Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Senate Judiciary Committee Jurisdiction

I’ve recently written a couple of blog posts about Sen. Grassley’s (R,IA) new found interest in the CFATS program problems (8-3-12, 8-7-12, 8-22-12). Since Grassley is the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee I have been trying to figure out his interest in investigating the problems at ISCD; after all his Committee has no specific NPPD or security oversight responsibilities.


I have looked at the Committee’s web site and its description of the jurisdiction of the Committee. There doesn’t seem to be anything there that would be directly applicable to the problems at ISCD. So I started asking around and have been told by a couple of people that the Committee has historically taken its oversight of the Department of Justice to include the responsibility for looking into criminal activity within the government that one would expect that the DOJ should be investigating.

Illegal Activity?

Now the cronyism charge made by the anonymous reader that I described in my latest Grassley related post, could be seen as a violation of one or more of the Civil Service rules applicable to the hiring of an ISCD Director, but that is a bit of a stretch to consider that worthy of a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation. Lying to Congress about the status of the CFATS implementation could be a serious charge, but one would be hard pressed to prove that the statements before various committee hearings by Under Secretary Beers or various ISCD personnel over the years were actual lies rather than political spin.

Now there might be something that we haven’t seen mentioned in the press yet that might provide fodder for such an investigation. It seems that someone at NPPD (most likely Beers, I suppose) ordered an investigation into the leak of the Anderson-Wulf memo to Fox News. Now a leak investigation would certainly be appropriate, but it seems that the investigation was conducted by investigators from the Federal Protective Service; sworn law enforcement personnel. Those investigators were getting sworn statements from everyone in ISCD stating that they were not the source of the leak. And everyone was reminded that falsely swearing to Federal law enforcement officers is a Federal offense in its own right.

To me that seems to be a possible abuse of power, but not really illegal. A couple of people have told me (not for attribution unfortunately) that it is actually against the law, but no one has provided me with a cite for the law that is being broken, so I don’t really know. If it is it seems odd that Grassley or his anonymous reader friend has mentioned any investigation into this matter.

General Malfeasance

Then again, committees in both the House and Senate have a tendency to make up their rules as they go along, guided by political expediency more than actual written policy. That may make the general malfeasance described in my second Grassley post an adequate justification for a Senate Judiciary Committee investigation; especially since it came from a ‘whistleblower’.

Outside Investigation

Since Chairman Leahy (D,VT) and Grassley were both re-elected last year, this certainly won’t be about election year grand-standing. Any investigation carried out by the Committee will probably not see hearings until after the election. The people that I have talked to in Washington have been fairly generous of their praise in the investigators on the Judiciary Committee Staff; if there is some serious wrong doing to be found they will likely find it.

Unfortunately, they will be looking for illegal activities or official malfeasance, not real problems with the CFATS program. I’m afraid that we’ll have to wait for the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees to look into that. Or perhaps the House Appropriations Committee will be the one to take a real look; they have yet to complete their hearing on the ISCD problems.

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