Feds accused of ‘colluding’ on ‘booze-gate’ explanations
Members of Congress notified about legal requests for public information
Posted: July 02, 2010
11:25 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2010 WorldNetDaily
The Pentagon has been accused of coordinating with staff officials for members of Congress on what to release to the public under federal Freedom of Information Act demands for information about a “booze-gate” scandal in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spent $101,000 in taxpayer money for “in-flight” services, including food and alcohol.
The charge comes from Judicial Watch, a government watchdog organization that frequently utilizes the federal law to obtain information about federal agency operations.
For example, the group previously discovered taxpayers shelled out $101,000 for “in-flight services” for Pelosi over a two-year period.
Now the organization is reporting that e-mails obtained from the government reveal the Pentagon was checking with and informing members of Congress of specific documents it was proposing to release under the federal law.
“Why is the Pentagon colluding with congressional offices on FOIA requests,” wondered Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “There is absolutely no reason why politicians should have the ability to preview FOIA documents before they are released to the American people. These insider notification e-mails to Congress are inappropriate and should be stopped immediately.”
The public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption said the e-mails from the Department of Defense were to various other officials regarding congressional military travel.
“These ‘heads up’ e-mails involved FOIA requests filed by Judicial Watch, The Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call, among other organizations, related to the use of military aircraft by a number of congressional members, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” the Judicial Watch report said yesterday.
They provided “advanced notification” to members of Congress regarding which organizations were seeking information, when the documentation would be released, and “in many cases, the e-mails included the actual documents to be released as attachments,” Judicial Watch said.
“Moreover, the e-mails, primarily sent from the DOD’s Office of General Counsel also indicate that Pentagon staff contacted congressional offices by phone,” the report said.
For example, a Nov. 17, 2009, message to Wyndee Parker, national security adviser for Pelosi, concerned a Judicial Watch request. It advised that the agency was prepared to release the information but was “happy to discuss further.”
Judicial Watch reports there were cases in which the Pentagon provided “assurances” to congressional staffers whether or not the documents held “sensitive” information.
It reported, “For example, in a December 9, 2009, e-mail to Mark Lopez, Chief of Staff for Congressman Peter Visclosky (D-IN), the DOD staffer writes: ‘CQ appears to be trolling for something to write re: your boss. I do not see much here, but I don’t know the reporter’s agenda. There will be additional releases on this request. I will give you a heads up on those too.'”
Another e-mail to the House Foreign Affairs Committee a month before had said, “I don’t find any of the documents especially newsworthy, but wanted you to have them before they go out.”
The report said other e-mails from senior staff with the House Intelligence Committee “voiced objections to the Pentagon’s refusal to redact the names of congressional staffers from documents released and requested the opportunity to review redacted material before release.”
“It looks as if, in some cases, documents on military junkets were released to individual members of Congress months before they were released to the public,” the report said.
The watchdog group got the e-mails in its overall investigation of congressional military travel.
WND previously reported when a Florida congressman suggested Pelosi give up her military jet travel privilege. WND also has reported on the tabulation by Judicial Watch of Pelosi’s apparent excesses on her flights.
The California Democrat commutes across the continent in a jet provided by the military, a policy first authorized for the House speaker following the 9/11 terror attacks.
For example, a receipt for “in-flight services” for the House speaker included a list that looked like a dream order for a wild frat party: Maker’s Mark whiskey, Courvoisier cognac, Johnny Walker Red scotch, Grey Goose vodka, E&J brandy, Bailey’s Irish Crème, Bacardi Light rum, Jim Beam whiskey, Beefeater gin, Dewars scotch, Bombay Sapphire gin, Jack Daniels whiskey and Corona beer.
That was only part of the more than $101,000 taxpayers paid for “in-flight services” for Pelosi’s trips on Air Force jets over a two-year period, the Judicial Watch report said.
Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., later applauding Pelosi’s new House rules-change that bans all members of Congress from flying first class on the taxpayer’s dime, suggested that Pelosi, too, fly coach class.
Posey said the move would spare taxpayers the $28,000 it costs per flight for her personal military aircraft when she travels back and forth to her home in San Francisco.
Pelosi had been added to the Judicial Watch list of Top 10 corrupt politicians because of her “sense of entitlement,” the group said.
WND also reported a year earlier Pelosi was shown to have been erratically canceling and scheduling flights, as one would with an on-call taxi service.
“We have … folks prepping the jets and crews driving in (not a short drive for some), cooking meals and preflighting the jets etc,” said one Department of Defense e-mail at the time.
Another official sent an e-mail questioning a series of Pelosi’s requests for aircraft.
“Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi’s team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?” it stated. “[T]here’s no need to block every weekend ‘just in case’…”
The e-mail noted that the speaker’s office had “a history of canceling many of their past requests.”
Judicial Watch said the 2,000 pages of documentation it obtained showed Pelosi’s military travel cost the U.S. Air Force $2,100,744.59 over two years – including $101,429.14 for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol.
Among the highlights revealed:
- Pelosi used Air Force aircraft to travel back to her district at an average cost of $28,210.51 per flight. Of 103 Pelosi-led congressional delegations (CODEL), 31 trips included members of the House speaker’s family.
- One CODEL traveling from Washington, D.C., through Tel Aviv, Israel, to Baghdad, Iraq, May 15-20, 2008, “to discuss matters of mutual concern with government leaders” included members of Congress and their spouses and cost $17,931 per hour in aircraft alone. This flight included the purchase of the long list of alcoholic drinks.
- According to a “Memo for Record” from a March 29-April 7, 2007, CODEL that involved a stop in Israel, “CODEL could only bring kosher items into the hotel. Kosher alcohol for mixing beverages in the delegation room was purchased on the local economy i.e. bourbon, whiskey, scotch, vodka, gin, triple sec, tequila, etc.