Posts Tagged ‘Darrell Issa’


UPDATE: House votes to hold Holder in contempt over ‘Fast and Furious’

Fast and Furious Contempt Vote

UPDATE: 4:44 p.m. ET: The House has voted to hold Eric Holder in contempt, 255-67.

The House Committee for Government Oversight and Reform will proceed today with the contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder. At this point, however, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) said he is not accusing theWhite House or Holder for knowing about the Fast and Furious operation. Rather, the Committee is looking for documents to reveal why the Department of Justice initially denied and later admitted to knowledge of the scandal.

“When did they know we were lied to and what did they do about it?”  Issa asked, according to CBS News.

The Fast and Furious operation refers to a 2009 gun-walking tactic resulting in more than 2000 guns to be walked across the Arizona/Mexico border in an attempt to trace the guns to suspected gun smugglers. The operation ultimately failed and resulted in unaccounted weapons and the death of border agent Brian Terry.

The National Rifle Association has given its support to the contempt proceedings and say today’s vote will influence which candidates they will back in the future. This move by the NRA may influence not only House Republicans but pro-gun House Democrats as well.

Whistleblower Involved in Gunwalking

Adding to the mess surrounding the contempt proceedings is the integrity of a key whistleblower, John Dodson, an ATF agent who has been implicated in a separate but concurrent gunwalking operation.  Dodson and his former supervisor, Dave Voth, have both claimed to have been against what has been termed the “Fernandez case,” referred to by Darrell Issa on ABC’s “This Week.”  Fernandez involves six guns that  Dodson purchased and delivered to gun-smuggling suspect Isaias Fernandez on June 1, 2010, according to Fox.  However, there is some dispute on whether Dodson instigated the transfer of guns or was simply following Voth’s orders.

An investigative report by Fortune claims the entire Fast and Furious episode is simply politics run out of control. In defense of Voth, Fortune says the ATF agents were legally limited by what they could do to curb the flow of guns. Arizona statute allows for easy purchase and resale of guns, and ATF had been in hot water for some of its earlier efforts at gun interception and agents’ hands were tied. In spite of ATF’s of gun walking, they unable to convince federal prosecutors to pursue the matter, Fortune said. Prosecutors said they needed more evidence than what had already been put forth.  In order to collect such evidence, the ATF unsuccessfully attempted a wiretap operation and subsequently, the gun smuggling continued.  The fallout was agent Brian Terry’s death and Dodson’s claim that Voth had pursued Fast and Furious despite his and others’ disapproval. Dodson also referred to an email in which Voth cites a “schism” between those who supported walking the guns and those who did not.  However, Voth claims Dodson and others reported events out of context as an attempt at retribution, and the schism referred to wire tapping, not gunwalking. *Update, 6/29/2012: The schism in the email actually referred to disputes among coworkers about the wiretap shift scheduling. Dodson was opposed to working weekends, and agents pulled in to help from other projects did not want to work the less desirable shifts.  Fortune further reported that Dodson walked the guns and then left on vacation without finalizing the operation or successfully tracking the guns.

Politically motivated? Does it matter?

Each side is decrying the political motivations of the other. Republicans cite an anti-gun agenda behind the gunwalking while Democrats see an attempt to embarrass the president during an election year. While there is likely some political motivation on both sides, my main question is whether the public has a right to the information Issa is requesting. Or is Obama’s use of executive privilege — the first in his administration — warranted in interest of preserving the integrity of an ongoing investigation and internal deliberations?

More info:

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email –  wevans@hq.spj.org –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

*Know something about Freedom of Information that you think we should cover in a blog post? We want to hear from you! Send information to wevans@HQ.SPJ.org. It may be featured in a future post.

 

Attorney General Holder willing to compromise on Fast and Furious; secret service documents released

Holder – done  Holdin’ out?

“The department’s willingness to provide these materials is a serious, good-faith effort to bring this matter to an amicable resolution,”


Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has agreed to postpone a contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder, provided Holder discloses the additional documents relating to the failed gunwalking operation Fast and Furious.  Holder has expressed willingness to compromise and turn over documents showing how the government learned about specifics in the Fast and Furious operation. The rest of the documents, he said, were not within the Oversight Committee’s interest in the investigation.  Holder also offered to meet with  Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform by today to discuss the controversial withholding of documents in relation to the operation.

This is in the midst of the investigation into  Fast and Furious , where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives  intentionally let weapons purchased by traffickers  across the border to strengthen their case. The fallout of the case included the death of Brian Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

“The department’s willingness to provide these materials is a serious, good-faith effort to bring this matter to an amicable resolution,” Holder said, according to the  New York Times. “We believe that this briefing, and the documents we are prepared to provide — which will include information you have requested regarding whistle-blowers — will fully address the remaining concerns identified in the recent letters to me from you and House leadership.”

This is in response to Issa’s June 16 letter in which he said he could compromise the June 20 contempt vote, but only if Holder submitted a “serious proposal,” Politico reports.

“Let me be clear – if the Department of Justice submits a serious proposal for how it intends to alter its refusal to produce critical documents subpoenaed by the Committee, I am ready and willing to meet to discuss your proposal,” Issa said to Holder in a June 13 letter.

Rumor has it: Two sources close — or formerly close — to Holder have come to Issa seeking protection as whistleblowers, according to Sipsey Street Irregulars‘ Mike Vanderbeogh and National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea ,  The Examiner reports. An anonymous source with knowledge of the gunwalker investigation likened whistleblowers’ information to “keys to the kingdom as far as Holder is concerned.”

Other open government news:

Update: The Senate Appropriations Committee told the Department of Labor to cooperate with media in finding a mutually-agreeable policy that would serve the needs of both parties, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Read more here.

Bonus near $500K  has some questioning lobbyist’s motives

Thomas MacKenzie,  a former Northrop Grumman lobbyist, received nearly $498,334 as a bonus in 2011 after leaving the company to work for the House Armed Services Committee, incidentally taking a near $400,000 paycut, according to the Project on Government Oversight.  Northrop Grumman is one of the largest weapons makers in the world and could stand to benefit by having someone on their side on the Committee, according to Lee Fang of the Republic Report.

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email –  wevans@hq.spj.org –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

*Know something about Freedom of Information that you think we should cover in a blog post? We want to hear from you! Send information to wevans@HQ.SPJ.org. It may be featured in a future post.


Changing the story behind freedom of information through peer pressure

In an article on changing corporate culture, strategic adviser Peter Bregman suggests the power of peer pressure to affect far-reaching change within the culture of a business .  Bregman cites a study by Leann Lipps Birch that showed children’s preferences for foods they disliked increased when they saw their peers eating the same foods.  Using this as a launching pad, he suggests the best way to change the culture of a company is to do positive, story-worthy things, or showcase those who are making positive efforts, and change the stories being told. Once people hear positive stories about their agency, they are more likely to follow suit.

We live by stories. We tell them, repeat them, listen to them carefully, and act in accordance with them. – Peter Bregman

What does this have to do with freedom of information? A look through stories in recent media shows that some public bodies and government officials are still less than excited to cooperate with the public’s demand for greater transparency and access to information. For example,  the House Committee for Government Oversight and Reform recently to investigated questionable Department of Labor policies that would affect media outlets. Additionally, committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) questioned Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the  ‘Fast and Furious’ operation.  These show public bodies need to shift from secrecy to transparency, ideally sparking a change among requesters — from suspicion to cautious trust.

However, there are still those who work to further government transparency, effectively changing the nature of the stories being told. For instance:

  • Maurice Frankel, a freedom of information expert in the United Kingdom, is using the power of peer pressure to force change in his corner of the world. In a recent article, he offered The Netherlands’ punitive measures as an example of what can be done in instances of  freedom of information violations. Adding insult to injury, FOI violators may be subject to fines of 30 euros daily for late responses to FOI requests, to be paid directly to the requester. Fines can reach a maximum of 1260 euros. Frankel adds that The Netherlands FOI laws are currently under review, so the efficacy of these punitive measures may soon be known.
  • Rosemary Agnew, Scotland’s  Information Commissioner,  is looking for ways to inexpensively train public bodies. Agnew is trying to help public bodies  respond correctly to requests when they’re first made, effectively freeing up resources in the process.  Agnew has experience with responding to freedom of information requests. She found training to be expensive, and is working to find ways to make training more affordable and accessible to all employees in the public sector.

Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University after studying journalism. Connect with her via email –  wevans@hq.spj.org –  or on twitter – @whitevs7

*Know something about Freedom of Information that you think we should cover in a blog post? We want to hear from you! Send information to wevans@HQ.SPJ.org. It may be featured in a future post.

 

 

Media and FOI advocates object to proposed Department of Labor policy restricting press access

Members of the press and freedom of information advocates spoke out Wednesday, June 6, against a proposed Department of Labor policy requiring credentialed media to use government-owned computers and software when reporting on embargoed DOL data.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called the policy into question during the hearing called by the House Committee for Government Oversight.  President Obama said that his would be the most transparent administration to date, Issa said in his opening remarks, and this policy seems to counter that claim.

Currently, select media enter a secure room to receive pre-released economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Employment and Training Administration a half hour to an hour before the public release, allowing them time to review and write-up information.  They are then allowed to report the embargoed information using their own software.

*Update: Thanks to Sigma Delta Chi Foundation President and Bloomberg editor Steve Geimann for bringing the following to our attention in an email:  “A key aspect of the new policy is the use of government communication circuits, rather than proprietary lines installed, maintained and controlled by the media organizations.”

The new policy would require media to leave all equipment behind and use materials provided by the Department of Labor, including DOL-issued paper and writing utensils, with seating arrangements as the DOL sees necessary. Media would need to report using computers and software provided by the DOL, ostensibly preventing premature leaks of confidential information.  However, this system would allow the government to see what reporters are writing as they write.

The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press quoted Daniel Moss, executive editor for economy and international government at Bloomberg, as testifying: “Under the DOL proposal, the government would own and control the reporters’ notebook. This is an unheard of intrusion of government into one of most cherished freedoms.”

Representatives from press entities and freedom of information advocates spoke out against this move, including Lucy Dalglish, executive director of RCFP. Daglish provided testimony.

“The media takes government interference with its work product very seriously. So does the Constitution.  In fact, the First Amendment obligates the government to allow journalists to operate independently from government control,” Dalglish said in her statement to the committee. “Requiring journalists to draft and publish stories using government-owned computers loaded with government-controlled software simply crosses a line the First Amendment clearly drew to separate the press from the government.” (Read her full testimony.)

According to The Associated Press, the media involved with the hearings said, “progress has been made,” but said little about the meetings with government officials.  The hearing also looked into the  DOL’s accuracy on reporting ‘green jobs.’

(Click here to see the DOL’s full proposal.)

Check out video of the hearing and testimonies, or read transcripts of individual testimonies from:

  • Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
  • Rob Doherty, General Manager of Reuters News (US)
  • Daniel Moss, Executive Editor for economy and International Government, Bloomberg News
  • Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow, The Manhattan Institute
  • Dr. Keith Hall, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
  • John Galvin, Acting Commissioner U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Carl Fillichio, Senior Advisor for Communications and Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor
  • The Honorable Jane Oates Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor


    Correction [6/8/2012]: Daniel Moss was previously misidentified as “executive director of Bloomberg.”

    Whitney is the summer Pulliam/Killgore intern with SPJ. She recently graduated with a BA in Communications, with a print journalism emphasis, from Brigham Young University. Connect with her via email –  wevans@hq.spj.org –  or on twitter – @whitevs7.

 

 

 

 

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