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memos
April 21, 2019

An internal Department of Homeland Security memo said that top military and Homeland Security officials are considering classifying fentanyl — a highly potent synthetic opioid — as a weapon of mass destruction, CNN reports. A DHS official confirmed the authenticity of the memo.

Fentanyl is one of the painkillers that has contributed significantly to the opioid epidemic plaguing the United States. It was behind 30,000 of the 72,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017. It has reportedly concerned national security officials for decades because of its potential widespread lethality in terror attacks. Andy Weber, the former assistant secretary of defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs, told CNN fentanyl would be "disturbingly easy" to weaponize through the air and water systems.

U.S. officials first noted the danger of a fentanyl attack when the Russian military utilized it in 2002 by pumping it into the ventilation system of a theater in Moscow that had been taken over by Chechen rebels, CNN reports. The action killed dozens inside the theater. Officials from DHS and the Pentagon have reportedly met in recent months to discuss designating the drug a WMD; such a designation would allegedly disrupt its availability on the black market. Tim O'Donnell

April 19, 2018

On Thursday, the Justice Department sent Congress redacted, unclassified memos written by former FBI Director James Comey detailing private conversations he had with President Trump. The Republican chairmen of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Government Reform committees had requested and threatened to issue a subpoena for the memos.

The Associated Press almost immediately obtained copies of the memos, which don't reveal much that hasn't already been told by Comey in either his congressional testimony last year or his new book, A Higher Loyalty. In a letter to the chairmen, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd said that the Justice Department has concluded that releasing the memos will not "adversely impact any ongoing investigation or other confidentiality interests of the executive branch."

In one memo, Comey said Trump confided he had major concerns about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's judgment, and a few days later, then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked if Flynn's communications were being monitored under a secret surveillance warrant. In another, Comey wrote that Trump said he was told by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country has "some of the most beautiful hookers in the world."

Late Thursday, the three chairmen released a joint statement that criticizes Comey and claims his memos show that Trump "wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated." Catherine Garcia

September 7, 2016

FBI Director James Comey defended the bureau's release on Friday of documents from the Hillary Clinton email probe, saying in a memo to employees that "those suggesting that we are 'political' or part of some 'fix' either don't know us, or they are full of baloney (and maybe some of both)," CNN reports.

CNN says the memo was sent Wednesday, and makes it clear that Comey stands behind how the bureau has handled the Clinton investigation. "At the end of the day, the case itself was not a cliffhanger; despite all the chest-beating by people no longer in government, there really wasn't a prosecutable case," he wrote. Sources told CNN that during a recent routine trip to a field office, Comey encountered former agents critical of the FBI's decision not to recommend charges against Clinton, and Comey gave a similar response.

Another critic is House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said in a radio interview Tuesday that the Friday email release was "such a patently political move. It makes them look like political operators versus law enforcement officers." Comey noted in the memo that he "almost ordered the material held until Tuesday because I knew we would take all kinds of grief for releasing it before a holiday weekend, but my judgment was that we had promised transparency and it would be game-playing to withhold it from the public just to avoid folks saying stuff about us. We don't play games. So we released it Friday. We are continuing to process more material and will release batches of documents as they are ready, no matter the day of the week." Catherine Garcia

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