June 30, 2014

50 VA hospital workers claim retaliation for blowing whistle on the horrors they saw

When Valerie Riviello, a nurse at a Veterans Affairs facility in New York, saw the clinic restrain a sexual assault survivor to a bed for seven consecutive hours, she released the woman.

The next day, Ms. Riviello said, she was removed from her post as senior nurse manager and given a full-time desk job that prohibited her from contact with patients. She eventually was reprimanded and is facing a 30-day unpaid suspension for releasing the woman.

Now, Ms. Riviello is one of more than 50 whistleblowers who say the Veterans Affairs Department retaliated against them for trying to do their jobs.

The complaints got backing last week from the Justice Department’s office of special counsel, which issued a stern warning for the VA to shape up.

Ms. Riviello said her reprimand for the November incident has cowed other nurses at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center in New York.

When the facility put the same female patient under restraints for 49 continuous hours in February, as a convenience to doctors who wanted to enjoy their holiday weekend, none of the nurses wanted to speak up, Ms. Riviello said.

“The nurses are afraid to complain or report anything,” she said. “They have 100 things they’ve noticed, but they’ve seen what is happening to me so they’re afraid to report anything.”

Ms. Riviello said the workplace is hostile and she thinks she is being bullied.

A Stratton VA official said the hospital takes the accusations “very seriously” and encourages all employees to report their concerns.

“VA employees have a number of venues available to them to raise issues and concerns,” said Peter Potter, director of public affairs for the facility. “The Albany Stratton VA Medical Center values all internal and external reviews as opportunities to affirm the quality of our medical care and practices and to identify opportunities for improvement.”

Ms. Riviello, a 28-year veteran of the VA health care system, disagreed. She said her unblemished record has been tarnished by the reprimand.

“I feel like I’ve been humiliated and it’s tarnished,” she said. “Sitting at a desk eight hours a day doing a project that is something to keep me away from the clinical arena, it’s too much.”

The VA has come under scrutiny after reports surfaced that the Phoenix facility was cooking its scheduling books and that some veterans had died while awaiting care. Whistleblowers at other facilities then came forward with similar reports of secret wait lists and poor scheduling, some of which have been substantiated by an internal audit.

Several subsequent reports have said the VA failed to heed the warnings of whistleblowers, who sounded alarms about waiting lists and about substandard care.

“The recent revelations from Phoenix are the latest and most serious in the years-long pattern of disclosures from VA whistleblowers and their struggle to overcome a culture of nonresponsiveness,” according to the letter from the special counsel’s office. “Too frequently, the VA has failed to use information from whistle blowers to identify and address systemic concerns that impact patient care.”

In Ms. Riviello’s case, the patient had been in restraints for seven hours when the nurse said she was no longer a threat and could have been released after two hours.

“When the patient was complaining of pain and boils, we couldn’t not take her out anymore. I called my supervisor and said we needed to take her out and give her basic care,” she said. “When they found out she had been released, they wanted to put her back in restraints, but the nurses said no.”

The February incident was similar — except no nurses stepped forward to help the woman, Ms. Riviello said, which left her in restraints throughout the holiday weekend.

Because the patient was so unpredictable, if she had to be placed in restraints again to prevent harm to herself or others, a doctor would have had to come in and evaluate her within an hour according to VA policy, Ms. Riviello said. Since doctors didn’t want to possibly be disturbed in the middle of the night during a holiday weekend, she said, they just kept the patient in restraints for an extended time.

“To put someone in restraints and to keep them in restraints for any length of time or predetermined length of time is inhumane and it is against policy,” she said. “The leadership has changed over the last three years and has taken veteran-centered care and made it more physician-driven and for the physicians’ convenience.”
The special counsel’s office declined to comment on its ongoing investigation into the VA treatment of whistleblowers.

Cheri Cannon, a partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC who is representing Ms. Riviello, said it may take awhile for the special counsel’s office to finish investigating Ms. Riviello’s case because it has at least 50 others.

June 27, 2014

42 senators urge Obama to do more to fix border crisis

A bipartisan group of 42 senators called on President Obama to use his bully pulpit to clarify U.S. immigration and deportation policies and counter misinformation encouraging children and families in Central America to risk their lives by crossing into the country and overloading border patrol facilities.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., penned the letter to Obama, and circulated it among colleagues. They said many of the children crossing the border from Central America are being lured to the United States by false advertising and human smugglers telling them they will be granted automatic “permisos” and be allowed to stay indefinitely.

“We urge you to use the resources at your disposal to personally make clear those at your disposal to personally make clear to those seeking entry to the U.S. illicitly that they will not receive special treatment when it comes to enforcing our immigration laws,” the senators wrote.

They also said the White House needs to do more to tell leaders in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to help dispel the misinformation and take action against those spreading it.

Feinstein said she supports Obama's 2012 executive action allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country and to work legally and obtain driver's licenses and other legal benefits. But she stressed that it only applies to immigrants who have been in the U.S. since 2007 and were at least 16 in 2012.

Many Republicans argue that that executive order, as well as other Obama administration immigration policies, created the current crisis at the border. U.S. border patrol agents have already apprehended 50,000 unattended minors trying to cross into the country and expect that figure to rise to 90,000 by the fall.

On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled “An Administration-Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who chairs the panel, pointed to a May intelligence report from Rio Grande Valley border officials saying 95 percent of migrants interviewed said they believe a new U.S. law would give women traveling with minors and unaccompanied minors a free pass into the U.S.

“Word has gotten out that, once encountered by Border Patrol agents and processed, thanks to this administration’s lax enforcement policies, one will likely never be removed,” Goodlatte said.

The strange-bedfellow group of senators who signed the Feinstein-Flake letter ranged from Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and John McCain, R-Ariz.

Nine Democratic senators signed it, compared to 33 Republicans.

June 26, 2014

Boehner to sue Obama for executive orders; Pelosi says speaker needs to be an ‘adult’

Speaker John A. Boehner said Wednesday that the House will vote later this year on whether to sue President Obama to try to force him to adhere more strictly to the law, in what could shape up as a major constitutional clash.

The outlines of the lawsuit were sketchy, but the move signaled the seething frustration many Republicans in Congress feel as they watch Mr. Obama issue executive orders and policies and make decisions on the environment, immigration, social issues and national security that the lawmakers say stretch his powers.

“The Constitution makes it clear that the president’s job is to faithfully execute the law and, in my view, the president has not faithfully executed the laws,” said Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

Legal analysts debated over the likely scope and potential successes of a challenge, while the White House mocked the effort.

“The fact they are considering a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the president of the United States for doing his job, I think, is the kind of step most Americans wouldn’t support,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

In a memo to fellow lawmakers, Mr. Boehner said he will ask them to vote in July on a resolution that would authorize House lawyers to file suit.

Mr. Boehner said he has not yet decided which specific executive actions would be included in the lawsuit, though the memo suggests the House suit may instead be a broad grievance.

House Republicans have accused the president of overstepping on everything from overextending environmental regulations to bombing Libya without congressional approval, and from ignoring immigration laws to making bogus recess appointments.

Simon Lazarus, senior counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center, said that until Republicans list what specifically they’ll sue over, Mr. Boehner’s push is going nowhere.

“He never once names a single act that he intends to challenge or believes is unconstitutional or illegal, so it’s impossible to give much credence to this,” Mr. Lazarus said. “It’s really quite difficult to see this as anything other than a transparent political stunt.”

Mr. Lazarus said a court would be unlikely to even take up a broad complaint and that courts typically don’t hear cases that they judge to be purely political disputes.

Congress and the executive branch regularly clash over the extent of their powers, but Mr. Obama has been more forthright than previous presidents in welcoming the chance to circumvent Congress.

When Congress has deadlocked on Mr. Obama’s priorities, he has issued executive orders or administrative policies that go at least part of the way. In one instance, after Congress wouldn’t raise the minimum wage nationwide, the president issued an order raising the wage for federal contractors.

But that’s an unlikely avenue for a challenge because if Congress wanted to stop the president, it already has tools to do so, said Louis Fisher, a scholar at the Constitution Project and former specialist on separation of powers for the Library of Congress.

“The House has plenty of its own institutional powers to control the president. That would be true with raising the minimum wages of federal contractors,” he said, since Congress could just not appropriate any money to the wage increase. “Any effort to litigate that, the court would throw it out. The court would say, ‘You have your own remedies; you don’t need us.’”

The deal that exchanged five Taliban guerrillas for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s return, however, could be a more ripe target, Mr. Fisher said, especially since both political parties have been critical of the president for not giving Congress the required 30 days notice to release prisoners from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“That to me would be action in court that has merit,” he said. “If both chambers are agreed, as with the 30 days notice, it’s a stronger case than when the two chambers are divided.”

Mr. Boehner, in his memo, said when he travels outside Washington, voters regularly ask him to stand up to Mr. Obama’s use of executive authority.

He said allowing a president to unilaterally reinterpret laws sets a dangerous precedent that shifts power from Congress and amounts to “giving the president kinglike authority.”

He demurred when asked Wednesday whether this was the first step toward impeaching Mr. Obama.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said that Mr. Boehner is only pursuing the lawsuit to look like Congress is doing something and hopes he takes the more mature approach to drop the lawsuit.

“There really needs to be an adult in the room of the Republican caucus. I hope the speaker is that adult,” she said.

Mrs. Pelosi said that instead of suing the president, Republicans should be working to pass the legislation that she says is important to the American people, including the voting rights act, immigration reform and an extension to unemployment insurance.

However, Democratic fundraisers quickly moved to take advantage of the Boehner letter in appeals to their base. The House Majority PAC called the letter “a new low” in an online solicitation for funds that also accused Mr. Boehner of “caving in to pressure from the right and suing President Obama.”


June 25, 2014

Pat Buchanan Was Right

Many of the people you now see on your television offering advice about what to do next in Iraq weren’t terribly prescient the first time around. They or their bosses thought the war likelier to last six days or six weeks than six months. They feared a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein.

“The United States overestimated the threat from Saddam Hussein in 2003,” David Frum acknowledges in 2014. “Without an active nuclear-weapons program, he was not a danger beyond his immediate vicinity. That war cost this country dearly.”

Perhaps the war pundits’ flawed track record is understandable. “Rarely do wars, once begun, work out as anticipated,” wrote Pat Buchanan on the eve of the Iraq war.

But some people anticipated more than others. Buchanan predicted the initial invasion would go well. “An Iraqi air defense, unable to shoot down a single U.S. plane in 40,000 sorties in ten years, cannot long withstand U.S. air power that can deliver 1,000 smart bombs and cruise missiles on target each day,” he observed. “And Iraqi ground forces cannot long resist Abrams tanks that can guarantee the kill of an Iraqi armored vehicle with every shell fired.”

The occupation, however, would be another story. And instead of washing in a tidal wave of liberal democracy across the region, Buchanan warned a prolonged campaign in Iraq might empower anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israel political forces.

“What would it profit America to march to Baghdad,” he asked, “only to have Cairo fall to anti-American mobs?”

After the Muslim Brotherhood interlude in Egypt, it’s no longer an open question.

Of war with Iraq, Buchanan asked, “how can Iran not be the beneficiary?” He argued, “By eliminating the counterweight to Iranian domination, we guaranteed that either we become that counterweight, or there is none.”

Concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, for which we were warned the “smoking gun” might be a “mushroom cloud,” Buchanan maintained “there is serious doubt Saddam is close to a nuclear weapon.”

If Iraq was complicit in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, Buchanan reasoned, “Saddam’s regime should be destroyed and the pounding not stop until he is dead or gone.” In the absence of such evidence, however, the United States should stay out.

For saying things many Iraq war supporters would now concede were true, Buchanan was lumped in with the “Unpatriotic Conservatives.”

Nor did Buchanan play Pollyanna on the subject of withdrawal. He called U.S. troops “the most effective, if not the only reliable, units preventing all-out sectarian civil war and defending the government, the contractors, the aid workers and the Green Zone.”

“If we draw them down, how secure will the Americans left behind, and the friends of America, be in Iraq?” Buchanan asked, later inquiring, “how will ending the surge and pulling out those troops cool, rather than unleash, the passions for killing?”

Hard to argue with much of this now.

Buchanan is popularly known as a reactionary, a culture warrior who pines for the social mores of the 1950s. (He would likely plead guilty as charged.) So how is it that he is so often ahead of the curve — or at least ahead of his critics?

Does anyone now doubt, as Buchanan was among the first conservatives to argue, that mass immigration has made the electoral map much more difficult for the Republican Party than it was in the heyday of Nixon and Reagan?

After Mitt Romney’s defeat in 2012, Real Clear Politics elections analyst Sean Trende suggested the Republican Party could potentially win again by “abandoning some of its more pro-corporate stances.”

Trende continued, “This GOP would have to be more ‘America first’ on trade, immigration and foreign policy; less pro-Wall Street and big business in its rhetoric; more Main Street/populist on economics.”

Who does that sound like?

Buchanan was also among the first conservatives to worry about the stagnant wages of working-class Americans. Among the sources of that stagnation, wrote David Frum in “The Vanishing Republican Voter,” “a great shift from a national to a planetary division of labor.”

“Less-skilled Americans now face hundreds of millions of wage competitors,” Frum continued, and “abundant low-skilled immigration hurts lower America by reducing wages.”

“I don’t think you can have a pro-middle-class conservatism while supporting an amnesty that will incentivize a flood of cheap labor into this country,” writes the Washington Free Beacon’s Matthew Continetti. “Nor do I think you can have a pro-middle-class conservatism that politely overlooks the issue of global trade and the economic and strategic and moral costs of our Most Favored Nation trading relationship with China.”

For making similar observations, Buchanan was once decried as “America’s last leftist.”

The Persian Gulf War certainly didn’t go as Buchanan predicted. George H.W. Bush went to war with a broad international coalition and stopped short of Baghdad. Buchanan was indisputably right that Desert Storm would be followed by more wars in the Middle East.

“In 1990,” Buchanan later wrote, “the U.S. had an open-and-shut case of naked aggression by Iraq that even the U.N. could recognize and our enemies could not deny.” Not so in 2003.

Some form of free-market populism is likely a preferable alternative to Wall Street Republicanism than full-scale Buchananite protectionism. One could also argue against restarting the Cold War without enlisting Vladimir Putin as an ally in the culture war.

When it comes to many of the challenges facing America since winning the Cold War, however, Buchanan was right from the beginning.


June 24, 2014

Government Releases Memo Justifying Killing US Citizens With Drones

The United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals released a secret White House memo Monday explaining the legal justification for a lethal drone strike in Yemen against U.S. citizen and al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011.

Based on facts provided by the intelligence community and Department of Defense, as an “operational leader” of an “enemy force,” al-Awlaki is not excluded from “lethal action” on the part of the military simply by virtue of being born in the U.S.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) prepared the memorandum, which stated that employing a drone strike against al-Awlaki was legally justifiable ”as part of the United States’ ongoing non-international armed conflict with al-Qaeda.”

Further justification was cited under a U.S. military force authorization granted by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

The memo states that al-Awlaki was still entitled to his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches, seizures and unfair due process while abroad, but that a ”decision-maker” such as the president could “reasonably conclude” that the terrorist leader represented a “continued” and “imminent” threat to U.S. national security.

“In addition to the nature of the threat posed by al-Awlaki’s activities, both agencies here have represented that they intend to capture rather than target al-Awlaki if feasible,” the memo reads. “Yet we also understand that an operation by either agency to capture al-Awlaki in Yemen would be infeasible at this time.”

Senators tasked with advice and consent authority over President Obama’s nomination of David Barron to the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals demanded to see the memo, which was written while Barron served as acting chief of OLC. Barron wrote numerous opinions justifying drone strikes on U.S. citizens.

“The realities of combat” validate such uses of force as ”necessary and appropriate” according to Barron, who cited the landmark Bush-era Supreme Court case Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, which ruled that U.S. citizens could be considered and detained as “enemy combatants.” However the same ruling mandated such designated detainees receive some form of due process.

“Due process analysis need not blink at those realities,” Barron wrote.

“There are few questions more important than the question of when the government has the authority to kill its own citizens,” American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said in a Business Insider report. ”This memo’s release will allow the public to better understand the scope and implications of the authority the government is claiming.”


June 23, 2014

Robocall Recruiting Dem Votes For GOP Sen. Cochran Bashes Tea Party, Claims Racism

The GOP Senate primary in Mississippi continues to intensify with the surfacing of a robocall aimed at potential voters that strongly criticizes the tea party and urges the listeners to vote against state Sen. Chris McDaniel in Tuesday’s runoff vote.
In the automated message appearing to target black Democrat voters in Mississippi, the female voice on the line claims that tea party challenger Chris McDaniel would lead to more obstruction in Washington and create more “disrespectful treatment” to the nation’s first African-American president.
“The time has come to take a stand and say NO to the tea party,” the message says. “NO to their obstruction. NO to their disrespectful treatment of the first African-American president.”
The robocall goes on to urge listeners to go to the next polls Tuesday and vote against McDaniel. The only option in voting against McDaniel is to vote for incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran as they will be the only two names on the ballot.
“If we do nothing, tea party candidate Chris McDaniel wins and causes even more problems for President Obama,” the message continues. “With your help we can stop this. Please commit to voting against tea party candidate Chris McDaniel next Tuesday and say NO to the tea party!”
Some experts have argued that it is technically illegal for voters affiliated with an opposing party to vote in another party’s primary in Mississippi.
The Cochran campaign is denying that they have any connection with the robocall and declared it to be a “stunt” coming from allies of McDaniel.
“It’s an obvious, transparent stunt by McDaniel and his allies,” Jordan Russell, a spokesman for Cochran, told The Daily Caller Sunday.
The McDaniel campaign is claiming otherwise.
“It is clear that Mississippi Republicans have rejected Thad Cochran’s liberal voting record and it’s sad to see Thad Cochran resort to courting Democrats simply to hold onto power,” McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch told TheDC.
This isn’t the first allegation that there are efforts to get out Democratic votes for Cochran in Tuesday’s vote.
This is only the latest incident in controversy surrounding efforts to get out Democratic votes for Cochran in the runoff that includes a black preacher — who is a strong supporter of the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat — actively trying to get members of his community to vote for the sitting senator.


June 20, 2014

Darrell Issa Calls On White House Attorney to Testify On IRS Email Scandal

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa requested the testimony of White House Counsel’s Office lawyer Jennifer O’Connor at next Tuesday’s hearing on the IRS lost emails scandal.

Issa wrote a letter to O’Connor, who worked at the IRS in the first months of its conservative targeting scandal in 2013 and was promoted to the White House earlier this year, asking her to appear alongside IRS commissioner John Koskinen at Tuesday’s Oversight hearing. Issa made clear that he thinks O’Connor “knew or should have known” that ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails were missing.

The IRS claimed that it lost 24,000 of Lerner’s emails to and from other Obama administration agencies and the White House from 2009 to 2011, in addition to emails from six other IRS staffers. The emails are expected to be able to shed light on the IRS conservative targeting scandal that has plagued the Obama administration for more than a year.

“From May 2013 until November 2013, you served in a career position at the IRS as the Counselor to the Commissioner, with the primary task of ‘navigat[ing] the scandal over [the IRS’s] reviews of conservative organizations,’” Issa wrote.

“In this position, you had a direct and substantial role in the IRS’ response to congressional requests for documents, including documents sent or received by Ms. Lerner,” Issa wrote. “In fact, IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, when asked who was supervising the collection of, ‘documents relating to the committee’s requests for material,’ responded ‘Tom Kane and Jennifer [O’Connor] are the two I would identify as the key supervisors.’”

“Given your prominent role in supervising the IRS’s document review and production processes, you likely knew or should have known that the IRS was missing a portion of e-mails sent or received by Ms. Lerner responsive to the Committee’s subpoena,” Issa wrote.


June 19, 2014

Darrell Issa: Records Like Lois Lerner's Emails 'Don't Just Disappear... Unless That Was the Intention'

Amid new reports claiming that Louis Lerner's emails sought by Congress pursuant to claims the IRS targeted Tea Party groups are lost forever, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa issued a blistering statement alleging that such federal records can only disappear like this through deliberate destruction.

If the IRS truly got rid of evidence in a way that violated the Federal Records Act and ensured the FBI never got a crack at recovering files from an official claiming a Fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination, this is proof their whole line about "losing" e-mails in the targeting scandal was just one more attempted deception. Old and useless binders of information are still stored and maintained on federal agency shelves; official records, like the e-mails of a prominent official, don't just disappear without a trace unless that was the intention.
Issa is responding to claims in this Politico story. The claims below are certain to give critics even more energy in their efforts to get to the bottom of the ongoing scandal. 
Ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s crashed hard drive has been recycled, making it likely the lost emails of the lightening rod in the tea party targeting controversy will never be found, according to multiple sources. 
 “We’ve been informed that the hard drive has been thrown away,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, in a brief hallway interview. 
Two additional sources told POLITICO the same late on Wednesday, citing IRS officials.

June 18, 2014

Has the Dept. of Homeland Security become America’s standing army?

“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty.”—James Madison 
“Here [in New Mexico], we are moving more toward a national police force. Homeland Security is involved with a lot of little things around town. Somebody in Washington needs to call a timeout.”—Dan Klein, retired Albuquerque Police Department sergeant
If the United States is a police state, then the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its national police force, with all the brutality, ineptitude and corruption such a role implies. In fact, although the DHS’ governmental bureaucracy may at times appear to be inept and bungling, it is ruthlessly efficient when it comes to building what the Founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

The third largest federal agency behind the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, the DHS—with its 240,000 full-time workers, $61 billion budget and sub-agencies that include the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—has been aptly dubbed a “runaway train.”

In the 12 years since it was established to “prevent terrorist attacks within the United States,” the DHS has grown from a post-9/11 knee-jerk reaction to a leviathan with tentacles in every aspect of American life. With good reason, a bipartisan bill to provide greater oversight and accountability into the DHS’ purchasing process has been making its way through Congress.

A better plan would be to abolish the DHS altogether. In making the case for shutting down the de facto national police agency, analyst Charles Kenny offers the following six reasons: one, the agency lacks leadership; two, terrorism is far less of a threat than it is made out to be; three, the FBI has actually stopped more alleged terrorist attacks than DHS; four, the agency wastes exorbitant amounts of money with little to show for it; five, “An overweight DHS gets a free pass to infringe civil liberties without a shred of economic justification”; and six, the agency is just plain bloated.

To Kenny’s list, I will add the following: The menace of a national police force, a.k.a. a standing army, vested with so much power cannot be overstated, nor can its danger be ignored. Indeed, as the following list shows, just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to police agencies in the form of grants.

Militarizing police and SWAT teams. The DHS routinely hands out six-figure grants to enable local municipalities to purchase military-style vehicles, as well as a veritable war chest of weaponry, ranging from tactical vests, bomb-disarming robots, assault weapons and combat uniforms. This rise in military equipment purchases funded by the DHS has, according to analysts Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz, “paralleled an apparent increase in local SWAT teams.” The end result? An explosive growth in the use of SWAT teams for otherwise routine police matters, an increased tendency on the part of police to shoot first and ask questions later, and an overall mindset within police forces that they are at war—and the citizenry are the enemy combatants.

Spying on activists, dissidents and veterans. In 2009, DHS released three infamous reports on Right-wing and Left-wing “Extremism,” and another entitled Operation Vigilant Eagle, outlining a surveillance program targeting veterans. The reports collectively and broadly define extremists as individuals and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely.” In 2013, it was revealed that DHS, the FBI, state and local law enforcement agencies, and the private sector were working together to conduct nationwide surveillance on protesters’ First Amendment activities.

Stockpiling ammunition. DHS, along with other government agencies, has been stockpiling an alarming amount of ammunition in recent years, which only adds to the discomfort of those already leery of the government. As of 2013, DHS had 260 million rounds of ammo in stock, which averages out to between 1,300 to 1,600 rounds per officer. The US Army, in contrast, has roughly 350 rounds per soldier. DHS has since requisitioned more than 1.6 billion rounds of ammo, “enough,” concludes Forbes magazine, “to sustain a hot war for 20+ years.”

Distributing license plate readers. DHS has already distributed more than $50 million in grants to enable local police agencies to acquire license plate readers, which rely on mobile cameras to photograph and identify cars, match them against a national database, and track their movements. Relying on private contractors to maintain a license plate database allows the DHS and its affiliates to access millions of records without much in the way of oversight.

Contracting to build detention camps. In 2006, DHS awarded a $385 million contract to a Halliburton subsidiary to build detention centers on American soil. Although the government and Halliburton were not forthcoming about where or when these domestic detention centers would be built, they rationalized the need for them in case of “an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs” in the event of other emergencies such as “natural disasters.” Viewed in conjunction with the NDAA provision allowing the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, it would seem the building blocks are already in place for such an eventuality.

Tracking cellphones with Stingray devices. Distributed to local police agencies as a result of grants from the DHS, these Stingray devices enable police to track individuals’ cell phones—and their owners—without a court warrant or court order. The amount of information conveyed by these devices about one’s activities, whereabouts and interactions is considerable. As one attorney explained: “Because we carry our cellphones with us virtually everywhere we go, Stingrays can paint a precise picture of where we are and who we spend time with, including our location in a lover’s house, in a psychologist’s office or at a political protest.”

Carrying out military drills and lockdowns in American cities. Each year, DHS funds military-style training drills in cities across the country. These Urban Shield exercises, elaborately staged with their own set of professionally trained Crisis Actors playing the parts of shooters, bystanders and victims, fool law enforcement officials, students, teachers, bystanders and the media into thinking it’s a real crisis.

Using the TSA as an advance guard. The TSA now searches a variety of government and private databases, including things like car registrations and employment information, in order to track travelers’ before they ever get near an airport. Other information collected includes “tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information.”

Conducting virtual strip searches with full-body scanners. Under the direction of the TSA, American travelers have been subjected to all manner of searches ranging from whole-body scanners and enhanced pat-downs at airports to bag searches in train stations. In response to public outrage over what amounted to a virtual strip search, the TSA has begun replacing the scanners with equally costly yet less detailed models. The old scanners will be used by prisons for now.

Carrying out soft target checkpoints. VIPR task forces, comprised of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers and explosive detection canine teams have laid the groundwork for the government’s effort to secure so-called “soft” targets such as malls, stadiums, bridges, etc. Some security experts predict that checkpoints and screening stations will eventually be established at all soft targets, such as department stores, restaurants, and schools. DHS’ Operation Shield, a program which seeks to check up on security protocols around the country with unannounced visits, conducted a surprise security exercise at the Social Security Administration building in Leesburg, Fla., when they subjected people who went to pick up their checks to random ID checks by federal agents armed with semi-automatic weapons.

Directing government workers to spy on Americans. Terrorism Liaison Officers are firefighters, police officers, and even corporate employees who have received training to spy on and report back to government entities on the day-to-day activities of their fellow citizens. These individuals are authorized to report “suspicious activity” which can include such innocuous activities as taking pictures with no apparent aesthetic value, making measurements and drawings, taking notes, conversing in code, espousing radical beliefs, and buying items in bulk.

Conducting widespread spying networks using fusion centers. Data collecting agencies spread throughout the country, aided by the National Security Agency, fusions centers—of which there are at least 78 scattered around the U.S.—constantly monitor our communications, collecting and cataloguing everything from our Internet activity and web searches to text messages, phone calls and emails. This data is then fed to government agencies, which are now interconnected: the CIA to the FBI, the FBI to local police. Despite a budget estimated to be somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion, these fusion centers have proven to be exercises in incompetence, often producing irrelevant, useless or inappropriate intelligence, while spending millions of dollars on “flat-screen televisions, sport utility vehicles, hidden cameras and other gadgets.”

Carrying out Constitution-free border control searches. On orders from the DHS, the government’s efforts along the border have become little more than an exercise in police state power, ranging from aggressive checkpoints to the widespread use of drone technology, often used against American citizens traveling within the country. Border patrol operations occur within 100 miles of an international crossing, putting some 200 million Americans within the bounds of aggressive border patrol searches and seizures, as well as increasingly expansive drone surveillance. With 71 checkpoints found along the southwest border of the United States alone, suspicionless search and seizures on the border are rampant. Border patrol agents, without a warrant, also search the personal electronic devices of people crossing the border.

Funding citywide surveillance cameras. As Charlie Savage reports for the Boston Globe, the DHS has funneled “millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a ‘surveillance society’ in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost.” These camera systems, installed on city streets, in parks and transit systems, operating in conjunction with sophisticated computer systems that boast intelligent video analytics, digital biometric identification, military-pedigree software for analyzing and predicting crime and facial recognition software, create a vast surveillance network that can target millions of innocent individuals.

Utilizing drones and other spybots. The DHS has been at the forefront of funding and deploying surveillance robots and drones for land, sea and air, including robots that resemble fish and tunnel-bots that can travel underground. Despite repeated concerns over the danger surveillance drones used domestically pose to Americans’ privacy rights, the DHS has continued to expand its fleet of Predator drones, which come equipped with video cameras, infrared cameras, heat sensors, and radar. DHS also loans its drones out to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies for a variety of tasks, although the agency refuses to divulge any details as to how, why and in what capacity these drones are being used by police. Incredibly, the DHS has also been handing out millions of dollars in grants to local police agencies to “accelerate the adoption” of drones in their localities.

It’s not difficult to see why the DHS has been described as a “wasteful, growing, fear-mongering beast.” If it is a beast, however, it is a beast that is accelerating our nation’s transformation into a police state through its establishment of a standing army, a.k.a. national police force.

This, too, is nothing new. Historically, as I show in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the establishment of a national police force has served as a fundamental and final building block for every totalitarian regime that has ever wreaked havoc on humanity, from Hitler’s all-too-real Nazi Germany to George Orwell’s fictional Oceania. Whether fictional or historical, however, the calling cards of these national police agencies remain the same: brutality, inhumanity, corruption, intolerance, rigidity, and bureaucracy—in other words, evil.


June 17, 2014

White House To Welcome In, Honor Illegal Immigrants

President Obama’s White House will honor illegal immigrant activists at a ceremony Tuesday.

Two activists with the group Mi Familia Vota Education Fund will be honored as “Champions of Change” at a special White House ceremony.

Fernanda Zaragoza-Gomez, 19, a Colorado Mi Familia Vota canvasser, and Steven Arteaga Rodriguez, a Texas activist with the group, are both “DREAMers” who began their activism careers after applying for and gaining Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program established by Obama to provide living and working status for undocumented young immigrants.

The activist group, which has offices in six states, works for the goal of “expanding the electorate” through “direct, sustainable citizenship, voter registration, census education, GOTV and issue organizing in key states.”

Mi Familia Vota’s board of directors includes labor leader Eliseo Medina, who said in a 2010 speech that immigration reform will create a long-term progressive “governing coalition.”

“My father was deported and I never saw him again before he died,” honored activist Zaragoza-Gomez said in a statement. “I will keep working with Mi Familia Vota to grow Latino voter participation and push for commonsense immigration reform so that one day, other families won’t have to be separated, like I was from my father.”

While the White House is teaming with law enforcement officers, no arrests are expected to be made Tuesday.

The Daily Caller previously reported that Valerie Jarrett held a handful of secret meetings with illegal immigrant activists.


June 16, 2014

GOP blasts IRS excuse for losing Lerner emails

The IRS last week sent a letter explaining how it lost some of former employee Lois G. Lerner’s emails from 2009 through 2011, including some from her communications with Democrats in Congress or with other federal agencies, drawing a stern rebuke from Republicans.

The agency blamed a computer crash for the mishap, saying it has tried to collect as many emails as possible.

But Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said it shouldn’t have taken a year for the IRS to tell Congress that it didn’t have all of Ms. Lerner’s emails.

“The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS’s response to congressional inquiries,” Mr. Camp said. “There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the Inspector General.”

Ms. Lerner ran the division that gave unwarranted scrutiny into tea party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status. She retired from the agency last year while under scrutiny for her actions.

Republicans believe her emails will show the extent of the government’s efforts to target the tea party.

Ms. Lerner herself, in some emails that were turned over to Congress, describes some of the files lost in the 2011 hard drive crash as “irreplaceable.”

The IRS said it still has been able to collect 24,000 Lerner emails from the time period in question that it has turned over or will be providing, as part of a total production of 67,000 emails that Ms. Lerner either sent or received.

It’s part of a massive effort to get to the bottom of the tea party targeting.

“The IRS has made unprecedented efforts in connection with this effort, producing more than 750,000 pages of documents to help complete the investigations. In total, the IRS’s efforts to respond to Congress have involved more than 250 IRS employees working more than 120,000 hours at a direct cost of nearly $10 million,” the agency said in a statement.

But Mr. Camp said the emails lost were “critical years” from the beginning of the targeting of conservative groups.

He said the White House must now get involved and demand other federal departments and agencies scour their records for emails to or from Ms. Lerner, since those records will not be available from the IRS.

“Frankly, these are the critical years of the targeting of conservative groups that could explain who knew what when, and what, if any, coordination there was between agencies,” Mr. Camp said. “Instead, because of this loss of documents, we are conveniently left to believe that Lois Lerner acted alone.”

The IRS said Ms. Lerner tried to have her hard drive recovered when it crashed in 2011, which was well before the tea party scandal broke and before her emails became a subject of controversy. But the technical staff was unable to recover the data, saying those sectors of the drive had gone bad.

In lieu of her hard drive, the agency went to other agency employees and had them search their files for any emails they might have been included on along with Ms. Lerner.

That’s how they managed to recover the 24,000 emails from that time period.

Still, those are only IRS emails and wouldn’t include messages solely between Ms. Lerner and those in other departments or in Congress.

In a letter Friday to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who has issued a subpoena seeking IRS documents, said more than 1 million potentially responsive documents have yet to be produced.

“At this rate, the IRS‘ response to the committee’s subpoena will drag on for years,” Mr. Issa wrote.

He gave Mr. Koskinen until Wednesday to produce all of the documents still being withheld, and said if they aren’t turned over, his committee will look at ways to enforce the subpoena.

According to the agency, employees such as Ms. Lerner have some of their “active” emails stored on the IRS centralized network. The rest they can save in their email archive on their hard drive, but those are lost if the hard drive crashes.

June 13, 2014

Rep. Steve King: Majority Leader Election Is Rigged For Establishment

Some conservative lawmakers are fuming that the short-time frame between Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s announced resignation yesterday and the election of his successor next week is unfairly “stacking the deck” for the two establishment Republicans vying to replace him.

“At a time when Republicans in Congress are fighting the Obama Administration to oppose snap elections for unions on American employers, Republican Leadership is trying to do the same in the United States House of Representatives,” Iowa Rep. Steve King said Thursday.

“This snap election has the effect of stacking the deck,” he said.

After his surprising lost in his Republican primary on Tuesday night, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor announced on Wednesday afternoon that he plans to step down as majority leader next month though will serve out the rest of his congressional term.

The GOP leadership has scheduled the elections for next Thursday.

The short turn around, King argues, gives an unfair advantage to California Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, who are both already in the GOP leadership and can quickly consolidate support. King says the quick timeframe makes it too difficult for a conservative alternative to whip up support.

This is believed to have played a role in Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling — someone conservatives were hoping would run — to announce Thursday that he will not enter the race.

With Hensarling not running, conservatives do not have an alternative to run in the election yet. Several other names have been floated, including Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

“Let’s take more time to get our heads clear and elect a staunch conservative, anti-amnesty candidate to step up and lead the majority,” King said.


June 12, 2014

Limbaugh: Cantor Lost Because ‘His Constituency Became Barack Obama And House Leadership’

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said Wednesday that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary Tuesday night because “his constituency became Barack Obama and the House leadership.”

Limbaugh claimed the Virginia Republican congressman — who had been widely expected to defeat tea party challenger Dave Brat by double digits — “forgot who his constituents are.” While Cantor and President Obama often butted heads, the Majority Leader was more sympathetic to immigration reform than many of his colleagues and may have been the White House’s best chance to push a bill through Congress.

“His constituents ceased to be the people that live in his district,” the radio host explained. “Eric Cantor became a creation of Washington, and his constituency became Barack Obama and the House leadership. That’s why he was doing what he was doing, that’s for whom he was doing what he was doing, and the people of his district finally figured it out, I think.”

“You don’t take pictures of yourself arm-in-arm with Barack Obama when the subject is immigration and expect there to be no kickback, or pushback, on that,” Limbaugh continued. “But the tone-deafness, and, I think, the willing disregard of public opinion on any number of issues, is unlike anything I’ve seen.”

The radio jock noted that it wasn’t always this way — at least with the Republican Party. “The Republicans have always been . . . distant, or not tied to that elitist, establishment existence,” Limbaugh said. “And I think that’s changed.”

“I think the pressures of that town is such — you know, the libs run it,” he noted. “They run it politically, they run it socially — which is crucial — they run it media-wise.”

“All these guys are caught up in this notion that they can’t be confrontational,” Limbaugh concluded. “That that’s going to kill them, it’s going to wipe them out. They’ve got to be agreeable, they’ve got to be bipartisan. Well look where it’s getting them!”