by Bruce Thompson
On Thursday September 13, the House Natural Resources Committee took a giant step toward achieving accountability in the Department of Interior during its questioning of two functionaries who have failed to comply with subpoenas demanding documents relating to the illegal offshore drilling moratorium imposed during the Gulf Oil Spill. Neal Kemkar, a Special Assistant in the Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, and Mary Katherine Ishee, Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management, U.S. Department of the Interior, both have refused to cooperate with the committee by turning over documents in their possession.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) laid it out very clearly. Their excuse, that they were instructed by higher authority within the department to not release the subpoenaed documents to Congress, has been found to be invalid by the federal courts. Specifically, Rep. McClintock cited UNITED STATES v. TOBIN, United States District Court, District of Columbia, Criminal Division. Despite his warning, both declined to agree to comply with the subpoena. You can watch Rep. McClintock's questioning at 1:31 of the archived webcast. So the path to adding their names to that of Attorney General Eric Holder as being in contempt of Congress and pursuing criminal charges against them is clear. If they refuse to change their minds and comply, they could be potentially facing jail time.
The court's decision in United States v. Tobin states...
Upon a finding of guilty of the offense charged against the defendant the statute requires a sentence of a fine of not more than $ 1,000 nor less than $ 100, and imprisonment for not less than one month nor more than twelve months. The defendant, therefore is sentenced to a fine of $ 100 and thirty days in jail. However, because defendant has stipulated his willingness to turn over the documents to the committee in the event of a finding of guilty, the sentence will be stayed for a period of thirty days, and in the event of compliance with the subpoena, will then be suspended.
It is clear that the Republican House has lost patience with the incessant stonewalling of the Obama Administration in this matter, Operation Fast and Furious and other oversight investigations. No one believes the President's assertion that his would be the most open administration in history. They have become fed up with the unctuous spin put forth by Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA), who had the temerity to credit the President with reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. As they pointed out to him, the increased production has taken place on private lands, not under the control of the government, where production is down. And the reduction in greenhouse gases is due to the huge unemployment plaguing our economy due to the misguided policies of President Obama.
Left unknown is what the committee will find if and when it obtains the documents the President has so jealously guarded from public inspection. The question is should be believe in coincidences? The revisions to the moratorium were written during the wee hours of May 27, 2010, while BP's top kill operation was in progress. There exist many unresolved issues regarding that operation.
Why was there a 19 hour gap in the flow of information to the media? Had the President assigned that task to Rose Mary Woods?
Why did the National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen announce that "they have been able to stop the flow of hydrocarbons up the wellbore" during his appearance with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America?
Why has the government charged former BP engineer Kurt Mix with the crime of two counts obstruction of justice when he has provided to the court the full details of the text messages in dispute?
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