Justice Dept. to Buy Illinois Prison

Attorney General Eric Holder informed congressional appropriations leaders that despite their objections, the Justice Department is moving forward with the purchase of a maximum-security prison in Thomson, Ill.

The Obama administration had wanted to use the facility to hold high-security terrorism suspects before the administration’s efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba failed. Holder stated in the letter to Chairman Frank Wolf, R-Va., of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science that no Guantanamo Bay suspects would reside at the Thomson facility.

“Americans would rather their tax dollars be spent preventing attacks from terrorists, than spent bringing them into their cities and towns as the Obama administration has repeatedly tried to achieve,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement, calling it an “election-eve purchase.”

“The unilateral decision to purchase the Thomson Prison – even though Congress has repeatedly opposed the Obama administration’s effort to use taxpayer funds to do so – underscores the administration’s desire to move forward and bring these detainees to U.S. soil,” Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

The Justice Department will purchase the prison from the state of Illinois for $165 million. Citing 38 percent overcrowding rates in federal prisons, Holder noted that building a new facility could cost as much as $400 million. The funds for the purchase will be obtained from DOJ seizures in asset-forfeiture cases.

“The administration is acutely aware of BOP’s need for the facility and the department’s inability to reach a resolution of the matter with you. Under these circumstances, the administration has decided to proceed with the purchase,” AG Holder wrote Tuesday to Rep. Wolf.

“Thomson is still desperately needed to reduce our current high level of overcrowding. And Thomson is specifically needed to house inmates particularly those appropriate for “administrative maximum,” Holder wrote in his letter, making reference to the highest security level in the Bureau of Prisons, “administrative maximum.”

A Government Accountability Office report released in September noted that Bureau of Prisons facilities are severely overcrowded with double- and triple-stacked bunk beds.

“According to BOP and our observations, the growth of the federal inmate population and related crowding have negatively affected inmates housed in BOP institutions, institutional staff, and the infrastructure of BOP facilities, and have contributed to inmate misconduct, which affects staff and inmate security and safety,” the GAO report noted.

But Wolf said in a statement issued after the decision was announced, “President Obama’s unprecedented directive to Attorney General Holder to circumvent Congress to purchase Thomson prison is deeply troubling.”



Obama Defends His Flip Flop on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

President Obama defended his administration’s blatant flip flop when it comes to enforcing federal laws on medical marijuana dispensaries, saying he can’t ask the Justice Department to ignore federal law.

In 2008 candidate Obama said that he would not use federal resources to “try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana.”

Attorney General Eric Holder later wrote in a 2009 memo that users and dispensaries that comply with state and local laws would not be a priority for the Justice Department.

More than 100 dispensaries have been raided by federal prosecutors in the last 3 years.

In 2010, Holder reversed course writing that his department would “vigorously enforce” federal laws after a ballot initiative in California sought, unsuccessfully, to legalize marijuana.

In an interview, with Rolling Stone the president said the following:

“I can’t nullify congressional law. What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana.”

“I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana, and the reason is, because it’s against federal law.” he added.

Federal prosecutors have targeted dispensaries in California, Colorado and other states.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a supporter of eliminating restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries, said that federal prosecutors should yield to state laws governing the businesses.

“The Justice Department has repeatedly made clear that dispensaries that are in compliance with state law are not an enforcement priority,” Polis said in a statement. “Colorado’s tough system of medical marijuana regulation is the best way to keep drugs out of the hands of minors.”

Obama also said during the interview that “large-scale, commercial” marijuana businesses that might supply both medical and recreational users present a problem for law enforcement.

“In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we’re telling them, ‘This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way,’ ” he said.

“That’s not something we’re going to do.”

Too bad that’s exactly what he said they would do.


Militia Members Accused of Plotting War Against Government, Cleared of Charges

A federal judge dismissed the most serious charges in the U.S. government’s case against seven members of a Michigan militia who were being accused of plotting to wage war against the government.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said the members’ expressed hatred of law enforcement didn’t amount to a conspiracy to rebel against the federal government. The FBI had an informant and an FBI agent planted inside the Hutaree militia going back to 2008. They collected hours of anti-government audio and video that became the cornerstone of the case.

“The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy. In this case, however, they do not rise to that level,” the judge said.

Roberts granted requests for acquittal on the most serious charges: conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the U.S. and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. Other weapons crimes tied to the alleged conspiracies also were dismissed.

“The judge had a lot of guts,” said defense attorney William Swor. “It would have been very easy to say, ‘The heck with it,’ and hand it off to the jury. But the fact is she looked at the evidence, and she looked at it very carefully.”

The trial, which began Feb. 13, will  resume with only a few gun charges remaining against militia leader David Stone and son Joshua Stone, both from Lenawee County, Mich.

Prosecutors said Hutaree members were anti-government rebels who combined training and strategy sessions to prepare for a violent strike against federal law enforcement. The strike was to be set off by the slaying of a local police officer.

Defense lawyers said highly offensive remarks about police and the government were wrongly turned into a high-profile criminal case.

Attorney General Eric Holder called Hutaree a “dangerous organization.”

David Stone’s “statements and exercises do not evince a concrete agreement to forcibly resist the authority of the United States government,” Roberts said. “His diatribes evince nothing more than his own hatred for, perhaps even desire to fight or kill law enforcement; this is not the same as seditious conspiracy.”

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade declined to comment. Two years ago, when militia members were arrested, she said it was time to “take them down.”

Undercover FBI agent Steve Haug, known as “Jersey Steve,” posed as a trucker spending months recording talks with Stone, even serving as Stone’s best man at his wedding.

Haug repeatedly talked to Stone about building pipe bombs and getting other sophisticated explosives. The FBI rented a warehouse in Ann Arbor where the agent would invite him and others to store and discuss weapons.

Haug told jurors he was “shocked” by Stone’s knowledge of explosives, noting it matched some of his own instruction as a federal agent.

Stone was recorded saying he was willing to kill police and even their families. He considered them part of a “brotherhood”, a sinister global authority that included federal law enforcers and United Nations troops.

Stone believed that Germany and Singapore had aircraft stationed in Texas, and thousands of Canadian troops were going to take over Michigan. He also said the government put computer chips in a flu vaccine.

He had a speech prepared for a regional militia gathering in Kentucky in 2010, but bad weather forced him and others to return to Michigan. Instead, he read it in the van while a secret camera installed by the FBI captured the remarks.

“It is time to strike and take our nation back so that we may be free again from tyranny,” Stone said. “Time is up, God bless all of you and welcome to the new revolution.”

Swor said Stone is a Christian who was bracing for war against the Antichrist.

“This is not the United States government. This is Satan’s army,” Swor told the judge Monday, referring to the enemy.

Militia members cleared of all charges were Stone’s wife, Tina Stone, and his son, David Stone Jr.; Thomas Piatek of Whiting, Ind.; Michael Meeks of Manchester, Mich.; and Kris Sickles of Sandusky, Ohio.

“It’s hard to believe it’s over,” said Tina Stone, crying as she spoke by phone. “Thank God we live in a country where we do have freedom of speech.”


Attorney General Eric Holder: US Can Kill Citizens in Terror Groups with No Judicial Process

According to Attorney General Eric Holder it’s perfectly fine for the U.S. government to execute its own citizens, with no judicial process, overseas if they are accused of plotting terror attacks against America.

“In this hour of danger, we simply cannot afford to wait until deadly plans are carried out, and we will not,” he said in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago.

Anwar al Awlaki, an American born Islamic cleric, and his sixteen year old son were killed in separate U.S. drone strikes in Yemen last September. Civil liberties groups condemned the attacks, while some members of Congress called for a explanation of how the killing of American civilians with no judicial process could be consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

The Fifth Amendment provides that no one can be “deprived of life” without due process of law.  But that due process, Holder said, doesn’t necessarily come from a court.

“Due process and judicial process are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security.  The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process,” the attorney general said.

Holder said a U.S. citizen can legally be targeted for assassination in a foreign country if that person is “a senior leader of Al-Qaida or associated forces,” and is actively involved in plans to kill Americans.

Any military operation targeting U.S. citizens overseas must be carried out under the law of war.

“The principle of humanity requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary suffering,” he said.

The ACLU called Holder’s explanation “a defense of the government’s chillingly broad claimed authority to conduct targeted killings of civilians, including American citizens, far from any battlefield without judicial review or public scrutiny.”

“Few things are as dangerous to American liberty as the proposition that the government should be able to kill citizens anywhere in the world on the basis of legal standards and evidence that are never submitted to a court, either before or after the fact,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project.

“Anyone willing to trust President Obama with the power to secretly declare an American citizen an enemy of the state and order his extrajudicial killing should ask whether they would be willing to trust the next president with that dangerous power,” she said.

The ACLU is suing the Obama administration, seeking to have documents regarding the targeted killing program made public.


Border Agent’s Death tied to ATF operation “Fast and Furious”

The murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Mexico last year has been linked to an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) operation that allegedly allowed hundreds of guns to flow into Mexico across the U.S. border.

Investigators at the ATF called the operation in which agents would follow the guns from the U.S. into the hands of Mexican drug cartels “Fast and Furious”. Members of Congress say that weapons found at the scene of  Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death have been traced to the federal program.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who oversees the ATF, tried to explain what he knew about the episode at two hearings on Capitol Hill.

“You have to understand the way in which the department operates,” Holder said. “Although there are [a lot of] operations, this one … has gotten a great deal of publicity.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) interrupted Holder, saying that “There are dead Americans as a result of this failed and reckless program, so I would say that it hasn’t gotten enough attention,”. Issa leads the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,  and is trying to figure out how the gun-running investigation went off track and whether top Justice Department leaders approved it in advance.

Congressional investigators traveled to Arizona, where people allegedly working with drug gangs illegally purchased more than 1,000 guns. Many of those guns were later found at crime scenes on both sides of the border.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley said “At best, the ATF was careless in authorizing the sale of thousands of guns to straw purchasers,” and “At worst, our own government knowingly participated in arming criminals, drug cartels and those who later killed federal agents.”

Congressional Republicans say that over a dozen whistleblowers have come forward with concerns about Operation Fast and Furious, including ATF agents, supervisors, and  an Arizona gun dealer.

The unnamed dealer sent e-mails to agents in Arizona last year, six months before Terry’s death, warning them that he had a bad feeling. The dealer said he was worried the guns would make their way to Mexico and be used by “bad guys.”