Written by Tom Fitton
Protests have erupted across the country following the verdict in the case against George Zimmerman, the Florida man found not guilty in a case involving the shooting death of a black youth, Trayvon Martin. (These “peaceful” protests have already resulted in multiple arrests.)
Meanwhile, the usual suspects are weighing in with their race-baiting rhetoric and ridiculous grandstanding and getting a huge lift from a liberal press all too eager to report their every move.
Al Sharpton is hauling out his bag of blowhorns for 100+ protests in cities nationwide. Jesse Jackson wants the UN to get involved. Unfortunately, certain black celebrities and athletes took to Twitter to attack the jurors in the case. (Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White tweeted “All them jurors should go home tonight and kill themselves for letting a grown man get away with killing a kid.”) And the corrupt Congressional Black Caucus is preparing racial profiling legislation even though there isn’t a shred of evidence race was a factor in the Trayvon shooting. In fact, FBI investigators, after an exhaustive investigation, reportedly came to the conclusion that race played no role.
But that hasn’t stopped Attorney General Eric Holder from seizing upon this tragedy to push his leftist, anti-gun, racially motivated agenda. Al Sharpton may as well be running the Justice Department!
First, I want to again call your attention to documents unearthed by JW which show that following the Martin shooting, the Holder DOJ dispatched a little-known unit within the agency called the Community Relations Service (CRS), to Sanford, FL, to help organize and manage rallies and protests against George Zimmerman. I just covered this last week, so please click here for the details.)
The point is, from the get-go, the Justice Department worked to pressure for a Zimmerman prosecution, working closely with leftist agitators to stoke the fires of discontent. This effort continued with President Obama’s irresponsible and racially inflammatory comments on the incident, lamenting that if he had a son, he’d look a lot like Trayvon.
And it continued right through the jury verdict, when Eric Holder signaled he might be willing to go after Zimmerman on federal civil rights charges. In a speech to a black sorority, Holder bragged about the DOJ’s investigation of Zimmerman, which he said is ongoing. He has also started taking pot shots at Florida’s “stand your ground” law which allows citizens to protect themselves from criminals, even though that law did not come into play in Zimmerman’s legal defense, signaling where the administration wants to take this politically. (Remember Rahmbo’s rule: Never let a crisis go to waste.)
And then there’s this.
The Justice Department has set up an email tip line to collect dirt on Zimmerman, as reported by Fox News: “More than a year after an FBI report indicated there was no evidence of racial bias in George Zimmerman’s history, the Justice Department is trolling for email tips on the former neighborhood watch volunteer as it weighs a possible federal civil rights case against him.”
Just “standard procedure,” says the Justice Department.
This campaign was initiated “amid pressure from the NAACP,” notes Fox News. Justice officials even hosted a conference call to discuss the matter with leftist civil rights groups, to get their “wise counsel.” And guess who convened the call. None other than Thomas Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at Justice who lied under oath about the involvement of political appointees in the DOJ decision to abandon its own voter intimidation case against the Black Panthers. (Outrageously, Perez was just confirmed by the U.S. Senate to lead the Labor Department.)
Folks, no one wins in a situation that results in the death of a young man. But that is no excuse to subject another man judged innocent by a jury to an unprecedented political witch hunt. And make no mistake. That is exactly what we are witnessing.
And it is worth remembering that Eric Holder’s Justice Department, including his Civil Rights Division have been quite explicit, as documented in a recent IG report, in suggesting that civil rights laws are not to be enforced in a race neutral matter.
Just ask George Zimmerman’s brother, per Breitbart.com.
…Robert Zimmerman, brother of George Zimmerman, responded to reports that Eric Holder’s Department of Justice had solicited the public for information about George that could help a federal civil rights prosecution. The DOJ has even set up an email address for tips on Zimmerman.
In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Robert labeled the effort a “witch hunt,” asking, “How many other individuals has the DOJ witch-hunted in this way? I think that the state of FL when they embarked on their malicious prosecution of George would have liked nothing more than for the FBI to uncover any sign of racism that could be attributed to George. The FBI interviewed three dozen people who were close to George for any indication that George was a racist or had racist tendencies. What their investigation revealed thus far is that quite the opposite is true.
Someone should let Robert Zimmerman know that truth has little to do with all of this. His brother has been caught up in a campaign that is more important than the truth to the politically minded activists behind it, including those at the highest level of the nation’s highest law enforcement agency. George Zimmerman has become the rallying point for racial agitators. He is their poster child. And they will use every method at their disposal, including lies, threats and intimidation, to destroy him if it will advance their goal.
But the truth does matter to Judicial Watch, which is why we continue to investigate the Justice Department’s inappropriate and dangerous interference in the Zimmerman controversy.
I’ve talked a lot in this space about stealth amnesty, the Obama administration’s campaign to bypass Congress and enact policies that provide amnesty to a wide variety of illegal aliens, including those convicted of serious crimes.
While the policy begins at the very top of the Obama White House, it is enacted by law enforcement officials on the ground who follow the president’s amnesty agenda in lock-step, even when it violates federal immigration laws.
Consider Cook County, Illinois.
Earlier this month, we filed a response in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, opposing a motion to dismiss our April lawsuit challenging Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart’s refusal to honor U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigration detainers or cooperate with ICE in identifying deportable criminal aliens.
Again, this local ordinance is in direct conflict with federal immigration laws which require certain cooperation with federal immigration officials. And here’s why this cooperation is so vital
We brought this lawsuit on behalf of lifelong Cook County resident Brian McCann, whose brother, Denny McCann, was run over and killed in June 2011, by an illegal alien who had just completed a two-year term of probation for a 2009 DUI conviction.
The alien, Saul Chavez, was charged with felony aggravated driving under the influence, but was released by Dart from a Cook County jail in November 2011 despite an ICE immigration detainer. Chavez then presumably fled to Mexico and from justice for his killing of our client’s brother.
Given that this “state versus federal” role in illegal immigration enforcement is used so often to justify illegal alien sanctuary policies, bear with me for a moment as I walk through the back and forth of this lawsuit.
In our lawsuit Mr. McCann asked the Circuit Court to compel Dart to comply with his legal duties to honor ICE detainers and to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The lawsuit also asks the Circuit Court to declare the Cook County ordinance to be preempted by federal law.
And what was Sheriff Dart’s defense?
In his motion to dismiss, Sheriff Dart argued that an immigration detainer is simply a “request” from the federal government creating no legally binding obligation on the part of state or local authorities.
Not true, says Judicial Watch. Citing the Code of Federal Regulations, we responded, “There is nothing voluntary about the words ‘shall maintain custody’ as used in the regulation.” According to the regulation:
Upon a determination by the [U.S. Department of Homeland Security] to issue a detainer for an alien not otherwise detained by a criminal justice agency, such agency shall maintain custody [emphasis added] of the alien for a period not to exceed 48 hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays in order to permit assumption of custody by the Department.
Judicial Watch argued, “[The regulation] could not be any clearer … [The defendant] must maintain custody of the alien subject to the detainer for not more than 48 hours beyond the time that the alien would otherwise be released … [I]t does not authorize, much less require, any discretion or decision-making.”
Sheriff Dart also cited the 1997 Supreme Court decision in Printz v. United States claiming that the federal government cannot command him to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program — including immigration law. Judicial Watch countered:
The error in Defendant’s argument is that he is not being compelled to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program … In this instance, the federal government is not requiring Defendant to locate the alien, arrest the alien, investigate and prosecute the alien, or even take custody of the alien. It is merely ordering Defendant to continue what he is already doing for at-most two more days so that federal immigration officials have the opportunity to take custody of the alien, after which the federal immigration authorities, not the Defendant, will determine whether to enforce – or not enforce – the immigration laws against the alien.
According to the Judicial Watch filing, in the only case in which a court has directly ruled on the detainer issue, (Galarza v. Szalczyk (E.D. Pa.)), a federal court decided that the immigration detainer is legally binding. The court held:
Pursuant to [DHS]Regulation 287.7 (d) … because ICE issued a detainer for the plaintiff, the Lehigh County Prison (a ‘criminal justice agency’) was required to maintain custody [emphasis added] of him after he was ‘not otherwise detained by a criminal justice agency’ for a period of not to exceed 48 hours .. in order to permit assumption of his custody by [DHS].”
Let me just take a moment to point out the hypocrisy here on the part of the Left.
We have heard endless arguments from the Obama administration that the federal government is the only controlling authority in enforcing the rules when it comes to illegal immigration. They pull this argument when it suits them – for example arguing that local law enforcement cannot play a role in enforcing illegal immigration laws, which is patently false. But the Left ignores this idea of “federal preemption” it when it does not suit their purposes.
In this case, the federal government is quite clear about its requirements (note I did not say “requests”) when it comes to detaining illegal alien criminals. And the Obama administration is nowhere to be found on the issue because it is in the president’s interest, both political and ideological, to allow illegal aliens to remain in the country. It’s that simple.
Cook County, in the typical Chicago political tradition, thinks it is above the law. And this administration refuses to take legal action against Obama’s hometown cronies to enforce the law. This case demonstrates that our immigration enforcement efforts lie in shambles. Cook County’s sanctuary policy is against the law, wasteful, and deadly dangerous.
That’s why Judicial Watch and Mr. McCann are filling the void and seeking justice against this rogue Sheriff in Cook County, which is the nation’s second most populous. Stay tuned.
(By the way, I should note that Judicial Watch’s Illinois lawyer is Christine Svenson of the Svenson Law Offices in Chicago, IL.)
“The necessity of conducting the global war on terror should not render the U.S. government so afraid of its own shadow that it refuses to release truthful information to the American people when required by FOIA.”
This was an argument JW made in a key motion filed on July 11, 2013 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as we continue our pursuit of records related to the burial of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Specifically, Judicial Watch’s expert legal team filed the motion (specifically, a “Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment and in Support of Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment”) against the Department of the Navy challenging the withholding of information relating to “descriptions of the actual funeral and burial of bin Laden.”
This latest legal filing is all part of our ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DOD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) seeking “all photographs and/or video recordings of Osama (Usama) bin Laden taken during and/or after the U.S. military operation in Pakistan on or about May 1, 2011”
As you recall, the Obama administration is hiding behind the bogus claim of national security in keeping these records secret.
The DOD claims that releasing the information could harm national security by (1) providing the nation’s adversaries with “information they could use to thwart future sensitive military operation, and (2) inciting al-Qaida members to attack United States citizens.”
And, as you might expect, we find that explanation unacceptable and without legal basis.
In the first place, as we argued in our court filing, JW “seeks only descriptions of the burial and funeral, and not any sensitive military information which could be used to thwart possible future military operation.”
And with respect to this “don’t offend the terrorists” provision the administration created out of thin air to keep JW from accessing images of the deceased terrorist, Judicial Watch argues that the burial descriptions “cannot be withheld under the D.C. Circuit Court’s recently announced ‘inciting violence’ test in Judicial Watch v. DoD.”
That test, which arose in our case disputing the withholding of images of the deceased bin Laden, required the government to present evidence of a “reasonably analogous” situation in which release of information incited violence in the past. In this particular lawsuit, we’re not after images, we’re after mere descriptions of the funeral and the Obama administration has no such analogous situation to draw upon in keeping this information under lock and key. (Although when has the law ever been a guiding force for this administration?)
While I don’t know if the terrorists would be offended by this information (and, as I say, it’s irrelevant), I suspect the American people might be.
As you may recall, we previously uncovered 31 pages of heavily redacted emails concerning the burial, including a paragraph with previously unknown details of the bin Laden internment at sea: “Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was [sic] followed. The deceased body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flatboard, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.”
Now, those records did not include the “prepared religious remarks” read at bin Laden’s burial as specified in the Judicial Watch FOIA request. However, if Navy regulations were followed, the remarks likely included the exculpatory Muslim prayer, “O Allah, forgive him, have mercy on him, pardon him, grant him security, provide him a nice place and spacious lodging, wash him (off from his sins) with water, snow, and ice, purify him … make him enter paradise and save him from the trials of grave and the punishment of hell.”
A ceremony where the American government prayed for the soul of one of the world’s most despicable and hateful terrorists might help explain why we’ve had to fight so hard for these records, which remain secret courtesy of a couple of court rulings.
JW filed its original FOIA lawsuit against the DOD and CIA on May 13, 2011. On April 26, 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia blocked access to the materials requested in a decision that was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on May 21, 2013.
The Obama administration’s unprecedented stonewalling on basic information about the bin Laden operation makes a mockery of President Obama’s promises of transparency. And the courts should not rubberstamp this continuing denial of the American people’s right to access government information.
As I say, there is no provision of the Freedom of Information Act that allows documents to be kept secret because their release might offend our terrorist enemies (or the American people back home, for that matter).
As I write this week’s update, news is breaking in the Obama IRS scandal as the House Oversight Committee held hearings on Thursday. This investigation involves a concerted effort by the tax-collecting agency to target and retaliate against groups that opposed the Obama presidential campaign. (Details here. And check out the panel we hosted on the scandal here.)
I will have more from you next week, however, I wanted to give you some critical breaking news. Evidently, according to congressional investigators, instructions to target Tea Party organizations emanated out of Washington, DC, and not low level IRS officials in the Cincinnati office, as previously claimed.
IRS employees have told congressional investigators that they were ordered by the agency’s Washington office to give extra scrutiny to tea party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, according to excerpts from interviews with the employees that were released by House committee chairmen Wednesday.
Carter Hull, a tax law specialist with 48 years of experience at the IRS, told investigators that Lois Lerner, the former head of the Exempt Organizations division, demanded he send some of the reviews of tea party groups to the IRS chief counsel’s office in Washington. The chief counsel is one of two political appointees in the IRS.
You will recall, Lois Lerner issued a statement before Congress professing her innocence and then plead the 5th, refusing to testify. This new revelation further explodes the lie that the IRS attack on conservatives was the result of rogue agent activity in IRS’s Cincinnati office. The DC establishment is trying to bury the IRS scandal. Don’t let them. Begin getting the word out! As I say, more on this next week.
Until next week…
Tom Fitton, President 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.