# National Security

Iowa Republicans go quiet on Trump search

Iowa’s Republican members of Congress were quick to cast doubt on the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Representatives Ashley Hinson and Randy Feenstra demanded more information from the Justice Department about the reasons for the “unprecedented” action. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks suggested that investigating Trump was a waste of taxpayer money.

But those GOP officials had nothing to say publicly after an inventory released on August 12 showed the former president had been keeping classified, secret, and top secret documents at the Mar-a-Lago resort.

Multiple news outlets published the search and seizure warrant for Trump’s residence, as well as the receipt listing property FBI agents took on August 8. Four items were described as “Miscellaneous Top Secret Documents,” and one was listed as “Various classified/TS/SCI documents.” Those are high levels of classification, used for material that “could cause ‘exceptionally grave danger’ to national security.”

SCI stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information, which “may be an electronic intercept or information provided by a human informant in a foreign country.” The Washington Post reported on August 11 that “Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought” in the search.

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Joni Ernst among small group rejecting first Biden cabinet nominee

Two hours after President Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst said in a written statement, “As an eternal optimist, I am hopeful we can work together with President Joe Biden, and the first female Vice President, Kamala Harris, in a bipartisan way to deliver for the American people.”

Later the same day, Ernst was among just ten Republicans to oppose the first Biden cabinet nomination considered on the Senate floor.

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Senator Grassley, you enabled this

President Donald Trump has added to the list of officials he has sidelined for their role in exposing or investigating him. In what Aaron Blake called a “Friday night news dump for the ages,” Trump informed leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Intelligence Committees on April 3 that he is removing Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.

Trump put Atkinson on administrative leave to stop him from doing his job before his dismissal takes effect next month (the president was required to give Congress 30 days notice of such action).

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In Iowa and beyond, voters must demand answers on nuclear weapons policy

Joan Rohlfing is President and Chief Operating Officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. -promoted by Laura Belin

By the time voters across the United States cast their ballots for president next November, it will have been 75 years since the first and only use of nuclear weapons. Since 1945, through the decades-long Cold War and its aftermath, a strategy of deterrence helped prevent nuclear war between the United States and Russia, the world’s nuclear superpowers. Does that strategy still keep us safe?

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Joni Ernst tweets about aliens, silent on Trump pushing Ukraine for political gain

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst is among Ukraine’s most vocal supporters in Congress. While in college, she visited the Ukrainian Republic of the USSR as part of an agricultural exchange. Now a member of the bipartisan Senate Ukraine Caucus, she has met with high-level Ukrainian officials in Washington and Kyiv, advocating for the U.S. to “make it clear to Russia that we will stand by Ukraine in the face of unjustified aggression.”

Yet Iowa’s junior senator has been silent this week as multiple news organizations reported that President Donald Trump abused his power to seek political assistance from his Ukrainian counterpart.

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Grassley's excuse-making for Trump is beyond embarrassing

Yesterday’s revelation that President Donald Trump disclosed “highly classified information” to senior Russian officials in the Oval Office last week, jeopardizing “a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State,” sent the White House into crisis mode. Reporters “could hear yelling emanating from the presidential residence” as senior officials tried to contain the fallout. Amy Zegart estimated the possible damage to U.S. intelligence-gathering at “about a billion” on a scale of 1 to 10.

After sending his national security adviser out yesterday to make a “non-denial denial,” Trump asserted this morning he had “the absolute right” to share pertinent information in an “openly scheduled” meeting with Russia, claiming he did so for “Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” By the way, that meeting was closed to American journalists, as Trump gave exclusive access to a photographer for the Russian state-run news agency ITAR-TASS.

All of the above would be disturbing, even if Trump hadn’t just fired FBI Director James Comey and improperly asked Comey whether he was under investigation.

The reaction from self-styled watchdog Senator Chuck Grassley was a classic example of normalizing some of the most abnormal behavior we’ve seen yet from Trump–which is saying something.

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Weekend open thread: Threats to national security edition

What’s on your mind, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Only one week into Donald Trump’s presidency, the outrages are piling up. Philip Rucker and David Filipov report today for the Washington Post that Trump has restructured the National Security Council to give his political strategist Steve Bannon a permanent spot on the “principals committee” of senior officials. Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence will no longer be regular members of that committee. President George W. Bush never allowed his hatchet man Karl Rove to attend National Security Council meetings.

Trump issued several executive orders this week related to immigration. The most controversial (and probably unconstitutional) one restricts entry from seven countries–but maybe not for Christians from those areas. Despite the trending hashtag #MuslimBan, the order is technically not a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.–though Rudy Giuliani says Trump asked advisers to help him accomplish that goal through legal means. The White House is portraying the order as an anti-terrorism measure, but knowledgeable people know otherwise.

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Weekend open thread: Alarming ties between Trump and Russia edition

President-elect Donald Trump continues to assemble a cabinet full of people “who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run.”

But arguably, the scariest news of the week was the political reaction to the Central Intelligence Agency assessment that it is “quite clear” Russia intervened in the U.S. elections with the goal of electing Trump.

Despite what one retired CIA officer described as a “blazing 10-alarm fire,” only four Republican senators have taken up the call for a bipartisan investigation of Russian interference in U.S. elections. For his part, Trump dismissed the CIA’s findings as “ridiculous,” while members of his transition team discredited the agency and leaked news that Trump will appoint a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin as secretary of state.

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Senate roundup: Harkin, Grassley split on Keystone XL, limits on NSA spying, and judges

Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin rarely found themselves in agreement during a busy day on the Senate floor yesterday. A bill to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project fell one vote short of the 60-vote threshold to defeat a filibuster. The roll call shows that Grassley was among the 59 yes votes (all Republicans plus 14 Democrats), while Harkin was among the 41 Democrats who defeated the bill. Scroll to the end of this post to read Grassley’s statement on the failure to pass this measure. He backs an “all-of-the-above approach to meet the country’s energy needs and give consumers choice.” He does not address the reality that oil transported via Keystone XL would likely be sold to foreign markets, having no effect on domestic gasoline prices.

Although several of the pro-Keystone Democrats just lost their seats in this year’s elections, nine of them will continue to serve next year. That means future Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have the votes to overcome a filibuster of future bills on the pipeline. He won’t have the 67 votes needed to overcome a presidential veto, but Republicans have vowed to attach Keystone language to “must-pass” bills that President Barack Obama won’t want to veto.

Senators also blocked a bill that would have attempted to rein in domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. Timothy B. Lee wrote a good backgrounder on the USA Freedom Act. The cloture vote failed by 58 to 42. Like almost all the Senate Democrats, Harkin voted for proceeding to debate the bill. Like all but four Republicans, Grassley voted to block efforts to reduce NSA spying on Americans. Members of Congress will revisit this issue next year, but I’m not optimistic any reforms will pass.

Side note: among the senators who are possible Republican presidential candidates in 2016, Ted Cruz voted for the USA Freedom Act. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio voted no. Paul opposed the bill because it did not go far enough, in his view; Rubio voted no because he thought the bill would increase the risk of terrorist attacks in this country.

Last week and this week, the Senate has moved forward on several nominees for vacant judicial spots on U.S. district courts. Harkin supported confirming all of the president’s nominees. Grassley voted against cloture on all of the nominations, but Republicans were not able to block any of them from a vote on the floor, because the 60-vote threshold no longer applies to most confirmations. (That could change when Republicans take control of the chamber in the new year.) On the confirmation votes themselves, Grassley opposed most of the judges nominated by the president, with one exception last week and another exception yesterday. Many expect judicial confirmations to stop happening when Grassley becomes chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but perhaps he will let a few non-controversial nominees through.

A bill reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant gained massive bipartisan support on Monday, passing by 88 votes to 1. Both Grassley and Harkin backed this bill. In a statement I’ve enclosed after the jump, Harkin explained how this bill “will expand access to and improve the quality of child care for the more than 1.5 million children and families that benefit from the federal child care subsidy program.” President Obama signed this bill today, and Representative Dave Loebsack (D, IA-02) attended the ceremony. He worked on the bill as ranking member of the House Education and Labor subcommittee that covers early childhood issues. I posted Loebsack’s statement below Harkin’s.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

Note: Over the years I’ve written dozens of posts about Grassley and Harkin splitting on Senate votes. I expect that to end for the most part in January. If Joni Ernst votes differently from Grassley even five times over the next two years, I’ll be shocked.

UPDATE: Added after the jump some of Harkin’s recent comments on the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Secret Service turmoil links and discussion thread

Who else was stunned by recent reports about the lapses by the Secret Service?  Sebastian Payne listed the “the top 10 recent Secret Service headaches” here. Dylan Matthews goes into more detail on three astounding incidents: an intruder with a knife got all the way into the East Room of the White House; President Barack Obama ended up in an elevator with a convicted criminal who was carrying a gun; and it “took the Secret Service four days to realize that shots had hit the White House residence.”

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned this week, and I agree 100 percent with Bryce Covert’s take:

Reasonable people can disagree about whether, ultimately, she deserved to lose her job or whether anyone in charge during such an incident would have to resign. But it’s probably not pure chance that Pierson, who held that position for just a year-and-a-half, was a woman. Time and again, women are put in charge only when there’s a mess, and if they can’t engineer a quick cleanup, they’re shoved out the door. The academics Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam even coined a term for this phenomenon: They call it getting pushed over the glass cliff. […]

The understaffing, for which Pierson was not responsible, could have played a significant role in the breach that led to her losing her position. Former secret service agents told the Washington Post that the incident may have been related to the severe staffing shortage in the division responsible for securing the White House. […]

As for the Secret Service, it turns out that Joseph Clancy will be Pierson’s temporary replacement, even though he was in charge of the presidential detail the night the Salahis slipped past checkpoints [in 2009].

I don’t know how much of the security lapses can be attributed to inadequate Secret Service staffing and funding levels during Obama’s presidency, and how much stem from a too-broad mission or aspects of the Secret Service training and organizational culture. For the safety and of the president and everyone around him, I hope these problems will be solved quickly. It will take a lot more than a change at the top.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

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NSA Amendment Fails

(Another post is coming later with more details on how Iowans voted on other amendments to the defense appropriations bill. All four Iowans voted for final passage of the Pentagon budget. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Earlier this evening, the U.S. House tried to limit the scope of the NSA's domestic spying, but this amendment failed by 205-217.  It was an unusual cross-party vote, with Democrats voting 111-83, and Republians voting 94-134.  (Here is the full roll call vote).

Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted Yes (to restrict the NSA), while Steve King and Tom Latham voted No.  I haven't been able to find any more detailed statements from any of Iowa's congressmen.

Does anyone know where the 1st district candidates stand on this issue?  It would be a good debate topic.

Harkin, Grassley react to leaks on NSA surveillance

To my knowledge, none of Iowa’s representatives in Congress has issued an official statement on the recent revelations about broad surveillance of phone and electronic communications by the National Security Agency. However, both Democratic Senator Tom Harkin and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley have commented to the media about the story. Notably, Harkin expressed concern about the scope of intelligence gathering and called for President Barack Obama to give better guidance. In contrast to his image as a supporter of whistle-blowers, Grassley has expressed more interest in prosecuting Edward Snowden (the source of the leaks) than in investigating the NSA’s activities. Details are after the jump.

On a related note, here is a must-read post for anyone comforted by the president’s comments last week (“nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program is about”). Sociology professor Kieran Healy pretends to be a security analyst for the King of England in 1772, a period of growing political unrest in the American Colonies. Using “metadata” analysis only–that is, looking at social connections with no information about the content of people’s conversations or writings–Healy was able to identify Paul Revere as a prime suspect in activities disloyal to the crown.

But I say again, if a mere scribe such as I-one who knows nearly nothing-can use the very simplest of these methods to pick the name of a traitor like Paul Revere from those of two hundred and fifty four other men, using nothing but a list of memberships and a portable calculating engine, then just think what weapons we might wield in the defense of liberty one or two centuries from now.

Hat tip to Nathan Yau at Flowing Data.

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22 links on the Obama administration NSA surveillance story

All week I’ve been meaning to compile news and commentary on the National Security Agency’s massive data collection. Long ago I stopped being surprised or disappointed by President Barack Obama’s policies on surveillance and civil liberties. Nevertheless, the information leaked by Edward Snowden is a big story.

Glenn Thrush remembered that “Snowden was the name of the sacrificial lamb/waist-gunner who haunted Yossarian” in Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22. Inspired by that coincidence, I offer 22 links related to the NSA revelations after the jump.

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IA-Sen: Labor unions lining up behind Bruce Braley (updated)

Iowa’s largest labor union, AFSCME Iowa Council 61, announced its endorsement of Representative Bruce Braley for U.S. Senate yesterday. A press release from the Braley campaign noted that two other labor unions have previously announced their support: Iowa State Council of Machinists and the Great Plains Laborers’ District Council. As a member of Congress, Braley has a strong voting record on labor rights, as does retiring Senator Tom Harkin.

Endorsements this early in the cycle are another sign that Braley will not face real competition for the Democratic nomination next year. During Iowa Democrats’ last hard-fought statewide primary, the larger labor unions endorsed either Mike Blouin or Chet Culver for governor only a few months before the 2006 primary.

UPDATE: The non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group Council for a Livable World endorsed Braley for Senate on March 14. I’ve added their press release and some background after the jump.

SECOND UPDATE: Service Employees International Union Iowa – Local 199 endorsed Braley for Senate on March 15. A press release from the campaign comments, “SEIU Local 199 represents over 5,000 nurses, school employees, childcare workers, and county employees across the state of Iowa.”

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Rand Paul filibuster discussion thread

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky delayed Senate business yesterday by launching a filibuster that lasted nearly 13 hours. The ninth-longest filibuster in Senate history and the longest since 1992 focused on the president’s power to order an American citizen killed on U.S. soil. Paul managed to delay a planned confirmation vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director, John Brennan. Senators are likely to confirm Brennan today, but Paul’s tactic served two longtime historical purposes of the filibuster: slow down Senate business and call attention to an issue of national importance. To my knowledge, the last lengthy filibuster of this kind happened when Bernie Sanders talked for more than eight hours against the December 2010 deal to extend most Bush tax cuts.

Eight other senators joined Paul’s filibuster yesterday: seven Republicans and Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon. Iowa’s GOP Senator Chuck Grassley did not take part.

In related news, some Senate Democrats are warning that the majority may revisit filibuster reform because Republicans continue to demand a 60-vote majority for almost any kind of Senate business. That was entirely foreseeable. But Democrats missed their best chance to change the rules at the beginning of this year’s Congress. They should have listened to Senator Tom Harkin, who has been trying for years to curtail the abuse of the filibuster.

New Obama cabinet discussion thread

Time for a new thread to discuss any Obama cabinet appointments. The Senate Intelligence Committee held a confirmation hearing today for John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee for CIA director. I didn’t watch the hearing, but based on reports like this and this, it sounds like he didn’t demonstrate that he deserves to be confirmed.

I loved this story in The Onion: “American Citizens Split On DOJ Memo Authorizing Government To Kill Them.”

The president announced earlier this week that Sally Jewell will be his nominee as interior secretary. She’s an interesting choice. I’ve posted some background after the jump.

The Hill discussed some of the names supposedly on the short list for transportation secretary. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have urged Obama to consider Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina for that job, but Clyburn doesn’t sound interested in leaving the House.

Penny Pritzker, “who made her fortune building Hyatt Hotels” and has been one of Obama’s powerhouse fundraisers, is reportedly the president’s choice to run the Commerce department.

Gretchen Morgenson, one of the best reporters on the finance and banking industries, published a recap of Timothy Geithner’s tenure as Treasury secretary.

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Grassley among senators seeking memos on targeted killings (updated)

A bipartisan group of senators including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley sent President Barack Obama an open letter this week asking for access to “secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations.”

UPDATE: The Obama administration will provide “classified Office of Legal Counsel advice” on this issue to members of Congressional intelligence committees. I agree with Grassley that judiciary committees should be included as well, since they oversee the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Worst Obama nominee ever?

The U.S. Senate is about to get bogged down in a debate over whether Chuck Hagel is pro-Israel enough to be President Barack Obama’s secretary of defense. An amusing sideshow will feature Republicans appalled by Hagel’s anti-gay remark about a 1998 nominee of President Bill Clinton. After much time is wasted, senators will confirm Hagel to run the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, there is likely to be little debate over Obama’s most appalling nominee yet: John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. I don’t have much to add to concerns the American Civil Liberties Union and Glenn Greenwald raised yesterday. It’s bad enough that the Obama administration is still doing renditions, spying on Americans without a warrant, and escalating its use of drone strikes that kill many civilians. The president is promoting his top terrorism adviser, who’s deeply associated with those policies, and it’s not even a controversial appointment. The Senate should have a real debate about this policy but won’t. Greenwald noted, “the reason Obama needs a new CIA chief is because David Petraeus was forced to resign. Here we see the ethos and morality of imperial Washington: past support for torture and rendition does not disqualify one for a top national security position; only an extramarital affair can do that.”

Any comments about Obama’s cabinet appointments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley commented on Hagel’s nomination today but did not say whether he plans to vote for or against confirming him.

Apparently Brennan denies having supported torture as U.S. policy, but he is on record backing “coercive methods” of interrogation.

Future of Illinois prison near Clinton in doubt

Deals struck during the Congressional lame-duck session have scuttled for now the federal government’s plan to purchase and open the Thomson Correctional Center facility in Illinois. The high-security prison was mostly built in 2001 but never utilized for lack of state budget funds. A year ago, officials announced plans for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to purchase the facility. The plan involved the Defense Department leasing part of one building to house some detainees transferred from the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Clinton, Iowa lies just across the Mississippi River from Thomson and is the main population center for the area. Local, state and federal officials estimated that opening the prison would generate nearly a thousand jobs directly and more indirectly as workers spent money in the local economy. In late 2009, Representative Bruce Braley said his constituents supported the plan for a new prison at Thomson, while prominent Iowa Republicans stoked fears about bringing terror suspects to a maximum-security facility anywhere in the midwest.

When drafting the 2011 defense authorization bill, House members barred the use of any federal funds for a facility to house former Guantanamo detainees, pending “a thorough and comprehensive plan that outlines the merits, costs, and risks associated with utilizing such a facility.” Similar language made it into the final version of the defense authorization bill, which the House and Senate approved on December 22. The provision will prevent the Obama administration from trying some terrorism suspects in U.S. civilian courts, and was struck to secure Republican support. (By some accounts, Republicans insisted on this provision in exchange for letting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal move forward.)

Federal Bureau of Prisons officials made clear this year that they still planned to purchase the Thomson Correction Center to relieve overcrowding in the federal prison system. However, it would cost the federal government more than $200 million to purchase and renovate the facility. The 2011 federal budget omnibus bill included funding to buy the Thomson Correctional Center, but an uproar over earmarks prompted Senate Republicans to reject the omnibus bill on December 16. Consequently, the federal government is operating on a continuing spending authorization until March 2011. Republican Congressional leaders have promised big domestic spending cuts next year, and it’s not clear whether the Bureau of Prisons, which is part of the Justice Department, will have the money to purchase Thomson. When the state of Illinois attempted to auction the facility last week, neither the federal government nor anyone else placed a bid.

The stalemate surrounding federal plans for Thomson runs counter to a decades-long American tradition of bipartisan political support for prisons as economic development projects.

Illinois prison may not house Guantanamo prisoners after all

In December, the Obama administration signaled its intention to move some federal prisoners as well as detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Clinton, Iowa.

However, on May 19 the House Armed Services Committee “unanimously approved a defense bill for 2011 that bans spending money to build or modify any facility inside the United States to house Guantánamo detainees,” the New York Times reported.

At TalkLeft, Jeralyn posted an excerpt from the bill summary:

The Committee firmly believes that the construction or modification of any facility in the U.S. to detain or imprison individuals currently being held at Guantanamo must be accompanied by a thorough and comprehensive plan that outlines the merits, costs, and risks associated with utilizing such a facility. No such plan has been presented to date. The bill prohibits the use of any funds for this purpose. Additionally, the bill requires the Secretary of Defense to present Congress with a report that adequately justifies any proposal to build or modify such a facility in the future.

Last fall prominent Iowa Republicans fanned fears about terrorists in the heartland as a political weapon against President Obama and Representative Bruce Braley, who represents the Iowa counties closest to Thomson, Illinois. At the time, Braley expressed support for the plan to convert the Illinois facility, saying his constituents “have told me with a resounding voice they want these jobs to come to their area.” Some jobs will almost certainly come to the area in 2011 or 2012, because the federal government still plans to purchase and renovate the Thomson Correctional Center to use for federal prisoners, with or without detainees from Guantanamo.

Iowa Democrats Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell are among the 61 members of the House Armed Services Committee. I don’t know whether they were present at Wednesday’s meeting, where the defense authorization bill passed by a 59 to 0 vote.

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This country and the planet cannot afford to delay climate and clean energy legislation. It is that simple. Every day Washington politics puts our clean energy future on hold our economy gets weaker, our enemies get stronger, and the planet gets more polluted. It has been almost a year since the House approved comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation to create jobs, cut our oil imports in half and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens us all, and we are still waiting for the Senate to act. The time is now for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that jump-starts our economy, strengthens national security, and leads to a healthier planet.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Some Guantanamo prisoners will be moved to Illinois prison

Talking Points Memo reports,

On Tuesday, the administration will announce that the president has directed that the federal government proceed with the acquisition of the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois to house federal inmates and a limited number of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times has more details:

In addition to the detainees, several hundred federal prisoners will be moved to the Thomson facility, which was built in 2001 to house state prisoners but has instead stood nearly empty as local officials have vainly tried to fill it. […]

The prison, if the deal goes through, will be run by the federal Bureau of Prisons, according to the administration’s plan. The agency is expected to bring 1,600 to 2,000 prisoners to the Thomson facility.

Authorities will also spend some time bulking up security.

The federal Bureau of Prisons will add razor wire between the existing double fences and beef up the existing fence detection system. The Defense Department, which would lease a portion of the facility, would also erect another perimeter fence around the 146-acre complex, according to plans.

The administration has said it would exceed security at the country’s only “Supermax” prison in Colorado.

It’s not clear precisely how many foreign detainees would be brought to Thomson, though [Senator Dick] Durbin [of Illinois] has put the number at less than 100.

Get ready for more Republican scare tactics aimed at undermining Representative Bruce Braley, who represents the Clinton area, just across the Mississippi River from Thomson. I doubt the Iowa GOP will get much traction from this issue, though. The Des Moines Register’s conservative columnist, John Carlson, recently found broad support in Clinton for the plan to expand the Thomson facility.

Braley said last month that his constituents “have told me with a resounding voice they want these jobs to come to their area.”

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Guantanamo prisoners to be moved to Illinois?

The conservative blog biggovernment.com published an alleged December 10 memo from the Department of Justice to Defense Secretary Robert Gates authorizing the transfer of some prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. The center was built to be a high-security state prison but has mostly remained mothballed for lack of state funding to operate it. Elected officials in Illinois have urged the federal government to use this facility to house some of the alleged terrorist prisoners because doing so is expected to create around 3,000 jobs in the area.

Iowa Republicans have been hammering Bruce Braley (IA-01) over this proposal, because the Thomson facility is just across the river from Clinton, Iowa. However, Braley says his constituents overwhelmingly favor the plan.

I will update this post if other reports confirm the authenticity of the memo.

UPDATE: Ed Tibbetts reported for the Quad-City Times:

An administration official, responding to the memo Friday, cautioned that it is only a draft and said it is not unusual for such documents to be prepared for multiple possibilities.

“This is a draft, predecisional document that lawyers at various agencies were drafting in preparation for a potential future announcement about where to house Gitmo detainees,” the official said.

“Drafts of official documents are often prepared for any and all possibilities, regardless of whether a decision has been made about the policy or if the document will be used,” said the official, who requested not to be identified because the person was not authorized to discuss the issue.

Despite the cautions, top Illinois backers were reacting positively to the development.

“Even though the final decision has not been made, we are encouraged by this development,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement.

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Braley says constituents support plan for Illinois prison

Representative Bruce Braley has rejected Republican critics of a proposal to transfer some prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the Thomson Correctional Center, just across the Mississippi River from Clinton.

“The time for fear-mongering is over,” Braley said. “I have listened to my constituents all week, and they have told me with a resounding voice they want these jobs to come to their area.”

According to the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, the plan for Thomson “would create 840 to 910 temporary jobs and between 3,180 and 3,880 ongoing jobs over the first four years,” and local residents could fill as many as 1,400 of those jobs.

Iowa Republicans don’t appear ready to stop stoking fears about terrorists coming to a prison near you. State GOP chairman Matt Strawn’s November 20 e-mail blast slammed Braley, along with Representatives Leonard Boswell and Dave Loebsack:

On the only vote specifically related to keeping these terrorists off American soil, all three voted to welcome them with open arms. Now Iowans face the prospect of them being housed minutes from our state.

Iowa’s Republican members of Congress, U.S. Reps. Tom Latham and Steve King both voted in support of the legislation keeping terrorist detainees out of the U.S. […]

Additionally, Congressman Latham this week introduced the ‘Keep Terrorists out of the Midwest Act” following the news that the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., has emerged as a leading option for prosecution and incarceration.

I gather that Republicans are confident this is a winning issue for them, but is there any evidence that Iowans are afraid to have prisoners moved to a maximum-security facility on the other side of the Mississippi? John Carlson, the Des Moines Register’s conservative columnist, went to Clinton last week and found broad support for the plan.  

I’d like to hear from Bleeding Heartland readers who live in the area. Will Republicans score political points with this controversy, or will their efforts backfire in eastern Iowa counties that stand to gain jobs from Thomson’s expansion?

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Republican hypocrisy watch: terrorist prisoner edition

Congressional Republicans were fine with the Bush administration’s decision to prosecute the “20th 9/11 hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui in U.S. federal court.

Republicans didn’t hit the panic button when would-be “shoe bomber” Richard Reid was tried in federal court.

Numerous international terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda are already in U.S. prisons. In May, Fred Kaplan reported for Slate:

According to data provided by Traci L. Billingsley, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, federal facilities on American soil currently house 216 international terrorists and 139 domestic terrorists. Some of these miscreants have been locked up here since the early 1990s. None of them has escaped. At the most secure prisons, nobody has ever escaped, period.

Now that the Obama administration is planning to try some terrorism suspects in U.S. criminal courts and transfer others to U.S. prisons, GOP leaders want Americans to be very afraid. Iowa’s Republicans have jumped on the bandwagon.

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Operation Free Veterans for American Power Bus Tour to Discuss Climate Change and National Security

What a great event!
For Immediate Release: October 13, 2009
Eric Nost, Environment Iowa, 515-243-5835, enost@environmentiowa.org
Frankie Sturm, 202.216.9723, press@trumanproject.org
Christina Angelides, 617.233.5948, cangelides@nrdc.org

Operation Free Veterans for American Power Bus Tour Crosses Country to Discuss Climate Change and National Security Threats

Iowa—Military veterans are traveling across the country on a 21-state tour to talk to citizens and local community leaders about the dangers of climate change and its threat to national security.  The tour will make stops in Iowa on Thursday, October 15th.

The tour is sponsored by Operation Free, a coalition of veterans and national security groups working together to raise public awareness about national security threats posed by climate change and the importance of building a clean energy economy that is not tied to fossil fuels. 

Operation Free and its members are encouraging Congress to pass energy legislation that cuts carbon pollution, develops clean energy incentives, and puts America in control of its energy future.

For more information about the tour, visit the Operation Free Veterans for American Power Bus Tour website (http://www.operationfree.net/on-the-bus/).


Veterans will host a press conference and meet and greet with local veterans and citizens in the following cities:

Des Moines 
WHEN:     Thursday, October 15, 12:30 PM
WHERE:     Fort Des Moines Museum, 75 E Army Post Rd, Des Moines, IA

Iowa City
WHEN:     Thursday, October 15, 4:00 PM
WHERE:     VFW Post 3949, 609 Highway 6 E, Iowa City, IA

WHEN:     Thursday, October 15, 6:30 PM
WHERE:     Dylan Fountain, Main St and West River Drive, Davenport, IA


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Obama campaign holding national security forums on Monday

I’ll put up my weekly calendar of events sometime tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure to post these event announcements quickly:

Des Moines, Iowa – On Monday, September 15th, former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig and Sarah Sewall, Faculty Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, will visit Iowa on behalf of the Obama campaign.  Danzig and Sewall will hold national security forums in Grinnell, Marshalltown and Cedar Falls to discuss Senator Obama’s plans to move America in a new direction and make our country safer.

The details of the events are:


12:30 PM CDT

National Security Forum with Richard Danzig and Sarah Sewall

Grinnell College, Joe Rosenfield Center – Room 209B, 1115 8th Ave in Grinnell

3:15 PM CDT

National Security Forum with Richard Danzig and Sarah Sewall

Iowa Veterans Home – Malloy Hall Bird Lounge

1301 Summit Street in Marshalltown

5:30 PM CDT

National Security Forum with Richard Danzig and Sarah Sewall

University of Northern Iowa, Maucker Student Union – Elm Room, 113 Mauker Union in Cedar Falls

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Greenwald to speak on education and national security

Democratic candidate for Congress Becky Greenwald, who is challenging Tom Latham in Iowa’s fourth district, is holding public events around central and northern Iowa today and tomorrow as part of her “Enough is Enough” tour.

Today’s events will focus on education and student loans. Greenwald will speak at Simpson College, Iowa State University and the Des Moines Area Community College’s Boone campus. Event details:

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Indianola, IA

Simpson College

Camp Lounge

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Ames, IA

Iowa State University

Memorial Union Room 3538

2229 Lincoln Way

4:30 PM – 5:30 PM

Boone, IA

DMACC Boone Campus

Room 160

1125 Hancock Drive

On Thursday, September 11, Greenwald will talk about national security and veterans’ issues in the following locations:

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Fort Dodge, IA

Bloomers on Central

900 Central Ave # 10

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Belmond, IA

Leinbach Center

116 Luick’s Lane North

6:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Mason City, IA

Borealis Coffee

316 N Federal Ave

Please post a comment or a diary if you go see Greenwald make the case for replacing Latham, whom her campaign has termed “Iowa’s Low-Yielding Congressman”:

“I am running for Congress because we need an independent thinker in Washington who will get to work to make a difference for Iowans,” said Becky Greenwald. “For too long, Tom Latham has been a wingman for George Bush and blames Congress, the same place he has been for 14 years, for getting nothing done for Iowans. Enough is enough. I will go to Washington, roll up my sleeves, and work across the aisle to get things done for the people of the 4th District.”

Exposing Latham’s loyalty to George Bush and the failed Republican agenda is crucial to this campaign. Latham is not as outspoken as Congressman Steve King, but he has been an even more loyal foot soldier for Bush and the GOP leadership.  

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