GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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October 2, 2012

Commerce head seeks 'more info' on NOAA probe

Acting Commerce Secretary Roberta Blank has asked her staff “to gather more information regarding issues identified” in the 554-page report on 66 case studies into alleged abuse of the fishing industry by NOAA law enforcers, delivered about seven months about by Special Master Charles B. Swartwood III.

”The acting secretary will use that information to finalize her decision memorandum,” Blank’s press secretary, Marni Goldberg, said in an email to the Times last week.

Goldberg also said Blank is “completing her analysis” of the second Swartwood report, but she did not respond to questions about the nature of staff inquiry, nor did she indicate when the report would be published, or whether the public would be given the full report as written, altered only with redacted material considered non germane or private. That’s how the first Swartwood report arrived April 2011 along with a later Cabinet level apology and more than $650,000 in reparations for the most egregious victims of justice miscarried by NOAA agents and litigators.

The redactions of the first Swartwood report became controversial in a number of places, none more so than p. 129. There, nearly five consecutive lines of Swartwood’s narrative were redacted ahead of the final sentence of his paragraph in which he wrote: “I find this email to be credible evidence that money was NOAA’s motivating objective in this case.” The status of the latest report continued to draw questions Monday.”It’s important that the report be released at the earliest date possible,” said Jodi Seth, spokeswoman for Sen. John Kerry, whose brother Cameron Kerry is general counsel for the Commerce Department. “But it’s just as important that it be comprehensive. Sen. Kerry has been assured that the administration has been working hard to meet both those standards.”

”At this point, the question might be whether or not there will be a report released,” said Mayor Carolyn Kirk. “I don’t mind waiting as long as the report is ultimately released.” New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell took the issue a step farther regarding any added information the Commerce Department may include.”The routine overreaching by NOAA’s General Counsel’s Office deepened the mistrust between the government and the commercial fishing community,” Mitchell said. “The longer NOAA waits to come clean with the second Swartwood report, the more difficult it will be for NOAA to re-establish a productive dialogue with fishermen.”

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