CHAIRMAN GOWDY’S OPENING STATEMENT
REP. JIM JORDAN QUESTIONS SECURITY EXPERT TODD KEIL
CHAIRMAN GOWDY’S OPENING STATEMENT
REP. JIM JORDAN QUESTIONS SECURITY EXPERT TODD KEIL
The head investigator charged with overseeing the Department of Justice testified Tuesday that various government agencies have repeatedly stymied his investigation efforts, and have done so in direct violation of federal law.
Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General of the Department of Justice, was testifying before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on investigative access to government information.
“Since 2010 and 2011,” he said. “The FBI and some other Department components have not read Section 6 (a) of the IG Act as giving my Office access to all records in their possession and therefore have refused our requests for various types of Department records. As a result, a number of our reviews have been significantly impeded.”
“It’s deeply troubling that Department of Justice leadership has stonewalled the Inspector General’s investigations several times and only produced requested documents after officials concluded that it would help them,” lamented Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the committee’s chairman. “The Inspector General’s activities should not be dependent upon the whims of a particular administration. Efforts to restrict or delay an Inspector General’s access to key materials in turn deprive the American people and their elected representatives of timely oversight information with which to evaluate an agency’s performance.”
Inspectors general are independent investigative officers whose job is to ensure that government agencies are not violating the law or engaging in fraudulent behavior. In August of this year, nearly 50 inspectors general signed a letter to Congress alerting politicians to “the serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work of Inspectors General at the Peace Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Justice.”
These officers “faced restrictions on their access to certain records available to their agencies that were needed to perform their oversight work in critical areas,” the letter explained. “Limiting access in this manner is inconsistent with the IG Act [the 1978 law that created the inspector general offices], at odds with the independence of Inspectors General, and risks leaving the agencies insulated from scrutiny and unacceptably vulnerable to mismanagement and misconduct – the very problems that our offices were established to review and that the American people expect us to be able to address.”
During his testimony, Horowitz cited a number of examples of administrative obfuscation, including government actions that significantly delayed their 2012 report on the notorious “Fast and Furious” scandal, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives facilitated Mexican drug cartels purchasing hundreds of guns, and later losing track of them.
In each of these instances, Horowitz explained, “the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General granted us permission to access the records we sought… However, as I have publicly testified previously, I have several significant concerns with this process. First and foremost, this process is inconsistent with the clear mandate of Section 6(a) of the IG Act. The Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General should not have to order Department components to provide us with access to records that the Congress has already made it clear in the IG Act that we are entitled to review. Second, requiring the OIG to have to obtain the permission of Department leadership in order to review agency records compromises our independence.”
In other words, the administration is making the watchdog agencies jump through hoops to do their jobs, significantly delaying their findings, wasting taxpayer dollars, and compromising the oversight reports.
As the IGs’ original letter of complaint plainly states, “the IG Act is clear: no law restricting access to records applies to Inspectors General unless that law expressly so states, and that unrestricted access extends to all records available to the agency, regardless of location or form.”
“Our struggles to access information relevant to our reviews in a timely manner continue to cause delays to our work and consume resources,” Horowitz said. “They also have a substantial impact on the morale of the auditors, analysts, agents, and lawyers who work extraordinarily hard every day to do the difficult oversight work that is expected of them. … For the past 25 years, my Office has demonstrated that effective and independent oversight saves taxpayers money and improves the Department’s operations. Actions that limit, condition, or delay access to information have substantial consequences for our work and lead to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations.”
Other investigations hindered by the government included reviewing “whether Department officials violated the civil rights and civil liberties of individuals detained as material witnesses in national security cases in the wake ofthe September 11 terrorist attacks,” FBI use of wiretaps, and sexual assault within the Peace Corps.
“The issues facing the DOJ OIG, the EPA OIG, and the Peace Corps OIG are not unique,” the August complaint stated. “Other Inspectors General have, from time to time, faced similar obstacles to their work, whether on a claim that some other law or principle trumped the clear mandate of the IG Act or by the agency’s imposition of unnecessarily burdensome administrative conditions on access. Even when we are ultimately able to resolve these issues with senior agency leadership, the process is often lengthy, delays our work, and diverts time and attention from substantive oversight activities. This plainly is not what Congress intended when it passed the IG Act.”
Two Russian strategic bombers conducted practice cruise missile attacks on the United States during a training mission last week that defense officials say appeared timed to the NATO summit in Wales.
The Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers were tracked flying a route across the northern Atlantic near Iceland, Greenland, and Canada’s northeast.
Analysis of the flight indicated the aircraft were conducting practice runs to a pre-determined “launch box” – an optimum point for firing nuclear-armed cruise missiles at U.S. targets, said defense officials familiar with intelligence reports.
Disclosure of the nuclear bombing practice comes as a Russian general last week called for Moscow to change its doctrine to include preemptive nuclear strikes on the United States and NATO.
Gen. Yuri Yakubov, a senior Defense Ministry official, was quoted by the state-run Interfax news agency as saying that Russia’s 2010 military doctrine should be revised to identify the United States and the NATO alliance as enemies, and clearly outline the conditions for a preemptive nuclear strike against them.
Yakubov said among other needed doctrinal changes, “it is necessary to hash out the conditions under which Russia could carry out a preemptive strike with the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces” – Moscow’s nuclear forces.
The practice bombing runs are the latest in a series of incidents involving threatening Russian bomber flights near the United States. Analysts say the bomber flights are nuclear saber-rattling by Moscow as a result of heightened tensions over the crisis in Ukraine.
A spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command declined to comment on the bomber flights in the North Atlantic.
No U.S. or Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the Bear-H bombers since the aircraft stayed outside the North American Air Defense Identification Zone.
Additional details of the incident that took place over the Labrador Sea, the stretch of the Atlantic between Greenland and Canada’s Labrador Peninsula, could not be learned.
However, officials said it took place during the NATO summit in Wales that was held Thursday and Friday.
The summit statement criticized “Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine [which] have fundamentally challenged our vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.”
In response to Russia’s actions, the alliance agreed to create a new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in Eastern Europe that can deploy military forces in days.
“If required, they will also facilitate reinforcement of allies located at NATO’s periphery for deterrence and collective defense,” the NATO statement said.
U.S. Army troops will lead an international military exercise inside western Ukraine later this month. The exercises, known as “Rapid Trident 2014,” will begin Sept. 15 and include troops from several NATO and NATO-partner states, including Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the United States.
Russian nuclear forces will conduct a large-scale exercise in mid-September, state news agencies reported.
The Tu-95 is a nuclear-capable bomber that is outfitted with six AS-15 nuclear-armed cruise missiles. The missiles have a range of over 1,800 miles.
Google Earth analysis reveals that a Tu-95 launch box located in the Labrador Sea and firing AS-15 missiles would be in range of Ottawa, New York, Washington, and Chicago, and could reach as far south as the Norfolk Naval base.
However, air-launched cruise missiles fired from that location and outside the air defense identification zone would be unable to reach Kings Bay, Georgia – the homeport for U.S. ballistic missile submarines and a key strategic nuclear target.
Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic policymaker and currently senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy, said Russian leaders frequently issue public nuclear threats because they regard their nuclear arsenal as the main element of their great power status.
“Putin began what he called bomber ‘combat patrols’ in 2007 and they continue,” Schneider said. “They are designed to intimidate as well as practice nuclear bomber attacks.”
Schneider said that since the Ukraine crisis triggered by Moscow’s military annexation of Crimea, “there have been substantial numbers of all types of standard Russian nuclear threats.”
He said the threats have included nuclear exercises, bomber flights, and public statements, including Putin’s suggestion that NATO ‘not mess with us’ because Moscow remains a nuclear power.
Northern Command has confirmed that Russian strategic bomber flights increased sharply over the past six months.
Last month, at least 16 bomber incursions by the Russians took place within the northwestern U.S. and Canadian air defense zones over a period 10 days. It was the largest number of incursions since the end of the Cold War. U.S. fighter jets intercepted the Russian aircraft and followed them until they excited the defense zone.
In June, Russian bombers flew over the arctic prompting intercepts by Canadian fighters on two occasions. The Canadian government called the stepped up bomber flights a “strategic message” from Moscow amid heightened tensions.
And on June 20, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the test launch of six AS-15 missiles from a Bear bomber during military exercises.
That same month, on June 9, two Russian Bear bombers flew within 50 miles of the California coast in the closest strategic bomber flights near a U.S. coast since the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Admiral Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear forces, said last month that he is concerned both by large-scale Russian nuclear exercises and by increased bomber flights near the United States.
“Clearly, we at the U.S. Strategic Command do monitor the strategic environment,” Haney said noting large-scale nuclear exercises during the Ukraine crisis.
“Any nation state has the right to train,” he added. “It’s just interesting how that information [on nuclear forces exercises] is readily available on YouTube. Clearly, the actions associated with Ukraine are problematic.”
On long-range strategic aircraft flights, Haney said: “I will say that the business of them coming close to the United States of America, we take very seriously.”
As seen on The Kelly File:
Being a member of a terrorist group is apparently not grounds for revoking an American passport, Trace Gallagher reported tonight on “The Kelly File.”
On Sept. 2, when asked if joining a designated terrorist group is something for which you can lose your passport, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “It’s not as black and white as that.”
But yesterday, State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said that being a member of a designated terrorist organization “does not automatically mean your passport will be revoked.”
Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney was on “The Kelly File” to discuss this issue.
“If you are a member of a terrorist group, you are aiding and abetting the enemy. Aiding and abetting the enemy is treason against our Constitution. So it would seem to me that automatically, even without having a trial, that your passport should be revoked. Automatically,” he said.
McInerney said we need legislation to clearly delineate “that you don’t go to Syria to study the Quran and be a member of a terrorist group.”
“We have a problem and we need to get it fixed,” he said.
Two weeks ago, President Obama took time out from his vacation to speak to the American people. Oddly, he didn’t talk about ISIS, Ukraine, the Islamist takeover of Tripoli or even border security here at home.
No, what lured the president from the links of Martha’s Vineyard to a radio microphone was the opportunity to publicly urge American businesses to lobby Congress to keep funding the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
It’s a profoundly offbeat topic for the president’s weekly radio address. After all, most Americans know nothing about the bank. Heck, most American business executives know nothing about the bank.
In fact, one of the president’s most disingenuous claims was that the bank is all about small business. According to Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy, the bank provides export financing for just 0.04 percent of America’s small businesses.
Main Street business owners could care less about the Ex-Im Bank. The people who do care about it are the kind of folks who hang out with the president at Martha’s Vineyard. Mr. Obama’s statement had everything to do with making them happy – and nothing to do with asking Congress to do something for everyday Americans.
Congress chartered the Export-Import Bank in 1934 as a government credit agency. Basically, it provides loans and loan guarantees to foreign companies interested in buying U.S.-made products. There may have been an argument for such services at the height of the Depression, when banks were down and out and money was scarce. But eighty years later, it’s far from clear why American taxpayers need to finance a government-owned enterprise to do the work that the private sector could handle quite easily. After all, 98 percent of U.S. exports get along fine without the bank. It makes no sense to saddle taxpayers with $140 billion in exposure to promote a thin slice of America’s foreign sales.
More than three-quarters of the bank’s total lending goes to just a handful of big companies, and all of them are well established in the international markets. These favored few have ready access to capital through normal channels. It’s hard to justify putting taxpayer dollars at risk for them – especially in light of the many problems that have surfaced at the bank. For example, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform recently had a hearing exploring allegations of fraud and corruption related to the bank. The Inspector General concluded that the bank lacks sufficient policies to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.
Further, the bank is no free lunch. Channeling billions of taxpayer dollars overseas to facilitate purchases from some American companies puts other American firms at a competitive disadvantage. Ex-Im financing of coal mining in Colombia or copper excavation in Mexico, for example, contributes to job losses among domestic producers.
The bank is a small example of a much bigger problem. There is too much government in our economy, and that undermines efforts to promote economic freedom at home and abroad.
According to the “Index of Economic Freedom,” co-published by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal, economic freedom in the United States has declined for seven consecutive years – to the point that we have dropped out of the list of the world’s ten freest economies.
Indeed, our economy today is no longer classified as “free”; it is merely “mostly free.” Much of the decline can be traced to too much government and too much government intervention in the free market.
Yes, other governments may cook the books to prop up some of their exports. But that’s no excuse for the United States to do the same. Instead of copying bad economic policies from socialist countries, the United States should embrace policies that promote economic freedom for all.
A year after an airman at Maxwell Air Force Base was allowed to take an oath without saying “so help me God,” the Air Force has quietly reversed course and once again made the phrase mandatory.
“Reciting ‘So help me God’ in the reenlistment and commissioning oaths is a statutory requirement under Title 10 U.S.C. §502,” Air Force spokesperson Rose Richeson told Military.com, adding that Air Force Instruction on the oath is consistent with the language mandated in the law.
“Airmen are no longer authorized to omit the words ‘So help me God’,” she said.
The issue first came up last year when an officer candidate at Maxwell threatened to sue if made to say “so help me God” as part of graduation events. Airman Jonathan Bise was later allowed to take a secular oath and was reissued a new version of the written oath with any reference to God removed. At the time, Maxwell officials said they had operated under the mistaken assumption the phrase was required.
Air Force: Congress would have to change oath
The Air Force’s instruction spells out the active-duty oath of enlistment and ends with the phrase “so help me God.” The old version included an exception: “Note: Airmen may omit the words ‘so help me God,’ if desired for personal reasons.” That section now only lists the active-duty oath of enlistment without any options to leave out “so help me God.”
The Air Force told Air Force Times it cannot change the oath unless Congress takes action to mandate such an alteration.
Use of the phrase came up again this month when an airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was told he would not be allowed to continue unless he recited the oath that referenced God.
The airman’s attorney, Monica Miller, said the Air Force’s decision was “unbelievable.”
“The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being,” Miller told Military.com. “Numerous cases affirm that atheists have the right to omit theistic language from enlistment or reenlistment contracts.”
Miller is part of the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center in Washington, which also handled the Maxwell case.
She said she has given the Air Force two weeks to allow the airman to reenlist using an alternative oath or face further legal action.
Billionaire Masayoshi Son will start selling his humanoid robots named “Pepper” at Sprint Corp. (S) stores in the U.S. by next summer, part of SoftBank Corp.‘s push to take the technology beyond factory floors.
SoftBank also has received between 300 and 400 inquiries about Pepper from companies in finance, food service and education, Fumihide Tomizawa, chief executive officer of SoftBank Robotics, said yesterday. The 1.2 meter (4 foot) robot dances, makes jokes and estimates human emotions based on expressions. Pepper will go in sale in Japan in February for 198,000 yen ($1,900) while the company hasn’t set a U.S. price.
SoftBank, which paid $22 billion for control of Sprint last year, is investing in robotics as Japan seeks to double the value of domestic production to 2.41 trillion yen by 2020. SoftBank has developed an operating system that controls robots in the same way Google Inc.’s Android software runs smartphones, with the platform open to customization for use in construction, health care and entertainment industries.
“We will sell Pepper in the United States within a year after gathering information in Japan,” Tomizawa said. “I won’t be surprised if Pepper sales will be half to business and half to consumers.”
SoftBank Robotics was established as a subsidiary in July to direct the company’s business and sell Pepper, which is equipped with a laser sensor and 12 hours of battery life.
Shares (9984) of SoftBank rose 1.3 percent to 7,541 yen at the close of trade in Tokyo. The stock has declined 18 percent this year while the benchmark Topix index is little changed.
The robot was initially targeted at families and the elderly before getting attention for business use since its June unveiling.
Tomizawa declined to specify the company’s sales targets for robotics. SoftBank expects to generate revenue through applications and original content as customers personalize their robots.
“The basic premise is to produce profit,” Tomizawa said. “Son is aggressively involved in the project and we report to him one or two times a month.”
Son said in 2010 his vision was to create a society that coexists with intelligent robots. The SoftBank chairman has said Pepper is a result of his time spent watching the TV show “Astro Boy,” an animated 1960s series based on a character who couldn’t experience emotions.
In July, Son said he expects to improve labor productivity by replacing 90 million jobs with 30 million robots.
“We could enter the robot business for industrial use in the mid or long term,” Tomizawa said.
Pepper was initially developed by SoftBank subsidiary Aldebaran Robotics SA. The robot operating system, which isn’t currently used by Pepper, was developed by its Asratec Corp. division. The businesses continue to operate as separate units of SoftBank.
SoftBank’s development of robots comes as Google acquired robotics companies, including Schaft Inc., a Tokyo-based maker of two-legged humanoid robots. Other robot makers include Honda Motor Co. (7267), which has the soccer-playing Asimo, and Panasonic Corp. (6752), which created Hospi-R machines to deliver medicines to patients in hospitals.