Commentary Magazine


Topic: Frank Wolf

Prosecute Jihadists, Not Travelers

Beginning my first trip to Iraqi Kurdistan in September 2000, I stopped by the U.S. embassy in Ankara to talk to some of the diplomats who watched Iraqi affairs out of that embassy at their urging. The diplomats were quite talented and we had a useful back-and-forth about a region that was then isolated under a double embargo: The UN embargo against Iraq, and the Iraqi central government’s blockade against Iraqi Kurdistan itself. While I was by no means working on behalf of the U.S. government—I was funded at the time by a Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs grant—the American diplomats urged that I keep in frequent touch and relay observations in a region difficult to cover from afar. As an afterthought, they asked that I stop by and “register” with the consular staff at the embassy.

That meeting was a shocker: I expected little more than a consular official to photocopy my passport and take down emergency contact information. Instead, I got a lecture from a pedantic bureaucrat who did not appear as if she had ever stepped foot outside the expatriate circle about how what I was planning to do was illegal for a U.S. citizen and could land me in prison since, she said, the United States strictly prohibited travel to Iraq. I explained that Iraqi Kurdistan was not governed by Saddam Hussein, but she said she could care less. I ignored her, and went anyway. Illegal or not, various folks at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Intelligence Agency, State Department, and White House sought debriefings when I returned: While the consular official could not see the forest through the trees, others in government understood the big picture even if, by the letter of the law, the consular official was right.

Fast forward 14 years: Frank Wolf, a Virginia congressman, has proposed a bill that would effectively ban Americans traveling to Syria and would impose a prison sentence of up to 20 years for traveling to that war-torn state without first getting government permission. The problem Wolf hopes to address is real: the flight of jihadists into Syria and the certainty that some Americans have now moved to that war-torn state to join up with al-Qaeda. But does he expect those fighting in Syria to be honest on their entry forms when they return to the United States? And does Wolf believe that the only indication U.S. intelligence would have of Americans fighting in Syria would be their honesty on such forms?

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Beginning my first trip to Iraqi Kurdistan in September 2000, I stopped by the U.S. embassy in Ankara to talk to some of the diplomats who watched Iraqi affairs out of that embassy at their urging. The diplomats were quite talented and we had a useful back-and-forth about a region that was then isolated under a double embargo: The UN embargo against Iraq, and the Iraqi central government’s blockade against Iraqi Kurdistan itself. While I was by no means working on behalf of the U.S. government—I was funded at the time by a Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs grant—the American diplomats urged that I keep in frequent touch and relay observations in a region difficult to cover from afar. As an afterthought, they asked that I stop by and “register” with the consular staff at the embassy.

That meeting was a shocker: I expected little more than a consular official to photocopy my passport and take down emergency contact information. Instead, I got a lecture from a pedantic bureaucrat who did not appear as if she had ever stepped foot outside the expatriate circle about how what I was planning to do was illegal for a U.S. citizen and could land me in prison since, she said, the United States strictly prohibited travel to Iraq. I explained that Iraqi Kurdistan was not governed by Saddam Hussein, but she said she could care less. I ignored her, and went anyway. Illegal or not, various folks at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Intelligence Agency, State Department, and White House sought debriefings when I returned: While the consular official could not see the forest through the trees, others in government understood the big picture even if, by the letter of the law, the consular official was right.

Fast forward 14 years: Frank Wolf, a Virginia congressman, has proposed a bill that would effectively ban Americans traveling to Syria and would impose a prison sentence of up to 20 years for traveling to that war-torn state without first getting government permission. The problem Wolf hopes to address is real: the flight of jihadists into Syria and the certainty that some Americans have now moved to that war-torn state to join up with al-Qaeda. But does he expect those fighting in Syria to be honest on their entry forms when they return to the United States? And does Wolf believe that the only indication U.S. intelligence would have of Americans fighting in Syria would be their honesty on such forms?

If intelligence indicates that a person is fighting in Syria, then they should be prosecuted for their links to al-Qaeda (or to the Assad regime or Hezbollah) rather than simply for being in Syria. For what it’s worth, when I returned from Syria at the beginning of February, I listed on my entry forms that I had been in Iraq and Syria, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer at Dulles airport didn’t give me a second glance.

Wolf and his colleagues might also better support the security of the United States and its regional allies if he instead pushed efforts to force Turkey to stop allowing its borders to be a revolving door for jihadists. A CNN International documentary recently showed how jihadists simply pay Turkish border police $40 to cross into Syria unmolested. Some of the traffic goes two ways: Recent travelers through the Istanbul airport have overheard transiting jihadis chatting about fighting in Syria as they wait for their return flights to their countries of origin to visit family.

The problem is that there is plenty of reason to travel to Syria that has nothing to do with jihadism. Just as Iraqi Kurds effectively carved out a statelet in Iraq that was the polar opposite of what Saddam Hussein sought in Iraq, so too have Syria’s Kurds created a calm and relatively placid region that seeks to be both secular and democratic. Just as it was ridiculous for any U.S. official to punish assistance to the Iraqi Kurds in 2000, so too would it be counterproductive to prosecute assistance to the Syrian Kurds when what they seek coincides with U.S. interests. Wolf might argue that Americans could simply receive a Treasury Department waiver for travel into Syrian Kurdistan, but in practice officious employees uninterested in the fact that not all Syrians are the same would be more likely to sit on applications or say no rather than risk saying yes.

Empowering government to restrict travel in such ways simply undercuts liberty. That does not mean Americans should have free range to conduct illegal activities while abroad: Traveling to Iran with dual-use equipment in one’s suitcase should be illegal, as should be violating Cuba sanctions. Working with any al-Qaeda-affiliated group, be it in Yemen, Pakistan, Mali, or Somalia, should be illegal. But travel itself should not be. If U.S. intelligence capabilities are falling flat, then it is best to address that problem head on rather than recommending the legislative equivalent of slapping a bandaid on a sucking chest wound. Even the best intentions should not be an excuse to constrain American liberty.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So much for the notion that it wasn’t a referendum on Obama. “I’m not recommending for every future President that they take a shellacking like they — like I did last night.” Notice the “I.”

So much for the Bill Clinton–like adjustment. “Obama admits he got a ’shellacking,’ but shows no sign of budging on core agenda.”

So much for the wishful thinking of the left blogosphere: “Republicans have picked up a net gain of 53 seats and were leading for another 13 Democratic-held seats. If current trend holds, Republicans could record their largest gains in the House in more than 70 years.”

So much for historical accuracy: “The newly divided government could be a recipe for gridlock or, as some veteran Capitol Hill operatives suggest, an opportunity for President Barack Obama and Congress to improve their weak standing with the American public by working together — a la Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich.” Um, I don’t think Gingrich improved his standing.

So much for lessons learned. The left blogosphere is still spinning: “I think the root of the Democrats’ political troubles lies in the initial flurry of activity — the stimulus, restructuring TARP, and the auto bailout. In the public mind, this all become jumbled together as ‘the bailouts’ — a conflation carefully nurtured by Republicans — even though obviously Keynesian fiscal policy is not the same thing as a bailout. But the truth is that all those policies were highly unpopular, and all came to symbolize big government rescuing bad actors while average people paid the bill. It became a frame that colored perceptions of the entire Democratic agenda.” It didn’t “symbolize” big government — together with ObamaCare, it was big government.

So much for Rahm Emanuel’s handiwork. “The Democrats who handed Speaker Nancy Pelosi her majority were largely wiped out of Congress on Tuesday. Fourteen members of the freshman class of 2006, dubbed by Pelosi (D-Calif.) as her ‘majority makers,’ and 21 freshman elected in 2008 lost their seats with a handful of races still undecided. Republicans were able to win several more open seats that Democrats had won in those cycles.” No wonder Rahm developed a yen to be mayor.

So much for getting our money back. “GM said it intends to sell almost a quarter of its 1.5 billion shares of common stock, at a price between $26 to $29 a share. It also intends to sell 60 million shares of preferred stock with a liquidation value of $50 a share. That price range would suggest that the Treasury Department’s 60.8% stake in the company would be worth between $23.7 billion to $26.5 billion once the stock starts trading. That value would be well below the $40 billion in taxpayer money GM received from the government and has yet to repay.”

So much for stonewalling. Rep. Lamar Smith, who together with Rep. Frank Wolf labored to get to the bottom of the New Black Panther Party scandal, will be the House Judiciary chairman. Eric Holder therefore may be the first subpoenaed member of the administration. I sense a stampede of officials at DOJ running to spend more time with their families.

So much for the notion that it wasn’t a referendum on Obama. “I’m not recommending for every future President that they take a shellacking like they — like I did last night.” Notice the “I.”

So much for the Bill Clinton–like adjustment. “Obama admits he got a ’shellacking,’ but shows no sign of budging on core agenda.”

So much for the wishful thinking of the left blogosphere: “Republicans have picked up a net gain of 53 seats and were leading for another 13 Democratic-held seats. If current trend holds, Republicans could record their largest gains in the House in more than 70 years.”

So much for historical accuracy: “The newly divided government could be a recipe for gridlock or, as some veteran Capitol Hill operatives suggest, an opportunity for President Barack Obama and Congress to improve their weak standing with the American public by working together — a la Bill Clinton and Speaker Newt Gingrich.” Um, I don’t think Gingrich improved his standing.

So much for lessons learned. The left blogosphere is still spinning: “I think the root of the Democrats’ political troubles lies in the initial flurry of activity — the stimulus, restructuring TARP, and the auto bailout. In the public mind, this all become jumbled together as ‘the bailouts’ — a conflation carefully nurtured by Republicans — even though obviously Keynesian fiscal policy is not the same thing as a bailout. But the truth is that all those policies were highly unpopular, and all came to symbolize big government rescuing bad actors while average people paid the bill. It became a frame that colored perceptions of the entire Democratic agenda.” It didn’t “symbolize” big government — together with ObamaCare, it was big government.

So much for Rahm Emanuel’s handiwork. “The Democrats who handed Speaker Nancy Pelosi her majority were largely wiped out of Congress on Tuesday. Fourteen members of the freshman class of 2006, dubbed by Pelosi (D-Calif.) as her ‘majority makers,’ and 21 freshman elected in 2008 lost their seats with a handful of races still undecided. Republicans were able to win several more open seats that Democrats had won in those cycles.” No wonder Rahm developed a yen to be mayor.

So much for getting our money back. “GM said it intends to sell almost a quarter of its 1.5 billion shares of common stock, at a price between $26 to $29 a share. It also intends to sell 60 million shares of preferred stock with a liquidation value of $50 a share. That price range would suggest that the Treasury Department’s 60.8% stake in the company would be worth between $23.7 billion to $26.5 billion once the stock starts trading. That value would be well below the $40 billion in taxpayer money GM received from the government and has yet to repay.”

So much for stonewalling. Rep. Lamar Smith, who together with Rep. Frank Wolf labored to get to the bottom of the New Black Panther Party scandal, will be the House Judiciary chairman. Eric Holder therefore may be the first subpoenaed member of the administration. I sense a stampede of officials at DOJ running to spend more time with their families.

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Hiding Facts in a Scandal Never Works

Since the Obama team pulled the plug on the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, the administration has tried to keep the facts under wraps and the relevant documents and witnesses from surfacing. But this never works in Washington. In these sorts of scandals, the facts will still come out one way or another.

The new Congress with GOP chairmen will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents and then take the administration to federal court if its stonewalling continues. Judicial Watch is already in federal court challenging the administration’s withholding of documents from Thomas Perrelli, the associate attorney general. Then there are Justice Department attorneys who fear they may be caught in the scandal — because they complied with Obama appointees’ directions to withhold documents improperly, provided misleading answers to discovery requests, or aided in obstructing investigations. Now they may very well decide to assist investigators in an effort to distance themselves from the wrongdoers. There are many witnesses to the meetings, e-mails, documents, and discussions described by  Chris Coates and J. Christian Adams. It’s inconceivable all of them will remain silent.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn Fine, is, or should be, another source of concern for the administration. When Reps. Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith were struggling in 2009 to get facts about the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, they wrote to Fine to implore him to open an investigation. Now, for many years, Fine has pushed for greater statutory authority to act as DOJ’s centralized watchdog, which in essence would overshadow the Office of Professional Responsibility (whose reputation has been poor and only deteriorated when its work on the John Yoo and Jay Bybee investigation was repudiated). In 2009, Fine said he lacked the authority to pursue the matter. But that was when the Obama team was riding high and ample evidence of systemic wrongdoing hadn’t been confirmed. In September 2010, both Obama’s political standing and the state of the evidence have changed.

Sure enough, Fine recently informed Wolf and Smith that he’s now undertaking that investigation. The New Black Panther Party scandal might finally give Fine the visibility and respect he has long sought. And it sure won’t harm his reputation with the new Congress.

Since the Obama team pulled the plug on the voter-intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party, the administration has tried to keep the facts under wraps and the relevant documents and witnesses from surfacing. But this never works in Washington. In these sorts of scandals, the facts will still come out one way or another.

The new Congress with GOP chairmen will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents and then take the administration to federal court if its stonewalling continues. Judicial Watch is already in federal court challenging the administration’s withholding of documents from Thomas Perrelli, the associate attorney general. Then there are Justice Department attorneys who fear they may be caught in the scandal — because they complied with Obama appointees’ directions to withhold documents improperly, provided misleading answers to discovery requests, or aided in obstructing investigations. Now they may very well decide to assist investigators in an effort to distance themselves from the wrongdoers. There are many witnesses to the meetings, e-mails, documents, and discussions described by  Chris Coates and J. Christian Adams. It’s inconceivable all of them will remain silent.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Glenn Fine, is, or should be, another source of concern for the administration. When Reps. Frank Wolf and Lamar Smith were struggling in 2009 to get facts about the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, they wrote to Fine to implore him to open an investigation. Now, for many years, Fine has pushed for greater statutory authority to act as DOJ’s centralized watchdog, which in essence would overshadow the Office of Professional Responsibility (whose reputation has been poor and only deteriorated when its work on the John Yoo and Jay Bybee investigation was repudiated). In 2009, Fine said he lacked the authority to pursue the matter. But that was when the Obama team was riding high and ample evidence of systemic wrongdoing hadn’t been confirmed. In September 2010, both Obama’s political standing and the state of the evidence have changed.

Sure enough, Fine recently informed Wolf and Smith that he’s now undertaking that investigation. The New Black Panther Party scandal might finally give Fine the visibility and respect he has long sought. And it sure won’t harm his reputation with the new Congress.

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Obama Justice Department Rocked

The former head of the Justice Department’s New Black Panther trial team, Chris Coates, testified Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. See here and here and here (subscription required). Before Coates broke his silence, the commission’s critics, a minority of the commissioners, and the mainstream media insisted that the dismissal of a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case had no significance beyond the single incident on Election Day 2008. However, Coates’s account of the administration’s hostility to race-neutral enforcement of voting laws and refusal to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring that states clean up their voting rolls to prevent voter fraud) blew that assertion to smithereens.

I was in the hearing room on Friday. Nearly as riveting as Coates’s testimony was the frantic performance of the administration’s chief lackey, Commissioner Michael Yaki. He asked Coates about the civil rights division’s memo-writing procedures, Bush-era cases, and Coates’s friendship with a former department attorney but never asked any questions about the specific allegations that Obama appointees opposed equal enforcement of the voting laws. An audience member wisecracked, “When all else fails, blame George Bush.” Read More

The former head of the Justice Department’s New Black Panther trial team, Chris Coates, testified Friday before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. See here and here and here (subscription required). Before Coates broke his silence, the commission’s critics, a minority of the commissioners, and the mainstream media insisted that the dismissal of a slam-dunk voter-intimidation case had no significance beyond the single incident on Election Day 2008. However, Coates’s account of the administration’s hostility to race-neutral enforcement of voting laws and refusal to enforce Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act (requiring that states clean up their voting rolls to prevent voter fraud) blew that assertion to smithereens.

I was in the hearing room on Friday. Nearly as riveting as Coates’s testimony was the frantic performance of the administration’s chief lackey, Commissioner Michael Yaki. He asked Coates about the civil rights division’s memo-writing procedures, Bush-era cases, and Coates’s friendship with a former department attorney but never asked any questions about the specific allegations that Obama appointees opposed equal enforcement of the voting laws. An audience member wisecracked, “When all else fails, blame George Bush.”

Try as Democrats might to ignore the blockbuster evidence, Coates’s testimony was a game changer. Granted, the testimony contained information already revealed in conservative outlets and by former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams. But Coates confirmed these facts and added a wealth of new details. An African American attorney and his mother (who also works for DOJ) were harassed for working on a voting case brought against an African American defendant. Obama’s deputy assistant general for civil rights, Julie Fernandez, repeatedly told attorneys not to enforce Section 8 or bring cases against minority defendants. Coates’s supervisor, who directly ordered the case’s dismissal, told him to stop asking applicants if they could enforce laws in a race-neutral fashion. Coates briefed civil rights chief Thomas Perez on the hostility toward race-neutral enforcement of voting laws — before Perez feigned ignorance of such sentiments in sworn testimony. In sum, Coates’s appearance was the scandal’s tipping point.

Conservative outlets have reported on the case for over a year; mainstream reporters have averted their eyes. After Coates’s performance, the Washington Post’s page-one story proclaimed that the case is “ratcheting up.” Politico had pooh-poohed the story; it now acknowledges that conservatives had it correct all along. (“Coates’ highly-charged testimony before the Civil Rights Commission echoed [conservatives’] allegations, as well as the testimony of J. Christian Adams.”) The testimony was so stunning that the New York Times might have to cover it.

Meanwhile, the DOJ’s spokesman bristled that Coates wasn’t “authorized” to testify and wasn’t an “appropriate” witness. In a transparent coordination with Yaki, DOJ’s spokesman blamed the Bush administration for politicizing the department. But it will be impossible to shrug off or smear Coates. As the Post conceded, Coates’s testimony will “carry greater weight because he worked decades ago as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, has won awards from civil rights groups and lacks the partisan GOP resume of the department’s harshest opponents.”

Moreover, Coates testimony was all the more compelling because he was so circumspect, refusing to testify about internal discussions that the department considers privileged. (He readily agreed to provide more details if the DOJ waived its privilege claim.) He declined to draw inferences unsupported by his own observations. Asked whether Obama appointees’ directive not to enforce Section 8’s anti-fraud provisions was racially motivated, he answered with a litigator’s precision: it might have not been the intent, but the result was to allow bloated voting rolls in heavily minority districts that were Democratic strongholds.

No wonder the administration tried to muzzle Coates. Nevertheless, the department’s stonewalling has failed, and those parroting the administration’s line (“much ado about nothing”) look foolish. Inevitably, more Justice Department witnesses and documents will surface. (Judicial Watch has sued the DOJ, demanding documents evidencing the involvement of the department’s No. 3 man.)

Moreover, after November, Republicans almost certainly will assume chairmanships of key congressional committees. (Staff members from the offices of Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf, who have doggedly pursued the case, listened attentively in the front row on Friday.) A spokesman for Smith released this statement:

A founding principle of this nation is equality under the law. That means it is unacceptable for the Justice Department to determine whether to enforce a law based upon the race of a defendant or victim. And yet, according to testimony by the former chief voting rights attorney for the Department, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing. … The Judiciary Committee should immediately open an investigation into allegations of improper practices within the Civil Rights Division and Justice Department officials should be subpoenaed to testify before Congress. There is no excuse for racial discrimination anywhere, but within the halls of the U.S. Department of Justice, it is the height of hypocrisy.

If Obama appointees refuse to testify voluntarily, the new chairmen will issue subpoenas.

It will be interesting to hear Obama officials explain why they failed to investigate accusations of wrongdoing and instead insisted that voting-rights laws be enforced only on behalf of minorities. It will be must-see TV when Perez is grilled on his inaccurate testimony claiming ignorance of hostility to the colorblind enforcement of voting laws. Will attorneys be referred to their state bar for professional misconduct?

This has become another headache for the Obama administration, especially for Eric Holder. Maybe he will want to “spend more time with his family” before Republican chairmen grab their gavels.

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Don’t Give Me the Facts, I’ve Got My Story

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

I’m amazed how Politico can run a story trying to debunk the New Black Panther scandal without interviewing trial team member Christian Adams or any other former or current Justice Department attorney, without relating any of Adams’s testimony, without referencing the voluminous research and evidence unearthed by other news outlets, without contacting the offices of congressmen (Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf) who have been pressing for answers from the administration, and without even mentioning the allegations that the Justice Department won’t file civil rights cases against minorities. For over a year, Politico — as well as every other mainstream outlet — ignored the story, so the name of the game, I suppose, is to explain that they didn’t miss anything.

It is especially odd that a good reporter like Ben Smith wouldn’t make the effort to interview Adams. Adams is doing extensive interviews and is readily available. He’s not been critiquing the media coverage, but did promptly respond to my request for comment on the Politico story (he really is very easy to reach). He told me that Smith did contact him,  and Adams responded saying he was away for the day but inviting Smith to contact him if it was urgent. Adams never heard anything further from Smith. Adams continued:

My area of expertise is the law and the truth about the case. All I can do is provide truthful testimony and information. I know what [trial team leader] Chris Coates would testify to, and I know there are multiple corroborating witnesses both inside and outside the Department. So to me things like Ben Smith are a short lived distraction that in the long run don’t seem to matter given the facts. The idea that I would quit a job to no pay to make something up isn’t resonating beyond a core of sycophantic nuts. If I’m lying or exaggerating, charge me with perjury.

Adams is right that the facts are there — multiple witnesses, documents, and e-mails. They establish that a meritorious case of voter intimidation was dropped by Obama political appointees and that there is an aversion in the Obama administration to filing cases against minorities. That only conservative outlets have bothered to root around and uncover the story tells you more about the mainstream media than it does about the merits of the case.

It’s bad enough to miss an important story; it’s worse to write a belated story which steers clear of the facts you missed. Even when all the legwork is done by others and the story is figuratively handed to them, and even explained to them, some reporters can’t be bothered with the facts.

One final point: it’s not just right wingers who recognize that this is a legitimate and important story. The Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander does a mea culpa for the Post’s delinquency in reporting. Bravo. (Oh, if only Politico were so professional and candid.) I look forward to the Post’s future reporting — there certainly is plenty to investigate.

UPDATE: Jan Crawford, the fine legal reporter previously with ABC and now with CBS, has a comprehensive report here. Stephen Hayes’s excellent summary of the case and of the mainstream media’s disinclination to report on it is here.

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Religious Intolerance in the Middle East: Where Should We Focus?

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980′s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries – but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980′s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries – but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

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RE: Obama’s Lousy Record on Religious Freedom

As I noted yesterday, the U.S. Commission on International Freedom released its annual report. Its chairman, Leonard Leo, writes a column highlighting some of its findings. Two in particular stand out, in large part because U.S. policy is so badly out of sync and at odds with those striving to promote religious freedom.

First is Sudan. Critics on the right and left have deplored the administration’s feckless envoy, retired Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, and the administration’s “spectacularly naïve perspective—and accompanying policy of appeasement.” Meanwhile, the religious atrocities continue, as Leo details:

USCIRF has focused since its inception on Sudan because Khartoum’s policies of Islamization and Arabization were a major factor in the Sudanese North-South civil war (1983-2005). During that period, Northern leaders, including Sudan’s current President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, exploited religion to mobilize northern Muslims against non-Muslim Southerners by appealing to Islam and calling for jihad. USCIRF remains concerned about continuing severe human rights violations committed by the Sudanese government against both non-Muslims and Muslims who depart from the government’s interpretation of Islam; the two million Southerners who reside in the North as internally displaced persons (IDPS); and the dramatic need for international support to develop Southern Sudan. … As the USCIRF delegation carried out its work, visiting displaced South Sudanese Christians living in camps outside Khartoum, the ominous sights of barricaded streets, armed military and security personnel around the National Assembly were a sobering reminder of the challenges to peace that lay ahead for Sudan.

Gration and the administration remain mute.

Then there is Egypt. The administration again is apathetic, it seems, to the religious persecution taking place there. Rep. Frank Wolf observed this about the virtual enslavement of Coptic women: “I expect the State Department to do nothing because that’s the way the State Department has been responding.” Leo explains what fails to interest the Obami:

In Egypt, serious problems of discrimination and intolerance against non-Muslim religious minorities and disfavored members of the Muslim majority remain widespread. The Egyptian government’s inadequate prosecution of those responsible and the politically expedient and occasional use of an ineffective reconciliation process, an improper substitute for conviction and punishment, have created a climate of impunity. Although the government has arrested three Muslim men and put them on trial for the Coptic Christmas Eve attack on six Coptic Orthodox Christians and one Muslim, the Coptic community fears reprisals and is skeptical that the government will either follow through with the trial of the three men in question or use its authority to create an environment in which individuals safely exercise their internationally guaranteed rights of religious freedom. However, President Mubarak publicly condemned the violence and acknowledged its sectarian character, and the Egyptian press for the first time called for a national conversation and an investigation on the root causes of this violence. Juxtaposed against these signs are the USCIRF delegation’s visits to the Muslim Koranist, Jehovah Witnesses, and Baha’i communities, each victimized by state-sponsored discrimination and repression. The government also has responded inadequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

The administration’s verbiage provides a clue to its disinterest in elevating this issue to a top priority. This report explains:

[C]ommission chairman Leonard Leo says the shrinking importance of religious freedom can be seen in the Obama administration’s evolving rhetoric on the issue. Whereas Mr. Obama came into office speaking of “freedom of religion,” Mr. Leo says, the president more recently has opted for speaking about “freedom of worship,” which the USCIRF chairman says has a more limited connotation. “Freedom of religion” is more broadly understood as a universal right and more specific in its referral to religions than is the more ephemeral phrase “freedom of worship,” some religious experts say. Critics say Obama’s recent preference for “worship” raises doubts about the administration’s determination to aggressively press for the rights of religious minorities in “friendly” countries such as Iraq, Egypt, and Pakistan – all of which receive billions of dollars in US aid. The president referred to “freedom of worship,” for example, during his Asia trip last fall, when he was castigated by rights groups for downplaying the issue of religious freedom in China and the status of the Dalai Lama.

The administration’s slothful indifference to the uptick in religious persecution in the “Muslim World” stands in stark contrast to its obsession with the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Months and months of diplomacy, countless speeches and appearances by the president and high-level officials, condemnations for the Jewish state, and a special envoy are all focused on what is largely a fruitless endeavor — getting to the bargaining table (not even the same table at which the Israelis sit) with recalcitrant Palestinians who lack the will and the ability to make a peace deal. Meanwhile, virtually no time or focus and no ambassador is named to deal with a problem that could, if sufficient resources were devoted, be ameliorated by a forceful American policy. It is a vivid display of the misplaced priorities and wasted opportunities that characterize much of the Obama foreign policy.

As I noted yesterday, the U.S. Commission on International Freedom released its annual report. Its chairman, Leonard Leo, writes a column highlighting some of its findings. Two in particular stand out, in large part because U.S. policy is so badly out of sync and at odds with those striving to promote religious freedom.

First is Sudan. Critics on the right and left have deplored the administration’s feckless envoy, retired Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, and the administration’s “spectacularly naïve perspective—and accompanying policy of appeasement.” Meanwhile, the religious atrocities continue, as Leo details:

USCIRF has focused since its inception on Sudan because Khartoum’s policies of Islamization and Arabization were a major factor in the Sudanese North-South civil war (1983-2005). During that period, Northern leaders, including Sudan’s current President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, exploited religion to mobilize northern Muslims against non-Muslim Southerners by appealing to Islam and calling for jihad. USCIRF remains concerned about continuing severe human rights violations committed by the Sudanese government against both non-Muslims and Muslims who depart from the government’s interpretation of Islam; the two million Southerners who reside in the North as internally displaced persons (IDPS); and the dramatic need for international support to develop Southern Sudan. … As the USCIRF delegation carried out its work, visiting displaced South Sudanese Christians living in camps outside Khartoum, the ominous sights of barricaded streets, armed military and security personnel around the National Assembly were a sobering reminder of the challenges to peace that lay ahead for Sudan.

Gration and the administration remain mute.

Then there is Egypt. The administration again is apathetic, it seems, to the religious persecution taking place there. Rep. Frank Wolf observed this about the virtual enslavement of Coptic women: “I expect the State Department to do nothing because that’s the way the State Department has been responding.” Leo explains what fails to interest the Obami:

In Egypt, serious problems of discrimination and intolerance against non-Muslim religious minorities and disfavored members of the Muslim majority remain widespread. The Egyptian government’s inadequate prosecution of those responsible and the politically expedient and occasional use of an ineffective reconciliation process, an improper substitute for conviction and punishment, have created a climate of impunity. Although the government has arrested three Muslim men and put them on trial for the Coptic Christmas Eve attack on six Coptic Orthodox Christians and one Muslim, the Coptic community fears reprisals and is skeptical that the government will either follow through with the trial of the three men in question or use its authority to create an environment in which individuals safely exercise their internationally guaranteed rights of religious freedom. However, President Mubarak publicly condemned the violence and acknowledged its sectarian character, and the Egyptian press for the first time called for a national conversation and an investigation on the root causes of this violence. Juxtaposed against these signs are the USCIRF delegation’s visits to the Muslim Koranist, Jehovah Witnesses, and Baha’i communities, each victimized by state-sponsored discrimination and repression. The government also has responded inadequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

The administration’s verbiage provides a clue to its disinterest in elevating this issue to a top priority. This report explains:

[C]ommission chairman Leonard Leo says the shrinking importance of religious freedom can be seen in the Obama administration’s evolving rhetoric on the issue. Whereas Mr. Obama came into office speaking of “freedom of religion,” Mr. Leo says, the president more recently has opted for speaking about “freedom of worship,” which the USCIRF chairman says has a more limited connotation. “Freedom of religion” is more broadly understood as a universal right and more specific in its referral to religions than is the more ephemeral phrase “freedom of worship,” some religious experts say. Critics say Obama’s recent preference for “worship” raises doubts about the administration’s determination to aggressively press for the rights of religious minorities in “friendly” countries such as Iraq, Egypt, and Pakistan – all of which receive billions of dollars in US aid. The president referred to “freedom of worship,” for example, during his Asia trip last fall, when he was castigated by rights groups for downplaying the issue of religious freedom in China and the status of the Dalai Lama.

The administration’s slothful indifference to the uptick in religious persecution in the “Muslim World” stands in stark contrast to its obsession with the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Months and months of diplomacy, countless speeches and appearances by the president and high-level officials, condemnations for the Jewish state, and a special envoy are all focused on what is largely a fruitless endeavor — getting to the bargaining table (not even the same table at which the Israelis sit) with recalcitrant Palestinians who lack the will and the ability to make a peace deal. Meanwhile, virtually no time or focus and no ambassador is named to deal with a problem that could, if sufficient resources were devoted, be ameliorated by a forceful American policy. It is a vivid display of the misplaced priorities and wasted opportunities that characterize much of the Obama foreign policy.

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New Black Panther Documents: Appellate Experts Overridden

At the heart of the New Black Panther Party case is a basic question: were the Justice Department trial lawyers ordered to withdraw the default judgment for proper, legal reasons (i.e., the trial team had erroneously pursued the case) or for improper, political reasons? At the Friday hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Rep. Frank Wolf submitted with his testimony some internal Justice Department documents, including an internal memorandum from the Civil Rights Division’s appellate section, which was asked to weigh in by the Voting Rights Section. In a memo dated May 13, 2009 (just days before the Obama administration ordered the case pulled), the appellate lawyers offered their own opinion of the case. They included this in their summary:

We can make reasonable arguments in favor of default relief against all defendants and probably should, given the unusual procedural situation. The argument may well not succeed at the default stage, and we should expect the district court to schedule further proceedings But it would be curious not to pray for the relief on the default that we would seek following trial. Thus, we generally concur in Voting’s recommendation to go forward, with some suggested modifications in our argument, as set forth below.

Translation: the Voting Sections lawyers should go for it. This recommendation was overridden by the Obama administration. And the question we return to again and again is this: why did the Obama team reject the advice of not only the trial team of career lawyers but also of the experts in the appellate section? What infirmity did only the Obama team spot that somehow had eluded all these experienced voting-rights gurus? Well, we don’t know. The Obama administration so far has refused to permit the trial attorneys to testify to shed further light on what pressure they were subjected to and what they were told was the rationale for the dismissal. So for now, the mystery — and the stonewall — continues.

At the heart of the New Black Panther Party case is a basic question: were the Justice Department trial lawyers ordered to withdraw the default judgment for proper, legal reasons (i.e., the trial team had erroneously pursued the case) or for improper, political reasons? At the Friday hearing before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Rep. Frank Wolf submitted with his testimony some internal Justice Department documents, including an internal memorandum from the Civil Rights Division’s appellate section, which was asked to weigh in by the Voting Rights Section. In a memo dated May 13, 2009 (just days before the Obama administration ordered the case pulled), the appellate lawyers offered their own opinion of the case. They included this in their summary:

We can make reasonable arguments in favor of default relief against all defendants and probably should, given the unusual procedural situation. The argument may well not succeed at the default stage, and we should expect the district court to schedule further proceedings But it would be curious not to pray for the relief on the default that we would seek following trial. Thus, we generally concur in Voting’s recommendation to go forward, with some suggested modifications in our argument, as set forth below.

Translation: the Voting Sections lawyers should go for it. This recommendation was overridden by the Obama administration. And the question we return to again and again is this: why did the Obama team reject the advice of not only the trial team of career lawyers but also of the experts in the appellate section? What infirmity did only the Obama team spot that somehow had eluded all these experienced voting-rights gurus? Well, we don’t know. The Obama administration so far has refused to permit the trial attorneys to testify to shed further light on what pressure they were subjected to and what they were told was the rationale for the dismissal. So for now, the mystery — and the stonewall — continues.

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What Did Eric Holder Know and When Did He Know It?

From the beginning of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department insisted that the decision to dismiss a case of egregious voter intimidation was made by career attorneys. Now we are learning that there was significant involvement by political appointees, including the attorney general himself. In a prepared testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which opened its hearing today, Rep. Frank Wolf explained:

“According to the Appellate Division memos first disclosed in the Times article, Appellate Chief Diana K. Flynn said that ‘the appropriate action was to pursue the default judgment’ and that Justice had made a ‘reasonable argument in favor of default relief against all defendants.’

Flynn’s opinion was shared by a second Appellate Division official, Marie K. McElderry, who stated, ‘The government’s predominant interest is preventing intimidation, threats and coercion against voters or persons urging or aiding persons to vote or attempt to vote.’

Given these troubling disclosures, I have repeatedly called on the attorney general to re-file this civil suit and allow a ruling from the judge based on the merits of the case, not political expediency.  The career trial team should be allowed to bring the case again – per the guidance I obtained from the Congressional Research Service’s American Law Division in its July 30 memo – to allow our nation’s justice system to work as it was intended: impartially and without bias.

Sources within the department stated that Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, a political appointee, in conjunction with the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, Ms. Loretta King, and her deputy, Mr. Steve Rosenbaum, overruled the career attorneys in the Voting Rights section.  Earlier this week, the department finally acknowledged that the Attorney General was made aware – on multiple occasions – of the steps being taken to dismiss this case.”

Wolf may be referring to the Justice Department’s supplemental response to an interrogation from the Commission, a copy of which I have received. The Department confirms, “The Attorney General was generally made aware by the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Associate’s staff that the Civil Rights Division was considering the appropriate actions to take in the New Black Panther Party litigation case.” The response states that Holder was “likely provided a brief update” but “did not make the decisions regarding any aspect” of the case. Did he weigh in? Did he advocate a position? Did his underlings? We don’t know.

But one thing is certain: if the case was significant enough to brief the attorney general on, you can bet that the decisions were approved if not instigated by political appointees. The veil is beginning to be lifted. Now it is time to put Holder and Perrelli under oath and find out what they knew and when they knew it. And then we can determine whether the Justice Department has been covering up the politicization of the enforcement of civil rights.

From the beginning of the New Black Panther Party scandal, the Obama Justice Department insisted that the decision to dismiss a case of egregious voter intimidation was made by career attorneys. Now we are learning that there was significant involvement by political appointees, including the attorney general himself. In a prepared testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which opened its hearing today, Rep. Frank Wolf explained:

“According to the Appellate Division memos first disclosed in the Times article, Appellate Chief Diana K. Flynn said that ‘the appropriate action was to pursue the default judgment’ and that Justice had made a ‘reasonable argument in favor of default relief against all defendants.’

Flynn’s opinion was shared by a second Appellate Division official, Marie K. McElderry, who stated, ‘The government’s predominant interest is preventing intimidation, threats and coercion against voters or persons urging or aiding persons to vote or attempt to vote.’

Given these troubling disclosures, I have repeatedly called on the attorney general to re-file this civil suit and allow a ruling from the judge based on the merits of the case, not political expediency.  The career trial team should be allowed to bring the case again – per the guidance I obtained from the Congressional Research Service’s American Law Division in its July 30 memo – to allow our nation’s justice system to work as it was intended: impartially and without bias.

Sources within the department stated that Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli, a political appointee, in conjunction with the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, Ms. Loretta King, and her deputy, Mr. Steve Rosenbaum, overruled the career attorneys in the Voting Rights section.  Earlier this week, the department finally acknowledged that the Attorney General was made aware – on multiple occasions – of the steps being taken to dismiss this case.”

Wolf may be referring to the Justice Department’s supplemental response to an interrogation from the Commission, a copy of which I have received. The Department confirms, “The Attorney General was generally made aware by the then-Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and the Associate’s staff that the Civil Rights Division was considering the appropriate actions to take in the New Black Panther Party litigation case.” The response states that Holder was “likely provided a brief update” but “did not make the decisions regarding any aspect” of the case. Did he weigh in? Did he advocate a position? Did his underlings? We don’t know.

But one thing is certain: if the case was significant enough to brief the attorney general on, you can bet that the decisions were approved if not instigated by political appointees. The veil is beginning to be lifted. Now it is time to put Holder and Perrelli under oath and find out what they knew and when they knew it. And then we can determine whether the Justice Department has been covering up the politicization of the enforcement of civil rights.

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No Human Rights Atrocity Too Awful for the Obami to Ignore

Fox News reports:

Seventeen members of Congress are pressing the State Department to act on the “grim reality” faced by Coptic Christian women in Egypt, who frequently are coerced into violent forced marriages that leave them victim to rape and captive slavery.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote on April 16 to Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, who heads up American efforts to thwart human trafficking around the globe.

In their letter, they exhort the State Department to confront the “criminal phenomenon” of forced marriage they say is on the rise in Egypt, where the 7 million Coptic Christians often face criminal prosecution and civic violence for their rejection of Islam.

“I think it is about as bad as it can be” for Copts and other religious minorities in Egypt, said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who penned the letter. “It is very tough to be a Coptic Christian. … Keep in mind that we have given Egypt about $53 billion since Camp David” — the 1978 peace accords between Israel and Egypt that were arranged by the U.S. government — “so we’re actually funding them,” Wolf said.

We’ve come to expect very little from the Obami on human rights, and absolutely nothing when it comes to the protection of religious freedom. One suspects that slothful difference is at work here, as the Fox report explains:

The State Department’s 2009 report on trafficking singled out Egypt for its Level II Watchlist, noting that the government made only “minimal efforts to prevent trafficking in persons” last year.

But while it notes the plight of Sudanese women and others in bondage in Egypt, it does not mention Copts once — nor does the report mention Christians anywhere in its 324 pages.

A State Department spokesman said that violations of religious rights are covered in the annual reports of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. But the most recent report from the commission made no mention of forced marriages or forced conversions targeting Copts in Egypt.

Wolf is not optimistic that the Obami will leap into action. (“‘I expect the State Department to do nothing,’ he said, ‘because that’s the way the State Department has been responding.’”) Indeed, the Obama administration has been nothing if not consistent in its disdain for human rights and unwillingness to rattle the despotic regimes of the “Muslim World.” It remains unclear how it is that we’re going to win the hearts and minds of the people in those countries and wean them from the temptation of  Islamic fundamentalism when we are so reticent in the defense of our own values.

Fox News reports:

Seventeen members of Congress are pressing the State Department to act on the “grim reality” faced by Coptic Christian women in Egypt, who frequently are coerced into violent forced marriages that leave them victim to rape and captive slavery.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote on April 16 to Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca, who heads up American efforts to thwart human trafficking around the globe.

In their letter, they exhort the State Department to confront the “criminal phenomenon” of forced marriage they say is on the rise in Egypt, where the 7 million Coptic Christians often face criminal prosecution and civic violence for their rejection of Islam.

“I think it is about as bad as it can be” for Copts and other religious minorities in Egypt, said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who penned the letter. “It is very tough to be a Coptic Christian. … Keep in mind that we have given Egypt about $53 billion since Camp David” — the 1978 peace accords between Israel and Egypt that were arranged by the U.S. government — “so we’re actually funding them,” Wolf said.

We’ve come to expect very little from the Obami on human rights, and absolutely nothing when it comes to the protection of religious freedom. One suspects that slothful difference is at work here, as the Fox report explains:

The State Department’s 2009 report on trafficking singled out Egypt for its Level II Watchlist, noting that the government made only “minimal efforts to prevent trafficking in persons” last year.

But while it notes the plight of Sudanese women and others in bondage in Egypt, it does not mention Copts once — nor does the report mention Christians anywhere in its 324 pages.

A State Department spokesman said that violations of religious rights are covered in the annual reports of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. But the most recent report from the commission made no mention of forced marriages or forced conversions targeting Copts in Egypt.

Wolf is not optimistic that the Obami will leap into action. (“‘I expect the State Department to do nothing,’ he said, ‘because that’s the way the State Department has been responding.’”) Indeed, the Obama administration has been nothing if not consistent in its disdain for human rights and unwillingness to rattle the despotic regimes of the “Muslim World.” It remains unclear how it is that we’re going to win the hearts and minds of the people in those countries and wean them from the temptation of  Islamic fundamentalism when we are so reticent in the defense of our own values.

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The End of the “Not Bush” Experiment?

The Hill reports:

Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said he would attempt to add language barring any money from being spent on trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts to the intelligence authorization bill. . . In the next week, King said, he will be fine-tuning the language to make it germane to the intelligence authorization bill. If he is unsuccessful or it doesn’t pass, he vowed to continue to offer the bill throughout the rest of the year whenever he sees an opportunity.

This seems like a fine idea. If, as Obama keeps declaring, we got “off track” during the Bush years (oh, except for the parts which the Obami claim were identical to what Obama is now doing) and betrayed our “values,” he should welcome a robust debate about the wisdom of trying jihadists in civilian courtrooms. Granted, a New York venue seems like a nonstarter now, but Eric Holder and Obama insist that that civilian trials are the way to go. They tell us that it’s going to prove (to whom?) the wonders of the American judicial system — before they absolutely, positively guarantee a conviction. (And such reasoning requires one to put aside, I suppose, that military tribunals authorized by Congress are part of that judicial system.)

The Obami must sense they are on thin ice. Sens. Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the White House (I’m sure it was requested) singing the praises of federal court trials for terrorists. But there is a groundswell of opposition building:

King and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, are leading the House drive to prevent any funds from being spent on prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a similar legislative initiative in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tight reelection race, signed on as a co-sponsor to Graham’s bill. . . . Last week, two House Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Mike McMahon (N.Y.), jumped onto King and Wolf’s bill as co-sponsors, a sign that support in the Democratic Caucus for Obama’s detainee policies has deteriorated in recent weeks amid growing concern about how voters will view the White House’s national security policies at the polls in November

The public in survey after survey opposes the criminal-justice model Obama still clings to. The president will have the chance to make his pitch and convince the public of the merits of his view. Indeed, snatching the decision-making process away from the hapless Eric Holder, who botched the New York trial roll-out, Obama declares that he will insert himself in the process and decide the locale of the KSM trial.

But I suspect the whole experiment is unraveling as those on the ballot this year sense that there is no appetite for this sort of thing. Even Holder seemed to leave the door open to trying KSM in a military tribunal. (“‘At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it’s done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules,’ Holder said. ‘If we do that, I’m not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding.’”)

Well, perhaps it was the “not Bush” approach to terrorism that was seriously off track and flew in the face of the values and common sense of the American people. If Congress is stepping up to the plate and the administration is groping for an exit plan, we may finally arrive at a rational approach to fighting Islamic fascists — one that looks a whole lot like the Bush approach.

The Hill reports:

Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said he would attempt to add language barring any money from being spent on trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts to the intelligence authorization bill. . . In the next week, King said, he will be fine-tuning the language to make it germane to the intelligence authorization bill. If he is unsuccessful or it doesn’t pass, he vowed to continue to offer the bill throughout the rest of the year whenever he sees an opportunity.

This seems like a fine idea. If, as Obama keeps declaring, we got “off track” during the Bush years (oh, except for the parts which the Obami claim were identical to what Obama is now doing) and betrayed our “values,” he should welcome a robust debate about the wisdom of trying jihadists in civilian courtrooms. Granted, a New York venue seems like a nonstarter now, but Eric Holder and Obama insist that that civilian trials are the way to go. They tell us that it’s going to prove (to whom?) the wonders of the American judicial system — before they absolutely, positively guarantee a conviction. (And such reasoning requires one to put aside, I suppose, that military tribunals authorized by Congress are part of that judicial system.)

The Obami must sense they are on thin ice. Sens. Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the White House (I’m sure it was requested) singing the praises of federal court trials for terrorists. But there is a groundswell of opposition building:

King and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, are leading the House drive to prevent any funds from being spent on prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a similar legislative initiative in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tight reelection race, signed on as a co-sponsor to Graham’s bill. . . . Last week, two House Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Mike McMahon (N.Y.), jumped onto King and Wolf’s bill as co-sponsors, a sign that support in the Democratic Caucus for Obama’s detainee policies has deteriorated in recent weeks amid growing concern about how voters will view the White House’s national security policies at the polls in November

The public in survey after survey opposes the criminal-justice model Obama still clings to. The president will have the chance to make his pitch and convince the public of the merits of his view. Indeed, snatching the decision-making process away from the hapless Eric Holder, who botched the New York trial roll-out, Obama declares that he will insert himself in the process and decide the locale of the KSM trial.

But I suspect the whole experiment is unraveling as those on the ballot this year sense that there is no appetite for this sort of thing. Even Holder seemed to leave the door open to trying KSM in a military tribunal. (“‘At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it’s done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules,’ Holder said. ‘If we do that, I’m not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding.’”)

Well, perhaps it was the “not Bush” approach to terrorism that was seriously off track and flew in the face of the values and common sense of the American people. If Congress is stepping up to the plate and the administration is groping for an exit plan, we may finally arrive at a rational approach to fighting Islamic fascists — one that looks a whole lot like the Bush approach.

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Re: The New Black Panther Stonewall Continues

Commissioner Todd Gaziano of  the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights tells us about the witness line-up for the February 12 hearing:

There are three fact witnesses who will testify at the hearing scheduled for February 12, 2010: Mike Mauro, Chris Hill, and Bartle Bull. Each of these individuals was a poll watcher affiliated with either the Republican Party or the McCain campaign.

Both Mr. Hill and Mr. Bull were interviewed by reporters. Their comments are reflected in the video excerpts provided. Mr. Mauro is also seen in the videos, but does not make any comments and was not interviewed. He is the young gentleman in the blue jacket seen off to the side in several of the videos taken at the property.

All of these witnesses will describe the actions and comments of members of the New Black Panther Party, as well as conservations they may have had with poll workers inside the voting facility.

In addition, the Commission will hear from Gregory Katsas, a former Department of Justice official. . .

Finally, Congressman Frank Wolf will be appearing before the Commission to discuss his concerns and efforts relating to this matter.

I am also informed that subpoenas for Justice Department witnesses are outstanding. It is unclear (but I would suggest unlikely) that they will show up. As for Katsas, he will be testifying, among other things, concerning the standard Justice Department policy in handling cases of voter intimidation, whether given the facts of this case the Obama team was justified in pulling the case before a default judgment could be entered, and whether the associate attorney general (in this case, Thomas Perrelli, who has been identified in press reports as a decision-maker in the dismissal of the voter intimidation case) would be involved in a decision like this. He will also provide some insight into the sort of communication that would normally take place between the White House and Justice Department in the dismissal of a high-profile issue such as the New Black Panther Party case.

His testimony should be enlightening on many levels. For starters, the Obami have persistently claimed that the Bush administration did not adequately enforce civil-rights laws and that they intend now to correct this delinquency. Katsas may shine new light on the differing perspectives of the two administration. Moreover, the Commission is obviously digging to uncover whether in fact “career lawyers” made the decision to dismiss the case, as the Obami have claimed, or whether the decision-makers were indeed political appointees. And then there is the key question: what did the White House know?

Well, let’s see what we find out. It is now clear, I think, why Eric Holder has been stonewalling the Commission on its discovery requests. There seems to be much to ferret out.

UPDATE: This report tells us that the leader of the New Black Panther Party, Malik Zulu Shabazz, failed to show up for his deposition this week scheduled by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The deposition was intended to gather information in advance of the February 12 hearing. Sources tell me that the Department of Justice has been requested to enforce the subpoena on behalf of the Commission. No word on whether Justice will do so, but it is hard to fathom what excuse Holder could raise to prevent enforcement of a duly executed subpoena on a third party witness with direct involvement in a matter which is the subject of a Commission investigation.

Commissioner Todd Gaziano of  the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights tells us about the witness line-up for the February 12 hearing:

There are three fact witnesses who will testify at the hearing scheduled for February 12, 2010: Mike Mauro, Chris Hill, and Bartle Bull. Each of these individuals was a poll watcher affiliated with either the Republican Party or the McCain campaign.

Both Mr. Hill and Mr. Bull were interviewed by reporters. Their comments are reflected in the video excerpts provided. Mr. Mauro is also seen in the videos, but does not make any comments and was not interviewed. He is the young gentleman in the blue jacket seen off to the side in several of the videos taken at the property.

All of these witnesses will describe the actions and comments of members of the New Black Panther Party, as well as conservations they may have had with poll workers inside the voting facility.

In addition, the Commission will hear from Gregory Katsas, a former Department of Justice official. . .

Finally, Congressman Frank Wolf will be appearing before the Commission to discuss his concerns and efforts relating to this matter.

I am also informed that subpoenas for Justice Department witnesses are outstanding. It is unclear (but I would suggest unlikely) that they will show up. As for Katsas, he will be testifying, among other things, concerning the standard Justice Department policy in handling cases of voter intimidation, whether given the facts of this case the Obama team was justified in pulling the case before a default judgment could be entered, and whether the associate attorney general (in this case, Thomas Perrelli, who has been identified in press reports as a decision-maker in the dismissal of the voter intimidation case) would be involved in a decision like this. He will also provide some insight into the sort of communication that would normally take place between the White House and Justice Department in the dismissal of a high-profile issue such as the New Black Panther Party case.

His testimony should be enlightening on many levels. For starters, the Obami have persistently claimed that the Bush administration did not adequately enforce civil-rights laws and that they intend now to correct this delinquency. Katsas may shine new light on the differing perspectives of the two administration. Moreover, the Commission is obviously digging to uncover whether in fact “career lawyers” made the decision to dismiss the case, as the Obami have claimed, or whether the decision-makers were indeed political appointees. And then there is the key question: what did the White House know?

Well, let’s see what we find out. It is now clear, I think, why Eric Holder has been stonewalling the Commission on its discovery requests. There seems to be much to ferret out.

UPDATE: This report tells us that the leader of the New Black Panther Party, Malik Zulu Shabazz, failed to show up for his deposition this week scheduled by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The deposition was intended to gather information in advance of the February 12 hearing. Sources tell me that the Department of Justice has been requested to enforce the subpoena on behalf of the Commission. No word on whether Justice will do so, but it is hard to fathom what excuse Holder could raise to prevent enforcement of a duly executed subpoena on a third party witness with direct involvement in a matter which is the subject of a Commission investigation.

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The New Black Panther Stonewall Continues

It has been months since the Eric Holder Justice Department agreed to begin an internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility into the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. Rep. Frank Wolf has continued to bird dog Holder and Justice, inquiring about the status of the investigation and whether they will share the results. He’s been rebuffed at every turn and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has likewise gotten the back of the hand, a flurry of specious privileges and objections to the Commission’s request for documents and information.

On January 26, Wolf took another stab, writing to the Inspector General of Justice Glenn Fine about the status and requesting that the IG take over the investigation. Wolf expressed doubts as to whether OPR was “capable of conducting an unbiased and independent review.” On February 2, Fine responded, revealing an ongoing power struggle within Justice and a peek at what OPR is up to. Fine notes that he has long been seeking statutory authority to allow the IG to investigate all matters within Justice as do other departments’ IG’s. He explains that Congress has not responded to his pleas and that the jusrisdiction over allegations of attorney misconduct remains with OPR. (As an aside, many conservatives opposed consolidating all internal invetigatory power within the IG’s office, concerned that this organization had its own biases and would become a rogue entity within the department.)

But Fine also says that he’s checked with OPR and, by gosh, they really are looking into the New Black Panther Party case. He tells Wolf they have “gathered documents and other relevant materials” and have interviewed witnesses, with more on tap. (This conflicts with other reports that Capitol Hill sources and I have received, according to which the voting-section trial team in the voter-intimidation case has not been thoroughly debriefed on the political interference with the case from Obama officials.) Fine assures Wolf that OPR will report back to Congress.

However, there is another avenue for extracting information about the case. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is holding its first hearing on the matter next week in Washington on February 12. We may finally get some details on the case. What we won’t have — at least yet — is the cooperation of the Justice Department. Holder continues to stonewall, keeping OPR busy churning paperwork but never seemingly able to reach an end to the investigation. It is yet one more example of the consequences of one-party rule and the absence of significant Congressional oversight. Wolf, to his credit, is writing letters; but the power to hold Congressional hearings and to demand documents remains with the Democratic majority. They, of course, have no interest in getting to the bottom of this. Let’s see if the Commission has any better luck.

It has been months since the Eric Holder Justice Department agreed to begin an internal investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility into the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. Rep. Frank Wolf has continued to bird dog Holder and Justice, inquiring about the status of the investigation and whether they will share the results. He’s been rebuffed at every turn and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has likewise gotten the back of the hand, a flurry of specious privileges and objections to the Commission’s request for documents and information.

On January 26, Wolf took another stab, writing to the Inspector General of Justice Glenn Fine about the status and requesting that the IG take over the investigation. Wolf expressed doubts as to whether OPR was “capable of conducting an unbiased and independent review.” On February 2, Fine responded, revealing an ongoing power struggle within Justice and a peek at what OPR is up to. Fine notes that he has long been seeking statutory authority to allow the IG to investigate all matters within Justice as do other departments’ IG’s. He explains that Congress has not responded to his pleas and that the jusrisdiction over allegations of attorney misconduct remains with OPR. (As an aside, many conservatives opposed consolidating all internal invetigatory power within the IG’s office, concerned that this organization had its own biases and would become a rogue entity within the department.)

But Fine also says that he’s checked with OPR and, by gosh, they really are looking into the New Black Panther Party case. He tells Wolf they have “gathered documents and other relevant materials” and have interviewed witnesses, with more on tap. (This conflicts with other reports that Capitol Hill sources and I have received, according to which the voting-section trial team in the voter-intimidation case has not been thoroughly debriefed on the political interference with the case from Obama officials.) Fine assures Wolf that OPR will report back to Congress.

However, there is another avenue for extracting information about the case. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is holding its first hearing on the matter next week in Washington on February 12. We may finally get some details on the case. What we won’t have — at least yet — is the cooperation of the Justice Department. Holder continues to stonewall, keeping OPR busy churning paperwork but never seemingly able to reach an end to the investigation. It is yet one more example of the consequences of one-party rule and the absence of significant Congressional oversight. Wolf, to his credit, is writing letters; but the power to hold Congressional hearings and to demand documents remains with the Democratic majority. They, of course, have no interest in getting to the bottom of this. Let’s see if the Commission has any better luck.

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Reversing Obama’s Worst Decision Yet?

Michael Isikoff reports:

Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world — and to accelerate President Obama’s stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now “potentially in jeopardy,” a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells Newsweek. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail.

It seems that Sen. Lindsay Graham and Rep. Frank Wolf will try to force votes in Congress to cut off funding for the trial. And one additional issue: the more than $200 million price tag for each year of the trial. The kicker: “If Holder’s plans are thwarted, though, one top administration official, who also didn’t want to be named talking about delicate issues, notes there is a Plan B — reviving the case against the alleged 9/11 conspirators before a military tribunal, just as the Bush administration tried to do.”

This would be a stunning turnaround, an admission of Holder’s irresponsibility and of the Justice Department’s loony leftism. But this, of course, was part and parcel of Obama’s personal vision and his “not-Bush” approach to the war against Islamic fascists. Obama spent his campaign and the first year of his presidency eschewing the Bush anti-terror policies — employing enhanced interrogation techniques, maintaining Guantanamo, using military tribunals to prosecute terrorists — and pronouncing that they represented a betrayal of “our values.” He told us we’d rack up credit with … with whom was never quite clear, but we’d rack up credit. Those who sought to incinerate innocents or who were attracted to the words of Major Hassan’s favorite imam (or was it the European elites who give out prizes for such foolishness?) would, presumably, be impressed. And we’d lure the butchers of children and women out of their mindset by impressing them with the wonders of the federal criminal procedure.

But alas, that proved to be politically untenable and logistically difficult. We had three domestic terror attacks. The president was hammered for his clueless reserve and the Keystone Kops response to the Christmas Day bombing. So now being “not Bush” doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It was born of arrogance and from a distorted view of the nature of our enemy. If Obama retreats on both this and Guantanamo, it will be a bitter pill for the Left and sweet vindication for those who kept us safe for seven and a half years after 9/11. But more important, it will be a step toward sanity in the administration’s national security policies. And should Obama and Holder feel the sting of humiliation if forced to abandon their plans to shutter Guantanamo and give KSM a propagandistic platform, the White House may find that a small price to pay to sync up its anti-terror policies with both reality and public opinion.

Michael Isikoff reports:

Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world — and to accelerate President Obama’s stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now “potentially in jeopardy,” a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells Newsweek. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail.

It seems that Sen. Lindsay Graham and Rep. Frank Wolf will try to force votes in Congress to cut off funding for the trial. And one additional issue: the more than $200 million price tag for each year of the trial. The kicker: “If Holder’s plans are thwarted, though, one top administration official, who also didn’t want to be named talking about delicate issues, notes there is a Plan B — reviving the case against the alleged 9/11 conspirators before a military tribunal, just as the Bush administration tried to do.”

This would be a stunning turnaround, an admission of Holder’s irresponsibility and of the Justice Department’s loony leftism. But this, of course, was part and parcel of Obama’s personal vision and his “not-Bush” approach to the war against Islamic fascists. Obama spent his campaign and the first year of his presidency eschewing the Bush anti-terror policies — employing enhanced interrogation techniques, maintaining Guantanamo, using military tribunals to prosecute terrorists — and pronouncing that they represented a betrayal of “our values.” He told us we’d rack up credit with … with whom was never quite clear, but we’d rack up credit. Those who sought to incinerate innocents or who were attracted to the words of Major Hassan’s favorite imam (or was it the European elites who give out prizes for such foolishness?) would, presumably, be impressed. And we’d lure the butchers of children and women out of their mindset by impressing them with the wonders of the federal criminal procedure.

But alas, that proved to be politically untenable and logistically difficult. We had three domestic terror attacks. The president was hammered for his clueless reserve and the Keystone Kops response to the Christmas Day bombing. So now being “not Bush” doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It was born of arrogance and from a distorted view of the nature of our enemy. If Obama retreats on both this and Guantanamo, it will be a bitter pill for the Left and sweet vindication for those who kept us safe for seven and a half years after 9/11. But more important, it will be a step toward sanity in the administration’s national security policies. And should Obama and Holder feel the sting of humiliation if forced to abandon their plans to shutter Guantanamo and give KSM a propagandistic platform, the White House may find that a small price to pay to sync up its anti-terror policies with both reality and public opinion.

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Civil Rights Laws Run Only One Way?

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less. Read More

A curious report appears over at Main Justice, a website that offers nice juicy gossip and often mirrors the liberal legal party line from the Justice Department. It seems that one of the New Black Panther Party members at issue in the controversial dismissal of the Election Day voter-intimidation case is hopping mad:

Last week in a podcast interview, [New Black Panther Party president Malik Zulu] Shabazz let loose — with a racially tinged rant against the Republicans he said are trying to turn the issue into campaign ads for this fall’s midterm elections. “These right-wing white, red-faced, red-neck Republicans are attacking the hell out of the New Black Panther Party, and we’re organizing now to fight back,” Shabazz told the podcast host, a man who calls himself “Brother Gary” and hosts a show called Conscious Chats on Blogtalk Radio.

Shabazz singled out GOP Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) — two critics on the House Judiciary Committee — along with “Old Uncle Tom, Michael Steele, the black Negro who heads the Republican National Committee.”

“We gearing up for a showdown with this cracker,” Shabazz said, although it wasn’t clear to whom he was referring. “He keep talking – we going to Capitol Hill, we’re just gearing up right now, we’ll go to Capitol Hill.”

Well, probably not what the Holder Justice Department was anxious to hear as it attempts to stonewall its way through the inquiry. But what’s even more interesting is the apparent “defense” offered by Main Justice for those Obama officials who chose to dismiss the case over the objections of career attorneys: “No actual voters came forward to complain — the objections came from white Republican poll watchers.”

So is that what’s at the root of the case here — the notion that voter-intimidation claims are less than valid if white Republicans bring them? The behavior of the New Black Panther Party members was, after all, captured on videotape, so the conduct of the defendants is really not in dispute. What seems to be gnawing at the liberal legal types, however, is that a voter-intimidation case could be instituted by whites — white Republicans no less.

This only serves to highlight the remarks of Chris Coates, the head of the Justice Department’s trial team, who upon his departure had these pointed words for his colleagues (paraphrased by Hans von Spakovsky):

Since many minority officials are now involved in the administration of elections in many jurisdictions, it is imperative that they believe that the anti-discrimination and anti-intimidation provisions of the Voting Rights Act will be enforced against them by the Justice Department, just as it is imperative that white election officials believe that Justice will enforce the provisions of the Voting Rights Act against them. I fear that actions that indicate that the Justice Department is not in the business of suing minority election officials, or not in the business of filing suits to protect white voters from discrimination or intimidation, will only encourage election officials, who are so inclined, to violate the Voting Rights Act.

I cannot imagine that any lawyers who believe in the rule of law would want to encourage violations of the Voting Rights Act by anyone, whether the wrongdoers are members of a minority group or white people.

It’s hard to believe that had the polling place been in Alabama and the intimidators been clad in KKK garb that the Obama Justice Department would not have proceeded full steam ahead against all defendants to the full extent of the law. But when the roles were reversed, a different standard seemed to apply. Indeed, Coates is no stranger to that double standard of enforcement from the liberal civil rights lawyers who dominate the Civil Rights Division. He explained his experience in a voter-intimidation case he brought when the victims were white and the perpetrator African American:

Selective enforcement of the law, including the Voting Rights Act, on the basis of race is just not fair and does not achieve justice.

I have had many discussions concerning these cases. In one of my discussions concerning the Ike Brown case, I had a lawyer say he was opposed to our filing such suits. When I asked why, he said that only when he could go to Mississippi (perhaps 50 years from now) and find no disparities between the socioeconomic levels of black and white residents, might he support such a suit. But until that day, he did not think that we should be filing voting-rights cases against blacks or on behalf of white voters.

The problem with such enforcement is that it is not in compliance with the statute enacted by Congress. There is simply nothing in the VRA itself or its legislative history that supports the claim that it should not be equally enforced until racial socioeconomic parity is achieved. Such an enforcement policy might be consistent with certain political ideologies, but it is not consistent with the Voting Rights Act that Justice is responsible for enforcing.

And that may be what is at the root of the New Black Panther Party case — the unspoken but endemic belief on the Left that the civil rights laws run only one way. The Obama administration must sense that this is anathema to most Americans. Hence, the stonewall. But having dismissed the New Black Panther Party case, it should now explain its decision and justify that approach to civil rights enforcement. Does the administration really believe that it simply isn’t right to prosecute a case where white Republicans are bringing the claim? It sure does look that way.

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Re: Democrats Not Interested

Additional attendees at the hearing advise me that Chairman John Conyers did open the proceedings with a statement. On one hand, he defended the Justice Department, contending that career professionals made the decision to dismiss three Black Panther defendants and that it had turned over all “non-privileged” documents. But he also left the door open just a crack, indicating he would be willing to work with Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf but that the current motion seeking information from the Justice Department was “premature.” Perhaps the Democrats don’t want to be seen as helping to cover the tracks of those in the Justice Department who acted to dismiss a serious voter-intimidation case. Just in case the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights should turn up something, you see.

Following the hearing, Rep. Wolf issued a powerful statement that includes this:

I am deeply disappointed that Judiciary Committee defeated my resolution of inquiry on a party-line vote.  There has been no oversight, no accountability and certainly no transparency with regard to this attorney general and this Department of Justice.

Where is the ‘unprecedented transparency’ that this administration promised?  Where is the honesty and openness that the majority party pledged?  The American people deserve better.

After ignoring my seven letters over seven months and failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the attorney general continues to thwart all efforts to compel an explanation for the dismissal of U.S. v. New Black Panther Party.  DOJ is claiming broad privileges – which many legal scholars question – in order to avoid disclosing any new information regarding this case.  The committee’s failure to approve my resolution has set a troubling precedent.  Is it going to continue to blindly defer to all unsubstantiated claims of privilege from the department?

He also added a few tidbits about the Justice Department’s responses: the department claimed “privilege” and redacted seven pages of a letter Wolf sent to Eric Holder and released publicly on July 31, 2009. It also withheld other letters that it previously said it was prepared to share.

Transparency, it seems, is not the order of the day.

Additional attendees at the hearing advise me that Chairman John Conyers did open the proceedings with a statement. On one hand, he defended the Justice Department, contending that career professionals made the decision to dismiss three Black Panther defendants and that it had turned over all “non-privileged” documents. But he also left the door open just a crack, indicating he would be willing to work with Reps. Lamar Smith and Frank Wolf but that the current motion seeking information from the Justice Department was “premature.” Perhaps the Democrats don’t want to be seen as helping to cover the tracks of those in the Justice Department who acted to dismiss a serious voter-intimidation case. Just in case the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights should turn up something, you see.

Following the hearing, Rep. Wolf issued a powerful statement that includes this:

I am deeply disappointed that Judiciary Committee defeated my resolution of inquiry on a party-line vote.  There has been no oversight, no accountability and certainly no transparency with regard to this attorney general and this Department of Justice.

Where is the ‘unprecedented transparency’ that this administration promised?  Where is the honesty and openness that the majority party pledged?  The American people deserve better.

After ignoring my seven letters over seven months and failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the attorney general continues to thwart all efforts to compel an explanation for the dismissal of U.S. v. New Black Panther Party.  DOJ is claiming broad privileges – which many legal scholars question – in order to avoid disclosing any new information regarding this case.  The committee’s failure to approve my resolution has set a troubling precedent.  Is it going to continue to blindly defer to all unsubstantiated claims of privilege from the department?

He also added a few tidbits about the Justice Department’s responses: the department claimed “privilege” and redacted seven pages of a letter Wolf sent to Eric Holder and released publicly on July 31, 2009. It also withheld other letters that it previously said it was prepared to share.

Transparency, it seems, is not the order of the day.

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Democrats Not Interested in Voter Intimidation Case Scandal

The House Judiciary Committee took up a resolution forced by Rep. Frank Wolf, calling on the Justice Department to fork over information on its endless, secretive, and (sources with direct knowledge tell me) quite lackadaisical investigation of the Obama Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the New Black Panther Party case. As expected, the resolution was voted down on a party-line vote of 15-14. The House Democrats don’t really seem as though they need to know why the Justice Department wouldn’t enforce the law fully against all defendants (for whom the U.S. government had a default judgment in hand) who intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day, 2008. As Ranking Minority Leader Rep. Lamar Smith explained in his prepared remarks:

No facts had changed. No new evidence was uncovered. The only thing that did change is the political party in charge of the Justice Department. So why would the Obama Administration suddenly drop charges in a case that had effectively been won? It appears that the Justice Department gave a free pass to its political allies—one of the defendants against whom charges were dropped was a Democratic poll watcher. Despite continued requests from Congress, the Justice Department has refused to give any explanation for dropping the charges. The Department’s silence appears to be an admission of guilt. According to media reports, senior political appointees may have overridden the decision of career attorneys. The decision to dismiss charges against political allies who allegedly intimidated voters on Election Day 2008 reeks of political interference.

An observer at the hearing tells me that only Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee bothered to speak out against the motion, claiming that this was just an isolated incident of intimidation (is this a new standard for the enforcement of civil rights?) and going as far as to defend the New Black Panther Party as a good and honorable organization. (I suppose there may be some in the Obama Justice Department who are sympathetic to this view.) She thinks the Obama Justice Department will prosecute anyone guilty of voter intimidation. (Except in this case?)

Republicans took a different position. Rep. Trent Franks wanted to know what the Obama team is hiding and, contrary to his colleague, labeled the New Black Panther Party as a racist organization. Rep. James Sensenbrenner blasted the Justice Deaprtments invocation of privilege as reason to refuse cooperation and said Congress needs to press for answers. (That’s not happening unless the House changes control in November.) Other Republicans emphasized the egregious nature of the case, which was there for all to see on video tape, and went after the recent testimony of Civil Rights chief Thomas Perez, who claimed there was no interference with career lawyers.

This is what passes for congressional oversight these days. As Rep. Smith says, there are certainly grounds for probing further:

Yesterday, 24 hours before this markup, the Justice Department provided the Committee with responses to the Civil Rights Commission’s information requests. These comprise more of the same non-responsive replies the Justice Department provided the Commission and Congress earlier this year. The Department refused to answer, either wholly or in part, 31 of the Commission’s 49 written questions.

The Department is still either unwilling or unable to answer one simple question: what changed between January 2009 and May 2009 to justify walking away from a case of blatant voter intimidation?

But don’t hold your breath. The Democrats who railed against Alberto Gonzales and insisted on investigation after investigation during the Bush administration to uncover some alleged politicization of the administration of justice are now silent. Trust the Obama team, they say. It seems as though if anything is to be learned about this case, it will come from the efforts of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights or those within the Justice Department who are offended by Obama political appointees’ meddling in what should have been a slam-dunk victory for the U.S. government in enforcing civil rights laws.

The House Judiciary Committee took up a resolution forced by Rep. Frank Wolf, calling on the Justice Department to fork over information on its endless, secretive, and (sources with direct knowledge tell me) quite lackadaisical investigation of the Obama Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the New Black Panther Party case. As expected, the resolution was voted down on a party-line vote of 15-14. The House Democrats don’t really seem as though they need to know why the Justice Department wouldn’t enforce the law fully against all defendants (for whom the U.S. government had a default judgment in hand) who intimidated voters at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day, 2008. As Ranking Minority Leader Rep. Lamar Smith explained in his prepared remarks:

No facts had changed. No new evidence was uncovered. The only thing that did change is the political party in charge of the Justice Department. So why would the Obama Administration suddenly drop charges in a case that had effectively been won? It appears that the Justice Department gave a free pass to its political allies—one of the defendants against whom charges were dropped was a Democratic poll watcher. Despite continued requests from Congress, the Justice Department has refused to give any explanation for dropping the charges. The Department’s silence appears to be an admission of guilt. According to media reports, senior political appointees may have overridden the decision of career attorneys. The decision to dismiss charges against political allies who allegedly intimidated voters on Election Day 2008 reeks of political interference.

An observer at the hearing tells me that only Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee bothered to speak out against the motion, claiming that this was just an isolated incident of intimidation (is this a new standard for the enforcement of civil rights?) and going as far as to defend the New Black Panther Party as a good and honorable organization. (I suppose there may be some in the Obama Justice Department who are sympathetic to this view.) She thinks the Obama Justice Department will prosecute anyone guilty of voter intimidation. (Except in this case?)

Republicans took a different position. Rep. Trent Franks wanted to know what the Obama team is hiding and, contrary to his colleague, labeled the New Black Panther Party as a racist organization. Rep. James Sensenbrenner blasted the Justice Deaprtments invocation of privilege as reason to refuse cooperation and said Congress needs to press for answers. (That’s not happening unless the House changes control in November.) Other Republicans emphasized the egregious nature of the case, which was there for all to see on video tape, and went after the recent testimony of Civil Rights chief Thomas Perez, who claimed there was no interference with career lawyers.

This is what passes for congressional oversight these days. As Rep. Smith says, there are certainly grounds for probing further:

Yesterday, 24 hours before this markup, the Justice Department provided the Committee with responses to the Civil Rights Commission’s information requests. These comprise more of the same non-responsive replies the Justice Department provided the Commission and Congress earlier this year. The Department refused to answer, either wholly or in part, 31 of the Commission’s 49 written questions.

The Department is still either unwilling or unable to answer one simple question: what changed between January 2009 and May 2009 to justify walking away from a case of blatant voter intimidation?

But don’t hold your breath. The Democrats who railed against Alberto Gonzales and insisted on investigation after investigation during the Bush administration to uncover some alleged politicization of the administration of justice are now silent. Trust the Obama team, they say. It seems as though if anything is to be learned about this case, it will come from the efforts of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights or those within the Justice Department who are offended by Obama political appointees’ meddling in what should have been a slam-dunk victory for the U.S. government in enforcing civil rights laws.

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New Black Panther Party Case: Justice Department Stonewall

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last month propounded interrogatories and document requests to the Justice Department seeking answers as to why the New Black Panther Party case of voter intimidation was dismissed, who was involved, what outside groups participated in the decision, and what this portends for the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The Justice Department has responded, I have learned.

In a letter to the commission’s chairman, Joseph Hunt, director of the Federal Programs Branch, contends that the department is limited in what it can provide out of concern for its “deliberative processes” and so as not to “undermine its mission.” He doesn’t invoke “executive privilege” per se, but he does assert attorney-client privilege (which some legal gurus tell me doesn’t really “work” between government entities and agencies as a valid objection).

Although the answers largely consist of boilerplate objections, the department does argue that “career attorneys” with more than 60 years of experience made the call to dump the case and that an injunction was obtained against one individual defendant who actually brandished a weapon. Despite the work of the trial team (which sources inform me had ample factual and legal grounds for bringing the case against additional defendants), the Justice Department now says that unnamed career attorneys determined that it should drop the case against those additional defendants. And, of course, the response says politics played no role in the decision. Asked whether the No. 3 man in the Justice Department, Thomas Perrelli, was involved in the decision, as the Washington Times reported, the Justice Department provided no answer, only series of objections. Likewise, the most transparent administration in history — or so we are told — declines to provide the names of those career attorneys who were the decision makers. And at least for now, the Justice Department is not coughing up the names of civil rights groups that may have encouraged them to drop the case against the additional defendants.

In short, the commission is being stiffed. The Obama administration isn’t explaining anything to anyone, but the commission, not to be deterred, is nevertheless plunging forward. A public hearing at which witnesses are to be called has now been noticed for February 12. At the commission’s next meeting, this Friday, witnesses may be selected. Meanwhile, tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will take up Rep. Frank Wolf’s Resolution No. 894, seeking to direct “the Attorney General to transmit to the House of Representatives all information in the Attorney General’s possession relating to the decision to dismiss United States v. New Black Panther Party.” Well, that’s going nowhere, but it will be interesting to hear liberals – who fancy themselves defenders of civil rights – explain why they don’t want to find out what the Justice Department was up to when it declined to prosecute all the defendants who participated in an egregious case of voter intimidation.

For now the Obama team continues its favorite modus operandi — not telling anyone anything about what it does. After all, they won the election, right? And this is what “de-politicizing” the administration of justice looks like. Who knew?

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last month propounded interrogatories and document requests to the Justice Department seeking answers as to why the New Black Panther Party case of voter intimidation was dismissed, who was involved, what outside groups participated in the decision, and what this portends for the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The Justice Department has responded, I have learned.

In a letter to the commission’s chairman, Joseph Hunt, director of the Federal Programs Branch, contends that the department is limited in what it can provide out of concern for its “deliberative processes” and so as not to “undermine its mission.” He doesn’t invoke “executive privilege” per se, but he does assert attorney-client privilege (which some legal gurus tell me doesn’t really “work” between government entities and agencies as a valid objection).

Although the answers largely consist of boilerplate objections, the department does argue that “career attorneys” with more than 60 years of experience made the call to dump the case and that an injunction was obtained against one individual defendant who actually brandished a weapon. Despite the work of the trial team (which sources inform me had ample factual and legal grounds for bringing the case against additional defendants), the Justice Department now says that unnamed career attorneys determined that it should drop the case against those additional defendants. And, of course, the response says politics played no role in the decision. Asked whether the No. 3 man in the Justice Department, Thomas Perrelli, was involved in the decision, as the Washington Times reported, the Justice Department provided no answer, only series of objections. Likewise, the most transparent administration in history — or so we are told — declines to provide the names of those career attorneys who were the decision makers. And at least for now, the Justice Department is not coughing up the names of civil rights groups that may have encouraged them to drop the case against the additional defendants.

In short, the commission is being stiffed. The Obama administration isn’t explaining anything to anyone, but the commission, not to be deterred, is nevertheless plunging forward. A public hearing at which witnesses are to be called has now been noticed for February 12. At the commission’s next meeting, this Friday, witnesses may be selected. Meanwhile, tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will take up Rep. Frank Wolf’s Resolution No. 894, seeking to direct “the Attorney General to transmit to the House of Representatives all information in the Attorney General’s possession relating to the decision to dismiss United States v. New Black Panther Party.” Well, that’s going nowhere, but it will be interesting to hear liberals – who fancy themselves defenders of civil rights – explain why they don’t want to find out what the Justice Department was up to when it declined to prosecute all the defendants who participated in an egregious case of voter intimidation.

For now the Obama team continues its favorite modus operandi — not telling anyone anything about what it does. After all, they won the election, right? And this is what “de-politicizing” the administration of justice looks like. Who knew?

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Punt!

Obama was going to get a full update today, showing he was on top of the terrorist plot and the efforts to get to the bottom of things. But alas, he is just talking on the phone to John Brennan and Janet Napolitano. And he’s going to get some more reports. It is all, once again, spin zone: make it seem as if the president is urgently engaged, continue the endless churning of behind-closed-door reviews, and promise more of the same. (“I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations.”) And no, Hillary Clinton was not one of those the president said he had consulted. (The mystery continues!)

As I expected, there is nothing even remotely suggesting a systemic review of the administration’s approach to terror. They are focusing on relatively discrete matters, it seems (e.g., watch lists and the proverbial connecting of dots). And no comment, of course, on the release today of Iranian terrorists who killed Americans. Because that’s totally different, you see. The capture and release of terrorists, the criminal-justice model, and the willful indifference to the ideological underpinnings of our enemies are not, I think, on the agenda. This is about containing the “failure” and doing just enough to assure the public, though nothing to disrupt the ideological fixation of the administration.

UPDATE: For starters if the adminstration was interested in getting to the bottom of its security debacle it might answer the five letters Rep. Frank Wolf has sent requesting information of release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Obama was going to get a full update today, showing he was on top of the terrorist plot and the efforts to get to the bottom of things. But alas, he is just talking on the phone to John Brennan and Janet Napolitano. And he’s going to get some more reports. It is all, once again, spin zone: make it seem as if the president is urgently engaged, continue the endless churning of behind-closed-door reviews, and promise more of the same. (“I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations.”) And no, Hillary Clinton was not one of those the president said he had consulted. (The mystery continues!)

As I expected, there is nothing even remotely suggesting a systemic review of the administration’s approach to terror. They are focusing on relatively discrete matters, it seems (e.g., watch lists and the proverbial connecting of dots). And no comment, of course, on the release today of Iranian terrorists who killed Americans. Because that’s totally different, you see. The capture and release of terrorists, the criminal-justice model, and the willful indifference to the ideological underpinnings of our enemies are not, I think, on the agenda. This is about containing the “failure” and doing just enough to assure the public, though nothing to disrupt the ideological fixation of the administration.

UPDATE: For starters if the adminstration was interested in getting to the bottom of its security debacle it might answer the five letters Rep. Frank Wolf has sent requesting information of release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

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Enough with the Yemen Terrorist Pipeline

The Obami are a stubborn lot. Even new and troubling evidence regarding the inanity of releasing dangerous Guantanamo detainees cannot shake them from their fixation with closing the facility. Administration background briefers tell the media — still – that we have to shut Guantanamo to protect our “values.” (Does “common sense” or “the right of self-defense” make the list of values?) “Close Guantanamo!” was a campaign slogan devised with little information and pronounced in the heady opening days of the new Obama administration, before the commander in chief could survey the obvious political and practical problems of shuttering a secure, humane facility that could indefinitely hold those who would surely, if given the chance, return to kill more Americans.

Not only Republicans but  Senate Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein are pleading with the administration to at the very least halt the release of detainees to Yemen, something which conservatives including Rep. Frank Wolf has been strenuously objecting to for some time. The facts about the Yemen connection are just beginning to emerge:

The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden. Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

And we are told that investigators (to the extent they can get information from the now-lawyered up “defendant” and from other sources) are exploring whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi.” We also know from an earlier release study that “one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.” It would be nice to know more about the extent of the Yemen recidivism problem, but as Stephen Hayes has reported, the Obama administration has refused to release that data to members of Congress and the public at large. (We can guess why.) And, finally, it appears that Anwar Al-Awlaki, Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam, who recently escaped a raid in Yemen, provided some “spiritual guidance” to Abdulmutallab, as well.

It is remarkable that before the Christmas Day bombing, the administration thought it was a good idea to dump detainees back into Yemen. After all, the administration — one supposes the president, specifically — did order a predator bombing in that country to strike a hotbed of terrorist activity. So why would they then and even after the Abdulmutallab bombing attack want to persist in effect with resupplying places like Yemen with Guantanamo detainees? It is nothing short of jaw-dropping, really. And it reveals the degree to which ideology has overtaken sound judgment.

The Obami are a stubborn lot. Even new and troubling evidence regarding the inanity of releasing dangerous Guantanamo detainees cannot shake them from their fixation with closing the facility. Administration background briefers tell the media — still – that we have to shut Guantanamo to protect our “values.” (Does “common sense” or “the right of self-defense” make the list of values?) “Close Guantanamo!” was a campaign slogan devised with little information and pronounced in the heady opening days of the new Obama administration, before the commander in chief could survey the obvious political and practical problems of shuttering a secure, humane facility that could indefinitely hold those who would surely, if given the chance, return to kill more Americans.

Not only Republicans but  Senate Intelligence Chairman Diane Feinstein are pleading with the administration to at the very least halt the release of detainees to Yemen, something which conservatives including Rep. Frank Wolf has been strenuously objecting to for some time. The facts about the Yemen connection are just beginning to emerge:

The al Qaeda chapter in Yemen has re-emerged under the leadership of a former secretary to Osama bin Laden. Along with a dozen other al Qaeda members, he was allowed to escape from a Yemeni jail in 2006. His deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, was a Saudi inmate at Gitmo who after his release “graduated” from that country’s terrorist “rehabilitation” program before moving to Yemen last year. About a fifth of the so-called graduates have ended back on the Saudi terror most-wanted list, according to a GAO study this year.

And we are told that investigators (to the extent they can get information from the now-lawyered up “defendant” and from other sources) are exploring whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab “was in contact with al-Shihri and another Guantanamo alum who turned up at the AQAP, Muhammad al-Awfi.” We also know from an earlier release study that “one in seven freed Gitmo detainees—61 in all—returned to terrorism. Al-Shihri and Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, the Taliban’s operations leader in southern Afghanistan, are merely the best known. The Pentagon has since updated its findings, and we’re told the numbers are even worse.” It would be nice to know more about the extent of the Yemen recidivism problem, but as Stephen Hayes has reported, the Obama administration has refused to release that data to members of Congress and the public at large. (We can guess why.) And, finally, it appears that Anwar Al-Awlaki, Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite imam, who recently escaped a raid in Yemen, provided some “spiritual guidance” to Abdulmutallab, as well.

It is remarkable that before the Christmas Day bombing, the administration thought it was a good idea to dump detainees back into Yemen. After all, the administration — one supposes the president, specifically — did order a predator bombing in that country to strike a hotbed of terrorist activity. So why would they then and even after the Abdulmutallab bombing attack want to persist in effect with resupplying places like Yemen with Guantanamo detainees? It is nothing short of jaw-dropping, really. And it reveals the degree to which ideology has overtaken sound judgment.

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