Thursday’s vote came just as the U.S. Army’s top prosecutor for sexual assault cases was suspended for alleged sexual assault. Lt. Col. Joseph Morse is accused of groping and trying to kiss a colleague at a legal conference on sexual assault in 2012. Morse is the latest in a series of Army officials involved in sexual assault oversight accused of committing some of the very same crimes they’re tasked with punishing. Meanwhile, an Army general accused of sexual assault has pleaded guilty to three lesser charges. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair has admitted to adultery, asking junior female officers for nude photos and possessing pornography while deployed in Afghanistan. Sinclair will continue to fight assault charges and says he wants to face his accuser in court.
A second probe has been confirmed in the dispute between the CIA and a Senate panel over a report on the agency’s torture and rendition program. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee say CIA officials illegally monitored their staffers’ work as they compiled the panel’s exhaustive report on CIA torture. The report has yet to be released but reportedly documents extensive abuses and a cover-up by CIA officials to Congress. The CIA inspector general is already investigating whether agency officials monitored computers that Senate aides used while conducting research at CIA headquarters. Now the FBI has launched a probe of the Senate staffers for potentially removing classified material from the CIA during their investigation. The documents in question reportedly included an internal CIA review that sided with the Senate’s finding that the CIA committed widespread torture while yielding little in valuable intelligence.
President Obama is facing increasing calls to stop his record deportations of undocumented immigrants. Obama granted a reprieve in 2012 to undocumented youths who came to the U.S. as young children, but critics want that extended to their parents and all those who would be spared under the proposed immigration reform Obama has endorsed. In statements this week, three Democratic senators who helped draft the bipartisan immigration reform bill — Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Chuck Schumer of New York — have called on Obama to stop the deportations. Speaking at the group’s annual gala, the head of the National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguía, called Obama the nation’s “deporter-in-chief.”
Janet Murguía: “For us, this president has been the deporter-in-chief. Any day now, any day now, this administration will reach the two million mark for deportations. It’s a staggering number that far outstrips any of his predecessors and leaves behind it a wake of devastation for families across America. … The president says his administration does not have the authority to act on its own. All we hear is no—no from Congress, no from the administration. But here’s the thing: We won’t take no for an answer.”
Responding at a town hall event on Thursday, Obama called himself the “champion-in-chief” of comprehensive immigration reform and repeated his claim to have done all he can within the confines of the law. House Republicans have all but ruled out an immigration reform vote until after the mid-term elections. Obama also came under criticism from immigration advocates this week over priorities in his 2015 budget. The request seeks funding for speedier deportations, expanding immigration courts, and the controversial “Secure Communities” program involving local law enforcement in deportations. In a statement, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said: “The administration cannot hide its own record behind Republican extremism when it continues to propose funding for extremely cruel enforcement.”
The energy giant Duke Energy has been ordered to stop groundwater pollution at its 14 coal-fired plants in North Carolina. On Thursday, a state judge reversed a North Carolina Environmental Management Commission ruling that left Duke off the hook for immediately cleaning up contaminated groundwater. The decision comes just weeks after Duke spilled over 35 million gallons of coal ash into the Dan River, one of the worst such spills in U.S. history. A coalition of environmental groups had brought the case to challenge what they called lackluster state oversight. In a statement, the Waterkeeper Alliance said: “If the state had exercised its authority to require cleanup of those ponds previously, the catastrophic coal ash spill could have been prevented. The time to use this authority to require cleanup at other plants around the state is now, before another disaster occurs.”