Posts Tagged ‘Office of Special Investigations’
Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Mark Richard, a Justice Department legend who served 16 Attorneys General in his more than 40 years at DOJ, died last year. Now a former colleague and a research group are trying to make sure his last project — a report on the history of the DOJ’s Office of Special Investigations — is released to the public.

Mark Richard (family photo)

As a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division for 20 years, Richard oversaw the OSI. The section, known as the U.S. government’s “Nazi hunters,” was established to probe ex-Nazi war criminals living in the United States and had jurisdiction over U.S. citizens accused of human rights crimes.

In 1999, then-Attorney General Janet Reno authorized a report documenting the work and history of the office, and Richard enthusiastically agreed to edit the piece, according to Judy Feigin, a former DOJ lawyer and the principle author of the 700-page report report.

Feigin, who had served in various capacities as a lawyer at the Justice Department since 1972, began writing the report in 1999. She spent most of her working time on it until she retired in 2005 and came back to the DOJ on a part-time basis after her retirement to finish up the piece, she said. Their final product — over six-and-a-half years in the making — was edited by Richard and was sent up the chain-of-command in 2006.

But the report was never published, even though Richard was working to have it released until the day he died, Feigin told Main Justice.

In October, the National Security Archive at George Washington University submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the report.

One month later, the DOJ rejected the request, using a broad interpretation of FOIA’s exemption for draft documents. In a letter responding to the request, a DOJ representative claimed that the document was “deliberative and pre-decisional.” The letter also said that because the report was never approved by the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, its status as a draft allowed it to be exempt from the FOIA.

Critics said that blocking the report’s release is at odds with Attorney General Eric Holder’s March 2009 memo, which instructed government lawyers to lean toward disclosure when considering FOIA requests.

“It’s unclear to me what would be deliberative or policy related in the document,” said David Sobel, a lawyer representing the National Security Archives on a pro-bono basis. Sobel filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department this week appealing the decision to block the report’s release. The decision, he said, is “specifically at odds with the guidance in the Holder memo.”

According to Feigin, the report covered the history of the OSI, touching on its failures, but was a balanced and would be of be valuable to researchers, academia and the public. The recent merger of the OSI into the new Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section makes the report on the now-defunct office more relevant, Feigin said.

Feigin said she was told the document may need to be screened for privacy concerns. But still, Feigen said she knows of no reason to hold back the entire report and was disappointed and frustrated that the Justice Department had not updated her on the status of the report since she completed work four years ago.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit or on the current status of the report.

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder delivered the keynote address at the Holocaust Memorial Museum Dinner on Wednesday night (photo by Ryan J. Reilly / Main Justice).

Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that recent events such as last summer’s shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., demonstrate that “intolerance, and the violence it inspires, continues to persist.”

Speaking at the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Tribute Dinner, Holder pledged that the Justice Department would vigorously pursue human rights violators and would “bear any burden and go to any length to insure that those who have committed these unspeakable crimes are brought to justice.”

According to a Southern Poverty Law Center report cited by Holder, the number of hate groups in the United States has risen more than 50 percent over the past decade. Holder said the rise is evidence that intolerance continues despite the progress that has been made.

Holder also honored Holocaust Memorial Museum guard Stephen Johns, who was killed last summer when an 88-year-old white supremacist opened fire at the museum with a shotgun. Holder said he was on his way to the museum on the night of the shooting to see a play about an imagined meeting of Anne Frank and Emmett Till, the African American youth from Chicago who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

Holder’s speech focused primarily on the museum’s work with law enforcement officers.

Holder spoke Wednesday at the Holocaust Memorial Museum Tribute Dinner held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel (photo by Ryan J. Reilly).

“In particular, I want to thank you for the leadership training you provide to those who serve the Department of Justice and uphold the values that define this country. Over the last 10 years, the museum has trained tens of thousands of police officers, every new FBI agent, and thousands of leaders in the judiciary and the military,” Holder said, noting that 60,000 people in the criminal justice system had been educated by the museum.

Holder also spoke about Telford Taylor, his former professor at Columbia University Law School, who served as one of the lead prosecutors during the Nuremberg trials. During a recent tour of the Holocaust Museum, Holder said he had the chance to watch a video of his former professor — then a young brigadier general — delivering his opening remarks.

The history of the Holocaust should remind us of what can happen when a judiciary and law enforcement system fails morally and professionally, Holder said, and demonstrates the need for “a legal framework that reflects our common humanity.”

“Today, we still cannot – and must not – ignore this past. In learning about and reflecting on it, I’m continually struck by how complicit, or simply indifferent, Germany’s judiciary and law enforcement officials had been in the establishment of the Third Reich and the enactment of laws that made the Holocaust possible,” Holder said. “What’s so tragic in this history is the fact that Germany’s judges and law enforcement officials were among those most equipped to effectively challenge Hitler’s authority and the Nazi regime’s legitimacy. But, of course, we know that the overwhelming majority did not.”

Eli Rosenbaum, director of the U.S. DOJ Office of Special Investigations (photo by Ryan J. Reilly).

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer also attended the dinner. Breuer spoke earlier this week at a Holocaust Remembrance Program held by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations who was recently profiled in Parade magazine, was also present.

Several politicians attended the dinner, including Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), as well as prominent figures such as CNN host Wolf Blitzer.

Holder pledged that “so long as there are Nazi war criminals living freely among us, we will persevere in holding these criminals accountable and bringing them to justice.”

“And to our fellow Americans who have fled persecution in more recent conflicts, and who have now made new homes within this country, we will pledge to pursue the perpetrators of those crimes, as well. This Department of Justice will ensure that would-be human rights violators know that such crimes cannot – and will not – go unpunished. We will bear any burden and go to any length to insure that those who have committed these unspeakable crimes are brought to justice. This is my promise,” said Holder.

Holder’s prepared remarks are below.

REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER AT THE UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM 2010 DAYS OF REMEMBRANCE NATIONAL TRIBUTE DINNER

Thank you, Margit [Meissner]. It’s an honor to join with you, and the other survivors gathered here, during these Days of Remembrance. I want to thank the Holocaust Museum’s board members, supporters, staff and volunteers for inviting and welcoming me this evening. During this time of remembrance, as we reflect on the atrocities of the Holocaust, we also grieve with the people of Poland. And we mourn the loss of several members of the museum’s extended family who, along with President Lech Kaczynski, were killed in last week’s tragic plane crash.

In times of loss, and of unprecedented challenge, the importance of the Holocaust Museum’s mission and work is brought into stark focus. Tonight, it’s my privilege to salute this work, and to join you in recognizing Fred Zeidman’s outstanding leadership. His contributions reflect the commitment that so many in this room have shown in helping to create, to sustain and to strengthen the museum.

Together, you’ve provided a place of learning, of contemplation, and of healing, for more than 30 million visitors. You’ve made sure the stories from the Holocaust are not just relevant for these visitors, but also essential teaching tools for educators, policymakers, judges, military officers and law enforcement officials. And you’ve enabled the lessons of a painful past to serve as guideposts in today’s struggle to promote tolerance, peace, justice and the rule of law.

In the work of seeking and administering justice, I am grateful to count you as partners. And I am proud to join you in commemorating this historic anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps across Europe. More than one hundred of the servicemen who helped to liberate those camps – and to bring a long, unspeakable nightmare to an end – are here with us tonight. Sixty-five years ago, these veterans were among the first Americans to witness the suffering and cruelty of the Holocaust. They were, sadly, the first Americans to give voice to our nation’s enduring vow to combat the causes and consequences of hatred. And they became the first of many Americans to speak the words, and to make the pledge: “Never again.”

Today, our challenge is to fulfill this promise – work that compels us, not only to bear witness to the past, but also to understand and to heed the lessons of the Shoah.

We may never fully understand how the Holocaust could have happened; how people living in one of the world’s most civilized and modern societies engaged in these astonishing acts of barbarism. And we may never fully comprehend how, for years, our own country turned a blind eye to intolerance and injustice and human need. But I believe that we can only begin building the future we want for our country, our world, ourselves, and our children, if we have the courage to look back on the past and attempt to understand it.

In law school, I had the benefit – and great privilege – of studying these lessons under Telford Taylor. Before he joined Columbia University’s faculty, Professor Taylor served as our nation’s lead prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trials – the effort to restore the rule of law in Germany and to invalidate racist Nazi policies. On a recent tour of the museum, Sara Bloomfield guided me through an exhibit on these trials. And I had the chance to watch footage of my former professor as a young man as he delivered his opening court statement in December of 1946. After Brigadier General Taylor outlined the grievous sins and horrifying crimes of the Holocaust, he quoted Justice Jackson in his argument that “civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

Today, we still cannot – and must not – ignore this past. In learning about and reflecting on it, I’m continually struck by how complicit, or simply indifferent, Germany’s judiciary and law enforcement officials had been in the establishment of the Third Reich and the enactment of laws that made the Holocaust possible. Their moral and professional failures provide the best proof that it is not the rule of law alone – but a legal framework that reflects our common humanity – that is necessary to prevent future atrocities.

What’s so tragic in this history is the fact that Germany’s judges and law enforcement officials were among those most equipped to effectively challenge Hitler’s authority and the Nazi regime’s legitimacy. But, of course, we know that the overwhelming majority did not.

As we look back on this past, as we shake our heads in amazement and disgust, it’s important to remember that, at the time of the Holocaust and even beyond it, America’s legal framework reflected its own philosophy of intolerance and bias. Perhaps no one here understands this better than Leon Bass, one of the liberators who honors us with his presence tonight. In 1945, he risked his life overseas to battle the forces of oppression. Yet, in his own country, he was treated as a second-class citizen. After helping to liberate Buchenwald concentration camp, Sergeant Bass returned home to face the realities and restrictions of life under Jim Crow.

In the decades since then, our country has seen great progress. Yet, despite the advancements we’ve made in creating a more equal nation, we have much more to do. It may be tempting – when you look at the diversity of people walking the halls of Congress or at the man sitting in the Oval Office – to think that equal justice has been achieved for all Americans and that we’ve moved beyond our history of prejudice. Yes, we have made tremendous progress as a nation. But it will take more than the election of the first African-American President to fully secure the promises of equality and justice and to conform our present reality to our founding principles. And it will certainly take more than the appointment of the first African-American Attorney General to ensure that the American justice system reflects our highest principles and our fundamental humanity.

But you already know this. You understand – all too well – that intolerance, and the violence it inspires, continues to persist. Less than six months after millions of Americans gathered on our national mall to celebrate the inauguration of President Obama, a lone gunman – fueled by hate –approached the doors of the Holocaust Museum and murdered Officer Stephen Johns.

As it were, I was on my way to the museum that night, to see a play about an imagined meeting of Anne Frank and Emmett Till – two people who’d also been the victims of hate.

Officer Johns’ killer was an 88-year-old white supremacist and outspoken anti-Semite. In one of our nation’s most sacred places of solace and healing, he taught us all that, unfortunately, the world has yet to run its course of bigotry and cruelty. He also reminded us that our continued vigilance against hatred is essential.

Today, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s latest count, there are 932 known hate groups operating across our country. In the last decade, the number of hate groups has increased by more than 50 percent.

Fortunately, our law enforcement and legal systems are succeeding in battling and dismantling violent hate groups. Last fall, Congress passed the historic “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” – a signature accomplishment for this administration and this Department of Justice. This statute strengthens our ability to prosecute hate crimes, and we are committed to enforcing it and defending it. Yet, despite such good work, we know that threats persist. But I refuse to believe that these threats are as strong as the forces working for tolerance and peace. I refuse to accept that the commitment of those who heed the battle cry of hate is as strong as those who answer the clarion call of justice.

Our nation’s Holocaust Museum, and it is truly a national treasure – and those who strengthen and support its work – advances this cause. In particular, I want to thank you for the leadership training you provide to those who serve the Department of Justice and uphold the values that define this country. Over the last 10 years, the museum has trained tens of thousands of police officers, every new FBI agent, and thousands of leaders in the judiciary and the military. In the course of the last decade, 60,000 professionals in the justice system have been educated by the museum.

This work benefits the entire Justice Department. And it will help the Department fulfill an historic commitment to strengthen the human rights advocacy work that is such a prominent part of the museum’s goals and mission. I’m proud to tell you about one of the key ways we’re building on this work. On the first full day of Passover this year, the Department launched an unprecedented expansion of its resources and capabilities for pursuing justice in cases of human rights violations.

Within the Department’s Criminal Division, we have formally created a new Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, which will serve as the centerpiece of our human rights enforcement efforts. This new section includes our Office of Special Investigations – which has been pursuing justice on behalf of Holocaust victims for nearly three decades. Under the leadership of Eli Rosenbaum – who joins us tonight – OSI has achieved remarkable success. In fact, this office has won more court cases against Nazi criminals than the governments of all other countries of the world, combined. OSI now joins with our Domestic Security Section, which has built an impressive record of achievement in prosecuting crimes of torture, genocide, and transnational violent crime.

This dynamic new law enforcement unit will be led by the head of our Criminal Division, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer – a leader many of you have also had the privilege to work alongside. Lanny brings a unique perspective, and deep commitment, to this work. As many of you know, Lanny is the son of Holocaust survivors. And tragically two of his grandparents are among the Third Reich’s six million Jewish victims.

On behalf of Lanny, who is also here this evening, let me pledge to the survivors, to their family members, and to the liberators gathered with us: so long as there are Nazi war criminals living freely among us, we will persevere in holding these criminals accountable and bringing them to justice. And to our fellow Americans who have fled persecution in more recent conflicts, and who have now made new homes within this country, we will pledge to pursue the perpetrators of those crimes, as well. This Department of Justice will ensure that would-be human rights violators know that such crimes cannot – and will not – go unpunished. We will bear any burden and go to any length to insure that those who have committed these unspeakable crimes are brought to justice. This is my promise.

It is through this commitment that we will apply the lessons of the Holocaust and honor the memory of those lost to it. So long as I have the honor to lead the Department of Justice, we will continue to do our part to fulfill the truth of and keep the promise of: “Never again.”

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

A Justice Department prosecutor is still on the hunt for Nazi war criminals 65 years after the end of World War II, Parade magazine reported this week.

Eli M. Rosenbaum (Lewis & Clark Law School)

Eli M. Rosenbaum, who will be the Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy Director, heads the Nazi-hunting DOJ Office of Special Investigations, which will soon be folded into a new Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. But the dissolution of his 33-year-old office and the dwindling pool of aging Nazi officials aren’t stopping his work.

The OSI has nine pending cases and Rosenbaum estimates that a few dozen Nazi war criminals may still be alive in the United States, according to the magazine.

“We’ve vindicated the rule of law. We’ve sent a loud, clear message that the U.S. is not willing to be the sanctuary for perpetrators of crimes against humanity,” Rosenbaum said. “Part of me believes we obtained more justice in our last years because pursuing these cases at such a late date sends a powerful message: If you’re guilty, you can reasonably expect to be pursued for the rest of your life.”

The Office of Special Investigations has jurisdiction over U.S. citizens accused of human rights crimes. The Domestic Security Section focuses on non-U.S. citizens accused of violating human rights laws and who are now in the United States. The sections will be folded into one and will prosecute torture, genocide, child soldiers and war crimes that are committed by any person who is in the United States.

The OSI has received some criticism for its handling of elderly alleged Nazi war criminals, including the 90-year-old John Demjanjuk from Ohio, who is on trial in Munich, Germany. Demjanjuk was initially charged as another person, known in the prison camp as “Ivan the Terrible” and sentenced to be hanged. That was later found to be a case of mistaken identity, but Demjanjuk was again arrested and taken to trial in Germany, where he is charged with being a war criminal.

Conservative pundit Pat Buchanan has knocked the OSI, calling the prosecutors “hairy-chested Nazi hunters” and questioning the need to fund the “running down” of elderly Nazis, according to the magazine.

But David Marwell, the director of New York City’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, praised the work of Rosenbaum, who has led OSI since 1994.

“He’s stamped OSI with his passion and absolute expertise,” Marwell said.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

The Justice Department established a new section within the Criminal Division to handle human rights crimes, the department announced Tuesday.

The DOJ is merging the Office of Special Investigations and the Domestic Security Section into the new Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, which President Barack Obama approved in December.

The Office of Special Investigations — which was established to probe ex-Nazi war criminals living in the United States — had jurisdiction over U.S. citizens accused of human rights crimes. The Domestic Security Section focused on non-U.S. citizens accused of violating human rights laws and who are now in the United States.

The new section will prosecute torture, genocide, child soldiers and war crimes that are committed by any person who is in the United States.

“Since its founding, the United States has been a steadfast champion for the cause of justice around the world,” Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny Breuer said in a statement. “In that great tradition, the new Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section is poised to be a global leader in combating human rights violations and ensuring that war criminals are held to account for their crimes.”

Teresa L. McHenry, who led the Domestic Security Section, will be the head of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. Eli M. Rosenbaum, who was the Office of Special Investigations chief, will be the Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy Director. Domestic Security Section deputy chiefs David Jaffe and William Ho-Gonzalez, and Office of Special Investigations deputy chiefs Robert G. Thomson and Elizabeth B. White will all be deputy chiefs in the new section.

“The passion and intelligence both Teresa and Eli bring to their work is evident in the extraordinary record of successful investigations and prosecutions amassed by OSI and DSS,” Breuer said in the statement. “Together, these two extraordinary leaders and the attorneys they guide will raise our already impressive human rights program to new heights.”

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

President Barack Obama signed into law legislation Tuesday that establishes a new section within the Justice Department’s Criminal Division to handle human rights crimes.

The House cleared the Human Rights Enforcement Act of 2009 by a 416-3 vote last week. The bill had passed the Senate last month by unanimous consent.

The legislation lays the foundation for merging the Office of Special Investigations and the Domestic Security Section into the new section. The Office of Special Investigations — which was established to probe ex-Nazi war criminals living in the United States — has jurisdiction over U.S. citizens accused of human rights crimes. The Domestic Security Section focuses on non-U.S. citizens accused of violating human rights laws and who are now in the United States.

The new section will prosecute torture, genocide, child soldiers and war crimes that are committed by any person who is in the United States.

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

The House sent legislation to the White House today that would create a new section within the Justice Department Criminal Division to handle human rights crimes.

The House approved the Human Rights Enforcement Act of 2009 by a 416-3 vote.  Republican Reps. Paul Broun (Ga.), Ron Paul (Texas) and Don Young (Alaska) were the only lawmakers to vote against the bill. The legislation cleared the Senate last month by unanimous consent.

The bill would lay the groundwork for folding the Office of Special Investigations and the Domestic Security Section into the new section. The Office of Special Investigations — which was created to probe ex-Nazi war criminals living in the United States — has jurisdiction over U.S. citizens accused of human rights crimes. The Domestic Security Section focuses on non-U.S. citizens accused of violating human rights laws and who are now in the United States.

The new section would prosecute genocide, child soldiers, torture and war crimes that are committed by any person who is in the United States. Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer said this fall that he supports the establishment of a human rights section. Read our previous report here.

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

The Senate passed legislation Saturday night that would create a new section within the Justice Department Criminal Division to handle human rights crimes.

The Human Rights Enforcement Act of 2009, which was approved by unanimous consent, would lay the groundwork to merge the Office of Special Investigations and the Domestic Security Section into the new section. The Office of Special Investigations — which was created to probe Nazi criminals living in the United States — handles U.S. citizens who committed human rights crimes. The Domestic Security Section focuses on non-U.S. citizens who violated human rights laws and who are now in the United States.

The new section would prosecute torture, genocide, child soldiers and war crimes that are committed by any person who is in the United States. Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer said last month that he supports the establishment of a human rights section. Read our previous report here.

The bill is sponsored by Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois and Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who are the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary panel’s Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee. There is no companion House bill.

This post has been corrected from an earlier version.

Friday, November 6th, 2009

The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed legislation Thursday that would create a new section within the Justice Department Criminal Division to handle human rights crimes.

The Human Rights Enforcement Act of 2009, which was approved by voice vote, would lay the groundwork to fold the Office of Special Investigations and Domestic Security Section into the new section. The Office of Special Investigations — which was created to probe Nazi criminals living in the United States — focuses on U.S. citizens who committed human rights crimes. The Domestic Security Section prosecutes non-U.S. citizens who violated human rights laws and are in the United States.

The new section would prosecute torture, genocide, child soldiers and war crimes that are committed by any person who is in the United States. The bill is sponsored by Senate Judiciary human rights and the law chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.)

Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer said last month that he supports the establishment of a human rights section. Here are his remarks from a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on human rights enforcement:

“While no structural reform can take place without the approval of the Office of Management and Budget and notification to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, based on my review, I have recommended to the Attorney General that our already outstanding efforts in this area would be enhanced by a merger of the Domestic Security Section and the Office of Special Investigation into a new section with responsibility for human rights enforcement, MEJA/SMTJ cases, and alien-smuggling and related matters.  That new section would be called the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. The Attorney General has indicated his support for this change and the Department’s strong commitment to enforcing human rights, and we expect to move forward with this.”

This post has been updated and corrected from an earlier version.

Friday, October 9th, 2009
Lanny Breuer (USDOJ)

Lanny Breuer (USDOJ)

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has proposed combining the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section and the Office of Special Investigation. If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the merger would represent the first major structural change in the division since Breuer took office.

The mandates of the sections have grown closer in recent years. OSI, created in 1979, has reshaped its mission from ferreting out Nazis living on American soil to hunting human rights violators who fled all corners of the world, from Rwanda to the former Yugoslavia.

DSS, established early in the Bush administration, targets human smuggling rings, immigration fraud, certain violent crimes and gun offenses, and international human rights violations. The section also has jurisdiction over crimes committed oversees by “individuals employed by or accompanying” the U.S. military.

The new entity would be called the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. Meshing the resources of DSS and OSI could give the Criminal Division a competitive edge over U.S. Attorneys’ offices and other agencies vying to prosecute major human rights cases.

Breuer hinted at the possibility of a merger in an interview with The Washington Post over the summer. He announced the plan Tuesday during a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on human rights enforcement. Below are his remarks, compliments of DOJ:

I, myself, have recently completed a comprehensive review of the Criminal Division’s efforts in human rights enforcement.  While no structural reform can take place without the approval of the Office of Management and Budget and notification to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, based on my review, I have recommended to the Attorney General that our already outstanding efforts in this area would be enhanced by a merger of the Domestic Security Section and the Office of Special Investigation into a new section with responsibility for human rights enforcement, MEJA/SMTJ cases, and alien-smuggling and related matters.  That new section would be called the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. The Attorney General has indicated his support for this change and the Department’s strong commitment to enforcing human rights, and we expect to move forward with this.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to discuss the details of the merger ahead of the approval process. OSI, which is headed by Eli Rosenbaum, draws on a staff of 27, with 10 lawyers and eight historians. DSS has a staff of about 16, with 14 lawyers. Teresa McHenry is the section chief.

Both sections have grabbed headlines this year — DSS for its case against Charles Taylor Jr., the son of Liberia’s former president, who in January was sentenced to 97 years in prison for leading a paramilitary group that tortured political enemies; and OSI for the extradition of John Demjanjuk, who is charged in Germany with being an accessory in the murder of 27,900 people in the Nazi death camp Sobibor. His war crimes trial is scheduled to begin next month in Munich.

John Malcolm, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division from 2001 to 2004, said OSI’s expanded mandate put the sections nearer to one another. The merger seems like the natural next step, he said.

“It’s something that makes sense to me,” said Malcolm, who oversaw OSI and DSS. ”Both of them have to do with people who have no business being in our country and who pose a threat to the American people.”

Monday, October 5th, 2009
Don Siegelman

Don Siegelman

The Office of Special Counsel says in a new report it found no evidence to support a whistle-blower’s claims that the U.S. Attorney’s office for Middle District of Alabama acted inappropriately in its public corruption prosecution of former Gov. Donald E. Siegelman (D) and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

The OSC launched the investigation following allegations by Tamarah Grimes, a former paralegal in the office, who alleged officials in the district did not report improper jury communications, among other things. The OSC is an independent agency with jurisdiction only to look into Grimes’s claims that she was retaliated against as a whistle-blower. She was fired in July, which she said was due to her attempt to expose the misconduct – a claim the DOJ denied.

Grimes also claimed the Middle District caused the government to incur unnecessary costs due to gross mismanagement. She said victim impact funds were misused and that U.S. Attorney Leura Canary abused her authority by obstructing an Office of Personal Responsibility investigation into the conduct of Assistant U.S. Attorney Randolph Neely. She also said officials launched a DOJ Office of Inspector General investigation into her conduct following her whistle-blowing.

Tamarah Grimes

Tamarah Grimes

Then-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey ordered an investigation, which was headed by Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis and conducted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ronald R. Gallegos of Arizona and Steven K. Mullins of the Western District of Oklahoma. After DOJ determined Grimes’ claims were unfounded, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and House Judiciary commercial and administration law subcommittee  Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) requested an additional investigation.

The second investigation by OSC “confirmed DOJ’s initial investigation findings that no improper communication with the jury occurred,” according to this analysis of disclosures, agency investigations and reports, by William E. Reukauf, associate special counsel at OSC.  The report is broken into eight parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 and Part 8. Reukauf signed off on the second investigation in a letter to President Obama.

Siegelman argues he was targeted for prosecution for political reasons. He has appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court.