The IRS Conservative Targeting Scandal involved:
Hundreds of conservative groups were targeted
At least 5 pro-Israel groups
Groups that criticized Obama administration
At least two pro-life groups
An 83 year-old Nazi concentration camp survivor
A 180 year-old Baptist paper
A Texas voting-rights group
A Hollywood conservative group was targeted and harassed
Conservative activists and businesses
At least one conservative Hispanic group
IRS continued to target groups even after the scandal was exposed
10% of Tea Party donors were audited by the IRS
And… 100% of the 501(c)(4) Groups Audited by IRS Were Conservative
After a year of delays the Obama IRS says it lost Lois Lerner’s emails in a computer crash.
Today, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) issued the following statement regarding the Internal Revenue Service informing the Committee that they have lost Lois Lerner emails from a period of January 2009 – April 2011. Due to a supposed computer crash, the agency only has Lerner emails to and from other IRS employees during this time frame. The IRS claims it cannot produce emails written only to or from Lerner and outside agencies or groups, such as the White House, Treasury, Department of Justice, FEC, or Democrat offices.
“The fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable and now calls into question the credibility of the IRS’s response to Congressional inquiries. There needs to be an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the Inspector General.
“Just a short time ago, Commissioner Koskinen promised to produce all Lerner documents. It appears now that was an empty promise. Frankly, these are the critical years of the targeting of conservative groups that could explain who knew what when, and what, if any, coordination there was between agencies. Instead, because of this loss of documents, we are conveniently left to believe that Lois Lerner acted alone. This failure of the IRS requires the White House, which promised to get to the bottom of this, to do an Administration-wide search and production of any emails to or from Lois Lerner. The Administration has repeatedly referred us back to the IRS for production of materials. It is clear that is wholly insufficient when it comes to determining the full scope of the violation of taxpayer rights.”
This is unbelievable.
As news breaks that the IRS is claiming to have lost 2 years worht of Lois Lerner’s Emails to Outside Agencies Are Gone, Representative Jason Chaffetz took to Twitter to point out previous testimony in which it was claimed Lerner’s emails were archived.
A veteran IT professional tells TheBlaze that the IRS’ claim that the agency lost two years’ worth of former IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails is “simply not feasible.”
On Friday, members of Congress revealed that the IRS would not be able to hand over Lerner’s emails to and from other IRS employees from January 2009 to April 2011, possibly due to a “glitch” or “crash.” Lawmakers were seeking the emails as part of their investigation into the IRS targeting scandal.
Norman Cillo, an Army veteran who worked in intelligence and a former program manager at Microsoft, argued it is very difficult to lose emails for good and laid out six reasons why he believes Congress is “being lied to” about the Lerner emails:
1. I believe the government uses Microsoft Exchange for their email servers. They have built-in exchange mail database redundancy. So, unless they did not follow Microsofts recommendations they are telling a falsehood. You can see by the diagram below that if you have three servers in a DAG you have three copies of the database.
2. Every IT organization that I know of has hotswappable disk drives. Every server built since 2000 has them. Meaning that if a single disk goes bad it’s easy to replace.
3. ALL Servers use some form of RAID technology. The only way that data can be totally lost (Meaning difficult to bring back) is if more than a single disk goes before the first bad disk is replaced. In the diagram below you can see that its possible to lose a single disk and still keep the data.
4. If the server crashed (Hardware failure other than disks), then the disks that contain the DATA for the Exchange database is still available because the server hardware and disks are exchangeable. Meaning that if I have another server with the same hardware in it, I can put the disks in and everything should boot right up.
5. All email servers in a professional organization use TAPE backup. Meaning if all the above fails, you can restore the server using the TAPE backups.
6. If they are talking about her local PC, then it’s a simple matter of going to the servers which have the email and getting them from the servers. If the servers have removed the data you can still get them by using the backups of the servers to recover the emails.
However, Cillo, who has been working in IT for roughly 16 years and is currently a consultant for a tech company, said it’s possible the IRS is telling the truth if the federal agency is “totally mismanaged and has the worst IT department ever.”
Other than that, it’s just not “feasible,” he told TheBlaze. “If the IRS’ email server is in such a state that they only have one copy of data and the server crashes and it’s gone, I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“I don’t know of any email administrator that doesn’t have at least three ways of getting that mail back,” he added. “It’s either on the disks or it’s on a TAPE backup someplace or in an archive server. There are at least three ways the government can get those emails.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or Abu Dua was once held by the US in Camp Bucca Iraq.
But the Obama administration shut down the Bucca prison camp and released its prisoners, including Abu Dua in 2009.
The Telegraph reported:
The FBI “most wanted” mugshot shows a tough, swarthy figure, his hair in a jailbird crew-cut. The $10 million price on his head, meanwhile, suggests that whoever released him from US custody four years ago may now be regretting it…
…Well-organised and utterly ruthless, the ex-preacher is the driving force behind al-Qaeda’s resurgence throughout Syria and Iraq, putting it at the forefront of the war to topple President Bashar al-Assad and starting a fresh campaign of mayhem against the Western-backed government in Baghdad.
On Tuesday, his forces achieved their biggest coup in Iraq to date, seizing control of government buildings in Mosul, the country’s third biggest city. Coming on top of similar operations in January that planted the black jihadi flag in the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi, it gives al-Qaeda control of large swathes of the north and west of the country, and poses the biggest security crisis since the US pull-out two years ago…
…“This guy was a Salafi (a follower of a fundamentalist brand of Islam), and Saddam’s regime would have kept a close eye on him,” said Dr Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“He was also in Camp Bucca for several years, which suggests he was already considered a serious threat when he went in there.”
That theory seems backed by US intelligence reports from 2005, which describe him as al-Qaeda’s point man in Qaim, a fly-blown town in Iraq’s western desert.
“Abu Duaa was connected to the intimidation, torture and murder of local civilians in Qaim”, says a Pentagon document. “He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”
Why such a ferocious individual was deemed fit for release in 2009 is not known. One possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq. Another, though, is that rather like Keyser Söze, the enigmatic crimelord in the film The Usual Suspects, he may actually be several different people.
Al-Qaeda ISIS members from ISIS celebrate in Diyala Province, Iraq.
Democracy Now added this on the closing of Camp Bucca in 2009.
The US meanwhile has closed Camp Bucca, once its largest prison in Iraq. The Pentagon says it’s transferred Bucca’s remaining 180 prisoners to two jails near Baghdad. US Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth King said the prison’s closure comes as part of the US-Iraq security deal.
Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth King: “As a show of progress for the security agreement and moving forward the government of Iraq, we’re going to put the theater internment facility as a piece of history. And we’re going to – it will be history, and we’ll move forward from here and progress.”
Camp Bucca once hosted thousands of prisoners without charge, with many allegations of torture and abuse by US guards.
The full horror of the jihadists’ savage victories in Iraq emerged yesterday as witnesses told of streets lined with decapitated soldiers and policemen.
Blood-soaked bodies and blazing vehicles were left in the wake of the Al Qaeda-inspired ISIS fanatics as they pushed the frontline towards Baghdad.
They boasted about their triumphs in a propaganda video depicting appalling scenes including a businessman being dragged from his car and executed at the roadside with a pistol to the back of his head. The extent of the carnage came as:
Images from captured cities such as Mosul and Tikrit showed deserted streets, burnt out vehicles and discarded uniforms left by government troops fleeing the brutal fanatics;
ISIS leaders urged their bloodthirsty followers to continue their march and warned that battle would rage in Baghdad and in the holy city of Karbala;
Thousands of residents in the capital answered a call to arms to repel the invaders amid fears the government’s own troops were not up to the job;
Aid groups warned of a new refugee crisis after half a million terrified Iraqis left their homes to escape the jihadists.
In the swathe of captured territory across northern Iraq, ISIS declared hardline Sharia law, publishing rules ordering women not to go outside ‘unless strictly necessary’, banning alcohol and smoking, and forcing all residents to attend mosques five times a day. BBC correspondent Paul Wood said one woman from Mosul, Iraq’s second city, had spoken of seeing a ‘row of decapitated soldiers and policemen’.
The refugee woman told how the victims’ heads were placed in rows – a trademark, trophy-style execution favoured by ISIS militants.
The fanatics captured Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s birthplace, by overrunning an army base and rounding up hundreds of soldiers and police. Dozens of members of a police special forces battalion were paraded on the back of a truck in the city.
As the balaclava-clad militants took Mosul and Tikrit, thousands of Baghdad’s residents young and old queued at recruiting stations to form a ‘Dad’s army’ to defend the capital.
Trucks carrying volunteers in uniform rumbled towards the frontlines to defend the city, with many chanting slogans against the ISIS militants.
Meanwhile the Iraqi air force carried out at least four bombing raids on insurgent positions in and around Mosul. State television showed targets exploding in black clouds.
Britons working in Baghdad’s Green Zone where most of the foreign embassies are based were on high alert. The lightning advance of ISIS has caused alarm in London, Washington and across the Middle East.
Despite vastly outnumbering the jihadists, government troops have melted away in the face of the insurgents, allowing them to capture two helicopters, 15 tanks, weapons and several armoured cars that used belonging to the American military. They also seized £350million-worth of dinars by robbing a bank in Mosul.
According to bitter Iraqi footsoldiers, their commanders slipped away in the night rather than mount a defence of the city.
One said: ‘Our leaders betrayed us. The commanders left the military behind. When we woke up, all the leaders had left.’
Last night Barack Obama said America would help with ‘short-term immediate actions… militarily’ to push back the insurgents, but ruled out sending troops.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would not get involved militarily because Iraq was now a democracy.
Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed: ‘We are not going to allow this to carry on, regardless of the price. We are getting ready. We are organising.’
As the situation spiralled out of control, even Iran was said to have deployed two battalions from its Revolutionary Guard to help the Iraqi government retake Tikrit.
The development was likely to enrage Washington, which has been steadfast in its determination for Baghdad not to cosy up to Tehran.
It also emerged that members of Saddam’s old guard were joining the insurrection. Fighters loyal to his disbanded Baath Party were said to be actively supporting the rebels. ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham but has also been referenced as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Its insurgency is the biggest threat to Iraq since US troops withdrew in 2011.
ISIS commanders issued chilling warnings to any police officers or soldiers to ‘repent or be killed’.
In a sinister video, the extremists urged followers to ‘march to Baghdad – we have a score to settle’. They also pledged to take the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.
‘Continue your march as the battle is not yet raging,’ a voice said to be that of ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani says. ‘It will rage in Baghdad and Karbala. So be ready for it. Put on your belts and get ready.’
But taking Baghdad would be much tougher for ISIS than the towns where they have triumphed so far. The United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors last night to discuss the crisis.
Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, speaking in London, insisted the government had halted the rebel advance and even claimed insurgents were ‘on the run’.
But at Baiji, near Kirkuk, insurgents surrounded Iraq’s largest refinery. And the fighters have reached Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad.
About a quarter of Mosul’s two million residents have fled. The flood of terrified families escaping the fighting there was described as ‘one of the largest and swiftest mass movements of people in the world in recent memory’. Many have headed east into the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Aid groups fear a new refugee crisis. Neighbouring countries already struggling to look after 2.8million refugees from the Syrian civil war now face the prospect of a new influx of displaced people desperately seeking a safe haven.
Meanwhile Iraqi Kurds seized control of the major northern oil city of Kirkuk today after the central government’s army abandoned its posts.The Kurds – a semi-autonomous ethnic group based in the north – have their own 250,000-strong military, but have not used them to engage ISIS.
Footage emerged yesterday evening from TIkrit, which appears to show a long line of captured men and boys, being forcibly marched down a highway in the city.
The minute-long video, uploaded to YouTube, showed a snaking column of men stretching the entire visible length of the stretch of road. A voice captured by the recording describes a great Islamic ‘family’ and later an ‘army’, suggesting a possible intention to recruit the captives.
Most of the men and boys have both hands on their heads, while others – some wearing head coverings and some bare-faced – move up and down the column encouraging the march.
The startling developments raise the spectre of Iraq being carved up and divided into several states. Respected commentators have raised the prospect that, with Kurdish forces holding the north, the Sunni ISIS militants taking parts of the north and west, leaving the central and south-eastern to the Shiite population who currently run the government and military.
Yesterday the Iraqi Ambassador to Washington warned the ‘integrity of Iraq is in question’, while Dr Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister of Iraq, added that a break-up was ‘not impossible’.
The governor of Mosul, who escaped the city and is now in Erbil in the Kurdish north, said that Iraq must be divided as centralisation had ‘failed’.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Atheel al-Nujaifi said prime minister Nouri al-Maliki ‘didn’t devolve authority to us before, but now we must do it. Now we are saying his centralisation policies have failed,’ Mr Nujaifi said.
Repercussions from the conflict are also being felt in global oil markets, where prices shot to a three-month high. The RAC said disruption could add more than 2p to the price of a litre of petrol.
The price of Brent crude rose $2 to a three-month high of more than $112 on fears about supply from the second-biggest producer in the Opec oil cartel.
The RAC said: ‘The worsening situation in Iraq is causing a knee-jerk reaction in the global fuel market with wholesale prices going up one pence over Wednesday and Thursday.’
This was likely to push the pump price of both petrol and diesel up by 2p per litre in the short term, the RAC said, ‘and this could well go much further’.
Iraq has insisted sectarian violence will not spread to the south, from which the vast majority of oil output comes.
After the capture of Mosul, the Islamic State issued a triumphalist statement declaring that it would implement its strict version of Shariah law in Mosul and other regions it had overrun.
Its laws state that women should stay in their homes for modesty reasons, command residents to attend prayers five times a day, and warned thieves that they would have their hands cut off.
It came as Kurdish forces took full control of Iraq’s oil-rich city of Kirkuk after the federal army abandoned its bases there.
Peshmerga fighters, the security forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north, swept into Kirkuk after the army abandoned its posts there, a peshmerga spokesman said.
‘The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga. No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now’, said Jabbar Yawar.
Kurds have long dreamed of controlling Kirkuk, a city with huge oil reserves just outside their autonomous region, which they regard as their historical capital.
The swift move by their highly organised security forces demonstrates how this week’s sudden advance by ISIS fighters has redrawn Iraq’s map.
Insurgents surrounded Iraq’s largest refinery in the northern town of Baiji this afternoon – they first moved in late on Tuesday, closing in on the refinery, but later withdrew to the surrounding villages after reaching a deal with local tribal chiefs.
A White House spokesman this evening said that they believed the Iraqi government were in control of the facility, but had no further details.
In the midst of the crisis, Iraq’s parliament failed to declare a nationwide state of emergency after not enough MPs turned up for a vote.
Opposition politicians representing Sunni and Kurdish populations boycotted parliament because the oppose a motion to give extraordinary powers to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Turkey is negotiating for the release of 80 nationals held by ISIS in Mosul and cannot confirm reports that some of them have been freed, government officials said today.
The pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported that the hostages, who include diplomatic staff, children and special forces soldiers, had been released to the Iraqi governor of Mosul and would be brought to Turkey tonight.
The capture of Mosul – along with the fall of Tikrit and the militants’ earlier seizure of the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province – has undone hard-fought gains against insurgents in the years following the invasion by U.S.-led forces.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the abductions and the seizure of Iraqi territory by the militants, urging ‘the international community to unite in showing solidarity with Iraq as it confronts this serious security challenge.’
‘Terrorism must not be allowed to succeed in undoing the path towards democracy in Iraq,’ he added.
Mosul, the capital of Ninevah province, and the neighboring Sunni-dominated province of Anbar share a long and porous border with Syria, where the Islamic State is also active.
Without assigning direct blame, al-Maliki said a ‘conspiracy’ led to the massive security failure that allowed militants to capture Mosul, and said members of the security forces who fled rather than stand up to the militants should be punished.
‘We are working to solve the situation,’ al-Maliki said. ‘We are regrouping the armed forces that are in charge of clearing Ninevah from those terrorists.’
Iranian airlines cancelled all flights between Tehran and Baghdad due to security concerns, and the Islamic Republic has intensified security measures along its borders, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.
Shiite Iran, a major regional power, has strong ties with Iraq’s government. Some 17,000 Iranian pilgrims are in Iraq at any given time, according to IRNA, which cited the director of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization.
Tikrit residents said the militant group overran several police stations in the Sunni-dominated city.
Two Iraqi security officials confirmed that the city, 80 miles north of Baghdad and the capital of Salahuddin province, was under ISIS’s control and that the provincial governor was missing.
The major oil refinery in Baiji, located between Mosul and Tikrit, remained in government control, the officials said. There were clashes and gunmen tried to take the town but were repelled in a rare success for Iraqi government forces protecting an important facility, the officials said.
The International Organisation for Migration estimated that 500,000 people fled the Mosul area, with some seeking safety in the Ninevah countryside or the nearby semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
Getting into the latter has become more difficult, however, with migrants without family members already in the enclave needing to secure permission from Kurdish authorities, according to the IOM.
The Islamist militia is so ruthless and extreme that even al-Qaeda has cut ties and distances itself from them.
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Isis), used to be part of the international terror network, but was cast out in February this year in light of its violent behaviour towards rival jihadist groups.
It is famed – and feared – for spreading hardline Islamic law to the areas it subdues. Transgressors are sentenced to death and swiftly executed in public, their bodies left to decay in the streets.
This treatment has even been doled out against other jihadist leaders, who have been assassinated in a brutal struggle over strategy in the Middle East. Young jihadists are increasingly drawn to Isis over less extreme groups – particularly in the light of their rapid military progress through Iraq.
In the past days the group has overrun the northern city of Mosul, and today also took Tikrit, the hometown of executed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.
In February, the leader of al-Qaeda issued a statement dissociating itself from Isis, which it accused of ‘forbidden bloodshed’ directed at fellow fighters.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s chief, cut ties after Isis attempted to bolster its strength by merging with other rebels in Syria.
He said: ‘We weren’t informed about its creation, nor counselled. Nor are we satisfied with it: rather we ordered it to stop… Nor is al–Qaeda responsible for its actions and behaviour.’
The organisation is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has a U.S. bounty of $10million on his head, second only to al-Zawahiri.
The ISIS leader, who was born in 1971 in Baghdad, is touted as a battlefield commander and tactician.
Baghdadi, who has a degree in Islamic studies, apparently joined the insurgency that erupted in Iraq soon after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
He was taken as a prisoner of the Americans in Camp Bucca between 2005 and 2007 – it was here that one of the only two photos know to be in existence was taken of him.
He is known as ‘The Ghost’ to members of the pro-Assad Lebanese Shi-ite militia Hizballah.
The secretive Baghdadi talks with a scarf covering his face even when dealing with close allies, according to militants who worked with him in Iraq.
He addresses his ISIS followers through audio recordings posted to the internet, rather than in public places.
Military sources have reported his death on numerous occasions in the past years, but the fighter always seems to reappear. This has led to speculation that al-Baghdadi is in fact a name used jointly by several commanders.
Some estimates claim Isis group has in excess of 10,000 fighting men in its ranks. Many of its fighters are thought to be radicalised Western Muslims who have poured in from Europe and North American to join the fighting in Syria and elsewhere.
The group, which controls large areas of land in Syria, is thought to be pouring resources and money from those areas into its burgeoning Iraqi campaign, which has seen it tear through the northern regions on the country.
Its military progress, largely unhindered by Iraq’s own security forces, have given it control over several highly valuable oil fields, which leaders will hope to exploit to strengthen their hand.
The situation has alarmed officials in Turkey, who called an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors after 80 of its citizens were taken hostage by Isis.
‘Turkey briefed the other allies on the situation in (the Iraqi city of) Mosul and the hostage-taking of Turkish citizens, including the consul general,’ a NATO official said.
He said the meeting was held for informational purposes and not under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which permits a member of the 28-nation alliance to ask for consultations with other allies when it feels its security is threatened.
Turks seized included 48 from the consulate in Mosul – including the consul-general and three children. Separately, 28 truck drivers who were delivering diesel to a power plant were captured on Monday.
Meanwhile, Baghdad residents were stockpiling food, fuel and weaponry in anticipation of an attack on the capital in the coming days.
Prime Minister Maliki has previously encouraged ordinary Iraqis to take up arms against the advancing soldiers of Isis, especially in light of claims that members of the police and military are intentionally defecting.
Senior sources in the Iraqi government have said that they have a plan to take back Mosul, but were unclear on the details.
Isis is pushing to expand its territory, which currently straddles the border between Syria and Iraq, and includes land extremely close to the Turkish border.
The group’s centre of power is Raqqa, a city in northern Syria, which is being run under the regime’s oppressive and violent code.
Raqqa was heavily contested throughout the Syrian conflict, and was held by several rebel groups until Isis threw out all other contenders in 2013.
Recently Isis leaders imposed punitive rules on the city’s Christian population, demanding that they pay a levy of gold for ‘protection’ else face being killed on the streets for their faith.
Horrifying images have also emerged from the cities of crucifixions being used to punish men who attacked Isis fighters.
Seven men were sentenced to death after a grenade was thrown at a soldier near a roundabout in Raqqa. The men, who were riding motorbikes, were then hunted down by Isis forces, according to a statement from the group. Two of the men were sentenced to die by crucifixion.
One of the two was wrapped in a banner, which said: ‘This man fought against Muslims and threw a grenade in this place.’
Apparently President Obama’s new favorite hobby is seeing how quickly he can release the world’s most dangerous terrorists from Gitmo.
Hot on the heels of releasing five detainees in an illegal deal to obtain Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a possible deserter and defector, the President has made another wrong decision involving high ranking al-Qaeda prisoners.
One would think that after catching so much flack from the public and members of Congress, including a new investigation to add to the list of the ones that are already on-going, Obama would think twice before pulling another stunt that endangers American lives.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the president is about to do.
According to new reports, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have approved the release of one of Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards. Yes, you read that correctly.
Via Daily Caller:
President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have approved one of Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards for release or transfer from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to another country, according to prison records released by WikiLeaks and a recently published list of approved-transfer detainees from the Justice Department.
Idris Ahmad Abdu Qadir Idris is the second name on Holder’s Justice Department list of 55 Gitmo detainees approved for release or transfer. This detainee, according to a Jan. 26, 2008, Defense Department document published by WikiLeaks, provided security for bin Laden both before and after the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
“Detainee is assessed to be a member of al-Qaida and was identified as a bodyguard for Usama Bin Laden (UBL) beginning shortly before the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Detainee is also assessed to be an al-Qaida recruiter associated with a Salafist network in Yemen,” the document reads. “Detainee transited through multiple extremist support guesthouses, received militant training at the al-Qaida al-Faruq Training Camp in Afghanistan (AF), and is assessed to have received advanced training.”
Spokespeople for the Justice Department and for the White House haven’t responded to requests for comment on why they want to release or transfer one of Bin Laden’s bodyguards from U.S. custody, even as reports surface suggesting the recent anti-American attacks in Libya were organized by a released Gitmo detainee.
Unbelievable. President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, one of the top U.S. officials tasked with ensuring America’s safety, continues to release terrorists back into the wild, who will no doubt be back on the battlefield fighting against the U.S.
This man is either trying to destroy America, or he is the most intellectually inept president this nation has ever had in office. Obama needs to be impeached right now before he does any further damage to our civil liberties and our national security.
Please share this article if you agree President Obama is putting the nation in danger and needs to be impeached immediately.
Shi’te Muslim Iran is so alarmed by Sunni insurgent gains in Iraq that it may be willing to cooperate with Washington in helping Baghdad fight back, a senior Iranian official told Reuters.
The idea is being discussed internally among the Islamic Republic’s leadership, the senior Iranian official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official had no word on whether the idea had been raised with any other party.
Officials say Iran will send its neighbor advisers and weaponry, although probably not troops, to help its ally Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki check what Tehran sees as a profound threat to regional stability, officials and analysts say.
Islamist militants have captured swathes of territory including the country’s second biggest city Mosul.
Tehran is open to the possibility of working with the United States to support Baghdad, the senior official said.
“We can work with Americans to end the insurgency in the Middle East,” the official said, referring to events in Iraq.
“We are very influential in Iraq, Syria and many other countries.”
For many years, Iran has been aggrieved by what it sees as U.S. efforts to marginalize it. Tehran wants to be recognized as a significant player in regional security.
Relations between Iran and Washington have improved modestly since the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, who promised “constructive engagement” with the world.
And while Tehran and the United States pursue talks to resolve the Islamic state’s decade-old nuclear standoff with the West, they also acknowledge some common threats, including the rise of al Qaeda-style militancy across the Middle East.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama said the United States was not ruling out air strikes to help Baghdad fight the insurgents, in what would be the first U.S. armed intervention in Iraq since the end of the U.S.-led war.
Rouhani on Thursday strongly condemned what he called violent acts by insurgent groups in the Middle East.
“Today, in our region, unfortunately, we are witnessing violence, killing, terror and displacement,” Rouhani said.
“Iran will not tolerate the terror and violence… we will fight against terrorism, factionalism and violence.”
Asked on Thursday about Iranian comments, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “Clearly, we’ve encouraged them in many cases to play a constructive role. But I don’t have any other readouts or views from our end to portray here today.”
Fearing Iraq’s war could spill into Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged the international community to back Maliki’s administration “in its fight against terrorism”.
Brigadier-General Mohammad Hejazi said Iran was ready to supply Iraq with “military equipment or consultations,” the Tasnim news agency reported. “I do not think the deployment of Iranian troops would be necessary,” he was quoted as adding.
The senior Iranian official said Iran was extremely worried about the advance of ISIL, also a major force in the war against Iran’s close ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, carving out a swathe of Syria territory along the Iraqi border.
“The danger of extremist Sunni terrorist in Iraq and the region is increasing… There have been several high-ranking security meetings since yesterday in Tehran,” the official said.
“We are on alert and we also follow the developments in Iraq very closely.”
Militants were gathering Friday for a new attempt to take the Iraqi city of Samarra, home to a revered Shiite shrine whose 2006 bombing sparked a sectarian war, witnesses said.
A major offensive launched by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and its allies late Monday has overrun second city Mosul and a swathe of northern and north-central Iraq.
Witnesses in the Dur area, between militant-held Tikrit and Samarra, said they saw “countless” vehicles carrying militants south during the night.
And witnesses in Samarra, just 110 kilometres (70 miles) north of Baghdad, said gunmen were gathering to the north, east and southeast of the city.
A tribal leader said that militants had approached the security forces in the city, asking them to leave peacefully and promising not to harm the Al-Askari shrine.
They also proposed that tribal leaders form a force to protect the shrine and the city’s residents, but security forces refused to withdraw, he said.
Militants already mounted two assaults on Samarra, one on Wednesday and one late last week, which were thwarted only after heavy fighting.
The Al-Askari shrine was bombed by militants in February 2006, sparking sectarian conflict between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority that left tens of thousands dead.
Now Tikrit Falls To Islamist Terrorists: Hundreds Of Thousands Flee As Second Iraqi City Is Seized By The Extremist Warlord Who Is More ‘Virulent And Violent Than Bin Laden’, And Will Baghdad Be Next? – Daily Mail
Iraq was under siege yesterday after Al Qaeda-inspired jihadists seized control of Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit and closed in on the country’s biggest oil refinery.
Coming less than 24 hours after the country’s second city Mosul was overrun by the militants, there were fears that the loss of Tikrit could open the way for an assault on Baghdad just 80 miles to the south.
British security firms working in the capital are said to have been put on high alert amid fears that insurgents will target the ‘Green Zone’ where most of the foreign embassies are based.
As well as Mosul and Tikrit, several other northern towns were reported to have fallen to the spectacular offensive by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
And the fundamentalist fighters, led by former preacher Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, were today expected to take over the massive Baiji refinery after 250 security personnel abandoned their posts rather than fight.
ISIL was also battling security forces near the town of Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad on the main highway to Mosul, and home to a revered Shia shrine.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked parliament to declare a state of emergency to give him more powers as he called on the international community for help.
The sense of unravelling chaos in the country, from which American troops withdrew in 2011, was compounded this evening by a suicide bomber killing 16 in a Shi’te slum in the country’s capital Baghdad.
As night fell, several hundred gunmen were in Tikrit, with clashes still taking place between the insurgents and military units on its outskirts, according to city officials.
While the West has so far refused to assist with military support, the US has said it will come to the aid of the 500,000 people who have fled fierce fighting in Iraq.
Denouncing ISIS as ‘one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world, Stuart Jones, the nominee to be the next US envoy to Baghdad, told US politicians the United States ‘will continue to monitor the situation closely, and will work with our international partners to try to meet the needs of those who have been displaced’.
Today UK Foreign Secretary William Hague played down any suggestion of sending troops to support the Iraqi military.
The White House National Security Council said only: ‘President Obama promised to responsibly end the war in Iraq and he did’.
A country into which America poured so much blood and money faces the prospect of dealing with this major new military threat by itself in light of Western governments’ insistence that the matter is not their concern.
However, international momentum appeared to be turning as Turkey called a meeting of Nato officials in light of concerns over security and its captured citizens.
Militants seized 48 Turks from the Turkish consulate Mosul today including the consul-general, three children and several members of Turkey’s special forces. 28 Turkish lorry drivers were already being held.
Tonight Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned it will retaliate if any of its citizens and diplomats are harmed.
‘Right now we are engaged in calm crisis management, considering our citizens’ security. This should not be misunderstood. Any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation,’ he said.
The rampage through Mosul – which is near the Turkish and Syrian border – by the black banner-waving insurgents was a heavy defeat for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as he tries to hold onto power, and highlighted the growing strength of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The group has been advancing in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, capturing territory in a campaign to set up a militant enclave straddling the border.
This afternoon the Al Qaeda-inspired militants have seized control of Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit.
Iraqi security officials confirmed Tikrit was under the control of Isis and said the provincial governor was missing.
Tikrit, the capital of Salahuddin province, is 80 miles north of Baghdad.
The insurgents expanded their offensive closer to the Iraqi capital as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts following clashes.
A woman in Baghdad said: ‘People are buying up food and may not come to work tomorrow because they think the situation is getting to get worse.’
A Mosul businessman who has fled the city of Mosul told the Guardian: ‘The city fell like a plane without an engine.’
Another resident explained that after government forces began to desert the city they felt compelled to leave in case the government started to bomb the city to force out the militants.
Today the governor of an Iraqi province said authorities are determined to recapture the northern city.
The Ninevah province governor, Atheel al-Nujaifi, said authorities have a plan to restore security and defeat the militants raiding government buildings, pushing out security forces and capturing military vehicles as thousands of residents fled.
Al-Nujaifi also accused senior commanders of the security forces of providing Baghdad with false information about the situation in Mosul and demanding that they should stand trial.
He also says smaller armed groups joined the al Qaeda breakaway group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during the fight for control the city.
This morning Iraq’s foreign minister said Baghdad will cooperate with Kurdish forces to flush out militants from Mosul.
‘There will be closer cooperation between Baghdad and the regional Kurdistan government to work together and flush out these foreign fighters,’ Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said on the sidelines of a EU-Arab League meeting in Athens.
He called on all Iraqi leaders to come together to face the ‘serious, mortal’ threat to the country.
‘The response has to be soon. There has to be a quick response to what has happened,’ he said.
Militants have seized the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and efforts are under way to ensure the safety of diplomatic staff, according to two Turkish government sources.
‘Certain militant groups in Mosul have been directly contacted to ensure the safety of diplomatic staff,’ a Turkish government source said, adding there was no immediate information on the status of the diplomats.
Last night militants advanced into the oil refinery town of Baiji, setting the court house and police station on fire and today they are unconfirmed reports that the town ‘in flames’.
They said around 250 guards at the refinery had agreed to withdraw to another town after the militants sent a delegation of local tribal chiefs to persuade them to pull out.
Baiji resident Jasim al-Qaisi, said the militants also warned local police and soldiers not to challenge them.
‘Yesterday at sunset some gunmen contacted the most prominent tribal sheikhs in Baiji via cellphone and told them: ‘We are coming to die or control Baiji, so we advise you to ask your sons in the police and army to lay down their weapons and withdraw before (Tuesday) evening prayer’.’
Militants entered Baiji late on Tuesday evening in around 60 vehicles, releasing prisoners in the town.
Baiji refinery is Iraq’s biggest, supplying oil products to most of the country’s provinces. A worker there said the morning shift had not been allowed to take over and the night shift was still working.
The United States condemned the siege ‘in the strongest possible terms.’
White House spokesman Josh Earnest deplored ‘despicable’ acts of violence targeting civilians in Mosul. Mr Earnest said the group has gained strength from the situation in neighbouring Syria.
But the White House is not saying what additional military assistance the US might provide Iraq in response to the siege. Mr Earnest said the US is committed to its partnership with Baghdad but is urging Iraq’s government to take steps to be more inclusive of all Iraqis.
There were no immediate estimates on how many people were killed in the four-day assault, a stark reminder of the reversals in Iraq since U.S. forces left in late 2011.
Earlier this year, Islamic State fighters took control of Fallujah, and government forces have been unable to take it back.
Mosul is a much bigger, more strategic prize. The city and surrounding Ninevah province, which is on the doorstep of Iraq’s relatively prosperous Kurdish region, are a major export route for Iraqi oil and a gateway to Syria.
‘This isn’t Fallujah. This isn’t a place you can just cordon off and forget about,’ said Michael Knights, a regional security analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ‘It’s essential to Iraq.’
Al-Maliki pressed parliament to declare a state of emergency that would grant him greater powers, saying the public and government must unite ‘to confront this vicious attack, which will spare no Iraqi.’
Legal experts said these powers could include imposing curfews, restricting public movements and censoring the media.
Iraqi state television today reported that its legislators would meet on Thursday.
Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni from Mosul, called the rout ‘a disaster by any standard.’
Regaining Mosul poses a daunting challenge for the Shiite prime minister.
The city of about 1.4 milliion has a Sunni Muslim majority and many in the community are already deeply embittered against his Shiite-led government.
During the nearly nine-year American presence in the country, Mosul was a major stronghold for al-Qaeda. U.S. and Iraqi forces carried out repeated offensives there, regaining a semblance of control but never routing the insurgents entirely.
‘It’s going to be difficult to reconstitute the forces to clear and hold the city,’ Knights said. ‘There aren’t a lot of spare forces around Iraq.’
Today UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told ITV News the civilian population of Mosul must be protected.
He added: ‘We left Iraq in the hands of elected Iraqi leaders with armed forces, with their own security forces, so it is primarily for them to deal with.’
‘It’s very important that Iraqis take the leadership and responsibility of dealing with this, working with neighbouring countries.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. would continue to help the Iraqi government fight ISIS.
‘President Obama promised to responsibly end the war in Iraq and he did,’ she said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest deplored what he called the ‘despicable’ acts of violence against civilians in Mosul.
He said Washington is committed to its partnership with Baghdad but is urging the government to take steps to be more inclusive of all Iraqis.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks across Iraq in recent days ‘that have killed and wounded scores of civilians.’
He urged all political leaders ‘to show national unity against the threats facing Iraq, which can only be addressed on the basis of the constitution and within the democratic political process,’ according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Insurgents and Iraqi troops have been fighting for days in Mosul, but the security forces’ hold appeared to collapse late Monday night and early Tuesday.
Gunmen overran the Ninevah provincial government building – a key symbol of state control – Monday evening, and the governor fled the city.
The fighters stormed police stations, bases and prisons, capturing weapons and freeing inmates. Security forces melted away, abandoning many of their posts, and militants seized large caches of weapons.
They took control of the city’s airport and captured helicopters, as well as an airbase 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of the city, the parliament speaker said.
Later Tuesday, Islamic State fighters took over the large town of Hawija, 125 kilometers (75 miles) south of Mosul, according to officials there.
On Tuesday, the militants appeared to hold much of the eastern half of Mosul, which is bisected by the Tigris River. Residents said fighters were raising the black banners that are the emblem of the Islamic State.
Video taken from a car driving through the streets of Mosul and posted online showed burning vehicles in the streets, black-masked gunmen in pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns, and residents walking with suitcases.
ISIL supporters posted photos on social media showing fighters next to Humvees and other U.S.-made military vehicles captured from Iraqi forces.
The video and photos appeared authentic and matched Associated Press reporting of the events.
A government employee who lives about a mile from the provincial headquarters, Umm Karam, said she left with her family Tuesday morning.
‘The situation is chaotic inside the city and there is nobody to help us,’ she said ‘We are afraid. … There is no police or army in Mosul.’ She spoke on condition she be identified only by her nickname for fear of her safety.
An estimated 500,000 people have fled Mosul, according to a U.N. spokesman in New York, citing the International Organization for Migration.
The spokesman said aid organizations hope to reach those in need with food, water, sanitation and other essential supplies as soon as the volatile security situation permits.
The Islamic State has ramped up its insurgency over the past two years, presenting itself as the Sunni community’s champion against al-Maliki’s government
The group was once al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, but under its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi it has escalated its ambitions, sending fighters into Syria to join the rebellion against President Bashar Assad.
Its jihadists became notorious as some of the most ruthless fighters in the rebellion – and other rebels turned against it, accusing it of trying to hijack the movement.
Al-Qaida’s central command, angered over its intervention in Syria, threw the group out of the terrorist network.
But it has been making gains on both sides of the border. In Syria, it took control of an eastern provincial capital of Raqqa, and in the past month it has launched an offensive working its way toward the Iraqi border.
Islamic State fighters in eastern Syria crossed into Iraq to help their brethren in the Mosul area, activists on the Syrian side said.
They tried to take the border crossing itself, but Kurdish fighters on either side fended them off. The militants were able to seize the nearest Iraqi town to the border, Rabeea, the activists said.
The group earlier this year took over Fallujah and parts of Sunni-dominated Anbar province, and has stepped up its long-running campaign of bombings and other violence in Baghdad and elsewhere.
The Mosul crisis comes as al-Maliki is working to assemble a coalition after elections in late April, relying even more on Shiite parties. Sunnis and Kurds have grown increasingly disillusioned with al-Maliki, accusing him of dominating power.
The autonomous Kurdish region in the north has its own armed forces – the peshmerga – and on Tuesday, the region’s prime minister suggested his willingness to intervene beyond the formal borders of the self-ruled enclave.
That could be politically explosive, since the Mosul region lies on Kurdistan’s doorstep, has a significant Kurdish population, and the Kurds claim parts of the area.
Militant gains in territories the Kurds consider theirs could push them ‘to send in their own troops to protect communities they consider as part of their jurisdiction,’ said Jordan Perry, an analyst at risk analysis firm Maplecroft.
Kurdistan’s prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, sharply criticized Baghdad’s handling of the Mosul crisis, saying the Kurds had tried unsuccessfully to work with Iraqi security forces to protect the city.
‘Tragically, Baghdad adopted a position which has prevented the establishment of this cooperation,’ he said in a statement.
Barzani urged the Kurds to aid those displaced from Mosul and called on the U.N. refugee agency to help with the relief effort.
He said the peshmerga are prepared to handle security in areas outside the regional government’s jurisdiction – presumably referring to parts around Mosul inhabited by Kurds that are disputed with the central government.
Kurdish official Razgar Khoushnaw said about 10,000 Mosul residents took refuge Tuesday in the Kurdish province of Irbil, while security officials in neighboring Dahuk province said 5,000 displaced people were let in there.
Far larger numbers of people are believed to have fled Mosul for other communities in the Ninevah countryside.
I don’t get it, Obama drones Pakistan and Yemen like it’s going out of style but he won’t do it in Iraq?
WASHINGTON – As the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials.
But Iraq’s appeals for military assistance have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011.
The swift capture of Mosul by militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has underscored how the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have converged into one widening regional insurgency with fighters coursing back and forth through the porous border between the two countries. But it has also cast a spotlight on the limits the White House has imposed on the use of American power in an increasingly violent and volatile region.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, declined to comment on Mr. Maliki’s requests and the administration’s response, saying in a statement, “We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions, but the government of Iraq has made clear that they welcome our support” in combating the Islamic extremists. […]
Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister, last year floated the idea that armed American-operated Predator or Reaper drones might be used to respond to the expanding militant network in Iraq. American officials dismissed that suggestion at the time, saying that the request had not come from Mr. Maliki.
By March, however, American experts who visited Baghdad were being told that Iraq’s top leaders were hoping that American air power could be used to strike the militants’ staging and training areas inside Iraq, and help Iraq’s beleaguered forces stop them from crossing into Iraq from Syria.
“Iraqi officials at the highest level said they had requested manned and unmanned U.S. airstrikes this year against ISIS camps in the Jazira desert,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former C.I.A. analyst and National Security Council official, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and who visited Baghdad in early March. ISIS is the acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as the militant group is known.
As the Sunni insurgents have grown in strength those requests have persisted. In a May 11 meeting with American diplomats and Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, Mr. Maliki said that he would like the United States to provide Iraq with the ability to operate drones. But if the United States was not willing to do that, Mr. Maliki indicated he was prepared to allow the United States to carry out strikes using warplanes or drones.
According to U.S. sources who spoke with The Blaze reporter Sara Carter, the United States Embassy in Baghdad is preparing plans to facilitate the evacuation of that massive facility as Islamic militant groups continue their blitz across that country.
“The U.S. official told TheBlaze that the U.S. Embassy, United Nations and other foreign organizations with a presence in Iraq are ‘preparing contingency plans to evacuate employees,’” The Blaze reported.
A counterterrorism expert added that the level of violence in Iraq is at levels “not seen since 2007,” just prior to the implementation of the “surge” strategy which temporarily pacified the growing insurgency in that country.
The $750 million complex is the world’s largest foreign embassy facility and was built to house tens of thousands of government employees and contractors, but it has not been fully staffed since the end of 2013.
The al-Qaeda-linked group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) have already captured the cities of Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah, and may be setting their sights on the Iraqi capital. The group’s aim is to create a pan-Islamic state that stretches from the Mediterranean coast to the Iranian border.
The State Department has warned American citizens against traveling to Iraq amid the escalating violence.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a radical offshoot of al Qaeda, has taken control of Iraq’s second largest city.
Iraqi police and security forces reportedly fled Mosul prior to the attack, leaving the facilities of the city open for plunder. Mosul was a key area of focus for U.S. forces in an effect to stabilize Iraq, and large amounts of military hardware was left in the city for the Iraqis.
Iraq’s parliament speaker said that ISIS took control of the city’s airport and obtained helicopters. ISIS also took control of U.S. Humvees, which they are now proceeding to send to Syria.
The Humvees are reportedly in fine condition. The vehicles would be a significant upgrade to the current equipment that ISIS has, and it further increase their ability to carry out attacks in both Iraq and Syria.
One interesting note is that the U.S. military gave these Humvees to the Iraqi military, which was long ago infiltrated by Iran-backed groups that killed Americans.
Yet, ISF/Iraq Army was fully infiltrated by Iran-backed groups which killed US troops-and they were given those humvees. (Part 2)
12:27 PM – 10 Jun 2014
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Upwards of 150,000 people are now fleeing from Mosul towards Baghdad or Iraqi Kurdistan. U.S. trained Iraqi soldiers are apparently leaving behind their uniforms too as they flee from ISIS.
The al-Qaida-inspired group that captured two key Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq this week vowed on Thursday to march on to Baghdad, raising fears about the Shiite-led government’s ability to slow the assault following the insurgents’ lightning gains.
Fighters from the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit on Wednesday as soldiers and security forces abandoned their posts and yielded ground once controlled by U.S. troops.
That seizure followed the capture of much of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, the previous day. The group and its allies among local tribesmen also hold the city of Fallujah and other pockets of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province to the west of Baghdad.
Baghdad does not appear to be in imminent danger from a similar assault, although Sunni insurgents have stepped up car bombings and suicide attacks in the capital in recent months.
The capital, with its large Shiite population, would be a far harder target for the militants. So far, Islamic State fighters have stuck to the Sunni heartland and former Sunni insurgent strongholds where people are already alienated by the Shiite-led government over allegations of discrimination and mistreatment. The militants also would likely meet far stronger resistance, not only from government forces but by Shiite militias if they tried to advance on the capital.
In contrast, online video posted Thursday showed some Tikrit residents celebrating the militant takeover. As Islamic State fighters drove through largely empty streets in a captured military Humvee and a pickup truck mounted with an anti-aircraft gun, what appeared to be a few dozen people shouted “God is great,” and celebratory gunfire could be heard. The video appeared authentic and was consistent with AP reporting.
The Islamic State’s spokesman vowed to take the fight into the capital at the heart of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government. In a sign of the group’s confidence, he even boasted that its fighters will take the southern Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf, which hold two of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims.
“We will march toward Baghdad because we have an account to settle there,” he said in an audio recording posted on militant websites commonly used by the group. The statement could not be independently verified.
Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters from the ethnic group’s autonomous enclave in the north showed signs of taking a greater role in fighting back against the Islamic State. Their role is a potential point of friction because both Sunni and Shiite Arabs are wary over Kurdish claims on territory outside their enclave.
Kurdish security forces known as peshmerga took over an air base and other posts abandoned by the Iraqi military in the ethnically mixed flashpoint city of Kirkuk, Brig. Halogard Hikmat, a senior peshmerga official told the Associated Press. But he denied reports the whole city was under peshmerga control.
“We decided to move… because we do not want these places with the weapons inside them to fall into the hands of the insurgents,” said Hikmat. Iraqi government officials could not be reached to confirm the account.
A force of 20 pick-up trucks carrying Islamic State militants attacked peshmerga positions near the town of Sinjar, on a highway between Mosul and the Syrian border. The two sides battled for four hours late Wednesday night in a firefight that killed nine militants and wounded four peshmerga, Hikmat said.
Militants also attacked an Iraqi security checkpoint Thursday in the town of Tarmiyah, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Baghdad, killing five troops and wounding nine, said officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
After Mosul’s fall, al-Maliki asked parliament to declare a state of emergency that would give him the “necessary powers” to run the country – something legal experts said could include powers to impose curfews, restrict public movements and censor the media.
Lawmakers tried to hold a session to approve the measure Thursday, but too few showed up and they were unable to reach quorum to vote.
Hundreds of young men crowded in front of the main army recruiting center in Baghdad on Thursday after authorities urged Iraqis to help battle the insurgents.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, offered his country’s support to Iraq in its “fight against terrorism” during a phone call with his Iraqi counterpart, Iranian state TV reported.
Shiite powerhouse Iran, which has built close ties with Iraq’s postwar government, a day earlier said it was halting flights to Baghdad because of security concerns and has intensified security measures along its borders.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday blasted the Islamic State as “barbaric” and said that his country’s highest security body will hold an immediate meeting to review the developments in neighboring Iraq.
The Islamic State aims to create an Islamic emirate spanning both sides of the Iraq-Syria border. It has been able to push deep into parts of the Iraqi Sunni heartland once controlled by U.S. forces because police and military forces melted away after relatively brief clashes.
The White House said Wednesday that the United States was “deeply concerned” about the Islamic State’s continued aggression.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern Thursday about the group’s advances, noting its history of violence and other abuses. The rights group also called on Baghdad to deal with the crisis “without the brutal tactics for which civilians elsewhere in the country have long been paying a heavy price,” deputy Middle East director Nadim Houry said.
There were no reliable estimates of casualties or the number of insurgents involved, though several hundred gunmen were involved in the Tikrit fight, said Mizhar Fleih, the deputy head of the municipal council of nearby Samarra. An even larger number of militants likely would have been needed to secure Mosul, a much bigger city.
Mosul, the capital of Ninevah province, and the neighboring Sunni-dominated province of Anbar share a long and porous border with Syria, where the Islamic State is also active.
Mosul’s fall was a heavy defeat for al-Maliki. His Shiite-dominated political bloc came first in April 30 parliamentary elections – the first since the U.S. military withdrawal in 2011 – but failed to gain a majority, forcing him to try to build a governing coalition.
In addition to being Saddam’s hometown, Tikrit was a power base of his once-powerful Baath Party. The former dictator was captured by U.S. forces while hiding in a hole in the area and he is buried south of town in a tomb draped with the Saddam-era Iraqi flag.
The White House on Wednesday expressed concerns that Islamic militants had regained a foothold in Iraq after an al Qaeda-affiliated group seized control of a second major city.
Islamist militants seized the northern city of Tikrit on Wednesday, an action that sparked alarm in Washington and Baghdad, just days after rebel forces also captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
“The situation in Iraq is grave,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest conceded to reporters traveling with the president Wednesday to Massachusetts.
“There is no doubt that the situation has deteriorated over the last 24 hours,” he added.
Earnest said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” the instability could create a humanitarian crisis, with reports saying Iraqi security forces had fled both cities and thousands of refugees were seeking shelter.
Rebel groups have allegedly seized control of government buildings and released prisoners, adding to the chaos.
Earnest called on Iraqi leaders to organize a response to turn back the rebel forces, and said Washington was offering its support to Baghdad.
The Iraqi government plans to meet Thursday in Baghdad to vote on whether to give Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki emergency powers that would give him broader latitude to combat the sectarian violence.
The U.S. also condemned the kidnapping of 49 Turkish diplomatic personnel in Mosul by the group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Earnest called the attack “despicable” and demanded the immediate release of the prisoners.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier Wednesday that Secretary of State John Kerry had called Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to express “their mutual concern” about the security situation.
“We join Turkey and the international community in calling for the immediate release of Turkey’s kidnapped diplomatic personnel,” Psaki said.
When President Barack Obama removed the last U.S. forces from Iraq in December 2011, he announced that – as he had planned – the U.S. was leaving behind a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government.”
It was a “moment of success,” he said.
On Feb. 27, 2009, a little more than a month after his first inauguration, Obama gave a speech at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina that the White House entitled, “Responsibly Ending the War in Iraq.”
Obama said then that his strategy was based on the “achievable goal” of a “sovereign, stable and self-reliant” Iraq–and that he intended to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, as had been envisioned in the Status of Forces agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration.
“Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility,” said Obama. “This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists.”
“And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011,” said Obama. “We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.”
Almost three years later, on Dec. 14, 2011, when he was removing the last U.S. troops from Iraq, Obama gave a speech at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Here he said his strategy based on building a sovereign, stable, self-reliant Iraq had succeeded.
“It’s harder to end a war than begin one,” Obama said at Fort Bragg. “Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq – all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering – all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations. And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home. This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making.”
In the past seven months, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – a terrorist group that sprang from al Qaeda – has captured Fallujah and Mosul, and is now intent on capturing the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
In February, CIA Director John Brennan told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that al Qaeda camps on both sides of the Syrian-Iraq border are a threat to the United States.
“Do you believe that there are training camps that have been established on either side of the Iraqi or Syrian border for the purposes of training al Qaida operatives?” House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers asked Brennan.
Brennan said: “There are camps inside of both Iraq and Syria that are used by al Qaida to develop capabilities that are applicable both in the theater as well as beyond.”
Chairman Rogers asked: “Do you believe that that ungoverned space presents a real threat to the United States of America, via al Qaida operations, or the West?”
“I do,” said Brennan.
Obama had announced on Oct. 21, 2011, that all U.S. troops would in fact leave Iraq by the end of that year. The next day, the New York Times ran a story headlined: “Despite Difficult Talks, U.S. and Iraq Had Expected Some American Troops to Stay.” The top of that story said:
“President Obama’s announcement on Friday that all American troops would leave Iraq by the end of the year was an occasion for celebration for many, but some top American military officials were dismayed by the announcement, seeing it as the president’s putting the best face on a breakdown in tortured negotiations with the Iraqis. And for the negotiators who labored all year to avoid that outcome, it represented the triumph of politics over the reality of Iraq’s fragile security’s requiring some troops to stay, a fact everyone had assumed would prevail.”
A Taliban commander close to the negotiations over the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl told TIME Thursday that the deal made to secure Bergdahl’s release has made it more appealing for fighters to capture American soldiers and other high-value targets.
“It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,” the commander said, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.”
The commander has been known to TIME for several years and has consistently supplied reliable information about Bergdahl’s captivity.
The U.S. agreed on May 31 to exchange five Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for Bergdahl, America’s only living prisoner of war. Following the deal, the outpouring of relief by those who had long lobbied to “Bring Bowe Home” was soon eclipsed by accusations and recriminations as Republican lawmakers accused the administration of making a dangerous precedent.
“What does this tell terrorists?,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz said on ABC’s This Week the day after Bergdahl’s release. “That if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorist prisoners?”
The Obama administration largely bypassed the intelligence community to green-light the risky swap of five Taliban leaders for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, officials tell Fox News, as new details emerge about concerns with the deal at the highest levels of President Obama’s team.
A military intelligence source also confirmed to Fox News that a second option – involving the payment of a cash ransom for Bergdahl’s freedom – was pursued as late as December 2013.
The source said the goal was to reach out to Pakistan leadership with direct ties to the Taliban, and float the possibility of trading cash, instead of prisoners, for Bergdahl. That option, though, was put “on hold” in December when it was made clear the administration intended to pursue a prisoner swap.
Intelligence officials confirmed to Fox News that the Bergdahl prisoner swap was then on an accelerated track, and no formal assessment of the entire intelligence community was conducted. This made the opportunity to push back against the transfer extremely limited.
Further, top officials including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta were firmly against the proposed transfer in 2012 after it was first floated.
The details add to concerns that the White House and others involved in the decision did not adequately assess the risks before springing five senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo over the weekend.
“I think he bypassed the intelligence community,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Fox News. “I believe he bypassed Congress because this was done for political reasons. There was no policy justification for this.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed the freed Taliban members are likely more dangerous now than they were when they were captured.
“This is Mullah Omar’s board of directors, it’s his fab five team,” he told Fox News, referring to the Taliban leader. Chambliss has called on the administration to declassify the files on the five men.
The Washington Post reports that Panetta and Clapper weren’t the only ones who had misgivings about a prisoner trade after it first came up. According to an article on Wednesday, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also opposed the original terms of the prisoner exchange deal.
It’s unclear how the terms may have changed since then, and whether different Guantanamo prisoners were considered since the original plan emerged.
Clapper’s office and other intelligence agencies have been notably quiet since the prisoner trade was announced over the weekend. In a brief statement, a spokesman for Clapper said he had concerns but the conditions of the transfer limited the risk.
One Gulf official, though, was quoted by Reuters on Tuesday saying the Taliban leaders would be free to move about in Qatar – where they are staying – for a year, and then would be allowed to travel outside the country.
In an apparent attempt to turn the transfer into propaganda, the Taliban have also released a video showing the handover of Bergdahl into U.S. custody. It was emailed to media outlets on Wednesday – a Pentagon spokesman said they have “no reason to doubt [its] authenticity.”
According to Time magazine, the decision to proceed with the transfer was ultimately made among top officials on Obama’s national security team.
Given past opposition to the plan, though, one unidentified official told Time: “This was out of the norm.” The official said the White House and State Department had previously urged the military to “suck it up and salute.”
Members of Congress who were first briefed on a possible trade more than two years ago voiced similar concerns.
House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday the administration “never satisfactorily answered” lawmakers’ questions and concerns that surfaced from the beginning about the proposed trade. Further, Boehner alleged that the only reason the administration failed to notify Congress is “the administration knew it faced serious and sober bipartisan concern and opposition.”
President Obama’s aides met with unanimous opposition from Congress when they first raised the possibility of releasing five Taliban guerrillas from Guantanamo Bay in 2011 and 2012, and administration officials publicly and repeatedly vowed to return to Capitol Hill before making any final moves.
But with what they now say was a closing window to secure the release of ArmySgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Mr. Obama made the call to bypass Congress and make a deal swapping the five Taliban fighters in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl – and sparking a major constitutional battle with Congress.
With anger boiling over, the administration dispatched officials to deliver a closed-door briefing to senators late Wednesday, but many lawmakers emerged to say they still have too many unanswered questions about the legality of Mr. Obama’s move, the details of Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture and the likelihood that the five Taliban will return to the battlefield.
“I think there’s still an awful lot that has to be looked into. There’s a lot of information that came out of this, but this is something that is extremely disturbing. It’s something that needs to be looked into, and I came out of there with more questions than I got answers,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat.
Lawmakers were shown a short video that the Taliban-aligned group holding Sgt. Bergdahl provided as “proof of life,” and several lawmakers said the soldier did appear to be unwell in the video – countering speculation from some corners that his health situation was not as desperate as the administration had suggested.
But the administration made little headway in convincing senators that it was a good decision to release the five Taliban members, who have been sent to Qatar, where they are supposed to be monitored for a year but seem to be living openly.
“I promise you, in a year from now, if not before, they will be back in Afghanistan and in the fight,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.
In an earlier closed-door briefing, officials even confirmed there was a great likelihood some of them will return to war-fighting, a possibility Mr. Obama himself had acknowledged earlier this week.
“I think the White House was looking for a twofer, to announce in one week that we were going to withdraw from Afghanistan, ending the longest war in U.S. history and, oh, by the way, as commander in chief I secured the last captive – the only captive – of that war. That was in their mind a pretty good political story for that week. It blew up in their face,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican and vice chairman of the intelligence committee, called on Mr. Obama to declassify the prisoner review files kept on each of the five Taliban.
He said Americans will see from the files that the men had been deemed too dangerous to release – if Mr. Obama approves declassifying the documents.
“Every prisoner at Guantanamo has a file. That file is updated every so often. What we’re asking for is that file on those five prisoners, with the recommendations of the review committee spelled out as to their opinion of what should happen with these guys. And their opinion – it’s already been stated publicly – is these five guys should have been held indefinitely,” the Georgian said.
In another sign of the growing skepticism about the prisoner swap, Sgt. Berdahl’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, announced Wednesday that it had canceled plans for a welcome-home celebration. The town of 8,000 said it was not sure it could handle the expected crowds and pro- and anti-Bergdahl demonstrations at the planned June 28 event.
The split was reflected in two public opinion polls released Wednesday. A Fox News survey had 47 percent of Americans disapproving of the swap, while 45 percent approves. And a Rasmussen poll showed a similar split, with 40 percent agreeing with the government’s decision and 43 percent disagreeing.
But both surveys had error margins larger than those gaps that favor the “disapprove” answer, meaning those edges are statistically insignificant and the public is essentially evenly split.
Sgt. Bergdahl disappeared from night guard duty at a remote outpost roughly two hours south of the Afghan city of Sharana on June 30, 2009. Comrades said they found his gear – save for his compass – neatly stacked, which they took to be a signal that he had left of his own accord.
Some of those comrades say American lives were lost in the ensuing search for someone they termed a “deserter.”
A Pentagon official, who spoke under condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that Sgt. Bergdahl maintained a status of “Missing-Captured” but was not considered to be a deserter during the time he was being held by the Islamist militia.
Sgt. Bergdahl could, if the Army deems appropriate, receive a promotion to staff sergeant “in accordance with Army policy for captured personnel,” the official said.
Debate over whether to make the exchange has raged – within the administration and between it and Congress – since 2011.
Mr. Chambliss said that when the possibility of releasing the five Taliban fighters was raised, there was unanimous opposition from those in Congress who were briefed on it.
In the years since, both State Department and White House officials went on record saying that any final decision would be made in consultation with Congress and in accordance with the law, which requires Mr. Obama to give Congress 30 days’ notice before releasing detainees from Guantanamo.
The White House has argued that the short window of time to seal the deal for Sgt. Bergdahl’s release created extenuating circumstances – though they also argue that the previous secret briefings with Congress in 2011 and 2012 constituted consultation.
With questions about the legal situation mounting this week, a White House official said the Defense Department “consulted” with the Justice Department but declined to say whether a formal legal opinion was produced justifying the decision to bypass Congress.
“We’re not going to get into the details of our internal legal deliberations,” the official said.
The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Times.
After initial reports of dissent, the administration presented a unified front Wednesday, including pushing back on press reports that Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper had initially rejected the release of the five Taliban fighters.
“Like others, DNI Clapper expressed concern in 2012 about the prospect of releasing these five detainees. However, the circumstances have changed dramatically,” Shawn Turner, the chief spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a statement.
Mr. Turner said Mr. Clapper was swayed by Sgt. Bergdahl’s deteriorating health, the assurances of the Qatari government that the five will be monitored and the ongoing drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which Mr. Clapper argued would make recovery efforts for Sgt. Bergdahl tougher.
Several Democratic leaders in the Senate also defended the administration’s moves.
“It was a very complex negotiation. It was a last-minute negotiation, and as we heard more and more detail and circumstances, I think it was a lot different than we’ve seen in the press,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said as he emerged from the evening briefing.
“I think it was a very hard decision. If I’d been challenged to make it myself, I might have come to the same conclusion under the pressure of the moment,” the Illinois Democrat said. “But now that you can step back and reflect on it, it’s easy to pick it apart and criticize it.”
Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democrats’ leader in the chamber, said GOP critics were trying to harm Mr. Obama politically.
“It’s clear they’re worried his release could be seen as a victory for President Obama. Let me put that notion to rest – it’s not a victory for President Obama. It’s a victory for our soldiers, their families and the United States of America,” he said. “No member of the armed forces should be left behind, and President Obama saw to that.”
Yesterday Obama administration official Brandon Friedman floated the idea that Bowe Bergdahl was justified in deserting his platoon in Afghanistan and joining the Taliban over disagreements with the platoon’s “psychopath” leadership.
Here’s the thing about Bergdahl and the Jump-to-Conclusions mats: What if his platoon was long on psychopaths and short on leadership? (1/5)
11:44 PM – 4 Jun 2014
120 Retweets 21 favorites
Brandon Friedman, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs for the Department of Housing and Urban Development posted a series of tweets Wednesday evening.
Friedman speculated that Bergdahl deserted over bad leadership of his platoon and that is why his fellow soldiers were smearing him.
This morning Brandon Friedman deleted his bio – His anti-military tweets are still posted.
Right Wing M nailed it:
68 Retweets 19 favorites
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin says Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is clearly a deserter who should never draw a free breath, and President Obama is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors for once again ignoring federal law in pursuit of an administration goal.
Boykin is also ripping the president for releasing five key Taliban figures in exchange for Bergdahl and slamming the Obama administration for attacking the character of Afghanistan veterans who publicly denounce Bergdahl’s actions in Afghanistan.
The general said Obama’s actions in this episode demonstrate why he is unfit for office. He categorically dismissed Obama’s contention that the exchange had to happen to honor America’s commitment to leave no Americans behind. Boykin said that clearly wasn’t true in Benghazi and that the administration seems to have little regard for a U.S. Marine jailed in Mexico, an American pastor imprisoned in Iran or the Sudanese Christian in custody for her faith along with her two American children.
“This was about emptying out Guantanamo,” he said. “This was a backdoor deal. The reasons for it, the details of it will probably never come out in its entirety, but this is an ugly story.”
The general is also taking the commander in chief to task for once again flouting the law, this time skirting a requirement to give Congress 30 days notice of his intent to free any Guantanamo detainees. Boykin said he understands why Obama would feel constrained by the law and admits that it might not be constitutional. However, as long as it is the law, he said Obama is required to abide by it instead of ignoring statutes he doesn’t like, whether on this issue or several others.
“It was really bad form for him not to at least call in the chair and ranking member of the intel or armed services committee and tell them what he was about to do with regard to the release of these prisoners,” he said.
“It’s an example of how this president only obeys the laws and follows the policies that he wants to. In our Constitution, it falls under the category of high crimes and misdemeanors, where you just selectively obey certain laws and ignore others.”
As for Bergdahl, Boykin said he has no doubt the soldier ended up in Taliban custody because he deliberately deserted his unit.
“We know for sure that he is a deserter,” Boykin said. “In fact, the 15-6 investigation that was conducted immediately after his departure from his base concluded that he had deserted, and I think all the evidence supports that conclusion, particularly given the fact that he had asked a series of bizarre questions of his teammates. He also left a very revealing message explaining how he was ashamed of being an American and wanted to help the people of Afghanistan. This guy’s a deserter.”
Boykin added, “The fact that (National Security Adviser) Susan Rice went on television and said that served honorably is just another example of why she needs to be removed and replaced, because this is the second time, Benghazi being the first, where she has gone on television and openly lied to the American public. This administration knows he deserted. They knew how people felt about him, and she went out there and called his service honorable. If that’s the case, then you tell me what the concept of honorable service is for this administration.”
The term “desertion” has been used far and wide in media reports this week. While no one applauds a soldier abandoning his unit, considerable debate has ensued about how significant of an issue this ought to be.
Boykin said it’s an extremely serious issue.
“Desertion in combat – and I emphasize in combat, which means you are in a combat zone and routinely engaged with the enemy – is punishable by death,” he said. “That should give you some indication as to how serious this is taken. When a man walks off and leaves his post in combat, he jeopardizes everybody else.”
Boykin said, in addition to leaving his men shorthanded against the enemy, Bergdahl compromised military intelligence, whether he willingly went along with the Taliban or was interrogated.
“You have a tremendous amount of information, which would be very useful to the enemy,” Boykin said. “Whether he was a collaborator or not is yet to be determined. My guess is that he was. Even if he was not a deliberate collaborator, the interrogation techniques of these people is such that he probably provided an awful lot of very useful, valuable information to the enemy.”
So what should happen to Bergdahl as a result of his desertion?
“They should do an Article 32 investigation immediately. It should be ongoing right now. That is a prelude to a court-martial. There can be no other option. They must take him to court-martial, and they must hold him accountable for his actions. If he didn’t desert, then the truth will come out,” said Boykin, who explained that Bergdahl’s actions are even more severe than desertion.
“There are are other soldiers that were endangered and even some we are positive now that were killed in the efforts to find him,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, that exacerbates his crime from being a simple desertion to being one that resulted in the deaths of his comrades. I think that has to be considered as we talk about what to do with him. From my perspective, he needs to spend the rest of his life in prison at a minimum.”
At least one of the other soldiers who served alongside Bergdahl in Afghanistan believes this is a case of desertion at best and treason at worst.
Is Boykin willing to go that far?
“Absolutely. What else could you call it?” he asked
At least a half-dozen soldiers who served with Bergdahl are speaking publicly. They all consider him a deserter and not the hero portrayed by the administration. In response, the State Department accuses those veterans of not telling the truth, and White House aides tell reporters that their criticism amounts to a swift-boating of Bergdahl, a reference to the criticism Vietnam veterans leveled at John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign.
“Do you think if Bergdahl had served honorably that those guys wouldn’t be coming out now rejoicing in the fact he had been returned?” Boykin asked. “Use a little common sense and just ask yourself: Would they have had this reaction had he not deserted his unit?”
Boykin is appalled that Bergdahl’s return also came at the cost of five high-level Taliban leaders being held at Guantanamo Bay. The general said he would not even have paid such a price for an honorable soldier being held by the enemy, but he would have quickly gathered intelligence by which to launch a rescue mission. He believes the military knew exactly where Bergdahl was but didn’t have any motivation to go get him.
“That’s what should have happened if this was a man with honorable service. He wasn’t,” Boykin said. “So you have to ask the question, ‘Why didn’t the military go and try to rescue him?’ I’m going to speculate that it’s because they were not willing to risk another life for a guy they knew was a traitor.”
There’s something very odd going on these days at the White House.
How else to explain the Bowe Bergdahl debacle? Team Obama, which games every move it makes to gauge the political leverage gained or lost, must have known the true story about the Army sergeant who his former comrades say was disgruntled with the war and simply walked away.
If the charge of desertion is true, why trade five top-level Taliban terrorists for him? Why would the White House expose itself to such easy criticism? Why would President Obama so clearly violate the law that requires him to notify Congress 30 days before any release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay?
And why on earth would the president send National Security Adviser Susan Rice, she of the multiple lies on the Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead, to the Sunday talk shows to proclaim that Sgt. Bergdahl had “served the United States with honor and distinction”?
There can be only one answer: Mr. Obama saw more upside than down with the hostage-for-terrorists trade. Aside from changing the subject from the president’s latest scandal – the horrendous treatment of veterans at the nation’s VA hospitals – Mr. Obama must have concluded that the controversial move would, in the end, deliver him political leverage against Republicans, which he sorely needs going into what is expected to be a bloodbath for Democrats on Election Day 2014.
Of course, part of the calculation was that the U.S. media would once again defend Mr. Obama. And while some news outlets have run stories about the puzzling details behind Sgt. Bergdahl’s “capture,” others are adhering to the White House talking points.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post said “the long arc of Bergdahl’s deployment and captivity is being scrutinized in light of the rising, mostly partisan debate.” The White House calculation was no doubt that Republicans would object to the swap, allowing the president to charge that the GOP will “say no” to anything – even the release of an American soldier.
The New York Times on Monday disputed reports that some U.S. soldiers were killed searching for Bergdahl. And ABC News has moved on altogether, opening its Tuesday nightly news with a story about a big hailstorm in Nebraska.
That the White House had gamed out every scenario for the post-release spin was evident Sunday, when Mrs. Rice and other Democrats hewed closely to talking points: That Sgt. Bergdahl was a “prisoner of war,” not a “hostage”; that his “deteriorating health” made the swap so urgent there was simply no time to notify Congress; that questions about the Army sergeant are “not the point,” as Mrs. Rice said, “The point is that he is back.”
What then of congressional objections? Even top Democrats, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she wasn’t notified of the swap. The takeaway: Mr. Obama is more willing to negotiate with the Taliban than Congress.
But the White House conclusion on lawmakers was this: Let ‘em whine. Their approval rating is in single digits, so no one cares what Congress thinks.
Still, there’s this: The White House must have known that first-hand accounts of Sgt. Bergdahl and his disgruntlement with America would eventually make the press. Even though Army colleagues were ordered to sign nondisclosure agreements, Team Obama had to know that if Sgt. Bergdahl suddenly became a “hero,” members of his platoon would be outraged and talk, damn the consequences.
Mr. Obama must have also known that more details would emerge, like the fact that top Pentagon and intelligence community officials had nixed previous deals for the five terrorists, citing top-secret information. Time magazine reported that in the end, the White House and State Department won by arguing that the military should “suck it up and salute.”
So the question that remains is: Could Mr. Obama and his advisers have so miscalculated the swap? Is the terrorist trade just another example of a Year Six president drunk with power, taking advice from a handful of sycophantic yes men on the couches in the Oval Office?
“We are going to learn the facts on what happened here,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said Tuesday. “We do not know the fact pattern yet.”
But the White House is delivering its own “fact pattern,” so far being followed by the media. And the Sgt. Bergdahl saga is playing out almost exactly like the aftermath of Benghazi, right down to lies from Mrs. Rice. Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats are painting Republicans as purely partisan. Soon, the entire mess will be plunged into a “blue ribbon investigation,” allowing administration officials to refuse comment.
Mr. Obama is all about the politics. The White House has done this time after time with scandal after scandal. They know how to play the game. And despite appearances now, this whole saga is going along as planned.
The president may be incompetent, but he’s not stupid. He’s just counting on the American people to be.
Fox News reporter James Rosen claimed intelligence sources have told him not only that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl willingly collaborated with the Taliban, but that his involvement with the terrorist group may be “as serious as you can imagine.”
Rosen spoke with Bill O’Reilly Wednesday night about his ongoing conversations with intelligence and Pentagon officials regarding both old and new investigations into Bergdahl’s likely desertion and possibly treasonous activities.
“My reporting has shown that the intelligence community also undertook a separate [from the Army] investigation of Sgt. Bergdahl,” Rosen explained, “both his final period of active duty that culminated in that mysterious evening, and also his conduct over the past five years, which is said to have been a period of captivity.”
“Alright, now why would – you say the intelligence, I assume that’s defense intelligence, the CIA, all those people – why would they bother investigating a sergeant who was taken captive?” O’Reilly asked. “I mean, why would they spend those resources?”
“Well, with greatest proximity, because they were tasked with doing so,” Rosen responded cagily. “But my reporting on this is that there are many inside the intelligence community who harbor outstanding concerns not just that Sgt. Bergdahl may have been a deserter, but that he became an active collaborator with the enemy.”
The reporter reiterated information regarding Bergdahl’s emails, the packing up of his personal effects, his failure to take certain equipment with him before he left his post and “anecdotal evidence” from Taliban commanders – including how Bergdahl taught Islamist fighters how to reprogram a mobile phone into an IED.
“The last thing I will tell you is – I’m still working on this story, I’m talking to a broad range of sources in and out of the government, in and out of the military,” Rosen explained. “And all I will say is, there are many forms that active collaboration can take. I’m investigating claims that it could go as serious as you could imagine.”
It’s mind-boggling how clueless this administration is. In reality it does nothing except encourage the Taliban to kidnap more U.S. soldiers.
[I]nside the administration, the calculations over Bergdahl’s fate were complicated by seemingly unrelated events, including the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, when U.S. forces traveled deep into Pakistan and killed the al-Qaeda leader. The operation infuriated Pakistan’s government and raised fears among U.S. officials that their uncertain ally’s already mixed support for the war effort would wane further.
Around that time, U.S. officials began to contemplate an operation to rescue Bergdahl, according to a former senior administration official who participated in the discussions.
At least twice before Bergdahl’s release, U.S. officials had a possible fix on where he was being held, but some administration officials familiar with the intelligence said there were gaps that left his circumstances unclear. And there were strong voices opposed to an operation, led by then-national security adviser Thomas Donilon and his deputy, Denis McDonough, who is now White House chief of staff.
Their concern, the official said, was further angering Pakistan’s government and spy agency, which has close connections to the Haqqani network.
Those who supported a rescue operation included Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then-CIA Director Leon E. Panetta. Their argument in favor of a high-risk, lower-reward operation than the bin Laden raid eventually failed.
During the same debate, officials were considering the emerging prisoner-exchange proposal. White House advisers believed that a successful exchange would not only free Bergdahl but would also encourage moderate Taliban members to take an Afghan-led reconciliation process seriously.
Reporting from just outside the Landstuhl military hospital in Germany, NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel says that the media is receiving more information about the release of Sgt. Bergdahl from the Taliban than from our own government.
Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski also noted how difficult it is to get information from the Administration, save for the few press releases it periodically releases.
How does it look for the “most transparent administration in history” when a reporter says it is providing less information than a terrorist organization? Whatever it is, it can’t be good.
The Obama administration passed up multiple opportunities to rescue Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl because the president was dead-set on finding a reason to begin emptying Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a Pentagon official.
‘JSOC went to the White House with several specific rescue-op scenarios,’ the official with knowledge of interagency negotiations underway since at least November 2013 told MailOnline, referring to the Joint Special Operations Command. ‘But no one ever got traction.’
‘What we learned along the way was that the president wanted a diplomatic scenario that would establish a precedent for repatriating detainees from Gitmo,’ he said.
The official said a State Department liaison described the lay of the land to him in February, shortly after the Taliban sent the U.S. government a month-old video of Bergdahl in January, looking sickly and haggard, in an effort to create a sense of urgency about his health and effect a quick prisoner trade.
‘He basically told me that no matter what JSOC put on the table, it was never going to fly because the president isn’t going to leave office with Gitmo intact, and this was the best opportunity to see that through.’
While military commanders wavered on the value of rescue plans, a second Pentagon source said Wednesday, they were advised by their chain of command that the White House was pushing hard for a prisoner swap, over the objections of the intelligence community.
That official told MailOnline that at least two separate intelligence agencies cautioned against taking the January video at face value.
The Daily Beast reported Monday, however, that the White House moved the process along too fast to permit a formal intelligence assessment of the impact of allowing what some on Capitol Hill are now calling the Taliban’s ‘dream team’ to return to the Middle East.
Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News on Wednesday that the Obama administration ‘bypassed the intelligence community’ to make the deal, adding that ‘I believe he bypassed Congress because this was done for political reasons. There was no policy justification for this.’
The result, according to multiple published reports, was an environment in which the White House could insist on moving forward quickly on the basis that a soldier’s health was at immediate risk – using that justification also to explain its failure to keep Congress informed.
The White House has yet to explain why the deterioration of Bergdahl’s health, seen in a video in January, was sufficient reason to steamroll a decision that ended up taking four months to execute.
In a video distributed Wednesday morning by the Taliban, Bergdahl appeared to be strong and in good health as he was handed over to U.S. Special Forces on Saturday
The Washington Times reported that a congressional aide said JSOC never forwarded specific military rescue plans to the White House, judging independently that President Obama was more interested in a diplomatic solution.
But both the Times’ sources and MailOnline’s also agreed that commanders on the ground were not in favor of sending Special Forces into the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region and risking their lives to rescue a presumed deserter from the terrorist Haqqani network.
‘Military commanders were loath to risk their people to save this guy,’ a former intelligence official told the Times. ‘They were loath to pick him up and because of that hesitancy, we wind up trading five Taliban guys for him.’
Evidence suggests that at least six soldiers were killed in the search for Bergdahl after he walked away from his unit on June 30, 2009, and another eight perished in a bloody eastern Afghanistan battle later that year because their air support and relief infantry units were occupied in the search.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, however, said Wednesday in Brussels that he does ‘not know of specific circumstances or details of U.S. solders dying as a result of efforts to find and rescue Sergeant Bergdahl.’
Less than 48 hours after Bergdahl, then an Army private, disappeared, military commanders in Afghanistan were offered terms to reclaim him. It’s unclear why that opportunity fell through.
According to field reports published online by WIkileaks, soldiers conducting a Key Leader Engagement (KLE) discussion with tribal elders and Afghanistan National Police in Paktika province weretold of a Taliban offer for his safe return.
Battallion Command was radioed that officers had ‘just finished with the KLE with 2 x elders from Mest and the Mest ANP commander. The elders were asked by the Taliban to [arrange] a trade between the U.S. and Taliban.’
‘The Taliban terms are 15 of their Taliban brothers in U.S. jail and some money in exchange for Pvt Bergdahl,’ a transcript of the radio traffic read. ‘The elders assured me that Pvt Bergdahl is alive and that he is not being harmed.’
Police offered help the tribal elders with money for a car, fuel and light weapons in order to make the exchange, but it never happened.
It’s also unclear whether the ‘U.S. jail’ the Taliban referred to was Guantanamo Bay or a local holding facility in Afghanistan.
Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp has been controversial since he first made it in 2008, and his January 22, 2009 executive order calling for it to be shuttered in a year – his first such order as president – was met with eye-rolls in Washington.
But political momentum has slowly gathered on the president’s side, even as military and foreign policy concerns continue to make the task seem impossible.
First the Justice and Defense departments were ordered in late 2009 to acquire a defunct prison in Illinois as a replacement, but six months later Congress blocked funding for any project that would move Guantanamo Bay’s detainees to U.S. soil.
Then in 2011 Obama ordered the creation of a formal review process for detainees and green-lighted the military tribunals that prisoners could turn to for due process before he canceled them upon taking office in 2009.
In early 2013 the State Department announced that it had closed down its office in charge of handling Guantanamo’s closure. But in January a group of 31 retired U.S. military officers grabbed the national spotlight with a letter urging Obama to shut down the camp and move its population somewhere else.
‘As long as it remains open, Guantanamo will undermine America’s security and status as a nation where human rights and the rule of law matter,’ they claimed.
Obama’s latest political stroke came around the same time, when he signed the latest National Defense Authorization Act into law. It loosened the requirements he must satisfy before he can transfer detainees from Guantanamo to foreign nations.
The fly in the ointment is that he is required to tell Congress 30 days in advance of relocating any of Guantanamo’s prisoners – something his administration failed to do before cutting a deal that sent five Taliban ringleaders to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl’s safe return.
California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the existence of the secret Taliban videos, that there still ‘certainly was time to pick up the phone and call and say “I know you all had concerns about this, we consulted in the past, we want you to know we have reviewed these negotiations”,’
Ultimately, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken called Feinstein to apologize for the lack of notice, claiming that it was an ‘oversight.’
Other members of Congress were quick to suggest on Wednesday that the Berghdal prisoner swap was thin cover for the president’s desire to empty Guantanamo’s cells.
South Caroline Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told The Washington Examiner that Obama was floating a ‘trial balloon,’ to test the political waters for a larger prison release.
And Oklahoma GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe said Tuesday on TheBlaze TV that ‘this president has an obsession – has two obsessions, I guess I should say – that he wants to turn into his legacy when he leaves office.’
‘One of those happens to be to close Gitmo.’
With five Taliban leaders now in Qatar and a year to work with – the length of time that country’s emir has said he will keep them under a loose form of house arrest – an only somewhat forgiving clock has started ticking.
‘Obama now has the tool he’s always wanted,’ a former U.S. intelligence official who is now a private government contractor told MailOnline on Wednesday.
‘The question is how many of these Taliban guys he can sneak past the goalie while Congress is busy hassling him about the IRS, the VA and Obamacare.’
Already, Graham has threatened to invoke Congress’s ultimate nuclear option – impeachment – if Obama relocates any more Guantanamo detainees without putting Capitol Hill in the loop.
He warned The Hill that ‘it’s going to be impossible for them to flow prisoners out of Gitmo now without a huge backlash.’
‘There will be people on our side calling for his impeachment if he did that.’
None the four senior congressional leaders who serve as chairmen or ranking minority members on the two intelligence committees were notified. And of the four most senior House and Senate members, only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was apparently told about the prisoner exchange ahead of time.
Reid complained Wednesday that Republicans in Congress have blocked Democrats’ attempts to pass a bill closing the Guantanamo Bay prison for good.
Graham countered that he has added language to the pending defense authorization bill – the successor to the 2013 legislation that included the 30-day notification rule – forbidding Congress from closing Guantanamo without a public up-or-down vote.
Shutting down the facility would still require a decision about where to relocated the remaining detainees, whose reported number is now 149.
Graham also said his legislative language would deny the Defense Department the option of sending any of them to Yemen, a small Arab nation that has served as a crossroads for al-Qaeda and other Islamist terror groups to train together and cross-pollinate their missions and tactics.
Liberal advocacy groups have leaped for joy at the prospect of closing the facility.
Ken Gude of the Center for American Progress told Politico that the Bergdahl case marks ‘the first time’ the Obama White House has ‘followed through on their repeated separation-of-powers objections to the transfer restrictions. Hopefully, [there’s] more to come.’
‘The Obama administration’s backbone on Gitmo and assertion of its executive branch prerogatives finally seem to have solidified,’ American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero added.
Obama administration officials continued to stonewall Congress about the Taliban prisoner exchange deal during a classified closed-door briefing Wednesday evening in which senior administration officials attempted to justify the White House’s decision to skirt congressional approval of the controversial deal, according to multiple Senate insiders familiar with the briefing.
Obama administration officials attempted to show that there was an imminent threat to the life of released soldier Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and that this justified President Obama’s decision to release five top Taliban leaders from prison.
Senators were presented with a “proof of life” video from December that showed Bergdahl in Taliban captivity. This video is said to be the sole basis for the administration’s decision to accept the exchange deal, according to Senate insiders.
Obama administration officials, including representatives from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Department of Defense, did not present any new evidence to justify the deal and stonewalled lawmakers when they asked for concrete information about the exchange, according to those familiar with the brief.
The administration also sought to deflect accusations that Obama broke U.S. law by signing off on the deal without first consulting with Congress.
“There was nothing new that they brought to the table,” said one Senate insider who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon. “It was the typical, ‘We don’t know, we have to get answers, we have to investigate, we don’t know all the facts.’”
“One person described it by saying it’s like Benghazi all over again: A constant stonewall and providing no new information,” added the source.
Questions continue to circulate around the so-called proof of life video that was provided by the Taliban to the State Department in December.
Taliban leaders apparently led the administration to believe that Bergdahl’s condition was rapidly deteriorating, a move that some now describe as a “pressure tactic” to force the White House into making a deal.
While Bergdahl appeared “weaker” and in poor health in the video, there was no solid evidence to show that his life was in imminent danger, according to a second Senate insider familiar with the briefing.
However, the Obama administration is believed to have used this December video as the sole basis for their decision to accept the prisoner exchange deal, taking the Taliban at their word that Bergdahl’s life was in immediate danger due to deteriorating health conditions.
“That video alone was where they made the basis that there was an imminent threat to life,” explained the first Senate insider familiar with the brief.
Administration officials would not give an assessment of Bergdahl’s current status and could not explain why a December video was relied upon to justify the deal.
There was “no new info to indicate a threat to his life to justify why this happened now,” the source said.
The Obama administration is under the impression that “it could cause some sympathy for Bergdahl if the video would be leaked,” according to the second Senate source, who described the briefing as “worthless.”
Bergdahl himself has come under scrutiny for purportedly deserting his war post, leading to a massive search and rescue operation that resulted in the deaths of several other U.S. soldiers.
“Every person who spoke seemed very scripted from the White House,” the source said. Senators “didn’t learn anything new aside from what the administration has leaked to the press.”
Some in attendance at the briefing expressed concern that the administration is attempting to closely control the narrative by leaking only select classified details to the press and keeping Congress in the dark.
The White House is “tying congressmen’s hands behind their back by saying you can’t talk about it or provide oversight over it,” said the second Senate source.
There was a broad consensus among senators that the administration wrongly sought to skirt congressional oversight of the deal.
Concerns remain on Capitol Hill that the prisoner swap was the first step to release more prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, which the White House hopes to shut down.
Obama has indicated that he seeks to end U.S. war authorization in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a decision that could pave the way for roughly 100 or so Guantanamo detainees to be released.
The father of America’s first fatality in Afghanistan denounced the Obama administration for releasing Taliban prisoners that he holds responsible for his son’s death, saying the move was a slap in the face to every American who died in the war against terror.
Johnny “Mike” Spann, part of a CIA paramilitary unit, was killed Nov. 25, 2001 during an uprising by Taliban prisoners near Mazar-e-Sharif a month after President George W. Bush ordered U.S. forces into Afghanistan to punish al-Qaida and its allies for the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Two of the five Taliban prisoners released last weekend from Guantanamo prison in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl were present during the uprising at Qala-i-Jangi prison, according to U.S. documents obtained by The Washington Post. They were Mullah Mohammad Fazl and Mullah Norullah Noori.
Spann’s father, Johnny Spann, told Stars and Stripes that his first reaction to the exchange was “disappointment and disbelief.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Spann recalled. “It’s a slap in the face to everybody that’s died in this war on terror… Every American that’s lost their life to the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaida – this is a slap in their face to know that we had five high-powered leaders that we just turned loose.”
Details of the two mullahs’ roles in the uprising have never been publicly spelled out by the U.S.
Nevertheless, Spann, 65, of Winfield, Alabama, is convinced the two were responsible even if they weren’t the ones that pulled the trigger.
“I’m convinced from all the reports and all the information that I have that that was a planned event from the night before, and [the Taliban] knew exactly what they were going to do and when they were going to do it. And I think that those two men were part of it — part of the planning,” he said.
“Everybody that was inside there had a hand in it. Nobody tried to protect Mike’s life — not a single soul in there tried to. Everybody in there was hell-bent on killing Americans… Mike lost his life inside Qala-i-Jangi, and yes, I hold everybody responsible that was inside that prison for Mike’s death… Everybody inside Qala-i-Jangi has blood on their hands and was a part of it,” he said.
Questions about the 2001 uprising have been raised again since the release of Bergdahl, 28, of Hailey, Idaho.
Bergdahl went missing in June 2009 in Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan while serving with a unit of the 25th Infantry Division from Fort Richardson, Alaska.
Some former members of Bergdahl’s unit have accused him of deserting and that American lives were lost looking for him.
Bergdahl is currently at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where he was sent soon after his release.
Spann is withholding judgment on Bergdahl for now. But even if Bergdahl wasn’t a deserter, Spann thinks the trade wasn’t worth it.
“I see no equality in what was traded for Bergdahl. I don’t see no equality as far as value there,” Spann said. “I mean [the detainees] were very valuable to us as far as they were responsible for a lot of American lives… They weren’t the average Joe out there carrying a rifle on the battlefield. They were leaders. They were the people that were planning things.”
Obama has defended his decision, saying America had a “sacred duty” to ensure that no U.S. servicemember was left behind on the battlefield.
Spann thinks the U.S. government should try to get American prisoners of war freed, but he says the Taliban can’t be dealt with like a normal enemy at the end of a conflict.
“Certainly the U.S. needs to always work for the release of those [American] prisoners,” Spann said. “If we knew that we were making a deal with a responsible group of people and we knew that they were going to lay down their arms and they were not going to continue to try to kill Americans, then you might consider that to some extent. But now, we don’t have any agreement like that in this war with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. This war on terror is nowhere near over.”
Spann also thinks the swap sends the wrong signal and will put more Americans in danger.
“[Our enemies] know that they can get an American and they can hold them hostage, and at some point we’ll trade,” he said.
Still, Spann can sympathize with Bergdahl’s parents, who have made a high-profile effort to push for their son’s release. They appeared next to Obama in the Rose Garden on Saturday after Obama announced the swap.
“If it was my son, would I want him home? Why yeah. But… that’s a reason that parents and kin folks can’t be on the jury and they can’t be the judge because they would be biased… You can ask a parent, ‘Well, if that was your son, would you want him home?’ Well, of course I’d want him home. But if your son committed murder, would you still want him home? Yeah, the majority of the people [you asked] would want him to not go to jail… But that’s not the way this system works. They’re not the judge, and your kin folks don’t get to decide that,” Spann said.
Spann thinks Obama doesn’t understand the raw emotions people in his position feel.
“I’d almost bet you that if one of President Obama’s children had been killed in this war or on 9/11, he would have a different reflection and a different attitude as far as any leniency that he would give to al-Qaida and Taliban leaders who have been active in the death of Americans,” he said.
Spann thinks about Mike and the 9/11 attacks all the time.
“I’ve got a big picture in the front of my office of the towers smoking and falling with the airplane sticking out of it. Every day I see that. I’ve got several pictures of my son throughout my office. So it’s constantly on my mind that I remember him and I remember those people that died on 9/11, because when I walk into the front door, the first thing I see is that photo of the towers,” he said. “[My] disbelief is we would give five people back that were instrumental… in the deaths of thousands of American people all the way back to 9/11.”
Spann thinks the released detainees will try to kill more Americans, and he mocks the Obama administration’s assurances that measures are in place to prevent them from doing that.
“I don’t think any responsible American will look at this situation and think that they’re going to go to Qatar [where they’ll spend the next year under the supervision of the Qatari government] and Qatar is going to keep them under some kind of security measures where they’re not going to be able to have any kind of influence on the Talban and al-Qaida movements throughout the world. I just don’t believe that… I just don’t think they were rehabilitated. I think that’s sort of a joke for us to think that or even suppose that they have been. And I think they’ll be out there costing more American lives or more American deaths,” he said.
On Monday, Shannon Allen, wife of disabled Afghanistan veteran Sgt. 1st Class Mark Allen, took to social media to voice her personal concerns on the idea that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a hero. Sgt 1st Class Mark Allen was severely wounded while supposedly searching for Bergdahl during a firefight in Kabul, when sniper fire pierced the armor on his helmet and passed through the frontal lobe of his brain.
Shannon posted this image on Facebook with the caption:
“Meet my husband, injuries directly brought to you by the actions of this traitor. He can’t give an account of what went down, because he can no longer speak. Now, which guy is a ‘hero’ again?!? Sick.”
The lengths to which our service members are willing to go to leave no man behind are boundless.
As more information continues to develop surrounding #Bergdahlgate, one thing is for certain: there are many questions left to be answered. When all is said and done, we can only hope the right judgement call is made.
Revealed: Bowe Bergdahl Left Letter Telling Comrades At Afghan Base He Was ‘Leaving To Start New Life And Didn’t Want To Fight For America’ As Army Announces He DOES Face Desertion Charges – Daily Mail
Bowe Bergdahl left a note saying he had gone to start a ‘new life’ and a former comrade broke his military gagging order today to tell MailOnline of the jaw-dropping moment he discovered the Taliban POW had walked off from their Afghanistan base.
The soldier, who requested anonymity as he is still in the military, said: ‘Everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I was right, he had walked off.’
The New York Times reported Bergdahl also left behind a note in which he said he did not want to fight for America any more, did not believe in the war – and was leaving to start a new life.
The revelation came as it emerged the Army may still pursue charges against Sgt Bergdahl for desertion.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said military leaders have been accused of ‘looking away from misconduct, and it’s premature’ to think they will not look into it.
This comes just days after Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser said he served with ‘honor and distinction’.
There are a variety of offenses related to an absence without proper approval, and a number of potential actions could be taken by the military.
He could be tried by court martial under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for desertion; he could be given a non-judicial punishment for a lesser charge, such as being away without leave. And he could be given credit for time already served while he was a prisoner.
It will pile further pressure on Obama over his judgement in releasing five top Taliban terror leaders from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for a soldier who now faces charges for abandoning his unit and his oath to the U.S. Army.
The soldier who spoke to MailOnline made his feelings and those of his comrades very clear.
He said: ‘As far as I’m concerned Bergdahl deserted his men and should face the firing squad. People died trying to save him. He was a deserter’.
Bergdahl’s platoon anxiously searched the observation post they had set up a remote area of Afghanistan but only found Bergdahl’s sleeping bag that had been neatly folded up.
It also claimed that he did not breach the perimeter wire and left by possibly hiding in a contractor’s vehicle meaning that he would have planned the escape in advance.
A huge search ensued during which time at least six US soldiers are said to have died while hunting for Bergdahl, 28, who has just been released from five years in captivity with the Taliban.
Bergdahl was serving with the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment in Paktika province near the Pakistani border with Afghanistan when he went missing in the early hours of 30 June 2009.
He had been at part of an Observation Post with 28 colleagues men and a few trucks set up in a defensive position to protect themselves.
Some of the men were sleeping in the trucks they had driven in on and others were camped out with their sleeping bags in the open. It was not until the 9am roll call that they realized he was gone.
Up until this point Bergdahl had been seen as a strange loner who wouldn’t socialize with the other men. Instead, he would stick to his bunk, learning Pashto and Arabic with Rosetta Stone.
A week earlier he had sent his belongings and computer home to his parents after setting out in an email to his father that he was ‘ashamed to be an American’ after what he had seen in Afghanistan – including soldiers laughing at running over an Afghan boy with an armored vehicle.
Specialist Gerald Sutton, 31, Sutton remembered Bergdahl talking with him and a third soldier just a few days before he walked away.
‘He was asking us what it would be like to get lost in the mountains… and he asked me personally if I thought he could make it to China or India on foot. At the time we thought he was joking.
‘About a week or two before he left he mailed some of his stuff home,’ he said. ‘including his Apple laptop. He sent that home to his parents. That didn’t seem suspicious to us at the time, but it made sense after the fact.’
‘He left his weapon that day. The only thing he had with him was his diary – that none of us actually saw, so I have no idea what was in there – 2 MREs ['Meals Ready to Eat' rations], his knife, a bottle of water and his compass.’
The soldier who discovered him missing, said: ‘The first I heard was when one of the guards said he could not find Bergdahl.
‘I asked him: “What do you mean you can’t find him?’ He said he couldn’t find him anywhere. We sent two guys to the top of the observation post in case he was sleeping between two trucks, I thought maybe he’s sleeping down there.
‘We also sent one of the men to see if he was drinking tea with the Afghans. We looked at his sleeping bag and it was nicely folded.
‘I said what do we have missing here and one of the younger soldiers said that there were four or five bottles bottles of water missing from a crate that he had. It was chaos. We all knew what would happen if we couldn’t find him.
‘Bergdahl’s backpack was missing, so was his knife. I knew right away he had not been captured – he had walked off.’
The soldier was told by an Afghan boy they spoke to that told them he had seen an American soldier walking away through the fields.
The soldier said: ‘Everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I was right, he had walked off.’
The soldiers began a frantic search costing millions of dollars using drones, military tracking dogs and dozens of men for eight days, although the wider operation to find him went on for three months.
Captain Travis Sorenson, the co-pilot of one of the first F15 aircraft sent up to hunt for Bergdahl, said that he heard on intelligence briefings in the next couple of days that he was thought to have been taken East straight away.
The plan was to get him into a cave system over the border with Pakistan because it was away from US soldiers, he said.
Captain Sorenson, 36, who has now left the military, told MailOnline: ‘The operation to try and find Bergdahl must have cost millions.
‘We had F-15s flying constant missions for 48 hours and had 52 planes doing search runs. There were A-10s, Apache helicopters, British Tornadoes, British Navy Harriers and German Tornadoes.
‘When we found out that he had walked off the base we were all extremely angry and could not understand why he did it. We spent a couple of days looking for him when other soldiers were getting bombed, we couldn’t support Navy SEALs and other people.
We couldn’t do our jobs because we were looking for this guy’.
Leaked military communications on Wikileaks show the complete military signal traffic relating to Bergdahl’s release.
The text says that one of the last sightings of him was when he was in a black Toyota Corolla with a bag over his head being escorted by three to five motorcycles.
In intercepted chatter Taliban fighters could be heard asking themselves: ‘Is it true that they captured an American guy?’
The men joke about it and one of them responds that they should ‘cut the head off’.
Soldiers in Bergdahl’s platoon have claimed they were forced to sign a highly unusual nondisclosure agreement covering his disappearance in an apparent attempt to cover up what happened.
Two soldiers who spoke to MailOnline said the letter was passed around by commanders to those close to Sgt. Bergdahl.
The ploy backfired, however, as a number of soldiers spoke out regardless in angry Facebook messages and media interviews.
But the irregular action by the military raises fresh and disturbing questions about attempts to control the flow of information about the incident.
Sgt. Evan Buetow, who fought in Sgt. Bergdahl’s platoon, said: ‘I never signed it. I know there were a couple of soldiers who were closer to Sgt. Bergdahl as friends.
‘I know a couple of them signed the official nondisclosure letter. We did not have to sign an NDA for other missions.’
Others who have spoken out anonymously on the Facebook page ‘Boweisatraitor’ have also referred to such a letter.
Another soldier from Sgt. Bergdahl’s unit who is still in the military told MailOnline: ‘The nondisclosure letters were handed around.’
‘Everyone signed them who was told to – they were just following orders.’
NDA letters are usually signed by soldiers who have security clearances or are working on sensitive missions.
The standard form is called SF312 and is known as a Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement. It prevents those who sign it from speaking about a specific event because it is in the interest of national security for them not to do so.
Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl may have not only been a deserter, but an active collaborator with the enemy, a senior Defense Department official told Fox News.
The unidentified source reportedly said that Bergdahl has been investigated by the U.S. intelligence community and is the subject of a “major classified file” which has yet to be seen by a relevant congressional committee.
The Pentagon official said, however, that if a request to see the file were to be made by a congressional committee, they’d likely gain access, according to Fox News.
Over the weekend, President Barack Obama announced that Bergdahl had been released, in exchange for five members of the Taliban that had been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
A separate administration official who focuses on counterterrorism told Fox News that “everybody’s looking” into Bergdahl’s disappearance and time spent over past five years.
“He’s not going to get a free pass,” the official reportedly said. “He’s going to have a lot of questions to answer – a lot. Is he a hero? No.”
A now-deleted tweet sent last week, before the exchange, from an account that appears to belong to Bergdahl’s father, stirred controversy over the weekend.
“I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners,” it said.
Here is the truth: The deal to trade five senior Taliban detainees to secure the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was political. It was publicly justified with lies, it breaks decades of U.S. policy, it breaks American law, it puts Americans at risk, it undermines the government of Afghanistan, and it passes responsibility on to the next administration.
But first of all, it was political.
But no, it was not to take the spot light off of the failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Simply stated, it was because so long as Bergdahl remained in Taliban captivity in Pakistan, the Obama administration would never be able to close the chapter of the failed Afghanistan campaign it has owned since approving – and then under-resourcing – a surge of U.S. forces in the country.
Bergdahl’s captivity served as a constant reminder of President Barack Obama’s strategic failures while U.S. forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan. That’s something the Democrats cannot allow going into 2014 and 2016 elections. So the president agreed to an unprecedented deal in blatant violation of U.S. law and established precedent that undermines the safety and security of the United States and her citizens, once again choosing short-term political gain over long-term security interests.
Claims of new information on Bergdahl’s deteriorating health are simply false justifications. Bergdahl’s health was in no worse shape than should be reasonably expected of someone who had been a prisoner for five years. He walked without assistance into the waiting company of U.S. special operations forces, and then climbed aboard the waiting helicopter. He was mentally sound enough to recognize what was going on around him and to communicate with American forces. And none of the medical or psychological issues that he has displayed symptoms are life threatening. So this was just another example of the administration trying to justify its actions.
Additionally, the decision breaks with a decades-old standing U.S. policy to never negotiate with terrorists. Bergdahl was being held by the Haqqani Network in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. The Obama administration designated the Haqqani Network a terrorist organization just a few years ago. By negotiating with the Haqqani Network through the government of Qatar, the administration violated the policy.
Though this is not how the Obama administration sees it.
When CNN’s Candy Crowley asked National Security Advisor Susan Rice if the U.S. had negotiated with terrorists, Rice once again proved she shouldn’t be allowed on Sunday shows when she said no, because the United States had negotiated the deal through Qatar. But a child can understand that the Qataris passing our messages to the Taliban – and vice versa – makes the Qataris no different than a telephone or email service. We were negotiating with the Haqqanis no matter how you try to spin it.
And when asked why the administration failed to notify Congress about the Guantanamo Bay prison transfer despite U.S. law requiring the administration to notify Congress 30 days in advance of any transfer of prisoners from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, she said it was because they were worried it would jeopardize the deal.
So Rice and the administration were afraid that congressmen exercising their oversight might object to the release of five battle-hardened terrorists and suspected war criminals, or that the deal could leak. So instead, the administration chose to willfully violate U.S. law by not informing Congress.
And as for fears of a leak, the administration informed members of Congress about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden before it took place – something far more sensitive in terms of intelligence resources. Rice did, however, let us know that the administration had seen fit to consult with the Department of Justice about the deal.
The five detainees released were among the most senior members of the former Taliban government to be captured by the United States. They include the former Taliban minister of the interior, Taliban deputy minister of defense, Taliban deputy minister of intelligence, a senior Taliban military commander, and the Taliban governor of Herat Province.
Several of these men are accused of committing serious war crimes, including genocide. All of these men have Afghan and American blood on their hands.
Although the five Taliban commanders had been declared high risk, some have argued that they are too old and have been in prison for too long to make a successful return to the battlefield. Many detainees released from Guantanamo Bay have done just that, though. Surprise.
As part of the deal, these five men must remain in Qatar for one year before they are permitted to return to Afghanistan. And in doing so, the administration is once again kicking the can down the road.
In one year, the U.S. will have withdrawn all combat forces from Afghanistan – according to the president’s plan. These men will now become the Afghan government’s problem, and we can add them to the growing list of issues, including Iran, North Korea and Syria that this president is passing the buck on.
Finally, the administration failed to consult the government of Afghanistan before agreeing to this deal. In doing so, the Obama administration robbed Afghan President Karzai and his successor of potentially valuable bargaining chips in a larger reconciliation effort.
This deal essentially took chess pieces off of the board for the Afghans at a time when they were needed most, and has left the Afghan government in a position where it looks weak, incompetent and untrustworthy to its ally. That is not a good signal to send to the nation or the world just before the U.S. withdraws its combat forces and begins the final transition of responsibility to the Afghanistan and they’re security forces.
But all that is secondary in the Obama White House, where optics rule.
And the show must go on.
The man behind the Facebook group “Bowe Bergdahl is NOT a Hero!” isn’t, as most would initially believe, some conservative crank mad at the Obama administration for swapping five Taliban prisoners in exchange for the American prisoner of war. According to Jake Tapper, Greg Leatherman, the creator of the group, was actually one of Bergdahl’s squad leaders before he disappeared and allegedly abandoned his post.
The page was created last Saturday, the day Bergdahl was released, and has become a gathering place for fellow soldiers to air their many grievances against Bergdahl, whom they consider a deserter both directly and indirectly responsible for the lives of dozens of soldiers. While many of his former squad members have told their stories to the press, the level of animosity on the 8,000 member-strong Facebook page is vitriolic, to say the least. Here’s a random sampling via screenshot:
In addition to moderating the group (and asking the commenters to show at least some respect for what Bergdahl went through), Leatherman started a White House petition asking the Administration to punish Bergdahl for desertion. So far, it’s collected over 4000 signatures. (Given how the White House responded to something as inane as a Justin Bieber petition, however, we wouldn’t suggest that people raise their expectations for this one.)
In an interview with Tapper, Leatherman came off diplomatically. “I’m pleased to see him returned safely,” he said. “From experience, I hope that he receives adequate reintegration counseling. I believe that an investigation should take place as soon as health care professionals deem him fit to endure one.”
Revealed: How Freed US POW’s Biker Father Told The Taliban ‘God Will Repay The Death Of Every Afghan Child’, Learned Pashto, Grew A Beard And Adopted Liberal Views In Wake Of Son’s Capture – Daily Mail
From the moment the father of Bowe Bergdahl took the stage with President Barack Obama, it was clear the Bergdahls were not an average US military family.
Sporting a long, bushy beard that he refused to trim since his son went missing in 2009, Bob Bergdahl spoke Pashto, Afghanistan’s main language, and also a few words of Arabic at the White House press conference announcing his son’s release.
Some critics of the deal to free the only remaining American prisoner of war have shifted their attention to Mr Bergdahl and his controversial statements.
Just a few days before his son was released in a trade for five Guantanamo detainees, Mr Bergdalh tweeted at a Taliban spokesman saying, ‘I am still working to free all Guantanamo prisoners.’
‘God will repay for the death of every Afghan child, ameen.’
The tweet was later deleted, but not before it was spotted by several conservative activists. Some are raising questions about Mr Bergdalh’s loyalties – possibly even converting to Islam. He has become an active anti-war campaigner and spoken out against drone strikes and Gitmo.
‘Folks, this is either a very bad case of Stockholm Syndrome or something far more nefarious is at stake,’ wrote former Republican Congressman Allen West, who labeled the message a ‘smoking gun.’
‘Regardless, there is more to this than meets the eye of Obama making a unilateral decision and announcement on a Saturday – when he believes no one is watching.’
Supporters see a man who has done everything he could raise awareness of his son’s five years in enemy captivity and project any image that might be likely to keep Bowe alive.
In a video posted by the Guardian, Mr Bergdahl told photographer Sean Smith: ‘I don’t work for the military. I don’t work for the government. I don’t represent the American people. I’m a father who wants his son back.’
Mr Bergdahl’s former pastor Bob Henley told the Washington Post that the father began to study radical Islamic politics as a way to understand his son’s captors. He grew a beard to mark the time his son was gone – but also, possibly – to win some sympathy from the Taliban who held Bowe.
Before Bowe was captures, Mr Bergdahl was best known as the town’s UPS deliveryman.
It all changed when Bowe was taken by the Taliban. Friends say he delved deeply into his studies of the country and the people who were holding his son.
Some wondered aloud whether he had crossed a line, the Post reports.
A spokesman for the family told the Washington Post that that Bergdahls acknowledged that the tweet about the deaths of Afghan children being avenged was sent and then deleted, but did not offer a further explanation.
Some activists have picked up on other tweets from Mr Bergdahl, as well.
In March, he wrote, ‘”Democracy” is a cult in the West’ in response to a comment about the Afghan elections.
He also raised eyebrows when, in a pres conference, he said the family’s hometown of Hailey, Idaho, ‘We’re so much like Afghanistan.’
In a 2011 video message to Bowe’s captors, Mr Bergdahl said: ‘Strangely to some we must also thank those who have cared for our son for almost two years.
‘We know our son is a prisoner and at the same time a guest in your home.’
The Idaho-native Bergdahls were unlike many military families – or unlike many other families – well before Bowe was captures.
The Bergdahls are Presbyterian. The Daily Telegraph reports that Bob and Jami are still seen at church in town. They home-schooled Bowe for six hours a day.
They also reportedly traveled 300 miles to attend an Orthodox Presbyterian church in Boise for a time.
Bowe took ballet, but could also ride a horse and shoot a rifle by age 5.
Mr Smith, the Guardian journalist who followed Bowe in Afghanistan before his capture and late spent time with his father, said Mr Bergdahl became political out of necessity after his son fell into Taliban hands.
‘I don’t think he had all the opinions at the beginning that he had at the end. I think his thinking has changed,’ he said.
‘He was trying to understand. It’s not a question of agreeing with people. It’s a question, from his point of view, of trying to understand where they may be coming from.’
In a Rolling Stone magazine article last year, Mr Bergdahl said he kept in contact with a Taliban source who claimed to know where his son was.
He also said he had learned a great deal about Afghan politics. He learned to speak a few words of Pashto and Arabic so he could record a 2011 video message to his son’s captors.
Obama lying? Shocker.
Via The Hill:
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers on Tuesday said that Congress hadn’t heard from the Obama administration since 2011 on the possibility of a prisoner swap with the Taliban.
The Michigan Republican also cast doubt on the administration’s claims that it had to act due to Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s health, saying, “Their public rhetoric does not match the facts on the ground.”
President Barack Obama, speaking in Poland earlier Tuesday morning, said administration officials “have consulted with Congress for quite some time” about the possibility of a prisoner exchange.
But Rogers, appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said Congress hadn’t heard anything from the White House in years and that the administration only informed them of the deal after it had already taken place.
“I don’t know what he means by consulted Congress for some time,” Rogers said in response Obama’s comments. “In 2011, they did come up and present a plan that included a prisoner transfer that was, in a bipartisan way, pushed back. We hadn’t heard anything since on any details of any prisoner exchange.”
The Pentagon on several occasions had ground-level intelligence on where Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was being held captive at various times – down to how many gunmen were guarding him – but special operations commanders repeatedly shelved rescue missions because they didn’t want to risk casualties for a man they believed to be a “deserter,” sources familiar with the mission plans said.
Commanders on the ground debated whether to pull the trigger on a rescue several times in recent years, according to one of the sources, a former high-level intelligence official in Afghanistan, who said the conclusion each time was that the prospect of losing highly trained troops was too high a price to pay for rescuing a soldier who walked away from his unit before being captured by the enemy.
A second source told The Washington Times that the rescue operation plans were “high risk” and became even less attractive in recent months when officials in the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command grew convinced that the Taliban and the militant Haqqani network, whose operatives were holding Sgt. Bergdahl, were eager to cut a deal for his release.
“Joint Special Operations Command always had the rescue mission on the table and it was entirely under their ownership, but the big question centered on whether Bergdahl was somebody you risk lives for when you still have time and space to maneuver diplomatically,” said the source, a high-level congressional aide, who, like the former intelligence official, spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
The aide also said there was frustration among some on Capitol Hill that the Obama administration had botched an opportunity to exert leverage over the Taliban, particularly since the U.S. military could have used force to secure Sgt. Bergdahl’s release.
“The prisoner swap was being built up as the only option that was available. But there’s been knowledge of the general vicinity of where Bergdahl was, down to how many guys were guarding him,” said the aide.
The catch, the aide added, is that special operations commanders and others at the Pentagon never sought approval for the rescue mission from the White House because they believed in the pursuit of a diplomatic deal.
The aide said military officials in Afghanistan spent recent months pushing for a stronger deal than was ultimately struck, but were “superseded” by the White House and State Department. The aide would not comment on what the parameters of a “stronger” deal may have looked like, beyond saying they would have involved the Pakistani government.
The former intelligence official who spoke with The Times corroborated that assertion but declined to offer further details, saying only that the deal turned out the way it did because “the administration wanted to close the door on this no matter what the price was.”
Separately, the former official said, “Military commanders were loath to risk their people to save this guy. They were loath to pick him up and because of that hesitancy, we wind up trading five Taliban guys for him.
“The mentality was, ‘We’re not going to lose more of our own guys on this,” the former official said.
Both of the sources said military officials across the special operations community were appalled by the terms of the deal that ultimately got struck over the weekend between State Department-led negotiators and the Taliban, effectively securing Sgt. Bergdahl’s release from Haqqani network custody in exchange for the release of five former Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
U.S. Special Operations Command declined to comment on the revelations provided to The Times.
But The Associated Press reported that after weeks of intensive searching for Sgt. Bergdahl in 2009 the military decided against making an extraordinary effort to rescue him, especially after it became clear that he initially was being held in Pakistan under the supervision of the Haqqani network, a Taliban ally with links to Pakistan’s intelligence service.
Nonetheless, individual units pursued leads as they came in, according to the AP report, which cited an unidentified Pentagon official as saying: “I know for a fact that we lost soldiers looking for him.”
The AP also reported that the U.S. government kept tabs on Bergdahl’s whereabouts with spies, drones and satellites, even as it pursued off-and-on negotiations to get him back over the five years of captivity that ended Saturday.
The White House shot back against criticism from Republican lawmakers, several of whom said the administration had set a dangerous precedent of negotiating with terrorists and may have overstepped the bounds of executive authority by failing to alert Congress of the deal before finalizing it with the Taliban.
White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed those claims, asserting during a briefing with reporters that the administration has, in fact, consulted lawmakers for years about potential negotiations with the Taliban and the possibility of recovering a U.S. prisoner of war.
Sgt. Bergdahl is the only known U.S. service member held as prisoner of war in Afghanistan, and Mr. Carney and others in the administration, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, appeared eager to steer reporters away from questions about the fairness of exchanging five former Taliban commanders to secure the Army private’s release.
The swap “was absolutely the right thing to do,” said Mr. Carney, who downplayed the notion that Sgt. Bergdahl was an Army deserter. “In a situation like this, you have a prisoner of war, a uniformed military person that was detained,” the White House spokesman said. “The United States does not leave our men and women behind in conflict.”
But speculation over whether Sgt. Bergdahl was captured by the enemy, or fled from his unit in Afghanistan in June 2009, has long swirled through Washington.
That speculation appeared to come to an end Monday. The sources who spoke with The Times said military officials privately resolved the matter among themselves years ago, concluding that Sgt. Bergdahl willingly left the U.S. Army before he was apprehended by militants in Afghanistan.
The AP report on the matter Monday quoted Nabi Jan Mhullhakhil, the provincial police chief of Paktika province in Afghanistan, where Bergdahl was stationed with his unit, as saying that elders in the area had told him Bergdahl “came out from the U.S. base without a gun and was outside the base when he was arrested by the Taliban.”
Such claims were further bolstered by one of Sgt. Bergdahl’s own former unit members, who asserted outright in an article published Monday by The Daily Beast that “Bergdahl was a deserter.”
With Sgt. Bergdahl now headed to safety, it is “time to speak the truth,” wrote Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served in the 1st Battalion of the Army’s 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment when Sgt. Bergdahl disappeared from night guard duty at a remote outpost roughly two hours south of the Afghan city of Sharana on June 30, 2009.
“Bergdahl failed to show for the morning roll call,” wrote Mr. Bethea. “The soldiers in 2nd Platoon, Blackfoot Company discovered his rifle, helmet, body armor and web gear in a neat stack. He had, however, taken his compass,” wrote Mr. Bethae, adding that “his fellow soldiers later mentioned his stated desire to walk from Afghanistan to India.”
Mr. Bethea also wrote that during the three months immediately after Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance as many as eight “soldiers from his own unit died trying to track him down.”
The Pentagon said Monday that Sgt. Bergdahl was being treated at a U.S. military hospital in Germany as questions mounted at home over the deal that secured his freedom.
“Have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican. “What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists?”
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a rare member of Washington’s political ranks who survived the horrors of war detention in Vietnam, added that the Guantanamo detainees exchanged for Sgt. Bergdahl are the “hardest of the hard core.”
Among the five are Abdel Haq Wasiq, former deputy chief of intelligence for the Taliban, and Mullah Mohammad Fazl, a former top Taliban military commander accused of overseeing the massacre of thousands of Afghans prior to the 2001 arrival of U.S. forces in the nation. The three others are Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, who served as interior minister under the Taliban and has been held at Guantanamo since 2002, and Mullah Norullah Noori and Mohammad Nabi Omari, both accused of playing regional roles for the Taliban.
Under terms of the deal, the Obama administration said Monday, the prisoners were released in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, where they face light security restrictions such as a one-year travel ban.
The deal also stoked anger in Afghanistan. Reuters reported that many viewed the exchange as a further sign of a U.S. desire to disengage from the nation as quickly as possible. However, it was not immediately clear whether the Afghan government ultimately supported the release of the five former Taliban commanders.
Qatar has moved five Afghan Taliban prisoners freed in exchange for a U.S. soldier to a residential compound and will let them move freely in the country, a senior Gulf official said on Tuesday, a step likely to be scrutinized by Washington.
U.S. officials have referred to the release of the Islamist militants as a transfer and said they would be subject to certain restrictions in Qatar. One of the officials said that would include a minimum one-year ban on them traveling outside of Qatar as well as monitoring of their activities.
“All five men received medical checks and they now live with their families in an accommodation facility in Doha,” the Gulf source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. “They can move around freely within the country.”
Following the deal under which freed the last American soldier held in Afghanistan was freed, concerns have been expressed by some U.S. intelligence officials and congressional advisers over the role of the Gulf Arab state as a bridge between Washington and the world of radical Islam.
The Gulf official said the Taliban men, who have been granted Qatari residency permits, will not be treated like prisoners while in Doha and no U.S. officials will be involved in monitoring their movement while in the country.
“Under the deal they have to stay in Qatar for a year and then they will be allowed to travel outside the country… They can go back to Afghanistan if they want to,” the official said.
The five, who had been held at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba since 2002, arrived in Qatar on Sunday where U.S. security personnel handed them over to Qatari authorities in the Al Udeid area west of Doha, site of a U.S. military base.
U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl had been held for nearly five years by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and his release followed years of on-off negotiations.
A diplomatic source said Qatar has flown in family members of the five released Taliban men and gave them accommodation paid for by the government.
On Sunday, Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah told a news conference that Doha got involved in the case because it was a “humanitarian cause”. He did not elaborate.
Liberal Harvard professor and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin turned on the president Monday, telling a surprised Wolf Blitzer that Preident Barack Obama “clearly broke the law” by failing to provide Congress 30-days notice before releasing five high-level Taliban prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
“You’ve looked at the law, you’ve looked at the signing statement, you’ve gone through it,” Blitzer asked Toobin. “Did the president break the law?
“Oh, I think he clearly broke the law,” Toobin replied. “The law says 30 days’ notice. He didn’t give 30 days’ notice.”
“Now it’s true he issued a signing statement,” the law professor continued, “but signing statements are not law – it’s the president’s opinion about what the law should mean. Now, it may be that the law is unconstitutional, a violation of his power as commander-in-chief, but no court has held that. The law is on the books and he didn’t follow it.”
Blitzer was surprised. “You realize, of course, you’re accusing the president of the United States of breaking the law,” he said.
“Well, I don’t think the president is too worried about what I think about this,” Toobin laughed, “but I do think his critics have a very good point here.”
The Harvard professor even floated impeachment. “It matters, whether people follow the law or not,” Toobin asserted.
Via CNS News:
Was Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a deserter, as some of his platoon mates told Fox News Monday night?
“It doesn’t matter how he was taken captive,” press reports quoted a Pentagon spokesman as saying. “It doesn’t matter under what circumstances he left. It doesn’t matter what his persuasions were, political or otherwise. We have an obligation to recover all of those who are missing in action,” Rear Adm. John Kirby was quoted as saying on Monday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney took a similar line.
“The first and foremost thing that we have to recognize here is that Sergeant Bergdahl was in captivity for five years, held against his will, and it was absolutely the right thing to do, consistent with our tradition in the United States, to secure his return,” Carney told reporters at the White House on Monday.
Sparks flew during a rare late-night hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, as visibly upset Republicans raked VA officials over the coals while the ink was still wet on a scathing inspector general report condemning the agency’s deadly failures.
The report found that in Phoenix, Arizona alone, 1,700 U.S. military veterans were denied medical care and others waited an average of 115 days to be seen by a doctor – and that officials covered up the lapses by manipulating wait-lists and other official records.
Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil Roe, a physician and veteran of the Army Medical Corps, summed up the mood on Capitol Hill when he addressed Dr. Thomas Lynch, the VA’s assistant deputy undersecretary for health.
Noting that the three officials at the witness table are well-paid but presided over a system that ignored the needs of cash-strapped veterans who are locked into the VA health system, he leveled a sledgehammer at Lynch
‘What I don’t understand is, as a veteran – as a doctor, as a practitioner – I don’t understand how you can stand at a mirror and look at yourself in the mirror, and shave in the morning, and not throw up,’ he said, ‘knowing that you’ve got people out there… how in the world?’
‘I see some of these people out there. They live in my communities, and they can’t get in, and they’re desperate to get in,’ howled an incredulous Roe. ‘And someone who’s making $180,000 a year gets a bonus for not taking care of the veterans? I don’t get that.’
Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican who chairs the panel, wasted no time in going after VA Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs Joan Mooney.
‘Until VA understands that we’re deadly serious, you can expect us to be over your shoulder every single day,’ he told her.
And then ‘deadly serious’ became, literally, deadly.
‘Why have you not told this committee yet who was disciplined in Augusta, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina, where nine veterans died because they were on a waiting list for colonoscopies?’ Miller asked.
Mooney deflected the question, saying that her office had ‘responded to more than 100,000 requests for information,’ but Miller was unimpressed.
‘Ma’am! Ma’am! Ma’am! Ma’am!’ he exclaimed. ‘Veterans died! Get us the answers, please!’
‘I understand that, Mr. Chairman,’ Mooney replied, and I will look -’
‘That’s what you said three months ago!’ Miller boomed. ‘This has been going on since January. Since January.’
‘In case you don’t know it, we put on our website every week what we ask for,’ he said, ‘and nothing changes from week to week.’
Miller aired a laundry list of complaints about the VA’s response to congressional demands, including the agency’s refusal to brief members of Congress.
‘We did ask the [VA] Office of General Counsel to come brief members last week, and the general counsel declined,’ the Floridian said. ‘He said he declined because he didn’t want to brief the members – he wanted to brief the staff.’
‘It takes repeated requests and threats of compulsion to get VA to bring their people here,’ a disgusted Miller concluded.
Mooney got he worst of it.
As she referred to prepared notes in order to answer questions, an outraged Miller lost patience. ‘Can you say anything without reading your prepared notes?’ he demanded?
The VA has reportedly provided the committee with 5,500 pages of documents, but lawmakers are convinced there’s much more to be found.
‘Let me be clear: I am not happy,’ said Maine Rep. Michael Michaud, the committee’s ranking Democrat.
‘We’ll get to the bottom of this, uncover the truth, and ensure a solution is implemented to make sure something like this never happens again.’
Roe was more pointed.
‘If you don’t give us the information,’ he said, ‘I’m thinking, “There’s something they’re trying to hide.” Why wouldn’t you just turn over the documents, and – they are what they are. Just tell the truth.’
‘Is there a reason? …In my mind, I’m thinking right now that you’re hiding something from me. And I have no reason to believe you’re not,’ he said.
The three VA witnesses were not permitted to offer an opening statement. A Veterans Affairs Committee staff member told MailOnline that there was some internal debate about that decision.
‘I guess if they had something to tell us, they should have told us years ago. That was the thinking.’
Questions arose about how and why documents related to the Phoenix cover-up were destroyed – especially off-the-books waiting lists that showed a realistic picture of how long veterans waited for their doctor visits.
On Wednesday at least 58 members of Congress, including 20 Democrats, demanded VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation, with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain leading the charge and calling on President Barack Obama to fire him if he didn’t step down.
Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman added to the bloodletting in the evening, demanding the termination of all three witnesses: Lynch, Mooney, and Michael Huff, a VA congressional relations officer.
‘You are not being forthright in your testimony,’ Coffman boomed. ‘You are here to serve yourselves and not the men and women who have made extraordinary sacrifices to serve this country.’
ENTIRE HOUSE VETERANS’ AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEARING (05/28/14)
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid at least $11.4 million to 174 nurses, mental-health specialists, therapists, and other health-care professionals who, instead of caring for veterans, worked full-time doing union business.
The list of these taxpayer-funded union representatives at VA offices around the nation and their salaries was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Georgia representative Phil Gingrey’s staff and provided to National Review Online.
“So many health-care providers were on that list – nurses or physical therapists or whatever they may be – when so many veterans are falling through the cracks,” a Gingrey aide tells me. “It’s kind of shocking that these paid employees wouldn’t be fully dedicated to patient care.”
In total, the VA spent at least $13.77 million on 251 salaried employees performing full-time union work. Others, who were not included on the list provided by the VA, work part-time for unions at the taxpayer expense. In fiscal year 2011, the latest on record, the VA used 998,483 hours of this “official time,” costing taxpayers more than $42 million.
The newly released records show that in Baltimore, which has the nation’s longest wait times for veterans’ claims, taxpayers covered $372,674 in salary costs in 2012 for a clinical dietetic technician, a patient-services assistant, a health technician, a medical-support assistant, and two nurses to spend all their time at work on union issues and none of it working with veterans.
In Columbia, S.C., the VA pays one health technician a $40,706 salary to work for the American Federation of Government Employees.
At that same location, CNN reported in January, a 44-year-old veteran named Barry Coates was forced to wait a year for a colonoscopy, despite intense pain, constipation, and rectal bleeding. When Coates finally got his appointment, doctors found a tumor the size of a baseball – Stage 4 colorectal cancer that had metastasized elsewhere.
Testifying on the Hill in April, Coates described his constant pain and suffering. “I am totally and permanently impotent as well as incontinent,” he said. “It is likely too late for me. The gross negligence of my ongoing problems and crippling back log epidemic of the VA medical system has not only handed me a death sentence but ruined the quality of my life I have for the meantime.”
At the Phoenix VA system, where CNN has reported that at least 40 veterans died waiting for appointments, taxpayers cover the costs of a practical nurse (salary: $54,014) and a medical-administration specialist (salary: $59,849), neither of whom work with veterans. There, as many as 1,600 sick veterans faced months-long waits to see a physician, according to CNN.
In Boston, the VA paid a cumulative annual salary of $587,112 in 2012 to six nurses who, instead of treating patients, work for unions.
Employees across the federal government are paid full-time or part-time to perform work for their various unions, but perhaps nowhere is the practice more offensive than the overburdened VA.
In October 2013, as the nation was focused on the deeply flawed rollout of the Healthcare.gov Obamacare marketplace, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awarded $3 million in prizes to three participants in the agency’s Medical Appointment Scheduling Contest. The contest was announced in 2012 to help the VA make the move to a more modern and flexible scheduling system:
VA’s current Medical Scheduling Package (MSP) is a component of VistA; it’s legacy electronic health record (EHR) system. The MSP not only makes appointments for clinicians, but also captures data that allows VA to measure, manage, and improve efficiency and access to care. However, VA’s current MSP is more than 25 years old. It neither meets current requirements, nor does it provide the flexibility needed to adapt for future needs[.]
A press release from the contest winner MedRed noted that the:
VA started to develop a Medical Scheduling Package replacement in 2000. This effort was not successful. When VA ended the project in 2009, none of the planned capabilities were delivered. It had cost more than $127 million.
The prize-winning app, Health e-Time, was developed in about two and a half months according to MedRed’s CEO William Smith, and was actually a collaboration between MedRed, telecom company BT and the VISTA Expertise Network, who will all split a $1.8 million first prize.
According to GovernmentHealthIT, the Health e-Time application “offers veterans the ability to schedule visits online across VA locations and gives VA providers the ability to share appointments with veterans’ personal digital calendars and with other non-VA providers.”
Just this past week, CalConnect, a calendering and scheduling consortium, held a “Workshop on VA Scheduling System” at its conference in Dulles, Virginia, and William Smith of MedRed addressed attendees about the contest and his company’s winning entry Health e-Time. Smith has previously described Health e-Time as “an open-source solution that could seamlessly integrate with VistA, the VA’s Electronic Health Record system.”
On Tuesday, the Washington Post revealed a memorandum dated April 26, 2010, sent from the Deputy Undersecretary for Health for Operations and Management (10N) to Network Director (10N1-23). That memo spelled out 17 methods being used by VA hospitals to cover up long wait times. Those tactics included:
* Telling veterans to call back after 30 days so that they would not appear in the records as having waited longer than 30 days;
* Use of a manual logging system;
* Creation and cancellation of new patient visits, marking those cancellations as “cancelled by patient” rather than “cancelled by clinic.”
The list goes on and on.
The White House claimed that it was utterly unaware of the memo, although Dr. Robert Petzel, the top health official at the Veterans Administration, admitted, “It’s absolutely inexcusable.”
So, what did the Obama administration know and when did it know it?
It knew, according to a 2008 briefing memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs, that the waiting times reported from the VA were not reliable: “This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying – and potentially denying – deserving veterans timely care.” Such problems, the document stated, “are systemic throughout the VHA.”
In 2007, then-Senator Obama, running for president, acknowledged massive problems within the VA. “No veteran should have to fill out a 23-page claim to get care, or wait months – even years – to get an appointment at the VA,” he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He continued:
When we fail to keep faith with our veterans, the bond between our nation and our nation’s heroes becomes frayed. When a veteran is denied care, we are all dishonored. It’s not enough to lay a wreath on Memorial Day, or to pay tribute to our veterans in speeches. A proud and grateful nation owes more than ceremonial gestures and kind words.
Caring for those who serve – and for their families – is a fundamental responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief.
He concluded, “The VA will also be at the cutting edge of my plan for universal health care.”
But Obama now claims that he was only informed of bureaucratic snafus from the newspapers. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that the Phoenix falsifications of wait lists were news to Obama:
We learned about them through the reports. I will double check if that is not the case. But that is when we learned about them and that is when I understand Secretary Shinseki learned about them, and he immediately took the action that he has taken.
Apparently he was reading the wrong newspapers. Problems with veteran wait times have been heavily covered by the media for years. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times wrote:
Some veterans wait up to six months to get their initial VA medical appointment. The typical veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars waits 110 days for a disability claim to be processed, with a few waiting up to a year. For all veterans, the average wait is 161 days. The VA says a ruling on an appeal of a disability rating takes more than 600 days on average. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or IAVA, an advocacy group, says the average delay is 776 days. Up to 17% of veterans’ disability ratings are incorrect, the VA says. Thousands of dollars in disability payments hinge on the ratings, which are determined by the VA. The agency says it hopes to eventually cut the error rate to 2%.
In February 2013, lawmakers accused the VA of covering up five veteran deaths from Legionnaires’ disease, with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) stating, “This has got the federal government’s footprints all over it. I am stunned at the coordination that took place and that is occurring at the highest levels of government to try and counter the blame.” The VA originally claimed that a minor Legionnaires’ outbreak had killed no one.
In March 2013, a whistleblower told the Daily Beast that the VA “routinely disseminated false information about the health of America’s veterans, withheld research showing a link between nerve gas and Gulf War syndrome, rushed studies out the door without taking recommended fixes by an independent board, and failed to offer crucial care to veterans who came forward as suicidal.” The whistleblower said that his bosses responded by attempting to intimidate and silence him, and that he was even admonished. He said that almost 2,000 suicidal veterans did not receive proper follow-up.
In November 2013, CNN reported:
Military veterans are dying needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. veterans hospitals… Military veterans are dying needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. veterans hospitals, a CNN investigation has found. What’s worse, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is aware of the problems and has done almost nothing to effectively prevent veterans dying from delays in care.”
CNN reported at least six patient deaths at just one facility. Money was even given to the VA to fix the problem. It wasn’t fixed. Debra Draper at the Government Accountability Office explained, “Long wait times and a weak scheduling policy and process have been persistent problems for the VA, and both the GAO and the VA’s (inspector general) have been reporting on these issues for more than a decade.”
So, what did President Obama know, and when did he know it? He knew plenty. And he had plenty of time to do something about it. He just didn’t. And crocodile tears now come too little too late.
This actually happened on the Senate floor this afternoon. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) asked for consent to take up and pass the Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, a bill that would make it easier/possible for the scandal-plagued department to fire employees based on poor performance. The House overwhelmingly passed the legislation on Wednesday, with a bipartisan vote of 390 to 33. (Only Democrats objected.)
Surely the Senate would follow suit, right? Not exactly. Senator Bernie Sanders, a union-backed socialist from Vermont, objected on behalf of Senate Democrats to Rubio’s request. Instead of taking any action now, Sanders said he is going to hold a hearing – several weeks from now.
Sanders, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, has been one of the most outspoken defenders of the VA against allegations of misconduct. When asked about reports of multiple deaths related to long wait times at the VA healthcare system, Sanders told CNN: “People die every day.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) on Thursday offered a lukewarm assessment of the House-passed legislation, describing it as “not unreasonable.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) was not happy. “As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I am disappointed, and – frankly – shocked that Senate Democratic leaders chose to block legislation that would hold VA managers accountable,” Boehner said in a statement. “As we head home to honor the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, it’s fair to ask why Senate Democrats won’t stand up for more accountability?”
The number of VA facilities under investigation after complaints about falsified records and treatment delays has more than doubled in recent days, the Office of Inspector General at the Veterans Affairs Department said late Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the IG’s office said 26 facilities were being investigated nationwide. Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin told a Senate committee last week that at least 10 new allegations about manipulated waiting times and other problems had surfaced since reports of problems at the Phoenix VA hospital came to light last month.
The expanded investigations come as President Barack Obama’s choice to help carry out reforms at the Veterans Affairs Department was set to travel to Phoenix to meet with staff at the local VA office amid mounting pressure to overhaul the beleaguered agency.
Obama announced last week that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors would be assigned to the VA after allegations of delayed care that may have led to patient deaths and a cover-up by top administrators in Phoenix. Similar claims have been reported at VA facilities in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Florida, and elsewhere.
Nabors met Tuesday in Washington with representatives of several veterans’ organizations, including the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, among others. He will meet Thursday with leadership at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center, including with interim director Steve Young, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Young took over in Phoenix after director Sharon Helman was placed on leave indefinitely while the VA’s Office of Inspector General investigates claims raised by several former VA employees that Phoenix administrators kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care.
Critics say Helman was motivated to conceal delays to collect a bonus of about $9,000 last year.
A former clinic director for the VA in Phoenix first came out publicly with the allegations of secret lists in April. Dr. Samuel Foote, who retired in December after nearly 25 years with the VA, says that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at the Phoenix hospital. Investigators say they have so far not linked any patient deaths in Phoenix to delayed care.
The allegations have sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill and some calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation. The VA’s undersecretary for health care, Robert Petzel, has since stepped down.
However, Republicans denounced the move as a hollow gesture, since Petzel had already been scheduled to retire soon. And several lawmakers are proposing legislation to take on VA problems.
Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told The Associated Press on Tuesday he plans to introduce legislation this week to ensure that internal probes by the VA’s Office of Medical Inspector are released to Congress and the public “so the full scope of the VA’s dysfunction cannot be disguised.”
Moran noted that a VA nurse in Cheyenne, Wyoming, was put on leave this month for allegedly telling employees to falsify appointment records. The action came after an email about possible wait-list manipulation at the Cheyenne hospital was leaked to the media.
But Moran said the Cheyenne center was already the subject of a December 2013 report by Office of the Medical Inspector. That report apparently substantiated claims of improper scheduling practices, but it’s unclear if action taken at the Cheyenne center was based on the medical inspector’s findings, Moran said.
“Because OMI reports are not available to the public and have not been previously released to Congress, it is impossible to know whether the VA has taken action to implement the OMI’s recommendations for improvement in each case,” Moran said.
Meanwhile, two Republican senators introduced legislation to prohibit payment of bonuses to employees at the Veterans Health Administration through next year. Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Deb Fischer of Nebraska said the VA should focus its spending on fixing problems at the agency, “not rewarding employees entrenched in a failing bureaucracy.” Burr is the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Fischer is a panel member.
The House passed a bill in February eliminating performance bonuses for the department’s senior executive staff through 2018.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, also called on Obama to back off plans to nominate Jeffrey Murawsky to replace Petzel at the VA. Murawsky, a career VA administrator, directly supervised Helman from 2010 to 2012.
The White House has said Obama remains confident in Shinseki’s leadership and is standing behind Murawsky’s nomination.
Shinseki and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday to discuss how the two departments can improve interactions between their health records systems. The two Cabinet members said in a joint statement that the meeting was productive and that both men share the same goal – to improve health outcomes of active duty military, veterans and beneficiaries.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) issued a blistering condemnation of the Obama administration for their handling of various scandals Wednesday in a statement to the press.
Blunt said there seems to be an endemic aversion at the White House to take responsibility for any of the scandals currently facing the administration. The Missouri senator listed the VA scandal, Serco Obamacare workers apparently being paid to do nothing, and the State Department’s obliviousness to the case of Meriam Ibrahim as instances where the Obama administration is simply failing to take responsibility.
Blunt was particularly apoplectic about the State Department being unaware of his letter concerning Ibrahim despite having it for four days. “This is a woman, one of her sentences in Sudan is to be flogged for marrying a non-Muslim. And the second after they flog her is to hang her for refusing to renounce her Christian faith,” he said.
“We don’t seem to be concerned about that. She and her toddler son are in a prison cell right now waiting for the baby to be born so the mother can be killed. And nobody in our government appears to want to say anything about it.”
President Obama’s plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs for the treatment of troops injured in service has infuriated veterans groups who say the government is morally obligated to pay for service-related medical care.
Calling it a “desperate search for money at any cost,” Craig Roberts, media relations manager for the American Legion, told FOXNews.com on Tuesday that the president will “wish away so much political capital on this issue” if he continues to insist on private coverage for service-related injuries.
Cmdr. David K. Rehbein of the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, called the president’s plan to raise $540 million from private insurers unreasonable, unworkable and immoral.
“This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle,’ given that the United States government sent members of the Armed Forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies,” Rehbein said late Monday after a meeting with the president and administration officials at the Veterans Affairs Department.
“I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service-connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America’s veterans,” Rehbein said.
Roberts said that 11 veterans service organizations were told to come up with another plan if they didn’t like this one. The groups met on Monday with Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget defense spending chief Steven Kosiak.
“What we’ve been tasked with now is to raise this money through alternative means and we’re supposed to have a conference call in two or three days… with Rahm Emanuel. So the implication was… you guys come up with a better idea or this is what’s going to happen,” Roberts said.
A summary of the proposed budget says the president wants to increase funding for VA by $25 billion over five years, and bring more than 500,000 eligible veterans of modest income into the VA health care system by 2013.
However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that no plans have been enumerated yet about veterans health care.
“Let me not make the case for a decision that this administration hasn’t made yet regarding the final disposition or decision on third-party billing as it relates to service-related injuries,” he said.
“The veteran service organizations… can have confidence that the budget the president has proposed represents an historic increase in discretionary spending to take care of our wounded warriors, those that have been sent off to war, have protected our freedom, and have come back wounded,” Gibbs continued.
But Roberts said the president’s plan would increase premiums, make insurance unaffordable for veterans and impose a massive hardship on military families. It could also prevent small businesses from hiring veterans who have large health care needs, he said.
“The president’s avowed purpose in doing this is to, quote, ‘make the insurance companies pay their fair share,’” Roberts said. “It’s not the Blue Cross that puts soldiers in harm’s way, it’s the federal government.”
Roberts said that the American Legion would like the existing system to remain in place. Service-related injuries currently are treated and paid for by the government. The American Legion has proposed that Medicare reimburse the VA for the treatment of veterans.
He added that the argument about the government’s moral obligation to treat wounded soldiers, sailors and Marines fell on deaf ears during the meeting.
“The president deflected any discussion when it got into any moral issue here,” he said. “Any attempt to direct the conversation (to the moral discussion) was immediately deflected.”
Private insurance is separate for troops who need health care unrelated to their service. But Roberts noted that if a wounded warrior comes back and needs ongoing treatment, he or she could run up “to the max of the coverage in very short order,” leaving his family with nothing
Roberts added that how the plan would raise $540 million “is a great mystery and it seems to be an arbitrary number… The commander said it seemed like this phantom number.”
Monday’s meeting was preceded by a letter of protest earlier this month signed by Rehbein and the heads of 10 service organizations. It read that “there is simply no logical explanation” for the plan to bill veterans’ personal insurance “for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide.”
The letter called it “unconscionable” to shift the burden of the country’s “fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country.” Rehbein testified to both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees on those same points last week
The movement toward calling a state-led Constitutional Convention for the purpose of altering the Constitution bypassing Congress, as specified by Article V of the Constitution, has taken a step forward. Dan Carden of the Northwest Indiana Times reports:
Legislative leaders in all 50 states have been asked to send delegates to Indianapolis for a second discussion on the state-led process for crafting amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and to begin shaping the rules and procedures a Convention of the States that would follow.
Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, is among the organizers of the June 12-13 meeting of The Mount Vernon Assembly that will convene in the Indiana Statehouse.
He said delegates won’t be proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution this time. Instead, the goal is “to put a structure and a foundation in place for a Convention of the States, so that we can have consensus on how this thing is going to be run.” (snip)
Long said he’s heard the calls for fast action on an Article V convention, but is confident the careful, thoughtful approach being taken by The Mount Vernon Assembly is the best way to ensure Congress authorizes a Convention of the States and that any proposed constitutional amendments are seen as legitimate.
“This is the one group that is moving forward, with state legislators, putting a process in place so whatever ideas ultimately win out and get to a convention, we will have everything ready to go and the process will work effectively,” Long said. “Without this structure, it won’t work.”
A bipartisan group of lawmakers from 33 states initially met in December at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia to see if there was sufficient support to move forward with planning for a Convention of the States.
Long said he expects The Mount Vernon Assembly will meet a third time later this year to tweak and finalize the decisions it makes at the Indianapolis session. Then state legislatures in 2015 can begin sending identical resolutions to Congress requesting a Convention of the States.
He said the topic of the first proposed amendment likely will be a requirement for a balanced federal budget or some other plan to rein in the national debt.
“We need something to change and this is, I think, the only way it’s going to happen – the states are going to have to take charge,” Long said.
The process outlined by Mark Levin in his bestselling book, The Liberty Amendments, is beginning to unfold. Sen. Long is to be commended for his careful and deliberate process. It won’t be easy or quick, and a lot of debate lies ahead. The right has no monopoly on Article V consideration:
On Friday Vermont became the first state to call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which precipitated a flood of cash into politics.
Mike Monetta, 37, drove from Boston with a colleague and spent more than 10 hours Thursday in the House gallery waiting for the lower chamber to vote on the Senate-passed resolution, which – as lawmakers race to wrap things up before the end of the biennium – was taken up at the end of a marathon floor session.
He was back in the gallery Friday morning to see Vermont’s resolution get final approval from the House. Monetta is the organizing director for Wolf PAC, which he described as a political action committee to end all political action committees.
“We exist for only one purpose and that’s to get a 28th amendment to get all money out of politics,” he explained.
The Left wants to limit the scope of the First Amendment freedom of speech guarantees, while conservatives want to limit government. Which do you suppose will better stand up to debate?
(Excerpt) – By the fifth article of the plan, the Congress will be obliged “on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States [which at present amount to nine], to call a convention for proposing amendments, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof.” The words of this article are peremptory. The Congress “shall call a convention.” Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body. And of consequence, all the declamation about the disinclination to a change vanishes in air. Nor however difficult it may be supposed to unite two thirds or three fourths of the State legislatures, in amendments which may affect local interests, can there be any room to apprehend any such difficulty in a union on points which are merely relative to the general liberty or security of the people. We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.
ARTICLE V CONVENTION DEBATE
(Excerpt) – Thomas H. Neale
Specialist in American National Government
April 11, 2014
Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides two ways of amending the nation’s fundamental charter. Congress, by a two-thirds vote of both houses, may propose amendments to the states for ratification, a procedure used for all 27 current amendments. Alternatively, if the legislatures of two-thirds of the states apply, 34 at present, Congress “shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…” This alternative, known as an Article V Convention, has yet to be implemented. This report examines the Article V Convention, focusing on contemporary issues for Congress. CRS Report R42592, The Article V Convention for Pro posing Constitutional Amendments: Historical Perspectives for Congress examines the procedure’s constitutional origins and history and provides an analysis of related state procedures.
Significant developments in this issue have occurred recently: in March 2014, the Georgia Legislature applied for a convention to consider a balanced federal budget amendment, revoking its rescission of an earlier application; in April 2014, Tennessee took similar action. While both applications are valid, they may revive questions as to the constitutionality of rescissions of state applications for an Article V Convention and whether convention applications are valid indefinitely. Either issue could have an impact on the prospects for a convention. In other recent actions, the legislatures of Ohio, in November 2013, and Michigan, in March 2014, applied to Congress for an Article V Convention to consider a balanced federal budget amendment; these are the first new state applications since 1982 and are also the 33rd and 34th applications for the balanced budget amendment convention. If all 32 previous related state applications are valid, it is arguable that the constitutional requirement for requests from two-thirds of the states has been met, and that Congress should consider calling a convention.
Internet- and social media-driven public policy campaigns have also embraced the Article V Convention as an alternative to perceived policy deadlock at the federal level. In 2011, the “Conference on a Constitutional Convention,” drew participants ranging from conservative libertarians to progressives together to discuss and promote a convention. In December 2013, a meeting of state legislators advocated a convention, while the “Convention of States” called for a convention to offer amendments to “impose fiscal restraints and limit the power of the federal government.” Also in 2013, the advocacy group Compact for America proposed the “Compact for a Balanced Budget,” an interstate compact that would provide a “turn-key” application, by which, with a single vote, states could join the compact; call for a convention; agree to its format, membership, and duration; adopt and propose a specific balanced budget amendment; and prospectively commit themselves to ratify the amendment.
Congress would face a range of questions if an Article V Convention seemed likely, including the following. What constitutes a legitimate state application? Does Congress have discretion as to whether it must call a convention? What vehicle does it use to call a convention? Could a convention consider any issue, or must it be limited to a specific issue? Could a “runaway convention propose amendments outside its mandate? Could Congress choose not to propose a convention-approved amendment to the states? What role would Congress have in defining a convention, including issues such as rules of procedure and voting, number and apportionment of delegates, funding and duration, service by Members of Congress, and other questions. Under these circumstances, Congress could consult a range of information resources in fashioning its response. These include the record of the founders’ original intent, scholarly works cited in this report and elsewhere, historical examples and pr ecedents, and relevant hearings, reports, and bills produced by Congress from the 1970s through the 1990s.
Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature may have inadvertently made history last month when it adopted a resolution urging a convention of the states for the purpose of drafting a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Article V requires Congress to authorize a convention when 34 states have called for an amendment on the same topic, but that threshold has never been reached.
Conventional wisdom suggests – and supporters repeatedly stated – that by adopting its resolution, Michigan had joined more than 20 other states with similar applications.
But Michigan may unknowingly have been the 34th state to call for a federal balanced budget amendment, according to at least one constitutional scholar. A California Congressman is asking U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to consider the argument and explore whether a convention should be called.
The dispute hinges on an apparently untested legal question: Can a state rescind an application after petitioning Congress?
“There is a school of thought – scholars are very divided on the subject – that once a state Legislature has said ‘yes’ to an Article V Convention, it is without the ability to then turn around and change it’s mind and say, ‘No, we don’t want that any more,” said Gregory Watson, a constitutional expert who works as a staffer in the Texas House.
“The issue has never been brought before a federal court, and that’s why I think perhaps, maybe, possibly someone somewhere – not necessarily in Michigan – could file a lawsuit in a federal court claiming that the 34-state threshold has indeed been met.”
Watson, best known for spearheading ratification of the 27th Amendment some 200 years after it was proposed, believes that Michigan became the 22nd state with a clearly active application calling for a convention and balanced budget amendment. By his tally, 12 other states applied decades ago before they later changed their minds, but he’s not sure they had the authority to do so.
“If a federal judge were to rule that the activities that occurred in Lansing on March 26, 2014, did indeed make it the 34th state, then it was a very historic day,” Watson said. “If the judge ruled that, ‘No, a state can repeal it’s previous request,’ then it was not a historic day.”
Michigan’s resolution made national headlines last week, with The Washington Times and Fox News reporting on the prospect of a constitutional convention and questions over how many states have active applications.
Citing published reports, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) sent a letter to Boehner suggesting that the House “should lead an effort to ascertain whether 34 states have voted affirmatively” for a convention and asking the speaker to direct appropriate entities to make that determination.
“A balanced budget amendment is long overdue and remains an effective tool to address runaway spending and deficits,” Hunter wrote. “With the recent decision by Michigan lawmakers, it is important that the House – and those of us who support a balanced budget amendment – determine whether the necessary number of states have acted and the appropriate role of Congress should this be the case.”
Still, even some supporters are skeptical.
Rob Natelson, a constitutional scholar and former law professor, told The Washington Times that states have always had the ability to rescind applications and does not think Michigan’s resolution is the 34th of its kind.
“I think it’s unlikely that a request for Congress to call a convention at this point would get anywhere,” said Natelson, who wrote an Article V handbook for state lawmakers published by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization that supports the push for a balanced budget amendment.
State Sen. Mike Green (R-Mayville) said he was aware that there was some sort of dispute over the status of old applications when he introduced the balanced budget resolution in Michigan’s upper chamber last year, but he was surprised to learn that Congressman Hunter raised the issue with Boehner in D.C.
“The latest count that I was getting back from the group of legislators that I’ve been working with is that we were going to be number 23,” Green said Wednesday.
The issue may very well end up in federal courts, Green acknowledged, but he would prefer that other states sign on soon so that there is no question over active convention applications. Any proposed resolution would have to be ratified by 38 states.
“My goal is to get a balanced budget amendment done, and if it comes sooner rather than later, I’m all for it,” Green said. “I’d like to see it get done right now, when for sure we’d have 38 states that would (ratify) it. After the next election, you never know.”
If all this sounds hypothetical, that’s because it is at this point.
An Article V Convention has never been called, and it’s not even clear whether Congress or states or delegates would set the rules. The nation’s last constitutional convention was its first, as the founding fathers drafted the document now under dispute.
Despite those unknowns, supporters say states must act and force the federal government to stop what they believe is a reckless and now-annual pattern of deficit spending.
Michigan Joint Resolution V, like those adopted by several other states, calls for an amendment limiting federal appropriations to estimated revenues in each fiscal year, allowing exceptions only in the case of a national emergency.
Critics argue that a balanced budget amendment would limit the federal government’s ability to respond to fiscal crises or make strategic investments, and some have suggested the process could devolve into a “runaway convention” ruled more by public pressure, lobbyists and outside influences than sound policy.
“Government would become more beholden to artificial spending limits that would all but ensure that the shutdown of the federal government we just saw last month would become an all too-common occurrence,” State Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) said in November during an early floor debate on the resolution.
“Congress already struggles to complete its most basic functions. Why would we bog down the process even further? This amendment wouldn’t limit government, it would drown it.”
The resolution passed the Michigan House with some bipartisan support, but the Senate vote split directly down party lines, with all Democrats voting against it.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder endorsed the push for a federal balanced budget amendment in his January State of the State address but the joint resolution did not require his signature for adoption.
ARTICLE V CONVENTION SUMPOSIUM
Advocates of a “living” Constitution argue that the Founders’ Constitution is hopelessly outdated and unable to grow and adapt to the times. The amendment procedure detailed in Article V belies such claims. As Madison explains in The Federalist, the amendment procedure allows subsequent generations to correct errors and make whatever “useful alterations will be suggested by experience.” Yet at the same time, the difficulty of constitutional amendment prevents the Constitution from being deprived “of that veneration, which time bestows on everything, and without which the wisest and freest governments would not possess the requisite stability.” By design, the amendment process requires extensive deliberation and ensures that amendments are the settled opinion of the American people. To date, as was expected, every amendment to the Constitution has been proposed through Congress before being ratified by the states. Although there have been several attempts to call an Article V amending convention – some of which have driven Congress to act – the extensive unknowns and significant risks involved in that uncharted option make congressional proposal of amendments abundantly more prudent and the most viable method to achieve serious constitutional reform. This essay is adapted from The Heritage Guide to the Constitution for a new series providing constitutional guidance for lawmakers.
“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress…” – Article V
The process of amendment developed with the emergence of written constitutions that established popular government. The charters granted by William Penn in 1682 and 1683 provided for amending, as did eight of the state constitutions in effect in 1787. Three state constitutions provided for amendment through the legislature, and the other five gave the power to specially elected conventions.
The Articles of Confederation provided for amendments to be proposed by Congress and ratified by the unanimous vote of all thirteen state legislatures. This proved to be a major flaw in the Articles, as it created an insuperable obstacle to constitutional reform. The amendment process in the Constitution, as James Madison explained in The Federalist No. 43, was meant to establish a balance between the excesses of constant change and inflexibility: “It guards equally against that extreme facility which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty which might perpetuate its discovered faults.”
In his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, Justice Joseph Story wrote that a government that provides
no means of change, but assumes to be fixed and unalterable, must, after a while, become wholly unsuited to the circumstances of the nation; and it will either degenerate into a despotism, or by the pressure of its inequalities bring on a revolution… The great principle to be sought is to make the changes practicable, but not too easy; to secure due deliberation, and caution; and to follow experience, rather than to open a way for experiments, suggested by mere speculation or theory.
In its final form, Article V creates two ways to propose amendments to the Constitution: through Congress or by a special convention called by the states for the purpose of proposing amendments. In either case, the proposed amendment or amendments must then be ratified by the states, either (as determined by Congress) by state legislatures or by ratifying conventions in the states.
The Virginia Plan introduced at the start of the Constitutional Convention called for amendment “whensoever it shall seem necessary.” The Committee of Detail proposed a process whereby Congress would call for a constitutional convention on the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures. George Mason feared this method was insufficient to protect the states, while Alexander Hamilton thought that Congress should be able to propose amendments independent of the states. Madison (as recorded in his Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787) thought the vagueness of an amendment convention sufficiently problematic to reject the provision: “How was a Convention to be formed? By what rule decide? What the force of its acts?” After further debate, the delegates passed language proposed by Madison (and seconded by Alexander Hamilton) that the national legislature shall propose amendments when two-thirds of each House deems it necessary, or on the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures. Proposed amendments were to be ratified by three-fourths of the states in their legislatures or by state convention.
The Constitutional Convention made two specific exceptions to the Amendments Clause, concerning the slave trade (Article V, Clause 2) and equal state suffrage in the Senate (Article V, Clause 2), but defeated a motion to prevent amendments that affected internal police powers in the states.
Just before the end of the Convention, George Mason objected that the amendment proposal would allow Congress to block as well as propose amendments, and the method was changed again to require Congress to call a convention to propose amendments on the application of two-thirds of the states. Madison did not see why Congress would not be equally bound by two-thirds of the states directly proposing amendments as opposed to the same number calling for an amendments convention, especially when the proposed Article V convention process left so many unresolved questions. In the end, Madison did not object to including an amendments convention “except only that difficulties might arise as to the form, the quorum etc. which in constitutional regulations ought to be as much as possible avoided.”
The careful consideration of the amending power demonstrates that the Framers would have been astonished by more recent theories claiming the right of the Supreme Court to superintend a “living” or “evolving” Constitution outside of the amendment process. More significantly, the double supermajority requirements – two-thirds of both Houses of Congress and three-quarters of the states – create extensive deliberation and stability in the amendment process and restrain factions and special interests. It helps keep the Constitution as a “constitution,” and not an assemblage of legislative enactments. Most importantly, it also roots the amending process in the Founders’ unique concept of structural federalism based on the dual sovereignty of the state and national governments.
The advantage of the Amendments Clause was immediately apparent. The lack of a bill of rights – the Convention had considered and rejected this option – became a rallying cry during the ratification debate. Partly to head off an attempt to call for another general convention or an open-ended amendments convention, but mostly to legitimize the Constitution among patriots who were Anti-Federalists, the advocates of the Constitution (led by Madison) agreed to add amendments in the first session of Congress. North Carolina and Rhode Island acceded to the Constitution, and further disagreements were cabined within the constitutional structure.
Madison had wanted the amendments that became the Bill of Rights to be interwoven into the relevant sections of the Constitution. More for stylistic rather than substantive reasons, though, Congress proposed (and set the precedent for) amendments appended separately at the end of the document. Some have argued that this method makes amendments more susceptible to an activist interpretation than they would be otherwise.
As Madison predicted, the difficulties inherent in an Article V amendments convention have prevented its use, though some state applications (depending on how those applications are written and counted, an additional controversy in the Article V convention process) have come within one or two states of the requisite two-thirds. Precisely because of the potential chaos of the process, the very threat of an amendments convention can be used to pressure Congress to act rather than risk an amendments convention. The movement favoring direct election of Senators was just one state away from an amending convention when Congress proposed the Seventeenth Amendment in 1911. Most recently, in the 1980s, state applications for a convention to propose a balanced budget amendment led Congress to vote on such an amendment and pass the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act (later declared unconstitutional in part by the Supreme Court) requiring the federal budget to be balanced.
There have been hundreds of applications for an amending convention over the years from virtually every state. Because no amending convention has ever occurred, an important question is whether such a convention can be limited in scope, either to a particular proposal or within a particular subject. While most calls for amending conventions in the nineteenth century were general, the modern trend is to call (and thus count applications) for conventions limited to considering a single, specific amendment. Some scholars maintain that such attempts violate the very mechanism created by Article V: the text says that upon application of the states Congress “shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments,” not for confirming a particular amendment already written, approved, and proposed by state legislatures (which would effectively turn the convention for proposing amendments into a ratifying convention). Indeed, it is not at all clear as a matter of constitutional construction (and doubtful in principle) that the power of two-thirds of the states to issue applications for a convention restricts, supersedes, or overrides the power of all the states assembled in that convention to propose amendments to the Constitution. Other questions include the many practical aspects of how an amending convention would operate and whether any aspects of such a convention (including going beyond its instructions) would be subject to judicial review.
The Federalist Papers, unfortunately, offer no guidance on this matter. Madison refers to amendment conventions in Federalist No. 43 only in general terms, noting that Article V “equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors.” And in Federalist No. 85, while Hamilton discusses how Congress cannot limit the scope of an Article V convention, he says nothing as to whether states can or cannot do so.
The requirement that amendments proposed by such a convention must be ratified by three-fourths of the states is a significant limit on the process and likely prevents a true “runaway” convention from fundamentally altering the Constitution. Serious scholars will undoubtedly continue to debate the historical record and speculate about the possibility of an amendments convention under Article V. Nevertheless, the lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.
While a valid method created and available under the Constitution, “a Convention for proposing Amendments” has never been viewed as just another tool for reform but has become ever more so an ultimate option to be deployed only in extremis for the sake of maintaining the Constitution. Hence, the only time Madison pointed to an amendments convention was during the Nullification Crisis of 1832 as a last-ditch effort to prevent the wholly unacceptable and unconstitutional alternative of nullification and secession that then threatened the continued existence of the United States. Likewise, when Abraham Lincoln looked to constitutional reforms to resolve disputed questions in the midst of the Civil War, he noted that “under existing circumstances” the convention mode “seems preferable” precisely because it “allows amendments to originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially chosen for the purpose.” Yet when the immediate crisis was over, Lincoln strongly advocated what became the Thirteenth Amendment by congressional proposal and did not pursue an amending convention, despite the amendment’s initial failure in the House of Representatives. It should be noted that in both cases an amendments convention was understood to be free to propose whatever amendments thought necessary to address the problems at issue.
Much greater certainty – not to mention extensive historical experience and proven political viability – exists as to the power of Congress to propose amendments. Since 1789, well over 5,000 bills proposing to amend the Constitution have been introduced in Congress; thirty-three amendments have been sent to the states for ratification. Of those sent to the states, two have been defeated, four are still pending, and twenty-seven have been ratified. Because of the national distribution of representation in Congress, most amendment proposals are defeated by a lack of general support and those amendments that are proposed to the states by Congress are generally likely to be ratified.
In a challenge to the Eleventh Amendment, the Supreme Court waved aside the suggestion that amendments proposed by Congress must be submitted to the President according to the Presentment Clause (Article I, Section 7, Clause 2). Hollingsworth v. Virginia (1798). In the National Prohibition Cases (1920), the Court held that the “two-thirds of both Houses” requirement applies to a present quorum, not the total membership of each body. One year later, in Dillon v. Gloss (1921), the Court allowed Congress, when proposing an amendment, to set a reasonable time limit for ratification by the states.
Since 1924, no amendment has been proposed without a ratification time limit, although the Twenty-seventh Amendment, proposed by Madison in the First Congress more than two hundred years ago, was finally ratified in 1992. Regardless of how an amendment is proposed, Article V gives Congress authority to direct the mode of ratification. United States v. Sprague (1931). Of the ratified amendments, all but the Twenty-first Amendment, which was ratified by state conventions, have been ratified by state legislatures. In Hawke v. Smith (1920), the Court struck down an attempt by Ohio to make that state’s ratification of constitutional amendments subject to a vote of the people, holding that where Article V gives authority to state legislatures, these bodies are exercising a federal function.
Although some scholars have asserted that certain kinds of constitutional amendments might be “unconstitutional,” actual substantive challenges to amendments have so far been unsuccessful. National Prohibition Cases (1920); Leser v. Garnett (1922). The Supreme Court’s consideration of procedural challenges thus far does not extend beyond the 1939 decision of Coleman v. Miller, dealing with Kansas’s ratification of a child labor amendment. The Court split on whether state ratification disputes are nonjusticiable political questions, but then held that Congress, “in controlling the promulgation of the adoption of constitutional amendment[s],” should have final authority over ratification controversies.
In the end, the Framers believed that the amendment process would protect the Constitution from undue change at the same time that it would strengthen the authority of the Constitution with the people by allowing its deliberate reform while elevating it above immediate political passions. “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government,” George Washington wrote in his Farewell Address of 1796. “But the Constitution which at any time exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all.”
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OBAMACARE: LIES OR CRAP?
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TALKING CRAP II: THIS TIME IT’S CRAP
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INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY
STOP THE HATE!
LIBERALISM EXPOSED: BEYOND THE ELITIST, PREENING, AMERICA-HATING STEREOTYPES
THE HILARIOUS WORLD OF ABORTION
WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH AMERICA?
ENTIRE HOUSE OVERSIGHT AND REFORM COMMITTEE HEARING ON THE BENGHAZI COVER-UP – 05/01/14
……………………….Click on image above to watch video.
COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN DARRELL ISSA
GENERAL ROBERT LOVELL (RETIRED)
COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN DARRELL ISSA (2)
CONGRESSMAN JASON CHAFFETZ
CONGRESSMAN JASON CHAFFETZ (2)
CONGRESSMAN JASON CHAFFETZ (3)
CONGRESSMAN RON DESANTIS
CONGRESSMAN JAMES LANKFORD
CONGRESSMAN TIM WALBERG
CONGRESSMAN JOHN MICA
CONGRESSMAN SCOTT DESJARLAIS
Here is the main point: The rioting at the American embassy in Cairo was not about the anti-Muslim video. As argued here repeatedly (see here and here), the Obama administration’s “Blame the Video” story was a fraudulent explanation for the September 11, 2012, rioting in Cairo every bit as much as it was a fraudulent explanation for the massacre in Benghazi several hours later.
We’ll come back to that because, once you grasp this well-hidden fact, the Obama administration’s derelictions of duty in connection with Benghazi become much easier to see. But let’s begin with Jay Carney’s performance in Wednesday’s exchange with the White House press corps, a new low in insulting the intelligence of the American people.
Mr. Carney was grilled about just-released e-mails that corroborate what many of us have been arguing all along: “Blame the Video” was an Obama-administration-crafted lie, through and through. It was intended, in the stretch run of the 2012 campaign, to obscure the facts that (a) the president’s foreign policy of empowering Islamic supremacists contributed directly and materially to the Benghazi massacre; (b) the president’s reckless stationing of American government personnel in Benghazi and his shocking failure to provide sufficient protection for them were driven by a political-campaign imperative to portray the Obama Libya policy as a success – and, again, they invited the jihadist violence that killed our ambassador and three other Americans; and (c) far from being “decimated,” as the president repeatedly claimed during the campaign (and continued to claim even after the September 11 violence in Egypt and Libya), al-Qaeda and its allied jihadists remained a driving force of anti-American violence in Muslim countries – indeed, they had been strengthened by the president’s pro-Islamist policies.
The explosive e-mails that have surfaced thanks to the perseverance of Judicial Watch make explicit what has long been obvious: Susan Rice, the president’s confidant and ambassador to the U.N., was strategically chosen to peddle the administration’s “Blame the Video” fairy tale to the American people in appearances on five different national television broadcasts the Sunday after the massacre. She was coached about what to say by other members of the president’s inner circle.
One of the e-mails refers expressly to a “prep call” that Ambassador Rice had with several administration officials on late Saturday afternoon right before her Sunday-show appearances. The tangled web of deception spun by the administration has previously included an effort to distance the White House (i.e., the president) from Rice’s mendacious TV performances. Thus, Carney was in the unenviable position Wednesday of trying to explain the “prep call” e-mail, as well as other messages that illuminate the Obama White House’s deep involvement in coaching Rice. The e-mails manifest that Rice’s performances were campaign appearances, not the good-faith effort of a public official to inform the American people about an act of war against our country. Her instructions were “To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy”; and “To reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges” (emphasis added).
Carney risibly claimed that the “prep call” was “not about Benghazi.” Instead, according to him, it was “about the protests around the Muslim world.”
Two points must be made about this.
The first involves the administration’s blatant lying. Benghazi was the only reason Rice was going on the Sunday shows. If the massacre had not happened, there would not have been an extraordinary administration offering of one top Obama official to five different national television networks to address a calamity that had happened a few days before.
Moreover, as is well known to anyone who has ever been involved in government presentations to the media, to Congress, to courts, and to other fact-finding bodies, the official who will be doing the presentation is put through a “murder board” preparation process. This is a freewheeling session in which the questions likely to be asked at the presentation are posed, and potential answers – especially to tough questions – are proposed, discussed, and massaged. The suggestion that Rice, less than 24 hours before being grilled by high-profile media figures, was being prepped on something totally separate and apart from the incident that was the sole reason for her appearance is so farfetched it is amazing that Carney thought he could make it fly.
The second point brings us full circle to Egypt.
Why would Carney claim, with a straight face, that Rice was being prepped “about protests around the Muslim world”? Because, other than Benghazi, the “protest around the Muslim world” that Americans know about is the rioting (not “protest,” rioting) at the U.S. embassy in Cairo a few hours before the Benghazi siege. When Benghazi comes up, the administration – President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, Jay Carney, et al. – loves to talk about the Cairo “protests.” Why? Because the media, and thus the public, have bought hook, line, and sinker the fraudulent claim that those “protests” were over the anti-Muslim video. Obama & Co. shrewdly calculate that if you buy “Blame the Video” as the explanation for Cairo, it becomes much more plausible that you will accept “Blame the Video” as the explanation for Benghazi – or, at the very least, you will give Obama officials the benefit of the doubt that they could truly have believed the video triggered Benghazi, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.
You see, the Benghazi fraud hinges on the success of the Cairo fraud. If you are hoodwinked by the latter, they have a much better chance of getting away with the former.
But “Blame the Video” is every bit as much a deception when it comes to Cairo.
Thanks to President Obama’s policy of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic supremacists in Egypt, post-Mubarak Cairo became a very hospitable place for jihadists. That included al-Qaeda leaders, such as Mohammed Zawahiri, brother of al-Qaeda emir Ayman Zawahiri; and leaders of Gama’at al-Islamia (the Islamic Group), the terrorist organization led by the Blind Sheikh – Omar Abdel Rahman, the terrorist I convicted in 1995 for running the jihadist cell that bombed the World Trade Center and plotted to bomb other New York City landmarks.
In the weeks before September 11, 2012, these jihadists plotted to attack the U.S. embassy in Cairo. In fact, the Blind Sheikh’s son threatened a 1979 Iran-style raid on the embassy: Americans would be taken hostage to ransom for the Blind Sheikh’s release from American prison (he is serving a life sentence). Other jihadists threatened to burn the embassy to the ground – a threat that was reported in the Egyptian press the day before the September 11 “protests.”
The State Department knew there was going to be trouble at the embassy on September 11, the eleventh anniversary of al-Qaeda’s mass-murder of nearly 3,000 Americans. It was well known that things could get very ugly. When they did, it would become very obvious to Americans that President Obama had not “decimated” al-Qaeda as he was claiming on the campaign trail. Even worse, it would be painfully evident that his pro–Muslim Brotherhood policies had actually enhanced al-Qaeda’s capacity to attack the United States in Egypt.
The State Department also knew about the obscure anti-Muslim video. Few Egyptians, if any, had seen or heard about it, but it had been denounced by the Grand Mufti in Cairo on September 9. Still, the stir it caused was minor, at best. As Tom Joscelyn has elaborated, the Cairo rioting was driven by the jihadists who were agitating for the Blind Sheikh’s release and who had been threatening for weeks to raid and torch our embassy. And indeed, they did storm it, replace the American flag with the jihadist black flag, and set fires around the embassy complex.
Nevertheless, before the rioting began but when they knew there was going to be trouble, State Department officials at the embassy began tweeting out condemnations of the video while ignoring the real sources of the threat: the resurgence of jihadists in Muslim Brotherhood–governed Egypt, the continuing demand for the Blind Sheikh’s release (which underscored the jihadists’ influence), and the very real danger that jihadists would attack the embassy (which demonstrated that al-Qaeda was anything but “decimated”).
The transparent purpose of the State Department’s shrieking over the video was to create the illusion that any security problems at the embassy (violent rioting minimized as mere “protests”) were attributable to the anti-Muslim video, not to President Obama’s policies and patent failure to quell al-Qaeda.
Because there was a kernel of truth to the video story, and because the American media have abdicated their responsibility to report the predominant causes of anti-Americanism in Egypt, journalists and the public have uncritically accepted the notion – a false notion – that the video caused the Cairo rioting. That acceptance is key to the administration’s “Blame the Video” farce in connection with the lethal attack in Benghazi.
At about 10 p.m. Washington time on the night of September 11 – after they knew our ambassador to Libya had been murdered and while the siege of Benghazi still raged – Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama spoke on the telephone. Shortly afterwards, the State Department issued a statement from Secretary Clinton blaming the video for the atrocity in Benghazi. That was the beginning of the fraud’s Benghazi phase – the phase Susan Rice was prepped to peddle on nationwide television. But it wasn’t the beginning of the fraud.
Secretary Clinton’s minions at the State Department had started spinning the video fraud hours earlier, in Egypt. The sooner Americans grasp that, the sooner they will comprehend the breathtaking depth of the president’s Benghazi cover-up.
When a young man or woman joins the United States military, one of the first things they do before even being shipped off to boot camp is take the loyalty oath. “I (state your name) do solemnly swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” The oath of enlistment goes on to say that the service member will follow orders of the president and the officers appointed over them per the regulations of the uniformed code of military justice. Most service members, at least I hope anyway, understand that there are illegal orders, and any order that goes against the Constitution is, in fact, an illegal order.
This oath means something to military personnel because most of us joined to defend the rights and liberties of all Americans, even those that don’t share our views. Sadly, many people have been inundated with the belief that the Constitution is an oppressive document that stands in the way of government creating the perfect paradise. In fact, in a report called Rightwing extremism: Current economic and political climate fueling resurgence in radicalization and recruitment the government calls anyone who refers to the Constitution and the limits of government power a domestic terrorist. Anyone who owns a gun is a terrorist, anyone who didn’t vote for Obama is a racist terrorist and anyone who is buying more than seven days of food at a time is now even referred to as a potential terrorist. Veterans are potential terrorists, probably because the government fears them finding out how they have been used, abused and lied to. Also, those who hold anti-abortion views are domestic terrorists.
Many of you may be wondering what the significance of all of this is. Harry Reid just referred to the Bundy ranch protesters as domestic terrorists and claimed that he was told a special task force is being set up to “deal with them.” A task force, mind you that is not loyal to the U.S. Constitution, but has likely been beaten down with the same lies and propaganda that is published in that fallacious report.
I don’t about the rest of you, but I have seen the way the U.S. government deals with terrorists. The fact that they are referring to their own people as possible terrorists should concern all of us.
How did we get to the point where a sleazy politician like Harry Reid, who for days now, reports have been surfacing exposing his involvement in this federal land grab, can get away with it and call average citizens domestic terrorists? I will tell you how, but you are not going to like it America. You became fat, lazy, and uninterested in defending the very liberties that were passed on to you from previous generations. You let the politics of envy, employed by selfish radicals and their lies; beat you into submission out of fear of appearing “uncompassionate” or uncaring. You let the politics of fear overwhelm your senses as little by little mental associations were created between what you fear the most and the unknown, until the point came when you let the government convince you that your neighbor shouldn’t be trusted if he questions the motives of big government. In other words America, you went to sleep and passed on your responsibility to someone else who didn’t share your same values.
The hour is later and much darker than most care to know. Many in America see no problem with the federal government that has the intestinal fortitude to surround one man and his family with three hundred armed troops, and then lie by claiming it’s about taxes and turtles. There are so many other ways this situation could have been dealt with folks, especially if Cliven Bundy was truly in the wrong. They intentionally set out to spark a confrontation so they could identify the resistors as domestic terrorists. Everything they need to eliminate the opposition is written into law or policy. The Patriot Act, The National Defense Authorization Act, both give the government broad powers when dealing with domestic terrorism. Some of us realized many years ago that someday those powers would be turned on us; others went to sleep, allowing the government to classify us as domestic terrorists for being concerned about such a thing.
This is the ultimate betrayal to all those who served in this nation’s uniform. They swore to defend the liberties of American citizens, and some gave their lives doing so while others showed up at the Bundy ranch to do it again. There is nothing in the Constitution that grants the government the right to do anything outside of its delegated authority folks. I know one thing for certain, sicking 300 armed federal agents on one man, from an unaccountable bureaucracy, is not in the job description of the federal government. If you are a liberal and can’t see this, then there is no hope for you. If you can’t understand that this power will turn on you the minute you disagree with them, then you get what you deserve. In my honest opinion, anything that happens from this point on is squarely in the hands of all of those on the right or the left that sat on the sidelines and did nothing.
It’s time for Western states to take control of federal lands within their borders, lawmakers and county commissioners from Western states said at Utah’s Capitol on Friday.
More than 50 political leaders from nine states convened for the first time to talk about their joint goal: wresting control of oil-, timber -and mineral-rich lands away from the feds.
“It’s simply time,” said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, who organized the Legislative Summit on the Transfer for Public Lands along with Montana state Sen. Jennifer Fielder. “The urgency is now.”
Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, was flanked by a dozen participants, including her counterparts from Idaho and Montana, during a press conference after the daylong closed-door summit. U.S. Sen. Mike Lee addressed the group over lunch, Ivory said. New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington also were represented.
The summit was in the works before this month’s tense standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over cattle grazing, Lockhart said.
“What’s happened in Nevada is really just a symptom of a much larger problem,” Lockhart said.
Fielder, who described herself as “just a person who lives in the woods,” said federal land management is hamstrung by bad policies, politicized science and severe federal budget cuts.
“Those of us who live in the rural areas know how to take care of lands,” Fielder said, who lives in the northwestern Montana town of Thompson Falls.
“We have to start managing these lands. It’s the right thing to do for our people, for our environment, for our economy and for our freedoms,” Fielder said.
Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke said Idaho forests and rangeland managed by the state have suffered less damage and watershed degradation from wildfire than have lands managed by federal agencies.
“It’s time the states in the West come of age,” Bedke said. “We’re every bit as capable of managing the lands in our boundaries as the states east of Colorado.”
Ivory said the issue is of interest to urban as well as rural lawmakers, in part because they see oilfields and other resources that could be developed to create jobs and fund education.
Moreover, the federal government’s debt threatens both its management of vast tracts of the West as well as its ability to come through with payments in lieu of taxes to the states, he said. Utah gets 32 percent of its revenue from the federal government, much of it unrelated to public lands.
“If we don’t stand up and act, seeing that trajectory of what’s coming… those problems are going to get bigger,” Ivory said.
He was the sponsor two years of ago of legislation, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, that demands the federal government relinquish title to federal lands in Utah. The lawmakers and governor said they were only asking the federal government to make good on promises made in the 1894 Enabling Act for Utah to become a state.
The intent was never to take over national parks and wilderness created by an act of Congress Lockhart said. “We are not interested in having control of every acre,” she said. “There are lands that are off the table that rightly have been designated by the federal government.”
A study is underway at the University of Utah to analyze how Utah could manage the land now in federal control. That was called for in HB142, passed by the 2013 Utah Legislature.
None of the other Western states has gone as far as Utah, demanding Congress turn over federal lands. But five have task forces or other analyses underway to get a handle on the costs and benefits, Fielder said.
“Utah has been way ahead on this,” Fielder said.
Senator Rand Paul scolded Democrat Harry Reid last night for rhetoric Paul claims will lead to violence. Harry Reid called the Bundy Ranch supporters “domestic terrorists” several times this week after the standoff last weekend.
The Daily Caller reported:
Republican Senator Rand Paul called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to “calm the rhetoric” on Cliven Bundy, arguing the Nevada senator’s “domestic terrorist” comment was “liable to stir up” the situation and lead to violence.
The Kentucky senator spoke Thursday night with Fox News’ Eric Bolling, who was filling in for Sean Hannity. “Is there any need to call Americans domestic terrorists?” Bolling asked.
“No, I think what we should all be calling for is for calmer heads to prevail,” Paul said. “I don’t want to see violence on either side.”
“There is a legitimate constitutional question here about whether the state should be in charge of endangered species or whether the federal government should be,” Paul admitted. “But I don’t think calling people names is going to calm this down.”
“I think it’s liable to stir it up,” he continued. “So I think all parties – including Senator Reid – should calm the rhetoric a little bit. Let’s try to have a peaceful resolution to this.”
The EPA is in the process, right this very minute, of seizing control over all private land in the United States. They are following the United Nations blueprint, their minion Gina McCarthy is implementing it, and B. Hussein Obama is facilitating it.
Anywhere in America where it rains or where water collects or through which water moves will now, according to this new rule change they are implementing, be under their control. Not because Congress or the people give them that authority or jurisdiction, but simply because they are seizing the power. It is just another component of the illegitimate tyranny which is oppressing the American people.
On Tuesday the agency which operates as the misnamed Environmental Protection Agency unveiled their proposed change to the Clean Water Act, which would extend their regulatory control to temporary wetlands and waterways.
This definition consists of any water, including seasonal ponds, streams, runoff and collection areas and irrigation water. It could include runoff from watering your lawn, or puddles on your own property. They will control the presence of and can prohibit through regulation, your right to the water and your actions regarding water upon your own land. The opportunities for their abuse would be limitless.
Louisiana Senator David Vitter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, offered an understated precautionary objection stating, “The… rule may be one of the most significant private property grabs in U.S. history.”
The EPA proposal would extend their authority to include “pollution regulations” to “intermittent and ephemeral streams and wetlands” – which are created temporarily during wet seasons or following rainfall.
Recognize this for what it is America; The EPA is giving themselves legal jurisdiction to replace our rights with their permissions anywhere it rains or water exists.
They are expanding the same kind of California fish-based drought or Nevada tortoise land restrictions or Oregon spotted owl tyranny to every square inch of the United States.
The EPA is asserting that all ground water, whether temporary or not and regardless of size is part of the “waters of the United States.”
Their position is in contradiction to the Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006, restricting the EPA to flowing and sizeable, “relatively” permanent bodies of water such as “oceans, rivers, streams and lakes.” Of course, progressives just keep trying until they get what they want, and they never have enough.
The proposed rule change is now in a 90 day comment period during which they will assess just how much they can get away with, based upon public outcry and pushback.
Senator Vitter accused the EPA of “picking and choosing” their science and of attempting to “take another step toward outright permitting authority over virtually any wet area in the country.” He also warned that if approved, more private owners could expect to be sued by “environmental groups.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) shares Vitter’s concerns, warning of potential economic damage and questioning the EPA’s motivations.
She said, “[I]t appears that the EPA is seeking to dramatically expand its jurisdictional reach under the Clean Water Act. If EPA is not careful, this rule could effectively give the federal government control of nearly all of our state.
Of course, that is exactly what they are after, as well as 49 other states and territories.
Filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza traveled to Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nev., on Friday to embark on a “fact-finding” mission. Prior to attending a “big rally” made up of hundreds of the cattle rancher’s supporters, D’Souza planned to talk to some of the people who Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has labeled “domestic terrorists.”
Broadcasting live from Bundy’s Nevada ranch on “The Kelly File,” he revealed that supporters – made up of men, women and children – were wearing “domestic terrorist” name tags on Friday. D’Souza said seeing children wearing the tags shows just how absurd Reid’s allegations are.
He also told Megyn Kelly that he is now “sensitive” to situations where an individual is targeted by the federal government because of his current case involving a violation of campaign finance law. Some have speculated he was targeted following his anti-Obama documentary.
“My case is going to trial in May and I am preparing for it. It’s created to in me a feeling of vulnerability and, of course, a sensitivity to these kinds of issues of justice,” he said. “But, of course, I didn’t have SWAT teams on me, I wasn’t in the sights of snipers – so I feel that these guys have been facing some real domestic terror from their own government and that’s a very scary idea here in America.”
The filmmaker behind “2016: Obama’s America” and the soon-to-be released film, “America,” told TheBlaze in a phone interview that he is “less concerned about the specifics of the case and whether [Bundy] paid his grazing fees” and more concerned about federal overreach and questions surrounding whether the government is treating all people and groups equally under the law.
“There is a big clash going on between people who see themselves as patriots standing up for the principles of 1776, equal rights under the Constitution, and the federal government,” D’Souza said. “We want to live in a country where Lady Justice is blind and you don’t have her looking out through just one eye.”
D’Souza also characterized Reid’s inflammatory remarks as a “vastly unjust portrayal of domestic terrorism.” He argued the senator is intentionally “stirring the pot” and called on President Barack Obama to condemn Reid’s statements and urge him to apologize.
However, that seemed unlikely to happen as Reid doubled down on his “terrorist” comments on Friday.
The conservative filmmaker urged Bundy and all of his supporters to refuse to let that kind of rhetoric cause them lose their cool. It’s the kind of case that can “make your emotions run away with you,” so both sides need to show restraint and prevent the situation from escalating into a Ruby Ridge-type of incident, he added.
One of the themes in his new documentary, “America,” which is scheduled to be released in June, revolves around “equal justice,” D’Souza said. That’s part of the reason he decided to make the trip to Nevada and try to figure out who Bundy and his supporters really are.
“The issue of equal justice transcends politics completely,” D’Souza told TheBlaze. “Unfortunately, there’s a sense that this core issue is being manipulated.”
He cited the Obama administration’s habit of selectively choosing which laws it enforces, bringing up same-sex marriage and federal immigration law as examples. The IRS targeting scandal also raises concerns about “equal justice” under the law.
As TheBlaze has previously reported, “Bundy reportedly owes the federal government roughly $1 million in grazing fees, an amount he accumulated after he “fired” the Bureau of Land Management in 1993 over its decision to turn public land into a protective habitat for the state’s desert tortoise.”
Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid refused to back down from his inflammatory branding of Cliven Bundy supporters as “domestic terrorists,” calling people who turned out to support the rancher “domestic, violent terrorist wannabes” on Friday and sparring with his Republican counterpart who labelled them “patriots.”
Reid took hits from many sides yesterday for his controversial comments – including from Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who called on Reid to “calm the rhetoric” or risk inciting real violence.
But instead of cooling it, Reid doubled down during an appearance with Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller on “What’s Your Point,” a local Las Vegas news program.
“Bundy doesn’t believe that the American government is valid, he believes the United States is a foreign government,” Reid claimed. “He doesn’t pay his taxes, he doesn’t follow the law. He doesn’t pay his fees.”
“And if anyone thinks by any figment of their imagination that what happened up there last week was, people rallying to somebody that was oppressed,” he continued, “600 people came in, armed. They had practiced, they had maneuvered. They knew what they were doing.”
He noted that some of the protesters had set up firing positions opposite Bureau of Land Management agents, who had been menacing unarmed Americans with high-grade military weaponry for days.
“If there were ever an example of people who were domestic, violent terrorist wannabes, these are the guys,” he declared.
“But no one called Bundy a domestic terrorist,” Reid also hastened to add. “I said the people that came there were.”
Heller had a very different interpretation. “What Sen. Reid may call domestic terrorists, I call patriots,” he asserted.
Reid hit back: “If these people think they’re patriots, they’re not,” he said. “I use that word typically. But if they’re patriots, we’re in big trouble.”
“Well it’s a pretty broad brush,” Heller countered. “Pretty broad brush when you have Boy Scouts there. You have veterans at the event. You have grandparents at the event.”
“I take more issue at the BLM coming in with a paramilitary army than individuals with snipers,” the Republican lawmaker. “And I’m talking to people and groups that were there at the event. And having your own government with sniper lenses on you, it made a lot of people very uncomfortable.”
“There was no army!” Reid replied. “And that land – 300,000 acres, federal land – has been basically decimated by this guy.”
Conservative activist and founder of True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht, filed an ethics complaint against far left Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in February. Engelbrecht accused Cummings of harassment and intimidation.
Catherine Engelbrecht testified before Congress in February.
She was visited by FBI, IRS, ATF, and OSHA after she filed for tax exempt status for her voters rights group.
Engelbrecht said her testimony before Congress and Cummings,
“Frankly, to sit before my accuser and be silent in the face of what he did was unconscionable.”
Today, Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) accused Elijah Cummings of colluding with the IRS to target True the Vote.
National Review reported:
The war between Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and the committee’s ranking member, Elijah Cummings, rages on.
Issa on Wednesday accused the Maryland Democrat of colluding with the Internal Revenue Service in its targeting of the conservative nonprofit group True the Vote, whose founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, said she received multiple letters from Cummings in 2012 and personal visits from the IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Explosives. Engelbrecht’s True the Vote is one of the many conservative groups that claims to have been improperly targeted by the IRS while it scrutinized the applications of tea-party groups.
In a letter signed by his five subcommittee chairmen, Issa raised the possibility that Cummings coordinated with the IRS, “surreptitiously” contacting the agency to request information about True the Vote.
E-mails unearthed in the course of Issa’s investigation into the IRS’s inappropriate targeting of right-leaning groups show that in January 2013, a member of Cummings’s staff contacted the IRS asking for any publicly available information on True the Vote. The matter was discussed by IRS officials that included Lois Lerner, the former exempt-organizations chief who retired in the wake of the targeting scandal. One of Lerner’s deputies, Holly Paz, subsequently sent the organization’s 990 forms to Cummings and his staff – not an illegal disclosure of taxpayer information, though sources say the exchange of such information was not routine.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa on Wednesday accused his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, of coordinating with the IRS to attack one of the tea party groups that was targeted by the tax agency for intrusive scrutiny and long delays.
Mr. Issa and five other top Republicans said they have just last week been given emails showing Mr. Cummings sought information from the IRS about True the Vote, a conservative tax-exempt organization that drew the ire of liberals for pushing states to eliminate potentially bogus names from their voter rolls.
Mr. Issa said the IRS employees appear to have discussed confidential taxpayer information as they debated how to respond to the request from Mr. Cummings – though it’s unclear what response they ended up giving to the Maryland lawmaker, who is the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee.
“It is unclear whether the IRS shared True the Vote’s confidential taxpayer information with you or your staff through either official or unofficial channels,” Mr. Issa said, though he stressed that the IRS didn’t convey any of the information to the GOP, nor did they even alert Republicans of the request for information. Mr. Issa indicated he thought that was hypocritical since Mr. Cummings has repeatedly accused Republicans of refusing to share their requests or information they received.
Mr. Cummings‘ office didn’t immediate reply to a request for comment on the accusation.
At one point in public testimony earlier this year, Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer for True the Vote, wondered allowed whether congressional staffers “might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these federal agencies.”
Mr. Cummings vehemently denied that, calling it “absolutely incorrect and not true.”
But Mr. Issa laid out a series of questions that Mr. Cummings asked of True the Vote, which he said were so similar to the questions the IRS asked that they raised questions of coordination. The questions involved the computer software True the Vote uses, its training procedures and a list of jurisdictions the group has targeted for cleaner voting rolls.
“The timeline and pattern of inquiries raises concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with your staff,” Mr. Issa wrote.
True the Vote applied for status as a 501(c )(3). The founders also created another organization, King Street Patriots, which applied for 501(c )(4) status. Catherine Engelbrecht, who founded both organizations, said soon after their creation, she, the groups and her business were subjected to multiple investigations, audits and inquiries from federal agencies ranging from the FBI and IRS to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Wednesday’s letter marks the latest escalation in what’s become a bitter relationship between the two men. Mr. Issa last month cut off Mr. Cummings’s microphone at a hearing with former IRS employee Lois G. Lerner, and Mr. Cummings demanded and received an apology.
Then, over the last week, Mr. Issa accused Mr. Cummings of trying to work out a secret deal with Ms. Lerner, and Mr. Cummings vehemently denied that.
The two men will likely clash again Thursday when the committee is slated to meet and consider holding Ms. Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer the committee’s questions. She has asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Mr. Cummings argues Mr. Issa botched the proceedings and tainted any contempt finding, and he is backed by more than two dozen lawyers who have issued memos or quotes saying contempt shouldn’t happen in this case.
On Wednesday, Mr. Cummings released a report from the Congressional Research Service arguing that there is no historical precedent for the House to find Ms. Lerner in contempt.
In the report, CRS went back to the 1950s, when then-Sen. Joseph McCarthy was investigating communists in the U.S. government. In an instance that appears to be similar to Ms. Lerner’s exchange with Mr. Issa, a witness testifying to Mr. McCarthy asserted her innocence and then refused to answer follow-ups.
A federal court upheld the woman’s right to remain silent.
“Sixty years ago, Joe McCarthy tried-and failed-to hold an American citizen in contempt after she professed her innocence and asserted her rights under the Fifth Amendment. I reject Chairman Issa’s attempts to re-create our committee in Joe McCarthy’s image, and I object to his effort to drag us back to that shameful era in which Congress tried to strip away the Constitutional rights of American citizens under the bright lights of hearings that had nothing to do with responsible oversight and everything to do with the most dishonorable kind of partisan politics,” Mr. Cummings said.
House Republicans on Wednesday accused former IRS official Lois Lerner of breaking agency rules by aggressively urging denial of tax-exempt status to Crossroads GPS, the giant political nonprofit founded by Karl Rove.
The House Ways and Means Committee released emails showing the former chief of the tax-exempt unit took a special interest in Crossroads GPS in early 2013 – inquiring with IRS officials why they hadn’t been audited. Around the same time an email suggested she might be applying for a job with a pro-President Barack Obama group, Organizing For Action, though it is unclear if she was joking.
Democrats decried the release, calling it an election year gimmick to win over the party’s political base. One campaign finance group came to the defense of Lerner, who has denied any wrongdoing, calling the probe a partisan witch hunt.
The Republican committee letter calls her actions an “aggressive and improper pursuit of Crossroads… but no evidence [that] she directed review of similarly situated left-leaning groups.”
The documents were released after a rare, closed-door Ways and Means markup, where the panel voted 23-14 along party lines to send a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting he take the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division to court – though the department already has an ongoing investigation.
The scandal, spurred when Lerner publicly acknowledged extra scrutiny of tea party groups followed by a critical inspector general report, has surged back into the spotlight in recent months as congressional committees finish their investigations.
Lerner became a lightning rod for Republicans after she pleaded the Fifth and refused to testify before a House panel. The original inspector general report found that the targeting was inappropriate but found no evidence of partisan motivations.
Republicans want her charged for improperly influencing the IRS to take action against conservative organizations; disclosing confidential taxpayer info, a felony; and impeding an investigation.
Democrats cried foul play, accusing Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) of releasing private taxpayer information, and said its protests have nothing to do with holding Lerner accountable.
“This executive session isn’t about any of us condoning the mismanagement at the IRS tax-exempt division,” top panel Democrat Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said after the public was dismissed from the hearing, according to a release. “It now seems clear that Republican members of the Ways and Means Committee have decided that they do not want to be left behind in the Republican campaign to declare this a scandal and keep it going until November.”
Lerner’s lawyer William Taylor III said he had not heard from Ways and Means on the issue, and maintained his client’s innocence.
“Ms. Lerner has done nothing wrong,” Taylor, a partner of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP said in a statement. “She did not violate any law or regulation. She did not mislead Congress. She did not interfere with the rights of any organization to a tax exemption. Those are the facts.”
Camp defended the release.
“We have a right and obligation to protect the American people and to oversee the IRS and to hold them to account for their actions,” he said. “This was a career employee at the IRS so we have to make sure the signal goes out that this can’t happen again.”
The Justice Department said it will review the letter and noted it is already probing the matter.
“It remains a high priority of the Department,” Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce said.
The actions come a day before the House Oversight Committee will vote to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions on the controversy.
Advocates for reform of campaign finance rules say the scandal obscures an important policy debate about whether such politically active groups deserve tax-exempt status in the first place.
Crossroads spent $176 million during the 2012 election cycle – 99 percent of the time to back Republicans and bash Obama and Democrats. Its nonprofit arm spent about $70 million.
Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates stricter campaign finance rules, said it is perfectly appropriate for Lerner to advocate denial of tax-exempt status if it was based on agency review of facts. He called the data dump part of a witch hunt against a career civil servant.
“If she was pushing for a denial based on facts that had been ascertained by her agency, that sounds to me that she was doing her job,” said Ryan, who attended one of the meetings cited in the letter. He said Lerner did not reveal any sensitive taxpayer information and in fact he left the meeting frustrated.
He also said the focus on Crossroads and not for example, the pro-Obama Priorities USA, was understandable given that the latter had raised scant funds at the time, compared to Crossroads.
So-called tax-exempt social welfare groups, organized under section 50(c) 4 of the tax code, are barred from using a significant amount of their resources for political purposes, though the standard is murky after an IRS regulation later changed the benchmark.
The documents released Wednesday include those that suggest Lerner was misleading when asked about the timeline of when she found out that “tea party” was a trigger word on a be-on-the-lookout list for groups that should get extra IRS scrutiny.
In an interview with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Lerner said she first learned of the BOLO on June 29, 2011.
But the panel has evidence that she knew that “tea party” cases were being treated differently as early as April 2010, when the whole shebang started, although whether she knew of the list is unclear.
On April 28, 2010, Lerner received an email alerting her that “there are 13 tea party cases out in EO Determinations.”
A few months later, on Aug. 3, 2010, Lerner asked her assistant to print the sensitive case report that detailed how the tea party groups were being handled. A few months later, in early 2011, she would write to her colleagues that the “Tea party matter [is] very dangerous.”
That was when she instructed the Cincinnati IRS officials handling the cases to send them to IRS counsel in Washington, D.C., where they would end up sitting for years, virtually untouched.
The documents also show that Lerner met with a group named Democracy 21, which made several complaints about Crossroads between 2010 and 2012. That Jan. 4, 2013 meeting included the Office of Chief Counsel and the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy, according to the committee letter.
Before that, Lerner sent emails asking what happened to the Crossroads application, including whether the group had been audited or selected for audit.
When IRS official Tom Miller said it had not, she sent an email to IRS officials asking why: “I reviewed the information last night and thought the allegations in the documents were really damning, so wondered why we hadn’t done something with the org,” she wrote, later adding: “You should know that we are working on a denial of the application, which may solve the problem because we probably will say it isn’t exempt.”
The week later she followed up on her instructions: “As I said, we are working on the denial for [Crossroads], so I need to think about whether to open an exam. I think yes, but let me cogitate a bit on it.”
Steven Law, Crossroads GPS president in a statement said “it is now apparent that Ms. Lerner was directly and improperly involved in targeting our application, which may explain why we are still awaiting final action on our 501(c)(4) certification.”
The letter also charged that Lerner targeted conservative groups Americans for Responsible Leadership, Freedom Path, Rightchange.com, America is Not Stupid and A Better America after a January 2013 ProPublica story ran, accusing the “dark money groups” of lying to the IRS and over-engaging in politics when they aren’t supposed to.
Lerner forwarded the email to her colleagues and asked to meet on the groups. Ultimately three of the groups were selected for an audit.
A little later that month, Lerner seemed to be considering a job at a left leaning social welfare organization, Organization For Action.
But it’s unclear if she was serious or joking in her email to an IRS employee in response to a news story about the new group: “Oh – maybe I can get the DC office job!”
The House Ways and Means Committee has voted to 23-14 along party lines to refer former head of tax exempt groups at the IRS Lois Lerner to the Justice Department for prosecution. Although the details about exactly what charges will be have not yet been released, lawmakers are arguing Lerner has not been truthful with Congress or the IRS inspector general and leaked confidential tax information.
Last time a referral like this happened, it was to Major League Baseball player Roger Clemens, who was pursued by the Department of Justice for lying to Congress but was exonerated in court.
This is a test for the Department of Justice and the Obama administration. What’s more important? Baseball and steroids? Or the most powerful federal agency abusing its power to target innocent conservative groups?
Last summer President Obama called the targeting “outrageous” and promised to hold people responsible and accountable for what happened. If the Justice Department refuses to pursue charges against Lerner, it’s fair to say one reason is because they don’t want information leading back to the administration coming out in court.
Tomorrow the House Oversight Comittee will vote on whether to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.
Former IRS director Lois Lerner, the center figure in the scandal surrounding conservative and Tea Party groups once joked about getting a job with Organizing for Action while investigating the reorganization of President Obama’s former campaign operation into a 501(c)(4) group.
Lerner, the director of Exempt Organizations, emailed a colleague about OFA on January 24, who noted that they would primarily operate out of Chicago – but would have an office in Washington D.C.
“Oh – maybe I can get the DC office job!” Lerner emailed back.
See an image of the email below as provided by the House Ways and Means Committee.
IRS workers in several offices have been openly supporting President Obama, including by donning pro-Obama paraphernalia and urging callers to reelect the president in 2012, according to allegations contained in a new government watchdog report.
A report by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, released Wednesday, cited accusations that workers at a Dallas IRS office may have violated federal law by wearing pro-Obama items like shirts, stickers and buttons. The Hatch Act forbids Executive Branch workers from engaging in partisan political activity.
The report comes as two House committees move to take action against former IRS official Lois Lerner regarding the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.
The report, further fueling allegations of bias at the agency, claimed that several accusations were made against the Dallas office claiming pro-Obama gear was “commonplace” there. Employees allegedly wore Obama shirts, buttons and stickers to work and had Obama screensavers on their IRS computers.
The report said it was unclear whether this activity happened before or after the 2012 election, but an advisory was issued to Dallas employees that such activity was prohibited.
Another example cited in the report states an IRS employee in Kentucky also violated the law by touting her political views to a taxpayer during the 2012 election. According to the report, the employee told the caller she was “for” the Democrats because “Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and… they’re going to take women back 40 years.”
The employee then told the taxpayer that she was not supposed to disclose her views “so you didn’t hear me saying that.” The report says the employee admitted violating the Hatch Act and will serve a 14-day suspension.
However, the Kentucky example was not the only IRS employee found to be urging taxpayers over the phone to vote for Obama. The report cites another unnamed customer service representative, who was accused of telling multiple callers in 2012 they needed to vote for Obama.
According to the report, the employee told the callers a chant based on Obama’s last name that touted his campaign and urged them to reelect him. The report does not say where the employee was located, but says the Office of Special Counsel is seeking “significant disciplinary action” against him.
The accusations come as a House committee on Wednesday voted to formally ask the Justice Department to consider criminal prosecution against Lerner. A separate committee will vote Thursday on whether to hold her in contempt of Congress for twice refusing to testify on the targeting scandal.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent government watchdog that investigates claims of wrongdoing by federal employees.
A triumphant President Barack Obama declared Tuesday his signature medical insurance overhaul a success, saying it has made America’s health care system ‘a lot better’ in a Rose Garden press conference.
But buried in the 7.1 million enrollments he announced in a heavily staged appearance is a more unsettling reality.
Numbers from a RAND Corporation study that has been kept under wraps suggest that barely 858,000 previously uninsured Americans – nowhere near 7.1 million – have paid for new policies and joined the ranks of the insured by Monday night.
Others were already insured, including millions who lost coverage when their existing policies were suddenly cancelled because they didn’t meet Obamacare’s strict minimum requirements.
Still, he claimed that ‘millions of people who have health insurance would not have it’ without his insurance law.’
‘The goal we’ve set for ourselves – that no American should go without the health care they need… is achievable,’ Obama declared.
The president took no questions from reporters, but celebrated the end of a rocky six-month open-enrollment period by taking pot shots at Republicans who have opposed the law from the beginning as a government-run seizure of one-seventh of the U.S. economy.
‘The debate over repealing this law is over,’ he insisted. ‘The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.’
The president also chided conservatives ‘who have based their entire political agenda on repealing it,’ and praised congressional Democrats for their partisan passage of the law without a single GOP vote.
‘We could not have done it without them, and they should be proud of what they’ve done,’ Obama boasted, in a clear nod to November’s contentious elections in which Republicans are expected to make large gains on an anti-Obamacare platform because of the law’s general lack of popularity.
‘In the end,’ he warned the GOP, ‘history is not kind to those who would deny Americans their basic economic security… That’s what the Affordable Care Act represents.’
‘“The bottom line is this,’ said Obama: ‘The share of Americans with insurance is up, and the growth in the cost of insurance is down. There’s no good reason to go back.’
Republicans will differ with that assessment as Election Day nears. They need to gain a net total of six Senate seats in order to reclaim the majority and control both houses of Congress, a goal that appears reachable since two-thirds of the seats being contested are held by Democratic incumbents.
No national political analyst has predicted a Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives.
White House press secretary Jay Carney stopped short of saying ‘I told you so,’ but chided a sparse press corps in the briefing room at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for ever doubting that the Obamacare system would enroll more than 7 million Americans.
‘At midnight last night we surpassed everyone’s expectations,’ he boasted, ‘at least everyone in this room.’
While he took great pains to emphasize that the total would grow – saying ‘we’re still waiting on data from state exchanges’ – he dodged tough questions about other statistics that reporters thought he should have had at the ready.
Those numbers included how many Americans have paid for their insurance policies, and are actually insured. Also, he had no answer to the thorny question of how few signups represented people who had no insurance before the Affordable Care Act took effect.
Aside from the issue of the numbers’ likely decrease when non-paying enrollments are taken into account, administration officials have been coy about the RAND Corporation study, which suggests that relatively few Obamacare enrollees were previously uninsured.
In addition to his claim of 7.1 million enrollments, Obama also announced that ‘three million young people’ under age 26 have gained coverage as add-ons to their parents’ policies. and ‘millions more… gained access through Medicaid expansion,’ he said.
Those totals – young adults attached to their parents’ insurance and new taxpayer-funded Medicaid subscribers – far exceed the 7.1 million number the White House trumpeted on Tuesday.
The Affordable Care Act carried with it the promise of covering ‘every American,’ and it appears to have fallen tremendously short.
The unpublished RAND study – only the Los Angeles Times has seen it – found that just 23 per cent of new enrollees had no insurance before signing up.
And of those newly insured Americans, just 53 per cent have paid their first month’s premiums.
If those numbers hold, the actual net gain of paid policies among Americans who lacked medical insurance in the pre-Obamacare days would be just 858,298.
Obama’s Rose Garden speech included an acknowledgement that the Affordable Care Act ‘has had its share of problems,’ and has at times been ‘contentious and confusing… That’s part of what change looks like in a Democracy.’
But ‘there are still no death panels,’ he joked amid laughter. ‘Armageddon has not arrived.’
A standing ovation greeted him after his speech. A White House aide said the crowd consisted of ‘”organizations and stakeholder groups who helped lead the enrollment and outreach efforts, as well as Hill lawmakers and staff from HHS, CMS and other agencies involved in implementing the ACA.’
Not among them: Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathlen Sebelius, the administration official most responsible for the Obamacare program’s implementation. She also did not appear in the White House press briefing room earlier in the afternoon.
But Carney and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough distributed donuts to reporters in the press center on Tuesday morning – presumably without checking with the first lady – and eagerly pitched talking points to journalists writing about the milestone day.
Questions remain about the effectiveness and affordability of Obama’s plan, which he sold to congressional Democrats and the American people as a scheme to cover the uninsured, and about how the law is contributing to the spiraling cost of medical care.
As information about the chasm between Obamacare’s promises and its reality have reached the public, the program has become more and more unpopular – a fact that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius met with awkward silence during a Monday television interview in Oklahoma.
‘At last check, 64 percent of Oklahomans aren’t buying into the healthcare plan; they don’t like Obamacare, and they’ve been pretty vocal about it,’ a KWTV-9 reporter told her.
‘Now that’s going to be – still continue to be a tough sell, but we’ll see how that plays out over the coming months.’
Sebelius, a deer trapped in TV’s headlights, offered only a blank stare. Asked if she had lost the audio feed, the icy secretary responded, ‘I can hear you. But I – thanks for having me.’
Hours earlier, she tooted Obama’s horn during a fawning Huffington Post interview, claiming that healthcare.gov saw a surge in traffic when the president appeared on the gonzo show ‘Between Two Ferns’ on the Funny or Die website.
Obamacare ‘definitely saw the Galifianakis bump,’ she said, referring to the show’s host Zach Galifianakis.
‘As a mother of two 30-something sons, I know they’re more likely to get their information on “Funny or Die” than they are on network TV,’ she added.
Americans who missed the online broadcast still knew enough to queue up Monday for panic-induced sign-ups. Crushed with traffic, healthcare.gov crashed twice.
On its way to 7 million, the Obama administration has never answered some key questions about the open enrollment period.
The White House has instead kept to its talking points.
‘What I can tell you is that we expect there to be a good mix of people who were previously uninsured who now have insurance,’ Carney said Monday.
‘Certainly, there’s a significant number who now have qualified for Medicaid in those states that expanded Medicaid who will have insurance who didn’t have it before.’
The midnight deadline for enrollment has become a temporary formality, as the Obama administration has offered extensions to anyone willing to claim they tried in earnest to sign up in time.
Sebelius promised Congress weeks ago that there would be no extension.
The White House has compared it to voters who are permitted to cast ballots if they are in line when the polls close. But conservative opponents note that ballot officials won’t accept voters’ claims the day after an election.
California has also extended its deadline through April 15.
Before getting to the speech itself, it’s worth noting a few things.
When the Democrats passed and Barack Obama signed Obamacare, the majority opposed it. About 56%, in fact. A majority have consistently opposed that law ever since.
The Obama administration touted 7 million sign-ups by March 31 as “success.” When that goal appeared to be unreachable, the administration suggested that maybe 5 or 6 million would be enough. Now, as if by magic, they have their number. Somehow.
All along, the administration has touted false numbers of enrollees. All along, the administration has neglected to admit that Obamacare is causing millions of Americans to lose their insurance, as they were forced to admit that they knew it would.
A simple bit of math shows that even if there are 7 million legitimate sign-ups, there are between 5 and 6 million who lost their healthcare because of Obamacare. What’s the net number? How many of these have even paid their premiums? And how many of them are now facing steeper deductibles?
Premiums are not going down. Access has not been expanded. Provider networks are shrinking, reducing choice. These are all consequences of Obamacare. The president mentioned none of it.
The Obama administration is also neglecting to admit that their law is killing jobs. It is strangling hiring. It is killing the work ethic that built this country. The CBO estimates that we will lose the equivalent of more than 2 million jobs’ worth of work hours. Small businesses say that Obamacare is keeping them from expanding their businesses, and keeping them from hiring and growing their workforces. They also say that Obamacare is forcing them to cut hours, which translates into lost wages, for millions of workers. Obama mentioned none of that.
But most importantly, the Obama administration is not admitting that it used naked, brute force to coerce Americans into signing up for Obamacare. Failing to sign up can get the IRS, with its auditors and armed agents, unleashed on you. When faced with that prospect, sure, it’s not all that hard to persuade people to do what you want. It’s a lesson that feudal chiefs, tyrants, pirates and bandits learned a long time ago.
The 7 million that President Obama touted today is a false number, he knows that it is a false number, and he knows that it is based on the threat of force. In fact, his administration couldn’t even give a solid number until today. How convenient.
So today, the day after the same administration that has cooked the books on deportations, and cooked the books on unemployment, the same administration that lied about Fast and Furious, lied about Benghazi, lied about “green jobs,” lied about last week’s meeting with the Pope, and whose IRS abused the president’s critics – the leader of that administration touted “7.1 million sign-ups” for Obamacare. Even going by the administration’s official numbers, the president’s claim is inflated. The administration only claims 7,041,000 – far from 7.1 million.
The president criticized Americans who donated their own money to run ads opposing Obamacare. But Barack Obama used government force to take Americans’ money and use that money to promote his law – whether we backed his law or not. Which is worse?
Obama said that now that his law is the law of the land, it cannot be repealed. Also false. It’s unpopular even before the employer mandate kicks in, which is destined to cost tens of millions of Americans the healthcare that they now have. We have a system by which laws and even amendments to the Constitution can be repealed.
But the most ghastly aspect of the president’s speech was its celebratory tone. This president stood in the Rose Garden in the lawn of the people’s house. He used force to coerce Americans into doing what he wants for the sake of politics and power. An American president should never celebrate taking freedoms away from Americans. This president has, and he is pleased with himself for doing it. He basks in the applause of those who celebrate with him, as if it’s an achievement to use the full force of government to impose yourself on others.
Outside the gates of his little ceremony, Democrats remain on the run because Obamacare is wreaking havoc on people’s lives. This president’s “mission accomplished” moment has come. The Democrats will still lose the Senate this year, in part because Barack Obama remains so out of touch, aloof, and dishonest.
Mark Levin opened his show tonight livid over Obama’s Castro-like campaign rally on Obamacare today, where he spewed lie after lie to his clapping seal sycophants. And the media just echoes what he says like it’s the truth.
Listen below to his first segment:
On Tuesday, President Obama triumphantly announced that, with the power of the mainstream media, Hollywood, and the threat of the IRS, the mission had been accomplished: 7.1 million Americans had selected an Obamacare plan.
Obama’s tone was nothing short of exuberant: “7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these market places. 7.1! Yep!” He then went on to criticize those who had expressed objections to Obamacare for its deprivations of plans, doctors, drugs, and liberty: “Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance?”
Now, it was always foolhardy for Republicans and conservatives to stake their objections to Obamacare on the number of sign-ups; Social Security is going bankrupt despite 100% enrollment. The reality is that Obama was always destined to hit his required numbers because, after all, he has the power of government to compel action. The real problem with Obamacare has little to do with the number of people signing up, and a lot to do with the restrictions on insurance companies and reimbursement rates to doctors.
Nonetheless, the 7.1 million statistic is a meaningless one. It’s meaningless for a variety of reasons:
It Doesn’t Measure How Many People Have Actually Paid. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted yesterday that of the 6 million people who had signed up for Obamacare at the time, “What we know from insurance companies… tell us that, for their initial customers, it’s somewhere between 80, 85, some say as high as 90 percent, have paid so far.” In other words, about five million people were signed up. As Aaron Blake of the Washington Post points out, “If between 80 and 90 percent of the six million have paid premiums, the number who are fully enrolled would be closer to five million than to six million.” With the increased number of sign-ups in the last days, that percentage number has likely dropped. This is not an unimportant distinction; insurance will not cover those who don’t pay.
7.1 Million Enrollees in the Private Exchanges Doesn’t Mean 7.1 Million Who Were Previously Uninsured. Some five million Americans saw their policies cancelled thanks to Obamacare. Those Americans were forced into the Obamacare exchanges by the government. According to a RAND Corporation study, only 858,000 previously uninsured Americans had actually joined Obamacare. That’s a far cry from 7.1 million.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in March 2010 that 37.3% of all uninsured Americans would gain insurance thanks to Obamacare in 2014. That estimate rose to 38.9% in March 2011. In February 2014, the CBO suggested that in 2014, 22.8% would gain insurance through Obamacare. The actual statistic: 12.5%. In other words, the original estimates were off by approximately 66%.
The Chief Beneficiaries of Obamacare Have Been Medicaid Recipients and 26-Year-Old Basement Dwellers. There are approximately 6.1 million people who have gained coverage through Obamacare’s non-private exchange program. 4.5 million were beneficiaries of Medicaid expansion, and another 1.6 million 26-year-old “children” were forced onto their parents’ policies. That far outweighs any supposed gains in the private insurance market. As Chris Conover of Forbes writes, “At the end of the day, we appear to have covered 1 in 8 uninsured, but to get to this point, we have disrupted coverage for millions, increased premiums for tens of millions more and amplified the pain even further with a blizzard of new taxes and fees that will end up cost even the lowest income families nearly $7,000 over a decade.”
The Huge Majority of Those Signing Up Are Getting Subsidies – and Even Those Who Are Subsidized Aren’t Signing Up. In order for Obamacare’s cost structure to work, millions of Americans must sign up to pay inflated prices; that would help pay for the subsidies to cover insurance company costs on those with pre-existing conditions. In March, the Obama administration reported that 83% of those who had signed up were eligible for subsidies. As Robert Laszewski estimates, in the end, just 27% of those who are eligible for Obamacare subsidies nationwide have signed up.
How Much Will The Numbers Drop? These are all preliminary statistics. We now know that somewhere between 2% and 5% of people who paid their insurance bills in January did not do so in February, to go along with the high percentage of people who signed up and never paid at all (that number in Obamacare success story Washington state, for example, was 39% as of early February).
The 7.1 million statistic is not all that important, in the end. Obama will hit his numbers, by hook or by crook. Likely by crook. But conservative opposition to Obamacare should not be predicated on its ineffectiveness in forcing sign-ups. Instead, it should be based on deprivation of liberty and destruction of medical care.
Welcome to your feel-bad story of the month. Remember Julie Boonstra? She’s the single mother fighting leukemia who appeared in an anti-Obamacare television ad running in Michigan:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid assailed Ms. Boonstra, and others like her, in a breathtakingly mean-pirited floor speech – going so far as to say that “all” of their negative experiences were “untrue” and “lies.” Reid now claims he doesn’t remember saying any such thing, but there’s video tape:
In his effort to discredit Boonstra, Reid relied on a Washington Post “fact check,” which effectively ruled her story half true. In fact, every claim Boonstra made in the ad has been confirmed, as explained by the Detroit News’ Dan Calabrese:
Boonstra is on five different medications to help deal with her leukemia. The Blue Cross PR spokesman claimed that they are all covered. But when Boonstra went to fill her prescription for Loratadine – a prescription-level equivalent of Claritin that she uses to control congestion brought on by chemotherapy – she was told that Loratadine is not covered. She has not yet attempted to restock any of her other meds but she is already having to come with strategies to deal with that problem. The $5,100 cap on Boonstra’s out-of-pocket spending is for in-network care only. If she has to go out of network, she could spend an additional $10,200…When Boonstra was first diagnosed, she had to go through a painstaking process to get approval for her chemotherapy drugs to be covered. When she finally found insurance she liked, she had no problem with the chemo drugs. She now says that process is starting all over again. Boonstra has already had to cut back on her bone marrow biopsies, which she was having on a regular schedule she had worked out with her doctor, because she doesn’t have clarification on whether these will be covered. I could go on, but the bottom line is this: Julie Boonstra told the truth, and arrogant media “fact checkers” had a lot of nerve claiming she hadn’t when they never even talked to her.
Nevertheless, Reid’s inaccurate nasty gram touched off a torrent of bile from Obamacare supporters, including this delightful care package Boonstra received in the mail:
Die, because your experience is inconvenient to my “pissed off” ideology. Incidentally, Ms. Boonstra isn’t the only Obamacare victim who received a cancellation notice, and whose subsequent plan presents out-of-pocket hardships:
Breast cancer survivor Ginny Mason was thrilled to get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act despite her pre-existing condition. But when she realized her arthritis medication fell under a particularly costly tier of her plan, she was forced to switch to another brand. Under the plan, her Celebrex would have cost $648 a month until she met her $1,500 prescription deductible, followed by an $85 monthly co-pay. Mason is one of the many Americans with serious illnesses – including cancer, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis – who are indeed finding relatively low monthly premiums under President Barack Obama’s law. But some have been shocked at how much their prescriptions are costing as insurers are sorting drug prices into a complex tier system and in some cases charging co-insurance rates as high as 50 percent. That can leave patients on the hook for thousands.
Another example from North Carolina:
Amy Newbold, a 57-year-old saleswoman from Randolph County, N.C., lost her employer insurance last year. Through HealthCare.gov, she found a mid-tier “silver” plan with premiums that at first blush are $75 a month lower than her previous policy. But there are no savings, she said, since her old premiums were paid with pretax dollars and Obamacare premiums are paid with aftertax dollars. Newbold said she faces substantially higher drug costs for arthritis and psoriasis and worries that an out-of-pocket maximum of $5,000 could put needed medicines out of reach. “I feel left out in the cold, and I don’t know why it has to be that way,” she said.
Maybe Reid can make these “liars” famous, too. Indeed, unleashing left-wing wrath on ordinary people for the sin of speaking out must be a pretty effective method of stifling dissent – which is precisely what Reid wants.
The sky-high costs of Obamacare have forced a Kansas hospital to lay off more than a dozen employees.
Newman Regional Health hospital in Emporia, KS, a limited in-patient and outpatient services facility, has laid off fifteen employees- ten full time workers and five part time workers.
In a statement issued by Newman Regional, the hospital blames the lay offs on the “negative financial impacts of the Affordable Care Act.”
The staff cut is expected to save the hospital $1 million every year.
Bob Wright, CEO of Newman Regional told KTKA-KS, “It’s looking into the future, knowing that we need to make a profit, having the advantage of critical access, getting us most of the way there, but having really to do our part as good stewards of our resources to make sure that we’re profitable.”
When Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., pointed out that the majority of cancer centers in the country aren’t covered under Obamacare while arguing that the law’s problems go beyond early website issues, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., dismissed the critique as too “in the weeds.”
Coburn, a medical doctor battling cancer, panned the coverage offered to cancer patients.
“Nineteen of the cancer centers in this country, only five are covered under Obamacare,” he told the Washington Examiner Tuesday, a data point he attributed to the low payments the Affordable Care Act provides for those treatments.
“You know, it’s a market, and what they’ve done is they’ve priced it where these cancer centers, a lot of them, aren’t going to participate because they don’t get paid to cover the costs,” he said. Coburn, who is retiring at the end of this year, said his cancer center initially refused to accept the government health insurance, but has since reversed that policy.
Reid suggested that Coburn was taking too narrow a view of the law. “Dr. Coburn is very good at getting into the weeds and trying to find something that he thinks makes sense, but I think we need to look at the overall context of this bill,” he replied when asked about Coburn’s comments during a Senate press briefing. “It really brings a lot of people in from the cold so that they have the ability to get health insurance, which they’ve never had the opportunity [to do] before.”
Reid hailed the White House’s announcement that seven million people had enrolled in insurance through Obamacare, but Coburn said the statistic is a “numbers game.”
“You had six million who lost their insurance, how many net new people got covered? How many who lost their insurance don’t have insurance today?” Coburn asked. “And is it affordable? …The ones that lost their insurance now have [Obamacare], and we don’t know what that number is. I guarantee you three-quarters of them are paying a significantly higher cost, have a higher co-pay and a higher deductible.”