OC Political

A right-of-center blog covering local, statewide, and national politics

Posts Tagged ‘Transparency’

Are We Still A Nation of the Rule of Law? A Serious Question – Part II

Posted by Craig P. Alexander on February 9, 2018

Yesterday I published a post on the “FISA Gate” scandal with my take on the current situation and why it is so very serious to our Republic.  In today’s post I outline my opinion of what certain people involved in this matter should do to best serve the American people, put maximum light on this situation and restore the American people’s trust in their federal government’s law enforcement agencies.

President Trump:  Unfortunately while several people in this matter deserved to be fired (and maybe more), given the highly charged political environment, if the President fires anyone involved it will fairly or unfairly turn into a firestorm.  Even though he had every right to fire James Comey as FBI director, what he got was a Special Counsel to investigate him.  So the best thing for the President and his team to do is ride this out until all of the facts are on the table.   But speaking of facts, the President and his team should help in any way they can move along any requests for de-classification of information such as the Cater Page FISA application and its renewals.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein:  He signed one of the applications for renewal for the FISA warrant on Carter Page. Plus he oversees the Robert Muller investigation.  To put it bluntly Mr. Rosenstein is on the hot seat.  He needs to move heaven and earth to show the American people that his actions in this matter were proper.  This includes getting de-classified whatever documents are necessary to explain his actions (the entire Carter Page FISA application and its renewals would be an ideal start) and he needs to do that now. He took an oath not to President Trump, President Obama or anyone else but to the Constitution, including upholding the 4th Amendment.  Since it appears he may have participated in a violation of the 4th Amendment, the burden is on him to explain himself.  If he is unable or unwilling to do this then he should resign from this position and allow someone else (preferably from the outside of the DOJ) to take his place.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions:  Due to his involvement in the Trump campaign, he has recused himself from the Russia investigation and any investigations of Hillary Clinton.  When he did these recusals they were the right thing to do.  Except for Civil Asset Forfeiture (I am against it and AG Sessions is for it) I am a Jeff Sessions fan.  However, with these revelations of likely illegal activity at the top of the FBI and the DOJ, the situation has changed.  If Mr. Rosenstein will not explain himself or resign, then Mr. Sessions needs to find a way to properly un-rescue himself and conduct his own investigation starting with suspending or firing Mr. Rosenstein.  If he cannot do this, then he needs to resign and allow the President to appoint a new Attorney General – preferably someone not connected to his campaign or the DOJ who will investigate and clean house. Perhaps a state Attorney General who had no connection to the Trump campaign.  After this scandal (plus the Fast and Furious, IRS and the Hillary Clinton scandals just to name a few where the DOJ apparently played politics) the American people deserve to know that their Federal government law enforcement agencies cannot and will not be used by one party in power to spy on the other parties’ campaign or other similar illegal actions.

FBI Director Christopher Wary:  He has been, to date, more in the camp of protecting top FBI brass and helping stonewall Congress on giving them documents.   He needs to restore the people’s confidence in the FBI.  Director Wray has the power to sideline many people inside the FBI who were apparently committing these acts.  It appears he has done that to some degree. Perhaps he is waiting until Inspector General Horowitz’ report is issued before he fires people like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.  But he should at the very least issue a statement that he is indeed waiting for the IG’s report.  Plus that he is personally reviewing not only the Carter Page FISA application and renewals but any FISA applications and renewals that Strzok, Page and some of the other actors inside the FBI worked on over the last two or three years.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller:  Mr. Mueller may be the straight shooter that people like Congressman Trey Goudy says he is but his hiring practices leave a lot to be desired.  Why did he hire so many anti-Trump and pro-Clinton persons from the DOJ and FBI?  Why are so many of them still on his team?  He should replace them now.  But if nothing else, he needs to view this whole “FISA Gate” scandal as a rising of the bar for his investigation and any decisions he may make to charge anyone and especially the President with wrongdoing.  I am not saying President Trump should have the same sweetheart deal Hillary Clinton got.  But if he is going to file charges for “collusion” (which is not a crime) or obstruction of justice, it needs to be an iron clad case.  Otherwise this will only look like a witch hunt.  As a prosecutor his job is not to get convictions but to serve justice. 

The FISA Court Judges:  As an attorney myself (I do not practice criminal law) I know that if any attorney submits to a court a document that is false, especially if it is submitted under penalty of perjury, and the court finds out it is false, that attorney is, to say the least, in trouble.  My hope is that the FISA Court Judges are looking over the FISA applications on Carter Page and any others submitted by the people involved in this scandal to see if the allegations being made are true or not.  If true and the Court was deceived, the Judges should be issuing orders to those involved to come and explain themselves to them under pain of being found in contempt of court or guilty of perjury.  If any of the DOJ attorneys mislead the Court, I would hope the Court would take strong action.  In addition, I would hope the FISA Court Judges would find a way to communicate to the American people that they recognize the serious issues that have been given light as a result of this scandal and are taking steps to address that.

A hallmark of our system of government is liberty and freedom from government coercion and control. The 4th Amendment exists to protect American citizens from “wiretapping”, surveillance, spying on their activities, etc. unless the authorities have presented a Judge with proper and verified evidence of likely criminal wrongdoing by that citizen to justify issuing a warrant.  This includes when foreign nationals may be involved.

The critical issue here is one party then in power using law enforcement tools to spy on its political opponents (and maybe beyond them as well) on the basis of evidence that was false and paid for by their favored candidate’s political campaign.  If as we are told by Mr. Nunes and his fellow Republicans, this occurred, this is not just an injustice to President Trump and his supporters, but to all citizens.  Americans deserve to know all of the facts and not via the lens of partisans on either side.

Release the FISA court applications and renewal applications – all of them!  And now! 

Craig P. Alexander is an attorney and principal of the Law Offices of Craig P. Alexander in Dana Point, California.  A large part of his legal practice is regarding the California Public Records Act to obtain documents from state and local governments (the state version of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents from the Federal government).

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Are We Still A Nation of the Rule of Law? A Serious Question – Part I

Posted by Craig P. Alexander on February 8, 2018

Is our country still a nation of the rule of law or are we now under the rule of men? This is now a very serious question facing the American people. At the beginning of our Republic the Founders instituted the U.S. Constitution with the original 10 amendments. One of them is the 4th Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. It states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue,     but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

One of the main reasons the Founders insisted on the inclusion of the 4th Amendment was to be rid of the British practice of issuing “general warrants” that allowed British officials to invade and search randomly vast numbers of homes and farms on no evidence of wrongdoing by those being searched.  Of course the Founders did not have “telecommunications” where our conversations, plans, information gathering, etc. is done over the telephone and the Internet.  However the Courts and Congress have recognized and applied 4th Amendment protections to those methods of communication and information gathering.

Today we are faced with a very serious challenge to our rights as Citizens of this Republic regarding our 4th Amendment rights with the recent revelation of abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (or FISA) laws being used against US Citizens by the FBI and the Dept. of Justice.

As you know the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have released the “Nunes Memo” which, if accurate, details serious misuse and maybe outright fraud upon the FISA court on at least one application – to surveil Carter Page, a onetime volunteer adviser to the Trump campaign.  Here is a link to the Nunes Memo.  It is important that people read this short three and one half page document.  Another important thing to read and understand is the timeline of these events.  Thomas Del Baccaro has put together that timeline in his article which appeared in Political Vanguard. Here is the link. One thing important to note from the timeline – the 2016 FISA warrant application and order were after Carter Page left the Trump campaign.  Also importantly Senator Charles Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham have released a letter to the DOJ (with some redactions) for potential criminal prosecution of Christopher Steele.  That letter confirms much of the Nunes Memo. Here is the link to that letter.

At the time of my writing this post the White House is reviewing the Democratic memo by Congressman Adam Schiff for release, release with redactions, etc.  I suspect it will be out soon.  Both the Nunes and Schiff memos claim to be accurate and based upon the underlying documents including the FISA application and renewal applications.   Reportedly the Schiff memo rebuts statements made in the Nunes memo.  As an aside, given that many things Adam Schiff has said have been proven to be untrue, in my opinion he is not to be trusted.

But this scandal raises serious questions: Are highly placed members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice actively misleading the FISA court to spy on American citizens?  If Carter Page was “surveilled” (spied upon), did the FBI follow others who spoke to Mr. Page such as persons in the Trump campaign separate and apart from any conversations Mr. Page had with them?  What part did the Fusion GPS “dossier” play in the FISA application?  Even if it was only a small part of the application, if the dossier was “salacious and unverified” as Former FBI Director Comey stated, why was it used in the application at all?  Did the FBI and Department of Justice attorneys withhold from the FISA court that the dossier was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC (via an illegal concealed payment to Fusion GPS by the campaign’s attorneys)?  If so, did the Court ask any questions about this either at the time of the original application or on one of the renewals of the warrant? If the origin of the dossier was disclosed to the FISA court why did it issue the warrant?  Were any other warrant applications to the FISA court by these same individuals made with tainted evidence?  Etc., Etc., Etc….There are SO MANY MORE QUESTIONS that the Nunes Memo and other information in the news regarding this scandal bring up.

One thing is certain – the American people deserve to have the entire FISA application and renewal documents (with only sparse redactions for true national security purposes) released and very soon.  Let the American people decide for themselves if the application and its renewals were done properly or not.

The fact that the FISA process, applications and courts are designed to operate in secret is no excuse for withholding this application and its renewals.  There is just too much independent evidence (such as the infamous texts between disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page) of bias investigations and abuse of the FISA process to keep this “under wraps” for any reason.  The American people have a legitimate reason to demand and receive these documents.  If it proves that Mr. Nunes is correct, then massive changes need to be made to the FISA process and certain people need, at the very least, to lose their jobs.  If the evidence is that the Nunes memo is false, the American people need to know that too.

In Part II – My Thoughts on What People Involved in this Scandal Should Do Now.

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Assembly Democrats Join Senate Democrats In Assault On Public Records Act (Updated)

Posted by Greg Woodard on June 19, 2013

Following up on Chris Emami’s story from yesterday, as reported by the OC Register today, the Assembly passed AB76, which has identical language to SB71, and will be submitted to Governor Brown for his signature.  Every Republican legislator in the Assembly and Senate (except Tom Berryhill – 14th Senate District who is listed as “Other”) opposed both AB76 and SB71, and just a single Democrat voted no for either bill (Senator Leland Yee – 8th Senate District).  If Governor Brown signs the bill into law, it will eviscerate the open government protections of the Public Records Act by making local agencies’ compliance with the Act voluntary instead of mandatory.

Courts interpreting the Public Records Act have consistently held that the Act is to be read broadly in favor of disclosure of documents to the public, and the Act has only a few categories that are exempt from disclosure (and when a local agency refuses to provide documents, it must explain why).  Under AB76, disclosure will be voluntary, meaning that local agencies can refuse to provide documents, and do not have to provide any reason for the refusal.

Ironically (or perhaps not when it comes to Democrats and their legislative tactics), AB76 was added as a budget trailer bill.  Trailer bills are often drafted in secret, sometimes just days or hours before they are voted on in both houses of the state legislature.  You read that right, a bill that allows local agencies more secrecy and less transparency was drafted in a most un-transparent manner.

Journalists often use the Public Records Act to sniff out public corruption.  The City of Bell scandal was exposed in part by use of the Act, as have many other stories of local government waste and fraud.  In addition, private individuals and groups often use the Act to obtain documents needed to challenge local government decisions that affect their property or the environment.  If the changes to the Act become law, local agencies who are hiding things from the public will no longer be compelled to produce any documents, and scandals will go unexposed.

Assemblyman Don Wagner, 68th Assembly District, says AB76 highlights the dangers created by the Democrats’ stranglehold on power in Sacramento: “AB 76 shows why the entire public — Republicans and Democrats alike — should be worried about one party rule.  Eliminating compliance with the Public Records Act has nothing to do with the budget.  So why is this abomination in a so-called Budget Bill?  Because Democrats have complete control and can do it this way to avoid the public scrutiny that comes with committee hearings and an open discussion through the normal legislative process.  This bill, written behind closed doors without a shred of bipartisan input, shields even more government behind those very same closed doors.  The public should be appalled.”

As Emami said in his story, this is a terrible bill that will have a dramatic negative impact on local government transparency.  Democrats apparently believe that secretly passing bills that allow local agencies to act with more secrecy is good government.  I hope that most Californians disagree.

****UPDATE****

As Don Wagner mentioned yesterday, Sacramento Democrats have done one of the most rapid u-turns ever (perhaps the nuclear retort from the media inspired them).  Wagner reported this afternoon that the Assembly voted today to pass the same budget trailer bill as AB76, but without the provisions that would eviscerate the Public Records Act.  While the Senate initially resisted similar efforts, reports are coming out that they will acquiesce and pass a similar bill to the Assembly’s fix.  Governor Brown is expected to sign the fix, therefore preserving the Public Records Act in its current form, which is a good thing for all Californians.

Wagner also reported that both the Assembly and Senate will propose constitutional amendments to eliminate the state’s obligation to reimburse local agencies for Public Records Act compliance.  (Warning, boring political inside baseball stuff ahead).  Apparently, when the Legislature ended redevelopment agencies (another measure that crossed the aisle considerably), the local agencies got too cute and started seeking reimbursement from the state for the cost of every minute copy, office supply, etc. that they incurred for compliance with the Public Records Act but previously had not sought reimbursement for.  That may have taken the Democrats in Sacramento by surprise but unfortunately their “fix” would have ended open government as we know it in this state.  I guess the moral for Democrats is not to target the media’s bread and butter because they actually start doing their job when you threaten the source of their juiciest stories.

I would like to return the favor and thank Don for all of his information and for all of the Republicans in Sacramento and their efforts to undo this terrible stinker of a Democratic bill.

Stay tuned in case there are even more breaking updates.

Posted in California, State Assembly, State Senate | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Really??? Worst Transparency Ever

Posted by Former Blogger Chris Emami on April 8, 2013

I am going to put about as much effort into this post as these two governmental agencies put into transparency. During a project I was working on for a client comparing the transparency of certain special district I ran across a couple of interesting finds.

We will start with the Emerald Bay Community Services District which requires a password to be able to access their website. Take a look at the screen shot of their website:

EBCABut hey, at least they give you a phone number to call. Oh, you think I am joking? Let’s take a look next at the Three-Arch Bay Community Services District who not only requires a password to get into their website but does not even provide a phone number. Here is a screen shot of their website.

tabcsdI personally think that we should eliminate the majority of the special districts and after seeing this I think our readers might know of a good place to start.

 

 

 

Posted in Emerald Bay Service District, Three Arch Bay Community Services District | Tagged: | 11 Comments »