… That's the central question in a Judicial Watch investigation involving documents at the CIA. And, thanks to your Judicial Watch, soon we might just get our answer.
According to a court order issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on January 25, 2010, the CIA must provide to Judicial Watch by April 15 documents pertaining to congressional briefings on "enhanced interrogation techniques," including any documents that detail CIA briefings involving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and/or her staff.
Here are the specifics on what we're after, according to the FOIA request we filed on May 15, 2009:
Records detailing dates when the CIA briefed congressional leaders (to include, but not limited to Rep. Nancy Pelosi and/or her aide, Michael Sheehy) on matters relating to "enhanced interrogation techniques" and/or "harsh interrogation techniques" and suspected and/or known terrorists…
Briefing materials presented to Rep. Nancy Pelosi and/or her aide, Michael Sheehy, relating to "enhanced interrogation techniques" and/or "harsh interrogation techniques" and suspected and/or known terrorists.
Records detailing the names of all Members of Congress (and/or Congressional Aides) briefed on "enhanced interrogation techniques" and/or "harsh interrogation techniques" and suspected and/or known terrorists.
Records and briefing materials from a reported September 4, 2002, briefing of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (and/or her aide Michael Sheehy) concerning waterboarding detainees.
Records detailing all instances when the CIA has provided briefings to Members of Congress under the provisions of the National Security Act from September 11, 2001, to present.
On June 23, 2009, the CIA notified Judicial Watch that it would not be able to respond to the FOIA request within the statutory mandated 20 working days, but did not indicate when a response would be forthcoming. That's why we filed our lawsuit.
So, bottom line. Does Speaker Pelosi have anything to worry about regarding these CIA documents? Rep. Peter King, the ranking GOP member of the Committee on Homeland Security, certainly thinks so. Here's what the New York congressman told The Washington Times: "Everyone I have spoken to who were on the [House Intelligence] Committee says that she was certainly aware of what was going on. I think she should be concerned."
Of course, if Speaker Pelosi is once again caught in a lie, she has no one to blame but herself. In April 2009 Speaker Pelosi claimed she was briefed on the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, but that she was not aware they had already been used. The CIA contradicted Pelosi's claim, pointing to a briefing they held with the speaker on September 4, 2002, and a subsequent briefing to her top staffer.
No matter what the records show, the recent federal court order is a huge victory for transparency. The Obama administration has been stonewalling the release of these documents to protect Speaker Pelosi and we're glad the court is going to put a stop to it. We are looking forward to completing the public record on this controversy involving Speaker Pelosi and to finally putting the matter to rest once and for all. I'll have more on this as soon as we get our hands on those documents.
Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit against LA County Sheriff for Denying Press Interview with Inmate
Apparently, Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy D. Baca doesn't want the public to hear what inmate David Fine has to say. That's why's he is blocking a local public access network from interviewing Fine, who is currently sitting in the Men's Central Jail on a civil contempt of court charge stemming from his legal efforts to counter alleged corruption in the Los Angeles County court system.
Judicial Watch interceded in the matter this week, filing a lawsuit on behalf of Leslie Dutton and the American Association of Women. Ms. Dutton operates the "Full Disclosure Network," the network seeking an interview with Mr. Fine. She believes the Sheriff's Department and Baca have violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. We agree.
Here's how all this got started and why Judicial Watch got involved.
Since April 2009, the Full Disclosure Network, which is an Emmy Award-winning public affairs program available on public access channels and over the Internet, has been attempting to interview Mr. Fine for its "Judicial Benefits and Court Corruption" series.
The network and Mr. Fine have been highly critical of a "double dipping" scheme by Los Angeles County to compensate judges with benefits and perks they are already receiving from the state. (I've covered this judicial scandal several times in this space, as Judicial Watch has filed a separate lawsuit over this same issue.) The Full Disclosure Network has also been critical of the decision to incarcerate Mr. Fine.
According to Judicial Watch's complaint, filed on January 27, 2010:
"Defendants Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Baca have repeatedly denied Plaintiff Dutton's and the American Association of Women's requests to interview Mr. Fine at the Men's Central Jail. [These denials] have been arbitrary and capricious, and, on information and belief, also have been unlawfully based, at least in part, on Plaintiff Dutton's and the American Association of Women's coverage and criticism of Mr. Fine's continuing, indefinite incarceration for civil contempt."
As we note in our complaint, while Sheriff Baca has repeatedly denied the Full Disclosure Network's requests for interviews, a reporter from the Los Angeles Times was granted access to an interview with Mr. Fine for an article published in the June 7, 2009, edition of the newspaper.
In April 2009, a deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department informed Dutton no interview with Mr. Fine could take place because "the judge said so," despite the fact the spokesman could not produce a copy of a court order to that effect. In September 2009, Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said that no interview could take place "because it was the policy of [Sheriff Baca] not to allow interviews of Mr. Fine."
I don't know how all this appears to you, but it certainly looks to me like Sheriff Baca was playing favorites with the press, denying Full Disclosure the opportunity to interview Mr. Fine because he didn't like the network's editorial content. Obviously, this is constitutionally impermissible. Law enforcement officers cannot target citizens because of the opinions they express. As I say, we're fighting this in court, and we hope other media rally to our cause to uphold the First Amendment.
Senate Ethics Committee Sputters
Given the massive amount of corruption taking place on a daily basis in Washington, DC, surely the Senate Ethics Committee is working overtime to achieve justice on the part of the American people, right? Not even close, according to statistics released by the Senate Ethics Committee regarding its "investigations."
Here's the scoop according to The Washington Post:
The Senate Ethics Committee had four active investigations of senators underway as of the end of 2009, according to a report released by the panel Friday.
The committee is required by law each January to issue a summary of its activities from the previous year. The panel's report for 2009 says it conducted a "preliminary inquiry" of 13 different alleged ethics violations (eight of which carried over from 2008). Of those 13, eight were dismissed for various reasons and one — the investigation of Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) — resulted in a letter of admonition.
So that's the grand total number of Senators that have misbehaved? Four!?
And what did Senator Burris do to deserve his "letter of admonition?" He was caught attempting to raise money for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich even while he was lobbying Blagojevich to appoint him to the Senate seat left vacant by President Obama. And then he lied about it. Burris changed his story five times regarding his contacts with Blagojevich prior to the Illinois governor appointing him to the U.S. Senate. Three of those changing explanations came under oath. Yeah, a letter ought to cover it.
Among those who escaped the "harsh" punishment levied against Burris was Senator Chris Dodd. As you may recall the soon-to-be-retired-in-disgrace Dodd accepted preferential loan terms from Countrywide Financial as part of the company's VIP program. Dodd claims he knew nothing about the special deal. However, Robert Feinberg, who worked in the Countrywide VIP program, told a different story in testimony before Congress. When asked directly whether Dodd was aware he was receiving special VIP treatment, Feinberg simply said, "Yes."
Receiving special deals. Lying about them. No problem at all according to the Senate Ethics Committee. The committee is still sitting on our complaint about Dodd's shenanigans related to his Irish vacation property, which included filing false financial disclosure forms.
Overall, the Senate Ethics Committee claims it received allegations of 99 ethics violations from a variety of sources in 2009. The Committee dismissed the vast majority immediately for "lack of evidence." (However, as we have seen from their treatment of several high profile cases, I would certainly argue with the Committee's definition of the word "evidence.") And now, there are only four active investigations remaining.
While the Senate Ethics Committee does not released details of ongoing investigations, including the names of the Senators under the microscope, it is widely believed Senator John Ensign is on the list. Ensign reportedly broke Senate Ethics rules when he tried to conceal an affair with a former aide's wife. Can't wait to see how the Committee comes down on this one.
We know this by now. Members of the House and the Senate simply refuse to hold each other accountable. That's why independent groups like Judicial Watch are so important. If you would like to support our efforts to do what Congress refuses to do — hold corrupt members accountable to the rule of law — please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to our cause.
Thank you, as always, for your continued support.
Tea Party Convention and Judicial Watch
Judicial Watch is in Nashville, Tennessee this weekend in our role as co-sponsor of the National Tea Party Convention. If you're there, stop by our booth and say hello. I'll be speaking around lunchtime today to the Convention, so hopefully you'll be able to catch some of my remarks in the media over the weekend.
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