General Info
Executive committee meeting statement PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:57

Thursday, July 19, 2012

 

Before we turn to the agenda, I want to say a few words about yesterday’s hearing on forensics and a letter I sent to the Attorney General on Tuesday.  We heard from experts yesterday about the current state of forensic science in the courts.  One of the topics of discussion was the recent reports by The Washington Post regarding “sloppy” and “unreliable” work at the FBI crime lab that may have led to innocent people being convicted.

The Post also detailed a 2004 review conducted by the Justice Department to identify cases where flawed work by the FBI crime lab may have been involved.  By all accounts, that review was poorly done and it appears that defense attorneys may not have been notified about cases where problems existed.

These are stunning developments given my work with Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, a former FBI Agent who blew the whistle on problems with the FBI Crime lab in the 1990s.  Dr. Whitehurst’s disclosures came at a great cost to him personally as he faced retaliation from the FBI.  However, his disclosures led to an Inspector General report that led to many reforms that have strengthened the FBI crime lab.

Given the recent reports by The Washington Post, Chairman Leahy and I sent a letter on May 21 seeking information from the FBI Director.  Unfortunately, that letter has gone unanswered for over 60 days.

So, on Tuesday, prior to the hearing, I sent a new letter to the Attorney General seeking information about the 2004 review and problems with notifying defendants.  Hopefully, the Attorney General will respond to this letter faster than the FBI has to the letter the Chairman and I sent back in May.

Given this committee’s past work with whistleblowers like Dr. Whitehurst and the discussion on improving forensic science, the Justice Department and FBI should provide us answers immediately.

Turning to the Committee’s agenda, on S.285, the private relief bill sponsored by Senator Levin, I will offer an amendment.  If that amendment is adopted, our side would be willing to voice vote the bill and report it out.

With regard to S.3276, the FAA Sunsets Extension Act, we’re prepared to vote on a straight extension of the law today.  This is an important bill that reauthorizes the FISA Amendments Act, a program vital to our national security.

This bill was reported out of the Intelligence Committee without amendment extending the program through 2017.  The House Judiciary Committee and House Intelligence Committee have both reported a similar bill without amendment.

The Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence have written to us stating that this reauthorization is “the highest legislative priority for the Intelligence Community” this congress.  Further, they added, “Our first priority, however, is reauthorization of these authorities in their current form.  We look forward to working with you to ensure the speedy enactment of legislation reauthorizing Title VII, without amendment, to avoid any interruption in our use of these authorities to protect the American people.”

I agree with the Administration, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that we should reauthorize this program as soon as possible without amendment.

However, the Chairman has a substitute amendment opening the bill to amendment, so our side will have some amendments to offer as well.

This debate is similar to last year’s reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.  There the Administration sought a clean extension given the urgent need for the tools.  However, this committee made unnecessary changes to the law that held up passage of it on the floor.

Here, we have a bill proposed by the Administration simply reauthorizing the tools without amendment that passed by the Intelligence Committee without amendment, and now some are seeking to make changes.

I understand that the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee is prepared to support the changes the Chairman is proposing.  I’m not sure what’s changed in the eyes of the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee since she wrote to members on June 19, 2012, supporting her bill without amendment.

In that letter, she stated, “The Select Committee on Intelligence has conducted careful oversight of Title VII.”  She then informed us that the Intelligence Committee proposed extending the sunset to June 2017, in accordance with the Administration proposal.  Now, I’m told she supports a 2015 sunset.  This is problematic as the timing will line up the foreign surveillance provisions of the FAA Amendments Act with the domestic provisions of the PATRIOT Act.

Undoubtedly, this will cause confusion and potentially jeopardize reauthorization of two critical national security programs.

So, we’re prepared to address this bill today, along with some other important national security matters that should be voted on in Committee.

On the nominations, we are prepared to move forward with all the nominations on the agenda.  Unless someone requests otherwise, we should be able to move these nominations by voice vote.  Thank you.

 
Grassley, Issa Seek Clarification of ATF Acting Director’s Message to Employees on Reporting Agency Concerns PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:38
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa today urged the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to clarify his remarks to employees about reporting concerns within the agency.  Grassley and Issa expressed concern that the remarks are likely to chill whistleblowers from reporting legitimate problems and undermine a necessary function for making improvements.  The concern is significant because whistleblowers recently put their careers on the line to expose the operational tactics in Operation Fast and Furious that might have led to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

In a video message released to ATF staff on July 9, 2012, ATF Acting Director Todd Jones says, “… if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don't respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences. …”

Grassley and Issa wrote to Jones, stating that the essence of whistleblowing is reporting problems outside of an employee’s chain of command, and whistleblowers were instrumental in exposing the shortcomings of the government’s botched gun-walking operation, Fast and Furious.  Grassley and Issa wrote to Jones, “Your ominous message – which could be interpreted as a threat – is likely to have a major chilling effect on ATF employees exercising their rights to contact Congress.  Therefore, it needs to be clarified.”

Grassley and Issa also wrote, “On numerous occasions, we have stressed to ATF and the Department of Justice the importance of protecting whistleblower disclosures and preventing retaliation against whistleblowers.”

The context for Jones’ remarks and the intent behind them are unclear.  Grassley and Issa asked for a response by July 25.  The text of their letter is available here.  The video is available here.

 

-30-

 
Governor Quinn Takes Bill Action Wednesday, July 18, 2012 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Nafia Khan   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:31

CHICAGO – July 18, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today took action on the following bills:

 

Bill No.: SB 3514

An Act Concerning: Government

The law amends the Illinois Medical District Act to expand the authority of the Illinois Medical District Commission in order to generate and maintain revenue, and requires the commission to be audited by the Auditor General.

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date: Immediately

 

Bill No.: SB 3621

An Act Concerning: State Government

The law amends the language of the Department of State Police Law of the Civil Administrative Code of Illinois to bring it into compliance with federal regulation.

Action: Signed                        

Effective Date:  Immediately

 

 

 

###

 
Iowa Farmers, Gardeners Battle Dry Conditions, Japanese Beetles as Crops, Plants Feel the Heat PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Heather Lilienthal   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:13

IOWA FARMERS, GARDENERS BATTLE DRY CONDITIONS, JAPANESE BEETLES AS CROPS, PLANTS FEEL THE HEAT FROM MOTHER NATURE

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – July 18, 2012 – Gardeners and farmers across the state aren’t only worrying about the effects of the scorching sun on their plants, they’re also taking stock of the damage caused by hordes of iridescent insects that are chewing away produce and profits.

The culprit: Japanese beetles. They’re taking a bite out of Iowa gardens and farmers’ fields.

According to Iowa State University (ISU) Extension (http://www.extension.iastate.edu/article/yard-and-garden-japanese-beetles-0), the beetles feed on 300 different types of foliage and they are difficult to control. For gardeners with small plots, one of the best ways to combat the bug is to shake them off of the plants. ISU Horticulturalist Richard Jauron says the best time to physically remove Japanese beetles is early morning when the beetles are sluggish. Collect or shake beetles into a bucket of soapy water and discard the carnage.  If that doesn’t work, using an insecticide is the next step.

For farmers with hundreds of acres of soybeans, the small insects represent an even bigger problem. Steve Swenka, a farmer in Tiffin, says the Japanese beetles are a result of the dry conditions.

“If we had plentiful rains, those insects would be knocked down from the plants and washed away. Plus, it would encourage new plant growth to replace the damage caused by the beetles,” says Swenka. “This season’s dry weather has compounded that problem.”

Dustin Sage farms near Dunkerton and says the beetles are showing up in his corn and soybean fields, too. He says farmers are carefully applying insecticide to their fields in an effort to curb the damage. Protecting the crops will keep the plants healthy.

ISU Extension says Japanese beetles are present for about six to eight weeks every summer. Adult beetles usually begin to emerge from the ground in mid-June and new adults continue to appear through July. Each beetle lives from 30 to 45 days.

Farmers and gardeners alike are definitely counting down those days.

-30-

 
Advocate Offers Tips to Prevent & Spot Child Sexual Abuse PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:07

Instances of child abuse increase during the summer, with some shelters and child advocacy centers actually doubling their caseloads, according to anecdotal reports.

While these tragedies include everything from neglect to beatings, child advocate  Michelle Bellon, author of The Complexity of a Soldier (www.MichelleBellon.com), says parents and caregivers should be especially alert to one of the most easily hidden and underreported crimes: child sexual abuse. Her novel centers on this epidemic, and aims to raise awareness about it.

“Children may be less supervised during the summer, or they may be in the care of extended family members so their parents can save money on child care,” she says. “Both situations put children at risk; the former for obvious reasons and the latter because 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know the offender.”

Child predators are terrorists, Bellon says. Like the terrorists we deploy armies to battle overseas, they prey on innocents and subject them to physical and emotional torture. The consequences can be devastating and lifelong, including post-traumatic stress disorder and separation anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association reports.

“Does this sound like anything else we have heard about since 9/11? To me, it is very similar to what victims of terrorism face, and what soldiers face after fighting wars,” Bellon says. “I think child predators should be called what they are – domestic terrorists.”

Bellon shares these guidelines from a number of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control, to keep children safe this summer.

• When choosing a summer program, ask about employee (and volunteer) screening and how interactions are monitored. A criminal background check is not sufficient to ferret out sexual abusers, since many have never been charged or convicted. Instead the program should look for warning signs in written applications and interviews. For instance, some predator adults spend all of their time with children and have no significant adult relationships. Policies on interactions between adults and children should include examples of appropriate and inappropriate conduct, and definitive steps for both monitoring and addressing concerns and complaints.

• Ask about the training. Staff and even temporary volunteers should undergo training to recognize signs of sexual abuse and to learn when it’s appropriate to report concerns. There should be a designated person to handle reports. Training should be required for staff and volunteers who come on board midway through the summer. Policies should include procedures for handling not just potential abuse, but also violations of the code of conduct for interactions.

• Ask about interactions between older and younger children. Some programs allow older children to serve as “junior counselors” or activity assistants. Ask about the guidelines for these situations, including whether and how long children may be unsupervised by an adult.

• Make sure children understand “personal boundaries.” Teach children the importance of recognizing and respecting the invisible barriers that separate them from other people. They should be able to recognize their comfort zone – and that of others! – and know that they can and should speak up about setting limits. Start at home by respecting a child’s right to say “no” to physical contact, such as tickling and hugs. Never force a child to kiss a relative.

• Recognize signs of a problem. Children often won’t or can’t tell you what’s happening, but there are signs to watch for, including changes in behavior such as withdrawal or unprovoked crying, night terrors, bedwetting, eating problems, unexplained injuries, suddenly avoiding a particular person, and unusual interest in or knowledge of sexual matters.

About Michelle Bellon

Michelle Bellon earned her associate degree in nursing, and lives with her husband and four children in Olympia, Wash. She is the author of four novels, including “The Complexity of a Soldier,” which deals with the issue of child sexual abuse.

 
<< Start < Prev 241 242 243 244 245 246 247 248 249 250 Next > End >>

Page 245 of 406