Hillary Clinton has just pledged to investigate the Area-51 military site for the existence of extraterrestrial life forms.
In a recent interview with New Hampshire newspaper, The Conway Daily Sun, Clinton was asked if she would investigate UFOs. She responded:
“Yes, I’m going to get to the bottom of it.” Adding that “we don’t know for sure” if intelligent life forms have visited Earth. “I think we may have been [visited already.] We don’t know for sure,” she said.
Apparently, Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, has also expressed great interest in the matter.
“He has made me personally pledge we are going to get the information out. One way or another. Maybe we could have, like, a task force to go to Area 51.”
With the current precarious state of the Nation, it seems that instead of worrying about UFOs, maybe we need “to get to the bottom” of the immigration situation to see if we’ve been infiltrated by any possible terrorists.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the Department of Justice doesn’t have any plans to investigate allegations that veterans placed on secret waiting lists at VA hospitals died while waiting for care.
“Well, obviously these reports if they’re true are unacceptable, and the allegations are being taken very seriously by the administration. But I don’t have any announcements at this time with regard to anything that the Justice Department is doing,” Holder told reporters at a press conference.
“This is something on our radar screen at this point, but there is an investigation being done by the [VA] inspector general, and we’ll see what happens as a result of that inquiry and other information that comes to light in some form or fashion,” Holder added.
According to CNN, at least 40 veterans died while waiting for treatment at one VA hospital in Phoenix. Members of Congress have said in recent weeks that the inspector general investigation is inadequate and have called on the DOJ to launch its own investigation.
“Because these cases involve individuals working in their capacity as federal employees, and these incidents have occurred at federal facilities throughout the nation, I urge you to work with the state Attorneys General in Arizona and across the country to investigate these preventable deaths thoroughly, determine appropriate criminal charges, and prosecute the offenders accordingly,” Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican of Florida, wrote in a letter to Holder on May 1.
Holder’s announcement that the DOJ doesn’t currently have any plans to investigate the VA hospital scandal was made Tuesday afternoon at a press conference held to announce that the DOJ was filing a lawsuit against lenders under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which caps interest rates on student loans at 6 percent for members of the military.
“We are here to announce a landmark step forward in our effort to achieve justice for victims of improper lending practices–and to protect the men and women of America’s armed services from anyone who would take advantage of those who wear the uniform,” Holder said.
A great report from CBS News on the VA center in Chicago where nearly the exact same practices that are happening in Arizona is happening there. And the VA social worker, who says many employees are coming to her from all over the hospital, says it’s all about the administrators getting a bonus.
President Barack Obama’s deputies have picked one of his political donors to investigate the IRS’ attack on independent political groups during the 2012 election, according to California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House investigations committee.
“We request you immediately remove Ms. [Barbara] Bosserman from the ongoing investigation,” said a Jan. 8 letter from Issa to Attorney General Eric Holder.
The secret selection of Barbara Bosserman, a lawyer in the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, was revealed by a committee investigation after the DOJ stonewalled the legislators.
Bosserman contributed $6,100 to Obama’s political campaigns from 2008 to 2012.
“By selecting a significant donor to President Obama to lead an investigation into inappropriate targeting of conservative groups, the Department has created a startling conflict of interest,” said Issa’s letter.
“It is unbelievable that the Department would choose such an individual to examine the federal government’s systematic targeting and harassment of organizations oppose to the President’s policies… Please provide a comprehensive explanation of the decision to assign Ms. Bosserman to the DoJ/FBI investigation of the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups,” the letter continued.
The IRS’s enemies list was exposed in May 2013, and caused a brief scandal in the establishment media.
The IRS damaged the civic groups because of their affiliation with the small-government tea party movement. Many groups were hit by burdensome requests for information, unprecedented requests for private information and the denial of full non-profit status.
The denial of the non-profit status to the groups hindered their fundraising and curbed their advocacy for small-government policies during the 2012 campaign, which Obama won.
Since the 1960s, many left-of-center progressive groups have portrayed themselves as victims of inappropriate government investigations. However, few progressive groups, including those oppose to government overreach, have denounced the IRS investigation.
However, administration officials have managed to minimize media coverage of the scandal by suppressing news about subsequent investigations.
In May, Obama fired the IRS’ acting chief, but since has worked to downplay the existence of his enemies list. For example, in a December interview on MSNBC, Obama minimized the IRS’ political suppression and then rebuked one of his supporters, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for covering the scandal in an TV interview last month.
“You’ve got an office in Cincinnati in the IRS office that, I think, for bureaucratic reasons is trying to streamline what is a difficult law to interpret about whether [a] nonprofit is actually a political organization,” Obama said. “And they’ve got a list. And suddenly, everybody’s outraged.”
Obama then criticized coverage of the scandal by Matthews and other progressives.
“There are some so-called progressives and… perceived-to-be-liberal commentators, who during that week, just were outraged at the possibility that these folks… had been, you know, at the direction of the Democratic Party in some way, discriminated against tea party folks,” he said, while looking at Matthews. “That is what gets news. That’s what gets attention.”
Amid administration pressure, FBI officials cancelled an offer to meet with Issa’s deputies, according to Issa.
Issa’s letter protested the FBI’s refusal to speak with legislators. “The FBI’s blatant lack of cooperation with the Committee may rise to the level of criminal obstruction of a congressional investigation,” said the letter.
FBI director James Comey was appointed by Obama to head the FBI, and was sworn in last October.
House oversight committee chairman Darrell Issa has launched an investigation into why the WWII memorial and other open-air monuments have been shut down.
“These properties belong to the American people. They do not belong to a Political party. There is no reason to ever shut those folks out from that,” said Representative Mike Kelly in an emotional speech…
Issa’s investigation is at its preliminary stages, Frederick Hill, his spokesman, said. But his committee will be exploring whether decisions were made to close monuments and other attractions for political reasons, potentially as a means of worsening the pain of a shutdown to increase political pressure on House Republicans.
The House Committee on Natural Resources posted an interactive map up showing photos of various parks around D.C. – not all of which have been closed, at least as of this writing. It’s the popular ones like the Lincoln Memorial, it seems, that were targeted first, which is entirely consistent with the cardinal rule of shutdown theater. And some of the ones that are closed this time weren’t closed during the ’95 shutdown. The Daily Caller has a photo of the Lincoln Memorial from that era showing the information booth closed but with visitors in the background at Abe’s feet. The essence of shutdown theater in one line: “Popular Washington spots such as the World War II memorial are now guarded by more security personnel than they are during normal operations, while federal employees have been dispatched to put up barricades on capital bike paths and other public grounds that are not usually patrolled at all.”
Via the Corner, here’s Jay Carney trying and failing to come up with a non-political explanation for why vets were allowed into the WWII Memorial this morning. The closure order, he notes, specifically exempts “First Amendment activities.” What are “First Amendment activities”? See this cached page from the National Park Service’s website. (The website isn’t live at the moment because, in another dumb part of shutdown theater, unmanned government websites have to be closed too.) Essentially, every park as part of normal practice is required by the First Amendment to allow things like protesting, leafletting, religious ceremonies, etc. They can, however, require a permit for groups larger than 25 people and they can, in order to keep the park orderly, force people who are protesting/leafletting/holding the ceremony to do so within a designated area. In other words, the policy on “First Amendment activities” isn’t about granting anyone special access that the rest of the public is denied; it’s about limiting the access of certain people who come to the park to do noisy/controversial stuff that might be disruptive to other visitors. The Honor Flight vets aren’t in that category, obviously. They’re there to use the park for its intended purpose, i.e. quietly remembering the fallen and reminiscing about the war. If that’s a “First Amendment activity” worthy of special admission, then the barricades should be removed from every memorial because basically everyone in the country qualifies. Carney’s just grasping for a “neutral” non-political excuse here. But then, you knew that.
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.
The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.
“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.
“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”
THE SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIVISION
The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.
Today, much of the SOD’s work is classified, and officials asked that its precise location in Virginia not be revealed. The documents reviewed by Reuters are marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive,” a government categorization that is meant to keep them confidential.
“Remember that the utilization of SOD cannot be revealed or discussed in any investigative function,” a document presented to agents reads. The document specifically directs agents to omit the SOD’s involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony. Agents are instructed to then use “normal investigative techniques to recreate the information provided by SOD.”
A spokesman with the Department of Justice, which oversees the DEA, declined to comment.
But two senior DEA officials defended the program, and said trying to “recreate” an investigative trail is not only legal but a technique that is used almost daily.
A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. “You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it,” the agent said.
After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as “parallel construction.”
The two senior DEA officials, who spoke on behalf of the agency but only on condition of anonymity, said the process is kept secret to protect sources and investigative methods. “Parallel construction is a law enforcement technique we use every day,” one official said. “It’s decades old, a bedrock concept.”
A dozen current or former federal agents interviewed by Reuters confirmed they had used parallel construction during their careers. Most defended the practice; some said they understood why those outside law enforcement might be concerned.
“It’s just like laundering money – you work it backwards to make it clean,” said Finn Selander, a DEA agent from 1991 to 2008 and now a member of a group called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which advocates legalizing and regulating narcotics.
Some defense lawyers and former prosecutors said that using “parallel construction” may be legal to establish probable cause for an arrest. But they said employing the practice as a means of disguising how an investigation began may violate pretrial discovery rules by burying evidence that could prove useful to criminal defendants.
A QUESTION OF CONSTITUTIONALITY
“That’s outrageous,” said Tampa attorney James Felman, a vice chairman of the criminal justice section of the American Bar Association. “It strikes me as indefensible.”
Lawrence Lustberg, a New Jersey defense lawyer, said any systematic government effort to conceal the circumstances under which cases begin “would not only be alarming but pretty blatantly unconstitutional.”
Lustberg and others said the government’s use of the SOD program skirts established court procedures by which judges privately examine sensitive information, such as an informant’s identity or classified evidence, to determine whether the information is relevant to the defense.
“You can’t game the system,” said former federal prosecutor Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. “You can’t create this subterfuge. These are drug crimes, not national security cases. If you don’t draw the line here, where do you draw it?”
Some lawyers say there can be legitimate reasons for not revealing sources. Robert Spelke, a former prosecutor who spent seven years as a senior DEA lawyer, said some sources are classified. But he also said there are few reasons why unclassified evidence should be concealed at trial.
“It’s a balancing act, and they’ve doing it this way for years,” Spelke said. “Do I think it’s a good way to do it? No, because now that I’m a defense lawyer, I see how difficult it is to challenge.”
CONCEALING A TIP
One current federal prosecutor learned how agents were using SOD tips after a drug agent misled him, the prosecutor told Reuters. In a Florida drug case he was handling, the prosecutor said, a DEA agent told him the investigation of a U.S. citizen began with a tip from an informant. When the prosecutor pressed for more information, he said, a DEA supervisor intervened and revealed that the tip had actually come through the SOD and from an NSA intercept.
“I was pissed,” the prosecutor said. “Lying about where the information came from is a bad start if you’re trying to comply with the law because it can lead to all kinds of problems with discovery and candor to the court.” The prosecutor never filed charges in the case because he lost confidence in the investigation, he said.
A senior DEA official said he was not aware of the case but said the agent should not have misled the prosecutor. How often such misdirection occurs is unknown, even to the government; the DEA official said the agency does not track what happens with tips after the SOD sends them to agents in the field.
The SOD’s role providing information to agents isn’t itself a secret. It is briefly mentioned by the DEA in budget documents, albeit without any reference to how that information is used or represented when cases go to court.
The DEA has long publicly touted the SOD’s role in multi-jurisdictional and international investigations, connecting agents in separate cities who may be unwittingly investigating the same target and making sure undercover agents don’t accidentally try to arrest each other.
SOD’S BIG SUCCESSES
The unit also played a major role in a 2008 DEA sting in Thailand against Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout; he was sentenced in 2011 to 25 years in prison on charges of conspiring to sell weapons to the Colombian rebel group FARC. The SOD also recently coordinated Project Synergy, a crackdown against manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of synthetic designer drugs that spanned 35 states and resulted in 227 arrests.
Since its inception, the SOD’s mandate has expanded to include narco-terrorism, organized crime and gangs. A DEA spokesman declined to comment on the unit’s annual budget. A recent LinkedIn posting on the personal page of a senior SOD official estimated it to be $125 million.
Today, the SOD offers at least three services to federal, state and local law enforcement agents: coordinating international investigations such as the Bout case; distributing tips from overseas NSA intercepts, informants, foreign law enforcement partners and domestic wiretaps; and circulating tips from a massive database known as DICE.
The DICE database contains about 1 billion records, the senior DEA officials said. The majority of the records consist of phone log and Internet data gathered legally by the DEA through subpoenas, arrests and search warrants nationwide. Records are kept for about a year and then purged, the DEA officials said.
About 10,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agents have access to the DICE database, records show. They can query it to try to link otherwise disparate clues. Recently, one of the DEA officials said, DICE linked a man who tried to smuggle $100,000 over the U.S. southwest border to a major drug case on the East Coast.
“We use it to connect the dots,” the official said.
“AN AMAZING TOOL”
Wiretap tips forwarded by the SOD usually come from foreign governments, U.S. intelligence agencies or court-authorized domestic phone recordings. Because warrantless eavesdropping on Americans is illegal, tips from intelligence agencies are generally not forwarded to the SOD until a caller’s citizenship can be verified, according to one senior law enforcement official and one former U.S. military intelligence analyst.
“They do a pretty good job of screening, but it can be a struggle to know for sure whether the person on a wiretap is American,” the senior law enforcement official said.
Tips from domestic wiretaps typically occur when agents use information gleaned from a court-ordered wiretap in one case to start a second investigation.
As a practical matter, law enforcement agents said they usually don’t worry that SOD’s involvement will be exposed in court. That’s because most drug-trafficking defendants plead guilty before trial and therefore never request to see the evidence against them. If cases did go to trial, current and former agents said, charges were sometimes dropped to avoid the risk of exposing SOD involvement.
Current and former federal agents said SOD tips aren’t always helpful – one estimated their accuracy at 60 percent. But current and former agents said tips have enabled them to catch drug smugglers who might have gotten away.
“It was an amazing tool,” said one recently retired federal agent. “Our big fear was that it wouldn’t stay secret.”
DEA officials said that the SOD process has been reviewed internally. They declined to provide Reuters with a copy of their most recent review.
On Sunday afternoon, the Obama Department of Justice announced that it would pursue investigation into George Zimmerman.
That announcement came just hours after Zimmerman was acquitted for second-degree murder and manslaughter in the killing of Trayvon Martin, and within one day of the NAACP calling on the DOJ for an investigation.
Here is the Department of Justice statement in full:
As the Department first acknowledged last year, we have an open investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin. The Department of Justice’s Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial. Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department’s policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial.
Republican lawmakers are launching an investigation into claims that the Environmental Protection Agency, while giving preferential treatment to environmental groups, made it harder for conservative groups to obtain government records.
“According to documents obtained by the Committees, EPA readily granted FOIA fee waivers for environmental allies, effectively subsidizing them, while denying fee waivers and making the FOIA process more difficult for states and conservative groups,” wrote Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Darrell Issa and Sens. David Vitter, Chuck Grassley and Jim Inhofe in a letter to the EPA.
Citing a report by The Daily Caller News Foundation, Republicans are asking the EPA to hand over all Freedom of Information Act fee waiver requests, responses to requests, and FOIA officer training materials since the beginning of the Obama administration.
Lawmakers are also asking for all communications regarding FOIA fee waiver requests or appeals under the Obama administration.
The free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained documents showing that since January 2012, the EPA granted fee waivers for 75 out of 82 FOIA requests from major environmental groups and only denied seven of them, giving green groups a 92 percent success rate.
At the same time, the EPA rejected or ignored 21 out of 26 fee waiver requests from conservative groups.
“The startling disparity in treatment strongly suggests EPA’s actions are possibly part of a broader effort to collude with groups that share the agency’s political agenda and discriminate against states and conservative organizations,” the lawmakers wrote. “This is a clear abuse of discretion.”
Republicans are tying the EPA to the broader controversy over the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative groups.
“We know the Obama EPA has completely mismanaged FOIA, but granting fee waivers for their friends in the far-left environmental community, while simultaneously blocking conservative leaning groups from gaining access to information is really no different than the IRS disaster,” said Vitter.
Acting EPA administrator Bob Perciasepe announced Thursday that he was asking the inspector general to look into the matter.
“I am going to get an independent look at all that information so I can get a determination,” said Perciasepe, adding that the agency’s shift to an online system often means that groups are not charged any fees even if they are not formally waived.