Tag Archive: Corruption


Seriously, does the current Administration think that a voluntary process is going to make functionally any difference at all? 

Those agencies with the most to hide, particularly those who may have employees or directors with inappropriate conflict of interest relationships with corporations or other organizations will be the last to ever consent to the transparency of making responses (truthful and illuminating responses) to FOIA requests more easily accessed. 

Perhaps in issues, which do not involve corruption and direct involvement of federal managers in confederate relationships to defense contractors, who profit mightily from such relationships, there may be some easier access to some information.  But the situations that are causing the worst of the mass of incidents being covered up and kept from the public will not be helped by any of this. 

And those federal employees who are trying to report such violations will continue to be shredded by the system of corruption and the influence pressured by conflict of interest relationships as they are today.

GFS 

Requesting public documents about to get easier

Link to original article: 

http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2012/06/requesting-public-documents-about-get-easier/56044/?oref=ng-relatedstories

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I read an interesting article recently regarding how federal agencies have been trying to deal with their overly backlogged Freedom of Information Act requests for information that have apparently been piling up since the 2009 change in Federal direction about granting such requests. 

According to the article by Joseph Marks, in Nextgov, August 31, 2012, about half the agencies have actually reduced the number of FOIA exemptions (information they refused to release formerly, under the premise that such information is exempt to FOIA requests). 

The article also talks about agencies using technology to improve processing time for FOIA requests and the use of the FOIA libraries to post information that might commonly be requested via FOIA requests. 

It seems to this observer that if the Obama administration truly wishes to increase transparency, that more transparent action taken toward prosecuting the many cases of wrongdoing and criminal activity in the realm of federal defense contracting needs to take center stage.  Corruption, influence pedaling, cronyism, fraud, technology theft, use of the “revolving door” by people between industry and the federal government (and vice versa) in order to better serve the needs of the corporations they serve, must be stopped cold in order to allow the oversight that supposedly is in place now to be able to actually function and prevent such atrocities.  The Administration must see that a general clean up is put swiftly into action, and mean it so that these issues are handled first for any genuine transparency in FOIA request handling to be a reality. 

As long as intensive efforts within corporations and their government confederates go into covering up corruption, theft, and fraud within the federal defense contracting world, and wrongdoers that are occasionally exposed, usually by federal employees trying to do their oversight jobs, the status quo, cover-ups and sudden retirements of culpable individuals and use by such of convenient revolving doors will continue to provide sufficient threat of exposure to thwart any serious transparency granted to a FOIA request hopeful, preventing s/he from every getting an honest and “transparent” accounting of what is really going on in federal agencies, particularly in relationship to defense contractors and other corporate interests. 

This article describes a tempest in a teapot, and does not address the real problems related to FOIA requests not being honored by those trying to get to the truth of wrongdoing in the federal government. 

GFS

Link to article:  http://www.nextgov.com/big-data/2012/08/agencies-continue-struggle-foia-requests/57819/

With all the attention on Alaska politics, we all should remember that Abramoff was also very active in Alaska.  -GFS

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Abramoff Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Corruption

 

by: Del Quentin Wilber and Carrie Johnson, The Washington Post

    Jack Abramoff, the onetime powerhouse Republican lobbyist whose influence peddling led to one of the biggest public corruption investigations in recent history, was sentenced by a federal judge today to four years in prison.

    The sentence handed out by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle comes nearly three years after Abramoff pleaded guilty to charges of tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy for plying public officials with gifts in exchange for official actions.

    It means that Abramoff likely will remain in prison until 2012, regardless of whether his sentence in a separate Florida fraud and conspiracy case is reduced. Huvelle said she wrestled with the appropriate sentence for Abramoff because he has cooperated extensively with authorities but committed “serious offenses.”

    “This is a very challenging case,” Huvelle said, adding “there was a consistent course of corrupt conduct and, in a sense, it got much worse over time.”

    Abramoff apologized for his crimes, saying that he was no longer the person who “happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political corruption and business corruption.”

    “I am sorry, so sorry, that I have put everyone through this,” he added.

    Prosecutors and defense lawyers sought leniency for Abramoff citing his extensive cooperation with the wide-ranging public corruption probe. He has been interviewed by prosecutors and investigators for more than 3,000 hours and has reviewed nearly half a million documents, lawyers said in court documents filed last week.

    That “extraordinary cooperation” prompted prosecutors to ask the judge to sentence Abramoff to 5 years and 4 months behind bars, with credit for time he also has served in the Florida case. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Huvelle could have given Abramoff a sentence of nine to 11 years.

    Abramoff’s attorneys sought a more lenient sentence that would have allowed their client to be released as early as 2010.

    Prosecutors wrote in court papers that Abramoff has described in detail how he and other lobbyists at his firm supplied meals, gifts, trips and “a stream of things of value to public officials in exchange for a stream of official action.”

    The Department of Justice so far has secured 12 convictions or guilty pleas from public officials and lobbyists related to the Abramoff investigation. Among those who have pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges are former congressman Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), who was released from federal prison last month; Tony Rudy, a deputy chief of staff to former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas); and J. Steven Griles, a former deputy secretary at the Department of Interior.

    In April, a former high-ranking official at the Justice Department, Robert E. Coughlin II, pleaded guilty to accepting thousands of dollars in meals and sports tickets from Abramoff and his lobbyists in exchange for helping their clients.

    Prosecutors said in court documents that Abramoff is cooperating in several ongoing investigations they declined to specify. DeLay and retiring Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) are two people who remain under scrutiny.

    At the height of his influence, Abramoff moved easily in the corridors of Washington power, from Capitol Hill to the White House, where he was photographed with President Bush.

    The lobbyist, who wore a trademark black fedora, grew up so poor that his father developed rickets from malnutrition, before climbing his way up the social ladder. He eventually joined the Republican party and campaigned hard for Ronald Reagan in 1980. He became the national chairman of the College Republicans.

    After a brief stint in the movie business, Abramoff returned to Washington as a lobbyist and joined the firm of Greenberg Traurig, where he established a group of lobbyists who pushed aggressively for their clients, many of whom were Indian tribes seeking help on matters that ranged from gambling legislation to a federal grant to build a jail.

    Abramoff and his colleagues dished out campaign donations, luxury boxes and tickets to sporting events and concerts, and paid for lavish golf trips to buy influence with public officials. He and his lobbyists wined and dined the officials, often at his D.C. restaurant, Signatures, which “hemorrhaged money, in part because Abramoff regularly provided free or discounted meals and drinks to public officials,” prosecutors wrote in court filings last week.

    He also hired the spouses of public officials and the companies they operated, including a consulting firm owned by Rudy’s wife.

    In exchange, public officials helped win Abramoff’s clients millions of dollars in federal grants and funding, tipped them off to internal government deliberations and inserted helpful language into bills.

    But Abramoff did not always have his clients’ best interests at heart. He has admitted that he and a former associate, Michael Scanlon, a one-time press aide to DeLay, concocted a kick-back scheme that defrauded the Indian tribes of millions of dollars. The effort involved Abramoff suggesting that the tribes hire Scanlon’s public relations firm at hugely inflated prices. The men then split the profits.

    Abramoff’s empire came crashing down in January 2006, when he pleaded guilty in Washington to charges of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. The next day, he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Miami to fraud and conspiracy charges tied to his purchase of a fleet of casino boats.

    In that case, he was sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison and began serving his time in November of that year. Last week, prosecutors asked the judge in that case to reduce his sentence to three years and nine months because of his cooperation with the investigation.

    Abramoff’s lawyers also have argued that he has accepted responsibility for his actions and that the public knows only one side of Abramoff, a complex figure who is devoted to his family, Jewish faith and charitable work.

    “As large a figure of wrongdoing that has been painted in the media, Mr. Abramoff is a lesser known but equally large figure in matters of family, faith, generosity and remorse,” his lawyers, Abbe D. Lowell and Pamela J. Marple, wrote in court papers.

    The lawyers produced more than 350 letters to support Abramoff, a deluge that Huvelle said she had never experienced before. One of those letters came from Rabbi David Lapin, who said that Abramoff had undergone “deep soul searching, remorse and personal transformation” in recent months.

 

 

By Alan Levin, USA TODAY

May 8, 2008

 

 

WASHINGTON — The manager of the federal office that oversees Southwest Airlines accepted thousands of dollars in free pilot training from the carrier under an arrangement that violates rules of conduct, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday.

 

The training program had been approved by regional officials and had been in place for years. The FAA has halted the program because it violates its rules, according to spokeswoman Diane Spitalieri. The FAA would not comment specifically on the supervisor’s training because the matter is “under investigation,” Spitalieri said.

 

FAA manager Bobby Hedlund, who was promoted last year to head the Southwest office, received months of training in 2005 that qualified him to fly the Boeing 737, according to recent testimony before Congress from three current and former FAA officials. Southwest received a proposed $10.2 million fine in March for safety violations.

 

FAA inspectors often receive training to stay abreast of changing technology and airline operations, but the training is mostly done at the FAA’s expense. The free training highlights the continuing cozy relationship between Southwest and some of the government officials who oversee it, said Robert Naccache, who worked in the Southwest office until he retired last year.

 

“This is the most flagrant conflict of interest that I have ever witnessed in my 20-year career in the federal government,” Naccache said during a hearing last month.

 

His testimony was buttressed by Michael Mills, the FAA’s former Southwest manager, and Bobby Boutris, one of two federal whistle-blowers who first raised concerns about Southwest.

 

The training Hedlund received would cost a private citizen $15,000 or more, according to the officials and flight schools. It also would enhance a résumé, opening doors for employment at airlines or other private aviation firms. The FAA officials who testified at the hearing called the arrangement a conflict of interest.

 

The FAA and Southwest have been heavily criticized since a House Transportation Committee hearing April 3 revealed safety breakdowns and attempted retribution against inspectors who enforced the rules.

 

Hedlund did not return several phone calls seeking comment.

 

Southwest confirmed that Hedlund had attended courses at the airline but characterized the training as part of his routine duties. “We certainly don’t agree” that there are any ethical questions with the training, airline spokeswoman Beth Harbin said.

 

OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL RAIDED BY FBI
Agency Head and Staff Suspected of Obstructing Justice


Washington, DC — In a notably ironic turn of events, FBI agents raided the office of Special Counsel Scott Bloch this morning, seizing computers and documents as part of an ongoing obstruction of justice investigation. Bloch, who is charged with protecting federal whistleblowers, has been under investigation for, among other things, whistleblower retaliation within his own agency.

Marshall Chriswell, Communications Director of the National Whistleblower Center issued the following statements on this issue:

“It is shocking that the individual who is primarily responsible for investigating federal whistleblower complaints would be the target of an investigation in which he and his staff are suspected of obstructing justice.”

“The Bush administration must take whistleblower protection seriously, relieve Mr. Bloch of his position, and appoint a Special Counsel who possesses the necessary qualifications and integrity to do the job right.”

 

-end-

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Since 1988 the NWC has championed whistleblower protection. The NWC is currently supporting FBI Whistleblower Bassem Youssef, who has reported serious misconduct in the War on Terror, and the NWC is currently assisting Bunnatine Greenhouse (the former Army Corps of Engineers top contracting officer who opposed the no-bid multi billion dollar contracts awarded to Halliburton for the reconstruction of Iraq)

For more information, please visit www.whistleblowers.org and www.whistleblowersblog.org.

 

 

 

FBI Agents Raid Office of Special Counsel

 

OSC Employees’ Attorney Sends Letter to the White House

 

 

The Wall Street Journal has reported that “more than a dozen” FBI agents served grand jury subpoenas this morning while searching the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the home of Special Counsel Scott Bloch. According to the Journal, OSC employees say the raid is in connection with allegations of obstruction of justice by Bloch, who in 2006 used a computer service, Geeks on Call, to completely erase his work computer’s hard drive. 

 

Bloch asked the company to eradicate his computer’s files as he was being investigated by the Office of Personnel Management Inspector General in connection with a complaint submitted by a group of anonymous OSC employees, GAP, the Project On Government Oversight, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Last week, attorney Debra Katz, who represents the groups and the anonymous OSC employees, sent a comprehensive summary of Bloch’s abuses during his tenure to President Bush, and called on the President to use his authority to remove the Special Counsel “for cause.”

 

 

To Read the Summary Letter

 

>>>  Click Here  <<<

 

 

 

FBI Agents Raid the Office & Home

of Special Counsel Scott Bloch!

 

 

 

 

 

By JOHN R. WILKE

 

May 6, 2008    3:10 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided the Office of Special Counsel here, seizing computers and documents belonging to the agency chief Scott Bloch and staff.

More than a dozen FBI agents served grand jury subpoenas shortly after 10 a.m., shutting down the agency’s computer network and searching its offices, as well as Mr. Bloch’s home. Employees said the searches appeared focused on alleged obstruction of justice by Mr. Bloch during the course of an 2006 inquiry into his conduct in office.

 

The independent agency, created by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal, is charged with protecting federal employees and deciding whether their complaints merit full-scale investigation — a first line of defense against fraud and mismanagement in government. It also enforces a ban on U.S. employees engaging in partisan political activity.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Mr. Bloch had used “Geeks on Call,” an outside computer-service firm, to erase his computer and those of two former staff members in December 2006. (See related article)

Mr. Bloch’s agency is typically involved in sensitive investigations of alleged government wrongdoing. Before the departure of White House political director Karl Rove, Mr. Bloch’s staff was looking into whether he or other White House officials improperly used federal agencies to help re-elect Republicans in 2006.

At the same time, Mr. Bloch has been under investigation himself since 2005. At the direction of the White House, the federal Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general is looking into claims that Mr. Bloch abused his investigative authority, improperly retaliated against employees or dismissed whistleblower cases without adequate examination.

The computer erasures became part of that investigation and are one of the reasons behind today’s raid, employees said. Investigators were trying to determine whether the deletions were improper or part of a cover-up, the Journal article reported.

Bypassing his agency’s computer technicians, Mr. Bloch phoned 1-800-905-GEEKS, the mobile PC-help service. It dispatched a technician in one of its signature PT Cruiser wagons. In the Journal story, Mr. Bloch confirmed that he contacted Geeks on Call but said he was trying to eradicate a virus that had seized control of his computer. He said the erasures didn’t delete any files related to the inquiry.

Mr. Bloch was in the office this morning during the raid but couldn’t be reached for comment. The search was still under way early this afternoon, witnesses said.  

 

 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121009238217171025.html?mod=googlenews_wsj