A Democratic senator threatened Tuesday to block approval of a Homeland Security Department nominee until he receives a secret FBI memo about terrorist suspect interrogations, a document that he’s been seeking for months.
The threat against Julie L. Myers, tapped to head the department’s bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, came amid lawmakers’ concerns that she lacked the experience to head the federal government’s second-largest investigative force.
Asked if he planned to use legislative delaying tactics against Myers' nomination, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said: “Oh, yeah. If we don’t get the documents, sure.”
At issue is a heavily edited May 2004 e-mail from FBI agents seeking guidance about questioning terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo Bay.
In February, Democratic senators began asking for an unedited version of the memo to see if it mentioned or involved Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who headed the Justice Department’s criminal division from 2001 to 2003. The Justice Department denied the request, saying the memos contain “information covered by the Privacy Act,” and had nothing to do with Chertoff.
Myers was Chertoff’s chief of staff at the time, said Levin, who also delayed Chertoff’s nomination in February for a week to protest being denied the names of people who sent and received the e-mail.
Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said Levin’s tactic holds “the safety of the American public hostage to the pursuit of a political agenda.”
The White House on Tuesday expressed support for Myers.
“Julie Myers is well-respected within the law enforcement community and highly qualified to lead the Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said White House spokeswoman Erin Healy. “We will work with the Senate to ensure her confirmation.”
Questions by senators last week about whether Myers has enough experience for the ICE post came on the heels of former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown’s resignation after widespread criticism that he had little previous emergency management experience. Myers is a former Treasury official and assistant U.S. attorney.