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Tag: Deputy Attorney General

Obama’s FBI Nominee, James B. Comey, Faces Tough Questions about Domestic Surveillance

James Comey

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to grill James B. Comey about his views on enemy interrogations and government surveillance during a hearing today, The New York Times reports.

President Obama’s choice to be FBI director has faced a tough confirmation process in the midst of revelations that the U.S. is conducting widespread surveillance against its citizens and others across the world.

Among the concerns was Comey’s time as deputy attorney general in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, who supported government surveillance programs.

“While Comey deserves credit for stopping an illegal spying program in dramatic fashion, he also approved or defended some of the worst abuses of the Bush administration during his time as deputy attorney general. Those included torture, warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detention,” said Laura W. Murphy, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington.

James Comey Faces Tough Questions During Confirmation Battle During Confirmation Hearings

James Comey

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

President Obama’s nominee for FBI director, James Comey, faces a tough confirmation battle over a host of controversial issues facing the agency.

Comey, who served as deputy attorney general in President George W. Bush, is seeking Senate confirmation at a tough time for the FBI, reports The Hill. The Hill reports that hearing will start after Congress returns from its 4th of July recess.

Among the controversial topics expected to be addressed are miranda rights and enemy combatant status, the Boston bombing missteps, drones and eavesdropping.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings this week after the July 4 recess.

 

Grassley Questions Justice Dept. Commitment to FBI Whistleblowers

Sen. Grassley/official photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Sen. Chuck Grassley is questioning the commitment of Attorney Gen. Eric Holder and his Deputy Attorney General James Cole to FBI whistleblowers.

In a press released issued Monday, Grassley said one FBI whistleblower case “continues to languish for nine years and a second case sits in limbo for more than four years.”

“Whistleblowers are key to unlocking many of the secrets hidden deep in the closets of the federal government,” Grassley said in a statement. “Allowing a case to sit in limbo for more than nine years shows a lack of commitment to resolving issues for these courageous people.

“The excessive time to make a judgment on these cases indicates that the process for adjudicating FBI whistleblower claims is broken, and needs to be fixed,” Grassley added. “The Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General have significant say over the speed at which these matters are addressed, and the recent decision by Deputy Attorney General Cole to remand a nine year old case for further proceedings is mind boggling and calls into question his commitment to help support whistleblowers.”

Grassley, in a letter to Holder, urged the attorney general to address whistleblower cases in a more timely manner.

Grassley mentioned former FBI agent Jane Turner who was fired in 2002 after disclosing to the Justice Department Inspector General after discovering that FBI agents removed items from Ground Zero following the attacks of 9/11.

Grassley said in his release that due to the Inspector General’s delayed decision, Agent Turner was forced to file an appeal with the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, which ordered the FBI to issue back pay, attorney’s fees and other relief.

After an FBI appeal, the Deputy Attorney General remanded the case for further proceedings and it now continues to languish nine years after Agent Turner’s original complaint, Grassley said.

Grassley also cited the case of Robert Kobus, a 30-year non-agent employee of the FBI who more than four years ago disclosed time and attendance fraud by FBI agents. The Inspector General substantiated his claims of retaliation for protected whistleblowing, yet his case has been sitting with the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management for four years.

“I presume you would agree that DOJ is sxending the wrong message to whistleblowers by taking an inordinate amount of time to issue final declarations for Agent Turner and Mr. Kobus,” Grassley wrote in the letter to Holder.

Read letter to Holder

 

Pot Laws Just Become More and More Confusing

Dep. Atty. Gen. James Cole/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The controversy over the legality of medical marijuana only seems to be getting more and more confusing.

The Associated Press reports that James Cole, the number two person at the Justice Department, has written a memo saying state medical marijuana laws do not provide immunity from federal prosecution, and refused to say Wednesday whether a recent crackdown in California by fed prosecutors signals a shift in federal policy that could impact other states.

Cole, the deputy Attorney General, said it’s up to individual U.S. Attorneys to decide how to enforce federal laws, AP reported.

“I think it says what needs to be said,” Cole said of his memo and the fed policy after a press conference in Colorado, AP reported.

Sixteen states have passed laws legalizing marijuana for medical use, AP reported. California was the first in 1996.

The feds have raised concerns that some medical marijuana dispensaries are buying pot from unauthorized places and dispensing to people who don’t have a valid medical reason to use the drug.

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Pres. Bush Sent Alberto Gonzales to See Ashcroft in Hospital, The Atlantic Reports

Alberto Gonzales/Fox 34

By Murray Waas
The Atlantic

In March 2004, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales made a now-famous late-night visit to the hospital room of Attorney General John Ashcroft, seeking to get Ashcroft to sign a certification stating that the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program was legal. According to people familiar with statements recently made by Gonzales to federal investigators, Gonzales is now saying that George Bush personally directed him to make that hospital visit.

The hospital visit is already central to many contemporaneous historical accounts of the Bush presidency. At the time of the visit, Ashcroft had been in intensive care for six days, was heavily medicated, and was recovering from emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder.

Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey has said that he believes that Gonzales and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who accompanied Gonzales to Ashcroft’s hospital room, were trying to take advantage of Ashcroft’s grievously ill state—pressing him to sign the certification possibly without even comprehending what he was doing—and in the process authorize a government surveillance program which both Ashcroft and the Justice Department had concluded was of questionable legality.

To read the whole story click here.

Number 2 at Justice Dept. James Cole Remains in Limbo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney Gen. James Cole never played in the National Football League — but he certainly knows what it’s like to be a football — a political one at that.

David A. Fahrenthold of the Washington Post reports that the Republicans in the Senate on Monday voted to block a bid by Democrats to force a final vote on Cole’s confirmation, leaving his status as the number 2 person in the Justice Department in limbo.

President Obama gave Cole a recess appointment, which expires at the end of the year.

The Post reported that the Dems on Monday fell short of the 60 votes needed to knock down a Republican filibuster vote on the matter.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, according to a statement posted on his website: ” It is hard to believe that one week after the successful operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the world’s number one terrorist, we cannot take this step to ensure that President Obama has his full national security team in place. Now that a measure of justice has been secured for the victims of September 11, I have expressed hope that we can come together as we did in the weeks and months following September 11.”

James Cole/law firm

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia) who strongly opposed the nomination, said:

“In particular, I’m seriously concerned about Mr. Cole’s views on national security and terrorism. Back in 2002, Mr. Cole was the author of an opinion piece in the Legal Times. In that piece, he stated, ‘For all the rhetoric about war, the Sept. 11 attacks were criminal acts of terrorism against a civilian population, much like the terrorist acts of Timothy McVeigh in blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City, or of Omar Abdel-Rahman in the first effort to blow up the World Trade Center. The criminals responsible for these horrible acts were successfully tried and convicted under our criminal justice system, without the need for special procedures that altered traditional due process rights.’”

Game of Musical Chairs at Justice as Deputy Atty. Gen. Gets Sworn In

Gary Grindler/doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — It’s a game of musical chairs over at the Justice Department at 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Gary G. Grindler, who had been filling in as acting deputy attorney general, the number two spot, becomes chief of staff to the Attorney General, the department announced Monday.

Grindler is being replaced by James Cole, who was installed as deputy Attorney General through a recess appointment by President Obama. Cole was sworn in on Monday.

James Cole/law firm

And Grindler replaces Kevin Ohlson, who will be “resuming his career service with the department,” the Justice Department announced in a press release.

“Kevin Ohlson has been an extraordinary public servant through a long career at the department, and while I am sorry to lose him from my office, I am grateful for his tireless work leading my staff the past two years,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.

“As he has throughout his career, Gary Grindler showed remarkable leadership under difficult circumstances as Acting Deputy Attorney General over the past year, and I could not be more pleased that he has agreed to continue that service in this new role as my chief of staff.”

Grindler had served as Acting Deputy Attorney General since Feb. 5. Ohlson had served as Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Attorney General since February 2009. He had previously served as the Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, chief of staff to the Deputy Attorney General and Assistant U.S. Attorney, the Justice Department said.

President Obama Uses Recess Appointment to Install #2 Justice Dept. Official

James Cole/law firm

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Following months of frustration and opposition from Republicans, President Obama last week used a recess appointment to install James Cole to the number two spot at the Justice Department. On Monday, he was sworn in.

The post, deputy attorney general, has been vacant since February. Cole, 58, is a partner at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP since 1995. Republicans have raised concerns about his views on terrorism and his legal work representing the highly problematic American International Group.

Cole began working for the Justice Department in 1979 as part of Attorney General’s Honors Program and served there for 13 years. First he was a trial attorney in the Criminal Division and later he served as the Deputy Chief of the Division’s Public Integrity Section.

He entered private practice in 1992.

“I am pleased to welcome Jim back to the Department of Justice,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said Monday.  “He will be critical in our work to keep the American people safe, ensure the fairness and integrity of our financial markets, and restore the traditional missions of the Department.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Cole’s nomination in July.

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