Homeland Security

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  White House Rejects Subpoenas on Prosecutor FiringsJune 28, 2007 09:09 The Bush administration asserted executive privilege and rejected subpoenas from two congressional committees probing last year's firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

``The president has decided to assert executive privilege and therefore the White House will not be making any production in response to these subpoenas for documents,'' White House Counsel Fred Fielding wrote to Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont and Representative John Conyers of Michigan, chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.

The White House resistance is likely to touch off a constitutional showdown over Congress's ability to investigate the firing of prosecutors and the president's ability to obtain frank counsel from advisers.

Conyers, a Democrat, said the privilege claim wouldn't end the fight for the documents.

``The president's response to our subpoena shows an appalling disregard for the right of the people to know what is going on in their government,'' Conyers said in a statement. ``The executive privilege assertion is unprecedented in its breadth and scope, and even includes documents that the administration previously offered to provide.''
  Senate Subpoenas Whouse Documents In Spying ProbeJune 27, 2007 15:11 A Senate chairman heading an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic spying program subpoenaed documents on Wednesday from the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney's office, the National Security Council and Justice Department.

Setting up a possible courtroom showdown, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy gave the administration until July 18 to turn over specified materials that the White House last week declared off limits and highly classified.

In letters accompanying the subpoenas, Leahy wrote: "Over the past 18 months, this committee has made no fewer than nine formal requests to the Department of Justice and to the White House, seeking information and documents about the authorization of and legal justification for this program."

"There is no legitimate argument for withholding the requested materials," added Leahy, a Vermont Democrat. "The administration cannot thwart the Congress's conduct of its constitutional duties with sweeping assertions of secrecy and privilege."

The White House condemned the action.

"It's unfortunate that congressional Democrats have decided to choose confrontation," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "This is a highly classified program that was specifically designed to protect civil liberties."

"The appropriate members of Congress have repeatedly been briefed on its substance, lawfulness, and effectiveness in protecting American lives by helping foil terrorist attacks," Perino said.

Leahy's panel, on a bipartisan vote of 13-3, authorized the subpoenas last week in another attempt to determine the administration's legal justification for warrantless surveillance begun shortly after the September 11 attacks.

 
  Cheney stonewalls national security councilJune 22, 2007 09:10 The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Thursday criticized Vice President Dick Cheney's idea of doing away with a U.S. government agency -- the Information Security Oversight Office -- charged with safeg uarding national security information.

The committee also took Cheney to task for refusing to cooperate with the agency by exempting itself -- over the objections of the National Archives -- from a presidential executive order that seeks to protect national security information generated by the government.

Under the order, executive branch offices are required to give the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) at the archives data on how much material it has classified and declassified.

Cheney's office provided the information in 2001 and 2002, then stopped. Henry Waxman, chairman of the committee, said Cheney's office claims it need not comply with the executive order because it is not an "entity within the executive branch."

"Your decision to except your office from the president's order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk," Waxman wrote in a letter to Cheney on Thursday.

Waxman said J. William Leonard, ISOO director, told the panel that after he sought advice from the Justice Department, Cheney's office recommended the executive order be amended to abolish the ISOO. "I question both the legality and wisdom of your actions," Waxman said.

Megan McGinn, a spokeswoman for the vice president, said Cheney's office was not breaking the law, but did not elaborate.
  Abc News: Could Missing Soldier'S Wife Be Deported?June 20, 2007 16:48 The wife of an American soldier missing in action in the Iraq War faces another potential crisis at home: deportation.

Yaderlin Jimenez's husband, Army Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, a Purple Heart recipient, disappeared when his unit was ambushed by insurgents May 12.

Now the immigration status of his Dominican-born wife, who illegally entered the country in 2001 and married Jimenez in June 2004, hangs in limbo.

At a dramatic hearing in immigrant court April 29, 2006, where Jimenez appeared in full-dress uniform alongside his wife, Judge Philip J. Montante granted the couple a temporary reprieve — putting a stop to the proceedings until Jimenez returned from what would be his second tour of duty.

"For humanitarian reasons, [the judge] realized it was unconscionable to go forward with an immigration case while Jimenez put his life on the line," Matthew Kolken, the immigration attorney representing the Jimenez family, told ABC News.

A spokesman for Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told ABC News that the agency currently has no intention of deporting Yaderlin Jimenez. But with Jimenez missing in action and not yet declared a casualty of war, his wife's immigration proceeding is more up in the air than it's ever been.

 
  US Court Rules Against Bush Enemy Combatant PolicyJune 11, 2007 21:23 A federal appeals court of Virginia said the Bush administration cannot legally detain a US resident it believes is an enemy combatant without charging him.


In a divided decision, the court ruled that the President cannot strip 41-year old Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri of his constitutional rights to challenge his accusers in court and keep him indefinitely as an enemy combatant on US soil, as this would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution and the country, the CNN reported.



The court also ruled the government must allow al-Marri to be released from military detention.



Al-Marri has been held in solitary confinement in the Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina, since June 2003. The Qatar native has been detained since his December 2001 arrest at his home in Peoria, Illinois, where he moved with his wife and five children a day before the 9 11 terrorist attacks to study for a master's degree.



He has denied the government's allegations and is seeking to challenge the government's evidence and cross-examine its witnesses in court. He also has said that President Bush has no legal standing to imprison someone indefinitely by declaring him an enemy combatant.



"This is (a landmark victory for the rule of law and a defeat for unchecked executive power," al-Marri's lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, said in a statement Monday. "It affirms the basic constitutional rights of all individuals citizens and immigrants- in the United States."
  Law Standing In The Way Of Bush's War On TerrorJune 09, 2007 10:48 What's in a word? When the word is "unlawful,'' quite a lot.

In another major setback for the George W. Bush administration's beleaguered military commissions, military judges in two trials declared they lacked jurisdiction to try terror suspects detained at Guantánamo Bay.

Their holdings hinge on an apparent technicality. When Congress passed the American military commissions act of 2006, it only gave the commissions jurisdiction over "alien unlawful enemy combatants.'' The two suspected al-Qaida members whose cases were at issue this week, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, had previously gone before Guantánamo combatant status review tribunals, but those tribunals merely had determined that they were "enemy combatants,'' not "unlawful'' enemy combatants.

As a result, declared army Col. Peter E. Brownback and navy Capt. Keith Allred, the military commissions lacked jurisdiction over them.

This may seem nitpicky, but it's not. Behind the rulings lies a major dispute about the status of the Guantánamo detainees.

In 2001, the administration made a fateful decision to treat terrorism suspects as "enemy combatants'' in the "war on terror'' rather than trying them as criminals in civilian courts. This decision led to the current military commission meltdown.

Generally speaking, it is illegal for ordinary people to kill other ordinary people. But the laws of war recognize that during an armed conflict, combatants on one side are supposed to try to kill combatants on the other side. If they are later captured, the opposing forces can detain them until the end of hostilities but can't try them for murder. They have "combatant immunity:'' If they killed opposing combatants, they were just doing their job.

 
  Why Detainee Trials Got Snagged Over A WordJune 05, 2007 13:03 When Congress wrote the Military Commissions Act in 2006, the authors were careful to specify that only "unlawful" enemy combatants could be placed on trial under the new form of military justice at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

They wanted to make sure that President Bush and his commanders reserved the streamlined tribunals for the most egregious violators. So Congress repeatedly drew distinctions between "lawful" enemy combatants, who could not be tried at Guantánamo, and "unlawful" enemy combatants, who could.

It was all designed to help the Bush administration speed up the military-commission process and quickly bring suspected Al Qaeda members to trial. Instead, that careful distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants has now brought the controversial process to a screeching halt.

On Monday, military judges dismissed all charges against two accused members of Al Qaeda who were slated to undergo military commission trials at Guantánamo. The judges said the two men were never designated as unlawful enemy combatants as required under the Military Commissions Act.

The pretrial rulings sparked a new round of criticism from defense lawyers, human rights activists, and administration opponents who said the episode is more evidence of the need to dismantle the commissions and shut down the Guantánamo prison camp.