by Tom Fitton –
I’m sure you’ve been following the news out of New York, and contrary to what President Obama and other top government officials have said, the Ebola crisis appears to be getting worse in the U.S. Judicial Watch is striving to pry loose the truth from reticent federal agencies that have a responsibility for public safety and our national security.
We have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In light of the potential danger from this deadly disease, the administration’s long history of delaying and obstructing information requests could have severe consequences for members of the public who have been told that they are safe. We are prepared to go to court to force the release of critical pieces of information. Our Ebola FOIA requests ask for an immediate clarification of the DOD’s plans for the evacuation of U.S. personnel from Africa if an Ebola outbreak occurs. We are also looking for information from OSHA regarding any plans the agency has for responding to the current Ebola outbreak and any expressions of concern by OHSA personnel.
Another key player here is a cryptic carrier known as Phoenix Air. We know this air carrier has been responsible for transporting Ebola victims, but that’s all the American people are being told. How safe is Phoenix Air and what kind of relationship does it have with the U.S. government? This much seems clear: Phoenix Air is more than just a medical transport unit. It appears to have significant DOD contracts.
One definitive move the administration made that is worth noting is the recent appointment of Ronald Klain as the Ebola czar. JW has carefully documented the constitutional problems with the appointment of congressionally unaccountable czars throughout various executive agencies. But there’s an additional problem with Klain’s appointment. His appears to be motivated more by politics and less by qualifications. Klain is not an expert in infectious diseases. He is a long-time Democratic operative who gained notoriety for his role in the legal challenges surrounding the 2000 presidential election. Klain also previously served as the chief of staff to Vice-Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden. He’s what you call well-connected in Washington. For the rest of America, “well-connected” can be translated as “corrupt” in this case. Klain’s involvement in Solyndra and the Clinton-era fundraising scams show just how well-credentialed and well-suited he is to represent President Obama. True to form, Klain’s appointment shows that the Obama White House views the Ebola issue as more of a political crisis than a stark public safety issue.
And, as we note in this important Investigative Bulletin piece, Czar Klain: No Way to Run a Republic, this is another czar who will undermine transparency and is another Obama end-run around the U.S. Constitution:
The Washington Post reports that Klain is “tasked with coordinating domestic preparedness efforts and the U.S. military operation to help control the virus’s spread in West Africa.” He’ll report to Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, the Postsays. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency is also a player. And the Defense Department has a major role. And because it is Africa, so does the State Department. And so does the Department of Homeland Security. Power in Washington is in direct relation to proximity to the president. So a “czar” operating from the White House exercises powerful influence over these departments, which have a measure of transparency and accountability under the law that the czars do not have.
As Judicial Watch has reported, the Obama administration has named dozens of them across the executive branch. Many, like Czar Klain, are unconfirmed by the Senate, largely unaccountable to Congress, and often outside the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.
That’s a troubling consolidation of power, and no way to run a republic.
If there was any doubt the administration is not setting the right priorities, these can be erased by a source who has informed JW of a secret plan to bring Ebola-infected non-citizens into the U.S. The plan is both illegal and dangerous, the source says. Even so, the administration is pressing ahead with plans to admit Ebola-infected non-citizens into the U.S. for treatment. The general idea is bring these Ebola victims into the U.S. within the first few days of diagnosis. As is so often the case, President Obama has decided not to inform Congress, the source has told us. The plan includes special waivers of existing laws and regulations. We do not know how much the transportation for this dangerous maneuver will cost. (Will Phoenix Air be involved?)
Congress followed our lead again. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter addressed to the secretary of state and the secretary of Homeland Security asking for details about this plan.
“Please provide me any and all written memos or other documentation written by employees of your Departments regarding the formulation of a plan to allow non-U.S. citizens infected with Ebola to enter the U.S. to receive medical treatment,” the letter says.
The committee is giving the agency heads until the end of this week to respond. There is one way President Obama can carry out this initiative. He can do this by offering foreign nationals a special parole. Under federal regulations, a parolee could be defined as an alien who is inadmissible to an inspection officer, but permitted into the U.S. for humanitarian reasons. Obama has already used this exemption for the illegal alien “minors” who illegally crossed our border. He could do this again, without notice or announcement, to open the door to foreign nationals carrying the deadly Ebola infection.
So, as some argue about whether to restrict flights and visitors from Ebola-afflicted countries in West Africa, Obama plans to allow non-citizens infected with the virus into the United States. All the flight and travel bans in the world won’t address this president’s abusive use of power to allow aliens with Ebola into the country. I see nothing under discussion in Congress yet that addresses this clear and present danger. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and some members of the Senate are on the alert and ready for action after Judicial Watch’s disclosure, but the rest of Washington is asleep at the switch. Check in with your elected officials, wake them up, and tell them to pay attention to – and act upon – Judicial Watch’s warnings of Obama’s reckless plans to endanger the public health.
Judicial Watch Sues for the Truth on Obama’s Border Crisis
Apparently, President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) knew well before the “surge” what would be the consequences of the administration’s lax enforcement of immigration laws would be. On January 29, 2014, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), a division of DHS, posted a document available online entitled “Request for Information (RFI)/Sources Sought” that asked for “Escort Services for Unaccompanied Alien Children” or UACs. And Team Obama was expecting more than just a handful of UACs, the official term the federal government applies to illegal aliens under the age of 18 who have no legal parent or guardian in the U.S.
The request explicitly says the hired contractor should provide services to accommodate 65,000 UACs in total. Since October 2013, almost 70,000 UACs have entered the U.S. from Mexico, according to latest DHS figures. But it has been just since June – only a matter of months after the Obama administration’s sudden call for “escort services” – that the deluge of
illegal immigrant minors streamed across the border from Mexico at an ever-accelerating pace.
On June 12 – some six months after the ICE request for escorts – the New York Post reported what it described as a “‘Katrina’ of illegal immigrants flooding into border states daily.” According to a Fox News July 14, 2014, report:
Life jackets of all sizes and the occasional punctured raft are strewn along the banks of the Rio Grande, just south of Mission, Texas, where a relentless onslaught of illegal immigrants eagerly surrender to beleaguered Border Patrol agents around the clock.
It’s a cycle for which there is no end in sight.
“You’re going to be out here a long time,” Fernando, an El Salvadoran child, told FoxNews.com shortly after surrendering to Border Patrol authorities after midnight Saturday. “There are thousands of us.’
On July 3, 2014, the New York Times reported that “240,000 migrants and 52,000 unaccompanied minors … crossed the border illegally in recent months.” According to the Times article, the illegal aliens would be “turned over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and probably released to find relatives already living in the United States.”
David Jennings, ICE Southern California Field Director, reportedly told the Times, “The most humane way to deal with this is to find out where they are going and get them there.”
There is good reason to believe Obama’s nullification of our immigration laws directly contributed to this security breakdown along our nation’s Southwestern border. And that it was not by happenstance.
That’s why on October 16, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the DHS seeking records about that January 2014 ICE request for a contractor to provide “on-demand escort services” for 65,000 unaccompanied alien children.
Just for the record, here is part of what DHS/ICE asked for in its unusual request for escort services. As you will readily see, as far back as January, they knew something the rest of the American people didn’t. In short, they were preparing – or, more precisely, laying the groundwork – for an invasion:
“The Contractor shall provide unarmed escort staff, including management, supervision, manpower, training, certifications, licenses, drug testing, equipment, and supplies necessary to provide on-demand escort services for non-criminal/non-delinquent unaccompanied alien children ages infant to 17 years of age, seven (7) days a week, 365 days a year. Transport will be required for either category of UAC or individual juveniles, to include both male and female juveniles. There will be approximately 65,000 UAC in total: 25% local ground transport, 25% via ICE charter and 50% via commercial air.
Escort services include, but are not limited to, assisting with: transferring physical custody of UAC from DHS to Health and Human Services (HHS) care via ground or air methods of transportation (charter or commercial carrier), property inventory, providing juveniles with meals, drafting reports, generating transport documents, maintaining/stocking daily supplies, providing and issuing clothing as needed, coordinating with DHS and HHS staff, travel coordination, limited stationary guard services to accommodate for trip disruptions due to inclement weather, faulty equipment, or other exigent circumstances.”
Judicial Watch filed the FOIA lawsuit after the Obama administration – as usual – refused to respond to our simple FOIA request. Let me show you the lawless, mendacious secrecy of the Obama gang by giving you some details I usually leave out about the hassles our investigators must go through just to get ignored by the Obama administration.
We filed our FOIA request about this issue on July 8. The DHS then told us it didn’t receive our request until July 30 and also gave itself a ten-day extension under the law, ostensibly to process the request. DHS was obligated under the law to make a determination within 30 days of receipt of our initial request whether they will supply the requested material, or inform us they will not comply and then advise us of our right to appeal if a negative determination occurs. That 30-day deadline expired, and DHS failed to act as the law requires. Even then, we gave them another month, and still no response! And now the case is in the federal court here in D.C.
Does this process and gamesmanship sound “transparent” to you? You can see why I give so much credit to our expert investigators who navigate these administrative hurdles and to our smart lawyers can make sense of the obfuscation and get results (meaning documents) through the courts.
The effort is worth it because the public interest is served, especially in light of the threats to our security, health, safety, and pocketbooks caused by the Obama amnesty border crisis.
As JW previously reported, illegal alien minors (who are often really adults and/or accompanied by numerous adults) are bringing serious diseases with them across the border. This could include the swine flu, dengue fever, possibly the Ebola virus, and tuberculosis. The reckless abandonment of border security and the lack of enforcement of our immigration laws jeopardizes the hardworking taxpayers being forced to foot the bill for the Obama administration’s reckless, feckless “children’s crusade” against American sovereignty.
The surge isn’t over. I took special note of a report in the Washington Examiner this week that the number of illegal alien minors may approach 130,000 this year, far exceeding prior worst case estimates of 90,000:
As President Obama readies a post-election immigration plan expected to clear a path for citizenship for millions of illegals, his immigration czar on Tuesday said that the border is bracing for another surge of undocumented children, raising this year’s wave across the southern border to some 130,000.
Leon Rodriguez, the new director of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, said that the federal government is already working to “prepare for another potential surge” across the border.
You can see how our FOIA lawsuit is more than about the failure of yet another Obama administration agency to comply with the federal transparency law – it is about the future of our country.
Judicial Watch’s Fast and Furious Breakthrough
Your Judicial Watch has finally forced the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide a detailed listing of all the records it has withheld from Congress and the American people about the deadly Fast and Furious scandal and its cover-up. The documents, as we suspected, detail the personal involvement of outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder in managing the DOJ’s media strategy and its response to congressional investigations.
But what really stands out is the disturbing extent to which President Obama’s executive privilege claims over these records are a fraud and an abuse of his office. There is no precedent for Obama’s Nixonian assertion of executive privilege over these ordinary government agency records. The Obama administration is even withholding emails between Holder, his wife Sharon Malone and his mother under absurd claims of executive privilege.
Obama, personally and through his authority as president of the United States, claims that the wife and mother of Eric Holder are entitled to know more about the Fast and Furious operation than the American people and the United States Congress.
As you may recall from out previous updates, Fast and Furious was a joint DOJ-Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gun running operation that the administration perpetrated expecting it would bolster 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. We have also obtained informationthrough a lawsuit filed against the City of Phoenix, Arizona. that shows Congress has confirmed that an AK 47 rifle used in July 29, 2013, gang-style assault on an apartment building that resulted in the wounding of two people was part of the Fast and Furious program.
A critical turning point in the growing controversy over DOJ tactics came on June 28, 2012, when Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives over his refusal to turn over records that explained why the Obama administration declined to reveal critical information to Congress that cut to the truth of Fast and Furious. The timeline of events says a lot about the administration’s ongoing to efforts to withhold information. Just a week before the contempt finding, President Obama asserted executive privilege over Fast and Furious records the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed eight months earlier. This was a not too subtle effort to protect Holder from criminal prosecution and pre-empt the contempt vote. We filed our Freedom of Information Act request seeking these Fast and Furious records just two days after Obama made his assertion of executive privilege. After the DOJ predictably denied our FOIA request, we filed a FOIA lawsuit on September 12, 2012.
But then the Justice Department convinced U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates to stay our lawsuit, in part to allow ongoing settlement discussions between the Holder’s government lawyers and the House Committee to continue. Unsurprisingly, the “negotiations” between politicians running the House and the Justice Department went nowhere.
A major breakthrough came on July 18, 2014 when Judge Bates lifted what had been a 16-month delay of our open records lawsuit. Most significantly, he ordered the production of a Vaughn index by October 1. On September 23, Bates denied the DOJ’s request it be given over an extra month – until November 3 to produce a Vaughn Index. Holder announced his decision to resign just two days after this court ruling denying the DOJ’s request for an extension. We do not view this as a coincidence.
A Vaughn index can enormously helpful to the cause of openness and transparency in FOIA litigation as it must typically 1) identify each record withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption. The 1,307-page draft Vaughn index, which explains 15,662 documents, arguably fails to provide all of this required information, but is highly revealing.
Our initial review of this material reveals:
• Numerous emails that detail Attorney General Holder’s direct involvement in crafting talking points, timing public disclosures, and handling Congressional inquiries in the Fast and Furious matter.
• President Obama has asserted executive privilege over nearly 20 email communications between Holder and his spouse Sharon Malone. The administration also claims that the records are also subject to withholding under the “deliberative process” exemption. This exemption ordinarily exempts from public disclosure records that could chill internal government deliberations.
• Numerous entries detail DOJ’s communications (including those of Eric Holder) concerning the White House about Fast and Furious.
• The scandal required the attention of virtually every top official of the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Communications to and from the United States Ambassador to Mexico about the Fast and Furious matter are also described.
The continued fallout from Fast and Furious to the American people is difficult to overstate. The guns from the scandal are expected to be used in criminal activity on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border for years to come.
Once again, Judicial Watch has proven itself more effective than Congress and the establishment media in providing basic oversight of this out-of-control administration. This Fast and Furious document provides dozens of leads for further congressional, media, and even criminal investigations. Hopefully, they will follow JW’s lead.
News will continue to break about JW’s Fast and Furious find, so check in often at www.judicialwatch.org this weekend and next week for updates.
I also ask you to get the word out to generate additional support for our work from your family, church, social and business networks. And any help you’re able to provide allows us to do more of the essential work to expose government wrongdoing, hold our elected officials accountable to the law, and, frankly, protect the safety of the American people.
Tom Fitton – President