Monday, February 15, 2016

GSA responds to FOIA appeal, claims it has no information

GSA has responded to the appeal of their final FOIA release. This release was posted here on January 27.  The FOIA is referred to belonging to Danielle Ivory of the New York Times. This is because this FOIA, as originally assigned through my request, was to have been billed to me at $10,266 to find answers to what happened to STORIS. GSA officials do not believe that the information and circumstances surrounding the illegal sale and illegal export of STORIS are in the public interest. It was only because Ms. Ivory began collecting information related to STORIS and submitted an identical FOIA that GSA waived the outrageous fees.

The response is here:

Not surprisingly, as far as the appeal, GSA claims that it has no information related to the points that I made. Same old song and dance. Liars right to the end.

GSA officials claim they have no further information related to the source of the funding used to purchase the ship. The buyer, Mark Jurisich of U.S. Metals Recovery of San Diego, recorded online as a “used car dealer” with a suspended California business license, paid $20,000 up front to register to bid on the ship. The buyer did not have the $50,100 balance and he indicated that he was waiting for the rest of the money from “his people” and the remainder had to be paid, he said in correspondence received through FOIA, by using a foreign wire transfer. According to the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 and the Patriot Act of 2001, the sources of all foreign wire transfers of more than $10,000 have to be reported to the federal government. GSA claims it has no record of the money source, that the funds were transferred directly to the U.S. Treasury. One would think that GSA would alert the Treasury or the buyer to the situation related to the foreign money source, but that would mean following the law.

The response also indicates that GSA had no further record of any correspondence between Curt Michanzyk, the obsolete ship sales representative for MARAD and Heather Bischoff of GSA. Michanzyk sent an email on July 2, 2013 asking for details about the sale of STORIS. According to GSA, they won’t discuss details of a sale with anyone but the buyer of a vessel. 

Hate to break it to GSA, but federal law dictates that the U.S. Maritime Administration is THE agency responsible for disposal of U.S. Government vessels. But ethics don't mean anything to GSA, so why should the law?

GSA claims they have no record of how their officials knew the ship was to be scrapped as they do not require the buyer to tell them. Yet Heather Bischoff and Tonya Dillard knew that STORIS was purchased for scrapping. But GSA also states they have no records that indicate STORIS was restricted to domestic scrapping only and that there were no restrictions found that the ship was bound by the International Trade in Arms treaty. This is totally contrary to Section 3502 of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 which requires that former U.S. Government ships are to be scrapped domestically. This also flies in the face of the correspondence stream that we received that shows the buyer, Jurisich, was in discussion with the State Department because a waiver was required for the ship’s export to Mexico since she was considered a warship by the State Department. That's two federal laws right there in question, but who's counting?

A FOIA request to State was denied for expedited fulfillment and it is presumed that that agency is too busy trying to cover and hide FOIAs for the illegal activities of its staff and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to respond to my request related to STORIS. They might just follow the company line: "What difference does it make?" 

Apparently laws are for the little people to follow, not the feds. If I tried to illegally scrap a ship, EPA and the government would fine me into the ground. EPA, meanwhile, likes to flood rivers with heavy metal-contaminated mine water with no consequence to itself, so there again...

GSA’s last point claims that they do not require secure approval from owning agencies in order to accept bids lower than the set reserve. We know now that the secret reserve price for STORIS was $100K. GSA had a bid of $70,100 and Tonya Dillard of GSA sent an email the morning after the auction closed to Jeff Beach, manager of retired boats and cutters to ask if the standing bid was okay to accept from the CG’s perspective. If GSA doesn’t require permission, why did Dillard ask? Why? And where is the response? GSA is wholly dishonest. But no surprise there.

The response from GSA then lectures on where the particulars to  answer my apparently (in their mind) misguided question are found. Smoke and mirrors, distract and deny. It's the GSA way,  the government way. This is the Obama Administration, the most transparent government in history.

In short, smokescreen and lies. It’s nothing that we wouldn’t already expect from a corrupt bureaucratic agency. GSA Officials lied from Day One when Jim Loback of the STORIS Museum made contact with GSA in a good faith effort to save STORIS for posterity and preservation. GSA said one thing, did another, and cut corners everywhere possible to get rid of the ship as soon as possible with absolutely no consideration whatsoever for her history and the service and sacrifices she and her crews gave to this country.

There is no excuse for what these worthless GSA bureaucrats did, and even for them to claim “they didn’t know” in the case of the export violation, there is no excuse. This is especially true with them shutting MARAD out of the transaction. Additionally, as identified by the DOT Inspector General Report of Dec. 10, 2015, MARAD did not step in for an advisory or regulatory capacity. The process is broken and we lost STORIS as a result. 

But there is no excuse. 

“Ignorantia juris non excusat  … ignorance of law is not an excuse to a criminal charge.”

Many will agree that the people responsible SHOULD be punished. STORIS is gone, destroyed, thanks to these ignorant, arrogant bureaucrats. The GSA officials responsible for this broke the law. 

Will anything happen? Hard to say, but one can only hope. We need to speak up and be heard for STORIS.

No comments:

Post a Comment