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Inspector General Glenn Fine's report on the politicization of the Justice Department's Honors Program was just released, and states that the OIG did find evidence -- surprise! -- that politics and ideology were weighed in the selection of candidates, but that only Michael Elston, the chief of staff to the deputy attorney general, and Esther McDonald, former counsel to Associate Attorney General and member of Honors Program Screening Committee, were involved.

From (pdf) the report:

The evidence in our investigation - including the documentary evidence, the testimony of witnesses, and the analysis of the applications of candidates who were selected for interviews and who were deselected by the 2006 Screening Committee - supports the conclusion that political or ideological affiliations were used to deselect candidates from the Honors Program and SLIP.

As discussed below, we concluded that while Daniel Fridman did not use political or ideological affiliations in his evaluation of candidates, the evidence indicates that both McDonald and Elston did. As a result, many qualified candidates were deselected by the Screening Committee because of their perceived political or ideological affiliations.


McDonald, who worked with Fridman (an assistant U.S. Attorney from the Southern District of Florida who was detailed to the deputy AG's office) to screen applications before they were sent to Elston, would often notate the applicants ideology (from page 73):

When Fridman asked McDonald how she obtained the additional information, she told him she conducted searches on Google and MySpace, and read law review articles written by the applicants. For example, Fridman recalled that one candidate had written a law review article about the detention of individuals at Guantánamo, and McDonald noted on the application that she perceived the applicant's viewpoint to be contrary to the position of the administration. On another application, McDonald noted that she found information on the Internet indicating that a candidate was an "anarchist."


We'll have more on this as we look over the 110-page report today.

[Late Update: Chief of Staff for the Deputy Attorney General, Michael Elston was named in the report as being in violation of federal laws for weighing "political and ideological" leanings in the hiring process. Elston and Esther McDonald, a former DOJ lawyer, were both found in violation of DOJ policy.]

The first of a possible 160 court reviews of detainees at Guantanamo Bay resulted in the termination of the case against Chinese Muslim Huzaifa Parhat. The Justice Department conceded the case, saying there was no evidence that he ever fought against the U.S., or had plans to do so. (Associated Press)

Though women make up only 14 percent of U.S. Army personnel, 46 percent of Army discharges due to the military's policy of prohibiting openly gay citizens from serving were female. (New York Times)

The first convicted contract worker employed in Iraq was sentenced to five months of confinement for stabbing a fellow translator. Alaa "Alex" Mohammed Ali, an Iraqi Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty to stealing a soldier's knife, assaulting his colleague and wrongfully disposing of evidence. (LA Times)

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The first in a series of inspector general reports investigating the politicization of the Justice Department is expected today, and the Washington Post has a sneak peek.

The report to be released today by DOJ Inspector General Glenn Fine will, according to the Post, chronicle how young conservative law students were favored hires in stocking the DOJ's prestigious -- and heretofore non-partisan -- Honors Program.

Under former Attorney General John Ashcroft, oversight for the Honors Program, which had traditionally been the responsibility of senior career officials, fell under the purview of Ashcroft's key political advisers.

The honors program, which each year places about 150 law school graduates with top credentials in a rotation of Justice jobs, historically had operated under the control of senior career officials. Shifting control of the program to Ashcroft's advisers prompted charges of partisanship from law professors and former government lawyers who had worked under Democratic administrations.


Critics complained that the honors program favored conservative applicants, and turned down highly qualified prospects because of left-leaning affiliations:

One Harvard Law School graduate said that when he applied for the honors program a few years ago he was warned by professors and fellow students to remove any liberal affiliations from his résumé.

Concerned Justice employees also raised alarms last year by sending a letter to lawmakers who had been examining whether political considerations led to the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys.


Keep an eye out for Michael Elston in the report today. The former chief of staff to the deputy attorney generalwas named as a central figure in the politicization of the honors program over a year ago:

Allegations concerning political hiring for the Honors Program -- the Department's historically rigorous program for hiring entry-level lawyers -- have centered on Michael Elston, the chief of staff to the deputy attorney general. A group of anonymous Justice Department employees raised alarms with Congress last month, complaining that Elston rejected hundreds of potential applicants to the program last year seemingly based on their political backgrounds.

In a motion hearing in federal court today, U.S. District Judge John Bates questioned why Congress didn't simply arrest former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Josh Bolten after both refused to respond to subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary Committee:

Congress has the authority to hold someone in contempt, U.S. District Judge John Bates said. Did it really need to go to court? House counsel Irvin Nathan said it did.


The hearing is the latest in an ongoing battle between Congress and the White House, to have senior aides testify about the U.S. attorney firings.

Bates also queried whether he should make a decision at all:

"Both sides have the same argument," Bates said. "Whether I rule for the executive branch or I rule for the legislative branch, I'm going to disrupt the balance."


Bates promised a quick decision, but noted the likelihood of appeal.

It took him a few weeks, but Colorado Republican and Senate candidate Bob Schaffer finally spoke publicly about the recent conviction of a former business associate for defrauding the EPA.

Specifically, Schaffer said he had no involvement in securing the $3.6 million earmark that led to the fraud conviction of Colorado businessman Bill Orr.

He spoke to a reporter from the Rocky Mountain News:

"I did not advocate his earmark. In fact, I was unaware of his earmark," Schaffer said, adding he voted against the bill that contained the earmark.


We'd been trying to get Schaffer to talk about that 2000 earmark for weeks. After a federal jury in May concluded that the National Alternative Fuels Foundation was a scam that was bilking taxpayer dollars with junk science, we called every lawmaker from the Colorado delegation at that time. Schaffer, who served on the group's board of directors after leaving the House, was the only one who wouldn't return our calls.

One of Schaffer's political friends, Scott Shires, told the Rocky Mountain News that Orr got the federal money with help from an out-of-state lawmaker.

Shires said Orr told him the earmark was inserted into the bill by a key House committee staffer at the direction of a non-Colorado congressman, and that a "very expensive bottle of whiskey" changed hands.


A new twist in his story is that Schaffer now says he was a paid board member. Previously, his campaign had denied he received any money in that role. Schaffer said he was paid about $1,500 for the several months he spent serving on the board of directors from about December 2004 to March 2005.

The EPA froze the NAFF grant in January 2005, after paying out about $2 million to the group. Schaffer said Department of Justice investigators interviewed him about the NAFF in February 2005, just before he resigned his position on the board in March.

Schaffer's says he signed on with the NAFF at the suggestion of his pal Shires, a longtime GOP operative in Colorado who was serving as NAFF's salaried treasurer. Shires and Schaffer have known each other for years and Shires has served as the registered agent for one of Schaffer's campaigns.

Shires was in federal court today getting sentenced for a misdemeanor charge connected with the NAFF investigation. A judge gave him a year's probation and a $3,450 fine for failure to file a tax report. He'd pleaded guilty in 2006 and agreed to testify against Orr.

Former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith had agreed to testify before a House Judiciary subommittee on interrogation techniques used on detainees, but when June 18 rolled around, Feith was nowhere to be found.

In response subcommittee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has announced that he will consider issuing a subpoena to force Feith's testimony at a subcommittee meeting tomorrow afternoon.

This is not the first time the House has been forced to issue a subpoena to attempt to compel testimony regarding interrogation techniques. David Addington, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, was subpoenaed in early May of this year.

Maj. Larry Harrison told his military commanders back in April that State Department officials might be concealing information from Congress.

Harrison was working in the U.S.embassy at Tirana, Albania, when he saw the U.S. officials there help Albanian officials conceal the origin of a weapons shipment that might be illegal, he told House investigators.

When Congress started asking questions about the weapons deal, Harrison suggested that the embassy officials be upfront about the late-night meeting they had in November 2007 with the Albanian defense minister when they talked about how to repackage the Chinese ammo.

But the embassy officials didn't take his advice. And it looks like Harrison sent a C-Y-A memo to his military bosses at European Command on April 16:

Although I provided input to the third question, the Political--Economic Officer, the Deputy Chief of Mission and the Ambassador did not accept my input. The answers were forwarded to the committee with my name on the memo as having cleared the memo, or in other words, approved the content.

I did not approve of the content of the answers and I am concerned that information may have been omitted relevant to the question.


The memo was disclosed today by Rep. Henry Waxman's oversight committee.

A spokesman for the State Department told me this morning said they were still reviewing Waxman's documents. We asked a Defense Department spokeswoman what European Command officials did with Harrison's memo. We'll let you know when we hear back from her.

Was the State Department involved in a shoddy and potentially illegal ammo shipment that led to the arrest of a 22-year-old Miami arms dealer last week?

That's what Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) now says. The House oversight committee says it has evidence that the U.S. embassy in Albania helped Albanian officials keep the allegedly illegal shipment of Chinese-made ammunition to Afghanistan under wraps and then failed to disclose that information when Waxman's committee asked about it.

Last week we updated you about the arrest of Efraim Diveroli and three of his business partners with AEY Inc. Federal prosecutors say he violated the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which prohibits buying and selling weapons from certain countries, including China. The ammunition in question was obtained by AEY from an Albanian arms dealer.

Waxman's new-- and potentially explosive -- evidence stems from an interview by the oversight committee of Army Maj. Larry Harrison, the Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Albania. Harrison told the committee about a previously undisclosed November meeting that included Albanian officials and U.S. Ambassador John Withers and others from the U.S. embassy in Tirana.

Waxman describes Harrison's account of the meeting in a letter today to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

According to Major Harrison, the Albanian Defense Minister, Fatmir Mediu, called him on November 19, 2007, to request an urgent meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Albania, John L. Withers, II. Major Harrison stated during his interview that the Albanian Defense Minister was concerned that a New York Times reporter planned to inspect the facility at Rinas Airport in Tirana where AEY was conducting its operation to repackage Chinese ammunition before shipping it to Afghanistan, a process that included removing some ammunition from its original Chinese packaging. ...

As a result of discussions that went late into the night, the Albanian Defense Minister ordered one of his top generals to remove all evidence of Chinese packaging before the site was inspected the following day. Major Harrison told the Committee: "the Ambassador agreed that this would alleviate the suspicion of wrongdoing."


Back in April, after a front-page story about the 20-something arms dealers in the New York Times, Waxman asked the State Department for any information they had about the case. State officials responded with a memo noting only a few perfunctory meetings about the case.

But Waxman later obtained a draft of that State Department memo on which Harrison used the " track changes " function in Microsoft Word to suggest that reference to the November 2007 meeting be included. Harrison's draft included the following language:

"Do we mention the meeting at Steve's house on 19 November (present was Amb Withers, DCM Christina, RSO Patrick and ODC Chief Harrison) where the Amb recommended to the Minister to prevent the reporters form seeing the munitions at the airport on the following day and the Minister called MG Spahiu at approximately 23:00 to have all the ammunition removed from the airport by 0800 the next morning"


"Steve" is a reference to Stephen Cristina, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Albania. The changes suggested by Harrison were not included in the final draft of the memo that the State Department forwarded to Waxman's committee on April 9.

Waxman wrote in his letter to Rice:

The information obtained by the Committee raises serious issues. If the information is accurate, it appears that senior U. S. Embassy officials in Albania approved of the efforts of the Albanian Defense Minister to conceal evidence of illegal shipments of Chinese ammunition that are now the subject of a criminal indictment. It also appears that information about the incident was withheld from the Committee. It is hard to understand what rationale would justify these actions.


Waxman asked Rice to send several officials from the State Department to appear before the committee for "transcribed interviews."

Amid pressure from Congress and an oversight panel, the U.S. Army is in the process of restructuring its methods of contracting work in Iraq. The Army asked for further support from the White House, requesting clearance to bring on five active-duty generals to oversee contracts. But the White House has initially nixed the idea. (Associated Press)

Chinese hackers infiltrated the computers of three more members of Congress, as well as computers belonging to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Data on each computer was erased, as the members said they believe their stance on human rights in China was the reason for the attacks. (The Hill)

The battle between the White House and the House Judiciary Committee over whether current chief of staff Josh Bolten and former counsel Harriet Miers must provide evidence in a House investigation, will continue in court. Documents and testimony are being demanded in regards to their involvement in the firing of U.S. attorneys. (Associated Press)

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In what looks like a "straw deal," Blackwater financed the purchase of 17 AK-47 rifles and 17 Bushmaster XM15 E2S rifles for the sheriff in the country where the company's headquarters is located and gave the sheriff "unlimited access to those rifles for training and qualification, and state of emergency use" -- but stored the weapons in Blackwater's own armory.

What could a sleepy North Carolina town, with a population under 10,000, need with a cache of 34 automatic weapons for its 19 deputies?

Sheriff Tony Perry says it's because the country was setting up a SWAT team at the time of the deal.

But according to the Raleigh News Observer, this excuse falls short:

The AK-47 would be a poor choice of weapon for a SWAT team, said John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, the national organization of SWAT officers.

As a combat weapon, the AK-47 is too large and powerful for SWAT teams, Gnagey said. It is rugged but relatively inaccurate.

"And there's the perception problem," Gnagey said. "Every terrorist attacking the U.S. is armed with AK-47s."

Most SWAT teams use the H&K MP5 submachine gun or the Bushmaster M4, he said.


Under federal law, private entities are not allowed to buy or keep automatic weapons, and it is illegal for anyone to receive or possess an automatic weapon that isn't registered to that person. According the the New Observer, all 34 automatic weapons are registered to the sheriff's office, and the AK-47s and five Bushmasters are stored at Blackwater. Twelve of the Bushmasters are currently assigned to Camden deputies.

Blackwater CEO Gary Jackson, denied breaking any federal law:

Jackson and Erik Prince, Blackwater's owner, said Blackwater used the AK-47s in training to familiarize police officers or members of the military with a foreign weapon that they might come across while making an arrest or on a battlefield.


It is not clear how this applies to the Camden police force, who have only seen two murders, three robberies, and seven reported rapes, in the last decade.

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