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A background checker’s checkered past

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Ramon Davila is one name in a growing list.

He’s among the nearly two dozen federal background check investigators to face criminal charges in recent years for falsifying his work on investigations performed on contractors and employees seeking government clearances.

But more than year after charging Davila, the Justice Department only just learned that he had a troubling past that went unnoticed during his own background investigation.

It turns out, officials at another federal law enforcement agency decided nearly a decade ago to keep out of his personnel folder serious misconduct findings against Davila stemming from his years as a senior special agent with the Customs Service, records show. In return, Davila agreed to retire.

You can read the story of how Davila’s case fits into the growing backlog of federal background investigator falsification cases here. But for a closer, firsthand look at the misconduct findings against him and how such a settlement deal could have come about in the first place, check out the federal court filing.

Is this sort of exit deal in federal agencies unusual? Or more common than we think?

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"Civilian surge" planned for Afghanistan

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The Washington Post says President Barack Obama is planning to deploy hundreds of diplomats and other federal employees to Afghanistan as part of a major effort to bolster reconstruction efforts in the war-torn country.

The Post reports that aside from senior State Department diplomats, “other civilian officials are to be drawn from government departments such as Agriculture and Justice, and hundreds of new ‘full-time, temporary’ positions are planned” under a new strategy expected to be approved next week.

During last year’s presidential campaign, Obama promised to refocus U.S. attention on Afghanistan, where the Taliban is regaining strength and Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s government is struggling.

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Senate confirms Holder as Obama's AG

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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 Holder’s confirmation just weeks after his appointment by President Barack Obama, saying it did not leave enough time to investigate Holder’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 Gore’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.

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Obama names four assistant attorneys general

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President Obama has just filled four assistant attorney general slots:

  • David Kris is assistant AG for national security.
  • Tony West is assistant AG for the Justice Department’s civil division.
  • Lanny Breuer is assistant AG for Justice’s criminal division.
  • Christine Varney is assistant AG for the antitrust division.
David Kris

David Kris

Kris was associate deputy attorney general from 2000 to 2003, where he supervised the government’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. But Kris had serious reservations about the Bush administration’s legal justifications for warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and residents, and went public with his concerns three years after leaving Justice.

West is a former federal prosecutor and was special assistant attorney general for California.

Breuer is a partner at the Washington law firm Covington and Burling, where attorney general-nominee Eric Holder also served as partner. He was special counsel to President Clinton and defended Clinton during his impeachment. New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens also hired Breuer last year to represent him during Congress’ investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball.

Varney has served on the Federal Trade Commission and now heads the Internet practice group for the Washington law firm Hogan and Hartson.

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