The Paper Trail: June 25, 2024

Boeing’s Friends Inside the DOJ; Postal Service Allows Police to Spy on Americans; States Say Meta Failing Children on Safety; and More. 

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Top stories for June 25, 2024

Analysis: Combatting discrimination in our nation’s largest employer—the federal government: Equal opportunity laws and regulations are meant to ensure workplaces are free from discrimination. But investigations by analysts at GAO and inspector general offices, as well as reported increases in discrimination at federal agencies, suggest more work is needed. (Dawn Locke, GAO WatchBlog)

Leadership crisis at Customs and Border Protection: In under two years, six current and former leaders of the nation's largest law enforcement agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, have been placed under investigation for misconduct. The public may never learn what investigators find — part of a pattern of a lack of transparency and accountability at the agency. (Katherine Hawkins, Project On Government Oversight)

U.S. prosecutors recommend Justice Dept. criminally charge Boeing: Federal prosecutors recommended to senior DOJ officials that criminal charges be brought against Boeing for violating the terms of a 2021 settlement agreement. DOJ must decide by July 7 whether to prosecute Boeing. (Chris Prentice, Mike Spector, and Allison Lampert, Reuters)

🔎 See Also: Boeing’s old friend inside Biden’s Justice Department (Katya Schwenk, Freddy Brewster, and Helen Santoro, The Lever)

Medicaid for millions in America hinges on Deloitte-run systems plagued by errors: Global consulting firm Deloitte pulls in billions of dollars from states and the federal government for supplying technology to modernize Medicaid, but their systems have generated incorrect notices to beneficiaries, sent paperwork to the wrong addresses, and been frozen for hours at a time. (Rachana Pradhan and Samantha Liss, KFF Health News)

Social Security to drop obsolete jobs used to deny disability benefits: For decades, the Social Security Administration has denied thousands of people disability benefits by claiming they could find jobs that have all but vanished from the U.S. economy: such as nut sorter, pneumatic tube operator, and microfilm processor. This week, SSA will eliminate all but a handful of those jobs from a long-outdated database used to determine benefits, but critics say the changes won’t be enough to fix a long-broken process. (Lisa Rein, Washington Post)

USPS is failing to meet the financial returns promised in DeJoy’s 10-year plan: According to a new audit, the U.S. Postal Service isn’t living up to its projected cost savings from its plan to overhaul the agency. USPS is bringing in more revenue than it anticipated, though its costs have also accelerated in a way it didn’t project. That has led to overall losses of $950 million in fiscal 2022 and $6.5 billion in fiscal 2023. (Eric Katz, Government Executive)

For millionaire and four hunters, a wild Western lawsuit over public land: It is estimated that more than 8 million public acres in 11 Western states are essentially unreachable because of a shortsighted 19th-century plan to expand the federal government’s dominion toward the Pacific. (Karin Brulliard, Washington Post)


Israel-Hamas War

Masks are going from mandated to criminalized in some states: State legislators and law enforcement are reinstating dormant laws that criminalize mask-wearing to penalize pro-Palestinian protesters who conceal their faces, raising concerns among immunocompromised Americans. (Fenit Nirappil, Washington Post)

Israel’s war in Gaza is the deadliest conflict on record for journalists: More than 100 journalists have been killed in the nine months of the war, marking it as the deadliest conflict on record for reporters. The deaths represent 10% of the journalists in Gaza. (Hoda Osman, Firas Taweel, and Farah Jallad, The Intercept)

Dobbs Aftermath

Texas abortion ban linked to 13% increase in infant and newborn deaths: Infant deaths in Texas rose by nearly 13% the year after the ban was passed. During that same period, infant deaths nationwide rose by about 2%. Babies born with congenital anomalies increased in Texas by nearly 23% but decreased by about 3% nationwide. (Kaitlin Sullivan and Jason Kane, NBC News)

Russia-Ukraine War

The U.S. says a far-right Ukrainian army unit can now get aid. A photo shows training was already happening: The Biden administration says the “Azov Brigade” is separate from the old, Nazi-linked “Azov Battalion.” The unit itself says they’re the same. A photo posted by the unit suggests the U.S. was providing support as far back as December of last year. (Prem Thakker and Sam Biddle, The Intercept)

Police Misconduct

Law enforcement is spying on thousands of Americans’ mail, records show: The U.S. Postal Service has shared information from thousands of Americans’ letters and packages with law enforcement every year for the past decade without requiring a court order. Postal Service officials have received more than 60,000 requests from federal agents and police officers since 2015, and they rarely say no. (Drew Harwell, Washington Post)

Political Misbehavior

Conservative-backed group is creating a list of federal workers it suspects could resist Trump plans: An organization run by conservative political activist and former Hill staffer Tom Jones is investigating federal employees suspected of opposing the policies of Donald Trump. With a $100,000 grant from the Heritage Foundation, the group’s goal this summer is to post the names of 100 government employees who might stand in the way of a second-term Trump agenda. (Lisa Mascaro, HuffPost)


COVID summer wave grows, especially in West, with new variant LB.1 on the rise: A summertime wave of COVID infections is arriving earlier than last year as a new variant called LB.1 could be on track to become the latest dominant strain of the virus. Key virus indicators appear to be worsening fastest across the western states. (Alexander Tin, CBS News)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

Opinion: Egregious Pentagon delays reflect problem the military is just starting to solve: Several weapons programs have fallen behind schedule, which means cascading costs for taxpayers and declining military readiness. The problem stems from choosing systems that are too complicated and costly to maintain and relying on just a handful of prime contractors. (Washington Post)

Biden threatens veto of House GOP defense spending bill: GOP leaders are pushing to pass the annual defense appropriations bill this week, but they won’t be able to count on Democratic support due to provisions targeting abortion, climate change, LGBTQ rights, and diversity and inclusion. (Connor O’Brien, Politico)

Pentagon background-check systems at risk of hacking, GAO says: The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, the DOD agency that vets federal employees, hasn’t worked hard enough to protect its IT systems and the sensitive personnel data they store, according to the GAO. (Lauren C. Williams, Defense One)

No cleanup in sight for Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station polluted with “forever chemicals”: Six years after the government learned that the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station was one of the worst PFAS-polluted military sites in the nation, it still has no cleanup plans. (Mackenzie Shuman,

Business and Finance

How America’s “most powerful lobby” is stifling efforts to reform oil well cleanup in state after state: As regulators and legislators seek to require oil and gas drillers to set aside more money for cleanup work, they have invited the companies and trade groups to help write the regulations. This dynamic has combined with secretive drafting processes and millions of dollars of industry lobbying to weaken or kill proposals in state after state. (Mark Olalde, ProPublica)

Selling a mirage: The delusion of “advanced” plastic recycling: A new method of recycling being heralded by the industry won’t curb the crisis of plastic waste pollution. (Lisa Song, ProPublica)

Only 1 in 5 workers nearing retirement are financially on track: “It will come down to hard choices”: The median savings of today’s 55-year-olds is just $50,000 — far from enough to fund a secure old age. (Aimee Picchi, CBS News)


How Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta failed children on safety, states say: More than a dozen lawsuits filed by state attorneys general accuse Meta of unfairly ensnaring children on Instagram and Facebook while deceiving the public about the hazards, including children being sexually solicited, harassed, bullied, body-shamed, and induced into compulsive online use. (Natasha Singer, New York Times)


Extreme heat is turning electricity cutoffs into new political battle for power companies: As the global rise in temperatures hits records, advocates say more must be done to protect people from having their utilities disconnected. Often, existing legislation isn’t enough. (Kevin Williams, CNBC)

The federal government just acknowledged the harm its dams have caused tribes. Here’s what it left out: The Biden administration released a report last week acknowledging “the historic, ongoing, and cumulative damage and injustices” that Columbia River dam construction caused Northwest tribal nations. What it didn’t mention was that the injuries to the tribes were not only taken into account at the time but were seen as a good thing. (Tony Schick, ProPublica)

Health Care

Active shooters targeting the public spiked from 2019 to 2023 compared to prior 5-year period, FBI report says: The report, which examined just a portion of the broader incidents of gun violence nationwide, reveals a consistent trend in which shootings targeting members of the public remain historically high. (Robert Legare, CBS News)

🔎 See Also: U.S. surgeon general declares firearm violence a public health crisis (Sabrina Malhi and Lizette Ortega, Washington Post)

Top FDA official overrules staff to approve gene therapy that failed trial: The FDA last week announced expanded approval for a gene therapy to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy — despite the fact that it failed a Phase III clinical trial last year and that the approval came over the objections of three of FDA’s own expert review teams and two of its directors. (Beth Mole, Ars Technica)

Young gay Latinos see a rising share of new HIV cases, leading to a call for targeted funding: Overall, estimated new HIV infection rates have declined 23% from 2012 to 2022. But the rate hasn’t fallen for Latinos as much as it has for other racial and ethnic groups. Public health officials say they either don’t have specific plans to address HIV in this population or that plans are still in the works. (Vanessa G. Sánchez, Devna Bose, and Phillip Reese, Associated Press)


Other News:

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, cuts plea deal to avoid U.S. prison

Fueled by climate change, extreme wildfires have doubled in 20 years

Courts block parts of Biden student loan repayment plan

Unlikely wild animals are being smuggled into U.S. ports: corals

Family whose roof was damaged by space debris files claims against NASA

Upcoming Events

📌 Housing Oversight: Testimony of the HUD and FHFA Inspectors General. House Committee on Financial Services; Housing and Insurance Subcommittee. Wednesday, June 26, 10:00 a.m., 2128 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 WEBINAR: Dollars and Demographics: How Census Data Shape Federal Funding Distribution. Project On Government Oversight and Census Counts. Wednesday, June 26, 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. EDT.

📌 Security at Stake: An Examination of DOD’s Struggling Background Check System. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability; Subcommittee on Government Operations and the Federal Workforce. Wednesday, June 26, 2:00 p.m., 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

📌 Persistent Challenges: Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. House Committee on Homeland Security; Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence. Wednesday, June 26, 2:00 p.m., 310 Cannon House Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 GAO - Priority Open Recommendations: Office of the Director of National Intelligence