Washington (CNN) - Senate Republicans have an internal memo from the Department of Homeland Security which they say shows the Obama administration "conspiring" and "scheming" to allow millions of illegal immigrants to stay and work in the United States
At issue is an 11-page memo prepared for the head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services entitled, "Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform." It was obtained by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, who said the intent of the memo is "...to find very secret creative ways to unilaterally circumvent the law and have a backdoor to amnesty."
The memo says, "The following options... used alone or in combination... have the potential to result in meaningful immigration reform absent legislative action."
Washington (CNN) - "If it were not for the Internet, God knows how many more people would have been killed on the streets of Tehran" after the 2009 Iranian elections, an Iranian blogger told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday.
Omid Memarian, who said he was imprisoned and tortured by the Iranian regime for his pro-democracy Internet writings, was the star witness at a hearing in which U.S. technology companies were scolded for not taking a more active role in protecting freedom of expression on the Internet.
Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Delaware, accused U.S. corporations of "aiding and abetting" repressive regimes that restrict and censor the Internet, or use the Internet to track political opponents.
"A lot of it is being done with U.S. technology and U.S. companies, " Kaufman said.
Washington (CNN) - The Department of Homeland Security has more contractors working for it than full-time employees, a situation two members of Congress said Tuesday was "unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and ranking Republican Susan Collins said they were "astounded" to learn there are more than 200,000 contractor employees at the department.
The civilian work force of Homeland Security numbers 188,000, according to an estimate provided to the senators by Homeland Security.
In a letter sent Tuesday to the agency's Secretary Janet Napolitano, Lieberman and Collins said the figure "raises the question of whether DHS itself is in charge of its programs and policies, or whether it inappropriately has ceded core decisions to contractors."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a signal that the Obama administration is changing tactics in dealing with illegal immigration, hundreds of businesses were notified Wednesday that federal authorities will be taking a closer look at their employment records to determine if they are hiring illegal aliens.
Kelly Nantel, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said businesses in every state and industry are being audited, "from agriculture-related businesses, to service businesses, to high-tech industry and everything in between." The companies were selected based on leads from ICE offices around the country.
On Wednesday, 652 audit notices were issued. By comparison, only 503 such notices were issued in all of fiscal year 2008, according to an agency statement.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama's Kenyan aunt is in the United States legally, at least for the time being, CNN has learned.
Just days before the November election it was reported that Zeituni Onyango, the half-sister of Mr. Obama's late father, was living in Boston despite a deportation order issued four years earlier when her asylum request was denied.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Very few security issues cropped up this morning, say officials. There were issues at a few checkpoints, including one at the Capitol where processing was slow.
Still, CNN staffers reported crowds of several hundred - including many angry ticketholders - who were shut out of the event at various checkpoints because officials could not clear them in time for the start of the inaugural ceremony.
Only one checkpoint to the Pennsylvania Avenue parade route has closed. They haven't yet reached capacity on the route, which can accommodate 300-350,000. Many visitors did not realize there was a two-hour gap between the swearing-in ceremony and the parade. At Pennsylvania Avenue and 7th Street, crowds are getting restless.
In the meantime, the president and vice president, along with their families and senior aides, have joined members of Congress for a private lunch in the Capitol, a relatively new tradition.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - If anything were to go seriously wrong at the inauguration of Barack Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is the man who would manage the crisis response. He is trying to make sure everything goes right.
"I don't anticipate anything disruptive. Part of my job is to hope for the best and plan for the worst," Chertoff said during a final tour of key sites around Washington. CNN exclusively accompanied Chertoff on the tour.
Chertoff said authorities are not aware of any credible threat to the inauguration.
"We are constantly scrubbing and rescrubbing intelligence to see if there is a threat that we should be concerned about. And that is going to continue, frankly, through the inauguration itself," he said. "We are literally going to be watching this every minute between now and the conclusion of events on the 20th."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Fears that terrorists might strike in an effort to influence the U.S. presidential elections never came to pass. But the nation's homeland security chief said Wednesday the country needs to remain vigilant during the presidential transition.
"Any time there's a transition there's a danger or a risk that vulnerability (to terror attacks) will increase because people become distracted. People are leaving; people are coming in - and that's a disruptive process for any organization," Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff said.
"For that reason, we need to take special pains to make sure that we are very focused on the security of this country from now - in fact, from a month ago or two months ago - through the first half, let's say, of 2009," he said.
Chertoff and others have pointed to terror attacks in Glasgow and Madrid, both of which occurred during transfers of power, as evidence that terrorists time attacks to influence elections
"This is not a statement that there's some imminent threat out there," Chertoff said. "It is a recognition of the human reality that in a changing environment, you have to be extra careful to make sure that you don't lose focus on something like homeland security."
He congratulated President-elect Barack Obama for a "masterly, well-run campaign," and Sen. John McCain, saying McCain's "entire career of public service remains an inspiration to everyone in this country."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A Secret Service source confirms that there have been contacts to arrange a meeting to discuss possible protection for Senator John McCain. The source tells CNN the contact was initiated by the McCain campaign.
Two sources, one in the campaign and one in the government, tell CNN there has been occasional contact for some time, although the presumptive Republican nominee himself has long declined a security detail. The discussions centered on issues like the potential risk of certain locations, though nothing that has ever reached the point of a specific or worrisome threat.
A sit-down meeting between McCain aides and top agency officials was scheduled to take place several weeks ago - before yesterday's congressional testimony by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan that the Arizona senator was not currently protected by an official security detail - but that discussion was postponed by the campaign.
That meeting had been scheduled to discuss a timetable for the eventual addition of protection, one that both sources now say they expect to be accelerated, and to begin in the near future (though no specific date has yet been set.) A detail is ready; candidate details teams have been training for months, and there is a McCain team ready to go on very short notice.