Is it possible to get arrested 396 times?
A Chicago woman has done it.
Shermain Miles accepted a plea deal Monday after pleading guilty to charges she attacked a city alderman. She also pleaded guilty to trespassing and public drinking in separate cases.
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A judge sentenced her to time served in all three cases because Ms. Miles agreed to undergo a mental-health evaluation and get follow-up treatment, the Associated Press reports.
“All of us are reaching out to you and offering you, maybe for the first time in your life, a hand, OK?” Judge Peggy Chiampas told Miles, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “But you’ve got to reach out and grab all of our hands as well.”
Miles thanked the judge and told her “I’m not that person.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that: "Since 1978, Chicago Police alone have arrested Miles 396 time ... under at least 83 different aliases. Those arrests include 92 times for theft, 65 for disorderly conduct, 59 for prostitution-related crimes and five for robbery or attempted robbery."
Miles is homeless and has been in the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Ill., since December, according to the Associated Press. She had been released in April 2011 after serving three years for an armed robbery conviction. But multiple arrests while on parole prompted her return to prison.
In the majority of those cases, Miles is arrested, released and never convicted, according to the Sun-Times. The Cook County state’s attorney’s office counts 73 convictions in all.
“We also need her to come to court,” Fabio Valentini, chief of Cook County’s Criminal Prosecutions Bureau told the Sun-Times. “You can see that in a great many cases, she fails to appear in court.”
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The New Jersey police officer who allegedly shot a man to death in an act of road rage has been charged with second degree murder and manslaughter by Maryland authorities.
Joseph Walker, an officer in the Hudson County, N.J., prosecutor’s office is being held on a $1 million bond, according to Maryland State Police, for allegedly shooting Joseph Harvey, Jr. on an on-ramp to Route 3, twenty miles south of Baltimore on Saturday.
The motive for the altercation remains unknown. Walker, an off-duty officer, was in a minivan with his wife and three children, according to Maryland State Police spokeswoman Elena Russo. The two vehicles came to a stop on the on-ramp and Harvey allegedly exited his vehicle and walked toward Walker before being shot.
Troopers say they were told that the two vehicles were involved in a road rage incident before they pulled over and the shooting took place.
“Certainly, this appears this is some sort of aggressive behavior gone bad,” Ms. Russo said in an interview with CBS New York.
Road rage has ranked as a top concern of American drivers over the past decade, according to several studies.
In a 2009 survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Security, nearly 9 in 10 respondents said they believed aggressive drivers were a “somewhat” or “very serious” threat to their personal safety.
In 2005, a telephone survey by ABC News and The Washington Post found that out of a list of threats that “most endanger your own safety on the road,” 32 percent of respondents said aggressive drivers. This was the same number of responses as for drunk drivers.
While road rage attracts more attention, the AAA and other organizations actually distinguish between road rage, which is a criminal offense, and aggressive driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road rage must include the intent to cause physical harm.
Analysts say aggressive driving, which includes speeding, tailgating, and running red lights, is the more common problem and can lead to road rage or other traffic related fatalities.
“The murders are very sensational and it’s very important, but aggressive driving more broadly is a key safety issue,” says Bruce Hamilton of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Security.
Mr. Hamilton points out that even as Americans worry about road rage and aggressive drivers, most drivers engage in potentially aggressive behaviors. In 2009, a survey by his foundation found that nearly half of people admitted to speeding more than 15 mph over the limit on major highways in the previous 30 days.
The last time the AAA specifically measured road rage, in the mid-1990s, they found that more than 10,000 road rage incidents committed over seven years resulted in at least 218 murders and another 12,610 injury cases. When drivers explained why they became violent, the reasons were often trivial, according to the AAA: “She wouldn’t let me pass,” “They kept tailgating me.” One driver accused of attempted murder said, “He practically ran me off the road – what was I supposed to do?”
Hamilton says the New Jersey police officer arrest is a good reminder to be an alert driver: “I think it’s a good reminder that we’re all human. When we’re behind the wheel it doesn’t matter who we are or what our job is we all need to be responsible and respectful.”
New Jersey actually has some of the strictest road rage laws in the country. Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill last August that could land aggressive drivers in prison for up to five years if their behavior behind the wheel causes a serious injury.
“It does not permit you to act out every one of your childish tantrums while behind the wheel of a vehicle,” Governor Christie said at the time.
According to CBS Philadelphia, Christie said then that road rage seems to be a bigger problem in New Jersey than elsewhere – "perhaps because it’s a densely populated state where roads are often crowded and residents are known for having a bit of an attitude," they posited.
CBS reports that Christie said he’s been in the path of road rage, too: He told reporters that one woman was so upset that she wasn’t allowed to drive between the two vehicles in the governor’s motorcade that she threw things at the governor’s vehicle.
The US State Department may have covered up illegal and inappropriate behavior concerning sex and drugs, according to a report by CBS News citing a draft memo from the department’s inspector general’s office.
An internal memo obtained by John Miller of CBS News said there were eight examples where an investigation of misconduct was influenced, manipulated, or called off, the network reported on the "CBS This Morning” broadcast.
Misconduct cited in the memo, the network said, included allegations that a State Department security official engaged in sexual assaults on foreign nationals hired in Beirut, that members of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s security detail engaged prostitutes while on official trips abroad, and that an underground drug ring operated in near the US embassy in Baghdad and provided State Department contractors with drugs.
In its report, CBS quoted the State Department as saying it would “not comment about specific allegations of misconduct, internal investigations, or personnel matters. Not all allegations are substantiated.” The statement continued: “It goes without saying that the Department does not condone interference with investigations by any of its employees.”
The charges come as the department continues to be under fire from congressional Republicans concerning the drafting of talking points about a September 2012 attack on a US diplomatic post in Benhgazi, Libya, that claimed the life of four people, including the American ambassador. Critics believe the talking points, delivered on Sunday talk shows by UN Ambassador Susan Rice, were modified for political reasons.
The conservative website Human Events was quick to link the CBS report and the Benghazi controversy. "The spirit of Benghazi went far beyond the lies and obfuscations pumped out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her top people, according CBS News, which has 'uncovered documents that show the State Department may have covered up allegations of illegal and inappropriate behavior within their ranks,' " the site said.
Mr. Miller, who previously was an assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, interviewed Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator with the State Department’s inspector general’s office. Ms. Fedenisn, who worked in the State Department for 26 years, said the IG uncovered various cases of wrong doing “some of which never became cases.” She added, “we were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went was very disturbing.”
In one case CBS cited, State Department investigators from the Diplomatic Security Service were told to stop investigating the behavior of a US ambassador who was suspected of meeting with prostitutes in a public park. Fedenisn said it was likely that hostile intelligence services were aware of such alleged activities and that they presented “a serious risk to the United States government.” The ambassador was summoned to Washington but was allowed to return to his post.
CBS said that two hours after contacting the State Department about Fedenisn’s charges that “investigators from the State Department’s Inspector General showed up at her door.”
That triggered this response from Human Events. “The State Department might have been lax about investigating and exposing these nefarious activities, but it springs into action with the speed and ferocity of a panther when it’s time to pounce on a whistleblower.”
It is not clear how much political impact the CBS report will have. The story of the alleged State Department misdeeds will have to compete with wall-to-wall coverage of recently revealed government surveillance programs.
“Our current attention span makes it unlikely that the State Department's alleged misdeeds will be front page news, but the story certainly has plenty of rather attention-grabbing details,” Slate observed. “Perhaps the most troubling part of the report isn't the alleged misconduct itself but the possibility of the subsequent attempts to keep it under wraps.”
Details about John Zawahri, the body-armor clad man who Santa Monica police say killed four people in a shooting spree Friday, are scant. But so far, early reports agree that those who knew Mr. Zawahri believed he was a troubled young man.
Mr. Zawahri had been hospitalized for treatment several years ago after allegedly talking about harming someone, a law enforcement source told CNN on Saturday. The source said Zawahri suffered mental-health issues.
A close friend of the family, who worked with Zawahri's mother, said "John had a fascination with guns. We were all worried about it," according to a Los Angeles Times report.
And one neighbor of Zawahri and his mother, who lived together, told the Times that the mother is "a lovely woman. Petite, sweet, quiet, brunette, and classy – with a crazy kid."
The accounts offer an echo of Newtown, Conn., where a single mother apparently struggled to keep a "crazy kid" in line. There, the mother was the first victim, killed before Adam Lanza went on a his shooting spree, killing 20 first-graders and six staff at Sandy Hook Elementary.
In Santa Monica, Calif., the 23-year-old Zawahri killed his father and brother before fatally shooting three other people on the campus of Santa Monica College, stocked with an arsenal of bullets, a handgun, and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, police say. Zawahri was ultimately killed by law enforcement on the campus. Zawahri's mother, Randa Abdou, is reportedly on a one-month vacation in Lebanon.
In the debate over gun control, discussion quickly turns to demagoguery. But Santa Monica, in particular, could stand as evidence of how hard it is to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, even when laws are in place.
In Newtown, Mr. Lanza apparently had ready access to the stockpile of weapons owned by his mother, a gun enthusiast. But there are no reports yet that Ms. Abdou had the AR-15 allegedly used in the massacre Saturday. The Times quotes the Zawahri family friend as saying: "Everyone is wondering where he got the money for the weapons."
Newtown resulted in a flurry of laws nationwide aimed at making it harder for the mentally ill to buy guns. In fact, though the package of nine gun-control bills introduced in the US Senate this spring was ultimately revoked, the aspect that dealt with mental health was one of the two bills that passed. Even the National Rifle Association backed the bill.
“This is a place where people can come together,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) of Michigan told The New York Times in April, speaking of the mental-health bill. “As we’ve listened to people on all sides of the gun debate, they’ve all talked about the fact that we need to address mental-health treatment. And that’s what this does.”
New Jersey and Florida also strengthened regulations regarding gun control and the mentally ill. Last month, the California Senate passed a bill that would establish a 10-year ban on buying weapons for anyone who violated court-ordered mental-health treatment.
Even now, before that bill has passed the Assembly, California has strict guidelines in place regarding gun control and mental illness. Regulations include a prohibition against anyone owning or buying a firearm who "has been adjudicated to be a danger to others as a result of a mental disorder or mental illness."
While the details of Zawahri's case are not yet known and could take the case in a different direction, Friday's massacre clearly does not hit California unawares. In passing the recent bill, California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D) said: "We all can recite the horrific acts that have occurred in our country over the last year. These bills attempt to respond to those well-publicized tragedies and many more that go unpublicized."
For mental-health professionals, the danger is in going too far and stigmatizing the mentally ill as dangerously violent, which is not true in the vast majority of cases, they say.
"There are mental illness diagnoses that do increase your risk of violence," Josh Horwitz, executive director of the gun control group Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told US News & World Report. "But identifying which [diagnoses] those are and who those people are is going to be difficult."
Search-and-rescue efforts continue Thursday at the site of a Philadelphia building that collapsed during demolition Wednesday, killing six and injuring 14, as new eyewitness reports emerge that call into question whether the demolition was being done properly.
Authorities have not officially ended the search but have identified all those reported to be missing after spending much of the night combing through bricks and rubble with buckets and their bare hands.
"We're going to keep searching until we're absolutely sure no one else is there," Philadelphia battalion fire chief Charles Lupre said shortly before dawn.
The cause of the sudden collapse, which occurred at 22nd and Market streets in Philadelphia's busy Center City district, is under investigation, according to city officials.
Nearby construction workers were widely quoted in the media as questioning the safety of the demolition site for weeks before the event, but there are no reports that they voiced their concern to authorities.
"There are demolitions taking place on a daily basis," said Mayor Nutter. "So it's not unusual that there would be people in a store or building next to where a demolition is taking place.
Eyewitness accounts of the collapse said heavy machinery played a part in the collapse.
One witness, Dan Gillis of Cinnaminson, N.J., a construction worker on a job across the street, told Reuters that he saw a crane remove a supporting beam from the front of the building and then the wall next to the thrift store started to sway.
Jeffrey Fehnel of Philadelphia told Reuters that a backhoe hit the rear side of the building at about the same time.
"The building came down. It was like a big blast," he said.
One demolition expert, Stephen Estrin, a Florida contractor who has testified as an expert at several trials involving building collapses, questioned whether the demolition was being done by hand or with machinery.
"This is an inner-city demolition of a masonry building, which would normally be done manually because of the inherent risk — predictable if certain things are not done very slowly and very carefully — of a collapse," Mr. Estrin told the Associated Press. "One of the problems with claw work is it sets up a vibration in the walls."
There were no existing violations on the collapsed building, and the contractor, Griffin Campbell Construction of Philadelphia, had proper permits for the work being done, according to Carlton Williams of the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections.
Rescuers were buoyed late Wednesday night when they found a 61-year old woman still alive after nearly 13 hours under rubble. She was transported to a local hospital where she is listed in critical condition.
Of the other 13 people injured and taken to local hospitals, five had been released as of Wednesday afternoon, reports CNN.
Questions are also emerging about the demolition contractor, who has a record of legal and financial problems.
The Associated Press reports that records show that Mr. Campbell was charged in 2005 with dealing crack cocaine near a playground. The charges were dismissed after prosecutors misplaced evidence.
The AP report also points to other troubles. Campbell pleaded guilty in an insurance fraud case in 2009 and was acquitted of aggravated assault and related offenses in 2007. He has also filed for bankruptcy protection twice since 2010. The first bankruptcy was dismissed because he didn't follow through on a repayment plan approved by the court. A second bankruptcy petition was filed in March.
A Scarsdale, N.Y., woman living in a neighborhood of million-dollar homes has been charged with running a $3 million illegal marijuana operation in what authorities say appears to be a real-life example of the Showtime show “Weeds.”
So far, little is known about the motivation of Andrea Sanderlin, the suburban mom accused by the Drug Enforcement Administration of growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants in a Queens warehouse. But her arrest comes at a time when the business of marijuana is evolving as states consider legalizing the drug.
Despite marijuana still being illegal under federal law, a new breed of entrepreneurs is betting on marijuana as a legitimate business venture.
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A federal complaint against Ms. Sanderlin, the mother of two daughters age 3 and 13, was filed on May 20 after agents were tipped off by exceptionally high electricity bills. Special Agent David Lee of the DEA, who filed the complaint, says law-enforcement agents entered the warehouse using a search warrant and found two rooms designed to grow marijuana. He says each room had state-of-the-art lighting, irrigation, and ventilation systems.
Ms. Sanderlin pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn without bail. “She’s never been in trouble before,” her lawyer, Joel Winograd, told the New York Daily News. “It’s rare that you get a woman accused of running a grow house.”
Sanderlin’s case has drawn wide comparisons to the hit Showtime series “Weeds” in the media. In that show, actress Mary-Louise Parker’s character was a suburban mom in charge of a major marijuana-growing operation.
Sanderlin's New York home is in one of the state’s posh neighborhoods. Reality sites show property values in her area between $1.2 million and $2.4 million, reports the International Business Times.
While Sanderlin is charged with activity that is clearly illegal – growing marijuana in a state where it remains banned – the arrest points to the potential for a legitimate pot industry as America slowly loosens marijuana regulation.
Voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana in November, and 18 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Moreover, a Pew Research Center poll released in April showed 52 percent of Americans favor legalization – the first time that a majority of respondents had backed legalization since Pew began polling on the issue in 1969.
These trends have led Ivy League MBAs and former Wall Street executives to conclude that there is legal money to be made in pot – now and in the future.
Two Yale MBA graduates profiled in USA Today in April started Pioneer Holdings, a Seattle private-equity fund that buys up smaller marijuana-related businesses. ArcView, an angel-investor network, specializes in connecting investors with cannibis-related businesses. And Mobile apps such as Leafly draw 2.3 million monthly visitors to review more than 500 strains of cannibis.
Is pot a growth industry? Harvard University professor Jeffrey Miron, an economist who studies marijuana policy, says that, for now, the illegal side of the industry is still where the big money is.
“To the extent that there's money to be made, a lot of it is already being made'' by illegal operations, Miron told USA Today. "The notion that there will be new wealth is exaggerated.''
But legalization is shifting the industry. In May, National Public Radio spoke to one marijuana dealer, given the name “Chuck,” who moved from California to New York after the legalization of medical marijuana caused a flood of competition.
Since moving to New York, Chuck claims he’s quadrupled his income.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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The tornado that ripped through El Reno, Okla., on Friday was the widest tornado ever recorded and had winds that hit nearly 300 miles per hour, close to the highest wind speed ever measured, the National Weather Service reported Tuesday.
The record-setting twister was 2.6 miles wide at its maximum and carved a 16.2 mile path across mostly rural land west of Oklahoma City. It tops the previous record-holding tornado, which hit Hallam, Neb., on May 22, 2004, and was 2.5 miles wide.
For comparison, USA Today notes that Manhattan is 2.3 miles wide at its widest point.
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The National Weather Service also upgraded the tornado to its most powerful class, an EF-5 ranking, on Tuesday. The agency upgraded the ranking from an EF-3 after surveying damage from the twister. The tornado and subsequent flooding killed 18 people, including four storm chasers.
El Reno now joins the Moore, Okla., tornado as the second EF-5 to hit Oklahoma in less than two weeks, another record for the state, according to the National Weather Service’s Norman, Okla., office.
But Friday's massive tornado avoided the highly populated areas around Oklahoma City, and forecasters said that likely saved lives. When the winds were at their most powerful, no structures were nearby, said Rick Smith, chief warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service's office in Norman.
“The impacts were horrible of what happened, where it hit, and what happened to people and structures,” Mr. Smith told the Oklahoman. "But we are so fortunate that this did not impact densely populated areas. This would have been ... I don't even want to imagine what it would have been.”
El Reno is about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City and has a population of about 17,000, according to its website. Moore has more than 55,000 residents, according to 2010 census data.
Winds during Friday’s giant twister also nearly broke records.
A mobile doppler radar at the University of Oklahoma measured winds greater than 295 miles an hour at several times and locations within along the south side of the tornado, according to the Oklahoman.
Howard Bluestein, a University of Oklahoma professor, told The Washington Post that two of his graduate students clocked wind speeds as high as 296 miles per hour on their mobile doppler unit while observing the storm from the east.
The World Meteorological Organization requires direct measurements from anemometers for official wind speeds, meaning the strongest wind gust on record is officially 235 miles per hour in tropical cyclone Olive at Barrow Island, Australia, in 1996. Yet during a 1999 tornado in Moore, the team of Joshua Wurman, director of the Center for Weather Research, measured wind speeds of 301 miles per hour.
For observers of Friday’s super-tornado, the 2.6-mile path may have been difficult to identify as a tornado.
"A two and a half mile wide tornado would not look like a tornado to a lot of people," the National Weather Service’s Smith said.
On average, more than 1,000 tornadoes hit the US each year, and only one might be an EF-5, reports National Climatic Data Center.
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report
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White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the Obama administration’s commitment to transparency after an Associated Press investigation showed that some of the president’s top political appointees are using “secret” government e-mail accounts in a bid to avoid unwanted messages.
Most of the agencies the AP contacted had not replied to its questions about secret e-mail accounts three months after the news agency requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The accounts in question, which are not published on agency websites, provide an alternate way for top officials to communicate without having to sort through a mountain of spam.
The Labor Department’s initial response – later rescinded – was to ask the AP to pay more than $1 million to receive its e-mail addresses. The Health and Human Services Department initially turned over a list of 240 accounts that did not include Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s alternate, unpublished e-mail address.
Agencies that had not turned over lists of e-mail addresses include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Pentagon, and the Transportation, Treasury, Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Agriculture departments. So, the AP said, “the scope of using the secret accounts across the government remains a mystery.”
The issue is a sensitive one, given a memo President Obama issued on his first full day in the White House pledging that his administration was "committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.” The document went on to say, "we will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration."
At Tuesday’s White House briefing, Mr. Carney offered a spirited defense of the practice of officials' use of nonpublic e-mail addresses. “This is a practice consistent with prior administrations of both parties,” he said. Having alternate e-mail accounts makes "eminent sense,” the press secretary said. He told of having his e-mail made public by his predecessor, Robert Gibbs, shortly before Carney assumed his current position. "I changed it so I wouldn’t be inundated with … tons of e-mails and spam and the like.... But that is a very reasonable thing to do.”
Carney disputed the AP’s use of the “secret label” for unpublished e-mail addresses. “The issue here is are these accounts – these work accounts – secret, and the answer is no, because they are subject to FOIA requests and they are subject to congressional inquiry, just like their public addresses,” he said.
He added, “This administration has made significant strides in improving FOIA practices, compared with all of our predecessors…. [We] have disclosed more information, invoked FOIA exemptions less frequently, and answered more requests.”
The AP offered several reasons that top officials' use of alternate – or secret – e-mail addresses is problematic. The practice makes it harder to ensure that agencies are meeting their duty to turn over relevant documents in response to congressional investigations or civil lawsuits, the AP said. “Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials are trying to hide actions or decisions,” the report stated.
Court decisions on federal privacy rules have set a high bar for withholding public officials’ records.
“An e-mail address given to an individual by the government to conduct official business is not private,” Aaron Mackey, a FOIA attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Arlington, Va., told the AP.
As if to emphasize that point, the AP decided to publish Secretary Sebelius's unpublished account address, despite requests not to do so, citing her oversight of Medicare, Medicaid, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Newly appointed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Daniel Werfel said the agency has lost the public’s trust because of a “fundamental failure” by IRS management that included allowing the political targeting of conservative groups.
In his first appearance before a Congressional committee Monday, Mr. Werfel said his "primary mission is to restore” trust in the tax collection agency. Werfel, who has been in office 12 days, said he had ordered a review of a “broad spectrum of IRS operations” and had installed new leadership “at several critical levels” of the IRS. He pledged to “permanently fix” the problems he found and to be “open and transparent with the American people.”
The meeting of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee was the fourth hearing since the IRS Inspector General released a report in May. The document revealed that during the 2010 and 2012 elections groups with conservative sounding names that applied for tax exempt status were singled out for extended questioning by an IRS office in Cincinnati. At Monday’s hearing, Werfel called the conduct “inappropriate and unacceptable.”
The hearing began with members of Congress from both parties railing against IRS misconduct. Rep. Hal Rogers (R) of Kentucky, chairman of the full appropriations committee, said the IRS “has committed grave violations of the public trust” and that “we will not tolerate another political enemies list.”
Ander Crenshaw (R) of Florida, the subcommittee chair, criticized what he called “newly discovered incredible waste” in IRS spending on employee conferences and videos. The Inspector General’s office is scheduled to release a report on the conferences on Tuesday that the Associated Press says will show the IRS spent $50 million to hold 220 employee conferences between 2010 and 2012.
Among the embarrassing evidence: a video showing IRS employees dancing to the rhythm and blues song “Cupid Shuffle” at a 2010 conference. Rep. Rita Lowey (D) of New York, the ranking Democrat on the full Appropriations Committee, said reports of the spending on employee conferences left her “simply wondering what the IRS was thinking.”
The IRS scandals come at an especially sensitive time for the agency since it will play a key role in implementing the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The Obama administration is seeking a 9 percent increase in IRS funding for the federal budget year that starts in October. Representative Crenshaw said Congress would have to “think very carefully about how much money to provide the IRS.”
At Monday’s hearing, Commissioner Werfel said “the solution here is not more money.” He said “the right starting point is” finding the “optimal footprint” for agency operations and only then turning to the question of agency funding.
The political impact of the controversy has been on display. On CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R) of California said interviews with workers in the Cincinnati IRS office show the targeting of conservative groups was "a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters – and we're getting to proving it."
Representative Lowey asked IRS Inspector General J. Russell George whether there was evidence that the targeting of conservative groups was ordered by the White House. “Within the White House, no,” Mr. George replied.
Congressional scrutiny of the agency will continue. The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday featuring representatives from conservative groups that were targeted by the IRS. As ABC News’ “The Note” reports, some of those groups filed a joint lawsuit against the agency last week.
Later in the week, the Inspector General will appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to discuss his audit of IRS spending on employee gatherings.
Material from the Associated Press was used in compiling this report.
The court-martial of US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning for the largest leak of classified documents in US history will hinge on whether he aided the enemy and violated the 1917 Espionage Act – charges that some legal analysts say the Obama administration could have trouble proving.
Manning, whose trial begins Monday, is accused of passing more than 700,000 government and military documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. The polarizing figure, called a whistle-blowing hero by supporters and traitor by opponents, has been in detention since his arrest in Iraq in May 2010.
Manning faces more than 20 charges, including violating the Espionage Act and a military charge of aiding the enemy. If convicted, he could be sentenced to prison for life without parole.
In February during pretrial hearings, Manning admitted to 10 charges. He told military judge Army Col. Denise Lind he leaked the material to expose the American military's "blood lust" and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he did not believe the information would harm the United States and he wanted to start a debate on the role of the military and foreign policy.
The judge accepted his guilty plea to reduced charges for those charges, but prosecutors did not and moved forward with a court-martial.
Manning chose to have his court-martial heard by a judge instead of a jury. It is expected to run all summer. The case is the most high profile in a string of leak prosecutions by the Obama administration, which has come under criticism for its crackdown on leakers. The six prosecutions since Barack Obama took office is more than in all other presidencies combined.
The government’s decision to proceed with the two most serious charges even after Manning admitted guilt took some legal analysts by surprise.
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, told The Washington Post that Manning’s leaks were “reckless” and “a data dump.” But “he is not an enemy of the state” and putting him behind bars for life “is overreaching,” she said.
First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams told The Wall Street Journal, “His conduct in my view was neither lawful nor admirable, but the decision to persist in this prosecution seems unduly severe.”
On the other side, prosecutors have said Manning must be held accountable: “Private First Class Manning was a US analyst who we trained and trusted to use multiple intelligence systems ... and he used that training to defy our trust,” said Maj. Ashden Fein, a prosecutor in the case, in one pretrial hearing.
Manning, he said, “knowingly engaged in a six-month-long criminal enterprise of harvesting classified information” to send to WikiLeaks, “while knowing and understanding that enemies would have access to the information.”
Some former prosecutors told The Washington Post it could be difficult to prove intent to harm the US.
“A lot of times, you think something is damaging,” said Baruch Weiss, a former federal prosecutor and an expert on the Espionage Act, “and the reality proves to be otherwise.”
But Ms. Goitein said that under a ruling by Lind, prosecutors will have to prove only that Manning had “reason to believe” that the documents disclosed could be used to harm the US or aid a foreign power. They need not prove that he intended to harm the US.
“I suspect that the government can meet this burden on at least some of the counts,” Goitein told the Post.
The material that WikiLeaks began publishing in 2010 documented complaints of Iraqi detainee abuses, contained a US tally of civilian deaths in Iraq, and described weak US support for the government of Tunisia – a disclosure that Manning supporters said encouraged the popular uprising that ousted the Tunisian president in 2011 and helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring.
In pretrial hearings, Manning also acknowledged sending WikiLeaks unclassified video of a 2007 US Apache helicopter attack that killed civilians, including a Reuters photographer. An internal military investigation concluded the troops reasonably mistook the camera equipment for weapons, while WikiLeaks dubbed the video "Collateral Murder."
The release of the cables and video embarrassed the US and its allies. The Obama administration has said it threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained America's relations with other governments, but the specific amount of damage hasn't been publicly revealed and probably won't be during the trial.
Much of the evidence is classified, which means large portions of the trial are likely to be closed to reporters and the public. The judge tested alternatives to closing the courtroom, such as using code words and unclassified summaries, but she said it didn't work.
About 20 Manning supporters demonstrated Monday morning in the rain outside the visitor gate at Fort Meade in Maryland, where the court-martial is taking place. They waved signs reading "free Bradley Manning" and "protect the truth," while chanting, "What do want? Free Bradley. When do we want it? Now."
• Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.