There is a tremendous amount of blog traffic this afternoon regarding Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on communications between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) and the Department of Defense concerning aircraft requests. Here’s a wrap-up for you. (Video below)
I’m going to preface my comments with some thoughts. Moving the third in line to the Oval Office command of the United States has a certain level of responsibility and risk. The House speaker can not easily travel on commercial aircraft with security concerns. That said, I do not think it would be impossible for her to travel on commercial flights. I’m certain she can quietly be assigned seats on commercial flights and be completely safe.
A good question to ask how Dennis Hastert traveled after Sept. 11. With security concerns in mind, Hastert was provided access to a small commuter jet, but his “commute” was only to Illinois and the aircraft seated a dozen passengers. Previous speakers traveled pretty much exclusively on commercial flights.
So, has Pelosi’s office gotten a bit elitist concerning aircraft selection and availability? You be the judge. Here are some highlights from Judicial Watch. Links to PDF scans of e-mail communications are available.
- In response to a series of requests for military aircraft, one Defense Department official wrote, “Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi’s team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend?…[T]here’s no need to block every weekend ‘just in case’…” The email also notes that Pelosi’s office had, “a history of canceling many of their past requests.”
- One DOD official complained about the “hidden costs” associated with the speaker’s last minute changes and cancellations. “We have…folks prepping the jets and crews driving in (not a short drive for some), cooking meals and preflighting the jets etc.”
- The documents include a discussion of House Ethics rules and Defense Department policies as they apply to the speaker’s requests for staff, spouses and extended family to accompany her on military aircraft. In May 2008, for example, Pelosi requested that her husband join her on a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) into Iraq. The DOD explained to Pelosi that the agency has a written policy prohibiting spouses from joining CODEL’s into combat zones.
- Documents obtained from the U.S. Army include correspondence from Speaker Pelosi’s office requesting an Army escort and three military planes to transport Pelosi and other members of Congress to Cleveland, Ohio, for the funeral services of the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Pelosi noted in her letter of August 22, 2008, that such a request, labeled “Operation Tribute” was an “exception to standard policy.”
- The documents also detail correspondence from intermediaries for Speaker Pelosi issuing demands for certain aircraft and expressing outrage when requested military planes were not available. “It is my understanding there are no G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable…The speaker will want to know where the planes are…” wrote Kay King, Director of the House Office of Interparliamentary Affairs. In a separate email, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, King writes, “This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset [s]peaker.”
- During another email exchange DOD staff advised Kay King that one Pelosi military aircraft request could not be met because of “crew rest requirements” and offered to help secure commercial travel. Kay King responded: “We appreciate the efforts to help the codel [sic] fly commercially but you know the problem that creates with spouses. If we can find another way to assist with military assets, we would like to do that.”
Malkin, HotAir and Fox News also have the story. DrewM over at Ace of Spades wonders if the Air Force flies her to her botox appointments. Man, those other blogs get a lot of comments. We love comments… (hint, hint…)
Malkin’s column today (March 11) is on the subject.
Documents courtesy Judicial Watch – thanks for all the hard work guys…
- Pelosi staff emails
- Pelosi staff emails
- Pelosi staff emails
- Pelosi authorization letters
- DOD FOIA response letter
- Documents regarding travel on military aircraft in the custody of the US Air Force
- US Air Force Weekly Travel Reports
- Pelosi authorization letters and CODEL participants lists from the US Army
- Pelosi authorization letters and CODEL and Tribute documents from the US Navy
Update (Jim): Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch, appeared on Your World this afternoon. I think the bigger story here is how the Democrats are using the Air Force as a chauffeur service for themselves and family.