Obama Administration wants License to Lie Op/Ed

The Examiner
October 31, 2011

It’s not often that the liberal American Civil Liberties Union and conservative Judicial Watch agree on anything, but the Obama administration’s lack of transparency has brought the two together. Obama’s Justice Department has proposed a regulatory change that would weaken the Freedom of Information Act. Under the new rules, the government could falsely respond to those who file FOIA requests that a document does not exist if it pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation, concerns a terrorist organization, or a counterintelligence operation involving a foreign nation.

There are two problems with the Obama proposal to allow federal officials to affirmatively assert that a requested document doesn’t exist when it does. First, by not citing a specific exemption allowed under the FOIA as grounds for denying a request, the proposal would cut off a requestor from appealing to the courts. By thus creating an area of federal activity that is completely exempt from judicial review, the proposal undercuts due process and other constitutional protections. Second, by creating a justification for government lying to FOIA requestors in one area, a legal precedent is created that sooner or later will be asserted by the government in other areas as well.

Under FOIA’s current national security exemption, bureaucrats can already deny access to documents without acknowledging their existence. This was noted by the ACLU (joined by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and OpentheGovernment.com) in a comment on the proposal. In instances where there is a legitimate grounds for not confirming a document’s existence, “the agency should simply respond that ‘we interpret all or part of your request as a request for records which, if they exist, would not be subject to the disclosure requirements of FOIA pursuant to section 552(c), and we therefore will not process that portion of your request.’ This response requires no change to the current FOIA regulation.” Such a response would preserve a requestor’s right to appeal to a federal court.

Chris Farrell, director of investigations and research for Judicial Watch, may have the answer for why the Obama administration wants the new liar’s rule. Judicial Watch has been fighting the White House over a FOIA request for copies of its visitor logs. The White House insists, absurdly, that the documents are theirs, not the property of the Secret Service, and therefore withholdable. “Every day,” Farrell notes, “the Obama administration misrepresents and conceals the true, complete record of who is going in and out of the White House — all the while proclaiming themselves champions of transparency. It’s truly Orwellian.” The proposed new rule could add a patina of legality to the refusal to acknowledge the existence of the visitors logs as White House documents. Despite its flaws, FOIA is one of the few checks on excessive executive branch power. It should not be weakened by Obama’s proposed “license to lie.”

 

What is the White House Trying to Hide?

The Obama administration refuses to make public the log of visitors as well as documents from the Solyndra scandal.

Politico.com
October 15, 2011

The Obama administration is appealing a judge’s ruling that Secret Service records of visitors to the White House complex are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Justice Department filed a formal notice of appeal Friday afternoon regarding U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell’s August ruling rejecting arguments that the so-called WAVES records belong to the White House even though they are maintained and used by the Secret Service.

The decision to appeal the ruling to the D.C. Circuit would appear to be in tension with Obama’s repeated pledges to operate the most transparent administration in history. The White House announced in Sept. 2009 that it was voluntarily releasing the names of most White House visitors from Sept. 15 forward. However, the conservative group Judicial Watch sought information on visits before that date.

The position taken by the Obama Justice Department, namely that White House visitor records are presidential records and not agency records, is essentially the same one that the department took under President George W. Bush.

Howell did not rule that every White House visit had to be disclosed. However, she concluded that all the data had to be made public unless the government asserted a specific exemption from FOIA, such as provisions protecting national security and privacy.

There was no immediate comment on the appeal from the White House or the Justice Department.

And on Solyndra…

CNN.com
October 15, 2011

Congress isn’t getting a glimpse of what’s on President Barack Obama’s Blackberry – or any more internal White House communications related to the bankrupt solar company Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government.

House Republicans investigating the loan controversy had requested all internal White House documents about the issue. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chair Rep. Cliff Stearns said that includes emails on the President’s Blackberry.

On Friday the White House Counsel sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee explaining they won’t comply with the request because it “implicates longstanding and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”

The response is hardly a surprise given past administrations’ refusal to comply with similar congressional requests. The difference here? President Obama is the first Chief Executive to carry a Blackberry, so it’s the first time a White House counsel has – even indirectly – turned down an attempt to peek at his email. Neither the Blackberry nor his personal email is explicitly mentioned in the letter.

On October 5, Republican Chairmen Fred Upton and Cliff Stearns requested “all communications among White House staff and officials related to the $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra” because they believed “the White House was closely involved in the monitoring of the Solyndra loan guarantee after it was issued.”

They said these documents are necessary “to better understand the involvement of the White house in the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee and the Administration’s support of this guarantee.’

In her letter Friday, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said, “the three federal agencies most directly involved in the Solyndra loan guarantee, the Department of Energy, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury, are all cooperating with the Committee’s investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee.”

Together she says the three agencies have turned over 70,000 pages of documents and are continuing to do so “on a rolling basis.” The letter states the White House has turned over another 900 pages related to communications between the White House and Solyndra, its representatives and investors. She offers to cooperate further with the investigators.

CNN has attempted to reach the Chairs of the Energy and Commerce Committee for comment. Expect some kind of political fallout.

Solyndra is a California solar panel manufacturer that had received $535 million in federal loan guarantees before it was forced to halt operations and file for bankruptcy at the end of August, putting more than 1,000 workers out of work.

Before its failure, the company had been touted as an example of the benefits of creating green jobs by the Obama administration. But since then, it has become the center of congressional criticism and a probe by the FBI.

Brian Harrison, the CEO of Solyndra, resigned Wednesday amidst the scandal.

Mitch McConnell suggests all power should go to the President

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
July 12, 2011

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell has proposed a drastic solution to the administration’s insistence that the debt ceiling be raised against the wishes of many lawmakers, by handing over the power of the purse, an authority clearly invested in Congress according to the US Constitution, to Barack Obama’s White House.

Republican Senator, Mitch McConnell

“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) floated a novel way out of default Tuesday, suggesting that Congress give up its power to raise the debt ceiling, and instead effectively transfer that authority — and the political pain that comes with it — to the White House for the remainder of Obama’s current term,” reports the Huffington Post.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he will seriously consider the proposal.

The US Constitution clearly states that Congress has the exclusive authority to raise and spend money. Article I section 8 states, “The Congress shall have Power….to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States,” and to “borrow Money on the credit of the United States.” This authority is commonly referred to as the “power of the purse”.

If this plan goes forward it represents yet another alarming advance in the Obama administration’s establishment of an executive dictatorship, which we have documented at length.

 

U.S. Admiral Admits Attempt to Assassinate Qaddafi

By Josh Rogin
FP
June 24, 2011

The top U.S. admiral involved in the Libya war admitted to a U.S. congressman that NATO forces are trying to kill Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi. The same admiral also said he anticipated the need for ground troops in Libya after Qaddafi falls, according to the lawmaker.

House Armed Services Committee member Mike Turner (R-OH) told The Cable that U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the NATO Joint Operations Command in Naples, Italy, told him last month that NATO forces are actively targeting and trying to kill Qaddafi, despite the fact that the Obama administration continues to insist that “regime change” is not the goal and is not authorized by the U.N. mandate authorizing the war.

“The U.N. authorization had three components: blockade, no fly zone, and civil protection. And Admiral Locklear explained that the scope of civil protection was being interpreted to permit the removal of the chain of command of Qaddafi’s military, which includes Qaddafi,” Turner said. “He said that currently is the mission as NATO has defined.”

“I believed that we were [targeting Qaddafi] but that confirmed it,” Turner said. “I believe the scope that NATO is pursuing is beyond what is contemplated in civil protection, so they’re exceeding the mission.”

Later in the same briefing, Turner said, Locklear maintained that the NATO mission does not include regime change. “Well, certainly if you remove Qaddafi it will affect regime change,” Turner said that he replied. “[Locklear] did not have an answer to that.”

Locklear also said that, upon Qaddafi’s removal, ground troops would be needed during the immediate period of instability, Turner said. In fact, Locklear said publicly that a “small force” might be necessary following the collapse of the Qaddafi regime in a May 30 conference in Varna, Bulgaria.

Turner joined hundreds of other lawmakers in voting against authorizing the Libya war on Friday morning. The authorization resolution was defeated 123 to 297. A subsequent vote on a bill to defund the Libya mission also failed 180-238 .

Turner has been opposed to the Libya war from the start and even introduced a resolution opposing the effort. For him, Friday’s chaotic Libya debate was a direct result of the administration’s neglect and disrespect of Congress throughout the debate over the mission.

“The president hasn’t come to Congress and said any of this, and yet Admiral Locklear is pursuing the targeting of Qaddafi’s regime, Qaddafi himself, and contemplating ground troops following Qaddafi’s removal,” Turner said. “They’re not being straightforward with Congress… It’s outrageous.”

Ignoring Congress allowed the administration to ignore the large, looming questions about the Libya war that congressmen are asking — especially today, as another vote to defund the mission looms before the House next month, when the defense appropriations bill is set to be debated. But if the House does vote to defund the mission, Turner said, Obama will have nobody to blame but himself.

“I believe that this administration has handled this so badly, that if they had come to Congress, I think they would have done more of their homework. They have not done a full assessment of their mission, its scope, or the consequences if they’re successful. Congress would have required that,” Turner said. “Now it’s a little late.”

Obamacare has its day in Court

Judges sharply challenge healthcare law

Washington Post
June 8, 2011

Skeptical questions from three federal judges in Atlanta suggest they may be ready to declare unconstitutional all or part of the healthcare law promoted by the Obama administration and passed last year by Congress.

A top Obama administration lawyer defending last year’s healthcare law ran into skeptical questions Wednesday from three federal judges here, who suggested they may be ready to declare all or part of the law unconstitutional.

Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal K. Katyal faced off against former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement in what has become the largest and broadest challenge to the healthcare law. In all, 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business joined in urging the judges to strike down the law.

And in an ominous sign for the administration, the judges opened the arguments by saying they knew of no case in American history where the courts had upheld the government’s power to force someone to buy a product.

That argument is at the heart of the constitutional challenge to the healthcare law and its mandate that nearly all Americans have health insurance by 2014.

“I can’t find any case like this,” said Chief Judge Joel Dubina of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. “If we uphold this, are there any limits” on the power of the federal government? he asked.

Judge Stanley Marcus appeared to agree. “I can’t find any case” in the past where the courts upheld “telling a private person they are compelled to purchase a product in the open market…. Is there anything that suggests Congress can do this?”

Katyal argued that healthcare is unique and unlike purchasing other products, like vegetables in a grocery store. “You can walk out of this courtroom and be hit by a bus,” he said. And if such a person has no insurance, a hospital and the taxpayers will have to pay the costs of his emergency care, he said.

Katyal argued that Congress could reasonably decide that since everyone will likely need medical care at some time in their lives, everyone who can afford it should pay part of the cost. And he said the courts should uphold the law under Congress’ broad power to regulate commerce in this country.

Judge Frank Hull, the third member of the panel, repeatedly asked the lawyers about the possible effect of the court striking down the mandate, while upholding the rest of the law. She said the government had exaggerated the importance of the mandate. It will affect about 10 million persons at most, not the roughly 50 million who are uninsured now. She said the other parts of the law will extend insurance to tens of millions of persons.

The Atlanta court is reviewing a decision of Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla. In January, he struck down the entire 2,700-page law as unconstitutional.

Dubina, from Alabama, was first appointed to the bench by President Reagan and was elevated to the appeals court byPresident George H.W. Bush. Hull, from Georgia, was appointed by President Clinton. The third member of the panel, Marcus, from Florida, was first appointed as a district judge by Reagan, but Clinton appointed him to the appeals court.

Already, appeals courts in Richmond, Va., and Cincinnati have heard legal challenges to the healthcare law, and a fourth hearing is set for September in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The challengers hope that at least one of those appeals courts strikes down the law as unconstitutional. Such a ruling would almost certainly require the Supreme Court to take up the case and decide the issue.

Clement hammered away at the theme that the government mandate to have health insurance was unlike any law in American history. “In 220 years, Congress never saw fit to use this power, to compel to engage in commerce.”

Despite the skeptical questions that greeted the administration’s advocates, the three judges did not clearly signal how they intend to rule.

Hull pointed out that the Supreme Court has upheld laws that involve regulation of economic matters, and the decision of whether to buy health insurance is clearly “an economic decision,” she said.

Katyal said that even the challengers agreed that persons who show up at a hospital seeking treatment could be required to buy insurance on the spot. If so, he said, why can’t the government require they buy it in advance?