Written by Tom Fitton
DOJ Seeks to Stall JW’s Lawsuit Seeking Access to Fast and Furious Records
The Obama administration is pushing gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, shootings. President Obama is using the murders as a pretext to undermine the Second Amendment and collect data on lawful gun owners. But this administration won’t come clean on its own gunrunning operation, Operation Fast and Furious, which led to the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and countless Mexican citizens.
In fact, the Obama administration last week filed an outrageous court motion saying it doesn’t have to answer to the American people, or abide by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) at all in this scandal!
This filing was made in our FOIA lawsuit seeking access to Operation Fast and Furious records withheld from Congress by President Obama under executive privilege on June 20, 2012. Our attorneys responded almost immediately. And so this week we filed a brief in response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) motion, which calls upon the court to impose an indefinite delay in considering our lawsuit.
Rather than respond substantively to our FOIA, the DOJ argued in court that our lawsuit should be subject to a stay of proceedings because it is “ancillary” to a separate lawsuit filed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee against the DOJ. The Court “should let the process of negotiation and accommodation [between the House Committee and the DOJ] run its course, and then decide with the input of the parties whether and how this action may appropriately proceed at that time,” the DOJ argued, effectively abrogating the FOIA. The Obama DOJ even suggested that the Judicial Watch litigation might encourage the Congress to fight harder to get the same documents in separate litigation.
So the American people are supposed to wait until Congress and the White House figure this out?
Judicial Watch countered that the FOIA demands a response, that its lawsuit is more straightforward than the House lawsuit and is ripe for consideration on its merits. A decision on the House Committee lawsuit, meanwhile, could be delayed for months, if not years:
This notion that [Judicial Watch’s] lawsuit is in some way inferior [to the House lawsuit] is simply incorrect. [Judicial Watch] has as much of a right under the law as the House Committee to seek access to records of Defendant. In fact, since Defendant does not challenge [Judicial Watch’s] claim on jurisdictional grounds, it could be reasonably argued that [Judicial Watch’s] right is greater – it is certainly clearer and simpler – than that of the House Committee…Whereas [Judicial Watch’s] FOIA lawsuit is ripe for adjudication on the merits, the House Committee suit could be months, if not years, away from reaching the same stage.
The DOJ also argued that Judicial Watch’s lawsuit might somehow interfere with negotiations between the president and Congress. (As if these negotiations have been at all productive!) Judicial Watch countered: “Regardless of any potential resolution in that case, Defendant in this action will still be required to satisfy its obligations under FOIA, including justifying its withholdings. [Judicial Watch’s] lawsuit simply does not vanish if and when the House Committee suit is resolved.”
And we conclude: “[Judicial Watch] has a statutory right to the requested records and to have Defendant’s denial of Plaintiff’s FOIA request reviewed by this Court. [Judicial Watch’s] claim is now ripe for adjudication, and [Judicial Watch] is prepared to brief the issues. Defendant simply seeks to delay the date that it must justify its claims of exemption. Defendant has not demonstrated why [Judicial Watch’s] rights should be immoderately and oppressively delayed; it has only disparaged the public’s right to request records of its government. For the foregoing reasons, [Judicial Watch] respectfully requests that Defendant’s request for an indefinite stay of the proceedings be denied.
By way of review, Fast and Furious was a DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gunrunning” operation in which the Obama administration reportedly sold guns to Mexican drug cartels in hopes that they would end up at crime scenes.
Congressional investigators, led by Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, have fought to secure records related to the Fast and Furious program, but the DOJ continues to withhold responsive records from disclosure. On June 20, 2012, President Obama made a highly controversial decision to assert Executive Privilege in order to shield the DOJ’s Fast and Furious records from disclosure. Executive privilege is reserved to “protect” White House records, not the records of federal agencies, which must be made available, subject to specific exceptions, under the FOIA.
The president’s assertion of executive privilege came just hours before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to respond to congressional subpoenas for Fast and Furious records. On June 28, 2012, Congress voted 255-67 to hold Holder in contempt. (A number of Democrats joined the vote, while other Democrats, endorsing lawlessness, walked out in protest.) A second vote, 258-95, authorized the pursuit of records through civil litigation in the courts. Moreover, documents uncovered by CBS News seem to indicate that Holder may have perjured himself during congressional testimony, detailing what he knew about Fast and Furious and when he knew it.
It is beyond ironic that the Obama administration has initiated an anti-gun push as it seeking to keep secret key documents about its very own Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal.
Getting beyond the Obama administration’s smokescreen, this lawsuit is about a simple principle: the public’s right to know the full truth about an egregious political scandal that led to the death of at least one American and countless other people. The American public is sick and tired of the Obama administration trying to rewrite the FOIA and other laws in an effort to protect this president and his appointees. Americans want answers about Fast and Furious killings and lies. I’ll let you know how this court skirmish turns out.
(Judicial Watch separately filed a FOIA lawsuit against the ATF seeking access to records detailing communications between ATF officials and a White House official regarding Fast and Furious.)
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is putting a hold on the nomination of Obama Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan to serve as CIA Director until the Obama administration comes clean on Benghazi.
But according to documents uncovered by Judicial Watch, there is another significant reason why the U.S. Senate should not simply rubber-stamp this nomination: Brennan was evidently smack dab in the middle of another Obama administration scandal – the alleged feeding of sensitive operational details to the filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty, a Hollywood movie released last Friday that documents the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
As JW uncovered, the Obama administration actively sought to have “high visibility” in bin Laden-related projects. And they found willing partners in Kathryn Bigelow and Marc Boal, the director and writer of the film, who were given unprecedented and secret access to details regarding the raid in preparation for their film.
We said when we got hold of the documents that it seemed obvious to us that the Obama administration was looking for a way to bolster the president’s image as a strong leader.
Now where does Brennan enter the picture?
As you know, we went to federal court to force the most “transparent” administration in history to turn over records about the film. We received hundreds of pages, but there is one key document that specifically references Brennan that we disclosed last May:
A transcript of a July 14, 2011, meeting between DOD officials, including Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers, Bigelow and Boal indicates that Boal met directly with White House officials on at least two occasions regarding the film, including Brennan: “I took your guidance and spoke to the WH and had a good meeting with Brennan and McDonough and I plan to follow up with them; and they were forward leaning and interested in sharing their point of view; command and control; so that was great, thank you,” Boal said according to the transcript.
Vickers asks if the meeting was a follow-up, to which Boal responds, “Yes correct; this was a follow-up.” The documents seemingly reference John O. Brennan, Chief Counterterrorism Advisor to President Obama and Denis McDonough, who serves as President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor.
Now, as I say, the Obama White House coordinated the collusion between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the filmmakers from the outset.
A June 27, 2011, email to an official at the Office of the Secretary of Defense suggests that the request from Bigelow and Boal to meet with Vickers came via the White House press office. A June 22, 2011, email to Commander Bob Mehal, Public Affairs Officer for Defense Press Operations, notes “The White House does want to engage with Mark (Boal) but it probably won’t be for a few more weeks. We should provide them a read-out of the session you do with Vickers.” The name of the White House official who forwarded the request is blacked out.
The documents also show that the DOD was very aware of the possibility of negative blowback in the press related to these secret meetings and sought White House guidance regarding the second meeting between Vickers and the filmmakers.
DOD Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Wilson told colleagues in a June 13, 2011, email to limit media access and that he would follow up with the White House: “I think this looks very good as a way forward, and agree particularly that we need to be careful here so we don’t open the media floodgates on this. I’m going to check with WH to update them on status, and will report back.” A day later, he wrote DOD communications staffers, saying: “Ok to set up the second session with Vickers. I am getting additional guidance from WH.”
Judicial Watch’s discovery led to an Inspector General’s investigation and a criminal referral to the Holder Department of Justice (DOJ) that seems to have fallen into a black hole. Vickers is under fire for releasing the names of those who participated in the raid, but clearly Brennan was involved in these discussions.
Now here’s a key question that should be asked during his confirmation hearing: Was Brennan’s pending nomination to head the CIA the reason the DOJ sat on the IG’s criminal referral? Certainly Brennan’s involvement in a scandal involving the alleged leaking of classified details should take center stage in any debate over his suitability to serve as the nation’s top spy.
By the way, I actually saw Zero Dark Thirty the day it opened nationally and I can tell you that, no matter what you may read in the “Obamedia,” it pushes the Obama narrative in obvious ways.
Barack Obama comes off as a hero character in the film. We see him morally preening on a news program and hear him described as “thoughtful and analytical.” Obama appointees portrayed in the film also come off well, including a Brennan-like character. Boal and Bigelow seemed to have gone out of their way (short of producing a two-hour campaign commercial) to project the Obama administration as “gutsy” for ordering the raid. I’m quite certain the Obama campaign would have loved for the film to come out before the campaign, which was the original plan.
JW continues to investigate. Let’s hope the Senate does its job as well.
The Obama Homeland Security Department (DHS) took its “selective deportation” illegal alien amnesty scheme to a whole new level last November when it delayed deporting an illegal alien sex offender, Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, just before the election. Now why would they do that? Because Sanchez worked for a powerful Democrat Senator and they did not want the embarrassing scandal to hit the news and jeopardize the re-election chances of the Senator and/or the president.
The Associated Press has been all over this story:
Federal immigration agents were prepared to arrest an illegal immigrant and registered sex offender days before the November elections but were ordered by Washington to hold off after officials warned of “significant interest” from Congress and news organizations because the suspect was a volunteer intern for Sen. Robert Menendez, according to internal agency documents provided to Congress.
(You will recall JW listed Menendez as one of its “Ten Most Wanted” corrupt politicians in Washington, for this scandal and a slew of others, including influence peddling for his staffer and girlfriend and for allegedly patronizing prostitutes.)
This Sanchez story first broke last December, when the AP, citing a source familiar with the situation, published a report indicating that DHS had delayed the deportation of Sanchez for political reasons. When the story hit the press, DHS officials huffed and puffed and dismissed the report as “categorically false.”
But this was a lie. And now the AP has the documents to prove it: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Newark had arranged to arrest Sanchez at the local prosecutor’s office on Oct. 25,” the AP reported. “That was fewer than two weeks before the election.”
Noting that Sanchez was a volunteer in Menendez’s Senate office, ICE officials in New Jersey advised that the arrest “had the possibility of garnering significant congressional and media interest” and were “advised to postpone the arrest” until officials in Washington gave approval. The documents describe a conference call between officials Washington and New Jersey to “determine a way forward, given the potential sensitivities surrounding the case.”
And who is this illegal alien criminal hired by Menendez and coddled by the Obama DHS? Sanchez was born in Peru and entered the country with a now-expired visa. In 2009 he was arrested for repeatedly sexually abusing an eight-year-old boy. Sanchez, 15 at the time, received two-year probation and the child molester was forced to register as a “sex offender.
Sanchez then landed a job with Menendez. Unsurprisingly, he also submitted an application to remain in the country under Obama’s amnesty program! The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that it would arrest and deport illegal aliens who committed serious crimes. But when the administration found out about an illegal alien child molester, political appointees interfered with the legal process and delayed the arrest of an illegal alien who represented a clear threat to the public safety.
Ultimately, with President Obama and Robert Menendez’s re-elections secured, authorities finally arrested Sanchez on December 6, 2012. He is now scheduled for deportation.
Now, as you will recall, this isn’t the first time politics has intervened and stopped the deportation of an illegal alien for political reasons. Remember Obama’s illegal alien Aunt Zeituni Onyango? Just days before the 2008 election, the Bush administration’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an “unusual directive” that ultimately delayed Onyango’s arrest so as to avoid precipitating an embarrassing scandal for then-candidate Obama.
The Menendez/DHS scandal is embarrassing for this administration, but I don’t think for a minute it will stop the president from fast-tracking his plans to implement illegal alien amnesty for the 11 million individuals currently residing in the U.S. Fox News reported this week the president and Senate Democrats are planning to pass a slew of illegal immigration reform measures in one massive bill, as opposed to carefully considering the merits of each policy on a case-by-case basis.
The president’s reforms, which are built on lies and lawlessness, will be sweeping, they will be aggressive, they will be fast, and they will most certainly lead to more victims of criminals like Sanchez, who should have been imprisoned and/or deported the moment he attacked an eight-year-old boy.
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.