Homeland Security avoids subpoena by turning over documents


The department met a deadline to turn over its transition planning documents to Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee.
During an April hearing, panel Democrats threatened to subpoena the documents if the department did not turn them over by May 23.
"The committee is diligently reviewing hundreds of pages to ensure that all of our inquiries have been fully answered," House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a statement Wednesday. "For the security of our nation, we must make sure that the department's first transition is made correctly and carefully."
Thompson noted that the committee had been seeking the documents for months. Democrats want to be sure the department is working to ensure a smooth transition and deny terrorists an opportunity to exploit any uncertainty or security gaps stemming from the handover of authority. They noted that authorities in the United Kingdom thwarted attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow on the day after Prime Minister Gordon Brown took office in the summer and that bombs went off in Spain in 2004 just days before the election of a new president there.
Aides said the department turned over more than 300 documents, including a list of career civil servants at the department who will manage the transition. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., led the charge to threaten the department with a subpoena when the department's acting deputy secretary, Paul Schneider, testified at the April hearing. According to Pascrell, committee Democrats wanted contact information identifying the department officials responsible for transition planning; a list of program priorities for the next administration; a list of political appointees at the department; and itemized budgets for each agency within the department handling the transition. Aides said at the time that the committee wanted a detailed plan for how each operational agency is planning for the transition. That includes agencies such as Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration.
Aides said Wednesday they were in the initial stage of reviewing the documents, but it appeared the department submitted material that meets all of their demands. "I think for the moment we are pleased," an aide said. During April's hearing, Schneider told Democrats that the department does not have budget information pertaining to the transition. But aides said budget-related documents were submitted. Aides cautioned that they have not determined formally that the documents they have meet their demands. "They provided us with a lot of materials, but we're going to have to read through [them] to make sure that the materials they provided actually provide answers to the questions that we raised regarding transition," one aide said. "The usefulness and the extent of the information they've given us will take more looking through." Schneider said during the April hearing that the department is required by law to give Congress a full transition plan by October. One aide asserted that the October requirement does not exist.


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