How’s Our “Phony” Scandals Doing?

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Fast & Furious[1]

The same ATF agent who lobbied for and spearheaded Fast & Furious (ATF Special Agent in Charge [Arizona] Bill Newell, who headed Wide Receiver until it was shut down under the Bush administration)[2] has been promoted to the Washington office. Wide Receiver involved around 275 guns, most of which were lost track of, and it was this lack of accountability that caused the Bush people to close it down. Fast & Furious involved over 1,500 guns and was shut down only after it became public (on February 22 2011) that Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down on December 14 2010 with a Fast & Furious AK-47. It was later disclosed that ATF didn’t know where most of the weapons were[3]. Lack of accountability again, but this time it cost Agent Terry his life, and the program would likely still be going if not for the publicity.

In its earliest response to Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) questions about the gunwalking operation, DoJ sent a letter signed by Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, stating that ATF never “knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico.” Ten months later, DoJ withdrew the letter acknowledging that it contained inaccuracies (read: they lied). The president has extended Executive Privilege over documents pertaining to the operation, and has removed the incident from his field of view. He won’t let anyone see what was going on, yet it’s a “phony” issue. Fast & Furious body bags: Two[4].

Benghazi

Now we find that around 400 MANPADs were stolen during the raid, and are now in the hands of “unknowns[5].” Riiiiight. At question are the thousands of SA-7 Grail (Russian: 9K32M Strela-2) shoulder-fired anti-air missiles that were in Moamar Qaddafi’s arsenals when the Libyan uprising started. As reported nearly a year ago, Ambassador Stevens was serving as point on a CIA operation to round up as many as possible and transship them through Turkey to rebels in Syria[6]. The “unknowns” are Ansar al-Sharia, the al Qaeda franchise in Libya and perpetrators of the raid on the consulate. It’s not clear whether the MANPADS were at the consulate or the CIA annex, but that they were gathered in one place adds credence to the fact that they were being gathered in order to get them out of Libya. While nothing can excuse our incompetent behavior before the incident, the CIA op can at least explain the cover-up afterwards, ridiculous as it was.
Even CBS Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer asked Susan Rice, “Why am I talking to you?” It was widely known that President Obama, Vice President Biden, National Security Adviser Brennan, SecDef Panetta, SecState Clinton, CIA Director Petraeus and CINCAFRICOM General Hamm were all in town that Sunday, but all refused to go on national television and read the talking points. Susan Rice was the highest ranking official with plausible deniability (read: she didn’t know anything about the incident and could read the fictitious account handed her by the administration without being accused of lying). It went downhill from there. This “phony” scandal’s body bags: Four.

IRS

They’re still doing it! Testimony released Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) reveals that an agent involved in reviewing tax exempt applications from conservative groups is still targeting Tea Party groups, three months after the IRS scandal erupted. In closed door testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, the unidentified IRS agent said requests for special tax status from Tea Party groups are being forced into a special “secondary screening” because the agency has yet to come up with new guidance on how to judge the tax status of the groups[7].

So, not only is the “thorough investigation” non-existent (none of the groups involved in the denial of status, nor their counsel, have been contacted by the FBI – none), neither has the practice been corrected. If this is a “phony” scandal, why is Lois Lerner refusing to testify under Fifth Amendment protection? And why is nothing being done to correct an egregious abuse of executive power? These are the same warm and fuzzy people slated to enforce ObamaCare, adding everyone’s medical records to the tax data they already have.

NSA

As I’ve said before, this only holds a potential for future scandal, yet it is the only one the president has seen fit to actually address – outlining sweeping changes in the way NSA goes about its business[8]. Now we find that DEA has a similar database (billions of records), and are instructing prosecutors to use “parallel construction” to hide the source of their information. Parallel construction is a process whereby prosecutors make up where and how they got the tip to follow a given course of investigation, never revealing that it came from DEA, not in court documents, in testimony before the grand jury, or a judge, or in court. Prosecutors, in other words, lied in court filings, to judges, to grand juries, and to trial juries, all under orders from DEA[9]. Aside from being blatantly unconstitutional and against case law in every state, it now jeopardizes thousands of convictions across the country with appeals, most of which will probably succeed.

DoJ

As far as we know, the nation’s top lawyers have actually stopped lying to judges to get at reporters’ metadata. Now perhaps they have time to arrest suspects in the Benghazi attack before CNN puts them on the air, or maybe actually look into the IRS handling of political groups, or examine why they allowed a failed weapons-tracking program to be tried again on an even grander scale, or find out why prosecutors have been systematically lying to our courts – you know, doing the things a Justice Department is supposed to be doing: watching out for the people. Just a thought.

Yet to Come

ObamaCare is in a shambles, a slow-motion train wreck. Every step of way, this abomination is scandalous. Its conception was an exercise in typical liberal magical-thinking: “Sure, in every country larger than Vermont, national healthcare has resulted in long queues for medical attention, rationing of care and egregious taxation, but we’ll do it better.” It was sold on a pack of lies: e.g., “If you like your insurance, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep him.” It was written in absentia of the opposition party: “We won [the election] so we’re going to write it.” It is being illegally altered almost daily – to include Congress exempting itself from what Democrats have foisted upon the people. And, if we believe the president (although there’s absolutely no reason to do so), it’s going to be implemented with the very real possibility of severe security weaknesses in the data-handling process and enforced by the trustworthiness-challenged IRS. This 2,700-page horror story started out ugly and can only get worse.


[1] Title art by Michael Ramirez.

[2] Sharyl Attkisson, A primer on the “Fast and Furious” scandal, CBS News, June 26 2012.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Jaime Zapata, Immigration and Customs Special Agent under DHS, was ambushed and murdered on assignment on a desolate road in Mexico on February 15 2011. Two weapons used in Zapata’s murder were linked by multiple sources to suspects who had been under ATF surveillance for at least six months before Zapata’s murder, but were not arrested.

[5] David Martosko [DC], 400 US surface-to-air missiles were “stolen” from Libya during the Benghazi attack, claims whistleblower, the Mail [London], August 12 2013, 1717EDT.

[6] Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, Was Syrian weapons shipment factor in ambassador’s Benghazi visit?, FOX News, October 25 2012.

[7] Paul Bedard, IRS agent: Tax agency is still targeting Tea Party groups, in Washington Examiner, August 8 2013, 1720EDT.

[8] Christi Parsons, Ken Dilanian and David Lauter[8], Obama outlines proposals for reining in NSA surveillance, in Los Angeles Times, August 9 2013, 1912PDT.

[9] David Ingram and John Shiffman, US defense lawyers to seek access to DEA hidden intelligence evidence, Reuters, August 8 2013.

Hyper-Partisanship disguised as High-Mindedness

HyperPartisanship disguised as HighMindedness[1]

US Obama Britain

He warned us. He campaigned on “fundamentally changing America,” as though we were hungering for a Liberal dystopia looking more like George Orwell’s 1984 than Frank Capra’s Mr Smith Goes to Washington. And yet, the political right also warned us. “He’s not qualified – he’s never run anything, other than for office.”

Benghazi, by itself, is nothing more than an episode of utter incompetence from start to finish, except, of course, that four good Americans died as a result. If that was all that happened, cover-up and all, it would just be a shameful blemish on a presidency. But Benghazi isn’t “by itself.” It came out that the IRS had been targeting conservative groups for harassment if they applied for 501(c)4 status as a non-profit organization, and auditing conservative individuals if they dare speak out against the administration’s agenda. And now, it seems, Justice has seized the phone records of over a hundred reporters and editors on the pretext of finding a leaker of classified information.

President Obama, who always considers himself to be the smartest guy in the room, has employed the Sergeant Schultz (“I know nothing!”) defense to all of this. And that’s entirely possible as he doesn’t seem to like anything about actual governing. He likes to go around informing the people about the superiority of his agenda and the demonic intentions of his adversaries. Paying attention to what his minions are doing, in his name, in the tone that he has set, doesn’t show up on his “To Do” list.

Take Benghazi. He was informed of the attack at a regularly scheduled meeting within an hour of Washington finding out that our mission in Benghazi was under attack (not “demonstration”). He instructed SecDef Panetta to handle the situation, finished the meeting, retired to the Residence, and flew to Las Vegas for a campaign event the next morning. No one handling the attack in Washington heard from the president again that night. No one in Libya heard from the president until they returned stateside. His first public reaction, the next morning – and for the next two weeks or so – placed the blame on a video, which appeared nowhere in the accounts from Libya (now he says that he called it “terrorism” from the start). State Department, for their part, also pointed to the video for as long as they could, and then decided that finding out who was responsible was pointless, or as Secretary Clinton so sensitively put it, “What difference, at this point, does it make?!” Defense, for its part, claimed that they didn’t have enough real-time intel to put troops in harm’s way (ignoring the fact that that’s exactly what Special Ops does – find out what’s going on and handle it), and then switched to, “We didn’t have assets in-place close enough to be effective” (begging the question as to why we didn’t have assets in place in one of the most volatile and dangerous places on Earth).

Our “post-partisan” leader of “the most open and transparent government in American history” has shown himself incapable of either. He is anything but “post-partisan.” To Team Obama, everything is about politics – hacking and clawing to the top and destroying any opposition. They simply ignored the 52% of those polled that were appalled by ObamaCare and rammed it through Congress without a single Republican vote. The Democrats took over one-sixth of the American economy because they could. Whenever opposition occurs, the White House responds, not with reasoned issue-based argument, rather with ad hominem attacks against those with the temerity to raise objections. All politics all the time.

The politicization of the Internal Revenue Service is horrific. It’s the kind of thing we used to accuse the Soviets of doing to dissenters. It’s absolutely … well … Orwellian. Of conservative groups, the IRS demanded donor rolls, membership lists, data on all contributions, names of volunteers, the contents of all speeches made by members, Facebook posts, minutes of all meetings, and copies of all materials handed out at gatherings. Among its questions: What are you thinking about? Did you ever think of running for office? Do you ever contact political figures? What are you reading? Liberal groups got their 501(c)4 status within 60 days. This was no coincidence or statistical anomaly, it was too finely targeted. This wasn’t the work of two lowly Cincinnati functionaries, it was too methodical and orchestrated. This was a result of the venomous tone set in the White House as to how the opposition is to be treated. The IRS Commissioner’s response to Congress – Sergeant Schultz.

That brings us to Justice Department’s scooping up of Associated Press phone records, which probably will turn out to be little more than a case of overreach, based on a legitimate query. The story we’re hearing is that an AP story about a CIA operation in Yemen that blocked an al Qaeda plan to explode a bomb on a plane headed for America. The story was published last May 7. It apparently contained classified information, and someone with an impressive pay grade demanded the leaker be found. In response, DoJ took the records of twenty of AP’s phone lines, used by over one hundred reporters and editors. This is not a search for a leaker, this is intimidation. A search for a leak would look at the byline reporter’s phone lines … this is Chicago-style warning to AP not to run unapproved stories and to sources not to talk to reporters. AG Holder’s response to Congress – Sergeant Schultz.

Nobody in this administration seems to know anything about anything that’s going on. If you complain about it, you’ll get audited (or worse). They all solemnly claim to take “responsibility” for their department, but no penalty is ever paid (assuming they can find somebody to pin it on). Benghazi? Four DoS officials were place on paid administrative leave, soon to return to duty in lower-profile jobs (at the same pay). IRS? The acting head has been “fired,” leaving office when he was going to leave anyway (also, Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS officer in charge of the tax exempt section, has been placed in charge of ObamaCare enforcement). Justice? We’re still waiting to hear about Fast and Furious, Black Panther voter intimidation, and now, I guess, Associated Press.

What’s clear in all of this, is the tone set at the top – as it always is – is one of intimidation, bullying, obfuscation and politicization. The president doesn’t have to pass down instructions on how to do this, he sets the tone and those under him replicate it with impunity. Government has become a tree of the poisonous fruit.


[1] Title art by AP/EagleWatch.