Entries in Attorney General (5)


Attorney General Appoints Federal Prosecutors for Leak Investigations

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder ordered two federal prosecutors Friday night to open criminal investigations into a series of national security leaks to the news media.

Holder appointed Ron Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Colombia, and Rod Rosenstein to lead the criminal investigations into recent leaks concerning a disrupted bomb plot by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and a New York Times story about President Obama ordering cyber-attacks against Iran with the Stuxnet computer worm.

“These two highly-respected and experienced prosecutors will be directing separate investigations currently being conducted by the FBI,” Holder said in a statement.  “I have every confidence in their abilities to doggedly follow the facts and the evidence in the pursuit of justice, wherever it leads.”

The appointment of the prosecutors comes days after the chairmen and ranking members of the Congressional Intelligence Committees and other members of Congress expressed outrage over the recent leaks.  Some members were calling for Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the leaks, but Holder’s move may neutralize those calls.

Earlier this week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took to the Senate floor and implied the leaks were released by the White House for political purposes.

“A really disturbing aspect of this is that one could draw the conclusion from reading these articles that it is an attempt to further the president’s political ambitions for the sake of his re-election at the expense of our national security,” McCain said on the Senate floor late Tuesday.

“The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive. It’s wrong,” the president told reporters at the White House on Friday.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney bristled that McCain had alleged the leaks were coming from the White House.

“Any suggestion that this administration has authorized intentional leaks of classified information for political gain is grossly irresponsible,” Carney said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


NRA Turns Up Heat on AG Holder for 'Fast and Furious' Controversy

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The National Rifle Association is turning up the heat on Attorney General Eric Holder, running television ads charging that he committed perjury in Congressional testimony about the controversial “Fast and Furious” undercover, gun-running operation.  The ad calls on President Obama to fire Holder.

Things could get even hotter for the attorney general on Tuesday, when he returns to Congress to be questioned again about Fast and Furious.

The NRA ad is the latest salvo in a battle between critics in Congress and the Justice Department on the controversial “gun-walking” operation.  Run by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Fast and Furious involved tracking weapons sold to straw purchasers, who then passed the guns along to their hidden buyers in the Mexican drug cartels.

Hundreds of guns flowed into Mexico under the program, while ATF agents watched and did nothing.  The ATF says it hoped to track the guns to their ultimate destination, and then make arrests.  Instead, many of the guns were used in crimes, including one that was used in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

The controversy has focused on testimony Holder provided to the House Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2011.  During that hearing, Rep. Darell Issa, R-Calif., who is spearheading the Congressional investigation, asked Holder, “When did you first know about the program officially, I believe, called Fast and Furious?  To the best of your knowledge, what date?”

Holder answered: “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released last month a series of Justice Department memos sent to Holder’s office going back to July 2010, that made reference about the gun trafficking investigation being run out of Arizona.

Justice Department officials say the memos are only generic updates and offer no detail or specifics of ATF strategies to allow the guns to pass in large numbers.

Holder has stood by his previous statements, writing to members of Congress on Oct. 7, “Much has been made in the past few days about my Congressional testimony earlier this year regarding Fast and Furious.  My testimony was truthful and accurate and I have been consistent on this point throughout.  I have no recollection of knowing about Fast and Furious or of hearing its name prior to the public controversy about it."

In prepared testimony released Monday evening, Holder reiterates previous comments about the flawed operation in a statement, asserting, “This operation was flawed in concept, as well as in execution.  And, unfortunately, we will feel its effects for years to come as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crimes scenes both here and in Mexico.  This should never have happened.  And it must never happen again.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


9/11 Families Meet with AG Eric Holder About Phone Hacking Scandal

Chris Hondros/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder met with a small group of 9/11 family members to discuss what he called "very disturbing" phone hacking allegations against Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and its now-defunct newspaper, News of the World.

The United States' look at the alleged hacking of phones of 9/11 victims and their family members comes just weeks after it was revealed that News of the World journalists engaged in a systemic conspiracy to pay bribes to British police and private investigators to hack into people's phones in Britain.

"It is fair to say we are pleased with the meeting with the attorney general," said Norman Siegel, an attorney who is representing some of the 9/11 families, after the meeting. "The allegations with regard to potential hacking of the 9/11 victims and their families is a very serious and substantial allegation.

"Hopefully the allegations turn out to be not true," Siegel said. "The 9/11 families have had too many tragedies already."

Holder met with the 9/11 families for about 75 minutes at the Justice Department headquarters along with Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigative division and other officials.

The investigation is being run by Justice Department officials and FBI agents in New York and Washington, and assets from FBI headquarters.

"From everything we saw today it appears that the government is taking these allegations very seriously," said Peter Gadiel, whose son James died in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks.

Siegel said that the 9/11 family members who attended the meeting made three recommendations to the FBI and Justice Department officials: that the FBI get the 9/11 victims and family members cellphone numbers to see if the numbers were accessed after 9/11, that they expand the focus and scope of the investigation to look not only at cellphones but at computer records and emails, and that they look at news stories to see if personal information could only have come from hacking into phones or emails.

Justice Department officials declined to discuss the scope of the investigation other than to say it was in its preliminary stages, but the Justice Department and the FBI have established a hotline for the 9/11 family members to report any tips or concerns to law enforcement.

The family members said Holder and the FBI officials did not disclose if a grand jury had been convened to review information in the investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New York Attorney General Demands Earthquake Study On Nuclear Plant

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman demanded Friday that federal nuclear regulators investigate the earthquake readiness of a nuclear power plant just north of New York City before they renew its license to operate. The Indian Point Energy Center, 24 miles from the city in Buchanan, N.Y., has been leaking water from a safety lining since 1993.

"It is beyond troubling that at the same time the federal government acknowledges increased seismic safety risk at some nuclear power plants in this country, it refuses to fully and openly assess these specific risks to Indian Point as part of its relicensing process," said Schneiderman at a press conference Friday, a week after a massive earthquake damaged nuclear reactors in Japan. "While the possibility of an intense earthquake is low, the potential for harm is so catastrophic that it has to be taken into account. . . . We are adamant that the relicensing of Indian Point not go forward until seismic risks are evaluated."

In 2007 Entergy, the Louisiana-based company that runs Indian Point, applied for a 20-year license extension for its operating reactors. The decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is expected in 2013. In a letter to the NRC, Schneiderman declared that the agency must amend its regulations to include seismicity in the scope of its licensing review.

Entergy says the site can withstand a 6.0 quake. Two fault lines intersect just north of Indian Point, but the biggest earthquake in New York in the past 70 years measured 5.8 and occurred near the Canadian border.

Both Schneiderman and his predecessor as attorney general, current New York governor Andrew Cuomo, have been harsh critics of the plant because of the potential danger it poses to those living nearby. More than 20 million people live within 50 miles of its two operating reactors. Cuomo ordered a state safety review of the plant Thursday.

In a move that may complicate the relicensing, the state has denied a request for water-quality certification of the plant, saying that the cooling plants "do not and will not comply with existing New York State water quality standards."

Schneiderman said he is also concerned about the spent fuel rods that are currently in a decommissioned reactor on site. "We know from Japan that there is long-term risk from nuclear waste stored at Indian Point," said Schneiderman.

An NRC spokesperson declined to comment to ABC News about Schneiderman's statements, but said that the agency would respond to the Attorney General's letter after reviewing it.

Fed Official: 'Insane' To Have Reactors So Close To NYC

Indian Point, where the first reactor was licensed in 1962, has been controversial for decades. In 1979, Roberty Ryan, director of the NRC's Office of State Programs, told a presidential commission, "I think it is insane to have a three-unit reactor on the Hudson River in Westchester County, 40 miles from Times Square, 20 miles from the Bronx."

"I'm sorry," said Ryan. "I just don't think that that's the right place to put a nuclear facility."

More than 30 years later, Indian Point has become the focal point of government and scientific community pressure to repair or shut many of the nation's aging and leaking plants. Indian Point is one of dozens of U.S. plants with licenses scheduled to expire by 2015.

On Thursday, the Union of Concerned Scientists called new attention to the leak at Indian Point , which is in a lining in the refueling cavity that is meant to stop leakage of radioactive materials in the event of an earthquake.

"NRC inspectors at Indian Point recently found that the liner has been leaking 2 to 20 gallons per minute since at least 1993 and that the plant owner has not yet delivered on repeated promises to fix the leak," said the activist group in a report. "That means the device installed to prevent leakage after an earthquake is leaking before an earthquake even occurs."

"By allowing this reactor to continue operating with equipment that cannot perform its only safety function, the NRC is putting people living around Indian Point at elevated and undue risk," the report says.

A spokesperson for Entergy said the container that is leaking is only filled during refueling, which occurs every two years, and leakage from the structure is captured and pumped out.

"This is something we have been aware of and the NRC is aware of, and there are no safety issues with it," the spokesman said. "There is no leak of fuel."

Indian Point Safety Issues

But Indian Point's safety issues have not been confined to a single leak. In 2005, Entergy reported leakage in the spent fuel pool of reactor two, resulting in the emission of strontium and tritium. There was leakage from the spent fuel pool in reactor one in 2008.

In 2009, 100,000 gallons of water contaminated with trace amounts of tritium leaked out through a broken pipe. Indian Point is one of about two-dozen plants in the U.S. that have reported tritium leaks. The NRC noted that the amount of tritium was well below the level allowed to be released.

In 2010, the state denied Entergy's request for water-quality certification at the plant, saying that Indian Point's two operating units violate state law and the federal Clean Water Act because they kill close to 1 billion marine organisms annually, including an endangered sturgeon, while consuming 2.5 billion gallons of water per day.

Even skeptical scientists acknowledge, however, that so far, the environmental concerns at Indian Point and other aging reactors around the country fall short of the potential for catastrophe.

"The chances of a disaster at a nuclear plant are low," the Union of Concerned Scientists noted. "When the NRC finds safety problems and ensures that owners address them -- as happened last year at Oconee (Georgia), Browns Ferry (Alabama), and Kewaunee (Wisconsin) -- it keeps the risk posed by nuclear power to workers and the public as low as practical. But when the NRC tolerates unresolved safety problems -- as it did last year at Peach Bottom (Pennsylvania), Indian Point, and Vermont Yankee -- this lax oversight allows that risk to rise. The more owners sweep safety problems under the rug and the longer safety problems remain uncorrected, the higher the risk climbs."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Attorney General's Blunt Warning on Terror Attacks

Photo Courtesy - U.S. Department of Justice(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder has an urgent message for Americans. While he is confident that the United States will continue to thwart attacks, "the terrorists only have to be successful once."  And while it is not certain we will be hit, the American people, he told ABC News, "have to be prepared for potentially bad news."

"What I am trying to do in this interview is to make people aware of the fact that the threat is real, the threat is different, the threat is constant," he said.

In a rare and wide-ranging interview, the attorney general disclosed chilling, new details about the evolving threat of homegrown terror, and touched on topics ranging from Wikileaks to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.  What was uppermost on his mind, however, is the alarming rise in the number of Americans who are more than willing to attack and kill their fellow citizens.

"It is one of the things that keeps me up at night," Holder said.  "You didn't worry about this even two years ago -- about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we now do.  And -- that is of -- of great concern."

"The threat has changed from simply worrying about foreigners coming here, to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens -- raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born," he said.

In the last 24 months, Holder said, 126 people have been indicted on terrorist-related charges.  Fifty of those people are American citizens.

"I think that what is most alarming to me is the totality of what we see, the attorney general said.  "Whether it is an attempt to bomb the New York City subway system, an attempt to bring down an airplane over Detroit, an attempt to set off a bomb in Times Square...I think that gives us a sense of the breadth of the challenges that we face, and the kinds of things that our enemy is trying to do."´╗┐

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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