Posts Tagged ‘Dennis Blair’
Thursday, February 4th, 2010

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, today blasted Attorney General Eric Holder’s defense of the Justice Department’s handling of the alleged Christmas Day bomber.

Jeff Sessions (Getty Images)

Holder on Wednesday wrote in a letter to Senate Republican leaders — including Sessions — that he made the decision to bring criminal charges against the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Holder added that his decision is “fully consistent” with the practices and policies of the federal government.

That did not satisfy Sessions. “I think this letter, in terms of accuracy and professionalism, fails,” Sessions said in remarks at a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting today. “We’re entitled to better than this.”

Conservative senators have been critical of the administration’s decision to charge the alleged bomber criminally rather than put him in military custody for interrogation. Senators have sent numerous letters to Attorney General condemning the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a civilian. Read our previous reports on three of the letters here, here and here.

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans yesterday demanded a hearing with Holder. Panel Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said one is already in the works for March.

Here are some passages from Holder’s letter that Sessions criticized:

  • Holder: “I made the decision to charge Mr. Abdulmutallab with federal crimes, and to seek his detention in connection with those charges, with the knowledge of, and with no objection from, all other relevant departments of the government.”
    • Sessions: “This statement stands in stark contrast to the testimony of Homeland Security Secretary [Janet] Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter, and FBI Director Robert Mueller, all of whom said they were not consulted on the decision. And in fact, it does appear from the letter, if you read it carefully, that the decision was made before they were notified. It had already been made and a lawyer had already been appointed and he’d clammed up.”
  • Holder: “Since the September 11,2001 attacks, the practice of the U.S. government, followed by prior and current Administrations without a single exception, has been to arrest and detain under federal criminal law all terrorist suspects who are apprehended inside the United States. The prior Administration adopted policies expressly endorsing this approach.” He added: “In fact, two (and only two) persons apprehended in this country in recent times have been held under the law of war. Jose Padilla was arrested on a federal material witness warrant in 2002, and was transferred to law of war custody approximately one month later, after his court-appointed counsel moved to vacate the warrant. Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri was also initially arrested on a material witness warrant in 2001, was indicted on federal criminal charges (unrelated to terrorism) in 2002, and then transferred to law of war custody approximately eighteen months later.”
    • Sessions: “These two statements cannot be reconciled.”
  • Holder: “In Mr. Padilla’s case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the President did not have the authority to detain him under the law of war.”
    • Sessions: “He cites the holding of the reversed Second Circuit decision—that the President lacks the authority to detain a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant on U.S. soil—without mentioning that the Supreme Court ruled one year later, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, that ‘[t]here is no bar to this Nation’s holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant… A citizen, no less than an alien, can be part of or supporting forces hostile to the United States or coalition partners’ and ‘engaged in an armed conflict against the United States,’ … ’such a citizen, if released, would pose the same threat of returning to the front during the ongoing conflict’.”
  • Holder: “[W]hen the Bush administration attempted to deny Jose Padilla access to an attorney, a federal judge in New York rejected that position, ruling that Padilla must be allowed to meet with his lawyer. Notably, the judge in that case was Michael Mukasey, my predecessor as Attorney General. In fact, there is no court-approved system currently in place in which suspected terrorists captured inside the United States can be detained and held without access to an attorney; nor is there any known mechanism to persuade an uncooperative individual to talk to the government that has been proven more effective than the criminal justice system.”
    • Sessions: “That is a misrepresentation of the situation. He never acknowledges that he is comparing apples to oranges. Judge Mukasey didn’t grant Padilla a lawyer as part of his arrest or interrogation. He granted Padilla a lawyer much later when he was filing a petition for habeas corpus to challenge the legality of his detention, and eventually he was appointed one. But not the night of his arrest.”
  • Holder: “Richard Reid, a British citizen, was arrested in December 2001 for attempting to ignite a shoe bomb while on a flight from Paris to Miami carrying 184 passengers and 14 crewmembers. He was advised of his right to remain silent and to consult with an attorney within five minutes of being removed from the aircraft … pled guilty in October 2002, and is now serving a life sentence in federal prison.”
    • Sessions: “He cites how Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was charged in the civilian criminal system, but fails to acknowledge that there was no military commission system in place at the time of his arrest in December 2001. The military commission system wasn’t brought under congressional authorization until 2006, when we passed legislation to do that.”
  • Holder: “[T]he Bush Administration used the criminal justice system to convict more than 300 individuals on terrorism-related charges.”
    • Sessions: “Since May 2009, [Republican] Senator [Jon] Kyl [of Arizona] and I have been asking the Attorney General to explain the basis for this most questionable claim. To date, we have received no response to our repeated requests … for this information. If this figure is valid, why is the Attorney General not willing to explain it?”
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey spoke to Senate Republicans this afternoon, hours after he blasted Attorney General Eric Holder’s handling of the civilian trials for the five alleged planners of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Michael Mukasey

Republican leaders declined to say what Mukasey spoke about at the Senate GOP’s weekly lunch. The last Attorney General of the George W. Bush administration, Mukasey said on the Fox News program “Fox and Friends” this morning that Holder’s decision to try self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators in a New York civilian court made it look like “amateur night” at the DOJ.

“[Mukasey] has been a leader, as you know, not only as Attorney General, but since leaving as Attorney General, in helping everyone understand the difference between someone who tries to bomb a convenience store on one hand and someone who tries to blow up a plane on another,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at press conference following the lunch meeting.

McConnell went on to praise Sen. Lindsey Graham for bipartisan legislation the South Carolina Republican unveiled today that would prohibit the DOJ from using funds to prosecute KSM and his alleged accomplices.

“I think the administration is going to retreat here,” the minority leader said.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill Tuesday, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair and FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the man who allegedly tried to ignite explosives in his underpants on a Dec. 25 Detroit-bound airplane flight as a civilian.

Sen. Christopher Bond (Mo.), the panel’s ranking Republican, criticized the Obama administration’s decision to treat Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a civilian.

The Republican senator said “treating terrorists like common criminals can cost us life-saving information.”

Mary Jacoby contributed to this report.

Monday, February 1st, 2010

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said defense and intelligence officials had the opportunity to object to a decision to criminally indict alleged Christmas Day airplane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. But no one registered objections at a Jan. 5 meeting with President Barack Obama, Gibbs said.

Robert Gibbs (White House)

“I will say that anybody that wanted or needed to register their concern, the notion that somehow a forum wasn’t readily available to register anybody’s concern doesn’t certainly comport the way I understand events, having been in the room watching those present have an opportunity to ask questions about those procedures,” Gibbs said at a White House news briefing Monday.

The meeting was held in the White House Situation Room to review the intelligence failures that led to the accused al-Qaeda associate being allowed to board a Detroit-bound commercial airliner with explosives in his underwear.  Attorney General Eric Holder, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael E. Leiter attended, Gibbs said.

Gibbs’s remarks lent support to a Los Angeles Times article today that said CIA officials were at the table with DOJ officials before a decision was made to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights, a move that has sparked fierce criticism from Republicans and some administration officials, including Blair.

Asked if the administration had ruled out treating Abdulmutallab as an “enemy combatant” without the protections accorded criminal defendants, Gibbs said: “I think that very experienced interrogators at the FBI made decisions about interrogation, and the Department of Justice made determinations to seek an indictment, and the President believes that’s the appropriate place.”

Gibbs did note there is precedent for reversing such decisions, citing the Jose Padilla and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri cases.

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the government charged U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, who was believed to have trained with al-Qaeda, with terrorism offenses. Later Padilla was sent to military custody for three and a half years. In 2007, Padilla was convicted in federal court in Miami of conspiracy to kill and sentenced to prison. Al-Marri likewise was arrested after the 9/11 attacks on suspicion of working with al-Qaeda, then later held in military custody. Last year he pleaded guilty in federal court in Illinois to supporting al-Qaeda.

Pressed whether the administration believed there’s “no more intelligence to be gained” from Abdulmutallab, Gibbs was more cryptic. “The White House is satisfied that the process of gaining that intelligence is working,” he said.

Gibbs also said Monday that “no decision” has been made to transfer the trial of accused 9/11 conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others out of New York City, despite news reports to the contrary last week. “[D]ecisions that are being reported as having been made have not been made,” Gibbs said.

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Officials from the Central Intelligence Agency participated in a government-wide discussion on Christmas Day about how to handle a Nigerian national who allegedly attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger airliner, the Los Angeles Times reported today, citing unnamed sources.

The decision to advise Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of his Miranda rights rather than put him in military custody for interrogation was made after “hastily called teleconferences” between representatives of the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Department and CIA, the newspaper said. By that time, the suspect had stopped talking with law enforcement, the Times said.

The Times story appeared as the Justice Department found itself increasingly on the defensive over the matter.

Republicans say Abdulmutallab should have been taken into military custody for questioning by intelligence officials. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, a Barack Obama appointee, has also criticized the decision to charge Abdulmutallab criminally. The issue has become politically sensitive for Holder, with  GOP senators demanding he come to Capitol Hill to explain his role. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the GOP’s No. 3 leader in the Senate, even suggested Sunday that Holder consider resigning over the incident.

The Times story appeared to push back against the criticism by suggesting the CIA had been at the table all along.

It still isn’t clear who precisely authorized treating the accused al-Qaeda operative as a criminal suspect with rights against self-incrimination. No one in the government has come forward publicly yet to explain how the decision was made, though White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Jan. 21 said he believed that decision ultimately lay with Attorney General Eric Holder.

Citing unnamed sources, the LA Times said after Northwest Airlines Flight 253 landed in Detroit on Christmas Day, Abdulmutallab was taken to a hospital for treatment for burns allegedly sustained after he tried to ignite explosives in his underwear.

He was question by two experienced counter-terrorism agents who have “been around a long time and have traveled internationally,” an anonymous source told the newspaper.

The questioning lasted just shy of an hour. The agents did not immediately tell him he had the right to remain silent or let his words be used against him at trial, citing an exemption that allows law enforcement officials to pose questions if they believe another crime is about to be committed. The suspect gave information that suggested other terrorism plots were in the works, the newspaper said.

But then, doctors said they needed to sedate Abdulmutallab to treat his injuries. By the time Abdulmutallab was available again for questioning, he had clammed up. The decision was made to read him his Miranda rights. The Obama administration’s policy is to try terrorism suspects arrested on U.S. soil in federal courts rather than in military commissions.

Department of Justice spokesman Matthew Miller last week released a list of other successful terrorism prosecutions, including that of Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen and al-Qaeda operative who was arrested after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and convicted in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, told his colleagues today that he will formally ask the Justice Department to identify who decided that the alleged Christmas Day airplane bomber should be treated as a civilian and not as an enemy combatant.

Jeff Sessions (Getty Images

The FBI — not the military — took Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab into custody on Dec. 25 on U.S. soil after he allegedly attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified yesterday on Capitol Hill that his office was not consulted about the use of FBI agents and that special terrorism investigators should have handled Abdulmutallab, according to The Washington Post.

It is unclear who made the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a civilian. FBI Director Robert Mueller testified yesterday before the committee that the events were “fast-moving” and authorities had “no time” to get other investigators in place. But Mueller said decisions were made “appropriately,” including the decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights.

Sessions said yesterday that it seemed the decision was made “on the fly.” He added that the FBI’s handling of Abdulmutallab could have precluded the U.S. government from obtaining valuable intelligence.

“I think this is a matter of serious import,” Sessions said yesterday. “I don’t think we have clarity of rules. We need to get it straight.”

Democrats voiced support for the decisions made in the aftermath of the alleged attempted bombing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday that the FBI’s actions were “totally appropriate.” Senators were unable to point to an example of authorities putting an alleged terrorist apprehended on American soil immediately into military custody.

Here’s the letter Sessions and Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) sent today to Attorney General Eric Holder about the matter:

We are writing to ask who within the Department of Justice made the decision on Christmas day to treat Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a criminal suspect, entitled to Miranda warnings and the right to counsel, rather than as a unprivileged enemy belligerent subject to military detention and a full opportunity to gain intelligence. We would also like to know the basis for this decision, including whether the administration has a protocol or policy in place for handling al Qaeda terrorists captured in the United States.

At yesterday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert Mueller described how Joint Terrorism Task Force agents initially interrogated Mr. Abdulmutallab without Miranda warnings for the purpose of obtaining intelligence information.  He stated that this short initial interrogation occurred before the terror suspect was taken into surgery and that the decision to provide Miranda warnings and pursue criminal charges was made shortly thereafter “in consultation with the Department of Justice and others in the administration prior to the agents going back in later that evening to interview him.” Director Mueller declined to name the person within the Department who made the decision, stating that he would first have to get approval from the Department. Nonetheless, he made clear the decision was not made “at the local level.”

The Department of Justice’s decision to afford this terrorist Miranda warnings and a civilian prosecution appears to have been made without soliciting input from the Department’s administration partners in the war on terrorism. According to testimony before both the Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Department officials who made this decision failed to consult key officials who also have a major role in counterterrorism and intelligence gathering. Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, testified that he was not consulted.  Similar testimony was provided by Director Mueller, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter. Furthermore, Director Mueller testified he did not know whether Defense Secretary Robert Gates was consulted on this decision, which is remarkable given that Mr. Abdulmutallab appears to fit cleanly within the Military Commissions Act definition of an “unprivileged enemy belligerent.”

We believe the Department’s hasty decision to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Abdulmutallab deprived our intelligence agencies of a critical opportunity to interrogate an al Qaeda-trained terrorist who was fresh from training in Yemen. Had Mr. Abdulmutallab been transferred to military custody as an unlawful enemy belligerent, our government would have had more time to gain an understanding of the terrorist training and recruiting network on the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the activities of al Qaeda in Nigeria. More importantly, a thorough and unrushed interrogation might have revealed information to detect and disrupt the next terrorist attack. However, because Mr. Abdulmutallab was given Miranda rights and ceased cooperating, that information is now lost.

It is important that Congress fully understand the basis for the decision in this case and the process by which it was reached so that we can be assured that an appropriate process is in place to address the next terrorist who is captured and detained. To that end, please let us know who within the Department made the decision on Christmas day, as well as the basis and rationale behind the decision. Additionally, please let us know whether a protocol or policy is in place to guide the administration’s action in the next terrorism case.

This post has been updated from an earlier version.

Monday, December 28th, 2009

The U.S. intelligence community is near completion of a major assessment of the national security threat posed by international organized crime, according to administration officials and experts.

The National Intelligence Estimate, which could be finished as soon as January, was conceived more than two years ago to address the dangers posed by Eurasian criminal groups’ suspected infiltration of energy and other strategic markets.

But its focus broadened over time to include a wide swath of criminal syndicates and issues, from drug-trafficking by Mexican cartels to the relationship between terrorism and organized crime, the officials and experts said.

“Globalization has done great things for organized commerce, but it’s also helped organized criminal groups to advance as well,” said one senior Justice Department official, who spoke in general terms about the threat.

The threat was underscored in recent weeks, as reports emerged of an FBI investigation into a major cyberattack on Citibank Inc., which Citibank denies. And the Justice Department announced drug charges in New York against alleged Al-Qaeda associates arrested in Ghana during a Drug Enforcement Administration sting.

NIEs are produced under a classified process and carry the full weight of the U.S. intelligence community’s judgment. The existence of the NIE on international organized crime has not been previously reported.

The assessments are compiled by the National Intelligence Council, a research arm of intelligence community that reports directly to Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair. The NIC incorporates in its estimates expertise from inside and outside of the federal government.

The estimate’s focus expanded over time as more agencies sought to reap the benefits of inclusion, including increased funding and more say in policy direction. In this case, the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury contributed to the NIE, the officials said. The National Intelligence Council is expected to release a public overview of the threat assessment, increasing its visibility and impact, experts say.

“I think it’s going to open this field up to some serious academic research and funding,” said Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University. “We’re going to be focusing on a whole range of issues that we haven’t thought enough about, and connecting the dots on other issues.”

A sensitive subject: Russia

One effect of broadening the NIE is that it allows the Obama administration to sidestep the diplomatically sensitive issue of Russia, where authorities have long suspected that the tentacles of organized crime reach into the government.

In 2008, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey gave a speech that identified as the top security threat organized criminals who control significant positions in the global energy and strategic materials markets, threatening U.S. geopolitical interests.

He never mentioned Russia. But as an example, Mukasey pointed to Semion Mogilevich, who is thought to be at the pinnacle of Russian organized crime and is said to have influence over large portions of the natural gas industry in former Soviet-bloc states.  (Mogilevich is wanted in the U.S. on racketeering charges, and the FBI recently placed him on its Top Ten Most Wanted list.)

Russian control of energy supplies and transport networks is a security issue for the European Union, which relies heavily on Russian natural gas. But Russia controls the spigot for pipelines that service Central and Western Europe through the former Soviet state of Ukraine. Twice since 2006, Russia has cut off gas to Ukraine in payment disputes, affecting EU supplies.

Of further concern to intelligence analysts is the murky ownership of some middleman companies crucial to European energy supplies.

In 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Justice Department’s organized crime unit was investigating the ownership of a Ukrainian energy trading company named Rosukrenergo AG, half owned by Russian state company OAO Gazprom.

In response to U.S. concerns about who ultimately controlled Rosukrenergo, company representatives met with the DOJ in Washington to disclose the ownership stake of a Ukrainian businessmen with ties to Mogilevich – the suspected organized crime figure on the FBI Most Wanted list, the Wall Street Journal reported.

There’s also the case of  William Browder, a U.S. native and British citizen who founded Hermitage Capital Management, once the largest foreign investment fund in Russia but now accused in Russian courts of tax evasion.

Hermitage has denied evading taxes. It has countered with allegations that a government-affiliated “criminal enterprise” siphoned off $230 million in taxes paid by Hermitage units. Browder has retained the law firm of former Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate.

Hermitage has filed an application for judicial assistance in the Southern District of New York federal court, asking the U.S. to compel access to information it says it needs to defend itself in Russia.

In a recent declaration filed in the case, Neil Mickelswaithe, a British solicitor and outside counsel to Hermitage, said the fund is the victim of a “criminal enterprise” in Russia spanning senior offices of the Russian Interior Ministry, the Russian Federal Security Service (the successor to the KGB), senior Russian tax officers, and certain Russian court judges and “numerous private individuals in Russia, some of whom have previous criminal convictions.”

U.S. authorities have long suspected billionaire Oleg Deripaska, one of Russia’s most powerful tycoons, of having ties to Russian organized crime. Deripaska, who made his fortune in the post-Soviet aluminum industry, is close to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, often traveling with him abroad. He presides over a business empire that spans metals, finance and construction.

Deripaska, who has denied any ties to organized crime, had been barred entry to the U.S. for years. But recently, the FBI made secret arrangements to allow him into the country to seek his assistance in an ongoing criminal probe, the Wall Street Journal reported. In two visits to the U.S. this year, Deripaska also met with executives of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Co.

Putin and other Russian officials have raised the visa issue with their U.S. counterparts, and in the past Deripaska hired high-powered Washington lobbyists — including former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) — to make his case for entry into the U.S.

New approach more measured

The Obama administration, in contrast, has been careful not single out any country or group. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, in a speech and in interviews given at the Interpol General Assembly in October, noted continuing threats posed by Mexican drug cartels, South Asian heroin-trafficking syndicates, and traditional crime families from Asia and Eastern Europe.

Ogden made no mention of strategic markets. The apparent shift in message is reflected in the intelligence estimate, officials said.

Under Mukasey, the Justice Department pushed for a finished product before President George W. Bush left office. After a draft NIE was circulated late in the Bush administration, officials in the departments of Homeland Security, State, Treasury advocated a broader sweep, officials said. The recommendations were ultimately passed on to the Obama administration.

“When the Justice Department first started working on the estimate, there was much more focus on energy issues,” said George Mason’s Shelley, who was first contacted in March by government officials involved in drafting the estimate.

“They asked me what I thought was wrong with it, and I told them they needed to broaden the scope and the geographical range. There’s a tendency to stovepipe too much. When you broaden the scope, you are able to see the diversity of the problem and the relationship among
the different aspects of transnational crime,” she said.

The Obama administration has been actively highlighting fronts in the battle against international organized crime.

In November, the State Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement co-hosted a symposium in Honolulu. The event drew attention to criminal networks that span East Asia, the Pacific and Latin America — and that engage in a broad range of criminal activity, including drug, gun and human trafficking, money laundering and corruption.

Earlier this month, officials from the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as the White House, met with entertainment industry executives to focus on intellectual property crimes. The connection between piracy and organized crime is
well-documented, particularly in Asian countries such as China.

At the event, billed as the first of its kind, Attorney General Eric Holder called on the international community to respond.

“This is a problem that the United States cannot solve by itself,” said Holder. “We want to confront these nations, quite frankly, where too much of this occurs.”

Narco-trafficking also a danger

Violent Mexican cartels, responsible for thousands of killings south of the border, have emerged as a singular threat. Their vast drug-trafficking networks reach deep into the U.S., and law enforcement officials fear a scenario in which the cartels rent their smuggling routes to terrorists.

“If you were to ask me what is the biggest organized crime threat, I would say it’s more the cartels in general and other organized crime syndicates engaged in narco-trafficking and other illicit activities,” said David Luna, director for anti-crime programs at the State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. “They’re not just in our backyard, they’re actually in the U.S.”

The link between terrorism and crime is also of growing concern, officials said. The case of the three alleged Al-Qaeda associates charged in New York, who are believed to be in their 30s and originally from Mali, appears to show a direct link between the terror group and drug traffickers. Authorities long maintained that Al Qaeda and the Taliban profit from the heroin trade in Afghanistan. Michael Braun, who retired as DEA’s chief of operations last year, told The Associated Press the case was “the tip of the iceberg.”

Decade-long focus

The intelligence community’s interest in international organized crime dates back more than a decade. In the mid-1990s, intelligence officials began work on a separate estimate, with the help of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, said Jim Moody, a former FBI Deputy Assistant Director who oversaw organized crime investigations.

The estimate, he said, “helped get rid of a lot of barriers to sharing information” between the intelligence and law enforcement communities and set priorities for developing intelligence on international criminal groups.

But its impact was curtailed by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. “Given the trauma that the country faced after the 9/11 attacks, international organized crime was relegated understandably to a second-tier national security priority” as the Bush administration redistributed resources to deal with terrorist threats, the State Department’s Luna said.

Officials said they hoped the estimate would cement international organized crime as top national security priority, motivate agencies to develop stronger policies and make an argument for increased funding.

Jay Albanese, former chief of the International Center at the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Justice Department, was cautiously optimistic.

“Estimates are a mixed bag,” he said, adding that international organized crime is neither easily quantified, nor easily defined.

“This puts those of us in the crime businsess at a severe disadvantage,” said Albanese, a criminologist and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “It’s very diffcult to say with any degree of accuracy how much we should be focusing on human-trafficking versus arms-trafficking.”

Mary Jacoby contributed to this report.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

It’s been a tough day for the Obama administration on the emotional issue of closing Guantanamo Bay.

The Senate voted to strip funds for President Obama’s promise to close the Cuba-based detention facility. FBI Director Robert Mueller equivocated about the wisdom of putting Gitmo detainees in U.S. prisons before a House Judiciary hearing. And Attorney General Eric Holder expressed his serene confidence in a news conference today that the “necessary funds will come our way” to keep Obama’s promise to shutter the facility by Jan. 22, 2010.

Amid the uncertainty about closing the facility, we decided to tally the number of lawmakers who’ve gone so far as to introduce Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) legislation to bar the resettlement of detainees in their states or districts.

The result? Twenty-three lawmakers — all Republicans — have filed such legislation. Most of the bills would bar detainee resettlement or public assistance. None has attracted more than 18 co-sponsors.  Take a look:

Lynn Jenkins

Lynn Jenkins

  • Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), 18 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Henry E. Brown Jr. (R-S.C.), 2 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), 3 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.), 4 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), 0 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), 6 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Sue Wilkins Myrick (R-N.C.) 0 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), 0 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), 25 co-sponsors *
  • Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), 8 co-sponsors *
  • Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), 11 co-sponsors *
  • Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), 9 co-sponsors
  • Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), 7 co-sponsors
  • Rep. John B. Shadegg (R-Ariz.), 29 c0-sponsors *
    Saxby Chambliss

    Saxby Chambliss

  • Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), 2 c0-sponsors
  • Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), 138 co-sponsors *
  • Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio), 4 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), 9 co-sponsors
  • Rep. Mark E. Souder (R-Ind.), 8 co-sponsors *
  • Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), 0 co-sponsors *
  • Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), 2 co-sponsors *
  • Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Ohio), 6 co-sponsors *
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), 5 co-sponsors *

* denotes a bill that applies to the entire United States, as opposed to a state or district

Rep. Randy Forbes

Rep. Randy Forbes

Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) was so concerned that he proposed two bills to stop detainees from entering Virginia.  It’s worth noting that his fellow Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) is the only member of Congress on record to say that he would accept detainees from Guantanamo Bay in the district that he represents.   On the other hand, Moran’s position has caused trouble for his brother Brian Moran, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia.  But in Oklahoma, House members have been united, all signing onto H.R.701 to prohibit transfer of detainees to Oklahoma, this includes Democrat Rep. Dan Boren.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had an interesting proposal, rather than going all out and prohibiting detainees from entering the United States, he wanted to put the decision in the hands of each state’s governor and legislature:

21. H.R.2294 : To require the approval of the relevant State governor and legislature and the President’s notification and certification before the transfer or release of an individual currently detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a location in the United States, and for other purposes.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) took another interesting approach, making the entry of a Guantanamo Bay detainee into the United States contingent on President Obama’s determination that such entry “is consistent with the national security of the United States.”  Vitter named his bill the “Protection from Enemy Combatants Act.”  Elegant.

David Vitter

David Vitter

One concern among Republicans is regarding Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair’s remark that detainees from Guantanamo may need some assistance to start their new lives in the United States. Like what? Welfare, food stamps, Medicaid? Enter Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s (R-Kan.) proposal:

23. H.R.2338 : To prohibit any alien formerly detained at the Department of Defense detention facility at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and brought into the United States from receiving any Federal, State, or local public benefit.

Rep. Howard Cole (R-N.C.) expressed his concern about the issue when Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday, to which Holder responded that “no final decision has been made as to what will happen to the detainees.”

And finally for the “most random bill”…  Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) proposed a bill:

13. H.R.1042 : To prohibit the provision of medical treatment to enemy combatants detained by the United States at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the same facility as a member of the Armed Forces or Department of Veterans Affairs medical facility.

For Stephen Colbert’s take on NIMBYism, and to see some of the more entertaining remarks made by members of Congress on this issue, watch the clip below:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Tough Cell
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Gay Marriage
Monday, March 9th, 2009

Attorney General Eric Holder held an unannounced meeting at the Justice Department today with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior administration officials to discuss plans to shutter the Guantanamo Bay military prison by next January.

The meeting of the Guantanamo Bay Detainee Review Task Force also included FBI Director Robert Mueller, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, White House Counsel Gregory Craig, Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Randy Beers and Justice Department national security division veteran Matthew Olsen, the executive director of the task force.

The officials also talked about the “standards for detainee reviews, factors that will be considered in prioritizing detainee reviews, and progress that has been achieved thus far,” according to a statement from the Justice Department.

The Associated Press elaborates:

According to an official familiar with the process, detainees are being grouped into categories, and government officials from multiple agencies are being grouped into teams assigned to examine particular categories of detainees.

The review teams would then make recommendations to the Guantanamo task force. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations are private.

If a review team cannot reach a consensus on a particular detainee, the case will go to the Cabinet-level officials to reach a decision, the official said.

Holder, who visited Guantanamo Bay last month, told the Associated Press that he vowed to close the facility and handle the 240 people imprisoned there “in a way that ensures that people are treated fairly and that the American people are kept safe.”