Entries in DOJ (6)


Two Judges Have Harsh Words for Federal Officials

Photo By Tom Williams/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Two judicial opinions this week in two very different cases had scathing language for federal officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice.

In the first case, Judge Edward R. Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York criticized Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding emergency contraceptives that can be taken to reduce the risk of pregnancy after unprotected intercourse.

Last month, the court ruled against the administration and ordered that levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptives be available over the counter and without point-of sale age restrictions. The government asked for a stay of that decision.

On Friday, Korman eviscerated Sebelius. He noted that the debate over the contraceptives has gone on for more than 12 years, “even though they would be among the safest drugs available to children and adults on any drugstore shelf.”

In 2011, the FDA concluded that one version of the drug could be sold without a prescription or an age restriction. But Sebelius reversed the FDA.

The judge said that decision was “politically motivated” and was “so unpersuasive as to call into question her good faith.”

He added that if a stay was to be granted, “It will allow the bad-faith, politically motivated decision of Secretary Sebelius, who lacks any medical or scientific expertise, to prevail – thus justifiably undermining the public’s confidence in the drug approval process.”

And he didn’t stop there. He said the FDA was negotiating a “sweetheart agreement” with one drug manufacturer. He told the government that its appeal was “frivolous and is taken for the purpose of delay,” but out of courtesy to the Court of Appeals he would allow the parties until May 13 to file their appeal in that court.

The other case, concerning the death penalty, included the dissent of a justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Lawyers for death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning filed an emergency motion to stay his execution after the Department of Justice acknowledged errors in FBI hair analysis testimony during Manning’s trial.

In an 8-1 vote, the court granted the stay May 7. But one justice, Michael Randolph, wrote a scathing dissent.

Randolph said that Manning had had access to hair and other forensic evidence for years and shouldn’t have been granted the 11th-hour reprieve.

But what really set the judge off was DOJ’s admission that it was conducting a review of the issues with the Innocence Project.

Randolph noted that the Innocence Project is opposed to the death penalty. And here’s what he said about the review:  ”Although the connectivity and expediency by which this review was accomplished is mind-boggling, I should not be surprised, given that the families of victims of the clandestine ‘Fast and Furious’ gun-running operation can’t get the Department of Justice to identify the decision makers (whose actions resulted in the death of a border agent and many others) after years of inquiry, and that this is the same Department of Justice that grants and enforced Miranda warnings to foreign enemy combatants.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Labor Secretary Nominee Faces GOP Scrutiny

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Labor nominee Thomas Perez faced two hours of intense scrutiny at his nomination hearing Thursday morning as he sought to alleviate Republican concerns over his role in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.

At issue is a lengthy report released earlier this week in which GOP leaders accuse Perez of attempting to influence the city of St. Paul, Minn., to withdraw a housing discrimination case before it could be brought before the Supreme Court. In exchange, the Department of Justice agreed not to intervene in two whistleblower cases against St. Paul that could have won up to $200 million for taxpayers.

Sen. Lamar Alexander engaged Perez in a heated line of questioning, accusing Perez of doing “an extraordinary amount of wheeling and dealing.”

“You have a duty to protect the money, a duty to protect the whistle-blower, and at the same time, it seems to me that you’re manipulating the legal process to try to get the result you want from the Supreme Court in a way that’s inappropriate,” Alexander, R-Tenn., said.

Perez defended his actions, saying that the Department of Justice chooses not to stay out of “a lot of different things.”

“It was in the interest of justice and it was entirely appropriate to do so in the opinion of professional responsibility people and others,” he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “I believe the resolution reached in this case was in fact in the interest of justice.”

Democratic senators had kind words for Perez. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., introduced him as “one of Maryland’s favorite sons,” saying “we believe he is the right man for the job.”

Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash., joined in the praise, adding “you have a very amazing, impressive, wide range of experience that you are bringing from a number of different agencies...You’re something of a turn-around expert for public sector agencies, so thank you for that.”

When asked what his very top priority would be should he be confirmed as Secretary of Labor, Perez had one answer: “jobs, jobs, jobs.”

He expanded on his goals and priorities, including reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act, maintaining pension security, and spending his first 100 days as secretary on a listening tour of America, reaching out to small businesses and workers alike.

“The president has asked all of us to consider three questions in the decisions we make,” Perez said. “How do we make America a magnet for jobs? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to succeed in those jobs, and how do we ensure that an honest day’s work leads to a decent living?”

Perez concluded, “These questions are at the core of the mission of the Department of Labor, and if confirmed you have my word that I will keep them there.”

The committee is expected to vote on Perez’s nomination on Thursday, April 25.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Anonymous Hijacks Federal Website, Threatens DOJ Document Dump

Fuse/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Activists from the hacker collective known as Anonymous assumed control over the homepage of a Department of Justice agency on Saturday morning.

In a manifesto left on the defaced page, the group demanded reform to the American justice system and what the activists said are threats to the free flow of information.

The lengthy essay largely mirrors previous demands from Anonymous, but this time the group also cited the recent suicide of Reddit co-founder and activist Aaron Swartz as has having “crossed a line” for the group. Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison on computer fraud charges.

Prosecutors said he had stolen thousands of digital scientific and academic journal articles from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the goal of disseminating them for free.

Anonymous says Swartz was “killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win — a twisted and distorted perversion of justice — a game where the only winning move was not to play.”

“There must be a return to proportionality of punishment with respect to actual harm caused,” it reads, also mentioning recent arrests of Anonymous associates by the FBI.

In their statement, the hackers say they targeted the homepage of the Federal Sentencing Commission for “symbolic” reasons.

The group claimed that if their demands were not met they would release a trove of embarrassing internal Justice Department documents to media outlets. Anonymous named the files after Supreme Court justices and provided links to them, but the links yielded dead-ends of mostly offline sites.

The file names use an “.aes256″ suffix, denoting a common encryption protocol. The same system was used to encrypt the Wikileaks Afghan war documents before their release.

As of press time, the commission webpage had been taken down.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Top DOJ Official Admits Mistakes on ATF Gun Case Briefings -- Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has admitted that he made mistakes after being briefed last year about questionable tactics from a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gunrunning investigation.

Breuer apologized Monday for not raising the issue in 2010 with senior leadership within the Department of Justice as prosecutors moved to indict the case, which spanned back to 2006.

Documents and Justice Department e-mails sent to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Monday as part of the congressional investigation into the ATF’s gun operation Fast and Furious reveal new information into another controversial ATF operation, called Wide Receiver.
Operation Wide Receiver pre-dated Fast and Furious, originating in March 2006 during the Bush administration.

The ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona were investigating the gun trafficking case but did not press charges until the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Gang Unit moved forward with the case in 2009 and moved to bring indictments in 2010.

As Wide Receiver moved closer towards indictment, Justice Department officials in the criminal division noted serious concerns about ATF’s tactics in the case by letting guns walk into Mexico.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein wrote in an April 12, 2010 e-mail that he wanted to set up a briefing for Assistant Attorney General Breuer with the gang unit and officials at ATF Headquarters.

“Knowing what I now know was a pattern of unacceptable and misguided tactics used by the ATF, I regret that I did not alert others within the leadership of the Department of Justice to the tactics used in Operation Wide Receiver when they first came to my attention,” Breuer said in a statement released Monday.

The documents were released Monday  as part of the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious — the ATF operation that allowed guns to “walk” across the U.S. border into Mexico in an effort to locate major weapons traffickers, rather than catching the low-level buyers. The operation took a tragic toll when two weapons found on the scene where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in December 2010 were linked to Fast and Furious.

Breuer and Attorney General Eric Holder have been held to task about what they knew about operation Fast and Furious. Attorney General Holder maintained he did not know the specifics of the ATF strategy when pressed at a Congressional hearing last spring.

Breuer is expected to testify by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday on the topic of organized crime.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


DOJ Budget: Boosts for FBI, Prisons; Cuts for Grants, Drug Intel Programs

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As part of President Obama's budget proposal, the U.S. Department of Justice is requesting $28.2 billion for 2012. The DOJ has also identified $2 billion in savings and efficiencies with cuts to the Drug Intelligence Center, the elimination of a DEA Task Force and cuts to some grant programs. Law enforcement work done by the FBI, U.S. Marshals, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are receiving overall increases.
One area that is receiving a boost in funding is the issue of prison and detentions, which is getting a 10-percent increase to deal with the increasing prison population and increased detention of immigration violators. According to DOJ officials, there will be approximately 11,000 new federal prisoners incarcerated in Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities over the next two years. The department is looking at revising how “Good Time” is calculated in prisons to reduce some prison terms. The DOJ estimates this could provide savings of $41 million.
The DOJ is also increasing their funding to their national security mission by increasing spending on security programs by $128 million. This includes boosting funding to FBI’s computer intrusion programs to investigate cybersecurity crimes by expanding the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force. The FBI is also receiving an increase to their electronic surveillance programs to monitor new and emerging technology with court-authorized intercepts. Such an increase would establish a Domestic Communications Assistance Center and a new Data Intercept Technology Unit.

Several significant cuts are also due for DOJ programs, including the elimination of the DEA's Mobile Enforcements Teams ($39.1 million savings), the National Drug Intelligence Center ($19 million savings) as well as a 16-percent cut for administrative and technological upgrades.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Justice Department to Monitor Polls on Election Day

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – The U.S. Department of Justice will monitor polls in 18 states on Election Day, according to a department news release.

The department’s Civil Rights Division plans to send more than 400 federal observers and personnel to 30 jurisdictions in order to ensure all citizens are able to access the ballot Tuesday.

Personnel will be on hand to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. The act requires that certain jurisdictions provide language assistance during the election process.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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