Archive for the ‘Homeland Security’ Category

Immigration boss who barred feds from terror suspect up for award, but agency won’t say why

Friday, June 24th, 2016

By Malia Zimmerman
Published June 22, 2016
A U.S. immigration official blamed in a federal report for barring law enforcement agents from a suspect in the San Bernardino terror attack has been nominated for a prestigious agency award – but her bosses in Washington refuse to say what she did to earn consideration.

Irene Martin heads the San Bernardino U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office, where last December, she allegedly blocked five armed Department of Homeland Security agents from the man authorities say supplied the firepower in the deadly attack a day earlier. Although an Inspector General’s report found she acted improperly, and then lied to investigators, has learned she has been nominated for the Secretary’s Award for Valor.

“To give Irene Martin an award for valor is insulting to all the prior awardees – the agents and officers who truly displayed valor and risked their lives to save someone else,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based research institute.

Department of Homeland Security officials declined to say what Martin did to merit consideration for the award, which is described as “the highest departmental recognition for extraordinary acts of valor by an employee or group, occurring while on or off duty” and is reserved for “those who have demonstrated extraordinary courage in a highly dangerous, life-threatening situation or emergency under extreme stress and involving a specific act of valor, such as saving another person’s life or property.”

Past valor award recipients include government employees who have saved people from burning cars, sinking ships and weapon- wielding assailants. was told the information could only be released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, which has been lodged.

Martin was blamed for touching off a turf war that came to light when whistle blowers told Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., about the tense, Dec. 3, 2015 incident. It came a day after Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook killed 14 and wounded 22 in the terror attack. Authorities believe Enrique Marquez, who had an appointment with Martin’s staff when the authorities showed up, gave them the guns used in the attack.

The potential award for Martin was announced on a conference call from high-ranking USCIS officials in Washington during a staff meeting held at the San Bernardino office where Martin also was present, sources told The USCIS and the agents who had been sent to detain Marquez are part of DHS.

The nomination from Martin’s superiors was stunning to staff members because it was announced just days after a June 1 DHS Inspector General’s report found Martin improperly hindered the work of five armed agents on site just 24 hours after the attack.

Johnson held two Senate hearings about the incident in May and requested that the Inspector General’s investigation.

The report noted DHS agents were sent to the USCIS building to arrest Marquez, who authorities were frantically trying to track down the day after the terror attack at an office Christmas party. Marquez, it turned out, had not shown up for his scheduled appointment at the USCIS building, but Martin kept agents waiting 30 minutes before meeting with them, and another hour before she turned over the USCIS file on Marquez.

Marquez was eventually arrested and is being held on charges related to supplying the guns as well as marriage fraud.

Martin also lied to the Inspector General’s investigators, according to the June 6 report, about her role in what has been characterized as a turf battle. Lying to federal investigators is a felony and can result in dismissal and criminal charges.

“We concluded that the USCIS Field Office Director at the San Bernardino office improperly delayed … agents from conducting a lawful and routine law enforcement action,” the report stated. “We have also concluded that the Field Office Director was not candid with OIG investigators during her interview.”

Arlen Morales, spokesman for the DHS Inspector General, would not confirm whether his agency had made a potential criminal referral involving Martin’s testimony to the US Department of Justice, saying the Inspector General does not discuss any ongoing work.

Vaughan suspects the award could be a further politicization of the Dec. 3 incident, which left DHS law enforcement officials furious and at a disadvantage as they tried to close in on any accomplices to the Dec. 2 terror attack.

“Irene Martin’s nomination for this valor award is scandalous,” said Vaughan.

History Shows Targeting the CIA is Perilous Move

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

 Closing Arguments: History Shows Targeting the CIA is Perilous Move

by John Yoo.

A young, fresh face campaigns for the presidency by attacking the CIA: “Our government should justify the character and moral principles of the American people, and our foreign policy should not short-circuit that for temporary advantage,” he says. He promises to never “do anything as president that would be a contravention of the moral and ethical standards that I would exemplify in my own life as an individual.”

He wins the election and begins to decimate the intelligence agencies. Barack Obama? No. Jimmy Carter.

The Carter administration’s national-security record should not serve as a model for any president. But unless Obama changes course, he risks duplicating the intelligence disasters of the ’70s, and endangering the nation.

Last month, the president and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. launched a destructive investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation of al-Qaeda leaders. Several of the detainees were directly involved with the planning and execution of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They were captured at a time when our government feared a second wave of attacks.

Our nation’s leaders made the difficult decision to use coercive interrogation methods to learn as quickly as possible what these hardened al-Qaeda operatives knew. As one of many government lawyers who worked on these counterterrorism programs, I can attest to the terrible pressure of time and events in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Knowledgeable officials expected that al-Qaeda would try again – soon – and in a more devastating fashion. But as we pause to remember the Sept. 11 attacks eight years later, fair-minded people should take heart that there has been no follow-up attack in the United States. To the contrary, several plots have been foiled and the terrorists are on the run. This was not the result of luck – it is because of the hard work of members of the military and our intelligence agencies.

Their reward is an open-ended investigation, and in some instances the disturbing reopening of cases closed by career prosecutors. Others have written about the financial ruin in store for agents and analysts whose focus will shift from the enemy to their legal bills. What has gone less well understood is what the investigation will do to the CIA as an institution at a time when it serves as the nation’s eyes and ears and, sometimes, the sword and shield, during war against a shadowy, covert enemy.

The Carter presidency serves as a warning. Attacking “Watergate, Vietnam, and the CIA,” Carter came to office determined to clean house. He and his CIA director, Adm. Stansfield Turner, fell in love with technical means of intelligence-gathering, such as the real-time photos sent by reconnaissance satellites. They saw little need for information gathered by spies and informants. Turner promptly took a buzz saw to the division in charge of covert operations, eliminating 820 positions out of 4,730.

The message was clear, and as a result CIA agents became risk-averse. After all, if you might be fired or prosecuted for doing something, the safest thing to do is nothing. America’s ability to gather human intelligence and conduct covert operations swiftly fell apart. The CIA failed to predict the fall of the shah. Iranian students – one of them now the president of Iran – took U.S. Embassy officials hostage. A covert operation to rescue them failed miserably, killing eight Americans.

The effects of this decimation of our intelligence capabilities continue. The intelligence agencies failed to stop the 9/11 attacks and do not appear to have penetrated al-Qaeda’s leadership. As the Silberman-Robb Commission reported in 2005, the intelligence community’s estimates on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were almost totally mistaken. The cause was not political pressure, according to the commission, but the CIA’s lack of spies in Iraq, its inability to analyze what little information it collected, and Saddam Hussein’s intent to deceive his own generals and Iran as to his arsenal.

Even the most fervent antiwar activists should welcome an effective intelligence service. If the CIA had accurately judged Iraq’s lack of WMD in 2003, the war might not have occurred. If the CIA had decapitated al-Qaeda’s leadership in the 1990s (the plans were vetoed by President Bill Clinton), the 9/11 attacks may have been headed off and the invasion of Afghanistan rendered unnecessary.

All intelligence involves probabilities and educated guesses, but effective intelligence can actually provide the information needed to avoid costly wars.

Henry L. Stimson, secretary of state under President Herbert Hoover, once explained the shuttering of the United States‘ only code-breaking unit with these words: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.” Unfortunately, we do not live in a world of gentlemen. Stimson realized this in his next cabinet post, as FDR’s secretary of war on the day of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Persecuting the CIA risks another surprise attack or major intelligence failure.

[John Yoo (, a former Bush administration Justice Department official, teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley.] [Yoo/PhiladelphiaInquirer/13September2009]