, her background bodes well.”
Now, historically, the power to reduce sentences and grant pardons has been used on a case-by-case basis. During his presidency, George W. Bush granted only 11 sentence commutations, while Bill Clinton granted a total of 61. Both are a far cry from 20,000.
Robert Weisberg, a law professor at Stanford University and co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, questions whether the Obama clemency move rightly falls under the legitimate powers of the Executive Branch, “Although it’s being done through the pardon power, it really is a kind of administrative action to make some of the newer laws retroactive…It’s almost as if they have to invent their own kind of shadow sentencing guidelines and in effect re-sentence certain people.”
Certain members of Congress are also balking at the Obama clemency initiative, with Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), stating, “While the pardon power has been interpreted broadly, the Framers never intended for it to be used in this manner. Rather, they intended for it to be used on a limited, case-by-case basis to correct injustice, not to be a tool for the administration to rewrite or even eliminate laws passed by Congress.”
This is an example of the imperial presidency at its worst, and we believe the American people have a right to know who is behind his arrant usurpation of power.
The Obama Department of Justice’s outsourcing of its work to left-wing interest groups is yet another abuse that undermines accountability. So it is no surprise that the Department of Justice is now violating our nation’s primary open records law and refusing to divulge basic information about this controversial program.
Judicial Watch Sues DOD for May 2011 FOIA
Request Record for bin Laden Death Photos
As you know if you’ve been reading this Weekly Update for any length of time, Judicial Watch has assiduously pursued the Obama administration for the bin Laden death photos for more than three years. Along the way, we’ve met with stonewalling, obfuscation, and destruction of evidence by the Obama administration. Unfortunately, courts have been willing to excuse some of the Obama’s document shell games and have affirmed his unprecedented and dangerous secrecy claims. But we persist in our pursuit of the truth and accountability.
On June 17, 2014, JW once again sought redress through the courts, filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the United States Department of Defense (DOD) to obtain records of communications relating to our May 2, 2011, FOIA request for bin Laden death photographs and videos.
In this case, we want to know all there is to know about how the Obama administration internally handled our FOIA request for the bin Laden death photos. Here’s what we’re after per our June 7, 2013, FOIA request and subsequent lawsuit:
All records of communications concerning, regarding, or relating to a FOIA request (Control No. 11-F-0931) dated May 2, 2011, filed by Judicial Watch with the DOD office of Freedom of Information (OFOI). The time frame for this request is May 2, 2011, to September 26, 2011.
As I say, this is a battle we’ve been waging for three years and counting.
On May 2, 2011, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request with the DOD seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011.” We filed an identical request with the CIA. When neither the DOD nor the CIA complied with the FOIA requests within 20 business days as required by law, Judicial Watch, in June 2011, filed FOIA lawsuits against both agencies.
You remember the Obama administration’s justification for keeping the photos secret right? The president didn’t want to gloat over the victory lest it offend the terrorists. Of course this sensitivity to gloating was completely ignored when the Obama administration released classified details to the filmmakers behind Zero Dark Thirty, which showed an in-command president ordering and monitoring the bin Laden raid. And it didn’t make the president think twice before “spiking the football” during the 2012 campaign.
But when it came to the American people’s right to have access to details confirming bin Laden’s death, well that was too much to ask – and far too dangerous.
Unfortunately, while the courts seemed to sympathize with Judicial Watch’s pursuit of the records, at the end of the day they protected Obama’s secrecy.
On April 26, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled that the images could remain secret while conceding, “Indeed, it makes sense that the more significant an event is to our nation – and the end of bin Laden’s reign of terror certainly ranks high – the more need the public has for full disclosure.” On May 21, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the District Court decision while conceding that the documents may not have been properly classified.
On August 19, 2013, we took our case to the highest court in the land, filing a certiorari petition with the Supreme Court of the United States asking it to review the Appeals Court ruling. Ultimately, the Supreme Court denied our petition for a writ of certiorari allowing Obama secrecy to continue. I think it is downright dangerous to allow a president to invoke vague threats of terrorists to overturn federal laws guaranteeing the right of American people to know what their government is up to. What other laws that protect our liberty will go overboard because the terrorists get upset by them? The entire First Amendment? (If you think this is far-fetched, ask the poor sap who was thrown in jail by the Obama administration to allegedly appease terrorist mobs abroad (and provide cover for the Obama’s administration Benghazi video lie.))
So after the Supreme Court refused to weigh in, Judicial Watch uncovered a plot twist that reinvigorated its efforts to get to the truth behind the Obama administration’s campaign to keep these photos secret – a twist that (surprise, surprise) involved the destruction of evidence.
On September 5, 2013, JW filed a FOIA lawsuit against the DOD for records relating to a 2011 directive by U.S. Special Operations Commander Admiral William McRaven to purge the department’s systems of all records relating to the Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.
McRaven directed that the materials be transferred to the CIA, where they could be shielded from FOIA requests. Earlier this year, Judicial Watch received documents from the Department of Defense (Pentagon) revealing that, within hours of its filing a May 13, 2011, FOIA lawsuit seeking photos of the deceased Osama bin Laden, U.S. Special Operations Commander, Admiral William McRaven permitted his subordinates via email to “destroy” any photos they may have had “immediately.” The McRaven email, addressed to “Gentlemen,” instructs:
One particular item that I want to emphasize is photos; particularly UBLs remains. At this point – all photos should have been turned over to the CIA; if you still have them destroy them immediately or get them to the [redacted].
To be clear Judicial Watch had filed a well-publicized FOIA request for these same records 11 days before this email. And, yet, even after we filed a federal lawsuit — it looks like responsive records were purposely destroyed!
Again, whether it’s the IRS melting down a hard drive, or the Pentagon specifically ordering evidence be destroyed, the Obama administration knows no shame when it comes to secrecy..
We just want the law to prevail so that we can complete the public record on one of the most significant military operations (and successes) in United States history. We’re not seeking any information that would compromise national security. Just photographic evidence of the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, a fact that has been highlighted ad nauseum by Obama administration officials, Obama apologists, and the president himself.
And when it comes to this photographic evidence, you can understand why we would be concerned that the Pentagon has destroyed documents or played other games in order to deceive the public and the courts – given Admiral McRaven’s specific directive and the administration’s history in such matters.
This is how bad it has gotten. In this case we had to file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit about our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit – which shows just how insane and dishonest this administration is when it comes to secrecy. Thank you for allowing Judicial Watch to address this national transparency crisis in the courts. You can see that no matter what the topic – IRS, Benghazi, Pentagon misconduct – Judicial Watch is only game in town when it comes to affirming the rule of law. You can’t trust Congress, you can’t trust the liberal media, but you can trust Judicial Watch to do the work of vigilance so essential to our nation’s wellbeing.
Tom Fitton – President