Attorney General Eric Holder delivered an unusual request earlier this week during a panel discussion at Justice Department headquarters: He wants more episodes of The Wire.
For once, this isn’t an Onion story. Holder took part in a panel discussion Tuesday on the ways children are exploited by the drug trade, along with three actors from the HBO show. That’s when he issued his marching orders to the show’s main writers, Reuters said:
“I want to speak to Mr. [Ed] Burns and Mr. [David] Simon: Do another season of The Wire, ” Holder said, drawing laughter and applause from the audience. “That’s actually at a minimum. … If you don’t do a season, do a movie. We’ve done HBO movies, this is a series that deserves a movie. I want another season or I want a movie.”
Holder ended his command rather ominously: “I have a lot of power, Mr. Burns and Mr. Simon.” Actor Wendell “Bunk” Pierce responded with a “Hear, hear.”
Holder’s request is presumably backed by his boss and Omar fanatic, President Obama. So: get to work, guys. The feds want you back on the case.
The Justice Department today announced that it has decided Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and will no longer defend the controversial law in court.
DOMA, which forbids the federal government from legally recognizing gay or lesbian marriages, also prevents the government from extending health benefits to same-sex spouses of federal employees. Even spouses of federal employees who were legally married in states allowing same-sex marriage now can not receive health care through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, unless they are also federal employees.
DOMA also meant the surviving same-sex spouses of dead federal employees could not get survivor annuities.
The Obama administration has extended limited benefits to gay and lesbian employees’ partners and spouses over the last year and a half. But spousal health benefits has remained the most desired — and elusive — benefit for gay and lesbian feds. It remains to be seen exactly what effect President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision will have, but it could help remove the last stumbling block preventing the expansion of health benefits.
Last July, a federal judge struck Section 3 down as unconstitutional after several federal employees and retirees sued.
Complete text of Holder’s letter to Congress can be found after the jump:
Remember Attorney General Eric Holder’s memo last year stating that agencies should administer the Freedom of Information Act with a presumption in favor of disclosure?
One private research organization is wondering whether some of Holder’s subordinates got the message, based on their attempt to thwart full release of a report detailing Nazi-hunting efforts in the United States.
“Here you’ve got the Justice Department flouting the direct guidance of the attorney general,” Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, based at The George Washington University, said Wednesday in a phone interview. “Holder should be outraged.”
The report is a history of the Office of Special Investigations, the Justice Department unit created in 1979 to find and deport one-time Nazi persecutors living in the United States. But it doesn’t shy away from less inspiring chapters in that story, such as the fact that some alleged persecutors were “knowingly granted entry” into the country by U.S. officials.
When the archive requested the 607-page report under FOIA last fall, the Justice Department initially refused, saying the report was a draft and that disclosure “could harm the integrity of the agency decision-making process,” according to a response posted on the archive’s web site.
Justice officials backed off that stance after the organization sued, but this year released a version that had more than 1,000 redactions based on exemptions for protection of personal privacy and “pre-decisional” memoranda, Blanton said.
Via e-mail, Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said the department is committed to transparency and that attorneys with FOIA expertise make redaction decisions based on considerations under the law.
But the scope of the department’s editing became clear Saturday when The New York Times linked to a leaked copy of the unredacted report on its web site.
In one instance, department officials cited privacy grounds in whiting out most of a footnote that referenced newspaper and wire service articles from 30 years ago. In another, they deleted part of a federal appellate court ruling that raised ethics accusations against Justice Department officials for their handling of another case, according to the Times.
In a statement, the archive’s attorney, David Sobel, accused the department of “withholding information without legal justification.” This week, leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center a Jewish human rights organization, urged President Obama to order official release of the full report, saying “victims of the Holocaust are owed no less.”
The flap is the latest to raise questions about how much effect the Obama administration’s proclaimed tilt in favor of more FOIA disclosure is actually having in practice. “The awareness of administration FOIA policies has yet to translate into a major shift in the FOIA culture across the federal government,” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, concluded in a recent review.
For example, the Commerce Department’s inspector general this month reported that Patent and Trademark Office employees for years have been shredding certain data “to minimize requests for such information” under FOIA and by the Patent Office Professional Association. That practice appears to violate the Federal Records Act, the IG said, and will be investigated further.
Tags: Commerce Department, David Sobel, Eric Holder, Freedom of Information Act, Holocaust, Justice Department, National Security Archive, Patent and Trademark Office, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Tom Blanton
After weeks of tough questions from Republicans, the Senate confirmed Eric Holder as attorney general this evening. The vote was 75-21.
A few Republicans took to the Senate floor before the 6:15 p.m. vote, questioning changes in Holder’s stances on counterterrorism and detaining terrorist suspects without Geneva Convention rights. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Holder once supported detaining suspects without those rights but is now strongly against the Bush administration’s counterterrorism stances.
“His contrasting positions from 2002 to 2008 make me wonder if this is the same person. It makes me wonder what he truly believes.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, Arlen Specter, R-Penn., had been one of Holder’s most vocal critics. He initially objected to the quick scheduling of Holderâ€™s confirmation just weeks after his appointment by President Barack Obama, saying it did not leave enough time to investigate Holderâ€™s actions while deputy attorney general to Janet Reno during the Clinton administration.
Controversies surrounding Holder included his involvement in the pardon of Marc Rich and his decision not to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate then-Vice President Al Goreâ€™s fund-raising activities for the 1996 presidential campaign.
Specter announced last week he decided to vote for Holder after the two had a private meeting, clearing the last major hurdle for Holder’s confirmation.
The Senate just voted to confirm Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state. The final vote was 94-to-2: Only Sens. David Vitter, R-La., and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., voted ‘nay.’
But the Senate Judiciary committee is postponing its vote on Eric Holder’s nomination as attorney general. The Republicans on the committee apparently asked for the delay. Holder has proved controversial because of decisions he made as a deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration.