From the Washington Times
Obama claims privilege in gunrunning probe
House panel recommends Holder be held in contempt
by Chuck Neubauer
The White House ignited a full-fledged constitutional showdown Wednesday when President Obama asserted executive privilege in refusing to turn over documents subpoenaed by a House committee in its investigation of the botched Fast and Furious gunrunning investigation. The committee replied by voting to recommend Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. be held in contempt of Congress .
It's a stunning escalation in a 15-month-long fight, and marks the first time Mr. Obama has asserted the privilege during his term of office. But the move could be politically poisonous because courts have held that a president may claim privilege only if he or a top White House aide was part of the deliberations over Fast and Furious — meaning Mr. Obama is either defying precedent or tacitly acknowledging that someone in the White House was involved.
House Republican leaders said Wednesday afternoon that they will hold a contempt vote in the full House next week unless Mr. Holder produces the requested documents.
“Despite being given multiple opportunities to provide the documents necessary for Congress ‘ investigation into Fast and Furious, Attorney General Holder continues to stonewall,” House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said in a joint statement. “Fast and Furious was a reckless operation that led to the death of an American border agent, and the American people deserve to know the facts to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the contempt recommendation along strict party lines after more than six hours of rancorous debate. Twenty-three Republicans, led by Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa of California, voted to send the recommendation to the House, while 17 Democrats were opposed.
The White House defended its assertion of executive privilege, saying Mr. Obama has used the tactic only once, far less often than his predecessors, and that Republicans were spending their time on “a politically motivated, taxpayer-funded election-year fishing expedition.”
“In fact, the Justice Department has spent the past 14 months accommodating congressional investigators, producing 7,600 pages of documents and testifying at 11 congressional hearings,” said White House communications Director Dan Pfeiffer .
Mr. Holder called the committee vote an election-year tactic intended to distract attention. He said the Justice Department made “unprecedented accommodations” in responding to committee requests for information, spending “countless hours compiling and providing thousands of documents” to Mr. Issa and the committee .
Border slaying sparks probe
The inquiry into Fast and Furious began with allegations by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ( ATF ) agents who said — as whistleblowers — that the government allowed the transfer of illegally purchased weapons that were found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry . The agent died during a Dec. 15, 2010, shootout with Mexican bandits just north of the border, south of Tucson, Ariz.
The goal of Fast and Furious was to feed weapons to gun traffickers and follow them to drug cartel bosses in Mexico . But the ATF lost track of the weapons, and more than 2,000 guns — 600 of which remain unaccounted for — found their way to Mexican drug smugglers.
On Wednesday, the Terry family attorney, Pat McGroder , released a statement from the agent's parents, Josephine Terry and Kent Terry Sr. , saying Mr. Holder 's refusal to fully disclose Fast and Furious documents and Mr. Obama's assertion of executive privilege “serves to compound this tragedy.”
“Our son lost his life protecting this nation, and it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious,” it said.
Mr. Pfeiffer said the operation was developed by ATF field offices and dated back to the “the previous administration.”
But Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee who first began the Fast and Furious investigation, said the Justice Department on Wednesday retracted a statement by Mr. Holder last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee that his predecessor under President George W. Bush , Attorney General Michael Mukasey , was briefed about gunwalking during Operation Wide Receiver.
“In his eagerness to blame the previous administration, Attorney General Holder got his facts wrong. And his tactic didn't bring us any closer to understanding how a bad policy evolved and continued,” he said. “Bad policy is bad policy, regardless of how many administrations carried it out.”
Mr. Grassley also said the White House 's use of executive privilege raised “monumental questions.”
“How can the president assert executive privilege if there was no White House involvement? How can the president exert executive privilege over documents he's supposedly never seen? Is something very big being hidden to go to this extreme? The contempt citation is an important procedural mechanism in our system of checks and balances,” he said.
“The questions from Congress go to determining what happened in a disastrous government program for accountability and so that it's never repeated again,” he said.
Executive privilege appeal
The president asserted executive privilege Wednesday morning, just minutes before the committee began its meeting to consider the contempt citation.
Mr. Holder appealed directly to Mr. Obama for the privilege assertion, saying in an eight-page letter that the compelled producing of documents would “have significant, damaging consequences” and inhibit the department's deliberative process.
In a separate letter to Mr. Issa , Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said the privilege applied to documents explaining how the department learned there were problems with the Fast and Furious operation.
“We regret that we have arrived at this point, after the many steps we have taken to address the committee 's concerns and to accommodate the committee 's legitimate oversight interests,” Mr. Cole said.
Mr. Issa called the president's privilege assertion “untimely,” asking why Mr. Obama was asserting executive privilege more than eight months after the documents originally were subpoenaed.
Mr. Boehner , who earlier had been involved with trying to work out an agreement to settle the records dispute with the Justice Department , also questioned the executive privilege claim.
His press secretary, Brendan Buck, said that until now “everyone believed that the decisions regarding Fast and Furious were confined to the Department of Justice . The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the Fast and Furious operation or the cover-up that followed.
“The administration has always insisted that wasn't the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?” he asked.
The contempt vote became likely after Mr. Holder and Mr. Issa failed to reach an agreement concerning the documents during a 20-minute meeting Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Holder later told reporters that he would not turn over Fast and Furious documents unless Mr. Issa agreed to another meeting, where he said he would explain what is in the materials. He said he wanted an assurance that the transfer of the records would satisfy the committee 's subpoena.
Democratic members of the committee defended Mr. Holder . The panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, said there was no need for the contempt vote Wednesday and the committee could have worked with the Justice Department in obtaining the requested records.
Mr. Cummings said assertions of executive privilege should be used “sparingly,” but added that in this case, “it seems clear that the administration was forced into this position by the committee 's unreasonable insistence on pressing forward with contempt despite the attorney general's good-faith offer.”
Mr. Cummings noted that the full House has never held an attorney general in contempt, and the only precedent for what the committee did Wednesday was 1998, when Attorney General Janet Reno was recommended for a contempt citation, but Speaker Newt Gingrich refused to bring it the floor for a vote.
“If Speaker Boehner brings this contempt citation to the floor, he will be known as one of the most extreme speakers in history,” he said.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat, said the committee 's probe “shouldn't be a political witch hunt” while Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat, said Mr. Holder was being “held to an impossible standard.”
If the full House passes the contempt resolution against the attorney general, the speaker could forward it to the U.S. attorney for District of Columbia, who could call for a criminal investigation — although it has not happened before.
CIA releases papers from 9/11 file
Reveal budget concerns affecting its effort to find bin Laden
by Adam Goldman
In the months before the terrorist attacks of September 2001, the CIA unit dedicated to hunting for Osama bin Laden complained that it was running out of money, and analysts considered the likelihood of catching the terrorist leader to be extremely low, according to government records published this week.
The declassified documents, dated from 1992 to 2004, are heavily blacked out and offer little new information about what the United States knew about the al Qaeda plot before 2001. Many of the files are cited in the 9/11 Commission report, published in 2004.
The commission determined the failure that led to 9/11 was a lack of imagination, and U.S. intelligence agencies failed to connect the dots that could have prevented the attacks.
Though few new details are revealed in the documents, the files offer more historical context for the years surrounding the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.
The National Security Archive obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request and published them on its website Tuesday. The archive is a private group seeking transparency in government.
An April 2000 document from the CIA 's bin Laden unit alluded to a budgetary cash crunch that was cutting into the agency's efforts to track the al Qaeda leader.
At that time, al Qaeda was a major concern of U.S. intelligence agencies because of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed many, including two CIA employees.
Bin Laden had declared a holy war against the U.S., and the CIA had received multiple warnings that al Qaeda intended to strike the U.S.
“Need forward movement on supplemental soonest,” said a heavily blacked-out document titled “Islamic Extremist Update.”
The supplemental budget was still being reviewed by the National Security Council and White House Office of Management and Budget . Because of budgetary constraints, the bin Laden unit would move from an “offensive to defensive posture,” the document said.
This meant that officials feared they would have to shelve some of their more-elaborate proposals to track al Qaeda and instead rely on existing resources.
The “Uzbek Initiative,” referenced in the same document, was one of the more- expensive programs the CIA ran at the time, according to a source familiar with the initiative. The program involved paying off CIA tipsters who monitored bin Laden followers traveling through Uzbekistan.
The documents do not make clear whether the portion of the budget in question was passed. But they hint at complaints detailed publicly after the 9/11 attacks by previous directors of the bin Laden unit that the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations did not fully appreciate the severity of the threat.
The documents also show that U.S. officials were concerned that bin Laden was using Afghanistan 's national airline to smuggle vast cash reserves when he was sheltered by Afghanistan 's ruling Taliban mullahs in the late 1990s. The CIA 's “National Intelligence Daily” in June 1999 urged the imposition of sanctions on Ariana Airlines , then controlled by the Taliban, in order to put pressure on bin Laden 's cash flow. His funds reportedly depended heavily on flights from the United Arab Emirates into Afghanistan .
“Closing of Ariana's UAE offices would force them to find alternative - and most likely less secure - carriers, routes and methods for moving bin Laden 's cash,” the document said.
Later that year, the United States and United Nations imposed harsh sanctions on Afghanistan and its airline, shutting down all flights and closing Ariana 's offices abroad.
From Google News
Phoenix police chief encourages community-policing idea
Block Watch programs among suggestions to keep neighborhoods safe
by Lesley Marin
Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia is encouraging residents to take a more active role in the public safety of their neighborhoods.
During a community meeting last week in northeast Phoenix, Garcia asked residents to consider volunteering in neighborhood Block Watch programs. He also pledged to make sure patrol officers are more proactive when on duty.
He said a community-policing focus, in which residents become active participants, is central to his philosophy.
"They (the ideas) define where we're going as a community and through the police department," Garcia said.
Garcia came to Phoenix last month after working for the Dallas Police Department.
During last week's meeting, hosted by District 3 Councilman Bill Gates, Garcia emphasized his notion of "policing with a purpose" and community-based policing.
He said these approaches will decrease crime overall in the city.
Policing with a purpose is made up of five ideas: Nurturing and protecting democracy, ensuring justice, spirit of service, fundamental fairness and protecting people from harm.
Garcia said officers should get into their patrol cars with a "daily plan" in mind.
"If an officer just allows the dispatcher to send him from place to place answering calls, he's only (doing) one-fourth of the work we do." Garcia said. "We need to focus on persons, places and behaviors."
Garcia pledged to have Phoenix patrol officers focus more on things such as wanted criminals, neighborhoods consistently burglarized and criminal behaviors occurring in specific locations.
In January, Phoenix police arrested two men in connection with an estimated 100 residential burglaries in northeast Phoenix, and residents were mindful of that recent series of crimes.
Resident Walter Kraft, 73, hopes Garcia will stick to his word when it comes to burglaries occurring in Council District 3, which stretches from the Black Canyon Freeway into Paradise Valley.
Kraft has seen two burglaries along his street.
"I just wish we would see more patrol cars going up and down the street sometimes," Kraft said.
Garcia reassured residents that through his community-based policing idea, which includes community-action officers and neighborhood enforcement teams, burglary rings can be discouraged.
"I want to refocus these issues into daily operational plans," Garcia said.
Gates said he has advocated the community-based policing approach for years.
"I was glad to hear that the police chief agrees," Gates said. "It's good to have the Block Watch to be the eyes and the ears of the neighborhood."
Gates and Kraft agreed that Garcia is a positive addition to the city.
"If he's going to live up to the words he says ... then we're going to be OK," Gates said.
Wilmington needs genuine community policing
This past week our city has once again been struck with the personal tragedies of deaths caused by gun violence. I've listened to friends and neighbors from every corner of our city and their concerns and pleas have been the same – someone must act now. They are angry that once again the administration and the leadership of Wilmington's police remain completely unaccountable. Their only response is business as usual.
When Gov. Jack Markell visited the city on Thursday evening, residents told him what they've been telling the administration for years – they need more police visibility. They want to see the police in their neighborhoods, walking, on bikes and interacting with people in neighborhoods. They are asking for genuine community policing.
Five years back, members of the City Council developed a detailed community policing deployment plan responding specifically to concerns of Wilmington residents from every neighborhood in this city.
This plan would have assigned specific Wilmington Police Department officers to specific geographic areas on a round-the-clock basis. Neighborhoods would have a stable group of officers. They could be partners. Officers would know about and be able to address criminal elements. There would always be officers patrolling an area who knew it, knew the neighbors and – most importantly – knew who doesn't belong there.
This plan was very detailed and would have provided patrol officers who could walk or bike neighborhoods because they had a smaller geographic area of responsibility. The administration and the chief told us they needed more officers to make this plan work. City Council went to work and found the resources and gave the department more manpower. After getting the tools to implement the plan, they never did it. The administration and the chief decided the Community Police Unit was enough.
Make no mistake, our officers working in the Community Police Unit are doing excellent and creative policing in neighborhoods all over the city. I hear praise for these officers and their work all the time but they need more help and more coverage 24/7.
We have plenty of dedicated and diligent police officers. What we've needed for years – and what City Council and community groups have been pushing for – is a deployment plan that makes much better use of this expertise.
We need a round-the-clock community policing deployment that focuses officers specifically on high crime areas, that will let these officers patrol on foot or on bikes, and most importantly, let our officers put their excellent training and skills to work.
Once again, I'm calling on the administration and WPD leadership to implement a genuine Community Policing deployment plan.
As Chair of the Public Safety Committee, Wilmington's residents are telling me, the administration, the governor and everyone else they can get to listen that this strategy is needed to increase this community's safety.
I am also formally asking the governor to make state police resources available throughout the city, not just in the current Operation Pressure Point areas.
We know the police are only one part of the solution. But the police and how they are deployed is a part of the equation that the city can control, and it is abundantly clear that business as usual will not work.
The tragic results not only strike at the heart of effected families, they strike at the heart of our city.
As evidence, visit: www.wilmingtonde.gov/government/policedeployment.