Written by Tom Fitton
Judicial Watch Sues Obama State Department, FBI and CIA for Records Regarding Anwar al-Awlaki, American Citizen Killed by CIA-Led Drone Attack in September 2011, plus other news of the week, including DOJ's involvement in Pennsylvania's Voter ID Law, Obama Administration in attempting to hault Florida's purge of non-citizens from the state's voting rolls, and a probe into Michelle Obama's Family Ski Vacation to Aspen, Colorado.
Press Reports Reference Secret Obama Administration Memo Justifying President’s Controversial Decision to Order Killing of Radical Muslim Cleric
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State and Federal Bureau of Investigations (No. 1:12-cv-00893)) on June 4, 2012, against the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeking records related to Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen and al-Qaida leader killed by a CIA-led U.S. drone attack on September 30, 2011.
Pursuant to FOIA requests filed with each agency on September 30, 2011, Judicial Watch seeks the following records:
Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to a deceased individual named Anwar al-Awlaki, a/k/a Anwar Aulaqi.
As of the date of Judicial Watch’s lawsuits, neither agency has responded to Judicial Watch’s requests within the statutory allotted timeframe.
Judicial Watch also filed FOIA lawsuits on June 4, 2012, against the State Department and the CIA seeking records related to Anwar al-Awlaki’s son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, who was killed in a CIA-led drone attack in Yemen on October 14, 2011. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, an American citizen, was 16 years old at the time of his death. Neither agency has complied with Judicial Watch’s October 26, 2011, FOIA request seeking, “any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to a deceased individual named Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, a/k/a Abdulrahman Anwar al-Aulaqi.”
While the Obama administration has refused to disclose the legal analysis used to authorize al-Awlaki’s killing, multiple press reports have referenced an internal Obama administration secret memo that paved the way for President Obama to order the drone attack.
As reported by The New York Times: “The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis.”
“President Obama’s decision to order the killing of an American citizen is among the most significant of his tenure as President and the American people have a right to know the facts behind this decision,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Anytime an American citizen is killed per the orders of the President of the United States, the process that led to the decision must be made transparent.”
Prior to Anwar al-Awlaki’s killing, the Obama administration had previously refused to release records related to the radical Muslim cleric in response to a Fox News FOIA request, citing Anwar al-Awlaki’s constitutional right to privacy.
Fox News Channel National Correspondent Catherine Herridge, who has written extensively on al-Awlaki, reported that the American Muslim cleric, who has been tied to both 9/11 and the Fort Hood murders, served as a guest speaker at the Pentagon and was treated to lunch in the Pentagon’s executive dining room in February 2002 “as part of the military’s outreach to the moderate Muslim community in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.”
Moreover, according to Fox News, the FBI released al-Awlaki from custody on October 10, 2002, even though there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest.
Just exactly who is running the Justice Department? That question is at the center of a number of Judicial Watch investigations.
Most recently, on June 1, 2012, JW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) to obtain records detailing the agency’s communications with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). At issue is Pennsylvania House Bill 934, commonly referred to as Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law. The ACLU and allied organizations have filed a lawsuit to prevent the law, signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett on March 14, 2012, from taking effect.
So did the Obama Justice Department work hand-in-hand with the ACLU to block this legislation? That’s what we intend to find out.
Here’s what we’re after, pursuant to our original March 30, 2012, FOIA request with the DOJ:
According to United States Postal Service records, the Obama Justice Department received Judicial Watch’s request on April 5, 2012. However, to date, the agency has failed to comply. By law a response was due no later than May 17, 2012.
Pennsylvania House Bill 934 is a common sense piece of legislation that simply requires voters to produce a Pennsylvania driver’s license or another government-issued photo ID, such as a U.S. passport, military ID, or county/municipal employee ID.
Judicial Watch Attorney Michael Bekesha testified on March 21, 2011, before the State Government Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Bekesha testified that the bill was a good way for Pennsylvania “to ensur[e] fair elections for its citizens.” Michael also testified that the bill followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s specifications. Bekesha’s testimony can be read here.
But, as reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, on May 1, 2012, so-called “civil rights” groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, filed a lawsuit to prevent Pennsylvania’s voter ID law from taking effect before the November elections. (The trial is scheduled to begin on July 25, 2012.)
Now if there is collusion going on between the Obama Justice Department and the ACLU behind closed doors, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time.
As you may recall, Judicial Watch previously obtained documents from the Obama Justice Department showing that the agency worked with the ACLU to mount their respective legal challenges to SB 1070, Arizona’s illegal immigration enforcement law that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
This is not how it’s supposed to work.
The Obama Justice Department is supposed to be an independent arbiter of justice, not a legal battering ram for leftist special interest groups. I have to say, it is becoming difficult to determine where activist groups such as the ACLU begin and the Obama Justice Department ends. We hope (but do not expect) the Justice Department will abide by FOIA law and release these records immediately. That’s why we’re in court.
As you well know if you’ve been reading this space, Judicial Watch has uncovered documents showing that the Obama DOJhas also been partnering with the ACORN-connected Project Vote, President Obama’s former employer, to use the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) to increase voter registrations for those on public assistance, which is a key Obama voter demographic, while ignoring a stipulation in the NVRA that requires states to keep voter registration lists clean.
The results: a sharp increase in the number of fraudulent voter registrations, raising the prospect of chaos on Election Day. Just the way the Obama gang wants it.
And as if this two-pronged strategy to abuse the NVRA were not enough, when states do take actions to clean up voter registration rolls, they get hammered by Justice Department lawyers. The DOJ has already filed lawsuits against Texas and South Carolina over their voter ID laws.
And now it’s taking aim at Florida.
How many illegal alien and other non-citizen voters should be able to vote in Florida in the 2012 election? The State of Florida has taken a “zero tolerance” approach to this question while the Obama Justice Department seems to be saying “the more the merrier!”
This confrontation has led to a critical showdown in a major swing state just five months before Election Day 2012.
It all began a couple of weeks ago, when Florida election officials began doing what the law requires, attempting to clean its voter rolls of ineligible voters. Importantly, Florida took action only after Judicial Watch sent a letter to the Florida’s two top election officials requesting information about Florida’s voting list maintenance procedures. The state’s response to our letter of inquiry disclosed to us the massive number of dead voters on the rolls and a promise to remove them. You can view our letter to Florida here and the state’s response here.
(Our efforts in Florida are part of Judicial Watch’s 2012 Election Integrity Project. We’re targeting states with the dirtiest voter registration rolls and threatening to sue if they don’t fix the problem. Our legal team is right now preparing lawsuits against three states. And we are considering our options in several other states.)
Now, Florida did not begin wiping people off lists randomly. Officials simply began notifying individuals on the list they believed may be ineligible and asked them to prove otherwise.
The Obama Justice Department, which seemingly has initiated a systematic effort to make sure voter rolls remain dirty, objected to this initiative. On May 31, 2012, T. Christian Herren, Chief of the Voting Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division,wrote a letter to Florida officials ordering a halt to the voting roll list maintenance process.
In an excellent piece for The National Review, Hans Von Spakovksy puts this unprecedented move by Justice in perspective: “This goes far beyond Holder’s previous actions, such as belittling claims of voter fraud and trying to stop voter ID and other reform measures intended to improve the integrity of the election process. This letter would directly abet vote thieves in a key state as Holder’s boss seeks re-election this November.”
Hans further points out that Florida is directed by federal law to undertake such a review of voter registration laws and that it is a felony punishable up to three years in prison to make a false claim of citizenship in order to register to vote!
So why is the Justice Department attacking Florida for following federal law? Why indeed?
The Justice Department’s letter demanded a response by Wednesday of this week. The Justice Department got a response alright, but not the one they wanted.
As reported by Reuter’s:
“The Florida Department of State has a solemn obligation to ensure the integrity of elections in this state,” said Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner in a letter to the Justice Department.
“Permitting ineligible, non-citizen voters to cast ballots undermines that mission and erodes the justified faith the electorate has in the fairness and reliability of the electoral process,” he added.
So the clean-up will continue! (As will the Justice Department’s legal attack on Florida, I’m sure.) You can review the Florida’s official response to the Obama Justice Department intimidation tactics here. And here’s a Q&A sheet presented by the Florida State Department that details the state’s position on the illegal voter purge.
The Justice Department “line” is that Florida’s efforts to clean up voter registration lists of non-citizen voters might disenfranchise minority voters. But that is a ridiculous argument that is merely intended to obscure the outright fraud taking place across the country.
In the State of Florida, for example, a state that once decided a presidential election by 537 votes, the Florida examination has already identified 2,700 non-citizens registered to vote – so far. (Press reports suggest this number could be as high as 180,000.)
And this problem is certainly not limited to Florida.
As The Washington Times noted this week:
These include inaccurate or duplicate records, people registered in two or more states and almost 2 million voters who are on the books even though they are deceased. The number of bad registrations is daunting; 24 million is larger than the winning margins of the last five presidential races combined. If the 2012 race is close, the potential impact of fraudulent votes is magnified.
“Could illegal voting decide the next presidential election?” the Washington Times editorial asks. “Steps are being taken by the Justice Department that may help guarantee it.”
In addition to its showdown with the Obama Justice Department, the State of Florida recently lost a battle in court against the Obama campaign over a series of voter integrity initiatives it had planned to implement. According to The Washington Post:
…Hinkle blocked Florida from enforcing parts of its new voting law, including provisions that require groups that collect voter registration forms to return them to state officials within 48 hours. The provisions also mandate that all volunteer workers must file sworn statements saying they will obey state laws in registering voters.
I believe the ACLU and Project Vote have been pulling the strings behind the scenes at the Justice Department over these issues. (For example, see this June 20, 2011 letter signed by representatives of both organizations complaining to the Justice Department about Florida’s election integrity law. As we note in our first article above, we already know that Project Vote and the ACLU each have an “in” with leftists running Obama’s Justice.)
As you well know, Judicial Watch has devised a comprehensive strategy to counter the Obama machine’s scheme to steal the election. We call it our 2012 Election Integrity Campaign. You can read all about this effort here. And if you agree with me that this is one of the most important battles in Judicial Watch’s 17-year history, I hope you’ll consider making a tax-deductible contribution to make sure we have the resources to confront the Obama gang’s scheme on every front.
Judicial Watch does not support or oppose candidates for public office. We do, however, want to make sure that the election is fair and clean. I hope you’ll consider joining this effort.
Judicial Watch is once again leading an investigation into yet another Michelle Obama family vacation. This time it’s Aspen, Colorado. (I guess we should be grateful after a series of overseas luxury trips that this vacation at least took place stateside!)
On May 31, 2012 we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service to obtain records detailing the First Lady’s February 2012 President’s Day weekend ski vacation in Aspen with her two daughters.
Pursuant to our original February 21, 2012, FOIA request with the U.S. Air Force, we’re seeking access to any and all records concerning the mission taskings, transportation costs and passenger manifests for Mrs. Obama’s February 2012 trip to Aspen, Colorado.
The Air Mobility Command, a component of the U.S. Air Force, acknowledged receiving Judicial Watch’s request on April 11, 2012, but notified Judicial Watch that it “could not provide a specific date for the production of records responsive to [Judicial Watch's] request.” By law, a response was due on May 9, 2012, at the latest.
With respect to our FOIA request with the U.S. Secret Service, our focus is on “all records concerning use of U.S. Government funds to provide security and/or any other services to First Lady Michelle Obama, Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, and any companions on their February 2012 trip to Aspen, Colorado.”
The U.S. Secret Service acknowledged receiving our request on March 12, 2012, but the agency has failed to comply. A response was due on April 23, 2012, at the latest.
As reported by the Aspen Daily News on February 18, 2012:
This is far from the first time the First Family has taken a vacation at taxpayers’ expense. In fact, one report suggested that the Aspen trip was the 16th vacation in three years taken by the Obama family!
The Obama administration has been secretive regarding these trips. Judicial Watch has had to fight tooth and nail to uncover records detailing the costs. Our persistence has paid off.
In April, Judicial Watch obtained documents from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing costs associated with Michelle Obama’s controversial August 2010 vacation to Spain. According to a Judicial Watch analysis, the records indicate a total combined cost of at least $467,585.
Judicial Watch also obtained documents detailing costs of a June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by Michelle Obama, her family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana. Judicial Watch received mission expense records and passenger manifests for the Africa trip that described costs of $424,142 for the flight and crew alone. Other expenses, such as off-flight food, transportation, security, etc. were not included.
It is outrageous that the Obama administration is repeatedly stonewalling basic questions about the costs of the Obama family’s personal travel. At the least, the Obama administration owes the American people the truth about how much each of these trips cost, instead of stonewalling and obfuscation.
And Michelle Obama is not the only one in the administration to take expensive personal trips at taxpayer expense. According to Newsmax:
Every Friday, Biden takes a helicopter designated as Marine Two from the vice president’s residence to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and then hops on Air Force Two to fly back to his home in Delaware. At the end of the weekend, he returns on Air Force Two, usually a Boeing C-32.
Newsmax estimates the cost of these trips costs taxpayers $1 million annually. This abuse of our tax dollars must be exposed, detailed, and stopped.
Until Next Week...
Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach.