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Tag: Washington Post

Washington Post Editorial: Reputation of Justice Department ‘Is Now More In Danger Than It Has Been Since Watergate’

President Donald Trump

By The Washington Post Editorial Board

THURSDAY BROUGHT a sad moment for the Justice Department. The department filed a brief in a frivolous legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But instead of following nearly all past practice, the department sided with the challengers. Defending major, duly passed federal statutes is a core Justice Department responsibility. If it defended only laws the president liked, uncertainty about the permanence of many laws would reign, particularly as the presidency changed hands.

There is some precedent for the Justice Department’s move. During the Obama presidency, the department declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that, though noxious, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed. Government lawyers should have defended it up to the point at which the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. By declining to do so, they inadvertently gave the department’s current leadership some cover to refuse to defend Obamacare.

Yet there are big differences. The Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal benefits to legally united same-sex couples, was so obviously rooted in prejudice that it posed a major threat to important constitutional principles. The challengers to that law had by leaps and bounds the better side of the argument. The latest challenge to Obamacare, by contrast, is harebrained.

The editorial concludes:

The nation’s premier law enforcement agency built a reputation for evenhandedness and independence over the course of decades. That reputation is now more in danger than it has been since Watergate. The threat derives not from self-serving accusations that Justice officials conspired against Mr. Trump but from Mr. Trump and his enablers politicizing the department.

To read the full editorial click here.

Professor Who Admitted to FBI Burglary in Philadelphia Dies

A Washington Post story on what the stolen documents revealed.

A Washington Post story on what the stolen documents revealed.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

One of the seven conspirators who revealed a dirty campaign of intimidation by the FBI in March 1971 by stealing a cache of documents in burglary of an bureau office in suburban Philadelphia died on Nov. 12 at his home in Philadelphia.

John C. Raines, a Temple University religion professor, was 84, the Washington Post reports

During the burglary, the seven conspirators stole documents that showed a campaign of intimidation by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover against civil rights and antiwar activists, communists and other dissenters.

One of the documents revealed an that agents were directed to increasingly interview perceived dissenters “to get the point across there is an FBI agent behind every mailbox.”

The burglars, who called themselves the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, disseminated the stolen documents to newspapers.

The leaked reports lead to the formation of the Senate Church Committee, which revealed widespread abuses among intelligence agencies.

Raines kept the explosive secret for 43 years before revealing his identity to a Washington Post journalist, Betty Medsger, who wrote a book-length account of the break-in, “The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI.”

The reported called Dr. Raines’ actions “one of the most powerful acts of resistance in the history of the country.”

Other Stories of Interest

Washington Post: More Research Needed to Reclassify Marijuana

marijuana-istockBy Editorial Board
Washington Post

The Drug Enforcement Administration made headlines last week for sticking to the status quo: The agency declined to change marijuana’s classification under the Controlled Substances Act to a lower, less strictly regulated schedule.

Marijuana sits alongside heroin and LSD in the DEA’s Schedule I category, reserved for the most dangerous substances. Schedule II drugs include narcotics such as methadone and oxycodone that are medically useful but have a high potential for harm. Advocates say the current classification of marijuana makes little sense: They cite studies that show pot can help patients manage pain without any serious risk of abuse. The only problem? The Food and Drug Administration has done studies of its own, and its experts do not agree.

There’s one way to resolve the debate: more research. Until there is substantial evidence that marijuana does more to help than to hurt, the DEA is right not to reschedule the drug. The agency took a step in the right direction by allowing more places to grow marijuana for research on how the drug could treat chronic pain and diseases such as epilepsy.

But even with the rule change, most scientists who want to learn more about marijuana’s effects will find themselves hamstrung. Schedule I drugs are not supposed to have medical benefits, so the rules governing them do not easily allow for clinical trials. That means researchers and the DEA are stuck: The DEA can’t reclassify marijuana unless research proves its effectiveness, but scientists have a hard time doing research unless the DEA reclassifies marijuana.

Washington Post: FBI Made Right Decision in Handling of Oregon Occupiers

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 7.48.16 AMBy Editorial Board
Washington Post

“One more cookie, one more cigarette.” So said David Fry, the last holdout in the armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon; and with a final “alrighty then,” he surrendered on Thursday without incident. That there was a peaceful denouement to the 41-day siege that created so much potential for bloodshed is a credit to federal law enforcement authorities. They showed restraint in sitting out the armed activists, but did not waver on the need to bring to account those who so willfully and flagrantly broke the law.

The surrender to FBI agents of the last four anti-government activists who staged a takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to protest federal land management policy came after tense negotiations that played out live on YouTube. The events gave the public an up-close view of law enforcement at its best in deescalating a volatile situation. It was smart to involve those seen as sympathetic to the protest’s cause, such as a gun-toting Nevada legislator, in the final negotiations for peaceful surrender. The FBI clearly had learned lessons from the bloody sieges in Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in the 1990s; a patient approach in letting the Oregon siege play out and burn out proved far more effective than a SWAT team assault.

The four people arrested Thursday had been alone at the remote facility since Jan. 26, when organizers of the occupation and others were arrested on their way to a meeting. Sadly, one occupier was killed in that encounter. But notwithstanding the mythology around the incident quickly fabricated by right-wing extremists, it appears from a video released by the FBI that LaVoy Finicum was shot after running a police blockade, refusing demands to surrender and reaching for a gun. The incident is still under investigation, but, as the FBI agent in charge said, “Actions have consequences.”

For those involved in the occupation, that now means facing federal charges.

To read more click here. 

Washington Post: President Obama’s Actions on Gun Control Have No Teeth

atf-gunsBy Jonathan H. Adler
Washington Post

Today the White House announced a series of executive branch actions(not executive orders) that are supposed to reduce the threat of gun violence. Chief among these measures is a new guidance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) concerning when those who sell guns are required to obtain a federal license and perform background checks of prospective gun purchasers. The ATF is also finalizing a regulation that would prevent prospective gun purchasers from avoiding background checks by acquiring guns through a trust or corporation, but this is a separate measure.

According to the White House, the new ATF guidance is intended “to ensure that anyone who is ‘engaged in the business’ of selling firearms is licensed and conducts background checks on their customers.” The ATF is achieving this not by issuing new regulations (re)defining what it means to be “engaged in the business” of selling guns under federal law. Instead, the ATF issued a guidance document that simply explicates what this legal requirement means, providing examples of the sorts of things that would indicate that a given individual is in the gun business, rather than conducting the occasional personal sale as a hobbyist or as part of an estate liquidation, or something of that sort. According to both the White House release and the ATF guidance, the various indicia identified in the guidance are, in turn, based upon what federal courts have found in relevant cases. (The relevant court decisions are not cited or otherwise identified in the document, and I have asked both ATF and the White House for more information on this point.)

Taken at face value, the new ATF guidance is thus nothing more than a restatement of existing legal requirements. Put another way, it merely identifies those who are already subject to the relevant federal requirements and does not in any way expand the universe of those gun sellers who are required to obtain a license and perform background checks. In other words, it is — as the document says — a guidance, and not a substantive rule. It has no legal effect.

If the ATF guidelines are nothing more than a guidance — an indication of the sorts of things that might trigger a federal investigation or prosecution, but not a tightening of the relevant legal standard — why would the administration do this? There are several potential answers. First, guidance documents are often useful insofar as they explicate relevant legal standards and (as the name implies) provide guidance to the regulated community. Such documents can help people know when they are subject to specific legal requirements. Further, if there are a significant number of people who should have federal gun licenses but have neglected to obtain them, the guidance document might encourage greater compliance with federal law.

For more information click here.

Other Stories of Interest

Columnist: Hillary Clinton Can’t ‘Spin’ the FBI in Losing PR Battle

hillary-clintonBy Jennifer Rubin
Washington Post columnist

The latest Fox News poll reports that “a 58 percent majority thinks Clinton ‘knowingly lied’ when she announced in a March press conference that no emails on her private server contained classified information.  A third says there is ‘another explanation’ for internal government investigators determining secret info was in fact on Clinton’s server (33 percent). Moreover, by a 54-37 percent margin, voters feel Clinton put our national security at risk by using a private email server.” That is extraordinary and arguably poses an insuperable barrier to the White House.

She faces a problem for which spinning is of little or no use. The FBI is not spinnable. Even more ominous for Clinton, The Post reports, “The investigation is being overseen by two veteran prosecutors in the Justice Department’s National Security Division. One of them helped manage the prosecution of David H. Petraeus, the retired general and former CIA director who was sentenced to probation earlier this year after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials. He was also fined $100,000.” Treating Hillary Clinton just like other top officials who have been prosecuted for mishandling secret information is about the last thing Hillaryland wants.

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey explains how troubling the allegations are and how indefensible is the alleged conduct:

It is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than a year to keep “documents or materials containing classified information . . . at an unauthorized location.” Note that it is the information that is protected; the issue doesn’t turn on whether the document or materials bear a classified marking. This is the statute under which David Petraeus—former Army general and Central Intelligence Agency director—was prosecuted for keeping classified information at home. Mrs. Clinton’s holding of classified information on a personal server was a violation of that law. So is transferring that information on a thumb drive to David Kendall, her lawyer.

To read more click here. 

Washington Post: Justice Department Report Proves Racial Bias in Ferguson

Michael Brown

By Washington Post
Editorial Board

The Justice Department said two things about Ferguson, Mo., last week, both of which should make Americans uncomfortable. First, federal officials announced that they did not have evidence showing that police officer Darren Wilson used unreasonable force when he shot African American teenager Michael Brown. Second, the department found that there is a lot of rotten policing with racist overtones in Ferguson. Mr. Wilson may have been exonerated, but that does not excuse the primed powder keg of community anger that Ferguson authorities had set in place before the incident occurred.

On the Michael Brown shooting, federal investigators pored through the local authorities’ evidence and gathered their own. After an exhaustive inquiry, they determined that they didn’t have a case against Mr. Wilson. They even punctured the widely circulated claim that Mr. Brown had his hands raised in surrender when Mr. Wilson shot him.This is the independent review of the event that Ferguson and the country needed, and it should serve as a warning to those who would rush to judgment in such sensitive policing cases before the facts are in order.

That is not to say that the protesters who filled Ferguson’s streets after the Brown shooting didn’t have a reason to be angry. The Justice Department found that they live under an official system consciously designed to suck money out of vulnerable people. The system combines high fines for all sorts of violations — such as $77 to $102 for having weeds or tall grass — and enforcement that too often is well beyond reason. Investigators found one instance in which a man sitting in a parked car was searched on bogus grounds, arrested for complaining about it, then ticketed for eight municipal code violations. The man claims the charges cost him his job.

Ferguson’s municipal court attaches more fees for missing a payment or a court date, and it regularly hands out jail time for failing to pay. One woman ended up owing more than $1,000 and spending six days in jail over parking tickets, and the court refused to accept the partial payments she attempted to make.

When Ferguson police go in search of revenue, the evidence the Justice Department found suggests that they target minority communities. Police and courts punish African Americans far out of proportion to their share of the town population. Add these numbers to the documented racial bias of certain city officials, the department concludes, “and there is evidence that this is due in part to intentional discrimination on the basis of race.”

To read more click here. 

Washington Post Editorial: GOP Flirts with Disaster by Threatening Homeland Security Funding

By Washington Post
Editorial Board

How far will Republicans in Congress take their reckless flirtation with undermining government this time?

Will they, as seems increasingly likely, fail to pass a bill that the president can sign ensuring adequate funding for the Department of Homeland Security and its 280,000 employees before the agency’s support expires Feb. 27? Are they ready to let funding lapse, secure in the knowledge that Border Patrol officers, Secret Service agents, airport security personnel and other so-called essential employees would still have to report to work — even though they would not be drawing paychecks?

A number of prominent Republican lawmakers clearly believe that denying funding to the nation’s premier organ of domestic security is no big deal, as long as the move expresses the GOP’s anger about President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

As Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) put it to Politico: Letting the department’s funding lapse would not be “the end of the world.”

Mr. Diaz-Balart’s complacency may come as news to Americans concerned about the risk of terrorism in the wake of attacks in Paris, Ottawa, Sydney and elsewhere. It certainly came as news to Homeland Security SecretaryJeh C. Johnson, as well as his three predecessors — Democrat Janet Napolitano and Republicans Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge — all of whom have warned GOP lawmakers not to conflate essential funding for the department with the political fight over immigration.

 

House Republicans were deaf to such appeals. Last month, they passed a bill furnishing the department with $40 billion in funding through September, the end of the current budget year. But they attached provisions to that bill, certain to draw a presidential veto, that would kill the administration’s plan to temporarily protect several million undocumented immigrants from deportation and repeal a program, in force since 2012, that offers a similar shield to people brought here illegally as children.

There is room for legitimate debate over the president’s most recent unilateral moves on immigration, which we happen to agree represent executive overreach. If congressional Republicans want to attack those actions responsibly, with discrete legislation, they are free to try — though they are unlikely to muster the votes to override a presidential veto.

However, it is another thing to wield their frustration over immigration as a cudgel, holding hostage an entire department of government that is critical to the nation’s security. That is as irresponsible as it is politically ill advised.

To read more click here.

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