The event we have all been waiting for is here in time for the Christmas Holidays! Yes, it is the long awaited news on the DOJ “prosecution” of the former Office of Special Counsel head under the Bush/Cheney regime, Scott Bloch.
As you may recall, when we last heard tangible news on the Blochhead front, it was June 20 of this year when his release restrictions were voided. The court voided Bloch’s release conditions because the DOJ had inexplicably left the case hanging in limbo after the previous guilty plea had been set aside, thus allowing Bloch to withdraw from it, all the way back in August of 2011.
So, between August 2, 2011 and December 21, 2012, a period of nearly a year and a half’s time, the DOJ has done nothing whatsoever in furtherance of prosecuting Scott Bloch. Until today. And the vaunted Department of Justice has, on the Friday before the Christmas holiday…..filed a Motion to Dismiss. However, that is not the end of the story, as clause 5 of the Motion to Dismiss contains this language:
Concurrent with this Motion to Dismiss, the government is filing a new information.
Well, at least that is what the information is SUPPOSED to charge. That is the crime noted in the caption, and clearly the crime contemplated by the framing, but in the key statute recitation paragraph, the controlling body of the document mistakenly charges 18 USC 1362 instead. A year and a half the DOJ has had to conjure up this smoking pile of whitewashing garbage, and they still Continue reading →
Among the hottest issues looking forward to the beginning of the 113th Congress is the status of the filibuster. Will it remain in the status quo of recent decades, the 60 vote Senate roadblock, or will there be movement to return, or at least move closer towards, a majority vote Senate?
One of the more interesting tacts in the filibuster reform fight has been an effort by a group of people, led by Common Cause, and including members of Congress such as Representatives John Lewis, Keith Ellison, Michael Michaud and Hank Johnson, to have the filibuster declared unconstitutional by a federal Article III court. They filed their complaint on May 15th of this year and issued a press release describing their effort.
Very early this morning, the effort came to a screeching halt with an order from the DC District Court dismissing the case pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This decision was, quite unfortunately, absolutely certain to have been made, and today was so ordered by Judge Emmet Sullivan.
The plaintiffs’ goal was described by the court thusly:
They bring this suit against representatives of the United States Senate seeking a declaratory judgment that Rule XXII (the “Cloture Rule” or the “Filibuster Rule”) — which requires a vote of sixty senators to proceed with or close debate on bills or presidential nominations and a two-thirds vote to proceed with or close debate on proposed amendments to the Senate Rules — is unconstitutional because it is “inconsistent with the principle of majority rule.” In the alternative, Plaintiffs challenge Senate Rule V, which provides that the Senate’s rules continue from one Congress to the next, unless amended.
An admirable goal if there ever was one, but, alas, of the Don Quixote nature perhaps. And so the court found. The first cut was on standing, and none of the plaintiffs made it:
First, the Court cannot find that any of the Plaintiffs have standing to sue. Standing is the bedrock requirement of an Article III court’s jurisdiction to resolve only those cases that present live controversies. While the House Members have presented a unique posture, the Court is not persuaded that their alleged injury — vote nullification — falls into a narrow exception enunciated by the Supreme Court in Raines v. Byrd. And none of the other Plaintiffs have demonstrated that this Court can do anything to remedy the alleged harm they have suffered.
But standing was, by traditional justiciability analysis, the least of the plaintiffs’ concerns; the real problem lay in Separation of Powers between the branches and the historical refusal of federal courts to intrude on the Article I legislative prerogative. And so it was viewed by Judge Sullivan:
Second, and no less important, the Court is firmly convinced that to intrude into this area would offend the separation of powers on which the Constitution rests. Nowhere does the Constitution contain express requirements regarding the proper length of, or method for, the Senate to debate proposed legislation. Article I reserves to each House the power to determine the rules of its proceedings. And absent a rule’s violation of an express constraint in the Constitution or an individual’s fundamental rights, the internal proceedings of the Legislative Branch are beyond the jurisdiction of this Court.
For those reasons, Judge Sullivan dismissed the complaint. There has been no announcement yet made as to appeal by Common Cause et. al, but honesty dictates the conclusion that if you cannot get past Emmet Sullivan, you stand no chance whatsoever in the ultra conservative DC Circuit. By the way, by the time this case could hit the DC Circuit, it will be down and vacant four judges, from a slated eleven seats to only seven filled seats, due to the taking of senior status by Chief Judge David Sentelle, and there is little to no movement or concern by Barack Obama on ameliorating the situation.
The concerns of the DC Circuit health aside, the filibuster lawsuit is going nowhere. Remedy for the Senate blockage will have to come from within the Senate itself, pursuant to Senate Rules modification. As Joan McCarter at Daily Kos reported on Monday, there is some evidence Harry Reid would have the 51 votes necessary to get it done.
Let’s hope Harry Reid has the famed pugilistic cajones he likes to claim, and sees to it that the Senate is returned to a functioning body. There are not just the legislative goals that hang in the lurch, but also a full slate of critical Executive Branch nominations for the coming new term for Obama and, of course, the state of emergency in the Federal Judiciary. Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats can solve that if they have the guts. They can expect nothing but spiteful obstructionism from the Senate Republicans after the election and the “fiscal cliff” showdown.
The Democrats need to govern in the absence of a responsible GOP effort to do so. It starts with fixing the filibuster problem.
Intel cte’s @SenFeinstein will give up the chair and move to Judiciary, source tells @CapitolHillCNN. @SenatorReid to announce today
I have talked to both sources at both the Senate Judiciary Committee and Personnel offices and have yet to hear a denial. This is, then, significant news as to a complete reshuffling of key Majority Senate Leadership assuming it continues to bear out.
First off, a tenured Senator like Feinstein does not leave a high value Committee Chairmanship without another, or something higher, on the offer. CNN said she it is to “move to Judiciary”. But DiFi has long been a member of the SJC, that can only portend she will then become Chairman of Judiciary.
If Feinstein does take over leadership of the Judiciary Committee, that could ease the passage in the Senate of a renewed assault weapons ban, which was passed under President Bill Clinton in 1994 but expired in 2004. The shooting rampage on Friday in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were murdered by a gunman with a military-style assault weapon and high-capacity magazines, has renewed calls for stricter gun control legislation.
On Tuesday, speaking in the Capitol before the party’s weekly caucus lunch, Feinstein told reporters who had asked her whether she will jump to Judiciary, “Keep tuned. I think it is [going to become open], and I think it’ll happen.”
On Monday, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) who was the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, passed away at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Now that Inouye’s post is empty, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is rumored to be looking at taking over Appropriations — in turn opening up the leadership slot at Judiciary. Feinstein could then move from her current spot as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee to chair Judiciary.
That is good, fast reporting and coincides with what I can discern. And Appropriations Chair is a long time traditional home for the Senate Pro-Tem, which Pat Leahy became with yesterday’s passing of Inouye.
So, what about SSCI? Next in line would, by seniority, be Jay Rockefeller. But, as Mother Jones’ Nick Baumann pointed out, Rockefeller gave up leadership at Intel nearly three years ago to take over the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee helm, and there is no reason to think he would double back. That gave a brief glimmer of hope that Ron Wyden might get the nod at SSCI, but HuffPo’s Grim, in a tweet, thinks he is more likely to take over the helm of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for the outgoing Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, who did not seek reelection. That would mean the next senior Democrat on SSCI as Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
Now, if I were Wyden, I would want the SSCI job over Energy. It is likely most progressives would like him there as well, which is why the smart money likely says Reid talks him into the Energy Chair.
So, we are into the Congressional equivalent of Formula One silly season; i.e. the end of the year shuffling of drivers before the season is really over. The one real wildcard here is Wyden.
There is only one substantive case left in litigation with the ability to bring tangible accountability for the illegal and unconstitutional acts of the Bush/Cheney Administration’s warrantless wiretapping and surveillance program. That case is Al-Haramain v. Bush/Obama. Yes, there is still Clapper v. Amnesty International, but that is a prospective case of a different nature, and was never designed to attack the substantive crimes of the previous Administration.
A little over a couple of hours ago, late morning here in the 9th, the vaunted “most liberal of all Circuit Courts of Appeal”, the Ninth Circuit, drove what may be the final stake in the heart of Al-Haramain by declining to conduct an en banc review of its August 7, 2012 opinion. The notice from the court today is brief:
The opinion filed on August 7, 2012, and appearing at 690 F.3d 1089, is hereby amended. An amended opinion is filed concurrently with this order.
With these amendments, the panel has voted to deny the petition for panel rehearing and the petition for rehearing en banc.
The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc. Fed. R. App. P. 35.
The petition for panel rehearing and petition for rehearing en banc are DENIED. No further petitions for en banc or panel rehearing shall be permitted.
Before going further with analysis, a word about the “amendments” to the opinion. The “Amended Opinion” is here. You can compare for yourself to the August 7 original opinion linked above, but the difference is pretty slight.
It appears all the court did is delete a few sentences here and there about 18 USC 2712(b). The court did not address, nor change, their erroneous assertion that plaintiffs’ Al-Haramain could have sued under 1806(a), or restore the misleadingly-omitted (by elipsis) language from 1806(a). Nor did the Continue reading →
One of the issues making the rounds like wildfire today was a report from Declan McCullagh at CNET regarding certain proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The article is entitled “Senate Bill Rewrite Lets Feds Read Your E-mail Without Warrants” and relates:
A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.
CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans’ e-mail, is scheduled for next week.
Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.)
This sounds like the predictably craven treachery that regularly comes out of Senate, indeed Congressional, legislation on privacy issues. And exactly what many had hoped would cease coming out of Washington after the public scrutiny brought on by the Petraeus/Broadwell/Kelley scandal. And, should these amendments make it into law, they may yet prove detrimental.
But there are a couple of problems here. First, as Julian Sanchez noted, those abilities by the government already substantially exist.
Lots of people RTing CNET’s story today seem outraged Congress might allow access to e-mail w/o warrant—but that’s the law ALREADY!
Well, yes. Secondly, and even more problematic, is Pat Leahy vehemently denies the CNET report. In fact, Senator Leahy does not support broad exemptions for warrantless searches for email content. A source within the Judiciary Committee described the situation as follows: Continue reading →
Another giant shoe has dropped in L’Affaire Petraeus. Not simply more specifics, but yet another General:
Gen. John Allen, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for what a senior defense official said early Tuesday was “inappropriate communication’’ with Jill Kelley, the woman in Tampa who was seen as a rival for David H. Petraeus’s attentions by Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an extramarital affair with Mr. Petraeus.
In a statement released to reporters on his plane en route to Australia early Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that the F.B.I. had informed him on Sunday of its investigation of General Allen.
Mr. Panetta turned the matter over to the Pentagon’s inspector general to conduct its own investigation into what the defense official said were 20,000 to 30,000 pages of documents, many of them e-mails between General Allen and Ms. Kelley, who is married with children.
Really, at this point, what can you even say about the secret storm soap opera that roils within the rarified brass air of the US Military? This was just the last hit for a night that saw the emergence of the Shirtless FBI Guy (now under investigation himself by the Office of Professional Responsibility at DOJ) to a nightime search of Paula Broadwell’s home by the FBI.
There are too many tentacles, evolving too quickly, to go too deep on all the facts that have rolled out even in the last twelve hours. But the General Allen/Jill Kelley bit is fascinating. Remember, the handful of emails Paula Broadwell sent to Kelley reportedly did not mention Petraeus by name. This latest report at least raises the possibility Broadwell was referring to an inappropriate relationship between Kelley and Allen, and not Kelley and Petraeus. I am not saying such is Continue reading →
Those brave elected and appointed representatives who represent YOU in the Federal Government are fleeing! Well, granted, I guess that doesn’t really account for the elected members of Congress who have been diddling and twiddling their thumbs, among other things, for a while now in order to suck at the tit of corporate cash, while doing nothing for you on the record at their elected jobs (no, Darrell Issa’s dog and pony show doesn’t count) and throw it around to perpetuate a fraud on you.
But, as they say in movies, that is something completely different.
Non-emergency employees (including employees on pre-approved paid leave) will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are:
required to telework,
on official travel outside of the Washington, DC, area,
on leave without pay, or
on an alternative work schedule (AWS) day off.
Telework-Ready Employees who are scheduled to perform telework on the day of the announcement or who are required to perform unscheduled telework on a day when Federal offices are closed to the public must telework the entire workday or request leave, or a combination of both, in accordance with their agencies’ policies and procedures, subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.
Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksites unless otherwise directed by their agencies.
No government Monday. A state of anarchy will reign!
I’m with Tim, we are all SO SCREWED!
Okay, and I’m going to take a flyer that Mr. Shorrock agrees, the nation may not only survive, but actually prosper without the usual cabal of corrupt con men and bloodsuckers that generally run things in Washington DC on a “normal” day. Call me crazy, but I am going out on that limb.
Here is my issue: They are all bozos on that bus. Pretty much all of the NOAA, CNN and other data intensive models have been prediting this likely Sand path for days.
Our Men in Havana, er, I mean men and women in DC, are just figuring this out now??? Perhaps the usual rhesus monkey brains were otherwise occupied still figuring out the Administration’s housing policy.
And, look at the directive. What does it really say? That the poohbahs suggest common workers, just being notified a couple of hours before they go to sleep, do what they were already doing, or already had the option to do, and work from home. For any others unable to do so, the suggestion is they take leave.
In short, the real backbone of the federal government, the regular workers, are being treated in a tardy and tawdry manner.
By the 1% MOTUs. Shocking, no?
So, while the politicians who are not already cravenly out of town on your dime are absent, even the remaining Knights of The Pinhead Table run like crazed Sir Robins.
Uh, yeah, so tomorrow will be different from exactly what other day you federal jackasses??
Because, Congress, the DOJ, the SEC, the FEC, the NLRB, and all the rest, BEFORE SANDY, were sooooooo totally responsive to the needs and desires of their constituents.
On a serious note, this hurricane is pretty clearly a grave matter for human safety. Care SHOULD be taken. The projected damage had the DC/Eastern Virginia/Maryland area in the cone of danger in nearly every projection.
The federal government waited until now to tell regular workers, the real backbone of our functioning government to, paraphrasing “stay at home if you have that already available, or otherwise work as best you can.
That is loathsome from a leadership of cowardly and craven Sir Robins. And, on the remote chance you do not understand what a “Sir Robin” is, watch the video.
US Senator Arlen Specter, whose political career took him from Philadelphia City Hall to the US Congress, died Sunday morning at his home in Philadelphia at the age of 82 from complications of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was born February 12, 1930.
His career was marked by what the pundits and Specter himself called “fierce independence.” But long before Specter ever stepped onto the Senate floor in Washington DC, he made it into national prominence by serving as assistant counsel for the Warren Commission, which investigated the 1963 assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy.
Specter postulated the controversial “single-bullet theory” that was eventually embraced by the panel and still stands to this day, despite the cry of conspiracy theorists who say there was more than one gunman in Dallas that November day.
“Admittedly a strange path for a bullet to take, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction,” Specter said.
We have had a complicated relationship with Arlen Specter here at Emptywheel, sometimes castigating him, sometimes praising him, sometimes laughing at him, sometimes laughing with him. Specter engendered all those things. But I always sensed a very decent heart beating underneath Specter’s surface, even if it was all too often masked by his votes for, and often vociferous support of, ever more destructive policies of the right.
For this, Specter earned the nickname “Scottish Haggis” here in the annals of Emptywheel. The term had its root in Mr. Specter’s predilection for Scottish Law, and goes all the way back to the original incarnation at The Next Hurrah. For a number of reasons, offal and otherwise, it was a nickname that stuck and seemed appropos and seemed to reflect the complicated nature of Senator Specter.
On a personal note, I did not have an abundance of interaction with Sen. Specter and his office, but in that which I did have, I found him and his office to be beyond both kind and professional. One instance stands head and shoulders above the others, and surrounded the Obama scuttled nomination of Dawn Johnsen to be head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). It was my contention from the outset that the whip count votes were there to confirm Professor Johnsen for the job she was perfect for. And, in the roiling aftermath of the Bush/Cheney unitary executive excesses, the country desperately needed Johnsen’s intellectual sense of honesty and Constitutional integrity.
The only reason Dawn Johnsen did not get confirmed as OLC head was Barack Obama used her as false bait and cat nip for the more noisy progressive liberals. It was a glaring sign of depressing things to come from the not nearly as Constitution minded Barack Obama as had been pitched in his election run. Not only could Johnsen have been confirmed, as I pointed out before, she could also have been recess appointed by Obama. Despite all the ridicule I took at the time, that point has been proved conclusively by the later recess appointment of Richard Cordray to be head of the CFPB (another instance of Obama using a supremely qualified progressive, Elizabeth Warren, as bait and then hanging her out to dry).
The point was never that Dawn Johnsen couldn’t be confirmed, it was that Barack Obama and the insiders of his White House did not want her confirmed into leadership of the OLC. I knew that from talking to several inside the DOJ and Senate Judiciary Committee, but that was all off the record. When I found an obscure old comment from Arlen Specter indicating he was willing to support a cloture vote for Johnsen as far back as his second meeting with Dawn Johnsen on or about May 12, 2009, it was by then an old, and quite obscure comment. Specter could have walked it back or dissembled on the subject.
Arlen Specter didn’t walk it back or dissemble, instead he personally confirmed it to me. With the already in the bag vote of Sen. Richard Lugar, that was the 60 votes for Dawn Johnsen at OLC. Specter knew it would infuriate both the GOP and the Obama White House, and he knew exactly what story I was writing. He stood up. Oh, and, yes, he knew about “Scottish Haggis” too. The man had a sense of humor.
For the above vignette, and several others, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Snarlin Arlen Specter. His life and work in government spanned over five decades, he has got my salute today.
Sen. Specter repeatedly had to fight off serious cancer, and he did so with aplomb, courage and his good humor. He also was a tireless champion for the NIH and funding of cancer and stem cell research. When confronted with the last battle, the one which finally took him, Specter was upbeat, defiant and determined to get back to his part time hobby of stand up comedy. May the Scottish Haggis have many laughs wherever he may travel.
As much as I, and most who care about Constitutional protections and Article III courts still having a function in balance of power determinations, the recent 112 page ruling by Judge Katherine Forrest in SDNY (see here and, more importantly, here) had fundamental issues that made review certain, and reversal all but so.
A single federal appeals court judge put a temporary hold Monday night on a district court judge’s ruling blocking enforcement of indefinite detention provisions in a defense bill passed by Congress and signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier issued a one-page order staying the district court judge’s injunction until a three-judge panel of the court can take up the issue on September 28.
Lohier offered no explanation or rationale for the temporary stay.
This is effectively an administrative stay until the full three judge motions panel can consider the matter properly on September 28th. But I would be shocked if the full panel does anything but continue the stay for the pendency of the appeal.
Last night (well for me, early morning by the blog clock) I did a post on the decision in the SDNY case of Hedges et. al v. Obama. It was, save for some extended quotations, a relatively short post that touched perhaps too much on the positive and not enough on the inherent problems that lead me to conclude at the end of the post that the decision’s odds on appeal are dire.
I also noted that it was certain the DOJ would appeal Judge Forrest’s decision. Well, that didn’t take long, it has already occurred. This afternoon, the DOJ filed their Notice of Appeal.
As nearly all initial notices of appeal are, it is a perfunctory two page document. But the intent and resolve of DOJ is crystal clear. Let’s talk about why the DOJ is being so immediately aggressive and what their chances are.
I woke up this morning and saw the, albeit it not specifically targeted, counterpoint to my initial rosy take offered by Ben Wittes at Lawfare, and I realized there was a duty to do a better job of discussing the problems with Forrest’s decision as well. Wittes’ post is worth a read so that the flip side of the joy those of us on the left currently feel is tempered a bit by the stark realities of where Katherine Forrest’s handiwork is truly headed.
Wittes makes three main critiques. The first:
So put simply, Judge Forrest’s entire opinion hinges on the idea that the NDAA expanded the AUMF detention authority, yet she never once states honestly the D.C. Circuit law extant at the time of its passage—law which unambiguously supports the government’s contention that the NDAA affected little or no substantive change in the AUMF detention power.
Second, Judge Forrest is also deeply confused about the applicability of the laws of war to detention authority under U.S. domestic law. She does actually does spend a great deal of time talking about Al-Bihani, just not about the part of it that really matters to the NDAA. She fixates instead on the panel majority’s determination that the laws of war do not govern detentions because they are not part of U.S. domestic law. Why exactly she thinks this point is relevant I’m not quite sure. She seems to think that the laws of war are vaguer and more permissive than the AUMF—precisely the opposite of the Al-Bihani panel’s assumption that the laws of war would impose additional constraints. But never mind. Someone needs to tell Judge Forrest that the D.C. Circuit, in its famous non-en-banc en-banc repudiated that aspect of the panel decision denying the applicability of the laws of war and has since assumed that the laws of war do inform detention authority under the AUMF. In other words, Judge Forrest ignores—indeed misrepresents—Al-Bihani on the key matter to which it is surpassingly relevant, and she fixates on an aspect of the opinion that is far less relevant and that, in any case, is no longer good law.
Lastly, Ben feels the scope of the permanent injunction prescribed by Forrest is overbroad:
Judge Forrest is surely not the first district court judge to try to enjoin the government with respect to those not party to a litigation and engaged in conduct not resembling the conduct the parties allege in their complaint. But her decision represents an extreme kind of case of this behavior. After all, “in any manner and as to any person” would seem by its terms to cover U.S. detention operations in Afghanistan.
First off, although I did not quote that portion of Ben’s analysis, but I think we both agree that Judge Forrest pens overly long and loosely constructed opinions, if the two in Hedges are any Continue reading →