Monday, October 30, 2006
Eye on the DOJ for 10/30: DOJ Files Voting Rights Suit Against Philadelphia
Hrm. Voting issues all around these days, huh? Now it looks like Philadelphia isn’t providing enough material and assistance for voters who don’t speak English. Come on, Philadelphia. Get it right.
The Justice Department announced that it filed a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia, alleging violations of the rights of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking voters under two key provisions of the Voting Rights Act.-------
"The right to vote is a fundamental guarantee for all American citizens," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "In light of the serious problems faced by minority language citizen voters in Philadelphia, we hope that city officials and the Justice Department can reach an agreement quickly to begin essential remedial measures in time for the 2006 federal elections."
The Voting Rights Act requires that certain jurisdictions with a substantial minority-language voter population provide all voting materials and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, charges that the city failed to provide Spanish-language assistance at the polls to the majority of its Spanish- speaking voters in recent elections.
The Voting Rights Act also assures voters who need assistance in voting, such as those unable to see or read the ballot, the right to receive that assistance from a person of their choice, other than the voter's employer or union representative. The complaint charges that the city prevented Spanish-speaking voters from receiving assistance from the persons of their choice, even in cases where bilingual assistance was otherwise unavailable.
The Civil Rights Division works to ensure compliance with all of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act with respect to all citizens of all racial groups in all areas of the United States. Since 2002, the Civil Rights Division has filed over three-fourths of all cases to protect the right of voters needing assistance in the history of the Act, and over 60 percent of all minority language cases than in the entire previous history of the Voting Rights Act. As a result of this work and other lawsuits brought, since 2002, the Department has brought a majority of all cases it ever has filed under the substantive provisions of the Voting Rights Act to protect Hispanic and Asian voters, and the first cases ever filed to protect the voting rights of Filipino and Vietnamese voters. During this time period, the Division has filed successful Voting Rights Act lawsuits across the country, with cases in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.
Looks like somebody in Congress actually cares that the DOJ is slowing investigations of the excesses of Government contractors in Iraq. Of course, it’s probably too little, too late given the proximity of the election, but I’m happy to see that some elected officials have actually noticed the stonewalling at all. Maybe it’s an election strategy, but hell, I don’t care. If it gets any publicity at all, it’s worth it.
Washington, DC –U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today contacted the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding reports that the Department may be stalling the process of prosecuting claims of contractor abuse in the reconstruction of Iraq. In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Johnson expressed his concern and urged the Department to take immediate and concrete steps to retrieve wasted funds. Johnson is also cosponsoring a measure designed to prevent such delays.-------
“Reports that the Department of Justice may actually be slowing down efforts to combat contract abuse are especially troubling considering the millions of taxpayer dollars that have been squandered due to abuse and inadequate oversight in the reconstruction in Iraq,” Johnson said. “Rather than mucking up the works, the Department of Justice should be aggressively pursuing claims of fraud and abuse.”
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of whistleblowers using the False Claims Act, which allows individuals to recoup ill-gotten funds by government contractors. However, before any claim filed under the False Claims Act can move forward, the Bush Administration must make a formal decision whether or not to be a party to the lawsuit. According to press reports, the Administration has made a formal decision in only one case, raising concerns that the DOJ is deliberately preventing cases from moving forward.
Additionally, Johnson is co-sponsoring an amendment offered by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to the Fiscal Year 2006 Iraq Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill. This amendment would require the DOJ complete their review of each lawsuit within one year. After the one year period, the allegations become public, and the cases can proceed forward.
Hey, remember the Anthrax case? That little old thing from the days after September 11th that has now faded on the horizon, that was used as a specter of domestic terrorism for so long and has now been quietly and conveniently forgotten, for whatever reason? Well, it seems that Congress and the FBI are now butting heads over the investigation, and the lack of progress over it. I’ve always wondered what was happening with it…
WASHINGTON - Congress and the FBI are now openly battling over the pace and direction of the anthrax investigation.
Late Monday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a damning six-page letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting a briefing on the FBI investigation, now five years old. The letter faults the agency for its handling of the case, saying "the FBI has little in the way of results to show for its work."
Meanwhile, in an unusual move, the FBI's top lobbyist has informed members of Congress that the bureau will no longer brief them on the case. The FBI's Assistant Director for Congressional Affairs wrote, "After sensitive information about the investigation citing congressional sources was reported in the media, the Department of Justice and the FBI agreed that no additional briefings to Congress would be provided."
FBI critics consider the letter rich irony, since the FBI itself is under attack for leaking key details of the case to the media.
In the fall of 2001, someone mailed anthrax-laced letters to two U.S. senators and to a number of media organizations, including NBC News. The finely milled anthrax spores were remarkably buoyant, and five people who inhaled them were killed.
After the anthrax incident, Dr. Steven Hatfill was publicly branded a “person of interest.” He’s never been charged with any crime and has since brought a libel and defamation suit against columnist Nicholas Kristof and The New York Times.
On Oct. 20, a federal magistrate judge ruled that The New York Times must reveal the names of the confidential sources on whom Kristof relied for a series of columns about the anthrax case. The judge revealed that two of Kristof's unnamed sources were FBI agents.
Meanwhile, the FBI recently installed a new team of top investigators to head up the anthrax case. Sources familiar with the case tell NBC News that the new managers are looking anew at all possible suspects, with a much broader focus than before. The sources say that the previous head of the case, inspector Richard Lambert, was moved to a new position within the FBI, in part because he had focused too much on Hatfill.
Grassley's letter picks up on that, stating that Lambert's transfer to a Tennessee FBI office "raises questions about why he was replaced [and] the focus of the FBI's investigation under his leadership." Lambert now is the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's field office in Knoxville, Tenn.