January 31, 2013

As Obama Offers Immigration Plan, Report Shows Border Patrol Corruption

Turf battles, internal dysfunction and other troubles have left U.S. Customs and Border Protection grasping to get a handle on corruption and other misconduct within its ranks, according to an internal study that has been kept secret for more than a year.
Nogales Border Shooting
A U.S. Border Patrol vehicle keeps watch along the border fence in Nogales, Ariz, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (Ross Franklin/AP)
The agency, the nation’s largest federal law enforcement force with nearly 60,000 employees, has struggled to streamline its own disciplinary system, to stamp out an internal “code of silence” that protects corrupt coworkers from exposure or even to fully understand how bad the corruption problem is.
These woes and more are highlighted in a study conducted by the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute, which acts as a think tank for the Department of Homeland Security. The 80-page unclassified report, reviewed by the Center for Investigative Reporting, highlights nagging problems, some of which date back to 2002.
As the department has bolstered border security by adding thousands of new agents, expanding its Southwest border fence and deploying sophisticated surveillance technology, Mexican crime syndicates increasingly have turned to bribing agency employees and have attempted to infiltrate U.S. law enforcement ranks with their own operatives to avoid those obstacles.
Customs and Border Protection has identified at least 15 attempts of infiltration, according to the study, which did not give specific examples. That number could be much higher now as the agency, as mandated by a 2010 law, has ramped up efforts to administer polygraph exams to all new applicants.
As part of lie-detector tests, prospective hires have admitted to drug trafficking, human smuggling and other illegal activity, according to examples the agency previously provided to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
One applicant told examiners that he smuggled 230 people across the border and shuttled drug dealers around border towns so they could conduct their business. Another admitted to various crimes, including transporting $700,000 in drug money and 50 kilograms of cocaine across the Southwest border.
Since Oct. 1, 2004, 147 agency officers and agents have been charged with or convicted of corruption-related offenses, ranging from taking bribes to allowing drugs into the country to stealing government money. About a dozen of those cases came to light in 2012.
“This is a small minority of the workforce, but it represents a threat to our national security,” the authors wrote in the study.
The most recent incident involves a border patrol agent in Yuma, Ariz., who was arrested Dec. 2 when federal agents caught the staffer of two years as he loaded nearly 150 pounds of marijuana into his patrol vehicle while on duty.
The border agency has made strides to address the “persistent problem” of corruption, the report contends. In particular, the agency has used data to research and analyze potential threats and security weaknesses.
One example, dubbed Operation Side Door, examines leads and other data from applicants who have admitted to involvement with smuggling to detect possible links to current agency employees. Another, called Operation Southern Exposure, evaluates seizure data to spot potential employee misconduct.
Despite those innovations, the agency still lacks a comprehensive and coordinated approach to ferret out corruption, the study found.
The Government Accountability Office recently released its own report after a yearlong review of the border agency’s efforts to fight corruption, which came to a similar conclusion that the agency hasn’t implemented a comprehensive strategy, in addition to other concerns. But that report stopped short of looking at systemic issues that extend beyond Customs and Border Protection, which the internal study examined.
A prolonged turf battle with the department’s inspector general, which has been criticized for its own inefficiencies, has contributed to the border agency’s blind spots, the internal study found. The department’s inspector general has withheld information, neglected investigations and accumulated a backlog of investigations that at one point reached more than 1,000 corruption cases.
Charles K. Edwards, who is leading the Homeland Security inspector general’s office, testified in August during a House government reform hearing that turf battles among the agencies have subsided and his investigators could handle the nearly 1,600 cases of alleged employee misconduct open at the time.
The neglected cases and other inefficiencies have allowed employees suspected of corruption to remain in sensitive security positions or had their careers stunted before they were found not guilty, the study found.
Corruption-related cases generally have increased in recent years. Whether that is attributable to a hiring surge that in a decade has roughly doubled the size of the U.S. Border Patrol is inconclusive, the study says. According to the report, that’s because the inspector general has not shared enough information with the agency.
Susan Ginsburg, a former U.S. Treasury official and 9/11 Commission member, said it’s critical that agencies combine information and data so the Homeland Security Department and Congress have a clear picture of corruption at the border.
“It’s a pain in the neck for the department, but there are always going to be a few rotten apples in law enforcement,” Ginsburg said. “What hurts is when you’re not doing everything you can to prevent it and to weed them out.”
The inspector general’s office—which polices waste, fraud, and abuse among border agents, customs officers and the rest of the Homeland Security Department—is under investigation following allegations that agents at a Texas branch office were instructed to fabricate reports.
In what may be the first of several court cases, Wayne E. Ball, a former agent with the inspector general in McAllen, Texas, pleaded guilty Jan. 17 to a charge of conspiring to falsify records in a federal investigation, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas.
The watchdog agency’s top investigator, three of his deputies and several agents have been put on administrative leave or reassigned pending the outcome of a Justice Department-led grand jury investigation into the allegations.
The inspector general since late spring also has unloaded hundreds of corruption and employee misconduct cases to the internal affairs offices for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection to help whittle down its mounting backlog of investigations.
Part of the problem, the study concludes, is that while the inspector general’s office has the right of first refusal, it doesn’t have the agents to handle the thousands of complaints of wrongdoing. The inspector general has one agent for every 1,056 department employees. Customs and Border Protection, meanwhile, has one internal affairs agent for every 281 agency employees.
The study was commissioned in 2011 by then-Commissioner Alan Bersin and aimed to evaluate the agency’s countercorruption programs. Neither the agency nor the Homeland Security Department has made the report public since it was completed about a year ago. The Center for Investigative Reporting was allowed to view the report on the condition that its provenance be kept confidential.
In August, David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told lawmakers during a hearing on border corruption that the agency has acted on some of the study’s findings, without revealing details of the report, and made other overtures to address corruption. But it remains unclear to what extent the recommendations have been adopted.
According to the internal study, at least two things are working to root out corruption at Customs and Border Protection: polygraph tests for applicants and FBI-led task forces.
The lie detector tests have eliminated about 75 percent of applicants from consideration, including those who don’t show up for the exam.
The study also highlights the FBI-led Border Corruption Task Forces, of which there are 13 along the Southwest border, as a model for law enforcement cooperation. In the past, the inspector general has tried to block Customs and Border Protection internal affairs agents from participating on the task forces, arguing that only the inspector general has that authority.
Customs and Border Protection in recent years hired more than 200 internal affairs agents to root out corruption. But those agents frequently have been sidelined from pursuing the most serious offenses to handle disciplinary cases.
Such cases, including misuse of government property or drug abuse, on average take months to resolve because of the agency’s overtaxed disciplinary system.
While some issues are structural, others are cultural, such as the “code of silence” problem. While not unique to the agency, the “ ‘code’ presents an insidious challenge to workforce integrity, and requires explicit, targeted, and sustained attention,” the report states.
Officials over the years have tried to grapple with some of these issues, warning against the structure in place today. In 2008, then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff denied a request from W. Ralph Basham, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner from 2006 until 2009, that his internal affairs agents have the authority to investigate criminal matters involving employees.
Chertoff reasoned that corruption was tied to smuggling and trafficking, which are crimes probed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the department’s investigative arm.
Basham’s predecessor, Robert C. Bonner, in 2003 advised that without a fully functional internal affairs office, it would be impossible to rope in corruption.
“The fact that 134 (now 147) current or former (Customs and Border Protection) employees have been arrested or indicted on corruption-related charges since October 1, 2004 validates Commissioner Bonner’s concerns,” the report states.


January 30, 2013

SEIU Official Convicted of Embezzlement, Faces 180 Years

Former SEIU local president Tyrone Freeman has been convicted of embezzling from the low-wage employees he once represented. He now faces a maximum of 180 years in prison.

Freeman was considered a rising star in the SEIU. As president of Local 6434, a statewide affiliate of the SEIU representing homecare workers, Freeman represented more than 150,000 union members. Many of the employees who make up Local 6434 make just $9 an hour, but Freeman was making $200,000 a year.

Even so, Freeman apparently felt his salary was not large enough. He used his position as local president to misdirect funds, including thousands to cover expenses incurred during his wedding in Hawaii. The union was also paying some of his personal American Express bills and the monthly bill on his Land Rover.

In addition, Freeman directed more than half a million dollars in consulting fees to a firm run by his wife. She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor tax charge related to the funds last year.

The LA Times reports that some union members celebrated Freeman's conviction. Raquel Toribio, who has a son with Down syndrome which requires home care, told the paper, "I'm very happy to hear Freeman's going to pay for what he stole. It has been a long time."

The uncovering of Freeman's lavish spending began four years ago after an investigative report by the LA Times.


January 29, 2013

Benghazi/Fast and Furious: The Real Scandals Underlying Both

As college football fans know well, during big, televised games it’s often flashed on the screen that the game is being watched at U.S. military bases in 175 different countries around the world. At first glance it’s exciting to know that U.S. troops don’t have to miss out on America’s greatest sport while gallantly serving their country.

But given a second pass, the notion is somewhat disturbing. That college football is watched at U.S. military bases around the world signals that our economy-smothering problem of big government extends well beyond Obamacare, TARP, and endless Bridges to Nowhere.

Though conservatives are often loath to admit it, small and limited government is not remotely consistent with U.S. troops stationed around the world. Taking nothing away from the correct belief in peace through strength, it would be nice to hear a defender of the military status quo explain how we’re made safer through our implicit defense of some of the richest nations on earth.

After that, if a strong economy is necessary for maintaining peace through strength, how is our economy strengthened by all the money spent, not to mention human capital expended, on protecting South Korea and Japan? Conservatives properly view government spending as an economic retardant, and since it is, can they honestly say there’s not substantial waste in military expenditures? Can they with a straight face defend the reality that troops in 175 countries watched Notre Dame vs. USC?

All of this came to mind when reading about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony on Benghazi before Congress. Though it should be said up front that the Obama administration handled what happened in Libya horribly, that its YouTube video excuse for the murders was embarrassing, and that Clinton has shamefully avoided addressing the tough questions that the murders have generated, isn’t the real scandal the fact that taxpayers were footing the bill for State Department officials, military support, and a “compound” in Benghazi to begin with?

This writer had never heard of Benghazi before the murderous rioting there, yet the week that Christopher Stevens and three others were tragically killed I remember well a news scroll saying that over $200 million of taxpayer money had been spent on Libya-related activities ever since President Obama’s decision to commit troops (all without any declaration of war) meant to force Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster.

Not asked enough is how our national security was enhanced by having State and Defense officials in Benghazi, and for that matter, in Libya at all. Gadhafi was a horrible man on his best day, but can anyone honestly say with certainty that future Libyan leaders will be a big improvement? After that, it would be nice to know in what ways U.S. national security is enhanced by having troops in dangerous places like the Middle East at all. So yes, it’s scandalous how Hillary Clinton and the feckless Obama administration acted in the aftermath of the Benghazi murders, but it says here the greater scandal is that Americans representing our government were in Benghazi at all.

All of which brings us to the still bubbling “Fast and Furious” scandal. For readers who aren’t familiar with Fast and Furious, its origins very strangely begin with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) working to encourage gun shops near the border of Mexico to sell guns to shady characters.

Very oddly, the ATF encouraged arms sales to criminals in the hope that the guns would reach Mexico in order to essentially strengthen cases against Mexican drug cartels. The sales would also help the ATF identify cartel leaders and gun acquisition techniques. The guns eventually did find their way into Mexico, and one was used to kill a U.S. border agent. Today’s scandal is the inability of lawmakers to get Attorney General Eric Holder and others in the Obama administration to explain what they were thinking.

All of the above is fine as it goes, but not asked enough is why we employ agents to harass drug cartels selling marijuana and presumably other mood altering substances to U.S. consumers who desire them. Why do we care what people do privately, and is this something an allegedly deficit ridden nation should be spending taxpayer dollars on?

Yes, it’s certainly scandalous that guns walked across the border by the ATF have been turned on Americans, and it’s scandalous that Holder isn’t disclosing all that he presumably knows, but the bigger scandal in this writer’s eyes is a less than worthless drug war. Second, implicit in some of the Fast and Furious handwringing is the righteous indignation that gun sales encouraged by the feds killed an American agent. Fine, but as conservatives regularly and correctly remind us, nearly all guns bought for criminal intent are purchased on the black market.

The above is important, because assuming no Fast and Furious, it’s arguable that federal agent Brian Terry is still killed; in this case by a gun purchased illegally. Shame on Holder et al if there was a cover-up, but the bigger shame is the lie promoted by Democrats and Republicans that our federal nannies need to protect us from substances that the incompetents in government deem “illegal.” Put more plainly, absent a very wrongheaded drug war, there aren’t drug cartels for federal bureaucracies desperately seeking a purpose to chase.

About President Obama and the Obama administration, it should be stressed that he’s been a very weak president whose economic interventions turned what should have been a sharp economic recovery into a limp, lifeless one. Obama talked and talks a big game about inheriting a terrible economy, but his interventions in the same awful economy reveal a less than adequate economic mind. Had he done nothing in response to the falling economy he inherited, he’d be presiding over a boom now. In short, Obama’s meddling presidency is the scandal.

Because it is, how sad that Benghazi and Fast and Furious have so many conservatives up in arms. That they are speaks to a movement to some degree blinded by partisanship; so much so here that it misses the real scandal for the fake ones. To get back on message, conservatives must remind themselves that there’s nothing conservative about massive government spending meant to protect the world from harm, and just the same it’s not conservative to empower less than angelic politicians to police what we do privately.


January 28, 2013

The Carbon Trading Money Tree

The COP-18 environmental conference held in Doha has come and gone. In the wake of high expectations for a successor treaty, the Kyoto Protocol was extended, but only after bitter debate - and several countries have withdrawn from the process or signalled their intent to do so.

Moreover, many observers believe the decision to extend the Protocol was primarily the result of countries not having the courage to stop or scuttle it outright, and not actually knowing what to do next. So the easy way out was to just extend Kyoto and also promise the developing world lots and lots of dollars for "climate mitigation," which is a sort of apology from the first world for having allegedly messed up the planet in the first place with their fossil fuels and economic development.

Whether the billions of promised aid dollars will really materialize is another matter. But a lot of people have already gotten rich - including Al Gore, hundreds of climate scientists, and thousands of environmental activists and government bureaucrats - and others are trying to cash in.

I recently read an article in a South African magazine concerning carbon trading. Headlined "The Big C is a Money Tree," the article included a picture of a tree with hundreds of dollar bills hanging on the branches. Its essence was that people can easily make loads of money in the carbon trading business. Unfortunately, much of the sentiment was correct. So alarm bells should be ringing.

When it appears easy to make a lot of money from something simple, then in all probability something is wrong. The economic rules which govern the world usually dictate that it is not easy to make a lot of money with not much effort.

Consider the hamburger market. If it is easy to sell a large number of hamburgers and make a lot of money, then what happens is a competitor joins the market, then another, and another. The result is that the quality of the hamburgers goes up and the price comes down. This is all because the natural competition forces the sellers to offer the best quality at the lowest price.

If one of the hamburger sellers can't make the grade, he goes out of business. None of the hamburger sellers really wants to be kind and sympathetic to the consumers, but they have no option but to be attentive to their customers or the customers just go to a competitor. Hamburger suppliers have to offer a good product at a good price to stay in business. So the basis of the hamburger business is good cooking, good service and efficient meal production.


January 25, 2013

Italian Mafia corrupts green energy sector, sting operations show

The Italian Mafia has heavily infiltrated the country’s renewable energy sector, according to reports of sting operations there.

Since the early 2000s, when governments started flooding global energy markets with cheap loans, organized crime elements have taken advantage of loose money and oversight to penetrate multinational corporations.

In a typical scenario, says The Washington Post, Mafia bosses have been shaking down local land permit holders and leasing their permits to developers, seeking to build solar parks and wind farms as part of subsidy programs.

A Mafia informant told BBC News that criminal groups have also been partners in companies issued state subsidies. They have also manipulated accounting at different stages to hide payments to themselves, according to the informant.

President Barack Obama made a renewed push for renewable energy in his second inaugural address this week.

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it,” he said.


January 24, 2013

Obama Secrets and Scandal

Documents Indicate FBI Knew Terrorist Anwar al-Aulaqi Purchased Airline Tickets for 9/11 Hijackers Would you be surprised if I told you that the federal government invited a terrorist to the Pentagon for lunch, all the while knowing that he likely assisted the 9/11 hijackers? That’s what we found out recently from documents we received from the U.S. State Department. According to the records, which we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was aware on September 27, 2001, that Anwar al-Aulaqi, the U.S. born terrorist assassinated by a U.S. drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011, had purchased airplane tickets for three of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, including mastermind Mohammed Atta.Subsequent to the FBI’s discovery, al-Aulaqi was detained and released by authorities at least twice and had been invited to dine at the Pentagon!According to a September 27, 2001, FBI transcription obtained by Judicial Watch, al-Aulaqi evidently assisted with the following travel accommodations just before 9/11:
• Mohammed Atta, America West Airlines, 08/13/2001, for a flight from Washington, DC, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to Miami, Florida.• S. Suqami, Southwest Airlines, 07/10/2001, for a flight from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Orlando, Florida.• Al-Sheri, National Airlines, 08/01/2001, for a flight from San Francisco, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to Miami, Florida.The documents also include material showing that al-Aulaqi was uncooperative with FBI agents investigating the 9/11 attacks and was seemingly a central focus of the FBI investigation and monitoring related to 9/11.These discoveries by Judicial Watch led to widespread press coverage and precipitated unusual pushback from the FBI, which tried to deny that al-Aulaqi was connected to the 9/11 hijackers. No surprises there. But as I told Fox News: “The FBI can clear up the matter by releasing the full document. It is a shame that we had to sue to get this basic information about the 9/11 attacks. The FBI spin should, accordingly, be taken with a grain of salt. This document was given to us by the FBI in response to a request about al-Aulaqi, so it is interesting that we are now told that the hijackers’ information disclosed in this document has nothing to do with him. Of course, Mr. al-Aulaqi was killed on orders of the president, so no one can pursue this inquiry with al-Aulaqi.” While the FBI was quick to discount its own records, it has been silent about why al-Aulaqi was arrested for serious crimes and then released by authorities, including the FBI itself! Records previously uncovered by Judicial Watch, subsequent to the September 27, 2001, FBI transcription, show that al-Aulaqi was arrested and released by authorities. Two documents uncovered by Judicial Watch include “Privacy Act Release Forms” issued by the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, and were signed by al-Aulaqi. One was dated November 14, 2006, and the other July 2, 2007, indicating that al-Aulaqi had been arrested by authorities. The documents do not indicate how long al-Aulaqi was detained or why he was released. In addition to the arrests noted by the documents in 2006 and 2007, al-Aulaqi was detained and questioned at New York’s JFK airport on October 10, 2002, under a warrant for passport fraud, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, the FBI ordered al-Aulaqi’s release, even though the arrest warrant was still active at the time of his detention, as reported by Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge. Once released, al-Aulaqi then took a flight to Washington, DC, and eventually returned to Yemen. So let’s stop and catch our breath for a moment, because this is a point not to be missed: After learning – or at the least suspecting, if you believe the FBI – that al-Aulaqi was connected to the 9/11 hijackers, the FBI had him in its grasp following an arrest, and then simply let him go.But that’s not all. On February 5, 2002, four months after the FBI discovered his connection to the 9/11 terrorists, al-Aulaqi was invited to dine at the Pentagon on February 5, 2002, “as part of the military’s outreach to the Muslim community in the immediate aftermath of the attacks,” reports Herridge. (Political correctness strikes again.) JW also previously uncovered documents detailing an attempted ruse by the U.S. government to revoke al-Aulaqi’s passport in 2011. The records show that the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen was asked on March 24, 2011, to issue a communication to al-Aulaqi, requesting him to “appear in person” to pick up an important letter at the post. The letter issued by the embassy was a revocation of his passport: “The Department?s [sic] action is based upon a determination by the Secretary that Mr. al-Aulaqi activities abroad are causing and/or likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States.” The embassy was instructed not to inform al-Aulaqi when he came to the embassy that the “important letter” was a passport revocation. So, again, a known terrorist was arrested and released, invited to dine at the Pentagon and then invited to a U.S. embassy in some sort of crazy keystone cops operation. The documents uncovered by Judicial Watch further confirm disturbing derelictions by our national security establishment. These and other documents seem to leave little doubt that al-Aulaqi had something to do with 9/11 and violated the law. Yet this terrorist was feted at the Pentagon and given the proverbial “get out of jail free card” by law enforcement – with deadly consequences.As I’ve noted before in this space, al-Aulaqi was a dangerous character. Since September 2009, according to the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy, 26 terrorism cases have been tied to al-Aulaqi, including an association with blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, currently in prison for his role in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Anwar al-Aulaqi was also known to have been in email contact (19 email exchanges) with Major Nidal Hasan, who was charged with 13 murders during the Fort Hood massacre on November 5, 2009. In 2010, President Obama reportedly authorized the assassination of al-Aulaqi, the first American citizen added to the government’s “capture or kill” list, describing the radical Muslim cleric as “chief of external operations for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).” The Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department has reportedly determined that targeting and killing of U.S. citizens overseas was legal under domestic and international law. Here’s my question: How many other drones will be sent to assassinate terrorists released by the FBI?

House Ethics Committee Punts on Countrywide Scandal

Over the holidays, while the American people were busy celebrating Christmas and New Year, the House Ethics Committee quietly swept a major political scandal under the rug. You may recall the Countrywide Financial influence peddling scandal, where at least a dozen members of Congress (and many other key Washington figures) received preferential loan treatment as part of a company VIP program named “Friends of Angelo” for the company’s disgraced former CEO, Angelo Mozillo. Well, on December 27, the House Ethics Committee decided that this scandal is simply “outside its jurisdiction” and took no action. Case closed. The Hill’s Peter Schroeder explains: The House Ethics Committee has decided to close its investigation into preferential mortgages doled out under a controversial VIP program without taking any action.The panel said it was not taking any action on members who received more affordable mortgages under the program, instituted by the now-defunct Countrywide Financial because while allegations surrounding the program and lawmakers involved “serious matters,” they largely fell outside its jurisdiction. For example, many of the allegations pertain to actions outside the Ethics Committee’s statute of limitations — greater than three Congresses ago — and many of those accused are no longer working in Congress either as members or staffers. So, in other words, it took Congress so long to act on this scandal that now many of the transgressors are retired or were bounced from Congress. And whose fault is that?! The Senate Ethics Committee began review of this scandal in 2009 and wasted no time in whitewashing the whole mess. It took the House Ethics Committee four years to “investigate” and then do nothing. The issue of timing aside, the House Ethics Committee stated that it could find no evidence that the majority of the members were aware of the VIP treatment. But this is nearly impossible to believe.After all, according to a stinging report released by the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee in July 2012, at least a dozen members of Congress received home loan rates not available to the general public. And they almost certainly knew they were getting a sweetheart deal. In fact, correspondence uncovered by the House Oversight Committee has the words “VIP TEAM” emblazoned at the top of the letter! And then there’s the sworn testimony involving a Countrywide loan granted to former Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT). Dodd, who just happened to be chairman of the powerful House Senate Banking committee, used two “VIP” mortgage loans in 2003 to refinance residences in Connecticut and Washington, DC. And an official who worked in the Countrywide program testified before Congress that Dodd absolutely knew he was receiving special VIP treatment. (Dodd was so impressed with the VIP program he even recommended it to a staffer for a Senate colleague who got her fees waived too.) So here’s the key question: We know how Congress benefited from this program, but what did Countrywide get in return for its largess? Well, at the same time Countrywide was doling out sweetheart mortgage deals, their lobbyists were also pressuring Congress on a wide range of issues pertaining to the mortgage lending industry.For example, according to the House Oversight Committee report, “on June 17, 2008, the same day he acknowledged for the first time that he was a Countrywide VIP customer, Dodd announced that he was bringing to the Senate floor a housing bailout to help Countrywide and other struggling subprime lenders.” And as Politico noted when the House Oversight Committee report was issued, the “Friends of Angelo” program was far more damaging than a waste of taxpayer funds in the form of a quid pro quo mortgage industry bailout. The program also helped to kick off the entire financial crisis by playing a “critical part” in blocking efforts to reform the mortgage lending industry, including the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (Countrywide also gave sweetheart deals to top officials at those GSEs, who were the biggest buyers of Countrywide’s dubious mortgage loan products.) We cover this in some detail in our New York Times best-selling book, Corruption Chronicles. (Have you purchased your copy yet? If not, please click here. And be sure to check out the best-selling book by author Ben Shapiro “Bullies.”): Fannie and Freddie (and federal housing policy, generally) helped create the mortgage backed securities and secondary mortgage markets that collapsed in 2008 because of the loss of confidence in the subprime mortgage market – which was also pushed along by the federal government. Fannie even had a mortgage program it ran with Countrywide called “Fast and Easy.” That’s not the name of a pawnshop, but a government-backed mortgage program! The point is that there is a direct relationship between the Countrywide “Friends of Angelo” program and the collapse of the housing market. As I’ve been saying now for four years, corruption, as much as bad policy, was to blame for the financial crisis. So yes, as the House Ethics Committee acknowledged, the corrupt Countrywide influence peddling scandal was a “serious matter.” And it merited serious investigation. Instead, the House Ethics Committee delayed and then used the excuse of the delay to drop the case. You can read the Committee’s dishonest report here. Washington’s traditional government institutions to enforce the rule of law with politicians and government officials are fundamentally broken. But you can count on us to stand in the gap. This scandal is just more proof of the importance of the independent oversight by your Judicial Watch.

JW in Major Court Battle over Obama’s Osama bin Laden SecretsObama Official Portrait Smile

Yesterday (January 10), a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument regarding our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit requesting the release of dozens of images of Osama bin Laden’s body taken after he was fatally shot in a Special Forces raid in May 2011. Judicial Watch staff attorney Michael Bekesha argued on behalf of Judicial Watch at the hearing. I was there with many of my Judicial Watch colleagues in the packed courtroom for this historic legal fight. It was quite the scene. The Obama administration sent seven lawyers to participate in the briefing! Media around the world closely covered this week’s court activity, one of our most significant battles against Obama secrecy. JW is asking the Appeals Court to reverse an April 26, 2012, ruling by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg allowing the images to remain an Obama administration secret. The government is hiding behind the bogus claim that JW’s request will somehow harm our national security. But we’re not after any information about equipment or techniques used in the bin Laden raid, or indeed anything that would compromise the safety and security of the country and its citizens. As our lawyers argued to the court: Specifically, Defendants have failed to provide any evidence that all 52 images, including those depicting bin Laden’s burial at sea, pertain to “foreign activities of the United States.” Defendants also have failed to provide any evidence that images depicting the burial at sea actually pertain to “intelligence activities.” Nor have they demonstrated that the release of images of a somber, dignified burial at sea reasonably could be expected to cause identifiable or describable exceptionally grave damage to national security. Look, there is simply no legal precedent for this. President Obama is asking the courts to rewrite FOIA law to allow his administration to withhold documents simply because their disclosure may cause controversy. Interestingly, one of the judges hearing our case yesterday said that a video caused the death of our ambassador to Libya. The court’s misimpression of what really happened (contrary to the Obama administration’s initial lies, the video had nothing to do with the Benghazi slaughter) shows that we can’t trust the Obama administration to tell us that a certain video or photo will cause harm and that the FOIA should be upended to appease terrorists. And – again – do you see the blatant hypocrisy of the Obama administration’s opinion on this issue in light of its decision to leak apparently classified details to the filmmakers behind the new Hollywood blockbuster Zero Dark Thirty, which releases today? The film, which has elicited Oscar buzz, details the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden in incredible detail. So, photos of a dead terrorist? Off limits to the American people. Sensitive or classified details, including the names of the military personnel involved in the bin Laden raid? Hollywood filmmakers are welcome to them, so long as the president looks good. Judicial Watch has led the way in trying to uncover the details of Osama bin Laden’s capture and killing. We’re after the photos and videos. We’re after the details surrounding the bin Laden burial. We want to close the record on one of the American military’s most important victories. We don’t care if the president looks good or looks bad, we simply want information that the American people are entitled to under the law. And we certainly want to get our hands on all of the details behind the Obama administration’s reckless cooperation with Bigelow and Boal, the director and writer behind Zero Dark Thirty.You can click here for a full discussion of JW’s efforts to get to the truth in that scandal, but here’s the bottom line. According to records we uncovered, the Obama White House sought to have “high visibility” in bin Laden-related projects to help the president look strong for ordering the raid that led to the terrorist’s capture and killing. White House officials helped to broker a deal to give two Hollywood filmmakers (Bigelow and Boal) unprecedented and secret access to classified details to craft an honorific film. White House spokesman Jay Carney denied that any classified details were handed over, but Obama administration officials have admitted under oath that the information passed on to the filmmakers could pose a serious risk to national security if disclosed to the public. Judicial Watch has made the argument in court that the Obama administration cannot have it both ways. Either the information passed on to the filmmakers is harmless and should therefore be disclosed to the American people, or the Obama administration improperly and recklessly leaked sensitive information to the filmmakers. Overall, Judicial Watch’s discoveries resulted in an Inspector General investigation into the whole sordid mess, resulting in a criminal referral to the Holder Justice Department. So again, we ask which is more potentially harmful to national security: providing the American people with the photos of a dead Osama bin Laden or leaking classified details regarding the bin Laden raid to filmmakers?


January 23, 2013

In graduate thesis, John Brennan argued for government censorship: ‘Too much freedom is possible’

In his 1980 graduate thesis at the University of Texas at Austin, John Brennan denied the existence of “absolute human rights” and argued in favor of censorship on the part of the Egyptian dictatorship.

“Since the press can play such an influential role in determining the perceptions of the masses, I am in favor of some degree of government censorship,” Brennan wrote. “Inflamatory [sic] articles can provoke mass opposition and possible violence, especially in developing political systems.”

Brennan serves as President Barack Obama’s national security advisor. Obama has nominated him to lead the Central Intelligence Agency. (RELATED: Obama nominates Hagel as Defense secretary, Brennan as CIA chief)
The thesis, “Human Rights: A Case Study of Egypt,” was a requirement for Brennan’s Master of Arts degree in government with a Middle Eastern studies concentration. It grew out of his time studying at the American University in Cairo.

Brennan did not respond to emailed requests for comment from The Daily Caller.

Central to Brennan’s presentation was a relativist view of human rights, which he said include “security, welfare, liberty, and justice.”
“These four rights reflect not only my own moral concept of human rights [but] also my interpretation of the Western human rights perspective,” Brennan wrote in his introduction.
“I don’t feel that the possible forfeiture of rights under certain circumstances precludes their inalienability.”

Brennan ultimately concluded that human rights do not exist because they cannot be “classified as universal.”

“The United States should be expected to pass a more strict human rights test [than Egypt] because its environment is more conducive to the realization of those rights,” Brennan concluded. “An economic comparison between Egypt and one of its wealthy Arab neighbors such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait would be equally unfair due to the wealth of those countries.”

“[T]he stage of economic development and political development have a direct impact on human rights,” he wrote. “The former enables a political system to offer its citizens welfare (e.g. health services) and security (e.g. military defense).”

Paradoxically, Brennan also claimed Egyptian rulers’ repressive regimes were part of that nation’s move toward democracy.

“[I]f democracy is a process rather than a state, the democratic process may involve, at some point, the violation of personal liberties and procedural justice,” he wrote. “[Anwar] Sadat’s undemocratic methods, therefore, may aim at the ultimate preservation of democracy rather than its demise.”
Brennan justified Sadat’s use of emergency powers to crack down on protests from communists because Egyptian citizens’ “exercis[e] of democratic rights would have an adverse affect on stability and even on democracy itself. This implies that too much freedom is possible and in the end, even detrimental to the cause of democracy.”

“[W]ould the ability to demonstrate effectively increase human rights and democracy in Egypt?” Brennan asked rhetorically. “In the light of the political environment, probably not. At the present stage of political development in Egypt widespread open opposition to the administration would be beyond the capacity of the system to handle.”

Brennan conceded that his explanation of why it is sometimes acceptable to abuse human rights “can provide a convenient excuse for any authoritarian leader in any country of the world.”

“Can human rights violations in the Soviet Union be as easily justified in terms of the preservation of the communist ideology? Unfortunately (looking at events from a democratic perspective), yes. Since the absolute status of human rights has been denied, the justification for the violation of any of those rights has to be pursued from a particular ideological perspective. Leonid Brezhnev could justify human rights violations in the Soviet Union as a necessary part of the preservation of the communist ideological system.”

“Can the human rights violations in Egypt be justified from a democratic perspective?” Brennan asked. “There can be no objective answer to this question because it depends on what one considers to be a threat to democracy in Egypt. Whether or not public demonstrations in Egypt actually threaten the existence of democracy in Egypt is uncertain.”

“The fact that absolute human rights do not exist (with the probable exception of freedom from torture) makes the [human rights] analysis subject to innumerable conditional criticisms,” he wrote. “The exact definition of human rights and possible justifications for violations is determined by a particular perspective. A change in perspective causes a drastic change in the analysis.”

“Human rights, therefore, does [sic] not take precedence over all other political goals,” Brennan concluded. “Since absolute rights do not exist, any attempt by a nation to apply a human rights test to another nation (e. g. Carter administration human rights policy) is extremely difficult. Such a policy would be full of inconsistencies and therefore its implementation would be onerous.”

Brennan also praised the Egyptian government’s promised involvement in health care. “Government intervention in health care, especially in developing nations, benefits both the citizens as well as the government. The citizen that is benefitted by the health services that are provided by the government is more likely to feel a greater degree of allegiance to the government than had the service not been provided.”


January 22, 2013

Obama now brings new disgrace on us

I understand why President Barack Obama has full confidence in John Brennan, whom he has now nominated to head the CIA. Brennan’s record of lawlessness, starting when he became chief of staff to CIA Director George Tenet in 1999, mirrors that of Obama.
They share contempt for the Constitution’s separation of powers, allowing the executive branch to ignore Congress and the courts in the name of national security. When Obama first became president, for example, he wanted Brennan to head the CIA, but there was so much opposition to Brennan’s deep involvement in George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s extra-judicial “dark side” (torture, including renditions of suspects to be tortured in other countries) that Brennan had to withdraw his name from consideration.
Instead, the president appointed Brennan his chief counterterrorism adviser, a post not requiring Senate confirmation. In this role, Brennan has been in charge of Obama’s “kill list” of drone assassinations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, et al.
Brennan is already a key force in this administration’s “disposition matrix,” by which “the administration claims the authority to kill those named, anytime and anywhere, based on secret information and unreviewable judgments” (“Time for a Reset on Human Rights,” Suzanne Nossel, Foreign Policy, Nov. 7).
Moreover, in these Obama-Brennan assassinations, “The administration has declared any man killed by a drone to be an enemy terrorist, and defends such killings regardless of resulting civilian casualties.”
Now, all of you who voted to re-elect Obama, dig what the president said when, on Jan. 7, he proudly declared his choice for CIA chief: “(Brennan) has worked to embed our efforts in a strong legal framework.”
Wow! This from a former teacher of constitutional law at the University of Chicago? It’s no wonder that Brennan has always had direct, immediate access to Obama. They are soul brothers, united in their ceaseless suspension of our Constitution.
How many of you know — or care?
The New York Post’s Michael A. Walsh summarizes with piercing clarity what the Obama-Brennan conspiracy has accomplished: “In effect — and especially as employed by the Obama administration — the CIA has become the president’s private army, with a classified budget, contracts with some extremely dubious operatives and under-the-table relations with thuggish and oppressive foreign governments. With its fleet of armed drones, it regularly rains death from the skies on enemies (some of them American citizens).

“That’s a power that ought to be under the control of the regular military, not directly under the chief executive and his national-security henchmen” (“Spooky pick for CIA,” Michael A. Walsh, the New York Post, Jan. 9).
Getting back to what these benighted soul brothers have done and how it may continue to affect us as Americans for a long time, I return to Suzanne Nossel, who is Amnesty International USA’s former executive director. In her article in Foreign Policy, she emphasizes that these Obama-Brennan crimes are taking place in nations with which we are not at war, reminding us: “The administration is now backed into claiming that a war exists because it has convinced itself that it cannot function without a broad license to kill. Short of al Qaeda suing for peace, this war may never end. The administration’s reshaping of the concept of war risks undoing over 100 years of evolution of the laws of war, and the protections those laws have delivered.”
She goes on to make me uneasier than any other commenter has previously, explaining how we have allowed Obama and Brennan to outline America’s values for the rest of the world:
“The next four years will define whether this rewriting of the rules becomes a bipartisan ‘new normal’ in the United States, and implicit permission for the rest of the world to sidestep human rights.”
She then reminds the president and his dear friend Brennan what Obama pledged in 2007: “To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge of trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.”
Elsewhere, our renditions continue.
Of course Obama is delighted to have Brennan by his side for the next four years, with ever-greater authority to impose the American stamp of identity on these Hellfire missiles.
What would prevent the indispensible Brennan running for president four years from now?


January 21, 2013

Issa calls Obama pick to head ATF 'a slap in the face'

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., reacted angrily to President Obama’s decision to nominate B. Todd Jones, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, to be permanent director. Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the decision a “slap in the face” given the acting director’s connection to the “Fast and Furious” scandal.
In a statement emailed to reporters, Issa said:
Acting Director Jones was at the helm of ATF as many troubling problems from the fallout of Operation Fast and Furious festered. His specific decisions on a number of Fast and Furious related issues raise concerns about his judgment and ability to lead the agency.  While I continue to believe that ATF needs to have a Senate confirmed Director, President Obama has a responsibility to find a nominee who can win confirmation and is not saddled by a string of bad decisions related to the agency’s greatest recent failure.
Jones was first brought into the job of ATF Acting Director in the middle of the Fast and Furious scandal after Justice Department officials had falsely denied reckless conduct and allegations by his predecessor that there was an effort underway to shield the Department’s senior political appointees from the scandal.   Because of the numerous ATF mistakes during his tenure as Acting Director pertaining to Fast and Furious, his nomination is a slap in the face to the family of fallen Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, Mexican citizens whose murder has been linked to Fast and Furious weapons, and ATF whistleblowers whom he failed to support.
Jones has been running the ATF since August, 2011. He replaced Kenneth Melson as head after the latter resigned and was reassigned in the midst of the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious. The agency has not had a permanent director for six years.
In a video sent to ATF employees last year, Jones threatened serious consequences for any staffers found talking to the press about the scandal without the consent of the agency leadership: “[I]f you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate ways to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences.” Republicans said he was trying to scare off any potential whistleblowers.

January 18, 2013

Persistent plague of Washington waste

Archaic, bloated, duplicative, wasteful, inefficient government is like the weather. People complain about it, but no one has figured out how to change it.

I took some comprehensive, well-received whacks at the problem in several books in the 1980s, one of which was “Fat City — How Washington Wastes Your Taxes.” It focused on waste and wantonness in more than a hundred agencies, programs and other backwater bureaucracies, costing more than $100 billion a year, that cried out to be terminated, downsized or sold on the auction block.
That was big money then, but it wouldn’t even dent the debt in the Age of Obama, which has been ramping up budget deficits at the rate of more than a trillion dollars a year.

Someone gave Ronald Reagan a copy of “Fat City” at the start of his 1980 presidential campaign, and he began referring to it in his speeches and interviews, and handed out copies at his first Cabinet meeting.

He believed government wasted a lot of the money that Americans sent to the Internal Revenue Service each year and that many of the programs Congress had created over the decades needed to be either abolished, consolidated or cut to the bone.

Not only did he think no one would miss many of these all-but-forgotten agencies, but that the money saved was better left in the wallets and bank accounts of the nation’s businesses and workers, creating jobs, strengthening families and expanding the national economy.

Reagan succeeded in pulling a dispirited nation out of a deep, two-year recession in the early 1980s through his Kennedy-style, across-the-board tax cuts. Unemployment rates fell significantly, the economy soared and tax revenue rose because people were working again.

He also made strides in fighting waste, fraud and abuse through the sweeping Grace Commission reforms, and he managed to curb the budgets of programs here and there. A spendthrift Congress, however, fought his efforts — often to a standstill — every step of the way. Reagan’s combative budget director David Stockman privately expressed deep frustration to this reporter that he hadn’t been able to put more budget-cutting scalps on his belt, and he wasn’t blaming only the Democrats.
Just before he left his post in 1985, Mr. Stockman called me in for an interview. On his desk was a heavily marked-up copy of an article I had written for Washingtonian magazine about where to cut the budget.

“We’ve had a four-year shot at going after all these little mothers, and nobody around here will do it,” he told me. “But the point is, when you go through these things over and over, and you see how embedded the resistance is — and it’s not just big-spending Democrats, it’s Republicans when it comes down to parochial interests — then you realize how insuperable the task is.”

He then went down my list of targets and complained, name by name, how Republican lawmakers had fought him tooth-and-nail to preserve these programs.

That was then. This is now. There is plenty of blame to go around. The government is grotesquely swollen with waste-filled programs and agencies that no longer serve any useful purpose and need to be ended.

It has become much worse under President Obama’s administration. He is interested only in enlarging the size of the government and spending more, as is obvious by a long list of regulatory and social welfare programs he has created or wants to expand.

You could wallpaper every building in the nation’s capital with the pages of countless federal reports on the amount of waste that has been dug up by investigators. That is not a priority on Capitol Hill or in this administration.

Take, for example, a recent Government Accountability Office report that looked into the amount of duplication throughout the government. Among its 345 pages:
20 federal agencies that run 56 programs dealing with financial literacy.

80 economic development programs sprinkled across four agencies that cost taxpayers $6.5 billion.

Transportation Department spending of $58 billion on 100 programs employing 6,000 employees “that haven’t evolved since 1956.”

15 federal agencies that administer more than 30 food-related laws.

Five departments overseeing nearly $6.5 billion dealing with bioterrorism.

“This report shows we could save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars without cutting services. And in many cases smart consolidations will improve service,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, the waste-fighting Oklahoma Republican known as “Dr. No,” who requested the study.

Dubious spending can be found in virtually every corner of the vast federal bureaucracy, often in agencies that are among the government’s most sacred cows, immune from any budget cuts.
Mr. Obama has been pushing for more spending on science, including the $31 billion National Institutes of Health. But an investigation by health care analyst David Maris of Forbes magazine found some shocking expenditures.

They included $386,000 to study massage therapy on rabbits, $453,000 to study breathing in meditation and $1.1 million to study weight loss through medication, all part of a long list of studies that Mr. Maris called “flaky.”

In a perfect world, Congress would have an efficient, high-tech, cross-referenced, legislative oversight system to apply a hard-nosed annual review of every program and expenditure in the government. None exists. Its creaky, disorganized, snail’s-pace committee structure is basically the same one that existed in the 18th century.

Most of the wasteful, expendable programs I criticized in “Fat City” are still there, spending money. They include the Export-Import Bank, which bankrolls the richest Fortune 500 companies; a small-business agency that, for all its billions of dollars, has had a minuscule impact on business creation; and agriculture programs right out of the horse-and-buggy era.

One of these days, a presidential candidate will run on a radical platform of overhauling this antiquated, wasteful bureaucracy we have constructed over 200 years.

Until then, we are paying through the nose for a lot more government than we need or can afford that is quickly eroding the foundations of our country and its economy.


January 17, 2013

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell botches slam on NRA ad

Today on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell brings up the controversial Web promotion by the National Rifle Association (NRA) accusing President Obama of hypocrisy for opposing the arming of schools when his children study under the watchful eye of guards packing heat. Digging into the issue with Gun Owners of America spokesman Erich Pratt, Mitchell presses:
Let me ask you about the NRA video … which targets basically the president’s children, who have Secret Service protection as [do] all children of presidents. Over the line?
No, comes the response from Pratt, though in many more, meandering words.

After more back and forth, Mitchell decides that she’s got a winning question and goes bulldog: “Is it over the line for the NRA to put up a Web video addressing the issue of the president’s children having Secret Service protection? … Children of presidents have been off-limits for decades,” protests Mitchell.

Great confusion clouds Mitchell’s line of inquiry. She is sticking up for a long-standing tradition of Beltway media etiquette and restraint — that of leaving intact the privacy of the president’s offspring. That’s a good tradition.

And it’s also one that’s compromised not at all by the NRA promotion. That presidential children get armed protection invades their privacy about as much as reporting that they reside at the White House.

Now, if Mitchell instead had specified that she was addressing the prudence, the political appeal and the effectiveness of rolling the president’s kids into a promotion on gun rights, perhaps her segment would have come unstuck.

January 16, 2013

New mysteries in EPA's Windsorgate scandal

Washington's transparency and environmental communites were abuzz yesterday awaiting release by the Environmental Protection Agency of the first 3,000 of an expected 12,000 "Richard Windsor" emails sent to and from outgoing Administrator Lisa Jackson.
After sorting through technical glitches that undermined the agency's first attempt to post the documents ordered released by a federal court, it became obvious that EPA had only made public about 2,100 emails and "Richard Windsor" - Jackson's admitted illegal non de plume on one of her government email accounts - was nowhere to be found.
What EPA released was a collection of emails to and from Jackson at what appears to be a government email account. Among the collection were daily news clippings, Washington Post daily news briefs, Google email alerts for Jackson, and assorted other mundane documents.
Christopher Horner, the Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow who first exposed Jackson's use of the fake name, released a statement late yesterday saying in effect that EPA was thumbing its nose at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Horner and CEI are the plaintiffs in the Freedom of Information Act suit they brought against EPA last year for refusing to turn over all Jackson emails that included the words "Richard Windsor" in connection with four regulatory issues then before the agency.
There is also a separate investigation of the "Richard Windsor" emails being conducted by EPA Inspector-General. That probe was requested by Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility (CREW), a Washington-based advocacy group.
Because EPA released thousands of emails that failed to satisfy the court's order, Horner said, "this response is deeply troubling and seems to have gravely compounded the unlawful activity we have exposed involving a false identity assumed for federal recordkeeping purposes."
Horner added that "it seems EPA simply decided it had to produce a lot of something. Desperate to produce nothing at the same time, it came up with this."
Earlier this year, Horner detailed the use of fake email names by Jackson and other federal officials in the White House and EPA in his book, The Liberal War Against Transparency."
But Horner pointed to an even more fundamental problem with the EPA release yesterday. In its cover letter, the agency claimed Jackson used only one government email account for official business, with no mention of the "Richard Windsor" account Jackson admitted in December to have used for "internal discussions" only.
"Staking out the position Jackson used only one secondary account signals the agency has gone bunker. Rather than search or produce from the Richard Windsor account, it is more likely the agency intends to in essence pretend it does not exist," Horner said. "Count as wasted that week EPA spent with all of the muttering to the contrary about its origin being a combination of her pet's name and the town in which she once lived."
In other words, said Horner, "EPA would rather fight than snitch. Instructively, in EPA's view, tempting Congress, the court and public opinion risks less fallout than revealing 'Richard Windsor's' correspondence."
Jackson's defenders will likely seek to debunk Horner's analysis, but it appears EPA has backed itself into a corner on two crucial issues. First, it will be fascinating to hear EPA's lawyers explain to the federal court how making public 2,100 emails that clearly aren't responsive to the judge's order nevertheless satisfies that order.
The judge said EPA had to make public the estimated 12,000 "Richard Windsor" emails and EPA agreed to do so in four releases, or tranches, of approximately 3,000 each. Yesterday's release was presented by EPA as the first of the four. It won't be a surprise if the judge thinks otherwise when EPA argues they did what they were supposed to do.
Second, having acknowledged previously that she used the "Richard Windsor" non de plume for "internal discussions" and that she got it from her dog, Jackson will likely now have to argue that none of those discussions were about official business, or make the case under the FOIA that they were about official business deliberations but therefore are exempted from disclosure.
Either way, Jackson will have to contradict the EPA lawyers' cover letter on yesterday's release claiming she used only one government account.
Which points to the fundamental question that makes Windsorgate, at least potentially, a dangerous scandal for President Obama - What will be found in those 12,000 emails that Jackson and EPA appear determined to conceal at all costs?

January 15, 2013

Obama Willing to Use Executive Orders on Guns

President Obama this week will embrace a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence that will call for major legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases and lay out 19 separate actions the president could take by invoking the power of his office, lawmakers who were briefed on the plan said Monday.

Lawmakers and other officials said that the president could use a public event as soon as Wednesday to signal his intention to engage in the biggest Congressional fight over guns in nearly two decades, focusing on the heightened background checks and including efforts to ban assault weapons and their high-capacity clips. But given the difficulty of pushing new rules through a bitterly divided Congress, Mr. Obama will also promise to act on his own to reduce gun violence wherever possible.

Actions the president could take on his own are likely to include imposing new limits on guns imported from overseas, compelling federal agencies to improve sharing of mental health records and directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence, according to those briefed on the effort.

White House aides believe Mr. Obama can also ratchet up enforcement of existing laws, including tougher prosecution of people who lie on their background checks.

At a news conference on Monday, exactly one month after the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Obama said a task force led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had “presented me now with a list of sensible, common-sense steps that can be taken to make sure that the kinds of violence we saw at Newtown doesn’t happen again. He added: “My starting point is not to worry about the politics. My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works.”

The administration’s strategy reflects the uncertainty of gun politics in America and the desire by White House officials to address the Connecticut shooting while also confronting the broader deficiencies in the country’s criminal justice and mental health systems.

By proposing to use the independent power of his office, Mr. Obama is inviting political attacks by gun owners who have already expressed fear that he will abuse that authority to restrict their rights.

Representative Steve Stockman, Republican of Texas, threatened Monday to file articles of impeachment if the president seeks to regulate guns with executive orders. “I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary,” Mr. Stockman said in a statement.

White House officials and Democratic lawmakers said that there are clear limits to what the president can and cannot do, and that Mr. Obama has no plans to push beyond what he would need Congressional authority to accomplish.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama’s legislative effort will face intense opposition from gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, and the lawmakers they support with millions of dollars at election time and who see gun rights as a defining issue in their districts. But Mr. Obama’s allies see a rare opening for tighter gun rules after Congress has shied away from the politically charged issue for years.

“He’s putting together a pretty comprehensive list of what could be done to make a difference in this area,” said Representative Mike Thompson of California, who is heading a Democratic task force in the House. “There’s some huge, huge holes in the process that are set up to keep communities safe. We need to close those holes.”

Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, said Vice President Biden had informed lawmakers during a two-hour briefing on Monday that there are “19 independent steps that the president can take by executive order.” Ms. Speier said the executive action is part of the “most comprehensive gun safety effort in a generation.”

Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff, joined the debate on Monday and said that the president should “clear the table” by doing whatever he can administratively so small issues do not get in the way of the bigger legislative fights over access to guns.

“Don’t allow a side issue to derail these things,” Mr. Emanuel said during a discussion about gun policy. While many gun control advocates are eager to harness what they believe is a ripe moment in American life for new and robust restrictions on the kinds of guns that were used in Newtown, there is an emerging consensus on Capitol Hill and among gun education groups that improving the system of background check legislation that currently exempts private gun sales and gun shows is the most viable legislative route to pursue.

“The assault-weapons ban is a low priority relative to the other measures the Biden task force is considering,” Matt Bennett, a spokesman for Third Way, a left-leaning research group, said after hearing from Mr. Biden last week. “Political capital in the gun debate only goes so far. We think it should be spent on things that would have the greatest impact on gun violence, like universal background checks and cracking down on gun trafficking.”

Any efforts to get gun legislation through Congress will require an enormous and ceaseless pressure campaign by the administration. Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden are likely to keep up the pressure on lawmakers with public events in the weeks and months ahead, according to those familiar with the White House strategy.

Scores of senators, including many Democrats, will be wary of voting on any effort to curb access to guns or ammunition. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, is a longtime supporter of gun rights. Still, gun legislation is likely to begin in the Senate because the House is controlled by Republicans, many of whom oppose new restrictions on guns.

With fiscal issues continuing to dominate the political calendar for the next several weeks, White House officials and lawmakers say the gun safety effort is likely to be debated in separate pieces of legislation that could be introduced over time. In coming weeks, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, will reintroduce a measure that would require every gun buyer, with limited exceptions, to undergo a background check and would force states to feed all relevant data into the background check system so those with criminal convictions and the mentally ill could be flagged.

January 14, 2013

The Scandal That Will Bring Obama Down

It’s even worse than we previously thought. A retired four-star admiral is now claiming that Barack Obama intentionally conspired with America’s enemies to stage a bogus attack and the kidnapping of an American ambassador so he could “negotiate” the release of a “hostage” and bolster his mediocre approval ratings just prior to the election!

 The Washington Examiner, quoting retired Four-Star Admiral James Lyons, writes: “the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi… was the result of a bungled abduction attempt…. the first stage of an international prisoner exchange… that would have ensured the release of Omar Abdel Rahman, the ‘Blind Sheik’…”

But something went horribly wrong with Obama’s “October Surprise.” Although the Obama Administration intentionally gutted security at the consulate prior to the staged kidnapping, former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty disobeyed direct orders to stand down, saved American lives, single-handedly killed scores of attackers…and the attackers, believing that Obama had betrayed them, tortured Ambassador Chris Stevens and dragged his body through the streets.

 Some will say that Admiral Lyons’ accusation is not a smoking gun. We agree; that’s exactly why Congress must investigate Benghazi-gate.

 Moreover, we firmly believe the problem with Admiral Lyons’ assertion is that he is only scratching the surface; the full and complete truth may be much, much worse.

 Benghazi-gate is not about a bogus YouTube video series of lies. It’s not about the Obama Administration’s foreign policy ineptitude. We are dealing with something much more sinister… something potentially treasonous… and the following questions, posed in an article in The New American, go to the heart of the matter:

 1.       ”What was the Obama administration’s full role in helping violent Jihadists, self-styled al Qaeda terrorists, and Western-backed “revolutionaries” take over Libya in the first place?

 2.       Did that half-baked scheme to arm Jihadist leaders, who… had previously fought U.S. troops in Iraq, contribute to the attack, as countless experts and officials have suggested?

 3.       What was actually going on at the compound in Benghazi, which, as the report states, was never a “consulate” despite establishment media claims?

 4.       Was Ambassador Stevens recruiting and arming Jihadists and terrorists to wage war on the Syrian regime after what Obama called the “success” in Libya, as a growing body of credible evidence suggests?

 5.       Why did the administration claim for so long that the attack was just a “protest” over a YouTube video gone awry, even when it knew definitively that was not the case?

 6.       Was the lack of security at the compound a political ploy to conceal the extent of the lawlessness and utter chaos left in the wake of Obama’s unconstitutional “regime change” war on Libya, as even members of Congress have alleged?”

It’s clear. Benghazi-Gate is only a small piece of a much larger operation, an attempt to conceal what The New American calls “the Obama administration’s full role in helping violent Jihadists and self-styled al Qaeda terrorists.”

Prior to the election Barack Obama continually told us that “Osama bin-Laden is dead and GM is alive”; but the sad truth is that Osama bin-Laden’s organization is alive and well, and the Obama Regime may be giving aid and comfort to this terrorist network.

 And prior to the election, Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera pontificated that Republicans shouldn’t “politicize” Benghazi-gate. Swaggering onto the set of Fox and Friends, Rivera bloviated: “I think we have to stop this politicizing.” And Rivera issued the following veiled warning to Republicans: “Do we want to try and influence the election with a tragedy that happened in North Africa?”

Ironic, isn’t it? Barack Obama played politics with the lives of Americans; like Rivera, the media covered Obama’s rear and threatened to accuse anyone and everyone who mentioned it of “playing politics.”

Weak-willed Republicans apparently took Rivera’s threat to heart as Rivera also said that Republican Senators John Barrasso, James Inhofe, and Bob Corker, who all sit on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “all agree that the supercharged atmosphere around the story — prudence dictates that these hearings be postponed until” after the election.

Well, the election has come and gone. Congress now has no excuse. The American people needed the truth before the election; but now that Obama is back in the White House, real conservatives must demand answers.

The American people deserve to have those questions answered; and moreover, the American people deserve justice.