President Trump’s efforts to drain the Washington swamp are being seriously hindered by Deep State, particularly in the State and Justice Departments.
As an example, the State Department just revealed in a federal court hearing that it has yet to process 40,000 of 72,000 pages of Hillary Clinton records that the FBI recovered last year. The revelation came in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails that were sent or received during her tenure from February 2009 to January 31, 2013 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00687)). The case is before Judge James E. Boasberg.
The hearing, which took place last week, focused on the State Department’s progress on processing the tens of thousands of emails Clinton failed to disclose when she served as Secretary of State, some of which were emails sent by Clinton aide Huma Abedin that were found on the laptop of her estranged husband Anthony Weiner.
The State Department has processed 32,000 pages of emails so far, only a small number of which have been released, but 40,000 pages remain to be processed.
We asked the court to require the State Department to identify any records from the seven FBI discs that it intends to withhold, and why, in a timely manner. The State Department disclosed to the court that it was adding extra resources to its FOIA operation but would not commit to a faster production of the Clinton emails.
But right after the hearing, Judge Boasberg ordered the State Department to “explain how its anticipated increase in resources will affect processing of records in this case and when the processing of each disk is likely to be completed.” Surprisingly, the Tillerson State Department and Sessions Justice Department previously argued to the court that there was diminished public interest in the Clinton emails.
In November 2016, the State Department was ordered to produce no fewer than 500 pages of records a month to Judicial Watch, emails which the FBI found in its investigation into Clinton’s non-government email system. The State Department has produced 23 batches of documents so far.
At the current pace, the Clinton emails and other records won’t be fully available for possible release until at least 2020! (We originally filed the lawsuit in May 2015.)
Clinton attempted to delete 33,000 emails from her non-government server. The FBI investigation recovered or found a number of these missing emails, many of which were government documents. We know that some of these recovered emails are in the pile of documents on which the State Department now sits.
Secretary Tillerson should be asked why his State Department is still sitting on this mother lode of Clinton emails. It is disheartening that an administration elected to “drain the swamp” is stalling the release of documents in order to protect Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.
In a related lawsuit, the State Department admitted it received 2,800 Huma Abedin work-related documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that were found on her estranged husband Anthony Weiner’s personal laptop. The State Department expects to complete its review and production of the FBI records by December 31, 2017.
This is all a slow-motion cover-up, and it’s being conducted in a department allegedly reporting to President Trump. The President needs to clean house and get the American people these Clinton documents ASAP!
On November 5, 2009, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, under the influence of a foreign terrorist organization, opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people and injuring dozens. Judicial Watch is proud to help seek justice for one of the heroes from that terrible day.
This week, JW attorneys proudly filed a lawsuit on behalf of Howard M. Berry, the father of the late U.S. Army Sgt. Joshua A. Berry, against the Secretaries of Defense and Army to award the Purple Heart to Sgt. Berry for injuries sustained at Fort Hood (Howard M. Berry v. Ryan D. McCarthy, Acting Secretary of the Army and James Mattis, Secretary of Defense (No. 1:17-cv-02112)).
Sgt. Berry was among the service members injured during the attack.
Following the Fort Hood attack, the Obama administration declined to recognize the mass shooting as an international terrorist attack against the United States. Instead, the attack was characterized as “workplace violence.” As a result, active duty service members injured in the attack were ineligible for the Purple Heart, among other awards and benefits.
In response, Congress enacted legislation in 2014 mandating that service members killed or wounded in an attack targeting members of the armed forces and carried out by an individual in communication with and inspired or motivated by a foreign terrorist organization be eligible for the Purple Heart.
Our lawsuit describes how the late Sgt. Berry was injured during the Fort Hood terrorist attack and should be awarded a Purple Heart:
On November 5, 2009, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan (“Hasan”) opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, killing thirteen people and injuring more than 30 service members and civilians. Sgt. Berry was among the service members injured in the attack. Sgt. Berry was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery, at Fort Hood. He had deployed to Afghanistan for approximately a year in June 2008 and was at Fort Hood as part of a transition program following his return from deployment. He was one of the last soldiers awaiting redeployment to Fort Knox at the time of the attack.
The briefing room in Building 42004 had a set of metal double doors leading to the outside. In witness statements given to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command (“CID”) and in a separate statement given to a Texas Ranger, Sgt. Berry estimated that Hasan fired 30-40 rounds outside Building 42004. Sgt. Berry told those around him to get down on the floor and stay away from the doors and windows. When Sgt. Berry heard gunshots hit the metal doors near him, he leaped over a desk to take cover and, in so doing, dislocated his left shoulder. He then heard Hasan trying to kick in the doors.
According to a witness statement from another individual, Hasan fired three rounds at the briefing room doors.
Investigative photographs and sketches of the SRP center show the layout of buildings and the location of shell casings from the shots fired by Hasan. The photographs and sketches show a number of shell casings around the metal doors of the briefing room where Sgt. Berry was located during the shooting.
Following the attack, Sgt. Berry was admitted to the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood on November 5, 2009, where his dislocated shoulder was surgically repaired.
The attending physician who admitted Sgt. Berry found that Sgt. Berry’s injury occurred during the mass shooting at the SRP center.
Sgt. Berry’s commander found the injury to have been incurred in the line of duty and documented that Sgt. Berry was a casualty of the mass shooting at the SRP center.
On November 6, 2009, Sgt. Berry was entered into the U.S. Army casualty reporting system with a diagnosis of shoulder dislocation as a result of the mass shooting at the SRP center.
A photograph of Sgt. Berry meeting with President Barack Obama at a November 10, 2009 memorial service at Fort Hood, included herewith as Exhibit A, shows Sgt. Berry’s left arm in a sling.
By memorandum dated December 7, 2009, the Fort Hood Installation Adjutant General confirmed that Sgt. Berry’s shoulder dislocation occurred in the line of duty.
CID, the Texas Rangers, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a joint investigation of the shooting and subsequently found probable cause to believe Hasan committed the offense of attempted murder when he fired at Sgt. Berry.
On May 2, 2011, a Physical Evaluation Board found Sgt. Berry unfit for continued military service due to post-traumatic stress disorder, the shoulder injury received in the Fort Hood shooting, and degenerative arthritis of the spine. It recommended a combined disability rating of 80%.
On May 31, 2011, Sgt. Berry was released from active duty and placed on the temporary disability retired list.
On February 13, 2013, Sgt. Berry committed suicide. He was 36 years old. Sgt. Berry is survived by his father and now a 7-year-old daughter.
At his August 2013 court martial, Hasan admitted to being influenced by Anwar Awlaki, chief propagandist for the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorist group.
On February 6, 2015, the Secretary of the Army announced that the Fort Hood attack met the criteria for awards of the Purple Heart. In its review of the mass shooting, the Army found sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan “was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack,” and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could be considered to have been “inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”
The U.S. Army Decorations Board denied Mr. Berry’s application, for a posthumous award of the Purple Heart to his son. In April 2015, the Army awarded the Purple Heart to 47 service members injured in the Fort Hood attack. Sgt. Berry was not among them.
On April 17, 2016, a three-member panel of the Army Board for Correction of Military Records recommended that all Army records concerning Sgt. Berry be corrected by awarding Sgt. Berry the Purple Heart. The panel found “[t]here is no question that [Sgt. Berry’s] injury met the basic medical criteria for award of the [Purple Heart].”
In the lawsuit, we ask the court to declare the Secretary of the Army’s October 28, 2016, decision to be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with the law; to declare that the denial of Berry’s application was unsupported by evidence; and to prevent the Army from continuing to deny Sgt. Berry a Purple Heart.
Sgt. Berry deserves the Purple Heart, and the bureaucracy should stop obstructing his just cause. Frankly, we can’t imagine that President Trump, President Obama (there’s nice picture of Sgt. Berry with President Obama here) or Secretary Mattis would disagree that Sgt. Berry should be posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for the injuries he sustained during the Fort Hood attack.
I’m hoping that some senior official sees fit to take steps to rectify this injustice, so Sgt. Berry’s father can get due recognition for his son. Until then, Judicial Watch will fight in court!
A border wall is important, but equally critical to our safety is the ability to track individuals wishing to do us harm. That requires sophisticated information technology. After eight years of President Obama trying to eliminate our borders it should not be surprising that our border agents are using inadequate, antiquated computer systems. Our Corruption Chronicles blog has the story.
The computer system used by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) front-line border protection agency is slow, frequently blacks out, and can’t prevent the entry of inadmissible aliens with “harmful intent,” a disturbing federal audit reveals. Incredibly, thousands of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents rely on the flawed information technology (IT) system to fulfill their duty of securing the nation’s borders and keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the United States.
“CBP’s IT systems and infrastructure did not fully support its border security objective of preventing the entry of inadmissible aliens to the country,” a DHS Inspector General report states. “The slow performance of a critical pre-screening system greatly reduced Office of Field Operations officers’ ability to identify any passengers who may represent concerns, including national security threats. Further, incoming passenger screening at U.S. international airports was hampered by frequent system outages that created passenger delays and public safety risks. The outages required that CBP officers rely on backup systems that weakened the screening process, leading to officers potentially being unable to identify travelers that may be attempting to enter the United States with harmful intent.”
This may seem inconceivable 16 years after the worst terrorist attack on American soil. CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement agencies with 60,000 employees and annual budget of around $13 billion. It’s a crucial DHS agency that must balance national security with facilitating lawful international travel and trade. On a typical day CBP processes more than a million passengers and pedestrians, 280,000 vehicles and conducts more than 1,000 apprehensions. The agency also has an Air and Marine Operations (AMO) that protects sea borders by interception inadmissible aliens and cargo approaching American borders. The division has about 1,800 agents, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The agency watchdog found that “frequent network outages hindered air and marine surveillance operations, greatly reducing the situational awareness needed to detect inadmissible aliens and cargo approaching U.S. borders.”
Information technology is a critical part of CBP’s operations and the agency has a special Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) to assure everything is functioning properly. The office is charged with providing effective technology, infrastructure and communications to adequately carry out border security operations. It’s also well funded to the tune of $1.4 billion in 2016, the DHS IG report says. That accounts for the largest IT budget within DHS, comprising around 23% of DHS’s $6.2 billion IT budget.
The CBP IT division also has a staff of around 5,200, including nearly 2,000 federal employees and thousands of contractors. This is a big-time and handsomely funded enterprise that should run smoothly and effectively. Instead, it’s notorious for being inefficient and dangerously unreliable.
As an example of traveler delays and safety issues, the DHS report offers recent system outages that affected about 119,774 international travelers nationwide. More than 10,000 arrived at Miami International Airport and the backlog created “hazards and security concerns,” the audit says. CBP had to call local police and fire departments to help mitigate the risks, and 258 CBP officers worked 762 overtime hours, resulting in more than $58,000 in overtime pay. The incident “created numerous secondary challenges and risks, including difficulties with crowd control, temperature, health emergencies and officer and public safety,” according to the audit.
Border Patrol agents face similar issues with a system known as e3 that’s famously slow and suffers lots of outages. Agents are frequently unable to carry out border apprehension and enforcement activities, DHS investigators found, with the most common outages related to a key portal that shares information in real time with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE). Some of the outages were prolonged and others occurred monthly. “The most significant impact of outages and slow processing in the e3 system was Border Patrol agents’ inability to meet court deadlines for submitting information about criminal aliens for possible prosecution,” The report states. For example, 48 individuals apprehended in the Tucson sector of the southwest border were not prosecuted in 2015 due to late records submissions. The same Border Patrol sector missed the deadline for transferring records for another 36 individuals due to e3 system failures.
CBP management does not dispute any of the findings in this alarming report. The question is, what will the agency do to fix the problem.
As you can see, building a wall may be necessary but won’t be sufficient to secure our borders as long as Big Government bureaucracy remains ascendant.
Until next week …