Senator Murkowski's E-newsletter for the week of June 14, 2012

Senator Stevens' "Fatally Mismanaged" Case

Earlier this year, I introduced bi-partisan legislation (S. 2197, the Fairness in Disclosure Act of 2012) aimed at eliminating prosecutorial misconduct with regards to discovery rules. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss my bill. Although I do not sit on the Judiciary Committee, they invited me to testify and share my thoughts on this useful and needed reform. 

My bill would create a national standard of rules for prosecutors to abide by in terms of sharing information with the defense teams they are facing – where presently there are almost 100 different standards used nationwide.

I introduced this legislation after systematic concealment of evidence was done by Justice Department prosecutors during the investigation of Senator Ted Stevens in 2008.  We all remember that the abuses rose to such a level that Attorney General Eric Holder threw out the case within months of the case’s conclusion.

The conviction of Ted Stevens was truly one of the darkest moments in the Justice Department’s two hundred year history. We are no longer able to do justice to Senator Stevens. But we can, through smart reforms, make a start on ensuring that the same fate does not befall other citizens.

As of yet, I have not seen a response from the Justice Department, or any attempt to work together to address my concerns, but I hope to work with the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming months to find a way forward on this important legislation.

Murkowski Visits the Kulluk - Bound For the Arctic

On my recent return trip from Alaska back to Washington, D.C., I took a pit stop in Seattle to tour Shell’s ice class drilling vessel, the Kulluk - bound for drilling exploration of oil and natural gas in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea later this summer.

The Arctic waters off Alaska’s northern coast contain an estimated 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to the federal government. Their development is estimated to create more than 50,000 jobs nationally.

It’s inspiring to see firsthand the Kulluk up close and know that it’s on the verge of opening a new era of Arctic exploration that promises to deliver greater energy security and economic prosperity to Alaska and the nation.

The size and strength of Shell’s Arctic fleet is both impressive and reassuring. I’m confident the company is well prepared to drill in our northern waters this summer.

Eielson F-16 Aggressor Squadron Update

The much anticipated U.S. Air Force Site Activation Task Force (SATAF) report – detailing the Air Force’s reasoning for proposing to relocate Eielson Air Force Base’s F-16 Aggressor Squadron – was released late last month.

It provided little insight into the Air Force’s thinking.  If anything, it created more questions.  

Earlier this year, the Air Force claimed they were looking to save money.  However, the newly released SATAF report indicates that it will actually cost the Air Force over 5 million dollars in the first year of the move.

If the proposed transfer were to take place, adequate housing for our airmen would be essential.  In the SATAF report, the Air Force says that housing in the Anchorage area is “suitable/available” within 20 miles of JBER, but a recent report by the McDowell Group shows a housing deficit in and around Anchorage for the next 20 years.

Findings like this by the Air Force’s own task force lead me to believe that many questions still remain, and makes me even more convinced my bill S. 2073 – which prohibits a transfer of F-16 aircraft – is appropriate at this time.  With the Pentagon’s increased focus on the Asia-Pacific region, it seems unwise and counterintuitive to downsize Eielson AFB, a base in one of the most strategic locations on the globe. I will continue to work in Congress, using my position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to get the answers Alaskans deserve as the Eielson F-16 proposal is debated.

MythBusters: Wrangel Island

(Photo Courtesy of Factcheck.org)

Over the past few months, a frequently asked question when I am in the state is about the status of a number of Russian islands (shown in the map above) – including one named Wrangel Island.

(Not Wrangell Island, located in the Alexander Archipelago of Southeast Alaska).

There are questions and rumors circulating on the Internet suggesting America has given away this island and other oil-rich islands (Bennett, Henrietta, Jeannette and Herald) to Russia.  This is certainly an issue I wanted to get to the bottom of, and my research yielded some interesting facts.

The Wrangel Island that belongs to Russia – and has for years – is less than 90 miles off the Russian coast, over 300 miles off the Alaskan coast and on the Russian side of the 1990 U.S./USSR maritime boundary.

The U.S.-USSR Maritime Boundary Agreement was finalized in the early 1990s, under President George H.W. Bush, and was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1991. While the USSR collapsed after it ratified the treaty, the new Russian government has thus far honored the terms of the water-boundary treaty, and stated in one diplomatic cable dated January 13, 1992, that it “continues to perform the rights and fulfill the obligations flowing from the international agreements” signed by the Soviet Union.

None of the islands or rocks nearby were included in the U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 – they hadn’t been discovered yet.  They have never been formally claimed by the United States, although Americans certainly were involved in the discovery and exploration of some of them. Some have called for the U.S. to redefine the U.S.-ratified treaty.

However, this treaty gave the United States over 60 percent more of the resource and fishery-rich Bering Sea than the Russians received, as well as far more of the estimated oil reserves of the Chukchi Sea, while protecting U.S. control of the potential oil and gas reserves of the Navarin Basin, off Alaska’s St. Matthew Island.

I hope this information and information found on sites like factcheck.org put to rest your questions and concerns about this Internet story.

Veteran Spotlight

Over the Memorial Day Weekend, I unveiled my first “Veteran Spotlight” interview, with Alaska veteran Harold Bahr.  An Alaska Territorial Guard member from Nome, Bahr began serving during World War II, at just eleven years old.

ATG members were often men too old or boys too young to be drafted, and they volunteered to be the first line of defense for Alaska.

In his Veteran Spotlight interview, Harold recalls sitting in his uncle’s attic as a boy in Nome, hoping the Japanese planes flying overhead would get low and close enough to be in his range.  Harold continued to watch for Japanese ships and planes until 1945.

Harold’s service to the country continued in 1951 when he was old enough to enlist in the US Navy, serving on an ammunition ship during the Korean War.

Harold Bahr, ATG member and Korean War Veteran - click photo for two-minute excerpt, click here for longer segment

If you have an Alaskan veteran you think deserves to be included in my Veteran Spotlight project, email Spotlight@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.

Skagway Postal Issues - Share Your Stories

During a recent visit to Skagway, many members of the community shared their concerns and frustrations with me about their local post office operations.  As soon as I returned to Washington, D.C, I wrote a letter  to USPS Postmaster General Donahoe and presented him with the issues aired by many of the Skagwegians. 

To further inform the USPS discussions, I am opening up the conversation to all those affected – and have created an email account for Skagway residents: Skagway@Murkowski.Senate.Gov.  I have received dozens of emails already and am sharing them with U.S. Postal Service officials.  Keep them coming!


Sen. Murkowski attended the Byers Lake Memorial Day Ceremony, and shared a message of remembrance and sacrifice with all in attendance.

While in Klukwan, Sen. Murkowski toured the community’s brand new hospitality house, pictured in background.

Sen. Murkowski with Park Ranger Tim Hudson at the new dock in Gustavus.  While in Gustavus, Sen. Murkowski visited the community, and toured the Falls Creek hydroelectric project that has got the town off diesel power.

Sen. Murkowski with interns from the American Bald Eagle Foundation in Haines, and Sarah, the owl.

Sen. Murkowski received the Campaign to End Obesity’s “Breakfast of Champions” award for her consistent fight to raise and maintain nutrition standards for Alaskan school children – as well as adults statewide (award pictured above).

Members of Girl Scout Troop 329 from Healy visited Sen. Murkowski in her Washington, D.C. office.  2012 marks the 100th Year of the Girl Scouts.

During her visit to Cordova last weekend, Sen. Murkowski took a tsunami debris aerial survey of the Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound.  Pictured above, Sen. Murkowski, Adm. Ostebo (far right) and Coast Guard helicopter crew.