Archive for Irene

Terrorist Front Group Outraged School Cancelled Muslim Speaker after Parents Complained

It’s ironic that the Islamic terrorist front group that bullied U.S. law enforcement agencies into purging counterterrorism training materials is outraged that a public school disinvited a Muslim speaker after parents complained. The bruhaha occurred at Northeast Middle School in Bristol, Connecticut. A Muslim woman named Annam Choudhry was scheduled to speak this week in a social studies class, according to an article in the local paper. Choudhry is the founder of a group called YURSA and she was planning to “dispel misconceptions” about the Islamic faith for the seventh-grade students.

Parents received a letter earlier this month announcing that on November 22 Choudhry would discuss misconceptions about her religion and her experiences as a female Muslim. Posted on social media, the letter describes Choudhry as “a young Muslim woman who was born and raised in New York City who now resides in Connecticut.” It continues: “She started YUSRA, an organization for the empowerment of Muslim women. Their mission is to train Muslim women to inform others about the Islamic faith and to dispel misconceptions that are prevalent in today’s society. This presentation will enrich our curriculum on world history.” Parents and other residents of the suburb, which is located about 20 miles southwest of Hartford, expressed fury.

The controversy led the Bristol Board of Education to cancel Choudhry’s engagement, claiming the teacher who scheduled it received threats, though Bristol Police Chief Brian Gould said there is no “specific threat that required police investigation at this point.” Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu told the local paper she supports the superintendent’s decision to cancel the presentation for the safety of students and staff. Cries of discrimination and censorship soon followed. Calling it a “disturbing example” free speech suppression, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) claims it has documented many protests over the teaching of Islam in schools.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which reportedly raises money for Hamas, blasted the school district for cancelling the Muslim presentation, asserting that it “emboldens individuals and organizations in Bristol who are Islamophobic” and does a disservice to Bristol students and the community as a whole. Farhan Memon, the chairman of the group’s Connecticut chapter, said it is vital that school children are exposed to Islam at a time when the civil liberties of Muslim Americans are under attack by policies like “Trump’s Muslim Bans.” Memon also said he is “concerned that Bristol Public Schools would seemingly bow to public pressure in this manner.”

Ironically, the nation’s law enforcement agencies bowed to pressure from CAIR to alter counterterrorism training materials deemed by the group to discriminate against Muslim. Under Barack Obama, CAIR wielded tremendous power and managed to coerce law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal level to revamp counterterrorism training materials. This includes getting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to purge anti-terrorism training curricula of material determined by CAIR to be “offensive” to Muslims. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal and obtained the FBI records three years ago.

Based on troves of government documents, Judicial Watch subsequently published a special, in-depth report on the scandal. CAIR is not specifically named but the records show that an undisclosed group of “Subject Matter Experts” (SME) determined the federal training material was offensive to Muslims. CAIR also got police departments in Illinois to eliminate anti-terrorism training materials and instructors deemed anti-Muslim. As an example, CAIR asserted that an instructor for the Lombard, Illinois police force wrote an article years earlier that included disparaging comments about the Prophet Muhammad. The course was called “Islamic Awareness as a Counter-Terrorist Strategy” and departments in Lombard, Elmhurst and Highland Park caved into CAIR’s demands. Earlier this year CAIR ordered the Air Force to sever ties with an instructor it considers to be anti-Muslim.

Keep in mind that CAIR is a terrorist front group with extensive links to foreign and domestic Islamists. It was founded in 1994 by three Middle Eastern extremists (Omar Ahmad, Nihad Awad and Rafeeq Jaber) who ran the American propaganda wing of Hamas, known then as the Islamic Association for Palestine. In 2008 CAIR was a co-conspirator in a federal terror-finance case involving the Hamas front group Holy Land Foundation. Read more in a Judicial Watch special report that focuses on Muslim charities. Judicial Watch also tried to find out if CAIR got the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to overhaul its anti-terrorism training but the spy agency said it could “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records” involving meetings or communications with the Muslim rights group. The CIA asserted that the information is classified intelligence protected from disclosure. The response goes on to cite the statutes—such as the CIA Act of 1949 and National Security Act of 1947—that allow the agency to hide even the most benign information from the American public. It’s likely that the CIA met with CAIR during the Obama years—or at least had communication with the extremist group—and doesn’t want the public to know about it.

The post Terrorist Front Group Outraged School Cancelled Muslim Speaker after Parents Complained appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Deported Gangster in Murder Plot Worked in Colorado City that Wouldn’t Hire Police Chief for Backing Immigration Enforcement

A previously deported illegal immigrant gang member charged with attempted murder and kidnapping this month was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Ft. Collins, a northern Colorado sanctuary city that ousted a finalist for police chief over his support of immigration enforcement. Judicial Watch blew the scandal open in September and is embroiled in a public records saga with Ft. Collins officials for documents surrounding the selection process and abrupt elimination of a respected veteran law enforcement official with impressive credentials. Ft. Collins is trying to keep records secret by asserting that the “material is so candid or personal that public disclosure is likely to stifle honest and frank discussion within the government.”

The former chief deputy for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in central Arizona, Steve Henry, was a finalist for the Ft. Collins position and was invited to travel to the city for an interview. But Henry’s offer was abruptly rescinded, according to a source closely involved with the selection process, because he publicly supported an Arizona law (SB1070) that makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documentation and bans “sanctuary city” policies. This clashes with Ft. Collins’ sanctuary policies, which have been well documented in media reports. Mayor Wade Troxell said in a local newspaper that the city is an open, inclusive and friendly community and that “all people matter.” Members of the city council have consistently said they support diversity and want the city to be a welcoming place for all people.

This recent case proves how sanctuary policies endanger communities. The suspect, an illegal alien from El Salvador named Angel Ramos, tried to kill a woman by stabbing her repeatedly with a screw driver then running her over with his car before trying to stuff her in the trunk. He is a confirmed member of the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and is wanted for homicide in his native El Salvador, according to information provided to the media by the U.S. Marshals Service. The 36-year-old has been charged with attempted murder, assault, menacing with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, domestic violence and criminal impersonation. Last year Ramos was deported from Texas to El Salvador after getting arrested for domestic violence, authorities told a national news outlet. Days after trying to kill the woman this month, he was arrested at the Ft. Collins construction site where he worked.

It’s not clear how or when Ramos ended up in Ft. Collins, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that the city’s sanctuary measures made it attractive for a previously deported gang member on the run. The MS-13 is a feared street gang of mostly Central American illegal immigrants that’s spread throughout the U.S. and is renowned for drug distribution, murder, rape, robbery, home invasions, kidnappings, vandalism and other violent crimes. The Justice Department’s National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) says criminal street gangs like the MS-13 are responsible for most violent crimes in the U.S. and are the primary distributors of most illicit drugs. Wonder how Ft. Collins residents feel about their city leaders enabling MS-13 members to live and work in their community?

Of interesting note is that Ft. Collins’ local newspaper, the Coloradoan, makes no mention of Ramos’ immigration status, reporting only that “Homeland Security agents assisted with the arrest.” The paper supported Ft. Collins’ push to become a sanctuary for illegal immigrants and appears to be completely in the city government’s pocket. Other Colorado media outlets rightfully mentioned the newsworthy information about Ramos’ immigration status. The Ramos case indicates that Ft. Collins could use a better newspaper and a police chief like Steve Henry, whose support for the rule of law ironically served as a disqualifier for a candidate hired to enforce the rule of law.

The post Deported Gangster in Murder Plot Worked in Colorado City that Wouldn’t Hire Police Chief for Backing Immigration Enforcement appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Treasury Dept. Blows Off Order to Recoup $8.1 Mil Wasted on Parties, Gifts, Lunches

A federal housing program that blew $8.1 million on employee outings, parties, lunches and gifts has defied orders to recover the money, asserting that only 1% of the cash was misspent. Barack Obama launched the scandal-plagued program, known as Hardest Hit Fund, to help families hit by the housing crisis and it operates under the Treasury Department. Over the years, several federal audits have exposed pervasive fraud and waste in the Hardest Hit Fund, but the Treasury Department has failed to take any action.

An audit conducted by the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Obama’s disastrous initiative to rescue the nation’s ailing financial institutions, exposed the $8.1 million waste in Nevada’s Hardest Hit Fund last year. The money was spent on outrageous things like employee outings, staff lunches and gifts, parties, a fancy car for a supervisor and severance pay for a top official. The Treasury Department never bothered trying to recover the money, according to the audit, and the fraud continues to grow. In its lengthy report the watchdog directed the Treasury Department to recover the misspent taxpayer funds. In these cases, there is rarely any follow up but a U.S. Senator investigating the Hardest Hit Fund transgressions demanded that the Treasury Department recoup the money. The agency fired back that it disagreed with the audit’s $8.1 million figure and determined that only 1% of the money needed to be reclaimed.

In a letter addressed to the senator, Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, Treasury Secretary for Legislative Affairs Drew Maloney writes this: “Following a thorough review, Treasury concluded that only $82,171 of such expenses were made in violation of HHF program requirements, and recovered that amount in full from the Nevada HFA.” The agency determined that “recovery of certain other expenditures was not warranted,” the letter further states, adding that the Treasury Department is committed to ensuring that taxpayer funds are utilized responsibly and for their intended purpose. Grassley, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that recovering only 1% of misspent funds is unacceptable. “Treasury’s explanation of the significant discrepancy between the $8 million that TARP’s watchdog said was misspent and the $82,172 recovered from Nevada HFA is inadequate and unconvincing,” Grassley said, adding that the agency must improve internal policing mechanisms to prevent the abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Obama created the Hardest Hit Fund in 2010 to help struggling families negatively impacted by the housing crisis that began in 2007. The former commander-in-chief asserted that homeowners in regions with high unemployment needed the government’s help to make their mortgage payment and prevent foreclosure. The government has contributed more than $9 billion to the cause and the money will be available until the end of 2020. In the Obama administration’s last year, the fund got an additional $2 billion to assist struggling homeowners and communities. “While the housing market has strengthened in recent years, there are still many homeowners and neighborhoods experiencing the negative effects of the financial crisis,” said the Treasury’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Financial Stability when the money was doled out, assuring that the funds would help stabilize local communities and help struggling families avoid foreclosure.

Like a lot of government programs during Obama’s eight years, this one ballooned and kept receiving boatloads of cash with virtually no oversight. It started off as a $1.5 billion initiative focused on the five states with the steepest declines in home prices and grew to a $9.6 billion boondoggle encompassing 18 states and the District of Columbia. The money goes to mortgage payment assistance for unemployed or underemployed homeowners, principal reduction to help homeowners get into more affordable mortgages, and blight elimination and down payment assistance efforts. California has received the biggest chunk of money ($2,358,593,320) followed by Florida ($1,135,735,674), Ohio ($762,302,067), Michigan ($761,204,045), and North Carolina ($706,507,564). Nevada got a total of $202,911,881, nearly $9 million of it just months before the publication of that scathing inspector general report documenting $8.1 million in fraud.

Just a few months ago, the TARP inspector general released an exhaustive 93-page report detailing the Hardest Hit Fund’s latest transgressions. Highlights include; $3 million in expenses, deemed “unnecessary” by the watchdog, spent on picnics, barbecues, gift cards, a new customer center, employee bonuses, cars, and more. Here’s a breakdown straight out of the federal audit; $598,374 went to car allowances, free parking, and other transportation perks; $342,728 was spent on settlements, severance, and other employee legal expenses; $342,407 went to employee bonuses, cash debit cards, gifts, and other perks; $258,333 was spent on “avoidable” data storage expenses; $150,618 on barbecues, parties, picnics, steak and seafood dinners, and other food and beverages. The rest was spent on unemployment payments to former employees and a customer center in Rhode Island that had already received federal money years earlier for a new office.

The post Treasury Dept. Blows Off Order to Recoup $8.1 Mil Wasted on Parties, Gifts, Lunches appeared first on Judicial Watch.

EPA Blows $1.5 Million on Parking, Some Spaces Never Used

A government agency with a sordid history paid $1.5 million for subsidized and unoccupied parking spaces in violation of executive orders designed to save taxpayer dollars and the environment by cracking down on parking subsidies in the federal workforce. The waste occurred over a two-year period at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington D.C. and a regional office in Atlanta Georgia. The two locations doled out more than $840,000 to subsidize employee parking and around $690,000 for unoccupied spaces, according to a federal audit released this week.

In the 42-page report, the EPA Inspector General points out the irony of an agency charged with promoting air quality disobeying various federal orders enacted to improve air quality and public health in the capital area. Among them is Executive Order 13150, Federal Workforce Transportation, which requires federal agencies in the capital region to implement a transit subsidy fringe benefit to discourage commuting by single occupancy vehicles, improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. Another is Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, which establishes “a clear overarching objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across Federal operations” and encourages agencies to “promote sustainable commuting and work-related travel practices for Federal employees … and reward carpooling and the use of public transportation, where consistent with agency authority and Federal appropriations law.”

Other EPA regional offices do not provide subsidized parking for employees and many federal agencies in D.C. don’t either, the watchdog reveals. Among them is the General Services Administration (GSA), the government’s central management agency that handles everything from office space for the feds to communication and purchasing. The agency is huge, with a staff of about 14,000 and an annual budget of nearly $20 billion. “Other federal agencies, such as the GSA, no longer provide subsidized parking to employees except those with disabilities, and nine of the 10 EPA regions also do not provide this fringe benefit,” the EPA IG report states. “The GSA’s Director of Operational Support Division and National Parking Manager observed that the GSA’s new, nonsubsidized parking policy reduced the number of employees driving to work by over 80 percent.”

While it certainly constitutes the squandering of taxpayer dollars, the EPA parking bruhaha is nothing compared to some of the agency’s scandals over the years. During the Obama administration the EPA gave leftist groups tens of millions of dollars to help poor, minority and indigenous communities attain “environmental justice.” Some of the agency funds went to groups that help illegal immigrants, among them a New Jersey nonprofit (Lazos America Unida) that advocates on behalf of the “Mexican immigrant community” and a Missouri farm workers’ group that aims to increase awareness about the dangers of sun and heat exposure in migrant populations. Judicial Watch sued the EPA earlier this year for records about the controversial environmental justice grants because the agency ignored a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that dates back to 2015.

Various probes have also uncovered an epidemic of EPA employees watching pornography on government computers during work hours. This is a government-wide problem, but the EPA appears to be in a class of its own. Watching porn at the agency is so widespread that a bill (Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act) was introduced in Congress and the lawmaker behind it, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, said the EPA served as an inspiration for the measure. “One EPA employee was viewing as much as 6 hours of pornography a day in his office,” the congressman said. “The same federal employee was found to have downloaded as many as 7,000 pornographic files onto his government computer.”

The EPA also fails to punish corrupt employees and allows them to keep their government paychecks, according to a scathing federal audit  that includes slews of examples in which the agency failed to take action against workers who committed wrongdoing. For instance, a senior executive simultaneously worked in a private-sector job while he was supposedly performing tasks at the EPA. Agency brass took no action for nearly a year and ultimately put the executive on “paid administrative leave,” allowing the worker to collect full pay for doing nothing. Other cases include eight employees accused by the EPA of misconduct who are also on paid leave and have accrued around 21,000 hours at a cost of more than $1 million and two employees who got busted watching porn during work hours. Each of the porn viewers has an annual salary of $120,000 and both were placed on administrative leave for a year before they were even reprimanded, according to the audit. One of them retired with full benefits without any punishment and the other is still collecting a full government paycheck. The cases go on and on. “Recent events and activities indicate a possible ‘culture of complacency’ among some supervisors at the EPA regarding time and attendance controls, employee computer usage, real property management, and taking prompt action against employees,” the report says.

Let’s not forget that under Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, the agency was investigated for dodging potential public scrutiny and possibly congressional oversight by using bogus electronic mail accounts to conduct official business. Judicial Watch is investigating the matter and has sued the EPA for using a private encryption software to thwart government oversight and transparency.

The post EPA Blows $1.5 Million on Parking, Some Spaces Never Used appeared first on Judicial Watch.

EPA Blows $1.5 Million on Parking, Some Spaces Never Used

A government agency with a sordid history paid $1.5 million for subsidized and unoccupied parking spaces in violation of executive orders designed to save taxpayer dollars and the environment by cracking down on parking subsidies in the federal workforce. The waste occurred over a two-year period at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington D.C. and a regional office in Atlanta Georgia. The two locations doled out more than $840,000 to subsidize employee parking and around $690,000 for unoccupied spaces, according to a federal audit released this week.

In the 42-page report, the EPA Inspector General points out the irony of an agency charged with promoting air quality disobeying various federal orders enacted to improve air quality and public health in the capital area. Among them is Executive Order 13150, Federal Workforce Transportation, which requires federal agencies in the capital region to implement a transit subsidy fringe benefit to discourage commuting by single occupancy vehicles, improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. Another is Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, which establishes “a clear overarching objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across Federal operations” and encourages agencies to “promote sustainable commuting and work-related travel practices for Federal employees … and reward carpooling and the use of public transportation, where consistent with agency authority and Federal appropriations law.”

Other EPA regional offices do not provide subsidized parking for employees and many federal agencies in D.C. don’t either, the watchdog reveals. Among them is the General Services Administration (GSA), the government’s central management agency that handles everything from office space for the feds to communication and purchasing. The agency is huge, with a staff of about 14,000 and an annual budget of nearly $20 billion. “Other federal agencies, such as the GSA, no longer provide subsidized parking to employees except those with disabilities, and nine of the 10 EPA regions also do not provide this fringe benefit,” the EPA IG report states. “The GSA’s Director of Operational Support Division and National Parking Manager observed that the GSA’s new, nonsubsidized parking policy reduced the number of employees driving to work by over 80 percent.”

While it certainly constitutes the squandering of taxpayer dollars, the EPA parking bruhaha is nothing compared to some of the agency’s scandals over the years. During the Obama administration the EPA gave leftist groups tens of millions of dollars to help poor, minority and indigenous communities attain “environmental justice.” Some of the agency funds went to groups that help illegal immigrants, among them a New Jersey nonprofit (Lazos America Unida) that advocates on behalf of the “Mexican immigrant community” and a Missouri farm workers’ group that aims to increase awareness about the dangers of sun and heat exposure in migrant populations. Judicial Watch sued the EPA earlier this year for records about the controversial environmental justice grants because the agency ignored a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that dates back to 2015.

Various probes have also uncovered an epidemic of EPA employees watching pornography on government computers during work hours. This is a government-wide problem, but the EPA appears to be in a class of its own. Watching porn at the agency is so widespread that a bill (Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act) was introduced in Congress and the lawmaker behind it, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, said the EPA served as an inspiration for the measure. “One EPA employee was viewing as much as 6 hours of pornography a day in his office,” the congressman said. “The same federal employee was found to have downloaded as many as 7,000 pornographic files onto his government computer.”

The EPA also fails to punish corrupt employees and allows them to keep their government paychecks, according to a scathing federal audit  that includes slews of examples in which the agency failed to take action against workers who committed wrongdoing. For instance, a senior executive simultaneously worked in a private-sector job while he was supposedly performing tasks at the EPA. Agency brass took no action for nearly a year and ultimately put the executive on “paid administrative leave,” allowing the worker to collect full pay for doing nothing. Other cases include eight employees accused by the EPA of misconduct who are also on paid leave and have accrued around 21,000 hours at a cost of more than $1 million and two employees who got busted watching porn during work hours. Each of the porn viewers has an annual salary of $120,000 and both were placed on administrative leave for a year before they were even reprimanded, according to the audit. One of them retired with full benefits without any punishment and the other is still collecting a full government paycheck. The cases go on and on. “Recent events and activities indicate a possible ‘culture of complacency’ among some supervisors at the EPA regarding time and attendance controls, employee computer usage, real property management, and taking prompt action against employees,” the report says.

Let’s not forget that under Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, the agency was investigated for dodging potential public scrutiny and possibly congressional oversight by using bogus electronic mail accounts to conduct official business. Judicial Watch is investigating the matter and has sued the EPA for using a private encryption software to thwart government oversight and transparency.

The post EPA Blows $1.5 Million on Parking, Some Spaces Never Used appeared first on Judicial Watch.

EPA Blows $1.5 Million on Parking, Some Spaces Never Used

A government agency with a sordid history paid $1.5 million for subsidized and unoccupied parking spaces in violation of executive orders designed to save taxpayer dollars and the environment by cracking down on parking subsidies in the federal workforce. The waste occurred over a two-year period at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington D.C. and a regional office in Atlanta Georgia. The two locations doled out more than $840,000 to subsidize employee parking and around $690,000 for unoccupied spaces, according to a federal audit released this week.

In the 42-page report, the EPA Inspector General points out the irony of an agency charged with promoting air quality disobeying various federal orders enacted to improve air quality and public health in the capital area. Among them is Executive Order 13150, Federal Workforce Transportation, which requires federal agencies in the capital region to implement a transit subsidy fringe benefit to discourage commuting by single occupancy vehicles, improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. Another is Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, which establishes “a clear overarching objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across Federal operations” and encourages agencies to “promote sustainable commuting and work-related travel practices for Federal employees … and reward carpooling and the use of public transportation, where consistent with agency authority and Federal appropriations law.”

Other EPA regional offices do not provide subsidized parking for employees and many federal agencies in D.C. don’t either, the watchdog reveals. Among them is the General Services Administration (GSA), the government’s central management agency that handles everything from office space for the feds to communication and purchasing. The agency is huge, with a staff of about 14,000 and an annual budget of nearly $20 billion. “Other federal agencies, such as the GSA, no longer provide subsidized parking to employees except those with disabilities, and nine of the 10 EPA regions also do not provide this fringe benefit,” the EPA IG report states. “The GSA’s Director of Operational Support Division and National Parking Manager observed that the GSA’s new, nonsubsidized parking policy reduced the number of employees driving to work by over 80 percent.”

While it certainly constitutes the squandering of taxpayer dollars, the EPA parking bruhaha is nothing compared to some of the agency’s scandals over the years. During the Obama administration the EPA gave leftist groups tens of millions of dollars to help poor, minority and indigenous communities attain “environmental justice.” Some of the agency funds went to groups that help illegal immigrants, among them a New Jersey nonprofit (Lazos America Unida) that advocates on behalf of the “Mexican immigrant community” and a Missouri farm workers’ group that aims to increase awareness about the dangers of sun and heat exposure in migrant populations. Judicial Watch sued the EPA earlier this year for records about the controversial environmental justice grants because the agency ignored a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that dates back to 2015.

Various probes have also uncovered an epidemic of EPA employees watching pornography on government computers during work hours. This is a government-wide problem, but the EPA appears to be in a class of its own. Watching porn at the agency is so widespread that a bill (Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act) was introduced in Congress and the lawmaker behind it, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, said the EPA served as an inspiration for the measure. “One EPA employee was viewing as much as 6 hours of pornography a day in his office,” the congressman said. “The same federal employee was found to have downloaded as many as 7,000 pornographic files onto his government computer.”

The EPA also fails to punish corrupt employees and allows them to keep their government paychecks, according to a scathing federal audit  that includes slews of examples in which the agency failed to take action against workers who committed wrongdoing. For instance, a senior executive simultaneously worked in a private-sector job while he was supposedly performing tasks at the EPA. Agency brass took no action for nearly a year and ultimately put the executive on “paid administrative leave,” allowing the worker to collect full pay for doing nothing. Other cases include eight employees accused by the EPA of misconduct who are also on paid leave and have accrued around 21,000 hours at a cost of more than $1 million and two employees who got busted watching porn during work hours. Each of the porn viewers has an annual salary of $120,000 and both were placed on administrative leave for a year before they were even reprimanded, according to the audit. One of them retired with full benefits without any punishment and the other is still collecting a full government paycheck. The cases go on and on. “Recent events and activities indicate a possible ‘culture of complacency’ among some supervisors at the EPA regarding time and attendance controls, employee computer usage, real property management, and taking prompt action against employees,” the report says.

Let’s not forget that under Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, the agency was investigated for dodging potential public scrutiny and possibly congressional oversight by using bogus electronic mail accounts to conduct official business. Judicial Watch is investigating the matter and has sued the EPA for using a private encryption software to thwart government oversight and transparency.

The post EPA Blows $1.5 Million on Parking, Some Spaces Never Used appeared first on Judicial Watch.

EPA Blows $1.5 Million on Parking, Some Spaces Never Used

A government agency with a sordid history paid $1.5 million for subsidized and unoccupied parking spaces in violation of executive orders designed to save taxpayer dollars and the environment by cracking down on parking subsidies in the federal workforce. The waste occurred over a two-year period at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington D.C. and a regional office in Atlanta Georgia. The two locations doled out more than $840,000 to subsidize employee parking and around $690,000 for unoccupied spaces, according to a federal audit released this week.

In the 42-page report, the EPA Inspector General points out the irony of an agency charged with promoting air quality disobeying various federal orders enacted to improve air quality and public health in the capital area. Among them is Executive Order 13150, Federal Workforce Transportation, which requires federal agencies in the capital region to implement a transit subsidy fringe benefit to discourage commuting by single occupancy vehicles, improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. Another is Executive Order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, which establishes “a clear overarching objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions across Federal operations” and encourages agencies to “promote sustainable commuting and work-related travel practices for Federal employees … and reward carpooling and the use of public transportation, where consistent with agency authority and Federal appropriations law.”

Other EPA regional offices do not provide subsidized parking for employees and many federal agencies in D.C. don’t either, the watchdog reveals. Among them is the General Services Administration (GSA), the government’s central management agency that handles everything from office space for the feds to communication and purchasing. The agency is huge, with a staff of about 14,000 and an annual budget of nearly $20 billion. “Other federal agencies, such as the GSA, no longer provide subsidized parking to employees except those with disabilities, and nine of the 10 EPA regions also do not provide this fringe benefit,” the EPA IG report states. “The GSA’s Director of Operational Support Division and National Parking Manager observed that the GSA’s new, nonsubsidized parking policy reduced the number of employees driving to work by over 80 percent.”

While it certainly constitutes the squandering of taxpayer dollars, the EPA parking bruhaha is nothing compared to some of the agency’s scandals over the years. During the Obama administration the EPA gave leftist groups tens of millions of dollars to help poor, minority and indigenous communities attain “environmental justice.” Some of the agency funds went to groups that help illegal immigrants, among them a New Jersey nonprofit (Lazos America Unida) that advocates on behalf of the “Mexican immigrant community” and a Missouri farm workers’ group that aims to increase awareness about the dangers of sun and heat exposure in migrant populations. Judicial Watch sued the EPA earlier this year for records about the controversial environmental justice grants because the agency ignored a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that dates back to 2015.

Various probes have also uncovered an epidemic of EPA employees watching pornography on government computers during work hours. This is a government-wide problem, but the EPA appears to be in a class of its own. Watching porn at the agency is so widespread that a bill (Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act) was introduced in Congress and the lawmaker behind it, North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, said the EPA served as an inspiration for the measure. “One EPA employee was viewing as much as 6 hours of pornography a day in his office,” the congressman said. “The same federal employee was found to have downloaded as many as 7,000 pornographic files onto his government computer.”

The EPA also fails to punish corrupt employees and allows them to keep their government paychecks, according to a scathing federal audit  that includes slews of examples in which the agency failed to take action against workers who committed wrongdoing. For instance, a senior executive simultaneously worked in a private-sector job while he was supposedly performing tasks at the EPA. Agency brass took no action for nearly a year and ultimately put the executive on “paid administrative leave,” allowing the worker to collect full pay for doing nothing. Other cases include eight employees accused by the EPA of misconduct who are also on paid leave and have accrued around 21,000 hours at a cost of more than $1 million and two employees who got busted watching porn during work hours. Each of the porn viewers has an annual salary of $120,000 and both were placed on administrative leave for a year before they were even reprimanded, according to the audit. One of them retired with full benefits without any punishment and the other is still collecting a full government paycheck. The cases go on and on. “Recent events and activities indicate a possible ‘culture of complacency’ among some supervisors at the EPA regarding time and attendance controls, employee computer usage, real property management, and taking prompt action against employees,” the report says.

Let’s not forget that under Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, the agency was investigated for dodging potential public scrutiny and possibly congressional oversight by using bogus electronic mail accounts to conduct official business. Judicial Watch is investigating the matter and has sued the EPA for using a private encryption software to thwart government oversight and transparency.

The post EPA Blows $1.5 Million on Parking, Some Spaces Never Used appeared first on Judicial Watch.

City’s Illegal Alien Defense Fund Gives $17,500 to Terrorist Front Group

Ohio’s capital city has launched a defense fund for illegal immigrants facing deportation and thousands of taxpayer dollars will go to the local chapter of a terrorist front group that promotes itself as a Muslim civil rights organization. The pot of cash is known as Columbus Families Together Fund and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national organization that serves as the U.S. front for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, will be among the recipients.

CAIR was founded in 1994 by three Middle Eastern extremists (Omar Ahmad, Nihad Awad, and Rafeeq Jaber) who ran the American propaganda wing of Hamas, known then as the Islamic Association for Palestine. In 2008 CAIR was a co-conspirator in a federal terror-finance case involving the Hamas front group Holy Land Foundation. Read more in a Judicial Watch special report that focuses on Muslim charities. Top FBI counter terrorism chiefs have described CAIR as an entity that not only promotes terrorism, but also finances it. One group has dedicated itself to documenting CAIR’s extensive terrorist ties which include a top official sentenced to 20 years in prison for participating in a network of militant jihadists, another convicted of bank fraud for financing a major terrorist group, a board member who was a co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a fundraiser identified by the U.S. Treasury Department for financing Al Qaeda.

Allocating public funds to assist illegal aliens with their legal problems is bad enough, but giving some of the cash to a group like CAIR is like pouring salt on the wound. The effort started when Donald Trump got elected president. Columbus City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown vowed to help illegal immigrants fight deportation and posted this on her social media account on January 30: “In Columbus, we stand with immigrants! This morning I announced Council’s commitment to a legal defense fund to support our refugees and immigrants as they face an onslaught of new hurdles to keep their families together. I’m excited to get to work. Who wants to help?”

Last week the Columbus City Council made it official, establishing the new legal defense fund with a $185,000 infusion to help provide legal services to the area’s illegal aliens and their families. The money will go to various nonprofits that will also “educate detained immigrants on their rights under immigration law,” according to a local newspaper report. A nonprofit called Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc. will get the largest chunk of city money, the article reveals, but other groups will also benefit. Priority will go to Columbus-area illegal aliens facing deportation in Cleveland Immigration Court and preference will be given to cases involving children. CAIR will receive $17,500 to provide “legal services that help keep families together in the central Ohio immigrant and refugee communities.” This includes “know your rights” education sessions in Columbus that will cover encounters with federal immigration agents. Brown, the councilwoman behind the effort said “we’re sending a signal here tonight. We value our immigrants. We welcome you. We know that the demonization of immigrants throws them into the shadows and makes a class of silent victims. We won’t allow it.”

City leaders feel an obligation to protect immigrant and refugee families in Central Ohio from the financial and emotional devastation that results from aggressive immigration enforcement, according to a document describing the Columbus Families Together Fund. “The wellbeing of our immigrant communities is intertwined with the city’s overall wellbeing,” the document states. “Ultimately, Columbus is a safer, more just, and more economically vibrant city for everyone when we address the needs of all our residents.” It also says that, because an intact family is one determining factor in economic self-sufficiency and long-term child success, the city will also pay for additional services that help keep immigrant and refugee families together.

Columbus is not alone in allocating public funds to help those in the country illegally after the Trump administration announced a harder line on immigration enforcement. Last year two major U.S. cities that have long offered illegal aliens sanctuary allocated millions of dollars to help them avoid deportation. A few days after the Chicago City Council approved a $1.3 million legal defense fund to assist illegal aliens facing deportation, official in Los Angeles unveiled a similar program with a $10 million infusion.

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Teacher Sues Public District to Stop it from Giving JW Antifa Activism Records

A Judicial Watch record request has fueled a tense legal drama between a middle school teacher who is a national organizer for a radical leftist group and the public district that employs her. The conflict ensued a few weeks ago when Judicial Watch filed a California Public Records Act (CPRA) request with the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) to obtain information about the controversial teacher’s violent Antifa activism.

The teacher, Yvette Felarca, works at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and is a prominent figure in By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), an organized militant group founded by the Marxist Revolutionary Workers League that uses raucous militant tactics to protest conservative speaking engagements. Over the summer Felarca was arrested and charged with several crimes, including felony assault, for inciting a riot in Sacramento, according to information provided by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office to a Berkeley news outlet. Felarca was captured on video calling a man a Nazi and punching him in the stomach repeatedly while shouting obscenities at him. More than a dozen people were injured in the riot, at least 10 with stab wounds, and the capitol grounds suffered thousands of dollars in property damage.

BUSD has accused Felarca of brainwashing and indoctrinating students for years and in a 2016 letter cited in a local news article the district writes that her performance “reflected unprofessional conduct and unsatisfactory performance,” both grounds for dismissal. The teacher repeatedly solicited students to participate in protests, used students to support her own personal political agenda and repeatedly used leave time to attend immigrant rights marches in Washington D.C., even though the district says it is not an allowable use for personal or sick leave. “It was evident that you and your [By Any Means Necessary] representatives were actively trying to brainwash and manipulate these young people to serve your own selfish interests in not being held accountable to the same rules that apply to everyone else,” the letter states. “As a teacher, your conduct was particularly reprehensible.” Earlier this year the district was bombarded with calls to fire the combative teacher.

Judicial Watch filed the CPRA to obtain records of communication between district administrators and King Middle School staff mentioning the words Felarca, Antifa, By All Means Necessary and BAMN as well as the teacher’s personnel file. Last week BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans reluctantly announced that he will comply with Judicial Watch’s request for the records because he is legally required to do so. Evans writes that it’s possible Judicial Watch is conducting a “witch hunt” to intimidate and deny free speech rights, but mentions the bottom line: The law is clear that a public agency’s refusal to comply with a lawful request may result in substantial litigation costs and attorney’s fees imposed on the agency for its refusal to comply. The superintendent reminds that “courts have made clear that the motivation of the requestor seeking public records under the CPRA is not a basis to reject a request — no matter how upsetting the request may be, or how objectionable the motivation for the request may be.”

Felarca responded by suing the district to keep it from fulfilling its legal obligation to provide Judicial Watch with the records. A King Middle School staffer named Lori Nixon and a teacher, Larry Stefl, joined her in the complaint, which argues that Judicial Watch is misusing the law for political means and the district should refuse to provide the information. It also calls Judicial Watch’s record request “illegal.” Evans, BUSD and King Middle School Principal Janet Levenson are named in the complaint. “Judicial Watch and BUSD seek to put on public display the emails of teachers and staff at MLKMS, a school community that has been defending Felarca and the city of Berkeley from right-wing attack,” the teacher’s complaint states. “Defendant seeks to conduct a political witch-hunt, violating Plaintiffs’ privacy and chill their freedom of speech, freedom of association, and right to engage in protected activities and disrupts their public function as educators.”

The court document explains that “Berkeley has found itself at ground zero in the fight against Donald Trump’s policies of anti-immigrant scapegoating and tendency toward creating an authoritarian regime.” Berkeley is at the center of opposing the alt-right and neo-Nazi thugs who have repeatedly targeted the city precisely because of its principles of anti-racism, tolerance and freedom of speech, the filing says. “This case will have tremendous impact on the future course of this struggle.”

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City Claims Records are so “Candid or Personal” Public Disclosure will “Stifle” Govt.

In a huge blow to government transparency, a city in a state that disregards federal immigration and drug statutes is keeping records secret by asserting that the “material is so candid or personal that public disclosure is likely to stifle honest and frank discussion within the government.” It is a laughable excuse to withhold records in an apparent effort to coverup embarrassing and perhaps unprofessional behavior by public officials on taxpayer equipment and time.

Here’s some background; in September Judicial Watch uncovered a controversy involving the northern Colorado city of Ft. Collins’ search for a new police chief. A highly qualified and respected veteran law enforcement official with impressive credentials was precipitously eliminated as a finalist after Ft. Collins officials discovered he endorsed immigration enforcement. His name is Steve Henry, a former chief deputy for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) in central Arizona with 23 years of continuous and stellar law enforcement service. Henry spent nearly two decades at PCSO, an agency with a $39 million budget that patrols a county the size of Connecticut and he’s a U.S. Army veteran with degrees from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the Harvard JFK School of Government.

Henry was among 65 applicants for the Ft. Collins police chief job and was notified that he was one of six finalists. He was invited to travel to Ft. Collins to interview with city officials, specifically the city manager, who oversees the police chief. Henry’s offer was abruptly rescinded, a source closely involved with the selection process told Judicial Watch, because he publicly supported an Arizona law (SB1070) that makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documentation and bans “sanctuary city” policies. The measure also allows local law enforcement officers throughout the state to inquire about suspects’ immigration status. “Three of the top six candidates were dumped for a public stance on one issue or another,” Judicial Watch’s source said. “Political correctness is destroying America when a city government does not want a chief who supports the rule of law.”

Before publishing the story, Judicial Watch reached out to Ft. Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry for comment but an assistant named Rachel left Judicial Watch a voice message saying Atteberry had “back-to-back meetings” for days and would not be available. Judicial Watch also sent Atteberry questions via electronic mail to his official city address ([email protected]) but he did not return them. At the time Judicial Watch had launched an investigation and filed a public records request to obtain details about the troublesome case. After the September article was published Ft. Collins officials mounted a campaign to discredit Judicial Watch by claiming there were numerous inaccuracies without offering specifics. In over 126 documents provided to Judicial Watch by Ft. Collins, not one identified a single inaccuracy in Judicial Watch’s reporting.

Conveniently, Ft. Collins officials claim that the records involving the alleged inaccuracies surrounding the police chief selection process cannot be provided because, the “material is so candid or personal that public disclosure is likely to stifle honest and frank discussion within the government.” Specifically, the withheld records involve electronic mail exchanges between city staff, two draft versions of the city’s response to Judicial Watch’s story, removing police chief candidate names from communications, exchanges between city staff members containing draft public statements to the city council about police chief recruitment, updates with four potential finalists and information about terminating the contract with the California-based company (Ralph Anderson and Associates) hired to conduct the city’s search for a police chief.

In denying the records, Ft. Collins asserts that “Intra-city communication contains candid dialogue regarding updating the City Council about the Judicial Watch post and the police chief recruitment and a candidate name is included.” The city also uses the same “intra-city communication” excuse to deny the other records, including exchanges among officials regarding their response to “numerous emails sent by third parties” in the aftermath of Judicial Watch’s story and “candid dialogue regarding preparation of city press release.” The broad exemption appears to be a ticket to avoid accountability. We can only guess what the withheld exchanges contain. Could the material include lewd photographs, racially derogatory comments, criminal intent, rule violations or offensive language? Judicial Watch is exploring the possibility of litigation to let a court determine if the information gets disclosed to the public. In the meantime, here’s a thought; disclosing material based upon discussions and decisions that are courteous, professional and relevant rarely, if ever, have a “stifling” effect.

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U.S. Blows $4.1 Million on Another Shoddy Project to Rebuild Afghanistan

In the latest of a slew of corrupt Afghanistan reconstruction projects, the U.S. government blew more than $4 million on a shoddy military training center in Kabul, according to a federal audit released this month. It’s part of a broader, fraud-infested initiative that nevertheless keeps receiving huge sums of American taxpayer dollars. When the Taliban was booted from power in 2001, Uncle Sam committed a huge chunk of change to help rebuild Afghanistan by building and renovating facilities such as schools, prisons, hospitals and industrial parks.

As of March 2017, Congress has appropriated an eye-popping $117.3 billion for U.S. relief and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan. The money flows through the Department of Defense (DOD), State Department and the famously corrupt U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Judicial Watch has for years monitored and reported on the Afghanistan reconstruction debacle that continues fleecing American taxpayers. Most have been documented in tremendous detail by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). They include the mysterious disappearance of nearly half a billion dollars in oil destined for the Afghan National Army, a $335 million Afghan power plant that’s seldom used and an $18.5 million renovation for a prison that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began.

Among the more outrageous expenditures are U.S. Army contracts with dozens of companies tied to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The reconstruction watchdog recommended that the Army immediately cut business ties to the terrorists, but the deals continued. Another big waste reported by Judicial Watch a few years ago, involves a $65 million initiative to help Afghan women escape repression. The U.S. government admits that, because there’s no accountability, record-keeping or follow-up, it has no clue if the program was effective. In a humiliating failure exposed earlier this year, the U.S. government’s costly effort to counter narcotics in Afghanistan actually resulted in a huge increase in poppy cultivation and opium production. Opium production rose 43% in the Islamic nation, to an estimated 4,800 tons, and approximately 201,000 hectares of land are under poppy cultivation, representing a 10% increase in one year alone.

In the case highlighted this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) awarded $17.1 million to an Afghan company called MegaTech that was supposed to complete a facility called Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC). The contract was for the construction of new facilities and renovation of several existing ones, according to the SIGAR’s lengthy report. The compound is Afghanistan’s primary training base for new Afghan National Army recruits, with about 18,000 receiving training in 2016. Newly constructed facilities included three barracks, two dining facilities (DFACs), three storage buildings, eight latrines, and seven guard shacks. The costly project was such a failure that parts of the compound have never been used.

Despite being handsomely funded, the facility was not constructed or renovated according to contract requirements. “There were instances of poor design and construction, contractor noncompliance, and unauthorized product substitution that resulted in the potential waste of as much as $4.1 million in taxpayer funds,” SIGAR writes in its report. The watchdog lists the following examples: Propane gas cylinders were placed too close to the new facility, which could lead to a gas explosion in the kitchens; certified fire-rated doors were not installed as required; counterfeit fire extinguishers were installed; Although the contract required adherence to National Fire Protection Association standards, which specify at least 10 feet of separation between propane gas cylinders and any ignition source or building, USACE designed and approved specifications with “zero clearance” between the cylinders and the DFACs. “As a result, despite USACE paying $3.9 million to build two new DFACs, the kitchens have never been used to prepare meals because of gas issues that could lead to explosions,” the report says.

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U.S. Blows $4.1 Million on Another Shoddy Project to Rebuild Afghanistan

In the latest of a slew of corrupt Afghanistan reconstruction projects, the U.S. government blew more than $4 million on a shoddy military training center in Kabul, according to a federal audit released this month. It’s part of a broader, fraud-infested initiative that nevertheless keeps receiving huge sums of American taxpayer dollars. When the Taliban was booted from power in 2001, Uncle Sam committed a huge chunk of change to help rebuild Afghanistan by building and renovating facilities such as schools, prisons, hospitals and industrial parks.

As of March 2017, Congress has appropriated an eye-popping $117.3 billion for U.S. relief and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan. The money flows through the Department of Defense (DOD), State Department and the famously corrupt U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Judicial Watch has for years monitored and reported on the Afghanistan reconstruction debacle that continues fleecing American taxpayers. Most have been documented in tremendous detail by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). They include the mysterious disappearance of nearly half a billion dollars in oil destined for the Afghan National Army, a $335 million Afghan power plant that’s seldom used and an $18.5 million renovation for a prison that remains unfinished and unused years after the U.S.-funded work began.

Among the more outrageous expenditures are U.S. Army contracts with dozens of companies tied to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The reconstruction watchdog recommended that the Army immediately cut business ties to the terrorists, but the deals continued. Another big waste reported by Judicial Watch a few years ago, involves a $65 million initiative to help Afghan women escape repression. The U.S. government admits that, because there’s no accountability, record-keeping or follow-up, it has no clue if the program was effective. In a humiliating failure exposed earlier this year, the U.S. government’s costly effort to counter narcotics in Afghanistan actually resulted in a huge increase in poppy cultivation and opium production. Opium production rose 43% in the Islamic nation, to an estimated 4,800 tons, and approximately 201,000 hectares of land are under poppy cultivation, representing a 10% increase in one year alone.

In the case highlighted this month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) awarded $17.1 million to an Afghan company called MegaTech that was supposed to complete a facility called Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC). The contract was for the construction of new facilities and renovation of several existing ones, according to the SIGAR’s lengthy report. The compound is Afghanistan’s primary training base for new Afghan National Army recruits, with about 18,000 receiving training in 2016. Newly constructed facilities included three barracks, two dining facilities (DFACs), three storage buildings, eight latrines, and seven guard shacks. The costly project was such a failure that parts of the compound have never been used.

Despite being handsomely funded, the facility was not constructed or renovated according to contract requirements. “There were instances of poor design and construction, contractor noncompliance, and unauthorized product substitution that resulted in the potential waste of as much as $4.1 million in taxpayer funds,” SIGAR writes in its report. The watchdog lists the following examples: Propane gas cylinders were placed too close to the new facility, which could lead to a gas explosion in the kitchens; certified fire-rated doors were not installed as required; counterfeit fire extinguishers were installed; Although the contract required adherence to National Fire Protection Association standards, which specify at least 10 feet of separation between propane gas cylinders and any ignition source or building, USACE designed and approved specifications with “zero clearance” between the cylinders and the DFACs. “As a result, despite USACE paying $3.9 million to build two new DFACs, the kitchens have never been used to prepare meals because of gas issues that could lead to explosions,” the report says.

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Records Show Conservatives Overtly Excluded as Leftists Got $1 Billion from Cos Sued by DOJ

An Obama-era scheme that forced companies sued by the government to fund leftist groups overtly excluded conservative organizations, according to internal Department of Justice (DOJ) records obtained by Judicial Watch. As part of settlements, the DOJ would often give the corporations—mainly big banks—double credit if they gave money to leftwing interest groups handpicked by the administration instead of paying the government. The new records demonstrate a collaborative effort among high-level officials in the Office of the Assistant Attorney General (OAAG) and the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to ensure conservative groups did not receive any settlement cash.

The operation is known as a DOJ “slush fund” that filled the coffers of Obama-allied nonprofits such as the National Council of La Raza, Urban League and National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Earlier this year Judicial sued the DOJ for records relating to the problematic Obama administration policy of settling government lawsuits against corporate defendants by requiring that the corporations make “donations” to leftwing interest groups. Back in 2010 Judicial Watch sued the DOJ over a similar program in which the agency’s Civil Rights Division directed large sums of cash settlements in discrimination lawsuits to organization that were not officially connected to the lawsuits. Recipients were also leftist groups that aligned with Obama’s ultra-liberal agenda.

The new batch of DOJ records shed more light on how conservative nonprofits were not only banned from receiving money, but also singled out. One electronic mail from a redacted DOJ source to a pair of officials in the OAAG reads: “Concerns include: a) not allowing Citi to pick a statewide intermediary like the Pacific Legal Foundation (does conservative property-rights free legal services)…” Another email, from the same OAAG officials to the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) says: “Here are some examples of consumer relief items that we believe require the banks to do more than they would be economically motivated to do on their own in Citi…” The examples are redacted but one line reads: “Make donations to categories of entities we have specified (as opposed to what the bank might normally choose to donate to).”

A House Judiciary Committee investigation determined earlier this year that the DOJ used the mandatory donations to direct almost a billion dollars to liberal activist groups in just two years. It gets better. The congressional probe found that “activist groups which stood to gain from mandatory donation provisions were involved in placing those provisions in the settlements.” Thankfully, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions put an end to the madness over the summer, writing in a memo that the DOJ will no longer engage in the practice. “Effective immediately, Department attorneys may not enter into any agreement on behalf of the United States in settlement of federal claims or charges, including agreements settling civil litigation, accepting plea agreements, or deferring or declining prosecution in a criminal matter, that directs or provides for a payment or loan to any non-governmental person or entity that is not a party to the dispute.”

A new administration could reverse the directive however, so the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, introduced a bill that will ban all federal agencies from funneling money to third parties that weren’t victims in government lawsuits. The measure appears to have bipartisan support and does not affect payments to provide restitution to victims that have suffered harm. “It was obvious from the outset that mandatory donation provisions create opportunities for abuse,” Congressman Goodlatte says in a statement. “That such abuses actually occurred is now proven.”

The Obama administration also used the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a political tool to target conservatives. Judicial Watch uncovered that major scandal and sued to obtain droves of government documents that show how the agency singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as patriot and Tea Party in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status. The Obama IRS also illegally colluded with another government agency—the Federal Election Commission (FEC)—to crack down on conservative nonprofits during the 2012 election cycle.

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Border Agency Uses Slow Computers that Blackout, Can’t Screen Aliens with “Harmful Intent”

The computer system used by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) front-line border protection agency is slow, frequently blacks out and can’t prevent the entry of inadmissible aliens with “harmful intent,” a disturbing federal audit reveals. Incredibly, thousands of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents rely on the flawed information technology (IT) system to fulfill their duty of securing the nation’s borders and keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the United States.

“CBP’s IT systems and infrastructure did not fully support its border security objective of preventing the entry of inadmissible aliens to the country,” a DHS Inspector General report states. “The slow performance of a critical pre-screening system greatly reduced Office of Field Operations officers’ ability to identify any passengers who may represent concerns, including national security threats. Further, incoming passenger screening at U.S. international airports was hampered by frequent system outages that created passenger delays and public safety risks. The outages required that CBP officers rely on backup systems that weakened the screening process, leading to officers potentially being unable to identify travelers that may be attempting to enter the United States with harmful intent.”

This may seem inconceivable 16 years after the worst terrorist attack on American soil. CBP is one of the world’s largest law enforcement agencies with 60,000 employees and annual budget of around $13 billion. It’s a crucial DHS agency that must balance national security with facilitating lawful international travel and trade. On a typical day CBP processes more than a million passengers and pedestrians, 280,000 vehicles and conducts more than 1,000 apprehensions. The agency also has an Air and Marine Operations (AMO) that protects sea borders by interception inadmissible aliens and cargo approaching American borders. The division has about 1,800 agents, 240 aircraft and 300 marine vessels throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The agency watchdog found that “frequent network outages hindered air and marine surveillance operations, greatly reducing the situational awareness needed to detect inadmissible aliens and cargo approaching U.S. borders.”

Information technology is a critical part of CBP’s operations and the agency has a special Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Information and Technology (OIT) to assure everything is functioning properly. The office is charged with providing effective technology, infrastructure and communications to adequately carry out border security operations. It’s also well-funded to the tune of $1.4 billion in 2016, the DHS IG report says. That accounts for the largest IT budget within DHS, comprising around 23% of DHS’s $6.2 billion IT budget. The CBP IT division also has a staff of around 5,200, including nearly 2,000 federal employees and thousands of contractors. This is a big-time and handsomely-funded enterprise that should run smoothly and effectively. Instead, it’s notorious for being inefficient and dangerously unreliable.

As an example of traveler delays and safety issues, the DHS report offers recent system outages that affected about 119,774 international travelers nationwide. More than 10,000, arrived at Miami International Airport and the backlog created “hazards and security concerns,” the audit says. CBP had to call local police and fire departments to help mitigate the risks and 258 CBP officers worked 762 overtime hours, resulting in more than $58,000 in overtime pay. The incident “created numerous secondary challenges and risks, including difficulties with crowd control, temperature, health emergencies and officer and public safety,” according to the audit.

Border Patrol agents face similar issues with a system known as e3 that’s famously slow and suffers lots of outages. Agents are frequently unable to carry out border apprehension and enforcement activities, DHS investigators found, with the most common outages related to a key portal that shares information in real time with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE). Some of the outages were prolonged and others occurred monthly. “The most significant impact of outages and slow processing in the e3 system was Border Patrol agents’ inability to meet court deadlines for submitting information about criminal aliens for possible prosecution,” The report states. For example, 48 individuals apprehended in the Tucson sector of the southwest border were not prosecuted in 2015 due to late records submissions. The same Border Patrol sector missed the deadline for transferring records for another 36 individuals due to e3 system failures.

CBP management does not dispute any of the findings in this alarming report. The question is, what will the agency do to fix the problem.

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Somali Who Executed Canadian Terror Attack Entered U.S. Via Mexico

The Somali terrorist who stabbed a Canadian police officer and ran over four pedestrians a few weeks ago entered the United States through the Mexican border and was released by Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS), allowing him to continue his journey north. The ISIS operative, Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, was ordered deported, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokeswoman told various media outlets recently, but was released on an “order of supervision” and the feds never saw him again.

Sharif entered the U.S. in 2011 through the San Ysidro port of entry in California without documentation and was briefly held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, a local newspaper reported. A year later he crossed the border into Canada and settled in Edmonton after being granted refugee status. On September 30 he slammed into an Edmonton police officer with his car then got out of the vehicle and repeatedly stabbed the cop with a knife. After fleeing the scene, Sharif stole a truck and deliberately mowed down four pedestrians. Canadian authorities found an ISIS flag in his car and have charged him with multiple counts of attempted murder, criminal flight causing bodily harm and possession of a weapon. Two years ago, Canadian authorities investigated the 30-year-old terrorist for espousing extremist views. It’s disturbing that Sharif’s northbound trek took him through the U.S.-Mexico border.

As part of an ongoing investigation into cartels, corruption and terrorism, Judicial Watch has for years reported that Islamic extremists are entering the country through Mexico and that ISIS is operating in border towns just miles from American cities. Judicial Watch launched the project in 2014 by exposing a sophisticated narco-terror ring with strong ties to ISIS and connections running from El Paso to Chicago to New York City. Two of the FBI’s most wanted were embroiled in the operation that also had deep ties to Mexico. Less than a year later, Judicial Watch reported that ISIS is operating in a Mexican border town just eight miles from El Paso, the result of Islamic terrorists joining forces with drug cartels and human smugglers knowns as “coyotes.”

When Judicial Watch reported that Mexican cartels were smuggling foreigners from countries with terrorist links into a small Texas rural town, federal authorities publicly denied the story was true. Never the less, high-level sources on both sides of the border confirmed to Judicial Watch that foreigners, classified as Special Interest Aliens (SIA), were being transported to stash areas in Acala, a rural crossroads located around 54 miles from El Paso on a state road – Highway 20. Once in the U.S., the SIAs waited for pick-up in the area’s sand hills just across Highway 20. At the time a Texas Department of Public Safety report leaked by the media had already confirmed that for years members of known Islamist terrorist organizations had been apprehended crossing the southern border.

Last year a high-ranking DHS official told Judicial Watch that Mexican drug traffickers help Islamic terrorists stationed in Mexico cross into the United States to explore targets for future attacks. Among the jihadists that travel back and forth through the porous southern border is a Kuwaiti named Shaykh Mahmood Omar Khabir, an ISIS operative who lives in the Mexican state of Chihuahua not far from El Paso. Khabir trained hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen and has lived in Mexico for more than a year, according to information provided by Judicial Watch’s government source. Now Khabir trains thousands of men—mostly Syrians and Yemenis—to fight in an ISIS base situated in the Mexico-U.S. border region near Ciudad Juárez, the intelligence gathered by Judicial Watch’s source reveals. Staking out U.S. targets is not difficult and Khabir actually bragged in an Italian newspaper article that the border region is so open that he “could get in with a handful of men, and kill thousands of people in Texas or in Arizona in the space of a few hours.” In the same article Mexico’s top diplomat, Foreign Affairs Secretary Claudia Ruiz, said “this new wave of fundamentalism could have nasty surprises in store for the United States.”

While much of the American mainstream media ignores that Sharif made it to Canada via the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s hardly surprising considering Islamic extremists have been infiltrating the country through the famously unprotected region for years. Referring to the recent Canadian attack, a think-tank dedicated to investigating the operations, funding, activities and front groups of Islamic extremists worldwide writes: “Fears about a terrorist using the U.S.-Mexican border as a gateway for an attack have been realized.”

The post Somali Who Executed Canadian Terror Attack Entered U.S. Via Mexico appeared first on Judicial Watch.

U.S. Doesn’t Vet or Assure Departure of Counterterrorism Trainees from Developing Nations

The U.S. government spends upward of $100 million annually to provide foreign security and law enforcement personnel from developing nations with counterterrorism training but fails to vet them or assure they depart the county upon completion of the course. In some cases, the foreign nationals leave the training program unauthorized and the U.S. doesn’t bother tracking their whereabouts. Since the candidates weren’t properly screened in the first place, there’s no telling the kind of national security threat they could present.

The program is known as Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) and the U.S. State Department funds it. From fiscal year 2012 to 2017, the agency doled out $715 million to train about 56,000 security force officials from dozens of “partner nations.” Nearly 3,000 of those participants were trained at facilities in the United States with anemic oversight from the government. The goal is to enhance the capability of foreign partners to prevent acts of terrorism, address terrorism incidents and capture and prosecute individuals involved in terrorist acts. The problem is that the program itself is vulnerable from a security standpoint, according to a federal audit released this month. Participant data is inaccurate or incomplete and training facilities are susceptible to breaches and attacks, the probe found.

In fact, what prompted the audit into this decades-old State Department program was the lax security at a Virginia ATA training facility. A south Florida news reporter brought it to the attention of veteran congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen after filming herself driving into the facility without being stopped or questioned. “And worse, she walked up to an explosives storage area undeterred and undetected,” according to a statement posted on Ros-Lehtinen’s congressional website. Residents near the facility also reported that some of the foreign nationals at the Virginia compound were taking unauthorized departures from the training. Ros-Lehtinen asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, to launch a probe and the findings are distressing.

“Among participants trained in the United States since 2012, ATA has documented 10 participant unauthorized departures from ATA activities and provided related information to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for follow-up,” the GAO states. “In addition to these 10, ATA recently identified 20 ATA participants trained in fiscal years 2012 through 2016 for whom departure from the United States following the completion of training is unconfirmed.” Officials running the ATA program admitted to congressional investigators that there is no formal process to confirm participants’ return to their home countries following the completion of training. “Without such a process, ATA may not be able to assess the extent to which it is using training in line with program goals,” the report says. “Further, State may not be able to provide information to DHS about participants whose failure to depart may warrant enforcement action.”

Ros-Lehtinen, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, says ATA’s inaccurate or incomplete participant data is troubling because the U.S. can’t assure individuals were fully and properly vetted and program’s success—or failures—can’t be measured. The congresswoman is especially bothered by the unauthorized departure from ATA programs and participants that DHS had no indication departed from the U.S. “So, who are these people, where did they go, and why is there such a gap in communication between ATA and DHS?” Ros-Lehtinen asks. “There was no formal process of actually following up and ensuring that these participants actually got on a plane and returned home. This might be a small number of participants, but given what we know, I suspect that if a deeper dive was done we might find more unauthorized departures.”

Since its inception in 1983, ATA has trained and assisted over 84,000 foreign security and law enforcement officials from 154 countries, according to State Department figures. Most of the recipients are poor nations that lack resources to keep an effective antiterrorism program and infrastructure, according to the agency. Training includes bomb detection, crime scene investigations, airport and building security, maritime security, dignitary protection, and numerous other disciplines to increase their counterterrorism capabilities and capacity. “These officials are now better prepared to fight terrorism and protect Americans overseas in times of crisis,” the State Department claims.

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State Dept. Claims it Has No Records of its Travel Loans to Refugees Who Need Plane Fare

In response to a Judicial Watch lawsuit, the State Department claims in a legal document that it has no records involving refugee travel loans that the agency gives foreigners overseas to buy plane tickets to fly to the United States. The program is operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an intergovernmental group that assists refugees worldwide with hundreds of millions of dollars from Uncle Sam. The money is channeled through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). In fiscal year 2016 the State Department gave IOM  $477,257,564, according to the agency’s report on contributions to international organizations. That doesn’t even include millions more that the State Department gives the IOM for special refugee resettlement “platforms” that pop up throughout the year.

On its website the IOM writes that it provides interest-free loans “furnished by the Department of State” to “all refugees arriving in the United States:” Judicial Watch launched an investigation into the refugee loan program and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department last year to uncover details. In the request Judicial Watch asked for all records from 2010 to 2016 reflecting the number of Refugee Travel Loans furnished by the State Department’s PRM to the IOM per year, the number of travel loans that are defaulted upon per year and the amount of money written off per defaulted loan. The State Department failed to respond to the FOIA request by the federally-mandated deadline and Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit earlier this year.

In a federal court document responding to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the State Department writes that its “search did not retrieve any records reflecting the number of refugee travel loans furnished per year using U.S. Government funds, the number of such travel loans defaulted on annually, nor the amount of money written off per defaulted loan.” In a footnote the agency writes that it did retrieve some records reflecting IOM’s “general reporting” on refugee travel loans, but none of it contained the “specific information sought” by Judicial Watch. This is outrageous because it suggests that the State Department can’t account for money American taxpayers are lending to foreigners to fly here to declare themselves refugees. A source with inside knowledge of the matter confirmed to Judicial Watch that the records exist and years ago a State Department insider provided figures that show only about half of the travel loans have been repaid since the program was launched in the 1950s, representing a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to American taxpayers. Judicial Watch viewed the records, which span from 1952 to 2002 and reveal that the IOM issued $1,020,803,910 in “transportation” loans and recovered only $584, 219,453.

The U.S.-funded refugee loan program is a broader racket that extends beyond travel money and involves other government agencies. Last summer Judicial Watch obtained records about a program run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement that gives refugees on public assistance special loans of up to $15,000 to start a business. The agency fails to keep track of defaults that could translate into huge losses for U.S. taxpayers, the records reveal. Since 2010 the HHS boondoggle, known as Microenterprise Development Program, has granted thousands of loans to refugees that lack the financial resources, credit history or personal assets to qualify for business loans from commercial banks. Most if not all the recipients already get assistance or subsidies from the government, according to the qualification guidelines set by the Microenterprise Development Program.

It’s a risky operation that blindly gives public funds to poor foreign nationals with no roots in the U.S. and there’s no follow up to assure the cash is paid back. The idea behind it is to “equip refugees with the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs” by helping them expand or maintain their own business and become financially independent. The records obtained by Judicial Watch show that from 2010 to 2015, HHS gave a total of 3,096 of the so-called micro loans. In 2015 a record 558 loans were granted to refugees but it’s not clear for what amount. At the high end, if all 558 loans made that year were for the full $15,000 available to each refugee that would mean that HHS can’t account for an astounding $8.37 million in one year alone.

The post State Dept. Claims it Has No Records of its Travel Loans to Refugees Who Need Plane Fare appeared first on Judicial Watch.

State Dept. Claims it Has No Records of its Travel Loans to Refugees Who Need Plane Fare

In response to a Judicial Watch lawsuit, the State Department claims in a legal document that it has no records involving refugee travel loans that the agency gives foreigners overseas to buy plane tickets to fly to the United States. The program is operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), an intergovernmental group that assists refugees worldwide with hundreds of millions of dollars from Uncle Sam. The money is channeled through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). In fiscal year 2016 the State Department gave IOM  $477,257,564, according to the agency’s report on contributions to international organizations. That doesn’t even include millions more that the State Department gives the IOM for special refugee resettlement “platforms” that pop up throughout the year.

On its website the IOM writes that it provides interest-free loans “furnished by the Department of State” to “all refugees arriving in the United States:” Judicial Watch launched an investigation into the refugee loan program and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department last year to uncover details. In the request Judicial Watch asked for all records from 2010 to 2016 reflecting the number of Refugee Travel Loans furnished by the State Department’s PRM to the IOM per year, the number of travel loans that are defaulted upon per year and the amount of money written off per defaulted loan. The State Department failed to respond to the FOIA request by the federally-mandated deadline and Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit earlier this year.

In a federal court document responding to Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, the State Department writes that its “search did not retrieve any records reflecting the number of refugee travel loans furnished per year using U.S. Government funds, the number of such travel loans defaulted on annually, nor the amount of money written off per defaulted loan.” In a footnote the agency writes that it did retrieve some records reflecting IOM’s “general reporting” on refugee travel loans, but none of it contained the “specific information sought” by Judicial Watch. This is outrageous because it suggests that the State Department can’t account for money American taxpayers are lending to foreigners to fly here to declare themselves refugees. A source with inside knowledge of the matter confirmed to Judicial Watch that the records exist and years ago a State Department insider provided figures that show only about half of the travel loans have been repaid since the program was launched in the 1950s, representing a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to American taxpayers. Judicial Watch viewed the records, which span from 1952 to 2002 and reveal that the IOM issued $1,020,803,910 in “transportation” loans and recovered only $584, 219,453.

The U.S.-funded refugee loan program is a broader racket that extends beyond travel money and involves other government agencies. Last summer Judicial Watch obtained records about a program run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement that gives refugees on public assistance special loans of up to $15,000 to start a business. The agency fails to keep track of defaults that could translate into huge losses for U.S. taxpayers, the records reveal. Since 2010 the HHS boondoggle, known as Microenterprise Development Program, has granted thousands of loans to refugees that lack the financial resources, credit history or personal assets to qualify for business loans from commercial banks. Most if not all the recipients already get assistance or subsidies from the government, according to the qualification guidelines set by the Microenterprise Development Program.

It’s a risky operation that blindly gives public funds to poor foreign nationals with no roots in the U.S. and there’s no follow up to assure the cash is paid back. The idea behind it is to “equip refugees with the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs” by helping them expand or maintain their own business and become financially independent. The records obtained by Judicial Watch show that from 2010 to 2015, HHS gave a total of 3,096 of the so-called micro loans. In 2015 a record 558 loans were granted to refugees but it’s not clear for what amount. At the high end, if all 558 loans made that year were for the full $15,000 available to each refugee that would mean that HHS can’t account for an astounding $8.37 million in one year alone.

The post State Dept. Claims it Has No Records of its Travel Loans to Refugees Who Need Plane Fare appeared first on Judicial Watch.

U.S. Mayor Assures Mexican Consul His “Sanctuary City” Will Provide Safe Spaces for Illegal Aliens

Shortly after Donald Trump got elected president, a California mayor arranged a meeting with the Consul General of Mexico to assure the diplomat that his “sanctuary city” will continue providing safe spaces for illegal immigrants, according to records obtained by Judicial Watch. The documents show that Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin’s top aide, Stefan Elgstrand, sent an electronic mail to the Mexican Consul General in San Francisco, Gemi Jose Gonzalez Lopez, stating the following: “The recent events around Trump’s executive order reminded me to reach out to you. We are a sanctuary city and will continue to be. I imagine you are very busy dealing with the concerns and fears of many residents in the Bay Area, and we want to assist in providing safe spaces for them.”

Judicial Watch obtained the files as part of a California Public Records Act request for information surrounding riots by the radical leftist Antifa movement against President Trump and conservative personalities scheduled to speak at the University of California Berkeley. Media reported that fires were set, fences and windows broken, firebombs launched and commercial-grade fireworks thrown at police. A renowned, San Francisco-based pop culture magazine wrote that the uprising raised some big questions about the future of the free speech movement. Judicial Watch requested the files to shed light into how city, police and university officials handled the lawlessness, which received global news coverage. The request asked for records of communications between officials in the Berkeley mayor’s office and the Berkeley Police Department as well as records of communications between the mayor’s office and officials at UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s top public research universities.

The documents show a coordinated effort between Democratic city officials nationwide to “build the movement to resist Trump.” The operation is being financed by leftwing billionaire philanthropist George Soros through one of his groups called Center of Popular Democracy. Earlier this year Judicial Watch uncovered a scandal in which the U.S. government quietly gave millions of taxpayer dollars to destabilize the democratically elected, center-right government in Macedonia by colluding with Soros’ Open Society Foundation. The U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess L. Baily, worked behind the scenes with Open Society Foundation to funnel large sums of American dollars for the cause, constituting an interference of the U.S. Ambassador in domestic political affairs in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The cash flowed through the State Department and the famously corrupt U.S. Agency of International Development (USAID) and Judicial Watch sued both agencies for records related to funding and political activities of the Open Society Foundation in Macedonia.

The Soros-backed, northern California movement includes a taxpayer-salaried physics professor at UC Berkeley who advises Mayor Arreguin on how to handle conservative protestors at a spring rally. The professor, James McFadden, tells the mayor in an electronic mail obtained by Judicial Watch to “create a corral” and ask the Trump supporters to “get in the corral.” He describes Trump supporters as “delusional and paranoid about the world around them” and says they’re “willing to use violence to impose that order on us, especially when they have the blessing of a narcissistic authoritarian president.” A professor at another California public university tells the Berkeley mayor that the arrest of Antifa leader/middle school teacher Yvette Felarca for assaulting a political opponent (captured on video) at a Sacramento rally, in which seven people were stabbed, was a “McCarthyist political persecution” and he condemned Felarca’s arrest and teaching suspension “in the strongest possible terms.”

Ironically, Berkeley’s official government website brags about being a bastion of the free speech movement. “In Alameda County alone, Berkeley is ranked fourth in population behind Oakland, Fremont, and Hayward,” the website states. “And yet, we are famous around the globe as a center for academic achievement, scientific exploration, free speech and the arts.” Indeed, Berkeley is renowned as the birthplace of the free speech movement in in the 1960s. An opinion piece in a California newspaper points out that the city’s free speech movement has gone full circle, however. “Nowadays, Berkeley is rapidly becoming famed as one of the least tolerant cities in the country — where any challenge to left-wing orthodoxy is met with terrorist threats and mob violence.”

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Border Patrol Fails to Secure Containers with Seized Drugs, Weapons, Explosives

One of the nation’s busiest Border Patrol sectors for illegal immigrant apprehensions and drug seizures has serious security issues that “pose an immediate threat” to agents, assets and operations, according to a federal audit. Unannounced spot inspections conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General determined that stations within the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, which covers most of Arizona, uncovered the security lapses which apparently have existed for years.

“During our recent spot inspections of Border Patrol stations in the Tucson Sector, we observed, and Border Patrol agents corroborated, multiple physical security issues that raise concerns about agent safety at two locations,” the DHS IG writes in a recently published report. “Both facilities have vulnerable outdoor storage containers secured with padlocks that could be easily opened with common bolt cutters. Container tops and walls could also easily be compromised with a blow torch or other widely available tools. The containers we inspected held ammunition; small arms; riot control explosives; proprietary surveillance equipment; seized drugs; and sensitive hardcopy prosecution, investigation, and personnel documents.”

The stations aren’t identified for security reasons, but the audit reveals that one facility’s eight-foot perimeter wall has inadequate camera coverage and allows public access to the full perimeter and visibility of storage containers, as well as seized and government vehicles. Additionally, poor outdoor lighting impedes adequate camera surveillance at night. Another Tucson Sector station has inoperable security cameras and a six-foot chain link fence that allows public access to the full perimeter as well as visibility of storage containers, operations, a fuel storage tank, structures and government vehicles. Investigators found serious vulnerabilities at three other compounds, including one in which outsiders freely roamed vehicle storage areas after following Border Patrol vehicles through the main gate unchallenged. Other stations have control room monitor displays in detainee cells that don’t function.

“During interviews with Border Patrol agents, we learned of other security risks,” the DHS IG report states. They include detainees forcing open detention cells in one location, an “intelligence” trailer situated in a vulnerable location near a perimeter fence and agents having to park their personal vehicles in a public lot adjacent to the station because of insufficient space. The 13-page report includes photos of “dangerous and sensitive items” stored in “easily accessible padlocked containers.” This includes weaponry, ammunition, seized drugs and explosives. Other photos include the vulnerable gas storage area, perimeter walls and the exposed intel trailer. The report indicates that the investigation was initiated at the request of Border Patrol supervisory agents who expressed concern about serious potential threats to agent safety and mission execution.

The Tucson Sector covers 262 miles with about 4,000 agents in eight stations. The facilities are in Why, Casa Grande, Douglas, Bisbee, Nogales, Sonoita, Tucson, and Willcox. Last year the Tucson Sector ranked first in marijuana seizures (728,367 pounds) and second (64,891) to the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas (186,830) in apprehensions, according to government figures. Tucson also apprehended the second largest number (18,397) of illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico, officially classified by the government as Other Than Mexicans (OTMs). Judicial Watch has reported on this extensively, specifically how Islamic terrorists have joined forces with Mexican drug cartels to enter the U.S. through the famously porous, 2,000-mile southern border. Read about it in a Judicial Watch investigative series that documents how cartels, corruption and terrorism have ignited a major security threat on the Mexican border.

As for the vast terrain that the Tucson Sector patrols, it has long been one of the nation’s most dangerous to guard. Years ago, Judicial Watch reported that federal agents in the vicinity were ordered to stay away from the most crime-infested stretches because they’re “too dangerous” and patrolling them could result in an “international incident” of cross border shooting. At the time the Tucson sector accounted for nearly half of all seized marijuana and half of all illegal immigrants apprehended entering the U.S.

The post Border Patrol Fails to Secure Containers with Seized Drugs, Weapons, Explosives appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Border Patrol Fails to Secure Containers with Seized Drugs, Weapons, Explosives

One of the nation’s busiest Border Patrol sectors for illegal immigrant apprehensions and drug seizures has serious security issues that “pose an immediate threat” to agents, assets and operations, according to a federal audit. Unannounced spot inspections conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General determined that stations within the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, which covers most of Arizona, uncovered the security lapses which apparently have existed for years.

“During our recent spot inspections of Border Patrol stations in the Tucson Sector, we observed, and Border Patrol agents corroborated, multiple physical security issues that raise concerns about agent safety at two locations,” the DHS IG writes in a recently published report. “Both facilities have vulnerable outdoor storage containers secured with padlocks that could be easily opened with common bolt cutters. Container tops and walls could also easily be compromised with a blow torch or other widely available tools. The containers we inspected held ammunition; small arms; riot control explosives; proprietary surveillance equipment; seized drugs; and sensitive hardcopy prosecution, investigation, and personnel documents.”

The stations aren’t identified for security reasons, but the audit reveals that one facility’s eight-foot perimeter wall has inadequate camera coverage and allows public access to the full perimeter and visibility of storage containers, as well as seized and government vehicles. Additionally, poor outdoor lighting impedes adequate camera surveillance at night. Another Tucson Sector station has inoperable security cameras and a six-foot chain link fence that allows public access to the full perimeter as well as visibility of storage containers, operations, a fuel storage tank, structures and government vehicles. Investigators found serious vulnerabilities at three other compounds, including one in which outsiders freely roamed vehicle storage areas after following Border Patrol vehicles through the main gate unchallenged. Other stations have control room monitor displays in detainee cells that don’t function.

“During interviews with Border Patrol agents, we learned of other security risks,” the DHS IG report states. They include detainees forcing open detention cells in one location, an “intelligence” trailer situated in a vulnerable location near a perimeter fence and agents having to park their personal vehicles in a public lot adjacent to the station because of insufficient space. The 13-page report includes photos of “dangerous and sensitive items” stored in “easily accessible padlocked containers.” This includes weaponry, ammunition, seized drugs and explosives. Other photos include the vulnerable gas storage area, perimeter walls and the exposed intel trailer. The report indicates that the investigation was initiated at the request of Border Patrol supervisory agents who expressed concern about serious potential threats to agent safety and mission execution.

The Tucson Sector covers 262 miles with about 4,000 agents in eight stations. The facilities are in Why, Casa Grande, Douglas, Bisbee, Nogales, Sonoita, Tucson, and Willcox. Last year the Tucson Sector ranked first in marijuana seizures (728,367 pounds) and second (64,891) to the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas (186,830) in apprehensions, according to government figures. Tucson also apprehended the second largest number (18,397) of illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico, officially classified by the government as Other Than Mexicans (OTMs). Judicial Watch has reported on this extensively, specifically how Islamic terrorists have joined forces with Mexican drug cartels to enter the U.S. through the famously porous, 2,000-mile southern border. Read about it in a Judicial Watch investigative series that documents how cartels, corruption and terrorism have ignited a major security threat on the Mexican border.

As for the vast terrain that the Tucson Sector patrols, it has long been one of the nation’s most dangerous to guard. Years ago, Judicial Watch reported that federal agents in the vicinity were ordered to stay away from the most crime-infested stretches because they’re “too dangerous” and patrolling them could result in an “international incident” of cross border shooting. At the time the Tucson sector accounted for nearly half of all seized marijuana and half of all illegal immigrants apprehended entering the U.S.

The post Border Patrol Fails to Secure Containers with Seized Drugs, Weapons, Explosives appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Illegal Aliens Sue U.S. for Cracking Down on “Credible Fear” Asylum Racket

It looks like the Trump administration is cracking down on an Obama-era racket that awarded droves of illegal immigrants who claimed to have a “credible fear” with asylum and the foreign nationals are firing back with a lawsuit. Credible fear asylum in the U.S. was so out of control during the Obama years that illegal aliens were spreading the word on Facebook and immigration authorities got bombarded with unprecedented amounts of applicants. In hundreds of cases the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) knew in advance that an open borders group coached illegal immigrants to falsely claim they had a “credible fear” of returning to their country to get asylum, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch from the agency.

The operation was part of a scam conducted by an immigrant rights organization called the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NITA), which had coordinated demonstrations along the Southwest border in Texas and Arizona. In mid-2014 the group orchestrated a scheme to bring 250 illegal aliens into the U.S. through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California. To assure the migrants stayed in the U.S., the group had them falsely claim that they had a “credible fear” of returning to their native country. In the documents obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the DHS agency charged with guarding the border—Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—admits knowing about the ploy in advance. CBP allowed the illegal aliens to stay in the U.S. anyways, according to the records.

That’s how crazy the “credible fear” asylum program was under the Obama administration. During a five-year period, the number of “credible fear” asylum applications made at the southern border increased sevenfold, from less than 5,000 to more than 36,000, a federal immigration official told Congress during a 2015 hearing. Statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) USCIS showed an approval rate of 92% for “credible fear” claims before the 2014 border surge. “Unfortunately the high approval rate for credible fear claims, and the resulting backlog in the immigration court system, have meant that in practice ‘credible fear’ has served to screen into the United States undocumented aliens wishing to make asylum claims,” the official told Congress at the time. “That explains why many illegal border crossers don’t run from the U.S. Border Patrol, but instead seek them out to make asylum claims subject only to the low threshold of credible fear.”

By 2013 Obama amnesty had spread like wildfire in Mexico, igniting a crisis in a border crossing overwhelmed by illegal immigrants who were taught that using “key words and phrases” would allow them to enter and remain in the U.S. In just one day, a California news station reported that 199 illegal immigrants came through the Otay crossing in San Diego, claiming “credible fear” of Mexican drug cartels. A Border Patrol agent said this in the report: “They are being told if they come across, when they come up to the border and they say certain words, they will be allowed into the country.” Federal agents at the Otay crossing got so overwhelmed, the processing center was shut down and cases were shipped by van to another station in San Ysidro. A chunk of the illegal aliens that were granted asylum hearings entered the U.S. through Mexico, but they came from as far away as Africa and Asia, according to DHS officials cited in a mainstream newspaper report.

It appears that the “credible fear” gravy train has finally come to a halt and illegal immigrants and their open border allies are suing the Trump administration to return to the good ole days. In a complaint filed recently in a District of Columbia federal court, a group of illegal aliens allege that the administration denied them asylum to punish them and deter “other victims of persecution from seeking asylum in the United States.” The new policy is unconstitutional, the illegal immigrants assert, and violates the laws and treaties of the United States as well as the basic principles of international law. The plaintiffs, who are in federal custody in Texas, are from Guatemala, Honduras, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Guinea and court documents say they were all “forced to flee their homelands due to the ongoing violence there.” The asylum seekers’ pro bono attorneys are from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, a nonprofit that represents migrants and seasonal farm workers throughout the state. They admit in the complaint that the Guatemalan plaintiff, Aracely Rodriguez, had been denied asylum in 2016 after crossing into the U.S. illegally through Hidalgo, Texas. She was ordered to leave the country but crossed the Mexican border again earlier this year.

The post Illegal Aliens Sue U.S. for Cracking Down on “Credible Fear” Asylum Racket appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Illegal Aliens Sue U.S. for Cracking Down on “Credible Fear” Asylum Racket

It looks like the Trump administration is cracking down on an Obama-era racket that awarded droves of illegal immigrants who claimed to have a “credible fear” with asylum and the foreign nationals are firing back with a lawsuit. Credible fear asylum in the U.S. was so out of control during the Obama years that illegal aliens were spreading the word on Facebook and immigration authorities got bombarded with unprecedented amounts of applicants. In hundreds of cases the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) knew in advance that an open borders group coached illegal immigrants to falsely claim they had a “credible fear” of returning to their country to get asylum, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch from the agency.

The operation was part of a scam conducted by an immigrant rights organization called the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NITA), which had coordinated demonstrations along the Southwest border in Texas and Arizona. In mid-2014 the group orchestrated a scheme to bring 250 illegal aliens into the U.S. through the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California. To assure the migrants stayed in the U.S., the group had them falsely claim that they had a “credible fear” of returning to their native country. In the documents obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the DHS agency charged with guarding the border—Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—admits knowing about the ploy in advance. CBP allowed the illegal aliens to stay in the U.S. anyways, according to the records.

That’s how crazy the “credible fear” asylum program was under the Obama administration. During a five-year period, the number of “credible fear” asylum applications made at the southern border increased sevenfold, from less than 5,000 to more than 36,000, a federal immigration official told Congress during a 2015 hearing. Statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) USCIS showed an approval rate of 92% for “credible fear” claims before the 2014 border surge. “Unfortunately the high approval rate for credible fear claims, and the resulting backlog in the immigration court system, have meant that in practice ‘credible fear’ has served to screen into the United States undocumented aliens wishing to make asylum claims,” the official told Congress at the time. “That explains why many illegal border crossers don’t run from the U.S. Border Patrol, but instead seek them out to make asylum claims subject only to the low threshold of credible fear.”

By 2013 Obama amnesty had spread like wildfire in Mexico, igniting a crisis in a border crossing overwhelmed by illegal immigrants who were taught that using “key words and phrases” would allow them to enter and remain in the U.S. In just one day, a California news station reported that 199 illegal immigrants came through the Otay crossing in San Diego, claiming “credible fear” of Mexican drug cartels. A Border Patrol agent said this in the report: “They are being told if they come across, when they come up to the border and they say certain words, they will be allowed into the country.” Federal agents at the Otay crossing got so overwhelmed, the processing center was shut down and cases were shipped by van to another station in San Ysidro. A chunk of the illegal aliens that were granted asylum hearings entered the U.S. through Mexico, but they came from as far away as Africa and Asia, according to DHS officials cited in a mainstream newspaper report.

It appears that the “credible fear” gravy train has finally come to a halt and illegal immigrants and their open border allies are suing the Trump administration to return to the good ole days. In a complaint filed recently in a District of Columbia federal court, a group of illegal aliens allege that the administration denied them asylum to punish them and deter “other victims of persecution from seeking asylum in the United States.” The new policy is unconstitutional, the illegal immigrants assert, and violates the laws and treaties of the United States as well as the basic principles of international law. The plaintiffs, who are in federal custody in Texas, are from Guatemala, Honduras, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Guinea and court documents say they were all “forced to flee their homelands due to the ongoing violence there.” The asylum seekers’ pro bono attorneys are from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, a nonprofit that represents migrants and seasonal farm workers throughout the state. They admit in the complaint that the Guatemalan plaintiff, Aracely Rodriguez, had been denied asylum in 2016 after crossing into the U.S. illegally through Hidalgo, Texas. She was ordered to leave the country but crossed the Mexican border again earlier this year.

The post Illegal Aliens Sue U.S. for Cracking Down on “Credible Fear” Asylum Racket appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Trump EEOC Pushes Obama’s Leftist Agenda, Sues Grocer over Rastafarian Dreadlocks

Keeping with the Obama administration’s leftist agenda, the U.S. government sued a grocery chain this week for religious discrimination over the dreadlocks of a Rastafarian. Followers of the “Afrocentric” religion wear long, matted and knotted hair and smoke marijuana (“the spiritual use of cannabis”). There is no formal, organized leadership in Rastafarianism which makes it difficult to accept as an official religion protected by federal law. It was born in the slums of Jamaica and followers must have dreadlocks, long clumps of ungroomed hair symbolizing the mane of the Lion of Judah. Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia, is God and that he’ll help blacks living in exile as a result of the slave trade return to Africa.

Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley, who died in Miami in 1981, was among the best known Rastafarians and more recently a famous rapper known as Snoop Dogg became Rastafari and changed his name to Snoop Lion, according to a mainstream news report. “A key belief for Rastas is the notion of death to all white and black oppressors,” the story says, adding that “the most common outward expressions of Rastafari are Rastas’ dreadlocks, penchant for smoking marijuana and vegetarian diets.”

Before asserting that a dreadlock ban constitutes religious discrimination in the workplace, the Obama administration claimed it was racially discriminatory in a federal lawsuit. That case involved a black woman ordered by an Alabama insurance claims processing company to cut her dreadlocks because it violated its grooming policy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws, sued the company, Catastrophe Management Solutions, for racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Obama administration said the lawsuit wasn’t meant to attack policies requiring employees to maintain hair in a professional, neat or conservative manner but rather focus “on the racial bias that may occur when specific hair constructs and styles are singled out for different treatment because they do not conform to normative standers for other races.”

A few years later the administration switched gears, asserting religious discrimination against a prep cook in an Orlando, Florida Walt Disney resort who was ordered to cut his dreadlocks. The company said the hair violated its appearance standards for employees. The cook, Courtney Joseph, refused to cut his hair because he was a practicing Rastafarian and dreadlocks were part of his religious beliefs so he was fired. The EEOC accused the company of violating federal law by firing Joseph over his Rastafarian religious practices. “Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs so long as this does not pose an undue hardship to the business,” according to an agency announcement. The case was settled over the summer after the company agreed to pay the Rastafari cook $30,000 for violating his religious rights and implement a company-wide accommodation policy. Under the decree the company’s employee handbook and policy manual will be amended to include a clear policy for religious-based requests.

A new president takes time to settle in, but there was hope that by now the Trump administration would make much-needed changes at the EEOC by at least cutting back on these types of questionable legal actions against private businesses exercising grooming policies. In this week’s Rastafarian lawsuit, the EEOC is going after a Florida-based grocery store chain for illegally refusing to accommodate a new employee’s “sincerely held religious belief in Rastafarianism” by ordering him to cut his dreadlocks to shoulder length. The grocer, Publix Super Markets, has a Personal Appearance Standards website page that states male hair must “be worn conservatively styled, clean and neat — no fad cuts or fad colorings … not hang below the eyebrows or in the face … not hang or curl over the collar.” The Trump administration alleges in its lawsuit that Publix violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Management officials have a responsibility to consider all reasonable requests to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices,” according to an EEOC regional director handling the case.

The post Trump EEOC Pushes Obama’s Leftist Agenda, Sues Grocer over Rastafarian Dreadlocks appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Trump EEOC Pushes Obama’s Leftist Agenda, Sues Grocer over Rastafarian Dreadlocks

Keeping with the Obama administration’s leftist agenda, the U.S. government sued a grocery chain this week for religious discrimination over the dreadlocks of a Rastafarian. Followers of the “Afrocentric” religion wear long, matted and knotted hair and smoke marijuana (“the spiritual use of cannabis”). There is no formal, organized leadership in Rastafarianism which makes it difficult to accept as an official religion protected by federal law. It was born in the slums of Jamaica and followers must have dreadlocks, long clumps of ungroomed hair symbolizing the mane of the Lion of Judah. Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia, is God and that he’ll help blacks living in exile as a result of the slave trade return to Africa.

Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley, who died in Miami in 1981, was among the best known Rastafarians and more recently a famous rapper known as Snoop Dogg became Rastafari and changed his name to Snoop Lion, according to a mainstream news report. “A key belief for Rastas is the notion of death to all white and black oppressors,” the story says, adding that “the most common outward expressions of Rastafari are Rastas’ dreadlocks, penchant for smoking marijuana and vegetarian diets.”

Before asserting that a dreadlock ban constitutes religious discrimination in the workplace, the Obama administration claimed it was racially discriminatory in a federal lawsuit. That case involved a black woman ordered by an Alabama insurance claims processing company to cut her dreadlocks because it violated its grooming policy. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws, sued the company, Catastrophe Management Solutions, for racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Obama administration said the lawsuit wasn’t meant to attack policies requiring employees to maintain hair in a professional, neat or conservative manner but rather focus “on the racial bias that may occur when specific hair constructs and styles are singled out for different treatment because they do not conform to normative standers for other races.”

A few years later the administration switched gears, asserting religious discrimination against a prep cook in an Orlando, Florida Walt Disney resort who was ordered to cut his dreadlocks. The company said the hair violated its appearance standards for employees. The cook, Courtney Joseph, refused to cut his hair because he was a practicing Rastafarian and dreadlocks were part of his religious beliefs so he was fired. The EEOC accused the company of violating federal law by firing Joseph over his Rastafarian religious practices. “Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs so long as this does not pose an undue hardship to the business,” according to an agency announcement. The case was settled over the summer after the company agreed to pay the Rastafari cook $30,000 for violating his religious rights and implement a company-wide accommodation policy. Under the decree the company’s employee handbook and policy manual will be amended to include a clear policy for religious-based requests.

A new president takes time to settle in, but there was hope that by now the Trump administration would make much-needed changes at the EEOC by at least cutting back on these types of questionable legal actions against private businesses exercising grooming policies. In this week’s Rastafarian lawsuit, the EEOC is going after a Florida-based grocery store chain for illegally refusing to accommodate a new employee’s “sincerely held religious belief in Rastafarianism” by ordering him to cut his dreadlocks to shoulder length. The grocer, Publix Super Markets, has a Personal Appearance Standards website page that states male hair must “be worn conservatively styled, clean and neat — no fad cuts or fad colorings … not hang below the eyebrows or in the face … not hang or curl over the collar.” The Trump administration alleges in its lawsuit that Publix violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Management officials have a responsibility to consider all reasonable requests to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices,” according to an EEOC regional director handling the case.

The post Trump EEOC Pushes Obama’s Leftist Agenda, Sues Grocer over Rastafarian Dreadlocks appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Illegal Immigration Costs U.S. Taxpayers a Stunning $134.9 Billion a Year

Illegal immigration costs American taxpayers a mind-boggling $134.9 billion annually, according to a detailed analysis of federal, state and local programs that include education, medical, law enforcement and welfare. Conducted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington D.C. nonprofit dedicated to studying immigration issues, the in-depth probe reveals that state and local taxpayers get stuck with an overwhelming chunk—$116 billion—of the burden. State and local expenditures for services provided to illegal aliens total $88.9 billion and federal expenditures $45.8 billion, the analysis found. For those who claim illegal immigrants contribute by paying taxes, government figures show that only $19 billion was recouped by Uncle Sam.

“A continually growing population of illegal aliens, along with the federal government’s ineffective efforts to secure our borders, present significant national security and public safety threats to the United States,” the FAIR report states. “They also have a severely negative impact on the nation’s taxpayers at the local, state, and national levels. Illegal immigration costs Americans billions of dollars each year. Illegal aliens are net consumers of taxpayer-funded services and the limited taxes paid by some segments of the illegal alien population are, in no way, significant enough to offset the growing financial burdens imposed on U.S. taxpayers by massive numbers of uninvited guests.” This defies a myth, long promoted by influential open border groups, that illegal aliens pay their fair share of taxes.

More than 12.5 million illegal immigrants and their estimated 4.2 million citizen children benefit from the U.S. government’s generosity. The biggest expenditure ($17.14 billion) on the federal level is for medical services, which include uncompensated hospital costs, Medicaid births, Medicaid fraud and Medicaid benefits for U.S.-born children (anchor babies) of illegal immigrants. The second-largest federal expenditure is law enforcement and justice ($13.15 billion), which includes incarceration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations and an alien assistance program. The feds spend $8 billion on general government programs and $5.85 billion on welfare, which consists of free school meals, food stamps, a supplemental nutrition program known as Women Infants and Children (WIC) and temporary assistance for needy families. FAIR points out the profound impact that illegal immigration has on programs intended to provide services exclusively to low-income Americans.

For state and local governments education is by far the largest expense, an eye-popping $44.4 billion that goes mostly to K-12 public schools nationwide, though over a billion of it is spent on college tuition assistance. General public services, described as expenses associated with garbage collection, fire departments and other locally-funded services total $18.5 billion for illegal aliens, the analysis found. Medical expenses came in third ($12.1 billion) for state and local governments and law enforcement ($10.8 billion) in fourth. FAIR researchers determined that a large percentage of illegal aliens work in the underground economy and frequently avoid paying income tax, leaving law-abiding, taxpaying Americans to foot the exorbitant tab for public services. The report also breaks down expenditures by state, with the top four spenders to provide illegal alien benefits California ($23 billion), Texas ($10.9 billion), New York ($7.5 billion) and Florida ($6.3 billion).

Over the years Judicial Watch has reported on a variety of studies and assessments involving the huge cost of supporting illegal immigrants, but this appears to be the most thorough and alarming in recent memory. The breakdown by category, state and federal services offers an incredibly detailed account of a major crisis perpetuated by a famously porous southern border. As FAIR writes in its report, it’s not just about money though the cost of supporting illegal immigrants should outrage every legal U.S. resident and American citizen. “A continually growing population of illegal aliens, along with the federal government’s ineffective efforts to secure our borders, present significant national security and public safety threats to the United States,” FAIR writes. Judicial Watch has also extensively covered the dire national security crisis along the Mexican border, including an investigative series documenting how Islamic terrorists have joined forces with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate—and attack—the United States.

The post Illegal Immigration Costs U.S. Taxpayers a Stunning $134.9 Billion a Year appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Illegal Immigration Costs U.S. Taxpayers a Stunning $134.9 Billion a Year

Illegal immigration costs American taxpayers a mind-boggling $134.9 billion annually, according to a detailed analysis of federal, state and local programs that include education, medical, law enforcement and welfare. Conducted by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington D.C. nonprofit dedicated to studying immigration issues, the in-depth probe reveals that state and local taxpayers get stuck with an overwhelming chunk—$116 billion—of the burden. State and local expenditures for services provided to illegal aliens total $88.9 billion and federal expenditures $45.8 billion, the analysis found. For those who claim illegal immigrants contribute by paying taxes, government figures show that only $19 billion was recouped by Uncle Sam.

“A continually growing population of illegal aliens, along with the federal government’s ineffective efforts to secure our borders, present significant national security and public safety threats to the United States,” the FAIR report states. “They also have a severely negative impact on the nation’s taxpayers at the local, state, and national levels. Illegal immigration costs Americans billions of dollars each year. Illegal aliens are net consumers of taxpayer-funded services and the limited taxes paid by some segments of the illegal alien population are, in no way, significant enough to offset the growing financial burdens imposed on U.S. taxpayers by massive numbers of uninvited guests.” This defies a myth, long promoted by influential open border groups, that illegal aliens pay their fair share of taxes.

More than 12.5 million illegal immigrants and their estimated 4.2 million citizen children benefit from the U.S. government’s generosity. The biggest expenditure ($17.14 billion) on the federal level is for medical services, which include uncompensated hospital costs, Medicaid births, Medicaid fraud and Medicaid benefits for U.S.-born children (anchor babies) of illegal immigrants. The second-largest federal expenditure is law enforcement and justice ($13.15 billion), which includes incarceration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations and an alien assistance program. The feds spend $8 billion on general government programs and $5.85 billion on welfare, which consists of free school meals, food stamps, a supplemental nutrition program known as Women Infants and Children (WIC) and temporary assistance for needy families. FAIR points out the profound impact that illegal immigration has on programs intended to provide services exclusively to low-income Americans.

For state and local governments education is by far the largest expense, an eye-popping $44.4 billion that goes mostly to K-12 public schools nationwide, though over a billion of it is spent on college tuition assistance. General public services, described as expenses associated with garbage collection, fire departments and other locally-funded services total $18.5 billion for illegal aliens, the analysis found. Medical expenses came in third ($12.1 billion) for state and local governments and law enforcement ($10.8 billion) in fourth. FAIR researchers determined that a large percentage of illegal aliens work in the underground economy and frequently avoid paying income tax, leaving law-abiding, taxpaying Americans to foot the exorbitant tab for public services. The report also breaks down expenditures by state, with the top four spenders to provide illegal alien benefits California ($23 billion), Texas ($10.9 billion), New York ($7.5 billion) and Florida ($6.3 billion).

Over the years Judicial Watch has reported on a variety of studies and assessments involving the huge cost of supporting illegal immigrants, but this appears to be the most thorough and alarming in recent memory. The breakdown by category, state and federal services offers an incredibly detailed account of a major crisis perpetuated by a famously porous southern border. As FAIR writes in its report, it’s not just about money though the cost of supporting illegal immigrants should outrage every legal U.S. resident and American citizen. “A continually growing population of illegal aliens, along with the federal government’s ineffective efforts to secure our borders, present significant national security and public safety threats to the United States,” FAIR writes. Judicial Watch has also extensively covered the dire national security crisis along the Mexican border, including an investigative series documenting how Islamic terrorists have joined forces with Mexican drug cartels to infiltrate—and attack—the United States.

The post Illegal Immigration Costs U.S. Taxpayers a Stunning $134.9 Billion a Year appeared first on Judicial Watch.

U.S. Pays $200k to Study Impact of Stigma, Minority Stress on “Gender Nonconforming People”

The Trump administration is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct research on transgender health, including “gender nonconforming people of all ages,’ according to a U.S. government grant announcement. The money will flow through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency and will focus on both youth and adults who are questioning their gender identity as well as individuals who are making or who have made a transition from being identified as one gender to the other. “This group encompasses individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex on their original birth certificate or whose gender expression varies significantly from what is traditionally associated with or typical for that sex,” the government document states.

The taxpayer dollars will fund “exploratory or developmental research” on the health of transgender and gender nonconforming people and will address the medical, sociological, psychological and structural causes and consequences of transgender and gender nonconforming identities. “Investigations of the social determinants of health in these populations are needed, including understanding the impact of stigma, the high impact of HIV, minority stress, education, employment, violence, homelessness, and incarceration,” the government announcement says. “More information is needed on relationships with partners and family, as well as on sexual and reproductive health. Successful aging, including the impact of life events, experiences, and interventions such as hormone therapy and surgery are other important topics to investigate. It will also be important to learn more about brain development, resilience, and end-of-life issues.”

The areas of research sought are vast and include the development of methods responsive to the heterogeneity of transgender and gender nonconforming populations. This is further described as gender identity and fluidity, sexual orientation, developmental stages, hormonal regimens, surgical procedures and racial/ethnic differences. The government also wants to obtain data on the incidence and prevalence of childhood gender-variant or transgender and gender nonconforming identities continuing into adolescence and adulthood gender identity development and change within diverse racial and ethnic groups. Uncle Sam also wants to know if a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is stigmatizing, the effects of hormone therapy on the fertility of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals and the health consequences of body fillers such as silicones. The administration also wants to develop methods to better understand non-response and non-participation among transgender and gender nonconforming persons in scientific surveys and other studies. “Hispanic-serving institutions” and “historically black colleges and universities” are especially encouraged to apply for the public grants to conduct this important research for American taxpayers.

For more than a decade Judicial Watch has reported on the large sums of taxpayer dollars spent to accommodate transgender individuals, especially convicted felons serving sentences in American prisons nationwide. This includes hormone treatments, laser hair removal, makeup and costly sex-change surgery. Under the Obama administration the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered all federal prisons to treat an inmate’s “gender dysphoria” like a medical condition and threatened to take legal action against state prisons that didn’t comply. In 2010 a federal court in Wisconsin ruled that a state law prohibiting the use of taxpayer money for transgender prisoners’ costly hormone treatments violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. A few years later, a federal judge in Massachusetts determined that laser hair removal was a constitutional right for a transgender inmate. In 2014 a federal board ruled that the U.S. government’s health program for the elderly and disabled (Medicare) could no longer refuse to pay for the costly sex reassignment operations of transgender patients who claim to have gender identity disorder.

Shortly before leaving the White House, the Obama administration ordered the U.S. Army to pay damages for discriminating against a transgender worker by denying the one-time man access to the women’s bathroom after he “transitioned” to female, thus changing his “gender identity.” Additionally, the administration determined that the Army also discriminated against the employee by failing to use his new female name (Tamara Lusardi) and instead continuing to use the name the man was originally hired under. The case involved a military veteran who worked as a civilian software specialist at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) in Redstone, Alabama. Lusardi served in the Army from 1986 to 1993 and claimed he suffered in a hostile workplace when management and co-workers kept calling him “sir” after becoming a woman and legally changing his name.

The post U.S. Pays $200k to Study Impact of Stigma, Minority Stress on “Gender Nonconforming People” appeared first on Judicial Watch.

U.S. Pays $200k to Study Impact of Stigma, Minority Stress on “Gender Nonconforming People”

The Trump administration is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct research on transgender health, including “gender nonconforming people of all ages,’ according to a U.S. government grant announcement. The money will flow through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency and will focus on both youth and adults who are questioning their gender identity as well as individuals who are making or who have made a transition from being identified as one gender to the other. “This group encompasses individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex on their original birth certificate or whose gender expression varies significantly from what is traditionally associated with or typical for that sex,” the government document states.

The taxpayer dollars will fund “exploratory or developmental research” on the health of transgender and gender nonconforming people and will address the medical, sociological, psychological and structural causes and consequences of transgender and gender nonconforming identities. “Investigations of the social determinants of health in these populations are needed, including understanding the impact of stigma, the high impact of HIV, minority stress, education, employment, violence, homelessness, and incarceration,” the government announcement says. “More information is needed on relationships with partners and family, as well as on sexual and reproductive health. Successful aging, including the impact of life events, experiences, and interventions such as hormone therapy and surgery are other important topics to investigate. It will also be important to learn more about brain development, resilience, and end-of-life issues.”

The areas of research sought are vast and include the development of methods responsive to the heterogeneity of transgender and gender nonconforming populations. This is further described as gender identity and fluidity, sexual orientation, developmental stages, hormonal regimens, surgical procedures and racial/ethnic differences. The government also wants to obtain data on the incidence and prevalence of childhood gender-variant or transgender and gender nonconforming identities continuing into adolescence and adulthood gender identity development and change within diverse racial and ethnic groups. Uncle Sam also wants to know if a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is stigmatizing, the effects of hormone therapy on the fertility of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals and the health consequences of body fillers such as silicones. The administration also wants to develop methods to better understand non-response and non-participation among transgender and gender nonconforming persons in scientific surveys and other studies. “Hispanic-serving institutions” and “historically black colleges and universities” are especially encouraged to apply for the public grants to conduct this important research for American taxpayers.

For more than a decade Judicial Watch has reported on the large sums of taxpayer dollars spent to accommodate transgender individuals, especially convicted felons serving sentences in American prisons nationwide. This includes hormone treatments, laser hair removal, makeup and costly sex-change surgery. Under the Obama administration the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered all federal prisons to treat an inmate’s “gender dysphoria” like a medical condition and threatened to take legal action against state prisons that didn’t comply. In 2010 a federal court in Wisconsin ruled that a state law prohibiting the use of taxpayer money for transgender prisoners’ costly hormone treatments violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. A few years later, a federal judge in Massachusetts determined that laser hair removal was a constitutional right for a transgender inmate. In 2014 a federal board ruled that the U.S. government’s health program for the elderly and disabled (Medicare) could no longer refuse to pay for the costly sex reassignment operations of transgender patients who claim to have gender identity disorder.

Shortly before leaving the White House, the Obama administration ordered the U.S. Army to pay damages for discriminating against a transgender worker by denying the one-time man access to the women’s bathroom after he “transitioned” to female, thus changing his “gender identity.” Additionally, the administration determined that the Army also discriminated against the employee by failing to use his new female name (Tamara Lusardi) and instead continuing to use the name the man was originally hired under. The case involved a military veteran who worked as a civilian software specialist at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) in Redstone, Alabama. Lusardi served in the Army from 1986 to 1993 and claimed he suffered in a hostile workplace when management and co-workers kept calling him “sir” after becoming a woman and legally changing his name.

The post U.S. Pays $200k to Study Impact of Stigma, Minority Stress on “Gender Nonconforming People” appeared first on Judicial Watch.

City Abruptly Eliminates Police Chief Finalist for Supporting Immigration Enforcement

A highly qualified and respected veteran law enforcement official with impressive credentials was precipitously eliminated as a finalist to be police chief in a U.S. city after officials discovered he endorsed immigration enforcement. Judicial Watch is investigating and has filed a public records request to obtain details about the troublesome case in which the support for the rule of law served as a disqualifier for a candidate hired to enforce the rule of law. It also marks yet another example nationwide of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness and the negative impact illegal immigration is having on taxpayers.

The unbelievable story involves the northern Colorado city of Ft. Collins’ search for a new police chief. Steve Henry, a former chief deputy for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) in central Arizona applied for the position. The 55-year-old law enforcement veteran spent nearly two decades at PCSO, an agency with a $39 million budget that patrols a county the size of Connecticut. Henry is a U.S. Army veteran who obtained his undergraduate degree at Arizona State University and graduate degree at Northern Arizona University. He also holds a degree from the Harvard JFK School of Government and attended the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy. He has 23 years of continuous and stellar law enforcement service.

Henry was among 65 applicants for the Ft. Collins police chief job and was recently notified that he was one of six finalists. He was invited to travel to Ft. Collins to interview with city officials, specifically the city manager, who oversees the police chief. Henry’s offer was abruptly rescinded, according to a source closely involved with the selection process, because he publicly supported an Arizona law (SB1070) that makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documentation and bans “sanctuary city” policies. The measure also allows local law enforcement officers throughout the state to inquire about suspects’ immigration status. “Three of the top six candidates were dumped for a public stance on one issue or another,” Judicial Watch’s source said. “Political correctness is destroying America when a city government does not want a chief who supports the rule of law.” Judicial Watch reached out to Ft. Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry for comment but an assistant named Rachel left Judicial Watch a voice message saying Atteberry had “back-to-back meetings” for days and would not be available. Judicial Watch also sent Atteberry questions via electronic mail to his official city address ([email protected]) but he did not return them.

A California-based company called Ralph Anderson and Associates that provides cities, counties and state agencies with executive search and consulting services is handling the search for Ft. Collins police chief. The city hired the firm after its police chief resigned in May following a series of scandals, including the use of excessive force in several instances and a $425,000 settlement to two officers who claimed the department discriminated against them based on their race. The Ft. Collins Police Department has 327 employees, 213 of them sworn officers and an annual budget of $46.5 million. Nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Ft. Collins is the state’s fourth largest city with a population of about 157,000. It’s home to Colorado State University, the state’s flagship public college, and local government supports offering illegal immigrants sanctuary. Ft. Collins Mayor Wade Troxell said in a local newspaper report that the city is an open, inclusive and friendly community and that “all people matter.” Members of the city council have consistently said they support diversity and want the city to be a welcoming place for all people.

Henry was informed by a Ralph Anderson and Associates official that he was eliminated as a candidate after the discovery of two news stories in which Henry was quoted supporting Arizona’s immigration control measure, SB1070. The Anderson and Associates official said the articles made Atteberry, the Ft. Collins city manager, leery about hiring Henry because, among other things, the city is a university town. With the city refusing to explain what happened, the chain of events indicates that a highly qualified candidate got eliminated from the final six police chief applicants due to his support for the rule of law. There was no crime, misconduct or character flaw on his part, just support in his capacity at Pinal County for Arizona’s commitment to assist federal law enforcement in an effort to secure borders and implement federal trespassing statutes. As for the Ft. Collins public officials, it never looks good when they dodge the hard questions involving questionable decisions.

The post City Abruptly Eliminates Police Chief Finalist for Supporting Immigration Enforcement appeared first on Judicial Watch.

City Abruptly Eliminates Police Chief Finalist for Supporting Immigration Enforcement

A highly qualified and respected veteran law enforcement official with impressive credentials was precipitously eliminated as a finalist to be police chief in a U.S. city after officials discovered he endorsed immigration enforcement. Judicial Watch is investigating and has filed a public records request to obtain details about the troublesome case in which the support for the rule of law served as a disqualifier for a candidate hired to enforce the rule of law. It also marks yet another example nationwide of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness and the negative impact illegal immigration is having on taxpayers.

The unbelievable story involves the northern Colorado city of Ft. Collins’ search for a new police chief. Steve Henry, a former chief deputy for the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) in central Arizona applied for the position. The 55-year-old law enforcement veteran spent nearly two decades at PCSO, an agency with a $39 million budget that patrols a county the size of Connecticut. Henry is a U.S. Army veteran who obtained his undergraduate degree at Arizona State University and graduate degree at Northern Arizona University. He also holds a degree from the Harvard JFK School of Government and attended the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy. He has 23 years of continuous and stellar law enforcement service.

Henry was among 65 applicants for the Ft. Collins police chief job and was recently notified that he was one of six finalists. He was invited to travel to Ft. Collins to interview with city officials, specifically the city manager, who oversees the police chief. Henry’s offer was abruptly rescinded, according to a source closely involved with the selection process, because he publicly supported an Arizona law (SB1070) that makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper documentation and bans “sanctuary city” policies. The measure also allows local law enforcement officers throughout the state to inquire about suspects’ immigration status. “Three of the top six candidates were dumped for a public stance on one issue or another,” Judicial Watch’s source said. “Political correctness is destroying America when a city government does not want a chief who supports the rule of law.” Judicial Watch reached out to Ft. Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry for comment but an assistant named Rachel left Judicial Watch a voice message saying Atteberry had “back-to-back meetings” for days and would not be available. Judicial Watch also sent Atteberry questions via electronic mail to his official city address ([email protected]) but he did not return them.

A California-based company called Ralph Anderson and Associates that provides cities, counties and state agencies with executive search and consulting services is handling the search for Ft. Collins police chief. The city hired the firm after its police chief resigned in May following a series of scandals, including the use of excessive force in several instances and a $425,000 settlement to two officers who claimed the department discriminated against them based on their race. The Ft. Collins Police Department has 327 employees, 213 of them sworn officers and an annual budget of $46.5 million. Nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Ft. Collins is the state’s fourth largest city with a population of about 157,000. It’s home to Colorado State University, the state’s flagship public college, and local government supports offering illegal immigrants sanctuary. Ft. Collins Mayor Wade Troxell said in a local newspaper report that the city is an open, inclusive and friendly community and that “all people matter.” Members of the city council have consistently said they support diversity and want the city to be a welcoming place for all people.

Henry was informed by a Ralph Anderson and Associates official that he was eliminated as a candidate after the discovery of two news stories in which Henry was quoted supporting Arizona’s immigration control measure, SB1070. The Anderson and Associates official said the articles made Atteberry, the Ft. Collins city manager, leery about hiring Henry because, among other things, the city is a university town. With the city refusing to explain what happened, the chain of events indicates that a highly qualified candidate got eliminated from the final six police chief applicants due to his support for the rule of law. There was no crime, misconduct or character flaw on his part, just support in his capacity at Pinal County for Arizona’s commitment to assist federal law enforcement in an effort to secure borders and implement federal trespassing statutes. As for the Ft. Collins public officials, it never looks good when they dodge the hard questions involving questionable decisions.

The post City Abruptly Eliminates Police Chief Finalist for Supporting Immigration Enforcement appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Hillary Worries About “Dissing” Mexicans in G20 Shirt Gaffe, Tells Huma “I’m Sick of People Deciding What I Should Know”

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton whined to trusted adviser, Huma Abedin, about aides keeping her out of the loop, spending “hours talking about every issue to each other and you rather than asking me anything.” Clinton fumes that she’s frustrated and worried. “I am sick of people deciding what I should know rather than giving me the info so I can make a decision,” the Secretary of State writes in an amusing electronic mail exchange with her longtime confidant. “This really annoys me…” The emails are part of the latest batch of records obtained by Judicial Watch from Clinton’s secret—and illegal—private server during her tenure as head of the State Department.

While this snippet may not qualify as newsworthy, it’s definitely entertaining. The tirade was inspired by two embarrassing incidents during a trip abroad, one involving fashion and the other a podium step. Titled “I’m venting,” the exchange was provoked by an embarrassing gaffe at a 2012 G20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico. The event included ministers of foreign affairs from the world’s 19 wealthiest nations and the European Union to declare unity in the resolve to promote growth and jobs and support economic stabilization and global recovery. Using her illegal private server with the handle [email protected], the Secretary of State first complains about a fashion blunder during the official group picture. “So, here I sit in the meeting surrounded by every other person dressed in a white shirt provided by the Mexicans,” Clinton writes to Abedin. Referring to Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa, Clinton continues: “Patricia is not wearing the exact style that all others are but her own white shirt. But, since no one ever told me about this, and instead assumed I didn’t need to know, I had no idea about any of this until I just walked into the large meeting in front of the entire press corps and am wearing a green top. So, what’s my answer when asked why I think I’m different than all my colleagues and why I’m dissing our hosts? I am sick of people deciding what I should know rather than giving me the info so I can make a decision. This really annoys me and I told Monica (Hanley) I just didn’t understand what she/they were doing. But, when we do the family photo, I will be the only person not in white.”

The media took note of the blooper, but Clinton played it off as no big deal even though her emails to Abedin indicate she was upset. A leading global publication called it a “strange mix-up” in which 30 foreign secretaries and ministers wore crisp white shirts while Clinton sported a lime green blouse. “While the fashion faux pas may have left others feeling out of place, Clinton did not seem to mind,” the article states. “She is pictured smiling and laughing in the middle of the family photo alongside ministers from Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Canada and other G20 nations.” Another news report said Clinton stuck out like a sore green thumb in the picture. “She laughed off the apparent miscue, however, and was smiling during the photos,” the article says. “Asked about the fashion choice, a senior aide to Clinton said with a smile ‘she’s a rugged individualist, what can I tell you.’”

Pointing out another instance in which aides kept her in the dark, Clinton moans about a step adjacent to the podium where she delivered a speech at the Los Cabos powwow. “Another example: I did not know they talked to the Mexicans about not having a step in front of the podium. When I spoke this morning after Espinosa but before Calderone, the step was there and because no one gave me a headsup, I assumed it was there or them and used it even tho it felt awkward. I saw our team staring at me thruout the entire speech and when I asked Caroline why, she told me about the podium step and how upset they were I was standing on it. If I had known any of this, I would have pushed it away, but since I didn’t, I assumed it was there for a reason. Why won’t they talk to me instead of making assumptions? So far. They’ve been minor, but I worry about what might be next.”

Throughout the exchange Abedin agrees with her boss and mentor and apologizes for the mishaps. Responding to the shirt gaffe, Abedin writes “this is awful. I’m so sorry,” but reveals that she knew all the other G20 ministers would wear white shirts. “We didn’t find out about the need to wear shirt till you got to mexico. They sent me a picture and I said I hoped you didn’t wear it cause it looked quite unattractive! but assumed they would discuss it with you. I should have confirmed they did. I will take responsibility and I am so so sorry. We will move forward with people knowing to tell you everything!” Abedin also writes that she usually doesn’t know what’s going on till much later. “I only find out after something didn’t go right,” she writes to Clinton, adding that she didn’t know anything about the controversial podium step.

The post Hillary Worries About “Dissing” Mexicans in G20 Shirt Gaffe, Tells Huma “I’m Sick of People Deciding What I Should Know” appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Hillary Worries About “Dissing” Mexicans in G20 Shirt Gaffe, Tells Huma “I’m Sick of People Deciding What I Should Know”

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton whined to trusted adviser, Huma Abedin, about aides keeping her out of the loop, spending “hours talking about every issue to each other and you rather than asking me anything.” Clinton fumes that she’s frustrated and worried. “I am sick of people deciding what I should know rather than giving me the info so I can make a decision,” the Secretary of State writes in an amusing electronic mail exchange with her longtime confidant. “This really annoys me…” The emails are part of the latest batch of records obtained by Judicial Watch from Clinton’s secret—and illegal—private server during her tenure as head of the State Department.

While this snippet may not qualify as newsworthy, it’s definitely entertaining. The tirade was inspired by two embarrassing incidents during a trip abroad, one involving fashion and the other a podium step. Titled “I’m venting,” the exchange was provoked by an embarrassing gaffe at a 2012 G20 meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico. The event included ministers of foreign affairs from the world’s 19 wealthiest nations and the European Union to declare unity in the resolve to promote growth and jobs and support economic stabilization and global recovery. Using her illegal private server with the handle [email protected], the Secretary of State first complains about a fashion blunder during the official group picture. “So, here I sit in the meeting surrounded by every other person dressed in a white shirt provided by the Mexicans,” Clinton writes to Abedin. Referring to Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Patricia Espinosa, Clinton continues: “Patricia is not wearing the exact style that all others are but her own white shirt. But, since no one ever told me about this, and instead assumed I didn’t need to know, I had no idea about any of this until I just walked into the large meeting in front of the entire press corps and am wearing a green top. So, what’s my answer when asked why I think I’m different than all my colleagues and why I’m dissing our hosts? I am sick of people deciding what I should know rather than giving me the info so I can make a decision. This really annoys me and I told Monica (Hanley) I just didn’t understand what she/they were doing. But, when we do the family photo, I will be the only person not in white.”

The media took note of the blooper, but Clinton played it off as no big deal even though her emails to Abedin indicate she was upset. A leading global publication called it a “strange mix-up” in which 30 foreign secretaries and ministers wore crisp white shirts while Clinton sported a lime green blouse. “While the fashion faux pas may have left others feeling out of place, Clinton did not seem to mind,” the article states. “She is pictured smiling and laughing in the middle of the family photo alongside ministers from Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Canada and other G20 nations.” Another news report said Clinton stuck out like a sore green thumb in the picture. “She laughed off the apparent miscue, however, and was smiling during the photos,” the article says. “Asked about the fashion choice, a senior aide to Clinton said with a smile ‘she’s a rugged individualist, what can I tell you.’”

Pointing out another instance in which aides kept her in the dark, Clinton moans about a step adjacent to the podium where she delivered a speech at the Los Cabos powwow. “Another example: I did not know they talked to the Mexicans about not having a step in front of the podium. When I spoke this morning after Espinosa but before Calderone, the step was there and because no one gave me a headsup, I assumed it was there or them and used it even tho it felt awkward. I saw our team staring at me thruout the entire speech and when I asked Caroline why, she told me about the podium step and how upset they were I was standing on it. If I had known any of this, I would have pushed it away, but since I didn’t, I assumed it was there for a reason. Why won’t they talk to me instead of making assumptions? So far. They’ve been minor, but I worry about what might be next.”

Throughout the exchange Abedin agrees with her boss and mentor and apologizes for the mishaps. Responding to the shirt gaffe, Abedin writes “this is awful. I’m so sorry,” but reveals that she knew all the other G20 ministers would wear white shirts. “We didn’t find out about the need to wear shirt till you got to mexico. They sent me a picture and I said I hoped you didn’t wear it cause it looked quite unattractive! but assumed they would discuss it with you. I should have confirmed they did. I will take responsibility and I am so so sorry. We will move forward with people knowing to tell you everything!” Abedin also writes that she usually doesn’t know what’s going on till much later. “I only find out after something didn’t go right,” she writes to Clinton, adding that she didn’t know anything about the controversial podium step.

The post Hillary Worries About “Dissing” Mexicans in G20 Shirt Gaffe, Tells Huma “I’m Sick of People Deciding What I Should Know” appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Trump DHS Offers Immigrants Hurricane Harvey Amnesty

Keeping with an Obama-era tradition of offering illegal immigrants reprieve, the Trump administration is providing those in the Houston area with hurricane amnesty in the aftermath of Harvey. Judicial Watch reported extensively on the special Obama amnesties, which were granted for inclement weather, a virus, natural disasters and tainted water in a U.S. city. One of Obama’s final special amnesty programs was issued last year for victims of Hurricane Matthew, the powerful storm that slammed the southeastern United States, killing dozens and causing severe flooding.

Prior to that, Obama took advantage of Hurricane Sandy to waive immigration laws, including for violators of student visas like most of the 9/11 hijackers that carried out the worst terrorist attack on American soil. The official announcement, issued by USCIS, stated that the government “understands that a natural disaster can affect an individual’s ability to maintain a lawful immigration status.” Among the benefits of that hurricane amnesty was “expedited adjudication of off-campus employment authorization applications for F-1 students experiencing economic hardship.” Hurricanes in other countries have also benefitted illegal aliens in the U.S. who happen to be nationals of the affected regions, even though they don’t live there.

Other natural disasters abroad also resulted in special reprieves for illegal aliens in the United States during the Obama years. A special earthquake amnesty was implemented for Ecuadorean nationals living in the U.S. illegally and the word spread like wildfire in Spanish media reports published throughout Latin America. Officially this is known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a humanitarian measure designed to temporarily shield illegal immigrants from deportation during emergencies. In a Spanish announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that it was helping Ecuadoreans in the U.S. by granting them work permits and waving visa fees of candidates show that their financial situation was hurt by the earthquake a continent away.

The Obama administration also granted Ebola amnesty for illegal aliens from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, earthquake amnesty for Haitians, hurricane amnesty for Hondurans and Nicaraguans and “ongoing armed conflict” amnesty for nationals of Yemen, an Islamic Middle Eastern country well known as an Al Qaeda breeding ground. In 2016, the administration also rewarded illegal aliens in the Southern and Midwestern United States “severe weather” amnesty due to the flooding that battered the region and forced rivers from Texas to Illinois to surge out of control. An absurd water amnesty was also rewarded last year to illegal aliens in Michigan. That reprieve was implemented after pro-immigrant Spanish media outlets demanded that The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) refrain from enforcing immigration laws in areas of Flint affected by a crisis in which the areas water got contaminated with lead from decaying old pipes.

Apparently, the Trump administration has no intention of ending the madness. A few weeks ago U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS agency charged with overseeing lawful immigration to the United States, announced its Hurricane Harvey amnesty to help “people affected by unforeseen circumstances, including disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.” The language is taken right out of agency press releases issued for similar causes under Obama. Under the Hurricane Harvey plan, the agency will change a nonimmigrant status or extend a nonimmigrant stay for individuals currently in the U.S. “Failure to apply for the extension or change before expiration of your authorized period of admission may be excused if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control,” according to a USCIS announcement. Other perks include a “re-parole” of individuals previously granted parole, expedited processing of parole requests, expedited adjudication of employment authorization and a variety of other benefits not usually extended to those who have violated American laws. A note at the bottom of the USCIS announcement reads; “when making a request, please explain how the impact of Hurricane Harvey created a need for the requested relief.” It will be interesting to see how the agency confirms the storm’s impact before granting the reprieve.

The post Trump DHS Offers Immigrants Hurricane Harvey Amnesty appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Trump DHS Offers Immigrants Hurricane Harvey Amnesty

Keeping with an Obama-era tradition of offering illegal immigrants reprieve, the Trump administration is providing those in the Houston area with hurricane amnesty in the aftermath of Harvey. Judicial Watch reported extensively on the special Obama amnesties, which were granted for inclement weather, a virus, natural disasters and tainted water in a U.S. city. One of Obama’s final special amnesty programs was issued last year for victims of Hurricane Matthew, the powerful storm that slammed the southeastern United States, killing dozens and causing severe flooding.

Prior to that, Obama took advantage of Hurricane Sandy to waive immigration laws, including for violators of student visas like most of the 9/11 hijackers that carried out the worst terrorist attack on American soil. The official announcement, issued by USCIS, stated that the government “understands that a natural disaster can affect an individual’s ability to maintain a lawful immigration status.” Among the benefits of that hurricane amnesty was “expedited adjudication of off-campus employment authorization applications for F-1 students experiencing economic hardship.” Hurricanes in other countries have also benefitted illegal aliens in the U.S. who happen to be nationals of the affected regions, even though they don’t live there.

Other natural disasters abroad also resulted in special reprieves for illegal aliens in the United States during the Obama years. A special earthquake amnesty was implemented for Ecuadorean nationals living in the U.S. illegally and the word spread like wildfire in Spanish media reports published throughout Latin America. Officially this is known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a humanitarian measure designed to temporarily shield illegal immigrants from deportation during emergencies. In a Spanish announcement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated that it was helping Ecuadoreans in the U.S. by granting them work permits and waving visa fees of candidates show that their financial situation was hurt by the earthquake a continent away.

The Obama administration also granted Ebola amnesty for illegal aliens from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, earthquake amnesty for Haitians, hurricane amnesty for Hondurans and Nicaraguans and “ongoing armed conflict” amnesty for nationals of Yemen, an Islamic Middle Eastern country well known as an Al Qaeda breeding ground. In 2016, the administration also rewarded illegal aliens in the Southern and Midwestern United States “severe weather” amnesty due to the flooding that battered the region and forced rivers from Texas to Illinois to surge out of control. An absurd water amnesty was also rewarded last year to illegal aliens in Michigan. That reprieve was implemented after pro-immigrant Spanish media outlets demanded that The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) refrain from enforcing immigration laws in areas of Flint affected by a crisis in which the areas water got contaminated with lead from decaying old pipes.

Apparently, the Trump administration has no intention of ending the madness. A few weeks ago U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the DHS agency charged with overseeing lawful immigration to the United States, announced its Hurricane Harvey amnesty to help “people affected by unforeseen circumstances, including disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.” The language is taken right out of agency press releases issued for similar causes under Obama. Under the Hurricane Harvey plan, the agency will change a nonimmigrant status or extend a nonimmigrant stay for individuals currently in the U.S. “Failure to apply for the extension or change before expiration of your authorized period of admission may be excused if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control,” according to a USCIS announcement. Other perks include a “re-parole” of individuals previously granted parole, expedited processing of parole requests, expedited adjudication of employment authorization and a variety of other benefits not usually extended to those who have violated American laws. A note at the bottom of the USCIS announcement reads; “when making a request, please explain how the impact of Hurricane Harvey created a need for the requested relief.” It will be interesting to see how the agency confirms the storm’s impact before granting the reprieve.

The post Trump DHS Offers Immigrants Hurricane Harvey Amnesty appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Media Conspicuously Omits D.C. Metro Shooter’s Immigration Status

A disturbing incident involving a shooting inside a busy Washington D.C. metro station has received a lot of media attention, but all the reports conspicuously fail to mention if the suspect is an illegal immigrant. A man was captured on camera firing a gun down the escalator of the Columbia Heights Metro station in Northwest Washington in the middle of the afternoon on August 25. He eluded police for days and authorities needed help capturing him so they revealed he had an extensive criminal history and identified him as 22-year-old Cesar Morales, Hispanic with brown eyes, black hair and facial and neck tattoos common among members of violent street gangs.

Law enforcement bulletins warned that Morales was armed and dangerous and local media outlets included screenshots of the Metro D.C. Police Department’s social media alert asking for the public’s help in apprehending Morales. It includes a mug shot of the suspect, who has four tattoos on his face and a large one across his neck. It turns out that Morales had just served a five-year sentence after getting convicted of several gun charges involving the 2013 shooting of a D.C. man. Washington D.C.’s mainstream newspaper reported that the Federal Bureau of Prisons said Morales walked away form a halfway house overseen by the Baltimore Residential Reentry Management Office, which supervises facilities in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and D.C. Morales was moved to the halfway house as part of a system to help inmates transition back into society. If Morales is in the U.S. illegally, he should have been deported not transitioned back into society.

“Witnesses were unnerved at that brazenness of a man opening fire at 12:15 p.m. in what normally is a bustling transit stop adjacent to a shopping center,” the article states. Another local news report describes “alarming video” that shows two men chasing someone in the station. The shooter left behind a gun, the report says, and the intended target fled. Other coverage mentions a brief foot pursuit before police lost Morales on the day of the shooting and detailed physical descriptions of the suspect, between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-5, around 150 pounds. This information is just at pertinent as the suspect’s legal status yet no media outlet bothered to include it. Why is it being completely left out of all the news coverage? Even the local Fox news affiliate left it out of a follow-up piece about Morales getting apprehended by Montgomery County Police in Maryland days after the metro station shooting. The information is attributed to Montgomery Police Captain Paul Starks, who offered no further details. Judicial Watch reached out to the D.C. and Montgomery police departments to inquire about Morales’s legal status but neither returned calls.

Montgomery and D.C. protect illegal immigrants from federal authorities by offering them sanctuary. Earlier this year, local government in the nation’s capital took it a step further by launching a defense fund to help illegal aliens facing deportation. D.C.’s new taxpayer-funded initiative is called Immigrant Justice Legal Services (IJLS) and it pays organizations and law firms to help illegal aliens apply for asylum, represent them in deportation proceedings and conduct “know your rights” briefings and workshops, among other things. “In Washington, DC we embrace our diversity and strive to be more inclusive,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in an announcement when she launched the new defense fund, adding that months earlier she “reaffirmed” Washington D.C.’s status as a sanctuary city. “We must ensure that all District residents can take advantage of their federal and constitutional rights,” Bowser said. “Through the Immigrant Justice Legal Services grant program, we are ensuring that if immigration enforcement changes and problems arise, DC’s immigrant population will have our support and the support of DC’s legal community.”

In Montgomery, an affluent Maryland county, a longtime sanctuary policy led to a series of high-profile murders and other heinous crimes committed by illegal immigrants who had been arrested by local police and released. Under the county’s sanctuary policy, the offenders were not reported to federal authorities for deportation despite their criminal histories. In one year alone, illegal aliens who had been previously arrested in the area committed four murders, including that of a high school honor student and an elderly woman. Two of the killings involved members of the notoriously violent MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha gang, whose crime sprees have been enabled by the Montgomery County Police Department’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell immigration policy. This hasn’t stopped Montgomery, where this latest metro shooter was captured, from helping illegal immigrants. Even after the illegal alien crime spree, the county dedicated $100,000 to provide “application assistance” to illegal immigrants spared from deportation under President Obama’s backdoor amnesty plan.

The post Media Conspicuously Omits D.C. Metro Shooter’s Immigration Status appeared first on Judicial Watch.

Media Conspicuously Omits D.C. Metro Shooter’s Immigration Status

A disturbing incident involving a shooting inside a busy Washington D.C. metro station has received a lot of media attention, but all the reports conspicuously fail to mention if the suspect is an illegal immigrant. A man was captured on camera firing a gun down the escalator of the Columbia Heights Metro station in Northwest Washington in the middle of the afternoon on August. 25. He eluded police for days and authorities needed help capturing him so they revealed he had an extensive criminal history and identified him as 22-year-old Cesar Morales, Hispanic with brown eyes, black hair and facial and neck tattoos common among members of violent street gangs.

Law enforcement bulletins warned that Morales was armed and dangerous and local media outlets included screenshots of the Metro D.C. Police Department’s social media alert asking for the public’s help in apprehending Morales. It includes a mug shot of the suspect, who has four tattoos on his face and a large one across his neck. It turns out that Morales had just served a five-year sentence after getting convicted of several gun charges involving the 2013 shooting of a D.C. man. Washington D.C.’s mainstream newspaper reported that the Federal Bureau of Prisons said Morales walked away form a halfway house overseen by the Baltimore Residential Reentry Management Office, which supervises facilities in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and D.C. Morales was moved to the halfway house as part of a system to help inmates transition back into society. If Morales is in the U.S. illegally, he should have been deported not transitioned back into society.

“Witnesses were unnerved at that brazenness of a man opening fire at 12:15 p.m. in what normally is a bustling transit stop adjacent to a shopping center,” the article states. Another local news report describes “alarming video” that shows two men chasing someone in the station. The shooter left behind a gun, the report says, and the intended target fled. Other coverage mentions a brief foot pursuit before police lost Morales on the day of the shooting and detailed physical descriptions of the suspect, between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-5, around 150 pounds. This information is just at pertinent as the suspect’s legal status yet no media outlet bothered to include it. Why is it being completely left out of all the news coverage? Even the local Fox news affiliate left it out of a follow-up piece about Morales getting apprehended by Montgomery County Police in Maryland days after the metro station shooting. The information is attributed to Montgomery Police Captain Paul Starks, who offered no further details. Judicial Watch reached out to the D.C. and Montgomery police departments to inquire about Morales’s legal status but neither returned calls.

Montgomery and D.C. protect illegal immigrants from federal authorities by offering them sanctuary. Earlier this year, local government in the nation’s capital took it a step further by launching a defense fund to help illegal aliens facing deportation. D.C.’s new taxpayer-funded initiative is called Immigrant Justice Legal Services (IJLS) and it pays organizations and law firms to help illegal aliens apply for asylum, represent them in deportation proceedings and conduct “know your rights” briefings and workshops, among other things. “In Washington, DC we embrace our diversity and strive to be more inclusive,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in an announcement when she launched the new defense fund, adding that months earlier she “reaffirmed” Washington D.C.’s status as a sanctuary city. “We must ensure that all District residents can take advantage of their federal and constitutional rights,” Bowser said. “Through the Immigrant Justice Legal Services grant program, we are ensuring that if immigration enforcement changes and problems arise, DC’s immigrant population will have our support and the support of DC’s legal community.”

In Montgomery, an affluent Maryland county, a longtime sanctuary policy led to a series of high-profile murders and other heinous crimes committed by illegal immigrants who had been arrested by local police and released. Under the county’s sanctuary policy, the offenders were not reported to federal authorities for deportation despite their criminal histories. In one year alone, illegal aliens who had been previously arrested in the area committed four murders, including that of a high school honor student and an elderly woman. Two of the killings involved members of the notoriously violent MS-13 or Mara Salvatrucha gang, whose crime sprees have been enabled by the Montgomery County Police Department’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell immigration policy. This hasn’t stopped Montgomery, where this latest metro shooter was captured, from helping illegal immigrants. Even after the illegal alien crime spree, the county dedicated $100,000 to provide “application assistance” to illegal immigrants spared from deportation under President Obama’s backdoor amnesty plan.

The post Media Conspicuously Omits D.C. Metro Shooter’s Immigration Status appeared first on Judicial Watch.

“Hardest Hit Fund” to Help Struggling Homeowners Spent Millions on Parties, Bonuses, Cars

A multi-billion-dollar government program launched by Obama to help families hit by the housing crisis squandered millions on parties, employee bonuses, cars, and superfluous data storage. The program is known as Hardest Hit Fund and operates under the Treasury Department, which does little to oversee it and sits by as federal audits expose pervasive fraud and waste. The findings of the latest probe were released this month by the inspector general of another reckless Treasury gem, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Obama’s disastrous initiative to rescue the nation’s ailing financial institutions.

The findings are documented in an exhaustive 93-page report that should enrage every American taxpayer. For those who don’t have the stamina to get through the entire document, here are some highlights; $3 million in expenses, deemed “unnecessary” by the watchdog, were spent on picnics, barbecues, gift cards, a new customer center, employee bonuses, cars, and more. Here’s a breakdown straight out of the federal audit; $598,374 went to car allowances, free parking, and other transportation perks; $342,728 was spent on settlements, severance, and other employee legal expenses; $342,407 went to employee bonuses, cash debit cards, gifts, and other perks; $258,333 was spent on “avoidable” data storage expenses; $150,618 on barbecues, parties, picnics, steak and seafood dinners, and other food and beverages. The rest was spent on unemployment payments to former employees and a customer center in Rhode Island that had already received federal money years earlier for a new office.

“Taxpayers are paying more for this program than is necessary, and losing Federal dollars to waste, because Treasury is not following its own contract to limit TARP spending to only expenses necessary to modify loans or demolish blighted houses,” the inspector general writes in the report. “Treasury has also allowed state agencies to charge TARP for expenses not included in the Permitted Expenses, such as food and beverages, which are not necessary to modify loans or demolish blighted houses.” The probe was requested by a U.S. senator in the aftermath of a 2016 audit exposing $8.1 million in waste in Nevada’s Hardest Hit Fund. In that case the money was blown on outrageous things like employee outings, staff lunches and gifts, parties, a fancy car for a supervisor, and severance pay for a top official. The Treasury Department never bothered trying to recover the money, according to the audit, and the fraud continues to grow.

The Hardest Hit Fund was created by Obama in 2010 to help struggling families negatively impacted by the housing crisis that began in 2007. The former commander-in-chief asserted that homeowners in regions with high unemployment needed the government’s help to make their mortgage payment and prevent foreclosure. The government has contributed more than $9 billion dollars to the cause and the money will be available until the end of 2020. In the Obama administration’s last year, the fund got an additional $2 billion to assist struggling homeowners and communities. “While the housing market has strengthened in recent years, there are still many homeowners and neighborhoods experiencing the negative effects of the financial crisis,” said the Treasury’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Financial Stability when the money was doled out, assuring that the funds would help stabilize local communities and help struggling families avoid foreclosure.

Like a lot of government programs during Obama’s eight years, this one ballooned and kept receiving boatloads of cash with virtually no oversight. It started off as a $1.5 billion initiative focused on the five states with the steepest declines in home prices and grew to a $9.6 billion boondoggle encompassing 18 states and the District of Columbia. The money goes to mortgage payment assistance for unemployed or underemployed homeowners, principal reduction to help homeowners get into more affordable mortgages, and blight elimination and down payment assistance efforts. California has received the biggest chunk of money ($2,358,593,320) followed by Florida ($1,135,735,674), Ohio ($762,302,067), Michigan ($761,204,045), and North Carolina ($706,507,564). Nevada got a total of $202,911,881, nearly $9 million of it just months before the publication of that scathing inspector general report documenting $8.1 million in fraud.

The post “Hardest Hit Fund” to Help Struggling Homeowners Spent Millions on Parties, Bonuses, Cars appeared first on Judicial Watch.

“Hardest Hit Fund” to Help Struggling Homeowners Spent Millions on Parties, Bonuses, Cars

A multi-billion-dollar government program launched by Obama to help families hit by the housing crisis squandered millions on parties, employee bonuses, cars, and superfluous data storage. The program is known as Hardest Hit Fund and operates under the Treasury Department, which does little to oversee it and sits by as federal audits expose pervasive fraud and waste. The findings of the latest probe were released this month by the inspector general of another reckless Treasury gem, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Obama’s disastrous initiative to rescue the nation’s ailing financial institutions.

The findings are documented in an exhaustive 93-page report that should enrage every American taxpayer. For those who don’t have the stamina to get through the entire document, here are some highlights; $3 million in expenses, deemed “unnecessary” by the watchdog, were spent on picnics, barbecues, gift cards, a new customer center, employee bonuses, cars, and more. Here’s a breakdown straight out of the federal audit; $598,374 went to car allowances, free parking, and other transportation perks; $342,728 was spent on settlements, severance, and other employee legal expenses; $342,407 went to employee bonuses, cash debit cards, gifts, and other perks; $258,333 was spent on “avoidable” data storage expenses; $150,618 on barbecues, parties, picnics, steak and seafood dinners, and other food and beverages. The rest was spent on unemployment payments to former employees and a customer center in Rhode Island that had already received federal money years earlier for a new office.

“Taxpayers are paying more for this program than is necessary, and losing Federal dollars to waste, because Treasury is not following its own contract to limit TARP spending to only expenses necessary to modify loans or demolish blighted houses,” the inspector general writes in the report. “Treasury has also allowed state agencies to charge TARP for expenses not included in the Permitted Expenses, such as food and beverages, which are not necessary to modify loans or demolish blighted houses.” The probe was requested by a U.S. senator in the aftermath of a 2016 audit exposing $8.1 million in waste in Nevada’s Hardest Hit Fund. In that case the money was blown on outrageous things like employee outings, staff lunches and gifts, parties, a fancy car for a supervisor, and severance pay for a top official. The Treasury Department never bothered trying to recover the money, according to the audit, and the fraud continues to grow.

The Hardest Hit Fund was created by Obama in 2010 to help struggling families negatively impacted by the housing crisis that began in 2007. The former commander-in-chief asserted that homeowners in regions with high unemployment needed the government’s help to make their mortgage payment and prevent foreclosure. The government has contributed more than $9 billion dollars to the cause and the money will be available until the end of 2020. In the Obama administration’s last year, the fund got an additional $2 billion to assist struggling homeowners and communities. “While the housing market has strengthened in recent years, there are still many homeowners and neighborhoods experiencing the negative effects of the financial crisis,” said the Treasury’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Financial Stability when the money was doled out, assuring that the funds would help stabilize local communities and help struggling families avoid foreclosure.

Like a lot of government programs during Obama’s eight years, this one ballooned and kept receiving boatloads of cash with virtually no oversight. It started off as a $1.5 billion initiative focused on the five states with the steepest declines in home prices and grew to a $9.6 billion boondoggle encompassing 18 states and the District of Columbia. The money goes to mortgage payment assistance for unemployed or underemployed homeowners, principal reduction to help homeowners get into more affordable mortgages, and blight elimination and down payment assistance efforts. California has received the biggest chunk of money ($2,358,593,320) followed by Florida ($1,135,735,674), Ohio ($762,302,067), Michigan ($761,204,045), and North Carolina ($706,507,564). Nevada got a total of $202,911,881, nearly $9 million of it just months before the publication of that scathing inspector general report documenting $8.1 million in fraud.

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DHS Blows $5 Mil on Polygraphs for “Unsuitable” Job Applicants Who Admit Criminal Acts, Drug Use

The front-line Homeland Security agency charged with keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the United States wasted $5 million on lie detector tests for “unsuitable” job candidates that admitted committing criminal acts or drug use. This is disturbing for several reasons, mainly that this crucial agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is an essential part of the nation’s security yet it considers hiring agents with criminal histories. Secondly, it’s an inexcusable waste of taxpayer dollars, though that’s a government-wide epidemic hardly limited to this agency.

CBP functions under the immense Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has some 60,000 employees, making it one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations. Its duty is to safeguard America’s borders while enabling legitimate trade and travel, a monumental task that requires precision and good judgement. On a typical day, CBP checks over 67,000 cargo containers, seizes nearly six tons of illicit drugs and screens about a million visitors to the U.S. Agents work in land borders, airports and seaports and they consider themselves the “guardians of our nation’s borders,” as well as “America’s frontline.” Undoubtedly, it’s a critical job that requires topnotch personnel—with clean criminal backgrounds—dedicated to the mission.

Why would this agency, so imperative to national security, even think of considering job candidates that don’t meet the highest standards? The answer to that simple question remains a mystery, but at least we have a commitment from CBP brass that adjudicators will immediately remove “unsuitable” job applicants from the hiring process when the candidate admits wrongdoing rather than continue spending money and resources on keeping them in the pool. It required a federal audit to accomplish this and there’s no telling how long it’s been going on. Between 2013 and 2016 CBP gave 2,300 applicants polygraph tests after they had admitted drug use or criminal activity which automatically disqualified from becoming agents, according to a DHS Inspector General report issued this month. This cost the government an unthinkable $5.1 million, the IG determined. During the same period CBP spent a total of about $72.3 million to administer polygraphs to 32,847 applicants.

Each polygraph test costs the government $2,200, the DHS watchdog reveals in the report. “CBP administered polygraph examinations to applicants who previously provided disqualifying information on employment documents or during the pre-test interview,” the report states. “This occurred because CBP’s process did not stop, and is not sufficient to prevent, unsuitable applicants from continuing through the polygraph examination.” The unqualified candidates didn’t have minor background glitches, but rather “significant pre-test admissions of wrongdoing,” the IG found, suggesting that CBP implement a security interview and improved utilization of the adjudicative process to put its funds to better use by focusing on applicants with the best chance of making it through the hiring process.

A few months ago, a Senate Homeland Security committee approved a measure to expedite hiring more CBP agents by skipping the mandatory polygraph, which has been scrutinized by lawmakers and government officials alike because only one in four applicants pass the test. The agency started requiring polygraphs for new hires because too many agents got busted in illicit behavior after being sworn in. Under the new bill, certain exceptions would apply; former federal employees who served in law enforcement for at least three years and previously passed background checks; military personnel who served for at least four years with security clearances; state and local law enforcement officers in good standing who already passed a lie detector test as part of their screening process.

CBP has been plagued by scandal in recent years involving internal corruption that could put the U.S. at risk. Back in 2012, the agency’s deputy commissioner, Thomas Winkowski, revealed in congressional testimony an epidemic of CBP agents teaming up with Mexican drug cartels and alien smugglers. Winkowski, who retired in 2015, told members of the House Committee on Homeland Security that more than 2,000 CBP agents had been charged with crimes during an eight-year period and 138 with corruption. The overwhelming majority of CBP officers serve with honor and integrity, Winkowski told the congressional panel, but a small minority have “disgraced the agency and betrayed the trust of the American public” by engaging in illegal and unethical behavior. That “small minority” is never the less enough to compromise national security.

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