Posts Tagged The Justice Department
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is giving the U.S. Justice Department her private email server and a thumb drive of work-related emails from her tenure as secretary of state, a spokesman for her campaign said on Tuesday.
Clinton’s use of her private email for her work as America’s top diplomat came to light in March and drew fire from political opponents who accused her of sidestepping transparency and record-keeping laws.
The private account was linked to a server in her New York home. For months, Republican lawmakers have demanded that Clinton relinquish the server for inspection by an independent party, which Clinton said she was not willing to do. Some of those lawmakers quickly began issuing statements on Tuesday night, saying their concerns were vindicated as not being motivated only by politics.
The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation both declined to comment.
The FBI recently began looking into the security of the federal records and classified information contained among Clinton’s emails. The U.S. government considers federal records to be government property.
The Justice Department has said the FBI began investigating after the inspector general who oversees the U.S. intelligence agencies, I. Charles McCullough III, formally notified them of his concern that there was classified information not in the government’s control.
McCullough has said he found at least four emails in a sample of 40 Clinton emails he was allowed to inspect contained information that was classified at the time it was sent, including two that contained information deemed “top secret”, the highest classification level. The government forbids the sending of classified information outside unsecured networks because it could harm national security if intercepted.
The statement from Nick Merrill, a Clinton campaign spokesman, suggested the hardware was being handed over as part of the FBI inquiry. It remained unclear whether this was in response to a government request, or even came as the result of a subpoena.
“She pledged to cooperate with the government’s security inquiry, and if there are more questions, we will continue to address them,” Merrill said in a statement. He declined to provide further details. David Kendall, Clinton’s lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment.
The FBI has declined to give details about the nature of its investigation and who it might encompass, although it is likely to prove an unwelcome distraction for Clinton for months as she tries to keep voters focused on her policy proposals.
Throughout her four years as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, Clinton eschewed an official state.gov email address in favor of a private clintonemail.com email account run from a home computer server. At least one senior aide, Huma Abedin, also used the server for some work email.
Clinton said the unusual arrangement broke no rules that were in force at the time, although the arrangement has caused long delays in providing federal records to lawmakers and the public to which they are entitled, critics say.
Trey Gowdy, the Republican chair of a U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating the killing of four Americans at a U.S. diplomatic building in Benghazi, Libya, has said his work has been hampered in this way.
“This is a serious national security issue, and the seriousness of it should transcend normal, partisan politics,” Gowdy said in a statement on Tuesday.
Last December, Clinton provided what she said were copies of all the work emails she had in her possession, nearly two years after she stepped down as secretary of state.
Clinton handed over about 30,000 emails she sent and received, although her staff have since acknowledged without explanation that some work emails are missing. She did not hand over another 30,000 emails from this period that she deemed personal and said she chose “not to keep”.
The State Department has been steadily releasing the emails to the public in keeping with Clinton’s request after redacting parts of them to remove sensitive or classified information.
A number of polls in recent months have found that more than half of voters find Clinton untrustworthy, although she remains the favorite to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidential election in November 2016.
The development was quickly seized by Clinton’s Republican opponents as a chance to portray her not worthy of the White House.
“If Hillary Clinton believed in honesty and transparency, she would have turned over her secret server months ago to an independent arbiter, not as a last resort and to the Obama Justice Department,” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.
Republican John Boehner, the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, also released a statement saying that Clinton’s “mishandling of classified information must be fully investigated.”
Republican presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul Seized the Senate floor Wednesday to deliver an almost 11 hour-long protest against renewal of the Patriot Act, calling the post-Sept. 11 law government intrusion on Americans’ privacy.
Congress faces a June 1 deadline for the law’s expiration, and Paul’s speech underscored the deep divisions over the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, which was revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.
“There comes a time in the history of nations when fear and complacency allow power to accumulate and liberty and privacy to suffer,” the Kentucky senator said at 1:18 p.m. EDT when he took to the Senate floor. “That time is now, and I will not let the Patriot Act, the most unpatriotic of acts, go unchallenged.”
He finished at 11:49 p.m., having not sat for more than 10 hours.
The House overwhelmingly passed a bill to end the bulk collection and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said the Senate will act on the issue before beginning a Memorial Day recess scheduled for week’s end.
But McConnell, along with presidential hopefuls Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., favors extending the law and final congressional approval of the bill before the deadline is no certainty.
Paul plunged into a lengthy speech declaring the Patriot Act unconstitutional and opposing renewal of the program. With a hefty binder at his desk, he spelled out his objections, occasionally allowing Republican and Democratic senators to pose questions and getting support from a handful of House members seated at the back of the chamber.
“I don’t think we’re any safer looking at every American’s records,” Paul said.
Paul’s campaign sent out a fundraising appeal while his longstanding opposition to bulk collection, a pillar of his campaign, stirred social media.
Throughout the night, several Democratic senators and a few Republicans gave his voice occasional breaks by speaking several minutes to ostensibly ask him questions. Paul kept control by yielding for questions without “yielding the floor,” and by not sitting.
The surveillance issue has divided Republicans and Democrats, cutting across party lines and pitting civil libertarians concerned about privacy against more hawkish lawmakers fearful about losing tools to combat terrorism.
As Paul made his case, a Justice Department memo circulated on Capitol Hill warning lawmakers that the NSA will have to begin winding down its bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by the end of the week if Congress fails to reauthorize the Patriot Act.
“After May 22, 2015, the National Security Agency will need to begin taking steps to wind down the bulk telephone metadata program in anticipation of a possible sunset in order to ensure that it does not engage in any unauthorized collection or use of the metadata,” the department said.
If Congress fails to act, several key provisions of the law would expire, including the bulk collection; a provision allowing so-called roving wiretaps, which the FBI uses for criminals who frequently switch cellphones; and a third that makes it easier to obtain a warrant to target a “lone wolf” terror suspect who has no provable links to a terrorist organization.
Last week, the House backed the USA Freedom Act, which would replace bulk collection with a system to search the data held by telephone companies on a case-by-case basis. The vote was 338-88, and House Republican and Democratic leaders have insisted the Senate act on their bill.
But McConnell and several other top Republicans prefer to simply reauthorize the post-Sept. 11 law. McConnell has agreed to allow a vote on the House bill, but has indicated there may not be enough votes to pass it in the Senate.
The Justice Department also said that if Congress allows the law to expire and then passes legislation to reauthorize it when lawmakers return to Washington the week of June 1, it would “be effective in making the authorities operative again, but may expose the government to some litigation risk in the event of legal challenge.”
The White House backs the House bill and has pressed for the Senate to approve the legislation and send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
The House bill is the result of outrage among Republicans and Democrats after Snowden’s revelations about the NSA program.
Although Paul called his action a filibuster, it technically fell short of Senate rules since the bill the Senate was considering was trade, not the Patriot Act.
Following to confirmation of Loretta Lynch on Thursday, Controversial Attorney General Eric Holder bid farewell to the Justice Department on Friday, offering a gleaming review of his tenure as the nation’s top lawyer in his speech.
“This department is restored,” Holder told the Justice Department’s employees in his brief remarks. “It’s restored to what it always was and certainly…and what it must always be: free of politicization, focused on the mission, and making sure that justice is done without any kind of interference from political outsiders.”
Holder saluted the “truly historic and big things” the department’s employees accomplished under his watch, nodding at a number of contentious battles that have defined his six-year tenure.
The debate over whether to try terror suspects in civilian courts or military tribunals “is over,” he declared, “and that’s because of the great work that the prosecutors in various districts have performed in putting together wonderful cases and then successfully trying those cases.”
Holder saluted “historic wins” in the effort to protect the environment from “companies that would have despoiled” it. He hailed the “huge amounts of money” the government recovered on behalf of consumers from financial companies responsible for the mortgage crisis. He saluted the fight for LGBT equality as “the civil rights issue of our time,” and he expressed optimism about an upcoming Supreme Court case that could legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.
On a somewhat newsier note, Holder also noted the recent abandonment of an “extremely anti-competitive” proposed merger between Time Warner and Comcast, suggesting the antitrust division of the department deserves some credit for unraveling it.
Despite his congratulatory message, Holder also nodded at some unfinished business. On criminal justice reform, Holder suggested the effort to end the over-incarceration of Americans is only beginning. He also stressed the need to protect Americans’ right to vote after the Supreme Court invalidated a key portion of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
“When we celebrated Robert Kennedy’s 50th anniversary of his swearing-in in 2011, people said that was a golden age for the United States Department of Justice,” Holder recalled. “I think that 50 years from now…people are gonna look back at the work that you all did and say that this was another golden age. That’s how good you all are.”
Republicans, of course, couldn’t disagree more. More than any other cabinet official in President Obama’s administration, Holder has sustained intense and unrelenting fire from the GOP. From the “Fast and Furious” gun walking scandal in 2009 to Holder’s recent comments on the relationship between police and minority communities, Republicans have accused the attorney general of running interference for the president and sowing racial division. In 2012, the GOP-led house voted to hold Holder in contempt of Congress, the first time such a step has been taken against a sitting attorney general in U.S. history.
If Holder is bothered by his critics, though, he certainly didn’t show it on Friday.
“I think we can officially say now that Eric Holder is free,” he said. “I love you all madly. Thank you.”
A Department of Homeland Security shutdown grew increasingly likely, with lawmakers fighting over funding for the US agency amid a bitter standoff about President Barack Obama’s immigration reform plan.
Facing a Friday deadline, Senate Democrats for a fourth time blocked a measure that would fund the department tasked with protecting Americans and securing the border.
Lawmakers want to see DHS fully funded, particularly during the current heightened threat environment.
But the $40 billion bill contains Republican amendments that would repeal Obama’s plan to shield millions of people from deportation, changes that Democrats do not support.
With the blame game in full swing, it appeared increasingly likely Congress would fail to fund DHS before the midnight Friday deadline.
“We’re in a bit of a boxed canyon here and I think we all know that,” Republican Senator Jeff Flake said after the vote.
“Right now, it does seem to be where we’re headed,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said of a possible shutdown.
All Senate Democrats voted against the measure, along with Republican Dean Heller.
Immediately afterward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced stand-alone legislation to repeal Obama’s immigration “overreach.”
He and his office gave no indication whether he would follow that up with a clean DHS funding bill.
Republicans including Flake and Senator John McCain have said they would support passing a temporary funding extension, a possible last-minute way to avoid a lapse.
Some House Republicans have indicated they might be willing to test a partial DHS shutdown, arguing that essential personnel would keep working.
House leaders have not indicated how they will proceed.
“It’s going to be difficult for them to move anything,” Flake said of the House. “There are a lot of people dug in.”
Obama fought back Monday against efforts to block his immigration order, urging a federal court to allow the shielding of deportations and demanding Congress fund DHS.
The Justice Department filed a motion calling for a Texas district court to stay its injunction issued against Obama’s plan last week, which was a blow to his efforts to reform a system most lawmakers agree is broken.
And DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson called on Congress to act immediately to prevent shutdown.
“If Congress wants to have a debate about immigration, the president and I welcome that debate,” he said.
“But don’t tie that debate to the funding of the men and women standing behind me,” he told reporters, urging lawmakers to “figure out a way to break the impasse.”
Should Congress fail to agree on funding, agents including border security personnel, airport screeners, and Secret Service agents tasked with protecting the president would remain on the job without pay.
Funds for new border agents, training and equipment would be frozen. Crucial emergency management programs would halt.
“This is no way to run a government,” Johnson said.
Obama himself hammered the point to state governors gathered at the White House, where he warned of trickle-down effects of withholding 100,000 salaries.
“It will have a direct impact on your economy, and it will have a direct impact on America’s national security,” Obama said.
Top spies past and present campaigned Wednesday to discredit the Senate’s investigation into the CIA’s harrowing torture practices after 9/11, battling to define the historical record and deter potential legal action around the world.
The Senate intelligence committee’s report doesn’t urge prosecution for wrongdoing, and the Justice Department has no interest in reopening a criminal probe. But the threat to former interrogators and their superiors was underlined as a U.N. special investigator demanded those responsible for “systematic crimes” be brought to justice, and human rights groups pushed for the arrest of key CIA and Bush administration figures if they travel overseas.
Current and former CIA officials pushed back, determined to paint the Senate report as a political stunt by Senate Democrats tarnishing a program that saved American lives. It is a “one-sided study marred by errors of fact and interpretation, essentially a poorly done and partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America,” former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.
Hayden was singled out by Senate investigators for what they said was a string of misleading or outright false statements he gave in 2007 about the importance of the CIA’s brutal treatment of detainees in thwarting terrorist attacks. He described the focus on him as “ironic on so many levels” as any wrongdoing predated his arrival at the CIA. “They were far too interested in yelling at me,” Hayden said in an email.
The intelligence committee’s 500-page release concluded that the CIA inflicted suffering on al-Qaeda prisoners beyond its legal authority and that none of the agency’s “enhanced interrogations” provided critical, life-saving intelligence. It cited the CIA’s own records, documenting in detail how waterboarding and lesser-known techniques such as “rectal feeding” were actually employed.
The CIA is now in the uncomfortable position of defending itself publicly, given its basic mission to protect the country secretly. Its 136-page rebuttal suggests Senate Democrats searched through millions of documents to pull out only the evidence backing up pre-determined conclusions. “That’s like doing a crossword puzzle on Tuesday with Wednesday’s answer’s key,” the CIA said in an emailed statement.
Challenging one of the report’s most explosive arguments that harsh interrogation techniques didn’t lead to Osama bin Laden, the CIA pointed to questioning of Ammar al-Baluchi, who revealed how an al-Qaeda operative relayed messages to and from bin Laden after he departed Afghanistan. Before then, the CIA said, it only knew that courier Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti interacted with bin Laden in 2001 when the al-Qaeda leader was accessible to many of his followers. Al-Kuwaiti eventually led the U.S. to bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.
Poring over the same body of evidence as the investigators, the CIA insisted most of the 20 case studies cited in the Senate report actually illustrated how enhanced interrogations helped disrupt plots, capture terrorists and prevent another 9/11-type attack. The agency said it obtained legal authority for its actions from the Justice Department and White House, and made “good faith” efforts to keep congressional leaders informed.
Former CIA officials responsible for the program echoed these points in interviews.
John McLaughlin, then deputy CIA director, said waterboarding and other tactics transformed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed into a U.S. “consultant” on al-Qaeda.
Tenet, the director on Sept. 11, 2001, said the interrogation program “saved thousands of Americans lives” while the country faced a “ticking time bomb every day.”
Former Vice President Dick Cheney also pushed back, saying in a Fox News interview that the Senate report “is full of crap.”
In no uncertain terms, Cheney said the CIA’s approach to interrogating terror suspects was necessary after the 9/11 attacks, and the people who carried them out were doing their duty.
“We asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that were designed to catch the bastards who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and make sure it didn’t happen again, and that’s exactly what they did, and they deserve a lot of credit,” he said, “not the condemnation they are receiving from the Senate Democrats. “
Cheney said after the capture of Mohammed, it was essential to find out what he knew.
“He is in our possession we know he is the architect what are we supposed to do?” Cheney said. “Kiss him on both cheeks and say please, please tell us what you know?”
Former top CIA officials published a website – http://ciasavedlives.com – pointing out decade-old statements from Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller in apparent support of agency efforts. The two Democrats spearheaded the Senate investigation.
The intelligence committee’s Republicans issued their own 167-page “minority” report and said the Democratic analysis was flawed, dishonest and, at $40 million, a waste of taxpayer money. Feinstein’s office said Wednesday most of the cost was incurred by the CIA in trying to hide its record.
If the sides agreed on one thing, it was the CIA suffered from significant mismanagement problems early on. The agency and its Republican supporters said those failings were corrected.
“We have learned from these mistakes,” current CIA Director John Brennan said.
President George W. Bush approved the program through a covert finding in 2002 but wasn’t briefed by the CIA on the details until 2006.
Obama banned harsh interrogation tactics upon taking office, calling the treatment “torture.” But he has shown little interest in holding accountable anyone involved, a sore point among human rights groups and his supporters on the left.
Lawyers representing former CIA detainees have introduced cases in Europe and Canada, though to little success thus far. Undeclared prisons existed in Poland, Romania and Lithuania, among countries.
Twenty-six Americans, mostly CIA agents, were convicted in absentia in Italy of kidnapping a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003, limiting their ability to travel for fear of extradition. The former CIA base chief in Italy was briefly detained in Panama last year before being returned to the U.S.
The potential prosecution of CIA officials explains somewhat the agency’s aggressive response. For months, it reviewed the Senate report to black out names or information that might allow foreign governments, investigating magistrates and human rights lawyers to identify individuals. It demanded the elimination of pseudonyms in part so foreign courts wouldn’t be able to connect evidence to a single individual.
“I’m concerned,” said John Rizzo, former CIA general counsel who is frequently mentioned in the report. He said he may think twice about traveling to Europe, noting, “For better or worse now, I’m a high-profile, notorious public figure.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., the nation’s first black attorney general, will announce his resignation Thursday, ending a turbulent, six-year tenure in which his office addressed major issues, from banking scandals and terrorism to civil-rights cases. And the big question on everyone’s mind: Who will replace him?
Holder has been in his position since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term and is a close personal friend of Obama.
So who might be chosen to fill Holder’s shoes? Here’s a list of seven candidates who definitely will be in the mix for the job, in no particular order.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
Deval Patrick is one of the names consistently floated as a hypothetical replacement for Holder. Patrick worked as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department during the Clinton administration, and is a friend of Obama. The timing is also convenient for Patrick. He’s not seeking re-election in Massachusetts and will be out of his job come January. Patrick would likely face a tough confirmation in the Senate though, and particularly if Republicans take back control of the upper chamber in the midterm elections. Plus, he might have his eye on a bigger job. There has been speculation that he’s considering a presidential run in 2016. Obama said in an interview with a local Boston news station earlier this year that he thinks Patrick “would make a great president or vice president.”
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.
The nation’s top lawyer, Donald Verrilli Jr., is another name mentioned as a potential new AG. Verrilli has served as solicitor general since 2011, and in that role he’s argued several landmark cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the administration, including the Affordable Care Act case. Before he took over as solicitor general, replacing Elena Kagan after her confirmation to the Supreme Court, Verrilli served as deputy counsel to Obama. One potential con for Verrilli though is that he is an older white male, and the administration may be looking to replace Holder with a younger or more diverse candidate.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris
A rising star in the Democratic Party, Kamala Harris is another person whose name will definitely be thrown into the conversation. Harris is the first female, the first African-American and the first Asian-American attorney general in California. Well-known in California for her legal work, Harris might be best remembered on the national level for the small controversy last year that occurred after the President referred to her as “the best-looking attorney general” at a fundraiser in California. Like Deval Patrick however, Harris would likely face a tough Senate confirmation, particularly in a Republican-controlled Senate, because she is seen as very liberal.
Kathy Ruemmler, former White House counsel
Ruemmler served as White House counsel from 2011 until earlier this year. She’s a close confidante of the president and very well-respected, Ruemmler is indeed a strong contender for the job. One potential strike against her, is her former role as the president’s lawyer might raise questions about how independent a Justice Department under her rule would be from the administration.
Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York
Like Holder, Bharara has served in the Obama administration for six years. Bharara was nominated to serve as the U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District (which encompasses Bronx, New York and Westchester counties, among others) in May 2009. Bharara’s name is certainly on the list, but a potential factor working against him is that he’s not well-known to many people, including the President.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson
Before he became the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security last year, Jeh Johnson was a lawyer for the Department of Defense. Working in Johnson’s favor: He was confirmed 78-16 to his current post. Working against Johnson: Removing him from DHS would put Obama in the position of finding a replacement, not ideal right now, given the new threats from ISIS and the Khorasan group.
Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York
In May, 2010 Lynch was appointed to serve as the U.S. attorney in New York’s Eastern District, which includes high-profile areas like Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, for a second time. She previously served in that job toward the end of the Clinton administration, from 1999 to 2001.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein launched an attack on the Central Intelligence Agency, accusing it of searching computers used by staffers investigating CIA interrogation methods.
“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” Feinstein declared on the Senate floor.
She alleged that the CIA may have violated federal law as well as an executive order that bars it from domestic spying, but the agency’s director John Brennan quickly denied the allegations.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Brennan said at a Washington event, in a rare public rebuff of an elected official normally seen as an ally of the intelligence community.
“The matter is being dealt with in an appropriate way, being looked at by the right authorities, and the facts will come out.”
Feinstein said the CIA searched a computer drive used by intelligence committee staffers preparing a major report into a controversial and now defunct agency interrogation program.
The program had used “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding, commonly regarded as torture, against detainees.
“I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers… was inappropriate,” the California Democrat said. “I have received neither.”
At the White House, President Barack Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney faced a barrage of questions about the allegations but dodged them all.
He said they were subject of an investigation by an independent CIA inspector general, and had been referred to the Justice Department.
“I can’t comment on allegations that are under review,” he said, adding that the White House took Feinstein’s concerns seriously but also saying that Obama had full confidence in Brennan.
Feinstein said she learned of the search on January 15 in an “emergency meeting” requested by Brennan.
Feinstein’s extraordinary speech marked a break from her usually cordial relations with the intelligence community, which she has often defended against accusations of overstepping its authority.
The senator’s comments came after unnamed administration officials alleged to news media that Senate staffers took sensitive documents without authority, triggering an investigation.
Feinstein rejected those accounts.
She said the CIA and the committee had agreed years ago to set up a secure site in Virginia for Senate staff to review documents, as well as a computer drive separate from the agency’s network.
The staffers reviewed 6.2 million documents and at no point did they seek to retrieve files that were marked classified or legally off-limits, she said.
Twice in 2010, documents that had been accessible to the staffers were removed by the CIA. Feinstein said that after she complained to the White House, the documents were provided again.
The report on detention and interrogation was completed in December 2012, when the committee approved a 6,300-page study that has yet to be released publicly.
Feinstein said a CIA internal review of the detention program was among the documents provided to her staff, but that CIA officials had demanded to know how staffers obtained the review.
The CIA has referred the matter to the Justice Department, a move Feinstein described as “a potential effort to intimidate this staff.”
Analysts say the Congress-CIA rift is the worst since the 1970s, when lawmakers uncovered illegal abuses and introduced legal reforms to restrict the power of the spy services.
Several lawmakers expressed concerns about the alleged CIA misdeeds and Republican Senator Rand Paul said Obama “should be more conscious of reining in this kind of abuse.”
The dispute follows the scandal sparked when security contractor Edward Snowden exposed the National Security Agency program that scoops up telephone data from most Americans.
Snowden, who has been given asylum in Russia, told reporters that “the CIA was trying to play ‘keep away’ with documents relevant to an investigation by their overseers in Congress.”
“That’s a serious constitutional concern,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Feinstein for her “necessary and historic defense of the constitutional principle of separation of powers.