Posts Tagged ‘Executive Action Report’

Executive Action Report: 4/15/09 - 4/21/09

April 22, 2009

 

  • On Wednesday, April 15, the New York Times reported that, according to some government officials, NSA surveillance operations have been engaged in “overcollection” in recent months, allegedly exceeding even the broad limits set by Congress last year. Although the NSA claims that its operations are “in strict accordance with U.S. laws and regulations,” the Senate Intelligence Committee is has decided to investigate the surveillance program.
  • As of Wednesday, April 15, President Obama was still mulling over proposals relating to the release of Bush administration torture memos. That same day, Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated the administration’s commitment to openness, but cautioned that transparency has its limits. The following day, however, the President announced the release of four OLC memos authored from 2002 to 2005 (as part of the ACLU’s FOIA litigation), stating that “these methods of interrogation are already a thing of the past.” Some think that more disclosures may still be coming.
  • In light of the grisly interrogation details (e.g., waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times in a single month) revealed in the newly released OLC memos, Senator Patrick Leahy has renewed his call for a Truth Commission to investigate the alleged abuses of the Bush administration, and various commentators (see here, here, here, and here) have urged the impeachment of Bush administration officials, especially Jay Bybee, former OLC head. While Obama initially stated that “[t]his is a time for reflection, not retribution,” he has stopped short of promising that Bush administration officials would not be sanctioned for their involvement with torture.
  • While President Obama may be hesitant to prosecute members of the previous administration, it looks as though Spain may take up the challenge. Although Spanish Attorney General Cándido Conde-Pumpido denounced the idea on April 16, Judge Baltasar Garzón seems keen on moving forward.
  • Although the Fed initially requested that banks undergoing “stress tests” not reveal the results, last week the administration announced that it would disclose “stress test” results for the nation’s 19 biggest banks by May 4. However, it appears that there is some uncertainty and disagreement as to how (and how much of) the information should be released.
  • As if disclosing “stress test” results weren’t enough to deal with, the Fed is now also facing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed by Bloomberg LP on April 16. The suit alleges a lack of transparency with respect to $2 trillion that the Government has loaned to financial institutions. (more…)

Executive Action Report: 4/8/09 - 4/14/09

April 15, 2009
  • In an Executive Order issued on Wednesday, April 8, President Obama took a step towards reforming health care by establishing the White House Office of Health Reform and a separate Office of Health Reform in the Department of Health and Human Services. The Offices will work to coordinate the administration’s efforts to make health care more available and affordable. The White House office will be headed by former Clinton administration official Nancy-Ann DeParle.
  • On Wednesday, April 8, a congressional oversight panel released a report declaring the success of the administration’s financial programs to be “mixed.” Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, who heads the panel, said that there is a need for greater transparency—a call that was echoed by House Speaker Nanci Pelosi. In spite of this, the Fed has requested that financial institutions currently undergoing “stress tests” not reveal the results.
  • On April 8 President Obama announced the nomination of Mary Smith to head the DOJ’s Tax Division. On April 13, Ian Gershengorn was tapped as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ’s Civil Division, with oversight of the Federal Programs Bench. And on April 14, it was revealed that President Obama will likely tap Fannie Mae Chief Herb Allison to run the $700 billion bailout as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Financial Stability.
  • Attorney General Eric Holder mixed things up at the Justice Department on April 8, while indicating that he would make selections on the basis of experience rather than politics. Significantly, he named a new head of the Office of Professional ResponsibilityMary Patrice Brown. Brown’s appointment came one day after Federal District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan called the silence at the OPR “deafening” as he set aside charges against former Senator Ted Stevens (at the DOJ’s request) and commenced criminal contempt proceedings against the Stevens prosecutors. On April 14, Holder said he would improve DOJ prosecutor training.
  • Also on Wednesday, the Obama administration indicated that it would participate in direct group talks with Iran. The U.S. and its European allies are reportedly considering dropping the long-standing condition that Iran shut down its nuclear facilities at an early stage of negotiation.
  • On Thursday, April 9, the President announced that he would seek $83.4 billion in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the consternation of some Democratic politicians. Meanwhile, General Raymond Odierno told a British newspaper that U.S. combat troops may not be able to withdraw from Iraqi cities by the June 30 deadline. Over the weekend, however, Odierno said he was certain that all U.S. troops will be gone by 2011. (more…)

Executive Action Report: 4/1/09 - 4/7/09

April 8, 2009
  • Last week the President and First Lady kicked off a week-long tour of Europe.
    • On his first full day in London, Wednesday, April 1, President Obama paid a visit to Queen Elizabeth II, held a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and met with both Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
    • On Thursday, April 2, President Obama attended the G20 summit, Among other things, the G20 leaders agreed to regulate financial institutions more strictly and to commit a total of $1.1 trillion to the IMF. President Obama called the agreement a “turning point.”
    • On Friday, April 3, the Obamas were off to France. Speaking before a crowd in Strasbourg, the President stressed the need to rid the world of nuclear weapons, address climate change, and continue to fight terrorism. President Sarkozy said his country would accept one Guantanamo prisoner.
    • On Saturday, April 4, President Obama attended a 60th anniversary NATO Summit. Obama pressed for increased NATO support in Afghanistan, but received a less-than-enthusiastic response.
    • On Sunday, April 5, the President met with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek in Prague. Obama again called for reductions in nuclear weapons worldwide, and denounced North Korea’s missile launch.
    • Obama paid a visit to Turkey on Monday, April 6. Speaking to Turkish parliament, the President declared that the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam,” and called Turkey a “critical ally.”
    • On Tuesday, April 7, President Obama rounded off his foreign tour by paying a surprise visit to Baghdad, Iraq. The President met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and made clear his position that Iraqis “need to take responsibility for their own country.”
  • Meanwhile, back in the United States, on Wednesday, April 1, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for David Hamilton, whom President Obama has nominated to serve on the 7th Circuit, as well as Ronald H. Weich (nominee for Assistant AG of Office of Legislative Affairs) and R. Gil Kerlikowske (nominee for Director of National Drug Control Policy). Somewhat surprisingly, the sparsely-attended hearing lasted less than two hours. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s sister-in-law Dawn Johnsen is still awaiting confirmation as OLC head (Neil Kinkopf, writing at Executive Watch, plead for the Senate to “[f]ree Dawn Johnsen”).

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Executive Action Report: 3/25/09 - 3/31/09

April 1, 2009
  • Last week President Obama announced the nomination of Yale Law School dean Harold Hongju Koh as legal advisor to the State Department. A nomination hearing has not yet been scheduled.
  • On Wednesday, March 25, the Senate unanimously confirmed David Kris as assistant attorney general for the National Security Division. The next day, March 26, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave a thumbs-up to three DOJ nominees: Lanny Breuer as assistant AG for the Criminal Division, Christine Varney as assistant AG for the Antitrust Division, and Tony West as assistant AG for the Civil Division. Meanwhile, OLC Head-to-be Dawn Johnsen is still waiting for a confirmation vote.
  • Speaking of Obama nominees, a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for the President’s first judicial nominee, David Hamilton, has been set for April 1. That same day, the Judiciary Committee will question Ronald Weich, nominee for assistant AG for the Office of Legislative Affairs, and R. Gil Kerlikowske, nominee for Director of National Drug Control Policy.
  • On Thursday, March 26, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner announced expansive plans to regulate financial firms.  The scheme, if approved by Congress, would grant the administration power to take over non-bank financial institutions, including hedge funds. The AP reports that hedge funds are “generally accept[ing]” the plan.
  • On Friday, March 27, attorneys representing Guantanamo detainees responded to the DOJ’s March 13 memo, which outlined the administration’s stance on indefinite detention, with their own filing. Relying on the AUMF and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the attorneys argue that the President is still acting outside of his powers.

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Executive Action Report: 3/18/09 – 3/24/09

March 25, 2009
  • Last week, Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, indicated that although the administration prefers not to use reconciliation to bypass a GOP filibuster and push through global warming and health care legislation, it would not take the option off the table. After some Republican pushback, Capitol Hill Democrats have backed away from the optionfor the time being.
  • On Wednesday, March 18, the Obama administration reversed an earlier decision by the Bush administration by pledging its support to a non-binding UN Resolution to decriminalize homosexuality.  The State Department pledged the United States’ support as “an outspoken defender of human rights” for all people.
  • Also on Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that of the approximately 245 detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, some are expected to be tried in U.S. federal court. He also said that some of the detainees who have been cleared of wrongdoing may be released into the United States.
  • On Thursday, March 19, the Senate confirmed Elena Kagan as U.S. Solicitor General by a 61–31 vote.  Kagan was sworn in as the first woman SG the following day, and on Monday she was formally presented to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, OLC nominee Dawn Johnsen earned the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval.
  • Also on Thursday, AG Eric Holder, acting pursuant to one of President Obama’s first memoranda, issued new Freedom of Information Act guidelines. In a memo released in connection with the guidelines, Holder stated that although there should be a “presumptionin favor of openness, “the disclosure obligation . . . is not absolute.”
  • On Thursday President Barack Obama nominated fellow Harvard Law alum Scott Blake Harris to be General Counsel at the Department of Energy.
  • The White House is planning to declassify and make public three 2005 memos detailing “enhanced” interrogation techniques, approved by the Bush administration, for use against “high value” detainees. An Obama official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the memos as “ugly.” The announcement comes on the heels of revelations in the New York Review of Books of grisly accounts of torture excerpted from a secret 2007 Red Cross report.
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    Executive Action Report 3/11/09 - 3/17/09

    March 18, 2009
  • On March 11, President Obama issued an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. The council will consist of cabinet level officials “working across executive departments”on women’s issues, and provide recommendations to the President on pending legislation and Executive Branch policy.
  • On the same day, President Obama issued an executive memorandum for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton determining that, under the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act, up to $8 million in aid should be provided to help meet “Refugee and Migration Needs Related to the Continuing Conflict in Pakistan.”
  • After outlining his policy on signing statements in an executive memorandum last week, on Wednesday, March 11, President Obama issued his first signing statement in connection with the omnibus spending bill. According to Neil Kinkopf’s discussion at Executive Watch, Obama’s signing statement doesn’t reveal much about his theory of executive power.
  • On Thursday, March 12, Justice Department lawyers urged the D.C. Circuit to reject a lawsuit by four Britons previously held at Guantanamo. The DOJ’s filing relied on the recently decided Chinese Uighur case, Kiyemba v. Obama, in arguing that “aliens held at Guantanamo do not have due process rights.” The DOJ also called for a ban on such lawsuits against U.S. military officials, citing a separation-of-powers rationale.
  • That same day the Senate confirmed David Ogden as Deputy Attorney General (over the protest of many social conservatives) and Thomas Perrelli as Associate Attorney General. Attorney General Eric Holder swore them in the following day.
  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has reportedly moved from its previous home within the Justice Department to the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in D.C. (which also houses the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia). District Court Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, who previously served on the spy court, apparently pushed for the move in order to demonstrate the court’s independence from the DOJ.
  • On Friday, March 13, the Obama Justice Department revealed its approach to the detention power in a federal court filing. As Christopher Schroeder explains at Executive Watch, the DOJ dropped its reliance on inherent presidential power, arguing instead that the AUMF provides sufficient authorization to detain suspected terrorists (who will no longer be detained under the label “enemy combatant”).
  • Also on Friday, D.C. Federal District Court Judge Emmett G. Sullivan threatened Justice Department lawyers with contempt of court for failing to provide documents on a Gitmo detainee. Judge Sullivan indicated that he would “not tolerate any further delay.”
  • President Obama also met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday to discuss energy cooperation and the global financial crisis.The Brazilian President pressed Mr. Obama to reopen trade talks which have stalled between the two parties.On Saturday, March 14, the New York Times reported that this early visit indicates Brazil’s importance to the President’s foreign policy in Latin America.
  • In other Guantanamo news, on March 16 Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. Federal District Court indicated that the court will try to sift through Guantanamo habeas cases before addressing any civil cases, and in Sunday’s Washington Post, Sen. Mitch McConnell tried to persuade the President that there are “no good alternatives to Guantanamo.”
  • Also on March 16, the President nominated Tom Perez as Assistant Attorney General over the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
  • On Tuesday, March 17, President Obama named his first judicial nominee: Judge David Hamilton, currently of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, to the 7th Circuit. On a related note, the President has requested that the ABA resume reviewing prospective judicial nominees (a practice that President Bush put a stop to in 2001). Late last week, Obama also named Judge Emily Hewitt as Chief Judge of the Federal Claims Court.
  • Also on Tuesday, March 17, the New York Times reports that American forces may move the burgeoning conflict in Pakistan from the tribal highlands to land under central government authority.According to reports missile strikes have forced key insurgent leaders south into Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Baluchistan Province. Key presidential aides have advised the president to sustain the drone attack orders issued by President Bush and to conduct ground actions on Pakistani soil, even if opposed by the central government.
  • Executive Action Report: 3/4/09 - 3/10/09

    March 11, 2009
  • On March 4, President Obama issued a memorandum on government contracting, directing the head of the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with other agency heads, to develop and implement guidelines for curbing wasteful contracts.  The President hopes that taking action on contracting, specifically sole source and reimbursement contracts, will save the government $40 Billion a year.
  • Also on March 4, the House Judiciary Committee announced that an “agreement” had been reached, under which Karl Rove and Harriet Miers will testify before the Committee. The Judiciary Committee press release notes that “invocations of official privileges [will] be significantly limited.” A couple weeks ago, Rove defied a congressional subpoena for the third time.
  • On the same day, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry” to discuss Senator Leahy’s Truth Commission proposal. Of the six witnesses that testified, four favored Leahy’s idea, while two opposed it. Thomas Pickering, former U.N. Ambassador and an Undersecretary of State for President George H.W. Bush, stressed the need to “know where we’ve been [and] what happened,” but David Rivkin, a senior DOJ official under Reagan and Bush I, called the commission a “profoundly bad idea” that would step on the Justice Department’s toes.
  • On March 5 the Senate Judiciary Committee gave its support to three key Justice Department officials: Elena Kagan as Solicitor General, David Kris as Assistant Attorney General, and Thomas Perrelli as Associate Attorney General. Some Republicans nonetheless criticized Kagan for allegedly being less than forthcoming in answering questions. The Committee vote came amidst rumors that GOP Senators would filibuster a confirmation vote for David Ogden, who won the Judiciary Committee’s approval in late February. Senator Harry Reid has moved to end debate on Ogden’s nomination; a vote may be possible by the end of the week.
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