Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, returned from visits to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait as part of a Congressional Delegation mission (CODEL) to the Middle East this week.
The trip was an opportunity to receive first-hand updates on the fight against ISIS and radical extremist groups, meet with high-level government and military officials on the front-line of our national security, and to visit the brave men and women serving abroad as part of the US Armed Services.
In the final stop of his trip, Congressman Issa met with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Douglas A. Silliman, the Commanding General of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, Lieutenant General Paul E. Funk, and other mission leaders at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The Congressman also enjoyed breakfast and lunch with Marines from Camp Pendleton and Twenty-Nine Palms in California that are serving with the Marine Corps Embassy Security Detachment and received briefings on military operations, the diplomatic mission and efforts to stabilize Iraq.
Information on his stops in Afghanistan and Kuwait are available here and here. Photos from the trip are available the press below and a statement from the Congressman follows.
Congressman Issa said: "I'm grateful for the opportunity to see up-close the challenges our military faces and hear directly from the forces on the front lines of our fight against ISIS. We must stay vigilant as the threats from these groups continue to evolve and ensure our forces and allies in the area have all they need to succeed. Most of all, however, I was honored to spend time with the brave men and women serving from Camp Pendelton and soldiers from my district in San Diego and Orange Counties. The sacrifices they make to protect our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy every day are tremendous and deserve our heartfelt gratitude. I look forward to using the valuable insight gained from this trip as we continue advancing the policies we need to fight terror and keep our nation safe."
NOTE: “It’s nice to see at least some acknowledgment that civil forfeiture is in need of increased oversight, but the changes really don’t go far enough and the core problem still remains,” Issa said in a statement Tuesday. “Americans are still going to have their property taken from them, without due process, at record rates.”
Justice Department creates watchdog for asset forfeiture program
Washington Post | By: Sari Horwitz
October 17, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is setting up a unit in the Justice Department to oversee a policy he reinstated to help state and local police take cash and property from people suspected of a crime, even if they have not been charged.
Sessions came under fire from Democratic and Republican lawmakers when he announced the policy in July because of concerns about abuse in earlier incarnations of the asset forfeiture program. In a memo Tuesday, Sessions directed Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein to hire a director to review all aspects of the department’s policy and take action if problems arise.
“The asset forfeiture program has proven to be extremely valuable to law enforcement in our country, but it has received certain criticisms,” Sessions wrote in his memo.
Sessions this summer reversed an action by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to stop the program. Two years ago, Holder barred state and local police from using federal law to seize cash and other property without criminal charges or warrants.
Since 2008, thousands of police agencies across the country made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under the program, which allowed local and state police to make seizures and then share the proceeds with federal agencies.
The Sessions policy reauthorizes what is called federal "adoption" of assets that state and local police seize — when the alleged conduct that led to the seizures appears to violate federal law.
When Sessions announced the policy last summer, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) criticized the move, calling it "a troubling step backward." Holder said it was "another extremist action," and the American Civil Liberties Union called it "outrageous."
"It's nice to see at least some acknowledgment that civil forfeiture is in need of increased oversight, but the changes really don't go far enough and the core problem still remains," Issa said in a statement Tuesday. "Americans are still going to have their property taken from them, without due process, at record rates."
A Washington Post investigation in 2014 found that since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, state and local police had seized almost $2.5 billion from motorists and others without search warrants or indictments. Police routinely stopped drivers for minor traffic infractions, pushed them to agree to searches without warrants and then seized large amounts of cash when there was no evidence the drivers had done anything wrong, The Post’s series found.
There was little oversight on how the police spent the money, according to The Post’s investigation. Sometimes they bought luxury vehicles, high-powered firearms and armored cars.
But Rosenstein said that the Justice Department would ensure there were safeguards to prevent abuse. He told reporters in July that police departments will have to tell property owners about their rights and the status of the seizures. Police will also be required to detail the probable cause for the seizures, Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein’s new director will oversee and manage compliance of both civil and criminal asset forfeiture and “promptly review” complaints from judges, attorneys, defendants or others and “take appropriate action,” according to Sessions’s memo.
“The Asset Forfeiture Program is one of the most effective tools Congress has provided the Department of Justice to fight crime, combat cartels and other transnational criminal organizations and take the profit out of crime,” Sessions wrote. “The American people and Congress must know this program is being administered professionally, lawfully and in a manner consistent with sound public policy.”
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, continued the Congressional Delegation mission (CODEL) in the Middle East by spending the day touring various locations throughout Kuwait, visiting with military service members and receiving updates on the fight against ISIS.
During the visit, he had lunch with Marines from Camp Pendleton, California who are in Kuwait supporting efforts in Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, established and led by the U.S. with over 30 countries fighting together to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. All branches of the U.S. military support this international mission to increase regional stability.
Congressman Issa was briefed by key leaders from the U.S. Air Force, Army and Marine Corps on further military operations which continue to support and ensure success in the region.
Photos available to the media are below and a quote from Congressman Issa follows.
Upon departing Kuwait for the next stop of the CODEL, Congressman Issa released the following statement:
"As the fight against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other radical terror groups continues to evolve, having the opportunity to meet first-hand with our troops and key officials on the frontlines of these missions is absolutely crucial. It was such an honor to be able to thank the men and women in uniform who continue bravely serving our country in these volatile regions and to see the challenges they face in the fight to keep us safe. I thank everyone for the chance to share their experiences with me and I look forward to continuing to support our troops as they work to fight ISIS and defend our freedoms."
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, spent the weekend visiting with Marines from Camp Pendleton, California and soldiers stationed in Afghanistan as part of a continuing Congressional Delegation mission (CODEL) to the Middle East.
Congressman Issa was briefed on military operations in the area, the support needed to ensure success in the fight against radical terrorist organizations and our continuing efforts to train and support progress towards an independent Afghanistan.
His agenda included meetings with key government and military leaders in the region including U.S. Army General John Nicholson -- commander of US Forces Afghanistan and NATO's Resolute Support Mission in the area -- as well as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Hugo Llorens, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko, and U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Phillip Stewart among others.
Upon departing for his next stop on the trip, Congressman Issa released the following statement:
“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to sit down and share a meal with the brave men and women who shoulder the daily burden of preserving liberty and keeping our nation and its allies safe. It’s absolutely crucial to hear from our military leaders and troops on the ground about the challenges they face, the lessons they’ve learned, and the support they still need to be successful in deterring the real threats that ISIS, the Taliban, and other extremist groups pose not only to our allies but to overall stability in the region. I will keep working to ensure our troops have the tools they need to succeed. I give my heartfelt appreciation to all those serving and to those I had the chance to meet with here -- including many constituents from Camp Pendleton -- for their service and sacrifice to our nation."
As San Diego's ongoing hepatitis A outbreak continues to spread, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) today sent a letter to both the Department of Health and Human Servies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling for the agencies to provide additional funding and expertise to help local city, state, and county government officials battle the continuing outbreak.
October 13, 2017
Dear Acting Secretary Hargan and Director Fitzgerald:
I write to request immediate federal assistance to fight the ongoing, deadly hepatitis A virus outbreak in San Diego County, California.
As you are aware, the San Diego Health Department began examining a cluster of hepatitis A cases in March of this year. Since that time, the virus has continued to spread and it is now the largest hepatitis A outbreak the country has experienced in over a decade. According to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, as of October 10, more than 490 individuals have been infected, resulting in 342 hospitalizations and, tragically, the loss of 18 lives. On September 1, 2017, the San Diego County Public Health Officer declared a local public health emergency for the county, yet the virus continues to spread.
Because the virus has a long, sustainable incubation period, it can be particularly difficult to detect and halt the infection, especially amongst those in our community who are most at-risk, including the homeless, illicit drug users, and those working with these populations on a daily basis. Unfortunately, San Diego County is also grappling with one of the nation’s largest homelessness crises as the number of our homeless residents has risen to over 9,100 – the fourth highest population in the nation.
While San Diego is experiencing the overwhelming majority of current hepatitis A cases, the entire state of California is at risk. A number of counties are already seeing signs of the disease spreading in their communities. Infections of the same strain of the virus have cropped up in Orange, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles counties. In fact, health officials in Los Angeles County were forced to declare their own hepatitis A outbreak just last month. Infection from the virus may also be tied to cases as far away as Arizona.
The outbreak has brought statewide totals to three times the number of reported cases in 2015, or almost half of what was reported in the entire country. San Diego County has already vaccinated more than 54,000 at-risk people, and spent over $3 million in attempts to contain it. Yet, the problem remains and the public is fearful. Given these growing concerns, we must take steps to mitigate further infection. I urgently request additional assistance from the federal government.
We cannot wait until more communities are infected and impacted before taking action. I ask for thoughtful consideration of the health of San Diegans and our neighboring communities. I look forward to a full and complete response as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Member of Congress
The House Judiciary Committee also today approved legislation introduced by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) to protect taxpayers rights by allowing judges to transfer cases against the IRS to the correct court when a case is accidentally filed in the wrong court by mistake.
The bill -- the Protecting Access to Courts for Taxpayers Act (H.R.3996) -- ensures taxpayers do not lose their cases or miss strict filing deadlines in tax cases by default just because they accidentally filed their suit in the wrong venue. It would allow judges to move their case to the right court, as judges can with other cases.
“Taxpayers need access to justice. The current gap in taxpayer protections is inexplicable, leaving judges with no ability to transfer cases to the appropriate court of jurisdiction like judges have authority to do in almost every other type of case," said Congressman Darrell Issa. "Given tax court’s strict filing deadlines, which often are as short as 30 days, inadvertently filing in the wrong court can be detrimental to those seeking remedy since its virtually impossible for the error to be discovered in time for a taxpayer to refile in the correct venue. This is a small, but nevertheless important update that will patch this hole in our legal system to better help Americans seek justice."
For most cases that do not involve the IRS, if it is accidentally filed in the wrong court, the initial judge will simply transfer the case to the correct venue at no penalty, financial or otherwise, to the litigant. Due to an omission in current law, there is no existing authority for a federal district court judge to transfer a case to the Tax Court. As a result, district court judges currently have no choice but to dismiss incorrectly filed cases and therefore require the citizen to refile the case at additional expense.
Most importantly, however, filing deadlines to dispute IRS actions are often as short as 30 to 90 days. So if a case is incorrectly filed, it often becomes virtually impossible for the error to be discovered and allow the taxpayer the time to refile in the appropriate court before the deadline has passed. Giving judges the ability to simply transfer these cases as they can with other courts to tax court would alleviate this problem.
Today the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation introduced by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) to increase the ability of Congress to conduct oversight of the federal government. His bill – the Congressional Compliance and Enforcement Act (H.R. 4010) -- bolsters Congressional authority to enforce subpoenas issued by its Committees and Subcommittees in the course of their investigations.
“Congress has a duty to hold government accountable because the people have a right to know what they get from their government and because they deserve an efficient, effective government that works for them,” said Congressman Darrell Issa. “During my time as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, I saw first-hand how the Executive Branch would do everything in its power to avoid complying with Congressional requests for documents and information that the committee was entitled to. This bill is a long-overdue update that will give Congress better tools to conduct our Constitutional responsibilities as the chief watchdog for the American people.”
Specifically, in cases where there is lack of compliance with a duly issued Congressional subpoena, the bill would allow a committee to seek expedited court review by a three-judge panel of the district court in order to obtain enforcement, and would give committees the ability to petition for direct appeal to the Supreme Court. Moreover, the bill would statutorily require recipients to comply with congressional subpoenas and would require subpoena recipients to provide a congressional committee with a privilege log if they assert a legal privilege as a reason for withholding subpoenaed materials.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) released the following statement after the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation he introduced with Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-VA) that would extend and improve landmark legislation they passed in 2014 to reduce waste, and streamline the way the federal government purchases computer technology. The FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017 (H.R. 3243) which passed today extends three provisions of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition and Reform Act that are set to expire at the end of the year.
According to estimates from the Government Accountability Office, as much as 75% of the federal government’s $80 billion yearly information technology budget is spent on maintaining out-of-date or obsolete systems. Other reports from the government’s watchdog regularly show that many of the federal government’s IT investments frequently fail or underperform from a lack of oversight.
Issa and Connolly’s landmark federal IT reforms (FITARA) help correct these problems and reduce waste by implementing strong oversight standards, encouraging consolidation of programs within the government, requiring agencies report their progress on initiatives to consolidate and modernize data centers, creating metrics to evaluate the performance of programs, encouraging modernization, and creating a clear line of responsibility, authority, and accountability over IT investment.
“This legislation is critical to ensuring FITARA’s benefits are seen through to their fullest potential,” said Congressman Darrell Issa. “FITARA has made incredible improvements to how the federal government manages its information technology by cutting waste, saving taxpayer dollars, improving security, and bolstering accountability. Yet, as is often the case in government, it has become clear that our problem with wasteful, forgotten, or duplicative data centers is far bigger than was even imagined. When we first started looking into this problem in 2009, it was estimated the government was running only roughly 1,000 data centers. By 2015, it was uncovered it was running as many 10 times the number initially estimated. As these modernization efforts continue being implemented, we can’t miss out on potential taxpayer savings by simply allowing agencies to run out the clock until the requirements expire the end of next year.”
The legislation follows the Representatives’ “dual track” approach to extending FITARA. In addition to the stand-alone bill passed today, Congressman Issa and Congressman Connolly passed a similar amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act in July of this year.
The FITARA Enhancement Act of 2017, specifically extends the reporting requirements for data center consolidation, which is set to expire in 2018, and eliminates 2019 sunset provisions for PortfolioStat reviews (which are face-to-face reviews of an agency’s IT portfolio including potentially duplicative programs or investments that do not appear aligned with the agency’s mission) and the Information Technology (IT) Dashboard (which is a tool that allows the public and officials to track investment and performance of more than 7,000 federal IT investments).
Congressman Issa authored the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act which was signed into law in 2014.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) today met with the Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Geronimo Gutierrez, to discuss needed measures to fix the ongoing sewage spills along the Tijuana River Valley and San Diego County coastlines, and to collaborate on mutual priorities as the administration and others work to renegotiate NAFTA.
"I appreciate the time Ambassador Gutierrez took to meet with me this afternoon. It was an important opportunity to work together on the steps needed to fix the sewage flows that continue contaminating our beaches and unite on issues of shared concern as the administration engages on NAFTA. Ambassador Gutierrez expressed his shared commitment to work with us to prevent further pollution of the Tijuana River Valley, as well as his focus on strengthening the United States and Mexico's trading relationship."
"Strong trade partnerships are absolutely critical to creating economic growth and good-paying jobs for the American people. No one knows that more than us here in Southern California where in 2015 San Diego exported more than $17.4 billion worth of goods and continues to be one of the largest export markets in the entire country. I was encouraged by our conversation today and look forward to continuing our work together on these important issues."
Earlier this week, Congressman Issa met with the Mayor of Tijuana at an event in DC held by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to discuss NAFTA and work needed to clean up and prevent future sewage spills.
Congressman Issa and Congressman Vargas (D-Chula Vista) together introduced bipartisan legislation to provide the necessary funding and plan to rehabilitate the Tijuana River Valley, known as the Tijuana River Valley Comprehensive Protection and Rehabilitation Act.
Congressman Issa (R-Vista) today took part in a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, examining nuclear waste storage policy and solutions that would allow nuclear waste, like that from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), to be moved out of our communities.
At the urging of Congressman Issa, today's hearing included a local representative, the Chairman of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Community Engagement Panel -- David Victor -- as it is imperative to ensure concerns from San Onofre area residents are heard and prioritized as the House continues advancing new policy aimed at breaking the decades of gridlock over the safe storage of nuclear waste.
Highlights from Congressman Issa's portion of the hearing are below, as is a link to to footage where the entire hearing may be viewed.
Congressman Issa: "Is there anyone who disagrees that there aren't a number of places inherently safer [than San Onofre] and that it would be inherently reckless to leave them in the least safe place that one could describe: on an earthquake fault, in a populated area, between an interstate and the ocean?" [Clip here]
Mr. Victor: No. I completely agree, there are a lot of places that are a lot smarter.
Congressman Issa: "I fear that if we do not find [a solution], taxpayers will find that the fund will be evaporated [and] taxpayers will pay hundreds of billions of dollars, if we do not act now and act in a responsible way. I know for an absolute certainty taxpayers are already on the hook at this point for tens of billions of dollars over the next century, but this is a 10,000 year problem in need of a low-cost, safe solution. I thank you and the Ranking Member for holding this hearing. It's a great first step." [Clip here]
Other witnesses in the hearing included:
Mr. Anthony J. O’Donnell
Commissioner of the Maryland Public Service Commission
Chair of National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
Mr. Chuck Smith
Councilmember of Aiken County, South Carolina
on behalf of Energy Communities Alliance
Dr. Edwin Lyman
Senior Scientist, Global Security Program
Union of Concerned Scientists
Ms. Katie Tubb
Policy Analyst at the Institute for Economic Freedom
The Heritage Foundation
Congressman Issa is the lead sponsor of the Interim Consolidated Storage Act of 2017, which he's introduced to pave the path forward on removing the nuclear waste from San Onofre. Earlier in June, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2017, which included language he fought to include that would authorize interim storage to get the spent fuel removed from his district as soon as possible.
His bill - the Interim Consolidated Storage Act - is supported by groups including the City of Encinitas, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Mayors of Oceanside, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente and Seal Beach through the Concerned Coastal Communities Coalition and the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club.
2347 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Darrell Issa represents the people of California’s 49th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives, a seat he has held since 2001. The 49th District includes Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine Corps training facility in the United States, and the northern portions of San Diego County and southern Orange County. Congressman Issa and his wife Kathy live in Vista, CA. They have one son, William, and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in 2010.
As a senior in high school, Issa enlisted in the United States Army. Through his Army service, he received an ROTC scholarship and graduated with a degree in business from Sienna Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. Upon graduation, Issa was commissioned as an Army officer, and ultimately obtained the rank of captain. He completed his active-duty military service in 1980 and turned his interests to the private sector.
At the height of his career in business, Issa served as CEO of California-based Directed Electronics, a company that Issa founded and built in the mid-1990s to become the nation’s largest manufacturer of vehicle anti-theft devices, including the highly-successful Viper system. In 1994, Issa was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine, Ernst & Young and The San Diego Union Tribune. During his leadership of Directed Electronics, Issa served as chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association, an organization of 2000 companies within the consumer technology industry that hosts the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. When he stepped down as CEO to serve as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Directed Electronics employed nearly 200 people.
As a Congressman and leader in California grassroots politics, Issa has championed the cause of smart, efficient government, and has pushed legislation to balance the federal budget and promote transparency across the federal bureaucracy. In 2003, Issa was the architect behind the successful popular uprising to recall former Democratic California Governor Gray Davis.
Issa currently is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he serves as the Chairman. Previously, Issa served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Energy & Commerce Committee, and the Small Business Committee. As the holder of 37 patents himself, Issa has been vigilant about protecting the intellectual property rights of artists and other entrepreneurs to help protect America’s position at the forefront of innovation and creativity in the entertainment and technology industries. His successful efforts to fight human trafficking along the United States border has resulted in tougher laws, stiffer penalties, and more consistent enforcement. His watchful concern to guarantee that U.S. taxpayers receive the royalties they are owed from mineral interests on federal lands exposed fraud and mismanagement at the Mineral Management Service (MMS) in 2006.
In 2008, when Congress was asked to pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in the wake of an historic financial crisis, Issa stood by his instincts as a businessman and opposed giving a blank-check bailout to Wall Street – he voted against all bailouts during the financial crisis. Refusing to give up and concede to those who favored a bailout-centered response to this and future financial failures, Issa put forward a proposal to create a bipartisan commission to uncover the root causes of the financial crisis. This idea was passed into law in early 2009 and the investigation commenced in January 2010. Issa expects the results will reveal government mistakes and protect U.S. taxpayers from future runaway government intervention in the financial and housing markets.
Recognizing his success as a Congressional watchdog of taxpayer dollars, at the beginning of the 111th Congress House Republicans tapped Issa to serve as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is the main investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives charged with the protecting the interests of U.S. taxpayers and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the federal bureaucracy. In the first year of his leadership, the committee has undertaken numerous detailed investigations of the Countrywide Financial VIP Program that benefited government officials with special reduced-rate mortgage loans, the illegal use of taxpayer dollars by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the decades-old misplaced government agenda to manipulate the U.S. housing market through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that created the housing crisis, the politicization of science at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a broad investigation into the financial crisis of 2008-2009.
As a fiscal conservative committed firmly to low taxes and free markets, Issa has opposed the rise of out-of-control government spending and fought tirelessly for the responsible, transparent use of taxpayer dollars. He’s pushed to achieve more whistleblower protections for those who report waste, fraud and abuse in the federal bureaucracy. And he’s offered substantive reform initiatives to open up government so that Americans know what’s happening in Washington and can become more democratically engaged in the day-to-day oversight of their government.
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