… individuals charged with executing Obama's policy agenda in secret and without congressional oversight.
Our first major "czar" lawsuit is over the role of controversial "Climate Czar" Carol Browner.
In February, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to obtain documents related to Ms. Browner (who holds the official title of Special Assistant on Energy and Climate) and her role in crafting official U.S. climate policy. Ms. Browner, who was never subjected to Senate confirmation, reportedly served as the Obama administration's point person in secret negotiations to establish automobile emission standards in California and also participated in negotiations involving cap and trade legislation.
Through our FOIA request filed on December 28, 2009, we're specifically seeking all records of communications, contacts, or correspondence between Browner and the Energy Department or the EPA concerning:
A. Negotiations and/or discussions among the auto industry, the State of California, and agencies of the United States with respect to fuel-standards/auto emissions for the time period between January 20, 2009, and June 1, 2009; and
B. Negotiations/discussions with respect to cap and trade legislation for the time period between June 1, 2009, and October 1, 2009.
The EPA has failed to respond to these requests in any manner. Subsequent to filing its lawsuit on February 18, Judicial Watch received a letter from the Energy Department (dated February 17) in which the agency denied that it even had any documents responsive to Judicial Watch's FOIA requests. (I'm not sure I believe that!)
According to press reports, Ms. Browner instructed individuals involved in auto emissions negotiations to "put nothing in writing, ever." The New York Times reported that Browner made every effort to "keep their discussions as quiet as possible."
And here's something else to make you nervous about Browner.
Her involvement in these important discussions is particularly troubling given her documented ties to the radical socialist organization Socialist International, which reportedly calls for "global governance" and advocates that wealthier nations should shrink their economies in order to address the climate change "crisis."
According to Fox News, Browner's name was "scrubbed" from the organization's website once she became linked to the Obama administration, but evidence of her involvement (including a photo of Browner speaking to the group's congress in Greece) remained.
So, here we have an unconfirmed Obama administration official conducting secret meetings and instructing participants to avoid producing a written record. This is the perfect storm of corruption: concentrated executive power with no congressional oversight and no transparency. And this stonewalling on the "Climate Czar" documents adds yet another chapter in the growing Climategate scandal. (Click here to read more.)
Too many of Obama's czars seem to wield a tremendous amount of authority and power and they have not been vetted as required by the Constitution. And I don't think it's any accident that every time one of them ends up in the news, it's because of their radical leftist ties. (See Van Jones.)
That's why we're so aggressive in our pursuit of documents detailing the role of Obama's czars in crafting and executing the Obama White House agenda.
JW Sues Justice Department for Documents Regarding Decision to Prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York Court
There is no question about it. President Barack Obama has completely botched the handling of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And it all began with a horrible decision by Obama Attorney General Eric Holder to bypass the military tribunal process and bring Mohammed to a New York courtroom, a decision that is now the center of a Judicial Watch investigation.
In February, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit against the Obama Justice Department to obtain documents related to Holder's decision on the trial. Our November 19, 2009, FOIA request seeks the following information:
A. All records concerning the decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other conspirators in the September 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
B. All communications from the Office of the Attorney General regarding the prosecution of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accused co-conspirators in the September 11 attacks, including, but not limited to briefings of offices of the state of New York, officials with the Department of State, officials with the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House.
Justice acknowledged they received our request on December 11, 2009, but failed to provide any documents within the required 20-day period. In fact, the Justice Department has completely ignored our request altogether.
My bet is we're getting stonewalled because the Obama team knows that the American people are furious about Holder's initial decision to bring a 9/11 terrorist into a New York courtroom. (According to a Quinnipiac poll released mid-February: "By a 59%-35% margin, voters prefer that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his cohorts be tried by military tribunals instead of in federal courts.")
Even members of the President's own party are now working in Congress to pass legislation to strip the administration of funding for a civil trial.
Of course, all of this backlash from the public and from Congress has prompted the Obama administration to flip-flop on the KSM trial. In January 2010, press reports suggested the White House had abandoned its plans for a New York trial after a "wave of protests" from the citizens of New York. In an interview with CBS News' Katie Couric that aired during the Superbowl, President Obama said he had not "ruled out" holding the trials in New York. And then on February 12, The Washington Post reported that President Obama has frozen Eric Holder out of the process and will decide where the trial will take place. And it is looking more likely than ever that there will be military trials of KSM and other 9/11 conspirators.
Obama's apparent move towards a military tribunal is welcome. But the fact is the option of allowing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a day in civilian court (with all the rights and protections recognized by the Constitution) never should have been on the table. The Obama administration's ongoing mishandling of these terrorists is alarming. And it doesn't help that the Holder Justice Department is stonewalling, in violation of the law, the release of documents about its terror trial decision-making. The American people deserve to know the truth about how and why this terrible decision was made.
Judicial Watch Obtains Documents Regarding Congressional CIA "Torture Briefings"
A few weeks ago, I told you that a court order mandated that the CIA turn over to Judicial Watch documents pertaining to congressional briefings on "enhanced interrogation techniques" by April 15. Well, this week we received the first batch of documents with additional documents forthcoming.
And what did we find?
According to the documents, previously marked "Top Secret," between 2001 and 2007, the CIA briefed at least 68 members of Congress on the CIA interrogation program, including so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques." The documents include the dates of all congressional briefings and, in some cases, the members of Congress in attendance and the specific subjects discussed.
And what about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who previously denied she was briefed by the CIA on the use of these techniques? Pelosi is specifically referenced in a briefing that took place on April 24, 2002, regarding the "ongoing interrogations of Abu Zubaydah." According to former CIA Director Michael Hayden, Zubaydah had been subjected to the "enhanced interrogation techniques."
As Reuter's noted in a story covering the CIA docs:
"In a statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence dated April 12, 2007, then-CIA director Michael Hayden said the agency decided new 'techniques' were needed because Abu Zubaydah was withholding information that could help us track down al Qaeda leaders and prevent attacks….
"Hayden…said as the CIA began implementing the interrogation program in 2002 'the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, the speaker, and the minority leader of the House, and the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees were fully briefed on the interrogation procedures.'"
That would seem to include Nancy Pelosi.
Of course, this is not the first haul of documents we've obtained regarding "enhanced interrogation techniques." We previously obtained documents from former Vice President Cheney's office in a separate lawsuit that detail the effectiveness of these techniques.
According to a June 1, 2005, CIA report entitled, Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against Al-Qa'ida, "Detainee reporting accounts for more than half of all HUMINT reporting on al-Qa'ida since the program began…" Interestingly, this fact was omitted in later versions of the report obtained by Judicial Watch. All versions, however, conclude: "One of the gains to detaining the additional terrorists has been the thwarting of a number of al-Qa'ida operations in the United States and overseas."
Despite the documented effectiveness of "enhanced interrogation techniques," the federal government suspended their use in 2005 by passing the Detainee Treatment Act. And President Obama officially banned the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" during his first week in office in January 2009. Two months later, in March 2009, President Obama overruled objections from national security officials and released documents detailing the government's enhanced interrogation program (the so-called "torture" memos). However, the president initially withheld information detailing the results of this program, including alleged terrorist plots that the program prevented.
Moreover, according to an April 2009 CNN report, President Obama's Intelligence Director, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, told colleagues in an April 16 memo on the subject of "enhanced interrogation techniques," that, "High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa'ida organization that was attacking this country." This sentence was omitted from a version of the memo released by Blair's office to the press. More Obama sleight of hand?
It is unfortunate that it took a federal court order to force the Obama administration to release these documents. Obviously, as these documents show, Congress approved of and was well aware of the use of these "enhanced interrogation techniques." They also were told of their lifesaving value. These techniques have demonstrably stopped terrorist attacks and saved American lives and it's a shame we're no longer able to use them. The Obama administration has made this country less safe by its destruction of the enhanced interrogation program.
I hope that our prying free these documents contributes to the building pressure to get the Obama administration to shun its pro-terrorist rights ideology and take more seriously its obligations to defend our nation from terrorists.
Tom Fitton – President
Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation's public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts and to access the embedded links please go to: www.JudicialWatch.org