The five Taliban leaders traded a year ago for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl could be free to travel as early as Monday as the terms of their supervised release are set to expire, raising alarm on Capitol Hill about the possibility they could return to the battlefield.
The five former Guantanamo detainees have been under close monitoring in Qatar and subject to a travel ban since their release last year. The agreement with Qatar is set to expire June 1.
While the Washington Post reported earlier this month that the administration was in talks with Qatari officials about potentially extending security measures for the group, it’s unclear if any restrictions will remain in place after the end of the month.
Asked this week if the talks produced any agreement, a State Department official told FoxNews.com, “We don’t have any updates.”
Congressional lawmakers have grown anxious.
Joe Kasper, spokesman for House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Duncan Hunter R-Calif., said his office has gotten “radio silence” from the administration in asking about the issue.
“They have to be concerned with what happens to the five Taliban because they made every effort to portray the trade as a good deal,” Kasper said in an email. “The nightmare scenario for the Administration is if any of these guys show up again within the global battlespace, be it in some kind of leadership position or just as messengers of threats or propaganda.”
Members of Congress have repeatedly expressed concern about what will happen after the travel ban expires. They have asked the Obama administration to try to persuade Qatar to extend the monitoring.
“It’s impossible for me to see how they don’t rejoin the fight in short order,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., wrote Defense Secretary Ash Carter in March, asking him to take any step necessary to make sure the five do not return to the battlefield in Afghanistan.
“In Congress, we spent a lot of time debating whether the Qataris were going to adequately keep an eye on them in the course of the 12 months,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee. “My point all along was that I’m more worried about month No. 13 than the first 12.”
Schiff has been privy to the details of the still-secret memorandum of understanding the U.S. reached with Qatar that put the five under a 12-month watch following their release. “The Qataris did pretty good — I wouldn’t say perfect,” he said about the year-long monitoring. “But the big question is what comes next.”
Fox News reported in March that, according to a government official familiar with the intelligence, at least three of the five have tried to plug back into their old terror networks.
The Post reported earlier this month that amid these concerns, administration officials were putting several options on the table for keeping some restrictions in place. At the time, State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke confirmed the administration was in talks to limit or “mitigate”the risk of former Guantanamo prisoners returning to terrorism. While not mentioning the Taliban Five by name, Rathke did not deny the Post report that these talks were designed to extend the restrictions that expire at the end of the month.
But there was no public indication Tuesday, with just days left on the Qatari deal, on whether the talks led anywhere. Rathke also said Tuesday he had no updates on the issue.
The administration, meanwhile, continues to take heat for last year’s trade.
After a lengthy investigation, Bergadhl is being brought up on desertion charges. And on Tuesday, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal told Fox News that his “initial understanding” of Bergdahl’s disappearance was that he had walked off the base intentionally.
Fox News had reported in April that, according to Bergdahl’s platoon mates, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen also knew those details. With McChrystal’s comments, this would indicate two of the most-senior military commanders understood the alleged circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure, raising more questions about the Taliban-Bergdahl trade itself and the way the deal was initially portrayed to the public.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked Tuesday about McChrystal’s comments and whether President Obama also was told Bergdahl walked off the base, did not respond directly.
He cited the ongoing military “process”underway, and said: “I’m not going to weigh in on this particular situation until that justice process has run its course.”
He reiterated that Obama, as commander-in-chief, has a “special responsibility” to live up to the “principle” that no one in a U.S. military uniform is left behind.
The upcoming Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act could wipe out insurance for millions of people covered by the president’s health care plan, leaving states that set up their own health care markets scrambling to subsidize coverage for those left uninsured.
Twenty-six of the 34 states that would be hardest hit by the ruling have GOP governors. Twenty-two of the 24 Senate seats that are up for re-election in 2016 are currently held by Republicans. What that means is that it’s the GOP – and not the White House –that’s working on damage control.
President Obama’s landmark legislation offers subsidized private insurance to those without access to it on the job. In the Supreme Court case, opponents of the law argue that its literal wording allows the government to subsidize coverage only in states that set up their own health insurance markets.
The justices will determine whether the law makes people in all 50 states eligible for federal tax subsidies — or just those who live in states that created their own health insurance marketplaces. The question matters because about three dozen states opted against their own marketplace, or exchange, and instead rely on the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Healthcare.gov.
If the court rules against the Obama administration, insurance subsidies for people in those states would be in jeopardy.
If the court invalidates the subsidies in those states, the results would be “ugly,”former Kansas insurance commissioner Sandy Praeger told The Associated Press.
“People who are reasonably healthy would just drop coverage,” she said. “Only the unhealthy would keep buying health care. It would really exacerbate the problem of the cost of health insurance.”
Praeger, a Republican who retired this year, called it “a classic death spiral,” using a term for market collapse.
In March, the Supreme Court appeared divided along ideological lines after hearing the challenge that, if struck down, could affect up to 8 million policy holders.
If the subsidies survive, the ACA will look like settled law to all but a few passionate opponents. However, if they are overturned, the shock could carry into next year’s elections.
Here are just a few of the potential consequences:
Around the time when the court announces its decision, insurers will be working to finalize premiums and plans for the coming year. Contracts with the government for 2016 health law coverage have to be signed by early fall. If the subsidies are overturned, insurers would have to tear up their projections about markets in more than half the states.
Populous states such as Texas, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Georgia and Pennsylvania would be among those affected.
State lawmakers could mitigate the impact by setting up their own insurance markets, or exchanges. But that can’t be done overnight.
States might try authorizing an exchange, and then contracting with the federal government to run it. But that sort of end-run might prompt lawsuits from opponents of the law.
In any case, most state legislatures will be out of session by the summer.
During arguments, Associate Justice Samuel Alito raised the possibility that the court might be able to delay the effective date of its decision. Even a delay through the end of this year wouldn’t buy much time. Enrollment for 2016 health law plans is scheduled to start Nov. 1.
HOUSE OF CARDS
The health law was designed as a balancing act. Insurers can’t turn people away because of health problems, but most healthy people are required to contribute to the insurance pool, and the government subsidizes most of the premium for low- to middle-income households.
Take away subsidies, and the other two parts become unstable.
The law’s requirement to carry insurance, never popular, would probably become the biggest target for repeal.
“My guess is there would be overwhelming political support for the elimination of the individual mandate if people can’t afford the premiums,” said former Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who was an influential Obama adviser on health care.
Insurers would demand relief from provisions of the law intended to limit premium increases, or they might drop out of the insurance exchanges.
STICKER SHOCK FOR SELF-PAY CUSTOMERS
Many people still buy individual health care policies directly from an insurance company, bypassing the law’s markets and paying the full cost. They tend to be small-business owners, self-employed professionals and early retirees.
But even they would not escape the tumult in states losing subsidies.
The health law created one big insurance pool in each state, combining customers who purchase their policies directly with those who buy through the government market. If healthy people exit the insurance exchanges in droves, premiums for those buying directly would go up. Some may be unable to afford the higher cost.
“It would set off cascading events,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “The individual market would empty out as premiums rise significantly.”
REPUBLICANS TO THE RESCUE?
Leading congressional Republicans have been walking a fine line, opposing the law in the Supreme Court case while pledging to protect consumers if their side wins.
If the subsidies are overturned, Republicans will first try blaming Obama and the Democrats for writing flawed legislation and then trying to paper over problems with regulations. Then they’ll move ahead with a patch to appease angry constituents.
A bill introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., would continue the subsidies for existing customers only on the federal exchange until September 2017. That would open a window for states to act, but it would ultimately leave the problem for the next president and Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is a co-sponsor.
Johnson’s bill would repeal the requirements for individuals to have insurance and for larger employers to offer coverage to workers.
Obama is unlikely to accept any of those changes.
“The president is likely to veto whatever we would propose, because we don’t have a willing partner,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., leader of a GOP working group on health care.
A longtime Clinton confidant reportedly advised then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton two days after the 2012 Benghazi terror attack that an Al Qaeda-tied group had planned the deadly assault and used a protest as cover — but despite this warning, Clinton’s U.N. ambassador went on to publicly claim the attack was “spontaneous.”
The guidance from ex-Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal was contained in a memo sent Sept. 13, according to The New York Times. It is the latest documentation effectively contradicting the administration’s early narrative that the attack was driven by protests over an anti-Islam Internet video — and raising questions over why officials stuck to that story for days.
According to the Times, Blumenthal initially blamed “demonstrators” angry over that video for the attacks. But the next day, he sent Clinton a very different memo.
According to the Times, Blumenthal told Clinton the attack was driven by Al Qaeda-tied Ansar al-Shariah members who had planned it for a month and used a protest as cover. He cited “sensitive sources.”
“We should get this around asap,” Clinton reportedly told an adviser in response.
Yet, despite this guidance, then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice would go on several television programs Sept. 16 to claim the attacks were “spontaneous,” and not premeditated, and link them to protests over the anti-Islam video.
More on this…
US intel knew about weapons going from Benghazi to Syria
The State Department would later admit there was no protest on the ground in Benghazi that day. The role of the video continues to be debated to this day, but a mounting body of evidence has emerged showing multiple assessments that the attack was to some degree planned.
Fox News reported earlier this week that a Defense Intelligence Agency report from Sept. 12 also said there were indicators the attack was planned and meant as retaliation for a drone strike that killed an Al Qaeda strategist.
The memo, obtained through a federal lawsuit by conservative watchdog Judicial Watch, said: “The attack was planned ten or more days prior to approximately 01 September 2012. The intention was to attack the consulate and to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge for the US killing of Aboyahiye (Alaliby) in Pakistan and in memorial of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings.”
Additional memos surfaced last year indicating Rice — now the national security adviser — was prepped before those Sept. 16 Sunday shows. One email from a top administration adviser specifically drew attention to the anti-Islam Internet video, without distinguishing whether the Benghazi attack was different from protests elsewhere in the region which were over the video.
The email listed the following goal, among others: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
A congressional committee is probing the handling of the Benghazi attacks, and the administration’s Internet-video narrative is sure to be just one of many aspects investigated.
The emails reported by the Times were part of a batch given to that committee. The Times reported that Blumenthal, who has been subpoenaed by the committee, sent at least 25 memos on Libya to Clinton, including several on the 2012 attacks.
The Times earlier reported that while he was sending memos, Blumenthal also was advising business associates who were hoping to win contracts from Libya’s transitional post-Qaddafi government. The Times report did not make clear what, if anything, Clinton and the State Department knew of Blumenthal’s involvement in any potential business projects in Libya.
The Times also reported Thursday that the former secretary of state’s emails reflected she had “sensitive but unclassified” information in her account — operated on a personal email address.
This reportedly included information on travel plans of U.S. officials in Libya.
Yesterday the New York Timesreported Hillary Clinton, despite denials by her attorneys, had two personal email addresses hosted on a private server that she used during her time as Secretary of State. One of those email addresses was used for communication with longtime brutal political operative Sidney Blumenthal, who sent Clinton intelligence on Libya.
According to emails obtained by The New York Times, Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, took Mr. Blumenthal’s advice seriously, forwarding his memos to senior diplomatic officials in Libya and Washington and at times asking them to respond. Mrs. Clinton continued to pass around his memos even after other senior diplomats concluded that Mr. Blumenthal’s assessments were often unreliable. But an examination by The New York Times suggests that Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years. While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal, who had been barred from a State Department job by aides to President Obama, was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation, to help with research, “message guidance” and planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials. During the same period, he also worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign. Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture, which was ultimately unsuccessful, involved other Clinton friends, a private military contractor and one former C.I.A. spy seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new Libyan economy.
At the same time that he was sending the memos to Clinton, the Times reported, Blumenthal was advising business associates who were hoping to win contracts from Libya’s transitional post-Qaddafi government. The Times report did not make clear what, if anything, Clinton and the State Department knew of Blumenthal’s involvement in any potential business projects in Libya.
Blumenthal served as a senior adviser to former President Bill Clinton between 1997 and 2001, but the Times reported that the Obama administration prohibited him from taking a job with Clinton’s State Department team.
In short, Blumenthal was essentially running an off-the-grid intelligence operation surrounding Libya policy and he just so-happened to send information to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about his findings. To make matters worse, President Obama told Clinton when he nominated her for the position that Blumenthal was not allowed to be involved in any official government business during his administration (because he’s shady).
Now, Blumenthal has been issued a subpoena by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is chaired by Congressman Trey Gowdy, to answer questions behind closed doors about the revelations.
The House select committee investigating the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack issued a subpoena Tuesday to former Clinton White House aide Sidney Blumenthal.
Committee spokesman Jamal Ware confirmed to Fox News that Blumenthal had been called to give a deposition before the committee.
Yesterday when asked about her relationship with Blumenthal, Clinton said he is a longtime friend and that she’ll continue to communicate with friends as she moves forward with her presidential campaign.
“He sent me unsolicited emails, which I passed on, in some instances,” Clinton told reporters during a campaign stop in Iowa Tuesday. “I’m going to keep talking to my old friends, whoever they are.”
BEIRUT — U.S. commandos mounted a rare raid into eastern Syria overnight, killing a senior Islamic State commander in a firefight, capturing his wife and rescuing a Yazidi woman held as a slave, the Pentagon said Saturday.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the raid, identifying the militant as Abu Sayyaf. He said no U.S. forces were killed or injured in the operation.
A U.S.-led coalition has been striking ISIS militants in Syria since last year, but this is only the second time troops have carried out a ground raid. A previous operation last summer was aimed at rescuing Americans held hostage by the group, but failed to recover any.
Syrian state TV earlier reported that Syrian government forces killed at least 40 ISIS fighters, including a senior commander in charge of oil fields, in an attack Saturday on the country’s largest oil field — held by ISIS. It identified the commander as Abu al-Teem al-Saudi. The name indicates he was a Saudi citizen.
It was not immediately clear why both Syria and the U.S. would claim a similar operation in the Omar oil field. The U.S. has said it is not cooperating with President Bashar Assad’s government in the battle against the Islamic State group. But it says it usually gives Damascus a heads-up on operations within its borders.
The Syrian report, which appeared as an urgent news bar on state TV, was not repeated by the state news agency. State TV didn’t repeat the urgent news or elaborate on it.
The Britain-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights confirmed an attack on the Omar oil field, saying at least 19 ISIS members, including 12 foreigners, were killed. The group did not say who carried out the attack, but said it was informed that there was an airdrop that followed the airstrikes. The Observatory relies on a network of activists on the ground in Syria.
The U.S. did not provide the full name of the militant identified as Abu Sayyaf. There was no information immediately available on jihadist websites.
A statement from the U.S. National Security Council said Abu Sayyaf was a “senior ISIL leader who, among other things, had a senior role in overseeing ISIL’s illicit oil and gas operations — a key source of revenue that enables the terrorist organization to carry out their brutal tactics and oppress thousands of innocent civilians.”
“He was also involved with the group’s military operations,” it said.
A U.S. defense official said the raid was conducted overnight Friday (Friday evening Washington time) by a team of Army Delta commandos who flew from Iraq into eastern Syria aboard V-22 Osprey aircraft and Blackhawk helicopters.
Upon arrival at the target, which was a multi-story building, the Americans met stiff resistance. A “fairly intense firefight” ensued, including hand-to-hand combat, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details of the raid by name.
The U.S. estimates that about a dozen ISIS fighters were killed but no civilians were wounded, even though women and children were present. The Americans returned to their base unharmed by about midnight Washington time.
The ISIS leader who was killed was a Tunisian national designated by ISIS as the organization’s “emir of oil and gas,” according to the U.S. official.
The National Security Council statement said President Barack Obama authorized the operation upon the “unanimous recommendation” of his national security team.
Asked about the timing of the two announcements, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. government did not coordinate with the Syrian government or advise it in advance of the operation.
“We have warned the Assad regime not to interfere with our ongoing efforts against ISIL inside of Syria,” she said, using another acronym for ISIS. “As we have said before, the Assad regime is not and cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIL. In fact, the brutal actions of the regime have aided and abetted the rise of ISIL and other extremists in Syria.”
The statement said the commandos rescued a young Yazidi woman “who appears to have been held as a slave” by the slain militant and his wife. IS militants captured hundreds of members of the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq during their rampage across the country last summer.
The extremist group controls much of northern and eastern Syria as well as northern and western Iraq. It has control of most of the oil fields in Syria, which are a key source of its funding. It has declared a caliphate in the territories under its control and governs them under a harsh version of Islamic law.
The special operation was announced as ISIS fighters were advancing in central and northeastern Syria. The militants are nearing the historic city of Palmyra, in the central province of Homs, and have seized as water facility and an oil field on the city’s eastern outskirts, activists said.
The advances in the Palmyra countryside were coupled with an announcement Saturday by the Islamic State group that its fighters have seized full control of Saker Island in the Euphrates River north of Deir el-Zour, the northeastern province divided between areas held by the group and the government.
On the one-year anniversary of the panel’s creation, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chairman on the House Select Committee on Benghazi, has released his preliminary report on the investigation’s progress. In a press release, the committee noted that the biggest problem concerning wrapping this investigation up is the uncooperativeness of the Obama White House
“I am proud of what a professional team of investigators, committed to uncovering all the facts has been able to accomplish since the committee was created,”said Gowdy, in the press release statement. “But while progress has been made, the greatest impediment to completing this investigation in a timely manner has been the level of cooperation by the executive branch. We look forward to completing our work in manner that is worthy of the sacrifice made by the four men who died and trust of our fellow Americans.”
Here are some of the highlights of the 15-page report [emphasis mine]:
The Committee has reviewed a substantial volume of information previously produced to the House and has requested and received new information. More than 20,000 pages of emails and documents never before released to Congress have been produced by the State Department.” (pp. 1-2)
“In addition, hundreds of pages of emails never before seen by Congress have been produced by the White House. The Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community have also produced documents. Further, the Committee has interviewed State Department and CIA personnel, including survivors of the Benghazi terrorist attacks who had never been interviewed by previous committees, as well as others who have been able to provide indispensable firsthand details of the U.S. presence in Benghazi, Libya.” (p. 2)
“From the outset, the Committee sought to develop an understanding of the perspective and insight from a specific group of people who had been most impacted by the attacks on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi: the families of the victims. To that end, some of the first meetings the Committee conducted were with the victims’ families. The meetings offered the families an opportunity to be heard and to provide their insight to the Committee. Relatedly, the Committee met with the respective agencies to discuss survivorship benefits to ensure the families of the victims received benefits to which they were entitled. This issue remains unresolved with respect to one agency.” (p.3)
“The Committee has also held over two dozen classified and unclassified briefings with the Administration and Executive Branch agencies that have information relevant to the investigation.” (p.3)
“These negotiations resulted in the State Department producing 15,000 pages of new documents to the Committee. These productions were the first time: (1) the State Department produced any email to or from former Secretary Clinton; and (2) the Committee became aware the former Secretary had used a private e-mail account to conduct official State Department business.” (p.4)
“[On] November 18, 2014, the Committee sent a request for documents to the State Department, including seeking emails to and from Secretary Clinton and her senior staff. The request was the result of a review of the record provided by the previous House committees and the lack of email traffic among these individuals. Almost three months later, on February 13, 2015, the Department produced approximately 300 emails to and from the former Secretary during her time as the head of the State Department. However, the State Department has yet to produce a single document pursuant to the remaining portions of the November request. The Committee emphasized the importance of this request by issuing its second subpoena on March 4, 2015 – seeking the emails and documents relating to the ten senior State Department officials. These officials were the same ones referenced in the November 2014 document and communication request, except for the former Secretary. Despite the document request and the subpoena, the State Department has yet to comply.” (p.5)
“The Committee continues to move forward in its investigation – interviewing survivors of the terrorist attacks and others who are giving indispensable firsthand accounts of what happened before, during and after the attacks. This undertaking has resulted in hundreds of hours of preparation, nearly 100 hours of actual interview time and 2,500 pages of testimony. In the coming months, an additional 60 witnesses, representing current and former officials and employees from the State Department, the White House and the Intelligence Community will be interviewed.” (p.8)
“In December 2014, the Select Committee sent a request to the White House for documents and communications pertaining to Benghazi. This marked the first time that a congressional committee had asked the White House for documents about its role in the events prior to, during and after the Benghazi attacks. In February 2015, the White House and the Committee met to discuss this request and create a path forward. As a result of the meeting, the White House produced 266 pages of documents, many of which were emails to and from the National Security Staff.” (p.9)
“Over the last year, the FBI has provided nearly 50 intelligence reports related to its investigation into the Benghazi attacks to the Committee. Eighteen of these reports are specific to the interrogation and prosecution of Abu Khattala and have never before been shared with Congress.” (p.10)
Now, all eyes turn to Hillary Clinton, whose legal team said she is willing to testify in front of the Committee in the next few weeks. The Committee originally asked for two appearances from the former Secretary of State, but Clinton’s legal team cited lack of precedent for such a request, and noted that one appearance should suffice the Committee’s needs given that she will stay as long as needed to fully answer the panel’s questions. We don’t know if this will be a closed-door hearing, or if this will be held at an off-site location. It’s possible. Gowdy has been more than accommodating towards the former first lady, even saying that members of the Committee and the transcriber would come to her when he requested a transcribed interview with Clinton– a request that was denied. Gowdy also requested that Mrs. Clinton turn over the private email server to a third party for analysis. That was also denied and considered a moot point given that her lawyers told Gowdy in a letter that the server had been wiped clean, along with any back-up systems connected to it.
Editors Note: Obama and his administration and specifically the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton have been stonewalling every attempt to get answers as to why 4 Americans were brutally murdered in Benghazi. They have hid pertinent information from Chairman Gowdy to hide their involvement in the Benghazi fiasco. To his credit Chairman Gowdy has persisted with his investigation and when former Sec. of State Clinton refused his offer to testify behind closed doors he has subpoenaed her to testify 2 times before an open Committee hearing. This time Clinton will be under oath and subject to purgery charges if she lies or fails to tell the whole truth.
Rep.Elijah Cummings of Maryland was chosen by the Democrats to be a further stumbling block to the hearings and to delay things as long as he can. If all the truth finally comes out about the conspiracy to hide the facts concerning Benghazi Obama and the other antagonists may well find themselves in a court of law defending their actions. [TS]
The select House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks has made strides in learning the details of the assaults that killed four Americans 2012, Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy said Friday while slamming the Obama administration as “the greatest impediment to completing this investigation in a timely matter.”
“We look forward to completing our work in a manner that is worthy of the sacrifice made by the four men who died and trust of our fellow Americans,” Gowdy, who represents South Carolina, said in a report marking the panel’s first anniversary.
But the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, blasted the investigation as a “political charade” that has so far cost American taxpayers $3 million and is being “dragged out in order to attack”former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is seeking her party’s 2016 presidential nomination.
“At every turn, the select committee comes up with a new excuse to further delay its work,”Cummings said. “Republicans are desperately trying to validate the $3 million in taxpayer funds they have spent over the past year, but they have nothing to show for it other than a partisan attack against Secretary Clinton and her campaign for president.”
The Benghazi committee was created last year by House Speaker John Boehner, and consists of seven Republicans and five Democrats. The panel is among four House committees investigating the attacks. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two former Navy SEALs were among the four Americans who died.
In January 2013, Clinton testified to lawmakers in both the House and Senate on the attacks. She has agreed to appear before the Benghazi committee and has handed over 30,000 official emails over to the State Department for public preservation.
In his 15-page report, Gowdy noted that in the past year the committee has:
Obtained “hundreds of pages of emails never before seen by Congress” from the White House, the Justice Department and intelligence agencies.
Acquired an additional 15,000 pages of documents after more than two dozen “classified and unclassified” briefings with Obama administration agencies.
Received communications to and from Clinton for the first time, including those showing that the former secretary had used “a private email account to conduct official State Department business.”
Produced nearly 100 hours of interviews and 2,500 pages of testimony from “survivors of the terrorist attacks and others who are giv
Received more than 20,000 emails and other documents from the State Department that have been “never before released to Congress.”
ing indispensable first-hand accounts of what happened before, during and after the attacks.” Another 60 witnesses are to be interviewed “in the coming months.”
Met with the families of the victims of the attacks. “The meetings offered the families an opportunity to be heard and to provide their insight to the committee.” The panel has also “met with the respective agencies to discuss survivorship benefits to ensure the families of the victims received benefits to which they were entitled.”
Obtained nearly 50 reports from the FBI on Benghazi, including 18 on the “interrogation and prosecution” of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged mastermind of the attacks who was captured last June.
“I am proud of what a professional team of investigators, committed to uncovering all the facts, has been able to accomplish since the committee was created,” Gowdy said.
But in a separate report, Cummings retorted that the Benghazi panel has been “operating at a glacial pace” — including not sending first requests for documents from the State Department, the Defense Department, the CIA and the National Security Agency, until at least six months after the committee was created.
“The select committee has held only three hearings, two of which were proposed by Democrats, averaging $1 million per hearing,” Cummings said.
Furthermore, the panel “has not held a hearing in three months,” even though Gowdy said in December that it would do so in each of the first three months of the year.
He said the Benghazi investigation has lasted longer than such inquiries as Iran-Contra, Hurricane Katrina, the John F. Kennedy assassination and the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941.
“The select committee is on track to last longer than the investigations of Watergate and 9/11 — at a potential cost of more than $6 million,” Cummings said.
He also noted that the anti-Clinton Stop Hillary PAC has sent out email solicitations seeking donations using Gowdy’s image and his position as the committee’s chairman in order to “support Trey Gowdy and continue the select committee on Benghazi.”
“Despite its focus on Secretary Clinton,” Cummings concluded, “the select committee has identified no evidence to support claims that Secretary Clinton ordered a stand-down, approved an illicit weapons program, or any other wild allegation Republicans have made about her for years.”
Today’s society is amazing in the way that confounds the mind. Liberals and progressives recognize there is a “war on women” and speak to inequality in the workplace, concerning wages and position as the cause. Agreeably, there are still workplace inequalities, but women have made huge strides in this area. This makes one wonder what type of value system their liberal minds have created because the real war on women goes much deeper and is far more insidious. It is neglected by those same people, the liberals, who fail to recognize the abuses and atrocities happening all around us every minute of every single day. One may ask, “Why this is so?” It is, for the most part, because it is not politically correct to talk about such things. Unless one has been a victim or been involved in a situation indirectly, it is difficult to understand. Of course there are also those who choose to turn a blind eye rather than get involved.
Domestic violence is one huge way the real war on women is manifested. It has far reaching effects that involve more than the person being abused. It affects the entire family unit. Children are damaged mentally and emotionally and carry the scars for many years, sometimes without realizing it. Domestic violence doesn’t just happen. It has, in most cases, been a way of life for the abuser since childhood. Children learn what they see and hear.
Abuse comes in many forms; physical violence, emotional, verbal, sexual, and financial abuse. The old adage about “sticks and stones” is not always true. Words are a powerful tool for someone who aims to harm and control another. Verbal and emotional abuse can be the most difficult to overcome. The scars aren’t visible but are still very deep.
Physical violence is what we hear about in the news. There are those public figures who argue domestic violence is not at epidemic proportions. Dr. Ben Carson made such a claim recently on The O’Reilly Factor. https://youtu.be/lKYRrs42P-w
Dr. Carson is foremost in his field as a neurologist and is quite intelligent and esteemed, but one has to wonder how out of touch with society he is to make such a claim.
Consider this, according to the FBI, two million women are victims of physical abuse in the US annually. Physical abuse, by either spouse or partner, is the number one cause of injury to females who are age 15 to 44 years. Keep in mind these are only the reported incidents. More than 1400 women are killed annually from physical abuse. Violent children, who have been institutionalized, had witnessed extreme violence in 79% or cases.
There are signs which will allow a person to recognize a potentially violent domestic environment. These signs are not only recognizable in men, but women as well. Domestic violence is not gender based. The warning signs consist of:
A partner with a bad temper who is jealous or possessive.
An over eagerness to please a partner by the victim.
Injuries explained as “accidents” or clumsiness, which occur frequently.
Absences from work, school or other activities which are inconsistent.
Inappropriate clothing or accessories used to hide injuries.
Low self esteem and self worth.
Limited accessibility to family, friends, money and transportation.
To read more about the symptoms of abuse click here.
Domestic violence is not limited to adults. Two in ten teenage girls say they have been abused, either physically or sexually, by a dating partner. Both boys and girls are equal victims of abuse in teen relationships. One in five teenage girls, who have been in a relationship, stated boyfriends threatened violence or self harm if the relationship ended. Clickhere for more statistics on domestic violence.
The real war on women is happening every day in every neighborhood in every town or city across the nation. The next time someone suggests it isn’t necessarily an epidemic, remind them they have no idea what is happening in the realworld. This is just one example of the war on women. There are others to be sure, but we must to start a dialogue which exposes it and sets the record straight.
For more information on domestic violence, please contact The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. If you are in a situation where domestic violence is taking place and are ready for help, call the national Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). They can, and will, provide you with resources in your area.
It can be said some people think too much. I have been told I do. My favorite philosophy professor told me not to worry about it. He said “those who say you think too much probably don’t think enough”. Those words resonate in my head on a regular basis and I thank God I was fortunate and honored enough to be one of his students.
I mention this in passing to emphasize how important it is to think for ourselves about virtually everything these days. We cannot allow MSM or talking heads to do our thinking for us and must trust our gut feelings. This brings me to the subject of this opinion article which is what is happening that we are missing in regards to recent events surrounding Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland.
Since the several months following Ferguson, our nation has been under scrutiny by other nations as well as the UN governing body as having “rogue” police in every city, town and village in America. Of all places, even Iran has weighed in on our Law Enforcement. Is there anyone out there who is feeling the least bit outraged by this?
After the fuse has been lit, enter Al Sharpton injecting his warped brand of “equality and justice” to further fuel the fire of unrest. Honorable and loving people of God such as the Reverend Alveda King should be the voice of reason, sanity and clarity in these times but sadly, nobody is listening.
Does it not seem strange that Al Sharpton pays regular visits to the White House and has gone on record to state he assists Mr. Obama in decision making for our country? Mr. Sharpton visited the White House before the Ferguson riots, and again afterward. He then visited the White House before the indictments in Baltimore and made his appearance with the mayor just before said indictments were announced. He acted as bodyguard and spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who also happens to be the present secretary of the DNC. Being an elected public official, Ms. Rawlings-Blake should always speak for herself.
I am not saying the Baltimore officers are not responsible for what ensue and ultimately resulted in the death of Freddie Gray, they may well have been. The problem is those six officers have already been tried and convicted by the very people who have sworn to find the truth through our judicial system.
The point of all this comes down to public opinion and being manipulated to believe the worst with very little evidence. Has anyone else noticed marked increase in the amount of “bad cop” videos that are springing up on social media sites? There are so many these days it is becoming the norm. There is never any explanation or follow up information for these videos and people, even conservatives who supported Law Enforcement Officers until recently, are now allowing these videos to change their attitudes. They are making comments about how “out of control” law enforcement is.
Putting all of this together takes some thinking and paying attention to subtleties which have slowly surfaced. There have also been comments made which tie all this together, if one is willing to go there. I am.
Al Sharpton’s latest outrageous call to action should have resonated as something to be very wary of. Instead, it has gone largely unnoticed. He is calling for a national police force to be overseen by the Department of Justice which is now headed by Loretta Lynch who has been described as Eric Holder on steroids. Is anybody connecting the dots with me?
It might be better to stop falling for what one allows MSM to tell them and start thinking for oneself. We are being herded into total anarchy because we are falling in line with the rest of the sheep. As with so many other Executive Orders, it will happen and nobody will know until it is too late.
Please stop being so quick to judge based on limited information and start asking more questions and looking beyond the obvious.
Drip, drip, drip. Last week, we learned that the Clinton Foundation had failed to report tens of millions of dollars in foreign government donations in their tax filings, a revelation that has forced them to go back and amend at least five years’ worth of documents. In three of those years — all during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at State — the organization falsely listed foreign government income at $0. Yesterday, we discovered that at least 1,100 individual donors, many of them non-US citizens, managed to anonymously contribute to the Clintons’ money pot through a Canadian offshoot “charity.” Team Clinton’s justification has completely fallen apart, with the New York Timespiling on this morning. This secretive windfall violated the transparency agreement she signed upon joining the Obama administration as America’s top diplomat. The idea, of course, was to provide the American people with an open look at any outside influences that may have been trying to pay for access and favor. Hillary broke those rules, just like she ignored “clear cut” regulations on private email usage and did so in the most egregious way imaginable (secret, insecure, private server, with tens of thousands of emails deleted and then wiped clean, without any oversight). Today, the Boston Globe blazes another path down the Clinton foreign money trail:
An unprecedented ethics promise that played a pivotal role in helping Hillary Rodham Clinton win confirmation as secretary of state, soothing senators’ concerns about conflicts of interests with Clinton family charities, was uniformly bypassed by the biggest of the philanthropies involved. The Clinton Health Access Initiative never submitted information on any foreign donations to State Department lawyers for review during Clinton’s tenure from 2009 to 2013, Maura Daley, the organization’s spokeswoman, acknowledged to the Globe this week. She said the charity deemed it unnecessary, except in one case that she described as an “oversight.” During that time, grants from foreign governments increased by tens of millions of dollars to the Boston-based organization. Daley’s acknowledgement was the first by the charity of the broad scope of its apparent failures to fulfill the spirit of a crucial political pledge made by the Clinton family and their charities. The health initiative has previously acknowledged failing only to disclose the identity of its contributors, another requirement under the agreement. The failures make the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which is headquartered on Dorchester Avenue in South Boston, and goes by the acronym CHAI, a prominent symbol of the broken political promise and subsequent lack of accountability underlying the charity-related controversies that are dogging Clinton as she embarks on her campaign for president. The charity defended the lack of some disclosures on the grounds that the donations in question were simply passed through the charity to fund an existing project. Previously, it has acknowledged that mistakes were made.
Abiding by rules wasn’t necessary, they “deemed,”except in rare cases — and then “mistakes were made.” The result was many millions in foreign dollars (including from foreign governments) flowing into what a transparency watchdog has termed the Clinton “slush fund.” Allahpundit reminds us of the manufactured and utterly groundless panic Democrats attempted to foist upon voters in the days leading up to their 2010 electoral drubbing: Secret foreign cash is buying this election for Republicans! It was nonsense, and Democrats outspent Republicans that year anyway, but Democrats were dutifully “scandalized”and very angry about it all. Here we have actual secret foreign money pouring into Chez Clinton, and Democrats will merrily nominate Hillary for president. Shameless. By the way, is all of this unseemliness giving some Clinton donors cold feet? (At least the ones who aren’t on a lavish African safari with Bill and Chelsea, of course). Perhaps so. But you’d imagine they’ll get over it once media coverage cools off. Until then, Hillary is fundraising off of her corrupt fundraising. Neat trick, that. Meanwhile, Mrs. Clinton has come out against a White House-supported free trade deal, despite assurances from the Obama people that she was on board. Her move is cynical and self-interested (natch), and above all, a left-flank-protection maneuver. After getting bitten by Obama in 2008, Hillary isn’t taking any chances. She’s running hard left on almost every divisive issue in an effort to fend off quixotic challenges from people like Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. The Washington Post has a front page story today detailing the many ways in which Hillary Clinton is running against her husband’s agenda:
Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t just running against Republicans. She’s also running against parts of her husband’s legacy. On issues large and small, the Democratic presidential contender is increasingly distancing herself from — or even opposing — key policies pushed by Bill Clinton while he was in the White House, from her recent skepticism on free-trade pacts to her full embrace of gay rights. The starkest example yet came Wednesday, when Hillary Clinton delivered an impassioned address condemning the “era of incarceration” ushered in during the 1990s in the wake of her husband’s 1994 crime bill — though she never mentioned him or the legislation by name.
The media loves to engage in endless concern-trolling about the rightward drift of the GOP, with a long line of commentators and elected Democrats asserting that Ronald Reagan himself couldn’t win the Republican nomination these days. In truth, the Democrats have lurched dramatically to the left. The Bill Clinton of 1992 and 1996 would be ostracized and marginalized in Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama’s Democratic Party, and probably called a homophobic racist to boot. This devolution is perhaps illustrated most clearly by the party’s intensifying hostility to religious freedom; Democrats now widely abhor a law that was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and Chuck Schumer, and that passed Congress nearly unanimously before being signed by President Clinton. Democrats’ enduring advantage on their hardening left-wing ideology: A mainstream media establishment that largely agrees with them. They’ll throw the flag on the Clintons’ breathtaking influence-peddling schemes in the early going, but when the chips are down, better to have an abortion-supporting (newfound) gay marriage advocate in the White House than…one of those people. I’ll leave you with a friendly suggestion for supporters of the trade deal Hillary to which Hillary is suddenly opposed:
Trade plan supporters, I hear Bill is available for a $500k speech that might “fix” this. (wink) https://t.co/yZZ3hlvagn
Last week we learned about the Clinton Foundation’s tax problems — including a serial failure to disclose tens of millions in donations from foreign entities — and explosive allegations of a lucrative quid pro quo involving the Russian government’s successful effort to gain control of a sizable percentage of US uranium capacity. (Mistakes were made, they magnanimously concede). Now the author of ‘Clinton Cash,’ upon whose work the New York Times, Washington Post and Fox News have built, is pointing to eleven “coincidences” involving Bill Clinton’s speaking schedule and issues before Hillary’s State Department:
Bill Clinton gave 11 speeches during his wife’s tenure as secretary of state, each connected to companies that had business pending before the State Department, according to the author of a new book on the Clinton Foundation, who notes that the business was concluded in their favor following donations to the former president’s nonprofit…Schwiezer stopped short of alleging a strict quid pro quo, but he pointed to an extensive pattern of foreign companies donating to the Clinton Foundation when they have business interest pending at the State Department. “They make large payments and favorable actions are taken,” Schwiezer said. “I don’t think that coincidences occur that frequently.”
Lanny Davis, who worked in the White House under Bill Clinton, defended his old boss by suggesting that companies started paying him more after his wife took office because he had a track record of success as a philanthropist. “It’s more logical that right after he got out of the White House, before the foundation’s activities and before he did so much good around the world, he’s going to be less valuable,” he said. Davis also argued that the “coincidences” Schweizer noted do not suggest bad behavior. “Of course, it’s a coincidence but it’s a false inference,” he said…Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked if the private emails Hillary Clinton deleted might have pertained to the Clinton Foundation’s donations. “Look. Anything is possible,” Davis replied dismissively.
“Anything is possible,” indeed. Hillary made a proactive decision to violate layers of rules, and possibly the law, by setting up a rogue email server on which conducted all of her official business. She made a conscious decision to withhold her emails from public scrutiny, ignoring a Congressional inquiry in 2012. When the stonewall began to break down, she actively chose to have her attorneys cull her emails, acting with no oversight and changing their tune about their methodology (another Clinton excuse went down the tubes a few weeks ago). She decided to have them delete tens of thousands of correspondences, and approved the server’s effective destruction. In the process, she endangered national security. Mrs. Clinton isn’t a stupid woman. She knew that these machinations becoming public would be damaging — but concluded that the trade-off was worth the bad press, on balance. Why? What was lurking in her emails that made all of the dodgy malfeasance worthwhile? We will likely never know, which was precisely the point. This, perhaps above all other reasons, is why the Clintons have not earned the benefit of the doubt here; they’re not getting it from Ron Fournier:
Hillary Clinton seized all emails pertaining to her job as Secretary of State and deleted an unknown number of messages from her private server. Her family charity accepted foreign and corporate donations from people doing business with the State Department – people who hoped to curry favor. She violated government rules designed to protect against corruption and perceptions of corruption that erode the public’s trust in government. She has not apologized. She has not made amends: She withholds the email server and continues to accept foreign donations. That’s what this is about…Clinton’s crisis management team makes a big deal of the fact that “Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer hasn’t proven a “quid pro quo.” Really? It takes a pretty desperate and cynical campaign to set the bar of acceptable behavior at anything short of bribery. The Clinton team also points to errors made by news organizations investigating the email and foundation scandals, particularly the work around Schweizer’s book. That is their right, but they’re nibbling around the edges: The core ingredients of the Clintons’ wrongdoing has not been misreported.
As for the work of the ‘charitable’ Clinton Foundation itself, how has the organization been spending the mountains of money flowing into its coffers from all corners of the world? Opaquely, that’s how:
If you take a narrower, and more realistic, view of the tax-exempt group’s expenditures by excluding obvious overhead expenses and focusing on direct grants to charities and governments, the numbers look much worse. In 2013, for example, only 10 percent of the Clinton Foundation’s expenditures were for direct charitable grants. The amount it spent on charitable grants–$8.8 million–was dwarfed by the $17.2 million it cumulatively spent on travel, rent, and office supplies. Between 2011 and 2013, the organization spent only 9.9 percent of the $252 million it collected on direct charitable grants.
The majority of expenditures have been lumped into a broad “other expenses“ category, which could mean…well, anything. That may be why an official at the nonpartisan, good-government Sunlight Foundation calls the foundation a “slush fund:”
“It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” said Bill Allison, a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation, a government watchdog group once run by leading progressive Democrat and Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout. … The Clinton family’s mega-charity took in more than $140 million in grants and pledges in 2013 but spent just $9 million on direct aid. …
Parting thought: As the drip, drip, drip (which I’ve mentioned previously) continues, are some Democratic insiders starting to get cold feet? Perhaps, but they have no viable alternative, so they’ll circle the wagons, counterattack, and hope for the best. I’ll leave you with Ruth Marcus casting the Clintons’ behavior in the best possible light — “slopiness and greed:”
During virtually every election cycle, people are heard saying “I’m not voting.” Yet, their reasons are usually based on fairly inane excuses. Let’s take a look back at history and how we came to have the right to vote in the first place. Perhaps some of the non-voting population simply needs a refresher in our nation’s history. It may remind all of us about how and why our country came to be the greatest in the world.
The next part of history is, of course, the establishment of a new country with individual rights. Our forefathers wrote documents to insure these rights to be inalienable, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights which is part of the Constitution of the United States of America. Since the formation of our country, there have been thirteen wars to defend these rights. The number of service members who either died or were permanently disabled as a result is quite sobering. These statistics don’t even include the previous two years.
The right to vote has been both hard fought and costly, in terms of currency and, more importantly, human lives. For some, though, the right to vote became a waiting game. Black Americans did not have the right to vote until 1870 with the addition of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. They were still denied the right by some states until the Voting Rights Act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, a nearly 100 year wait. Women, meanwhile, didn’t gain the right to vote until August 18, 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
With all the history attached to just one single right, it really is the height of hypocrisy for anyone that doesn’t exercise that right to complain about the state of our great nation right now or how our local governments are failing. With today’s methods for voting, standing in line may take 15 minutes out of your day. Young children are allowed in polling places, so that’s no excuse either. In many places polls are open for as many as twelve and sometimes a full fourteen hours. If none of these options work, absentee ballots are available to anyone.
The apex of this hypocrisy has to be defined as someone who refuses to vote because their personal favorite did not make the ballot. WHAT?? That statement may sum up what is wrong with this country! It seems we live in an “all about me” society. No candidate will ever meet every voter’s criteria. The most anyone can do is to vote for the person whose ideals most closely align with their own. It may be necessary to become involved with the candidate you like. What better way to help get their message out and fund raise than by becoming a part of their campaign!
Some food for thought: If every registered Republican had gone to the polls and voted in November of 2012, Mitt Romney would have, without a doubt, been elected President. This is an undeniable fact. Instead, because “their guy” wasn’t nominated, they stayed home. Did that attitude help or hinder the state of our Nation?
There is a lesson to be learned. Do not let your ego keep you from exercising the right to vote. Too many people have either given their lives or left part of themselves on the battlefield to insure that right. It’s not too late. You have more than two weeks until election day; plenty of time to get out there and vote!!
Until watching Dinesh D’Souza’s“America”,words to describe ThePledge of Allegiance failed to convey what it meant. The pledge is a declaration of love for this great country called The United States of America. In D’Souza’s words, it is the idea of America that makes it so great.
It’s been suggested the pledge should be done away with because of its socialist origins. Others say it should only be a pledge to our constitution. I think the pledge is perfect the way it is. It is the idea it conveys to the rest of the world of what our country represents. It is the symbol of that idea we are pledging our allegiance to.
Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister (who was later forced out of the church for preaching socialism) and also a member of the Socialist Party, was hired in 1891 by James Upham to write the pledge for the purpose of encouraging public schools to fly the flag. This was to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Columbus “discovering” the Americas. Bellamy took advantage of the opportunity as a way to further his socialist beliefs. The original version Bellamy penned was, “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.Those words convey a completely different meaning from the ones we know today, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
These words are our declaration of love and support for the idea which is America. We are not pledging to the flag itself, we are pledging to what it stands for! No other country does this. We are unique in every way. There are those that want to destroy this idea so they seek out ways to attack from within.
If you choose to not say the pledge, you are free to do so. It’s based on the idea our flag represents. If you do not want to believe our country was built on Judeo-Christian values and think “under God” isn’t appropriate, don’t say it! Nobody is forced to believe what they don’t because of the idea of freedom of religion.
If you don’t support the pledge or the ideas it represents, it does make me wonder; why are you here? If the idea of the United States of America and pledging allegiance to it is so repulsive, why are you here? You are free to leave any time you wish. The rest of us will wish you well, say a prayer for you and send you on your way with a big God Bless America.
You see, this is a unique and quite wonderful country and we want to keep it that way. We are free because of the idea. And the pledge? It reminds us of it every time we stand proudly and recite it.
NYT: Clintons Failed to Disclose $2.35M Donation from Russian-Owned Uranium Corp
The headline in Pravda trumpeted President Vladimir V. Putin’s latest coup, its nationalistic fervor recalling an era when the newspaper served as the official mouthpiece of the Kremlin: “Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World.”
The article, in January 2013, detailed how the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, had taken over a Canadian company with uranium-mining stakes stretching from Central Asia to the American West. The deal made Rosatom one of the world’s largest uranium producers and brought Mr. Putin closer to his goal of controlling much of the global uranium supply chain.
But the untold story behind that story is one that involves not just the Russian president, but also a former American president and a woman who would like to be the next one.
At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.
Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.
The New York Times’s examination of the Uranium One deal is based on dozens of interviews, as well as a review of public records and securities filings in Canada, Russia and the United States. Some of the connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation were unearthed by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Clinton Cash.” Mr. Schweizer provided a preview of material in the book to The Times, which scrutinized his information and built upon it with its own reporting.
Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.
In a statement, Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, said no one “has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.” He emphasized that multiple United States agencies, as well as the Canadian government, had signed off on the deal and that, in general, such matters were handled at a level below the secretary. “To suggest the State Department, under then-Secretary Clinton, exerted undue influence in the U.S. government’s review of the sale of Uranium One is utterly baseless,” he added.
American political campaigns are barred from accepting foreign donations. But foreigners may give to foundations in the United States. In the days since Mrs. Clinton announced her candidacy for president, the Clinton Foundation has announced changes meant to quell longstanding concerns about potential conflicts of interest in such donations; it has limited donations from foreign governments, with many, like Russia’s, barred from giving to all but its health care initiatives. That policy stops short of Mrs. Clinton’s agreement with the Obama administration, which prohibited all foreign government donations while she served as the nation’s top diplomat.
Either way, the Uranium One deal highlights the limits of such prohibitions. The foundation will continue to accept contributions from foreign individuals and businesses whose interests, like Uranium One’s, may overlap with those of foreign governments, some of which may be at odds with the United States.
When the Uranium One deal was approved, the geopolitical backdrop was far different from today’s. The Obama administration was seeking to “reset” strained relations with Russia. The deal was strategically important to Mr. Putin, who shortly after the Americans gave their blessing sat down for a staged interview with Rosatom’s chief executive, Sergei Kiriyenko. “Few could have imagined in the past that we would own 20 percent of U.S. reserves,” Mr. Kiriyenko told Mr. Putin.
Now, after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in Ukraine, the Moscow-Washington relationship is devolving toward Cold War levels, a point several experts made in evaluating a deal so beneficial to Mr. Putin, a man known to use energy resources to project power around the world.
“Should we be concerned? Absolutely,” said Michael McFaul, who served under Mrs. Clinton as the American ambassador to Russia but said he had been unaware of the Uranium One deal until asked about it. “Do we want Putin to have a monopoly on this? Of course we don’t. We don’t want to be dependent on Putin for anything in this climate.”
A Seat at the Table
The path to a Russian acquisition of American uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal, with Mr. Clinton at his side.
The two men had flown aboard Mr. Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group, undercutting American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.
Within days of the visit, Mr. Giustra’s fledgling company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., signed a preliminary deal giving it stakes in three uranium mines controlled by the state-run uranium agency Kazatomprom.
If the Kazakh deal was a major victory, UrAsia did not wait long before resuming the hunt. In 2007, it merged with Uranium One, a South African company with assets in Africa and Australia, in what was described as a $3.5 billion transaction. The new company, which kept the Uranium One name, was controlled by UrAsia investors including Ian Telfer, a Canadian who became chairman. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Giustra, whose personal stake in the deal was estimated at about $45 million, said he sold his stake in 2007.
Soon, Uranium One began to snap up mining companies with assets in the United States. In April 2007, it announced the purchase of a uranium mill in Utah and more than 38,000 acres of uranium exploration properties in four Western states, followed quickly by the acquisition of the Energy Metals Corporation and its uranium holdings in Wyoming, Texas and Utah. That deal made clear that Uranium One was intent on becoming “a powerhouse in the United States uranium sector with the potential to become the domestic supplier of choice for U.S. utilities,” the company declared.
Still, the company’s story was hardly front-page news in the United States — until early 2008, in the midst of Mrs. Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, when The Times published an article revealing the 2005 trip’s link to Mr. Giustra’s Kazakhstan mining deal. It also reported that several months later, Mr. Giustra had donated $31.3 million to Mr. Clinton’s foundation.
Though the article quoted the former head of Kazatomprom, Moukhtar Dzhakishev, as saying that the deal required government approval and was discussed at a dinner with the president, Mr. Giustra insisted that it was a private transaction, with no need for Mr. Clinton’s influence with Kazakh officials. He described his relationship with the former American president as motivated solely by a shared interest in philanthropy.
As if to underscore the point, five months later Mr. Giustra held a fund-raiser for the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, a project aimed at fostering progressive environmental and labor practices in the natural resources industry, to which he had pledged $100 million. The star-studded gala, at a conference center in Toronto, featured performances by Elton John and Shakira and celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Robin Williams encouraging contributions from the many so-called F.O.F.s — Friends of Frank — in attendance, among them Mr. Telfer. In all, the evening generated $16 million in pledges, according to an article in The Globe and Mail.
“None of this would have been possible if Frank Giustra didn’t have a remarkable combination of caring and modesty, of vision and energy and iron determination,” Mr. Clinton told those gathered, adding: “I love this guy, and you should, too.”
But what had been a string of successes was about to hit a speed bump.
Arrest and Progress
By June 2009, a little over a year after the star-studded evening in Toronto, Uranium One’s stock was in free-fall, down 40 percent. Mr. Dzhakishev, the head of Kazatomprom, had just been arrested on charges that he illegally sold uranium deposits to foreign companies, including at least some of those won by Mr. Giustra’s UrAsia and now owned by Uranium One.
Publicly, the company tried to reassure shareholders. Its chief executive, Jean Nortier, issued a confident statement calling the situation a “complete misunderstanding.” He also publicly contradicted Mr. Giustra’s contention that the uranium mining deal had not required government blessing. “When you do a transaction in Kazakhstan, you need the government’s approval,” he said, adding that UrAsia had indeed received that approval.
But privately, Uranium One officials were worried they could lose their joint mining ventures. American diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks also reflect concerns that Mr. Dzhakishev’s arrest was part of a Russian power play for control of Kazakh uranium assets.
At the time, Russia was already eying a stake in Uranium One, Rosatom company documents show. Rosatom officials say they were seeking to acquire mines around the world because Russia lacks sufficient domestic reserves to meet its own industry needs.
It was against this backdrop that the Vancouver-based Uranium One pressed the American Embassy in Kazakhstan, as well as Canadian diplomats, to take up its cause with Kazakh officials, according to the American cables.
“We want more than a statement to the press,” Paul Clarke, a Uranium One executive vice president, told the embassy’s energy officer on June 10, the officer reported in a cable. “That is simply chitchat.” What the company needed, Mr. Clarke said, was official written confirmation that the licenses were still valid.
The American Embassy ultimately reported to the secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton. Though the Clarke cable was copied to her, it was given wide circulation, and it is unclear if she would have read it; the Clinton campaign did not address questions about the cable.
What is clear is that the embassy acted, with the cables showing that the unnamed energy officer met with Kazakh officials to discuss the issue on June 10 and 11.
Three days later, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rosatom completed a deal for 17 percent of Uranium One. And within a year, the Russian government would substantially up the ante, with a generous offer to shareholders that would give it a 51 percent controlling stake. But first, Uranium One had to get the American government to sign off on the deal.
The Power to Say No
When a company controlled by the Chinese government sought a 51 percent stake in a tiny Nevada gold mining operation in 2009, it set off a secretive review process in Washington, where officials raised concerns primarily about the mine’s proximity to a military installation, but also about the potential for minerals at the site, including uranium, to come under Chinese control. The officials killed the deal.
Such is the power of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The committee comprises some of the most powerful members of the cabinet, including the attorney general, the secretaries of the Treasury, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce and Energy, and the secretary of state. They are charged with reviewing any deal that could result in foreign control of an American business or asset deemed important to national security.
The national security issue at stake in the Uranium One deal was not primarily about nuclear weapons proliferation; the United States and Russia had for years cooperated on that front, with Russia sending enriched fuel from decommissioned warheads to be used in American nuclear power plants in return for raw uranium. Instead, it concerned American dependence on foreign uranium sources. While the United States gets one-fifth of its electrical power from nuclear plants, it produces only around 20 percent of the uranium it needs, and most plants have only 18 to 36 months of reserves, according to Marin Katusa, author of “The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped From America’s Grasp.”
“The Russians are easily winning the uranium war, and nobody’s talking about it,” said Mr. Katusa, who explores the implications of the Uranium One deal in his book. “It’s not just a domestic issue but a foreign policy issue, too.”
When ARMZ, an arm of Rosatom, took its first 17 percent stake in Uranium One in 2009, the two parties signed an agreement, found in securities filings, to seek the foreign investment committee’s review. But it was the 2010 deal, giving the Russians a controlling 51 percent stake, that set off alarm bells. Four members of the House of Representatives signed a letter expressing concern. Two more began pushing legislation to kill the deal.
Senator John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, where Uranium One’s largest American operation was, wrote to President Obama, saying the deal “would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity.”
“Equally alarming,” Mr. Barrasso added, “this sale gives ARMZ a significant stake in uranium mines in Kazakhstan.”
Uranium One’s shareholders were also alarmed, and were “afraid of Rosatom as a Russian state giant,” Sergei Novikov, a company spokesman, recalled in an interview. He said Rosatom’s chief, Mr. Kiriyenko, sought to reassure Uranium One investors, promising that Rosatom would not break up the company and would keep the same management, including Mr. Telfer, the chairman. Another Rosatom official said publicly that it did not intend to increase its investment beyond 51 percent, and that it envisioned keeping Uranium One a public company
American nuclear officials, too, seemed eager to assuage fears. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrote to Senator Barrasso assuring him that American uranium would be preserved for domestic use, regardless of who owned it.
“In order to export uranium from the United States, Uranium One Inc. or ARMZ would need to apply for and obtain a specific NRC license authorizing the export of uranium for use reactor fuel,” the letter said.
Still, the ultimate authority to approve or reject the Russian acquisition rested with the cabinet officials on the foreign investment committee, including Mrs. Clinton — whose husband was collecting millions of dollars in donations from people associated with Uranium One.
Before Mrs. Clinton could assume her post as secretary of state, the White House demanded that she sign a memorandum of understanding placing limits on her husband’s foundation’s activities. To avoid the perception of conflicts of interest, beyond the ban on foreign government donations, the foundation was required to publicly disclose all contributors.
To judge from those disclosures — which list the contributions in ranges rather than precise amounts — the only Uranium One official to give to the Clinton Foundation was Mr. Telfer, the chairman, and the amount was relatively small: no more than $250,000, and that was in 2007, before talk of a Rosatom deal began percolating.
But a review of tax records in Canada, where Mr. Telfer has a family charity called the Fernwood Foundation, shows that he donated millions of dollars more, during and after the critical time when the foreign investment committee was reviewing his deal with the Russians. With the Russians offering a special dividend, shareholders like Mr. Telfer stood to profit.
His donations through the Fernwood Foundation included $1 million reported in 2009, the year his company appealed to the American Embassy to help it keep its mines in Kazakhstan; $250,000 in 2010, the year the Russians sought majority control; as well as $600,000 in 2011; and $500,000 in 2012. Mr. Telfer said that his donations had nothing to do with his business dealings, and that he had never discussed Uranium One with Mr. or Mrs. Clinton. He said he had given the money because he wanted to support Mr. Giustra’s charitable endeavors with Mr. Clinton. “Frank and I have been friends and business partners for almost 20 years,” he said.
The Clinton campaign left it to the foundation to reply to questions about the Fernwood donations; the foundation did not provide a response.
Mr. Telfer’s undisclosed donations came in addition to between $1.3 million and $5.6 million in contributions, which were reported, from a constellation of people with ties to Uranium One or UrAsia, the company that originally acquired Uranium One’s most valuable asset: the Kazakhstan mines. Without those assets, the Russians would have had no interest in the deal: “It wasn’t the goal to buy the Wyoming mines. The goal was to acquire the Kazakh assets, which are very good,” Mr. Novikov, the Rosatom spokesman, said in an interview.
Amid this influx of Uranium One-connected money, Mr. Clinton was invited to speak in Moscow in June 2010, the same month Rosatom struck its deal for a majority stake in Uranium One.
The $500,000 fee — among Mr. Clinton’s highest — was paid by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin that has invited world leaders, including Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, to speak at its annual investor conference.
Renaissance Capital analysts talked up Uranium One’s stock, assigning it a “buy” rating and saying in a July 2010 research report that it was “the best play” in the uranium markets. In addition, Renaissance Capital turned up that same year as a major donor, along with Mr. Telfer and Mr. Giustra, to a small medical charity in Colorado run by a friend of Mr. Giustra’s. In a newsletter to supporters, the friend credited Mr. Giustra with helping get donations from “businesses around the world.”
A Renaissance Capital representative would not comment on the genesis of Mr. Clinton’s speech to an audience that included leading Russian officials, or on whether it was connected to the Rosatom deal. According to a Russian government news service, Mr. Putin personally thanked Mr. Clinton for speaking.
A person with knowledge of the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising operation, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about it, said that for many people, the hope is that money will in fact buy influence: “Why do you think they are doing it — because they love them?” But whether it actually does is another question. And in this case, there were broader geopolitical pressures that likely came into play as the United States considered whether to approve the Rosatom-Uranium One deal.
If doing business with Rosatom was good for those involved with the Uranium One deal, engaging with Russia was also a priority of the incoming Obama administration, which was hoping for a new era of cooperation as Mr. Putin relinquished the presidency — if only for a term — to Dmitri A. Medvedev.
“The assumption was we could engage Russia to further core U.S. national security interests,” said Mr. McFaul, the former ambassador.
It started out well. The two countries made progress on nuclear proliferation issues, and expanded use of Russian territory to resupply American forces in Afghanistan. Keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon was among the United States’ top priorities, and in June 2010 Russia signed off on a United Nations resolution imposing tough new sanctions on that country.
Two months later, the deal giving ARMZ a controlling stake in Uranium One was submitted to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for review. Because of the secrecy surrounding the process, it is hard to know whether the participants weighed the desire to improve bilateral relations against the potential risks of allowing the Russian government control over the biggest uranium producer in the United States. The deal was ultimately approved in October, following what two people involved in securing the approval said had been a relatively smooth process.
Not all of the committee’s decisions are personally debated by the agency heads themselves; in less controversial cases, deputy or assistant secretaries may sign off. But experts and former committee members say Russia’s interest in Uranium One and its American uranium reserves seemed to warrant attention at the highest levels.
“This deal had generated press, it had captured the attention of Congress and it was strategically important,” said Richard Russell, who served on the committee during the George W. Bush administration. “When I was there invariably any one of those conditions would cause this to get pushed way up the chain, and here you had all three.”
And Mrs. Clinton brought a reputation for hawkishness to the process; as a senator, she was a vocal critic of the committee’s approval of a deal that would have transferred the management of major American seaports to a company based in the United Arab Emirates, and as a presidential candidate she had advocated legislation to strengthen the process.
The Clinton campaign spokesman, Mr. Fallon, said that in general, these matters did not rise to the secretary’s level. He would not comment on whether Mrs. Clinton had been briefed on the matter, but he gave The Times a statement from the former assistant secretary assigned to the foreign investment committee at the time, Jose Fernandez. While not addressing the specifics of the Uranium One deal, Mr. Fernandez said, “Mrs. Clinton never intervened with me on any C.F.I.U.S. matter.”
Mr. Fallon also noted that if any agency had raised national security concerns about the Uranium One deal, it could have taken them directly to the president.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, the State Department’s director of policy planning at the time, said she was unaware of the transaction — or the extent to which it made Russia a dominant uranium supplier. But speaking generally, she urged caution in evaluating its wisdom in hindsight.
“Russia was not a country we took lightly at the time or thought was cuddly,” she said. “But it wasn’t the adversary it is today.”
That renewed adversarial relationship has raised concerns about European dependency on Russian energy resources, including nuclear fuel. The unease reaches beyond diplomatic circles. In Wyoming, where Uranium One equipment is scattered across his 35,000-acre ranch, John Christensen is frustrated that repeated changes in corporate ownership over the years led to French, South African, Canadian and, finally, Russian control over mining rights on his property.
“I hate to see a foreign government own mining rights here in the United States,” he said. “I don’t think that should happen.”
Mr. Christensen, 65, noted that despite assurances by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that uranium could not leave the country without Uranium One or ARMZ obtaining an export license — which they do not have — yellowcake from his property was routinely packed into drums and trucked off to a processing plant in Canada.
Asked about that, the commission confirmed that Uranium One has, in fact, shipped yellowcake to Canada even though it does not have an export license. Instead, the transport company doing the shipping, RSB Logistic Services, has the license. A commission spokesman said that “to the best of our knowledge” most of the uranium sent to Canada for processing was returned for use in the United States. A Uranium One spokeswoman, Donna Wichers, said 25 percent had gone to Western Europe and Japan. At the moment, with the uranium market in a downturn, nothing is being shipped from the Wyoming mines.
The “no export” assurance given at the time of the Rosatom deal is not the only one that turned out to be less than it seemed. Despite pledges to the contrary, Uranium One was eventually delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange and taken private. As of 2013, Rosatom’s subsidiary, ARMZ, owned 100 percent of the company.
A U.S. aircraft carrier has been dispatched to waters off Yemen to join other American ships prepared to block any Iranian shipments to the Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.
The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports that a convoy of about eight Iranian ships is heading toward Yemen and possibly carrying arms for the Houthis.
A Navy official confirmed to Fox News that the USS Theodore Roosevelt — along with her escort ship, the USS Normandy, a guided-missile cruiser — left the Persian Gulf on Sunday en route for the Arabian Sea, to help enforce the blockade.
Tensions are rising in the region even as the U.S. and five other world powers scramble to strike a final deal with Iran on its nuclear program by the end of June. The fighting in Yemen, where U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition against the Iran-backed rebels, is complicating matters.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, without commenting specifically on any Navy movements, said the U.S. has concerns about Iran’s “continued support” for the Houthis.
“We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen. That support will only contribute to greater violence in that country,” he said. “These are exactly the kind of destabilizing activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.”
He said “the Iranians are acutely aware of our concerns for their continued support of the Houthis by sending them large shipments of weapons.”
A written statement from the Navy on Monday said the two ships are joining others in conducting “maritime security operations” in the region.
“In recent days, the U.S. Navy has increased its presence in this area as a result of the current instability in Yemen,” the statement said.
“The purpose of these operations is to ensure the vital shipping lanes in the region remain open and safe. The United States remains committed to its regional partners and to maintaining security in the maritime environment.”
The Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country.
There are now about nine U.S. Navy ships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels, as well as three support ships.
The U.S. Navy generally conducts consensual boardings of ships when needed, including to combat piracy around Africa and the region. So far, however, U.S. naval personnel have not boarded any Iranian vessels since the Yemen conflict began.
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing deep concerns over Veterans Affairs evaluations classifying veterans as “mentally defective” and banning them in the federal background check system from purchasing or owning a firearm.
According to Grassley’s office, the VA “reports individuals to the gun ban list if an individual merely needs financial assistance managing VA benefits,” keeping them from exercising their Second Amendment rights. (Bolding is mine)
“The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is effectively a national gun ban list and placement on the list precludes the ownership and possession of firearms. According to the Congressional Research Service, as of June 1, 2012, 99.3% of all names reported to the NICS list’s “mental defective” category were provided by the Veterans Administration (VA) even though reporting requirements apply to all federal agencies.And that percentage remained virtually unchanged as of April 2013. Given the numbers, it is essential to ensure that the process by which the VA reports names to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for placement on the NICS list recognizes and protects the fundamental nature of veterans’ rights under the Second Amendment,”Grassley wrote in the letter.“Specifically, once the VA determines that a veteran requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments, the VA reports that veteran to the gun ban list, consequently denying his or her right to possess and own firearms. In the past, the VA has attempted to justify its actions by relying on a single federal regulation, 38 C.F.R. § 3.353, which by its plain language grants limited authority to determine incompetence, but only in the context of financial matters: ‘Ratings agencies have sole authority to make official determinations of competency and incompetency for purposes of: insurance and…disbursement of benefits.'”
The VA is placing veterans on the gun ban list without proper legal backing and is certainly engaged in over reach through this practice.
On top of serious concerns about the infringement of Second Amendment rights, Grassley is raising questions about the lack of due process for veterans classified as “mentally defective,” and therefore unfit to purchase a firearm, who simply need help managing VA benefits.
“The VA’s regulation appears to omit important findings and never reaches the question of whether a veteran is a danger to himself, herself, or others. Thus, a VA determination that a veteran is “incompetent” to manage finances is insufficient to conclude that the veteran is “mentally defective” under the ATF’s standard that is codified in federal law,” Grassley continued. “Furthermore, when a veteran receives a letter stating that the VA believes he is unable to manage his finances, that veteran now has the burden of proving that he is in fact competent to manage his benefit payments and does not need a fiduciary. However, underlying the hearing is a real possibility that the right to firearms will be infringed. Therefore, in light of the liberty and property interests involved, placing the burden of proof on the veteran is highly suspect. Under similar circumstances, the burden is generally on the government. Further, the hearing that takes place is inside the VA administrative system and composed of VA employees rather than a neutral decision maker.Under the current practice, a VA finding that concludes that a veteran requires a fiduciary to administer benefit payments effectively voids his Second Amendment rights—a consequence which is wholly unrelated to and unsupported by the record developed in the VA process.Accordingly, Congress needs to understand what justifies taking such action without more due process protections for the veteran.”
1. Is the primary purpose of the NICS list to preclude firearm ownership and possession by individuals who are a danger to themselves and/or others? If not, what is the primary purpose of the NICS list?
2. Is the primary purpose of the VA’s reporting system to report the names of individuals who are appointed a fiduciary?
3. Out of all names on the NICS list, what percentage of them have been referred by the VA?
4. Do you believe that a veteran adjudicated as incompetent to manage finances and appointed a fiduciary is likewise mentally defective under the ATF standard? If so, what is the basis for that conclusion?
5. Does the standard employed by the VA to report names to the DOJ for subsequent placement on the NICS list comply with the protections of the Second Amendment? If so, please explain how, in light of due process concerns described above.
6. Given that the VA adjudication process can result in a complete infringement of a person’s fundamental Second Amendment right, do you believe that the use of the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard is proper? If so, why?
7. Is the DOJ satisfied that all names reported from the VA for placement on the NICS are, in fact and in law, persons who should not own or possess a firearm because they are dangers to themselves and/or others? If so, what evidence supports that conclusion?
8. Given that 99.3% of all names in the NICS “mental defective” category are reported from the VA, has the DOJ reviewed the VA’s reporting standards and procedure? If so, please provide a copy of the review that took place. If no review took place, please explain why not. 9. What review process does DOJ have in place to ensure that names are properly on the NICS list
10. How many individuals have appealed their placement on the NICS list? How many individuals were successful in their appeal?
11. In light of the fact that the Supreme Court has held the Second Amendment to be a fundamental right, has the DOJ changed any processes and procedures relating to the NICS system which were in existence prior to that holding?
12. Besides the VA, what other federal agencies have reported names to the NICS list since 2005? And how many names were reported by each agency since 2005?
Georgia Tech climate scientist Judith Curry completely dismantled criticisms from a Democratic congressman that her testimony was full of errors when it came to the seriousness of global warming.
Curry, a noted global warming skeptic, was recently targeted by Democrats in an investigation trying to tie scientists who disagree with the White House on global warming to funding from fossil fuels interests.
“I found myself deeply troubled by Dr. Curry’s written and oral testimony,”Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia Democrat, said during a hearing Thursday. “I found the testimony just full of internally conflicting facts and opinions.”
“In almost total conflict with anything I’ve read over the last 15 years,” Beyer said after listing off reasons he thought Curry’s testimony was wrong. But Curry wasn’t about to let Beyer lambaste her testimony and responded to the Democrat’s confused rebuttal.
“This whole issue of human-caused climate change is a relatively recent notion,” Curry said in the House hearing on President Barack Obama’s pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
“So climate is always changing and it’s going to change in the future, the issue is how much of the change is caused by humans,” Curry said. “We don’t know… what the 21st Century holds. Climate change may be really unpleasant and that may happen independently of anything humans do.”
“All science is contention — we continue to learn, we must be humble at all times about what we know — but it seems to me very much sticking your head in the sand,” Beyer retorted, adding that debating over which year is the hottest was “silly”since 10 of the last 15 years were record warm years.
“The climate has been warming since the 1700s, okay, since the end of the ‘Little Ice Age,’”Curry explained. “We don’t know what’s causing that warming in the 18th Century, in the 19th Century — it’s not attributed to humans.”
“So there are other things going on in the climate system that have been contributing to warming over several centuries,” Curry said. “We can’t blame all of this on humans, and we don’t know how all this is going to play out in the 21st Century. We just don’t know.”
Beyer then switched tactics, and compared Democrats’ advocacy for carbon dioxide regulations to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s arguing for the use of “enhanced interrogation”on the “one percent chance”it could prevent al-Qaida from getting a nuclear weapon.
“And are we going to do nothing because there’s a greater than one percent chance climate change…” Beyer said before being interrupted by Curry.
“There is nothing in my testimony that says we do nothing,” Curry said. “What is being proposed is ineffective, it’s not going to do anything even if the U.S. is successful at meeting 80 percent reductions by 2050 this is going to reduce warming by about a tenth of a degree centigrade. It’s not going to do anything.”
“I’m saying we need to acknowledge that and rethink how we’re going to deal with the risks from future climate change whether it’s caused by humans or natural processes,” said Curry.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is fed up with being cornered on questions about abortion. So now, he’s now trying to turn the tables.
A press conference in New Hampshire Wednesday managed to bristle the newly tinted 2016 candidate. When a reporter asked Paul about a recent Associated Pressreport that suggested he had avoided answering questions about abortion, he responded in frustration, suggesting the media ask Democrats this question instead:
“Why don’t you ask the DNC, ‘Is it OK to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus?'”
“You go back and you ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz if she’s okay with killing a seven-pound baby that is just not yet born yet. Ask her when life begins, and you ask Debbie when she’s willing to protect life,” he said. “When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me.”
He didn’t have to wait long.
“Here’s an answer,” she said in an emailed statement. “I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul.”
CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer read Wasserman Schultz’s statement to Paul later that afternoon, to which Paul offered a translation:
“Sounds like her answer is yes, that she’s okay with killing a seven-pound baby.”
The RNC spoke on behalf of Americans who cherish unborn life when they responded to the DNC’s extremist views:
“Today, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz made clear her extreme position on the issue of life,” said RNC Press Secretary Allison Moore. “It’s disturbing to know that the Chairwoman of the DNC supports zero protections for the life of an unborn child, not even in the final days before birth. We should be willing to protect the innocent. Do her fellow Democrats share their party chair’s position, which is out-of-step with the majority of American women?”
In her hasty statement, Wasserman Schultz also alluded to Paul’s testy on air encounter with CNBC‘s Kelly Evans, saying, “I’d appreciate it if you could respond without ‘shushing’ me.”
Paul could only laugh at her immaturity. I’m sure he’s not the only one.
Lest we forget, Wasserman Schultz also once claimed Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) was giving women the ‘back of his hand,’ essentially comparing his record with physical abuse. Maybe the DNC chair should stop going through life with such a misogynistic lens before she really embarrasses herself. (Too late.)
While he could have just dismissed the DNC’s chair’s full statement, Paul went on to explain why she was wrong. The doctor explained to Blitzer that even his pro-choice friends would have an issue with seven, eight, and nine pound babies being killed in the womb.
“Debbie’s position, which I guess is the Democrat Party’s position, that all the way up until birth would be fine. I think most pro-choice people would be a little uncomfortable with. I really think that she’s got some explaining to do.
Yet, the media has failed to make Democrats explain themselves when it comes to their views on abortion. Remember that time Diane Sawyer asked Hillary Clinton if an unborn baby was a human being that deserved natural born rights? Yeah, me neither. The Big Three are too busy trying to convince viewers Republicans are waging a ‘war on women.’They are always asking about the ‘rape or incest’exceptions and just waiting for conservatives to slip up. Or, they try to trap them with questions about birth control. In the 2012 presidential primary debate season, ABC’s George Stephanopoulous asked this bizarre question to the Republican candidates: “Do states have a right to ban contraception?” Romney was dumbfounded by the random inquiry. Save some of that grilling for the Democratic primaries, George.
It’s time for pro-abortion Democrats to try and defend their defenseless opinions about the rights of unborn babies. Here are just a couple common sense inquiries journalists should raise this election season:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the rounds on yesterday’s Sunday morning talk circuit to make the case against the initial nuclear framework announced by Iranian representatives and P5+1 Western negotiators last week. Netanyahu ramped up his criticism of what he called a bad deal in a speech to a joint session of Congress last month, and reportedly reiterated his government’s belief that the accord under discussion would pose an existential threat to the state of Israel during a lengthy phone conversation with President Obama. In an interview with CNN, the Prime Minister succinctly outlined the case against the agreement, arguing that even if Iran doesn’t cheat (as they repeatedly have in the past, including very recently), it legitimizes Iran’s illegitimate nuclear program, keeps the regime’s vast nuclear infrastructure almost entirely in place, and allows key restrictions to expire within a decade: “Not a single centrifuge is destroyed,” Netanyahu notes, ticking down a list of serious flaws within the would-be pact. “Not a single nuclear facility is shut down, including the underground facilities that they built illicitly. Thousands of centrifuges will keep spinning, enriching uranium.” All true. He also points out that because international nuclear sanctions would be lifted at the front end of the deal, many billions of dollars would “flow into the Iranian coffers,”which Netanyahu says would be used to “pump up Iran’s terror machine” around the world. The lifting of sanctions and abolishment of UN resolutions is likely to prove irreversible, unlike many of the temporary limits placed on Iran’s nuclear program. The Israeli leader also makes mention of the fact that this agreement leaves Iran’s rogue long-range missile program unscathed, and does nothing to address the regime’s global meddling and terrorism (except to free up huge sums of money to help fund Iran’s malignant projects). CNN’s Jim Acosta asks a good question just after the three-minute mark, wondering if a failed deal and increased sanctions pressure will only redouble the regime’s determination to build the bomb, with very limited Western capacity to conduct inspections or keep tabs on their behavior. Netanyahu responds by admonishing against counting on an inspections regime to deter outlaw regimes, citing Iran’s history of cheating, as well as the North Korean example. “[The West] said the same things about North Korea — it’ll make them peaceful, it’ll make them moderate, it’ll make them abandon their program — and the opposite has happened.” In short, untrustworthy despots are…not to be trusted. Perhaps Netanyahu’s least persuasive point comes near the end of the clip, when he cites Syria’s WMD “disarmament” as a successful example of international pressure achieving a goal that seemed unrealistic just months earlier. In fact, that disarmament compromise was forged after feckless Obama administration stumbling, and Syria has brazenlyfailed to keep up its end of the bargain, with zero consequences. An odd “success” story to cite (though not as odd as this one). Some Democrats seem to be warming to Obama’s proposal, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein effectively telling Netanyahu to back off, and rejecting the Israeli government’s assessment that the plan would threaten their country:
Appearing on CNN, Senator Dianne Feinstein, a leading Democratic voice on foreign affairs, said she did not believe the agreement threatened Israel, and had harsh words for Netanyahu. “I don’t think it’s helpful for Israel to come out and oppose this one opportunity to change a major dynamic which is downhill, a downhill dynamic in this part of the world,” said Feinstein.
The announced framework is far more permissive than President Obama’s own rhetorical red lines about what would constitute an acceptable resolution — both at the onset of talks, and after the interim agreement was struck in late 2013. Following the publication of a State Department fact sheet, on which much of this analysis was based, “there appeared to be sharp disagreement over the details in the package,” according to the Los Angeles Times, citing public rebukes from Iranian officials. President Obama said he’d seek a “constructive” role for Congress if and when a finalized deal is hammered out on paper, but he’s threatened to veto bipartisan legislation designed to guarantee the legislative branch an up-or-down vote on the accord. I’ll leave you with this — relax, Israel:
A State Department official dismissed a plea Friday from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Iran nuclear agreement include clear recognition of his nation’s “right to exist,” declaring negotiations are “only about the nuclear issue.” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, in a terse response to a question about Netanyahu’s concerns, told reporters, “This is an agreement that is only about the nuclear issue” — a comment that indicates the Obama administration is not looking to enshrine Israel’s security into a final agreement.
One more: Read Matt Continetti asking why we should trust Obama on this highly consequential deal in light of his track record.
A beaming Iranian foreign minister emerged from the meeting rooms in Switzerland to announce that all of the theocracy’s major demands had been met. According to the new provisions released on the nuclear deal, Iran will get to both keep active its centrifuges and receive sanctions relief.
Sanctions against will be lifted immediately, and probably forever. Iran gets to keep a huge number of its nuclear centrifuges spinning, including a thousand of them at the previously hidden and illegal fortified bunker of Fordo, which is supposed to become a “peaceful” nuclear, physics, technology, and research center. There are sunset provisions on everything Iran has tentatively agreed to, although in his Rose Garden press conference announcing the deal, Obama claimed they would somehow be “permanently” blocked from various forms of weapons development.
Despite the perpetual complaints from U.N. inspectors that Iran has cheated them, Obama assured us that “if Iran cheats, the world will know.” Since Iran most predictably balks when serious inspection demands are made, this agreement “framework” could yet collapse, a possibility the President briefly mentioned in his remarks. In fact, he made a point of saying “the work is not yet done” on the deal, so we’re back to the announcement-of-a-declaration-of-a-framework-to-have-more-meetings stuff characteristic of these negotiations.
Most of the President’s remarks consisted of declarations about how “historic” the deal was, straw-man false choices about how the only alternative to his deal is an immediate regional war, excuses about how his supposedly awesome bargain with Iran was the best anyone could have managed under impossible circumstances, and loads of rhetoric about how dedicated to Middle Eastern stability he is. There were loads of promises about how inspections would be so rigorous that Iran could not possibly break the deal, even though they have successfully bamboozled, or outright defied, every previous attempt to monitor their nuclear program. The Iranians knew all along that what Obama most desired was an opportunity to give speeches like this. The messy details can be dealt with later.
The President made rhetorical gestures toward the security of American allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia under the terms of this agreement. The former nation is now headed by the most vindicated man in the world – Benjamin Netanyau predicted the outcome of Obama’s wheeling and dealing with Iran almost to the word. The latter will now scramble to purchase nuclear weapons of its own, as will everyone else who doesn’t want to find out when Iran’s nuclear umbrella will really snap open, or be caught unarmed beneath it.
One curious detail that stood out from the President’s remarks was his assertion that, without this deal, Iran might have been only 2 to 3 monthsaway from having a nuclear weapon. That is the kind of timetable Obama and his spokespeople have been deriding for years as uninformed scaremongering, but now it turns out that wasa reasonable estimate after all?
Obama tried comparing his nuclear deal to Reagan’s arms negotiations with the Soviet Union, which spotlights the most dangerous thing about Obama’s Iran policy: he really thinks the mullahs represent the sort of sane, relatively responsible (if rather aggressive) government, interested in stability and material prosperity, that liberals love to recall their dear departed Soviets as. Note also that liberals most certainly did not think Reagan’s dealings with the Soviets were a model of American statecraft to be emulated at the time.
This is all theater, while the reality of Iranian nuclear weapons moves forward… brought to you by the man who swore in his 2012 re-election campaign that he’d never let it happen, under any circumstances.
March 23, 2015: U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., answers questions as he addresses a gathering in Garwood, N.J. (AP)
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez was indicted Wednesday on corruption charges, accused of using his office to improperly benefit a political donor — who allegedly offered the senator an array of perks including trips on his private jet and access to an exclusive Dominican resort.
A federal grand jury indicted the powerful senator on 14 counts, including conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud.
The Newark grand jury has been investigating Menendez for official actions he took on behalf of his friend Dr. Salomon Melgen. Melgen, a Florida ophthalmologist, was also indicted Wednesday.
The indictment is a blow to Menendez, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and until recently was chairman, at a critical time. He has been a leading skeptic of the Obama administration’s Cuba and Iran policies — the indictment comes as the U.S. and other world powers are struggling to strike a nuclear agreement with Iran.
Menendez has acknowledged that he flew multiple times on Melgen’s private jet to the Dominican Republic and initially failed to properly pay for the trips. In 2013, Menendez agreed to reimburse Melgen $58,500 for the full cost of two flights.
The senator’s office later disclosed another flight from Florida to New Jersey in 2011, and said Menendez had repaid Melgen $11,250 for it.
Last year, Menendez disclosed that his campaign accounts had paid a law firm $250,000 for legal costs related to investigations by the Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee of his ties to Melgen.
Menendez has also acknowledged taking actions that could benefit Melgen, among them contacting U.S. health agencies to ask about billing practices and policies.
But the lawmaker has said he did nothing wrong and that he and Melgen have been friends for decades.
“We celebrated holidays together,” he once told reporters. “We have been there for family weddings and sad times like funerals and have given each other birthday, holiday and wedding presents, just as friends do.”
In its case against Menendez, the government also points to emails between him and former Chief Counsel, Kerru Talbot and a staffer with Customs and Border Patrol in which Talbot asked CBP not to donate screening equipment to the Dominican Republic, but instead to allow a private contractor controlled by Melgen to provide that equipment.
Melgen came under renewed scrutiny when government data last year showed he had received more in Medicare reimbursements in 2012 than any other doctor in the country.
Menendez becomes the first sitting U.S. senator to face indictment since then-Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, in 2008. Stevens was found guilty of concealing gifts from donors on financial disclosure statements, but the Justice Department later dropped the case after admitting that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that would have been favorable to his defense.
“Senator Menendez’s ethics lapses have long been a distraction to the United States Senate,” Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman with the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a written statement. “With today’s indictment, the FBI and the Justice Department made it clear that Senator Menendez has betrayed the trust of New Jersey families. His actions reinforce all that the American people believe is wrong with Washington Democrats and closes the book on a Senate Democrat majority that put their personal interests ahead of the American people.”
Menedez joined the Senate in 2006 after serving more than a decade in the House of Representatives.
A lawyer and former mayor of Union City, New Jersey, Menendez also served in the New Jersey General Assembly and state Senate.
Editors Note: Being a Veteran myself I feel I have earned the right to both Criticize and Condemn the actions of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. There is no greater dishonor than to desert your fellow soldiers in a combat zone and to consort with the enemy.
President Barack Hussein Obama to bolster his image seized the chance to play upon the feelings of most Americans to secure the release of a captured American combatant. Obama and members of his administration knew from the beginning that there were questions regarding Sgt. Bergdahl’s leaving his base and resulting capture. With this knowledge Obama disregarded the advice from his military advisers and traded (5) high ranking Taliban leaders for Sgt. Bergdahl’s release. With great fanfare and a nationally carried broadcast, Obama flanked by both of Sgt. Bergdahl’s parents announced that he had negotiated and instrumented the release of their son Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. It was then learned to cost for that release was the return of (5) Taliban leaders specifically asked for by the Taliban. With his reckless disregard President Obama has enabled these (5) proven Terrorists to return to the battlefield to possibly initiate the killing of more Americans. With this in mind Congress needs to investigate if Obama or any members of his administration are guilty of pressuring the Army to drop the investigation so any possible Court Marshal would not embarrass the President for his fool hardy trade for a deserter.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will be tried for his alleged crimes in a Military Court according the the rules set forth in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) under Articles #32, #85 and #99.
Article #32 INVESTIGATION
(a) No charge or specification may be referred to a general court-martial for trial until a through and impartial investigation of all the matters set forth therein has been made. This investigation shall include inquiry as to the truth of the matter set forth in the charges, consideration of the form of charges, and recommendation as to the disposition which should be made of the case in the interest of justice and discipline.
(b) The accused shall be advised of the charges against him and of his right to be represented at that investigation as provided in section 838 of this title (article 38) and in regulations prescribed under that section. At that investigation full opportunity shall be given to the accused to cross-examine witnesses against him if they are available and to present anything he may desire in his own behalf, either in defense or mitigation, and the investigation officer shall examine available witnesses requested by the accused. If the charges are forwarded after the investigation, they shall be accompanied by a statement of the substance of the testimony taken on both sides and a copy thereof shall be given to the accused.
(c) If an investigation of the subject matter of an offense has been conducted before the accused is charged with the offense, and if the accused was present at the investigation and afforded the opportunities for representation, cross-examination, and presentation prescribed in subsection (b), no further investigation of that charge is necessary under this article unless it is demanded by the accused after he is informed of the charge. A demand for further investigation entitles the accused to recall witnesses for further cross-examination and to offer any new evidence in his own behalf.
(d) The requirements of this article are binding on all persons administering this chapter but failure to follow them does not constitute judicial error.
Article #85 DESERTION
(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently; (2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or (3) without being regularly separated from one of the armed forces enlists or accepts an appointment in the same or another on of the armed forces without fully disclosing the fact that he has not been regularly separated, or enters any foreign armed service except when authorized by the United States; is guilty of desertion. (b) Any commissioned officer of the armed forces who, after tender of his resignation and before notice of its acceptance, quits his post or proper duties without leave and with intent to remain away therefrom permanently is guilty of desertion. (c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.
Article #99 MISBEHAVIOR BEFORE THE ENEMY Any person subject to this chapter who before or in the presence of the enemy– (1) runs away; (2) shamefully abandons, surrenders, or delivers up any command, unit, place, or military property which it is his duty to defend; (3) through disobedience, neglect, or intentional misconduct endangers the safety of any such command, unit, place, or military property; (4) casts away his arms or ammunition; (5) is guilty of cowardly conduct; (6) quits his place of duty to plunder or pillage; (7) causes false alarms in any command, unit, or place under control of the armed forces; (8) willfully fails to do his utmost to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy any enemy troops, combatants, vessels, aircraft, or any other thing, which it is his duty so to encounter, engage, capture, or destroy; or (9) does not afford all practicable relief and assistance to any troops, combatants, vessels, or aircraft of the armed forces belonging to the United States or their allies when engaged in battle; shall be punished by death or such punishment as a court- martial may direct.
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban after abandoning his post in Afghanistan, then freed five years later in exchange for five Guantanamo detainees in a deal hailed by the White House but blasted by his fellow soldiers, will be charged with desertion, officials told Fox News.
The development comes 10 months after his May 2014 release — which initially was a joyous occasion, with his parents joining President Obama in celebrating the news in the Rose Garden. Bob Bergdahl, who had studied Islam during his son’s captivity appeared with a full beard and read a Muslim prayer, while Bergdahl’s mother Jani embraced the president.
But that euphoria quickly gave way to controversy in Washington as Bergdahl was accused of walking away from his post and putting his fellow soldiers in danger. The trade of hardened Taliban fighters for his freedom raised deep concerns on Capitol Hill that the administration struck an unbalanced and possibly illegal deal.
The military plans to address the case at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
U.S. President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington May 31, 2014. Obama, flanked by the parents of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who is being released after being held for nearly five years by the Taliban, said in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday that the United States has an “ironclad commitment” to bring home its prisoners of war.
Fox News has learned he will be specifically charged with desertion and misbehavior toward the enemy. A senior U.S. official said he will face a court martial and likely trial.
Bergdahl 28, walked away from his post in Afghanistan and was captured, then released years later by the Taliban in the controversial prisoner exchange.
Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, has been reviewing the massive case files and had a broad range of legal options, including various degrees of desertion charges.
A major consideration was whether military officials would be able to prove that Bergdahl had no intention of returning to his unit — a key element in the more serious desertion charges.
The announcement marks a sharp turnaround for the administration’s narrative of Bergdahl’s service and release. After the swap last year, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction.”
But as Bergdahl faced criticism from fellow servicemembers for his actions, the administration faced heated complaints from Congress over the Taliban trade itself. “This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages,” said former Rep. Mike Rogers, (R-Mich.), then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Bergdahl disappeared from his base in the eastern Afghanistan province of Paktika on June 30, 2009. A private first class at the time, he had three days earlier emailed his parents expressing disillusionment with the war. “The future is too good to waste on lies,” Bergdahl wrote, according to the late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings. “And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be American.”
Bob Bergdahl, a former UPS delivery driver in Sun Valley Idaho, replied with a message bearing the subject line, “OBEY YOUR CONSCIENCE!”
Bergdahl left a note in his tent that said he was leaving to start a new life and intended to renounce his citizenship, Fox News reported last year.
For the next five years, Bergdahl is believed to have been held by the Taliban and Pakistan’s infamous Haqqani network. In one of several hostage videos released during his captivity, he said he was captured when he fell behind a patrol, but fellow soldiers, outraged after the trade was made with the Taliban, accused him of deserting. Some asserted that American servicemembers’ lives were put at risk in the hunt for Bergdahl.
Bergdahl was freed on May 31, 2014, after the White House agreed to trade five high value Taliban operatives held at Guantanamo Bay for him. He was turned over to Delta Force operatives in eastern Afghanistan, near the border village of Khost, while the Taliban members were handed over to authorities in Qatar, which helped broker the swap.
The trade was branded as illegal by lawmakers, who said they weren’t advised beforehand, It was also blasted by critics who said it violated America’s longstanding tradition of not negotiating with terrorists, and from Bergdahl’s fellow soldiers, many of whom view him as a traitor.
There were also concerns – which would prove well-founded – that the Taliban members would return to the fight against the West. Of the five, Mohammad Fazl, the former Taliban army chief of staff; Khairullah Khairkhwa, a Taliban intelligence official; Abdul Haq Wasiq, a former Taliban government official; and Norullah Noori and Mohammad Nabi Omari, at least three have attempted to rejoin their old comrades, sources told Fox News.
Then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Bergdahl was a “prisoner of war,”and that the deal did not amount to negotiating with terrorists. He also said concerns about Bergdahl’s deteriorating condition made it imperative that the U.S. move quickly to make the trade.
A Pentagon probe concluded in 2010 that Bergdahl had walked away from his base, but stopped short of accusing him of desertion, reopening the probe after his return.
Bergdhal was promoted to sergeant while in captivity, and had accrued more than $200,000 in back pay by the time he was freed. He was assigned to duty at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, after his return and reportedly refused to speak with his parents.
Editors Note: Obama’s attempt to torpedo Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection has failed miserably and has resulted in Netanyahu coming out of the election stronger than before. Congress is now investigating whether Obama and his supporters used Federal Money to fund groups in Israel to oppose the Prime Ministers quest for another term.
The rift between the two leaders is well know and was exasperated when Netanyahu spoke before Congress with out Congress consulting with Obama first. Obama is willing to go to any lengths to get an agreement with Iran over their Nuclear Weapons ambitions even if it is a bad deal. Congress has been fighting to stop Obama from making any kind of pact or agreement without Congressional approval and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been openly hostile to any type of agreement with a regime that has sworn openly that it supports the total destruction of Israel as a nation and its people.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also pledged that their will also be no Palestinian State that Obama has been working towards so the tension between the two leaders will last until Obama is finally out of office. Obama’s big gamble to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made him look petty and guilty of meddling in a trusted Allie’s national election. If anything he has made Bibi more determined to side with the Republican controlled Congress to stop any agreement with Iran on their nuclear ambitions. [TS]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party scored a resounding victory in the country’s election, final results showed Wednesday, a stunning turnaround after a tight race that had put his lengthy rule in jeopardy.
With nearly all votes counted, Likud appeared to have earned 30 out of parliament’s 120 seats and was in a position to build with relative ease a coalition government with its nationalist, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies. Such a government would likely put Israel at odds with the international community over settlement construction and its opposition to Palestinian statehood, and continue clashing with the White House over hard-line policies.
The election was widely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu, who has governed the country for the past six years. Recent opinion polls indicated he was in trouble, giving chief rival Isaac Herzog of the opposition Zionist Union a slight lead. Exit polls Tuesday showed the two sides deadlocked but once the actual results came pouring in early Wednesday, Likud soared forward. Zionist Union wound up with just 24 seats.
Given the final results, it is all but assured that Israel’s largely ceremonial President Reuven Rivlin will task Netanyahu with forming a new government. Netanyahu says he hopes to do so quickly, within two to three weeks.
“Against all odds, we achieved a great victory for the Likud,” Netanyahu told supporters at his election night headquarters, declaring victory even before final results were known. “I am proud of the people of Israel, who in the moment of truth knew how to distinguish between what is important and what is peripheral, and to insist on what is important.”
Netanyahu focused his campaign primarily on security issues, while his opponents instead pledged to address the country’s high cost of living and accused the leader of being out of touch with everyday people. Netanyahu will likely look to battle that image now by adding to his government Moshe Kahlon, whose upstart Kulanu party captured 10 seats with a campaign focused almost entirely on bread-and-butter economic issues. Kahlon is expected to become the country’s next finance minister.
A union of four largely Arab-backed factions became Israel’s third largest party — with 14 seats — and gave Israel’s Arab minority significant leverage in parliament for the first time. Ten parties in all made it into parliament.
Herzog, who appeared poised only days ago to stage a coup, conceded defeat, saying he called Netanyahu and offered him congratulations. He signaled that he would not join forces with Netanyahu and would rather head to the opposition.
“I think that at this moment what Israel needs most of all is another voice, a voice that offers an alternative and a voice that tells it the truth,”he said outside his Tel Aviv home.
Netanyahu’s return to power for a fourth term likely spells trouble for Mideast peace efforts and could further escalate tensions with the United States.
Netanyahu, who already has a testy relationship with President Barack Obama, took a sharp turn to the right in the final days of the campaign, staking out a series of hard-line positions that will put him on a collision course with much of the international community.
In a dramatic policy reversal, he said he now opposes the creation of a Palestinian state — a key policy goal of the White House and the international community. He also promised to expand construction in Jewish areas of east Jerusalem, the section of the city claimed by the Palestinians as their capital.
The Palestinians, fed up after years of deadlock with Netanyahu, are now likely to press ahead with their attempts to bring war crimes charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court. Renewed violence could also loom.
The international community overwhelmingly supports the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, areas captured by Israel in 1967, and opposes settlement construction. With the race close, Netanyahu reneged on his previous stated support for a Palestinian state in an attempt to shore up his hawkish base in a frenzied last day of campaigning.
Netanyahu also infuriated the White House early this month when he delivered a speech to U.S. Congress criticizing an emerging nuclear deal with Iran. The speech was arranged with Republican leaders and not coordinated with the White House ahead of time. Reaching a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict has been a top foreign policy priority for President Obama as well.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama was confident strong U.S.-Israeli ties would endure far beyond the election, regardless of the victor.
Throughout the campaign, Netanyahu portrayed himself as the only politician capable of confronting Israel’s numerous security challenges.
Avi Degani, president of the Geocartography polling institute who had predicted an outright Likud victory, said ultimately Netanyahu’s experience prevailed.
“There was a situation where many people wanted to replace him but there was no one whom they wanted to replace him with,” he said.
It is outrageous that this administration is involved in the elections in Israel. Especially after the Democratic comments about how it was not good for Netanyahu to speak to congress because it was too lose to the elections….what a crock….
A powerful U.S. Senate investigatory committee has launched a bipartisan probe into an American nonprofit’s funding of efforts to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the Obama administration’s State Department gave the nonprofit taxpayer-funded grants, a source with knowledge of the panel’s activities told FoxNews.com.
The fact that both Democrat and Republican sides of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations have signed off on the probe could be seen as a rebuke to President Obama, who has had a well-documented adversarial relationship with the Israeli leader.
The development comes as Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel Two television station this week that there were “governments” that wanted to help with the “Just Not Bibi” campaigning – Bibi being the Israeli leader’s nickname.
It also follows a FoxNews.com report on claims the Obama administration has been meddling in the Israeli election on behalf of groups hostile to Netanyahu. A spokesperson for Sen. Rob Portman, (R-Ohio), the chair of the committee, refused comment, and aides to ranking Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, did not immediately return calls.
The Senate subcommittee, which has subpoena power, is the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs’ chief investigative body with jurisdiction over all branches of government operations and compliance with laws.
“The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations does not comment on ongoing investigations,” Caitlin Conant, spokeswoman for Portman, told Foxnews.com.
But a source familiar with the matter confirmed for FoxNews.com that the probe – undisclosed until now – was both underway and bipartisan in nature.
According to the source, the probe is looking into “funding” by OneVoice Movement – a Washington-based group that has received $350,000 in recent State Department grants, and until last November was headed by a veteran diplomat from the Clinton administrations.
A subsidiary of OneVoice is the Israel-based Victory 15 campaign, itself guided by top operatives of Obama’s White House runs, which seeks to “replace the government” of Israel.
“It’s confirmed that there is a bipartisan Permanent Subcommittee inquiry into OneVoice’s funding of V15,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity about the American group, which bills itself as working for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his television interview, Netanyahu said the coalition seeking to oust him is generously funded by foreign donors who are also encouraging a high voter turnout among Israel’s Arab and left-wing voters in a bid to replace the existing leadership.
He characterized the campaign against him as “unprecedented.” While Netanyahu pointed the finger at “European countries and left-wing people abroad,” some observers note that he held back from openly criticizing Obama during his recent trip to the U.S. to address Congress on problems his government sees with administration-backed efforts to reach a nuclear weapons inspection deal with Iran.
“We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel,” Netanyahu told lawmakers – while Obama refused to meet with the Israeli leader, and later criticized his speech as “nothing new.”
No direct link has been confirmed between Obama and the anti-Netanyahu campaign in Israel, but polls have shown that a large majority of Israelis believe the administration has been interfering in the election, set for March 17.
One expert told FoxNews.com earlier this month the State Department grants constituted indirect Obama administration funding of the anti-Netanyahu campaign by providing OneVoice with the $350,000 – even though State Department officials said the funding stopped in November, ahead of the announcement of the Israeli election.
Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of NGO Monitor, which tracks money flows to unmask non-governmental organizations that deviate from their stated human rights or humanitarian agendas, said even ostensibly unrelated grants keep an organization going during periods it is not engaged in political activity.
Indeed, by January, OneVoice – whose focus on Israel’s 1967 borders as a negotiating starting point reflects Obama’s thinking but is counter to Netanyahu’s – had announced its partnership with V15.
Around the same time, Jeremy Bird, who served as Obama’s deputy national campaign director in 2008, and his national campaign director in 2012, arrived in Israel to help direct V15. Bird took with him additional former Obama campaign operatives to help V15 achieve its goal of knocking on one million doors to make the case for a change in Israel’s leadership.
OneVoice is barred from directly targeting Netanyahu by U.S. law regulating its tax-exempt status, and doing so would threaten that status.
But the recent FoxNews.com investigation showed that the nonprofit, in its 2014 Annual Report, said its Israel branch would be “embarking on a groundbreaking campaign around the Israeli elections.” In partnering with V15, the two groups have operated from adjacent offices in Tel Aviv.
In addition to McCaskill, other Democrats on the subcommittee are Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Republican subcommittee members, who form the majority, are Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, in addition to Portman.
State Department documents say the grants to OneVoice were meant for the group’s work in encouraging both Palestinian grass-roots civic activism and Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The State Department itself, meanwhile, denied any of the funds had been used for election campaign activities despite OneVoice’s backing of V15.
Launched in 2002 by snack bar mogul Daniel Lubetzky and boasting the star power of such celebrities as Brad Pitt, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman and Sir Paul McCartney among its honorary advisors, OneVoice was headed until November by Marc Ginsberg, who advised President Carter on Middle East policy and served as President Clinton’s ambassador to Morocco.
Ginsberg, who has described the Obama administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “window of opportunity,” is now serving OneVoice as “special advisor” after resigning as CEO at a time that turned out to be just ahead of the early December announcement of the Israeli election.
“I resigned on November 11, 2014, because I had only committed to serve as CEO for one year and my resignation was effective December 19, 2014,” he wrote in an email to FoxNews.com. “I agreed to be available after that as a Senior Adviser on an occasional basis to the organization…along with many others, but have had ZERO decision-making authority over personnel, budgets, programs, etc. That responsibility was transferred to the Executive Director of the OneVoice Europe organization after I resigned.”
Stirred by the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, a determined band of hackers, IT bloggers, and systems analysts have trained their specialized talents and state-of-the-art software on clintonemail.com, the domain under which Clinton established multiple private email accounts, and uncovered serious lapses in security, according to data shared with Fox News.
The findings call into question Clinton’s confident declaration, at a hastily arranged news conference in New York on Tuesday, that “there were no security breaches” in her use of a private server. One prominent figure in the hacker community, bolstered by long experience in the U.S. intelligence community, has undertaken to build a virtual “replica”of Clinton’s server configuration in a cyberlab, and has begun testing it with tools designed to probe security defenses. This individual has shared details of the Clinton system not disclosed publicly but legally obtainable.
Among other things, outside experts have managed to trace the most recent location of Clinton’s server – something she did not specify during her news conference and a subject of much speculation, as the server’s physical placement would provide early clues about whether the data stored on it was adequately secured against compromise by private-sector hackers and foreign intelligence services.
Fox News has previously reported that, with the aid of software named Maltego, experts had established that the server is up and running, receiving connectivity to the Internet through an Atlanta-based firm called Internap Network Services Corporation. Clinton’s stern insistence at her news conference that her server “will remain private” would appear to rest, then, at least in part, on the inviolability of Internap.
Now, working with publicly available tools that map network connectivity, experts have established that the last “hop” before the mail server’s Internet Protocol, or IP, address (listed as 184.108.40.206) is Internap’s aggregator in Manhattan (listed as 220.127.116.11).
“This is a very strong indication that the clintonemail.com server is in Manhattan,” the source told Fox News.
By entering the IP address for the Internap aggregator into existing databases, the experts obtained the exact geolocation coordinates for the aggregator – revealed to be on lower Broadway, at the intersection with Chambers Street, some two blocks north of City Hall. This in turn suggests that the Clinton server itself lies within close proximity – most likely former President Clinton’s Harlem office, and not as far away as the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua, N.Y.
That outside experts could so swiftly unearth such information left them convinced that the server remains, as presently configured, highly “vulnerable” to unauthorized intrusion – even if, as most observers suspect, the server, with so much publicity now attendant on it, is no longer in active use. The hackers further concluded that Clinton’s email operation was likely not much better secured when she was secretary of state.
To test that proposition, they took the relatively simple step of examining the source code on the front page of clintonemail.com. This yielded the discovery, sources told Fox News, that the Clintons have not been using the latest version of Microsoft Outlook Web Application (OWA) to send and receive emails. The most recent version of OWA is listed as 18.104.22.168, whereas tests show clintonemail.com to be using the older 14.2.390.1.
“[It’s] an indication they’re not keeping up with software upgrades,” one hacker told Fox News. “If I were a bad guy, I’d start looking for any vulnerabilities in that older version they’re using.”
Expand / Contract
Work on the “replica”of the Clinton system also determined that the certificate for its TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is invalid – a lapse that “makes the site less secure,”the source said. A screen-grab provided to Fox News and shown here, illustrating the results of this test, showed the word “FAIL”appearing twice in a multifaceted stress-test for the security defenses of clintonemail.com.
Perhaps most concerning, private analysts determined that clintonemail.com has been running an older model of Microsoft Internet Information Services, or IIS – specifically version 7.5, which has been documented to leave users exposed on multiple fronts. The website CVEDetails.com, which bills itself as “the ultimate security vulnerability datasource,” is awash with descriptions of serious security vulnerabilities associated with version 7.5, including “memory corruption,” “password disclosure vulnerability,” and the enabling of “remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service.”
The cyberlab technician who discovered the Clintons’ use of version 7.5 marveled at “the vulnerabilities the Clintons are ignoring” in an email to Fox News. “This is a big deal and just the thing real-world hackers look for in a target and will exploit to the max,”the source said.
“Several of these vulnerabilities have been known since 2010 and yet HRC is running official State comms through it.”
Coupled with the earlier disclosure, first reported by Bloomberg, that the Clinton system used a commercial encryption product with “a default encryption certificate, instead of one purchased specifically for Ms. Clinton’s service,” these latest revelations suggest a complacent approach to server security on the part of the secretary and her aides.
Representatives for Clinton have not responded to multiple requests for comment. Spokesman Nick Merrill has released a FAQ document stating that “robust protections were put in place” on the server, with “upgrades and techniques employed over time as they became available, including consulting and employing third party experts.” Merrill added that “there is no evidence” that the server was ever hacked, and said there was never an unauthorized intrusion into the secretary’s email.
The Merrill document stated that Clinton’s server “was physically located on her property, which is protected by U.S. Secret Service,”but did not address its present location.
Bruce F. Webster, an IT expert with 40 years of corporate experience — the last 15 spent testifying on IT issues in civil litigation — raised the question of whether Clinton’s server has been moved at some point. On his blog, “And Still I Persist,”Webster entitled his latest post“No, we still don’t know where the Clinton server is, was, has been.” In an email to Fox News, Webster referenced suggestions that the server remains in Chappaqua, where it was first registered, and stated: “I consider that the least likely location at this point.”
Just the original decision to use a private email account, with Clinton’s own surname embedded in it, has baffled the hacker community. The analyst with experience in the intelligence community, a “white hat”hacker — the kind corporate firms retain to conduct “penetration testing” that exposes businesses’ cybersecurity lapses — told Fox News: “If we learned that the foreign minister of a major foreign country was using her own private server to send and receive emails, and was relying on outdated commercial software to operate and protect it, that’d be a hallelujah moment for us.”
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