Morell Testifies on Benghazi Talking Points
by Sharyl Attkisson April 2, 2014
Finally the Answer to Who Removed "Al Qaeda"?
ATF Meets Congress' Deadline for Fast & Furious Info
That’s according to an official with the House Oversight Committee who says committee members haven't yet thoroughly reviewed the materials but that they are often “highly redacted.”
Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) set the deadline in a letter to Jones last week asking why several ATF employees blamed by the Inspector General for mismanagement or misconduct 19 months ago still work for ATF and apparently haven’t been disciplined, or if they have, why the information hasn’t been made public. The employees are: ATF Fast and Furious case agent Hope MacAllister, former ATF Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon, and ATF Special Agent in Charge Bill Newell.
Read the Inspector General's findings against MacAllister, McMahon and Newell
Issa and Grassley allege that Jones has misused the Privacy Act in the past to withhold the requested information, even though such disclosures to Congress are permitted.
In a related development, the Arizona State Bar recently recommended disciplinary action against former Justice Department U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, alleging unethical conduct for leaking confidential government documents in Fast and Furious. One of the documents Burke leaked was allegedly intended to smear the key whistleblower in Fast and Furious: ATF Special Agent John Dodson.
Burke is one of a number of officials who resigned in the wake of the scandal. He is quoted by The Arizona Republic as saying he leaked the documents in an effort to stand up for his office because doing so “was not a main priority” for the Department of Justice as the scandal unfolded. The newspaper quotes Burke as saying, “Releasing the documents led to greater transparency than was otherwise going to be provided.”
In an agreement made public last week, state bar investigators said that Burke released the documents because the Justice Department, due to its own political interests, failed to come to the defense of Burke’s office when it faced allegations that it had “failed to take actions that would have prevented the death of a federal agent.”
Burke was in charge of the U.S. Attorney’s office that oversaw the Fast and Furious gunwalking case in which ATF agents allowed thousands of weapons to flow into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Some ATF managers who supported the controversial strategy aimed at building a major case to take down a big fish in a drug cartel blamed Burke's office for allegedly requiring an inordinate burden of proof to prosecute gun crimes.
In December of 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona near the Mexico border by illegal immigrants armed with at least two AK-47 type rifles sold and trafficked as part of the Fast and Furious case. The Justice Department Inspector General who investigated Fast and Furious faulted Burke for the improper document leaks.
The state bar settlement concluded Burke’s misconduct in leaking documents did not cause “actual harm” to a client, and that Burke had no “selfish or pecuniary motive.” It recommends Burke receive a reprimand and pay $1,200 to cover costs.
In August of 2011, Burke gave a transcribed interview with Congressional investigators about the broader Fast and Furious strategy in which he stated, “I need to take responsibility, and this is a case, as reflected by the work of this investigation, it should not have been done the way it was done.” Burke also said, “Just as one example…one of the defendants, Patino, ended up a straw purchaser of over 700 weapons. That’s indefensible. That is not something that I’m going to defend.”
The Justice Department has refused media and Congressional requests for an accounting of where the gunwalked weapons are turning up. In addition to Fast and Furious, ATF was overseeing alleged gunwalking operations including “Too Hot to Handle” in Dallas, Texas; “Castaway” in Tampa, Florida; and cases in Evansville, Indiana; Columbus, New Mexico; and Houston, Texas.
Through sources and tracing reports, we know that three weapons turned up at crime scenes in Mexico in August of 2013. All three were WASR-10 762-calibur Romanian rifles.
In November 2012, a Fast and Furious weapon was recovered after a shootout between a Mexican drug cartel and soldiers in which a beauty queen was killed.
Two weapons used in the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico on Feb. 14, 2011 also came from suspects who were under ATF watch but not arrested at the time.
And a grenade used in a violent fight between drug cartels and Mexican police in Oct. 2013 was believed to have been connected to an alleged firearms trafficker that U.S. officials allowed to operate for years, despite significant evidence that he was moving massive amounts of grenade parts and ammunition to Mexico’s ruthless drug cartels. Three policemen and four cartel members were killed in that battle.
The House Oversight Committee is still pursuing federal court litigation after the June 2012 House of Representatives vote holding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over subpoenaed documents in Fast and Furious. President Obama exerted executive privilege to withhold information.
Ten Plus One 2013 Stories That Should
Make News in 2014
1. I Spy: Government surveillance on journalists and citizens
There’s much more surface to be scratched, not to mention what lies beneath. What’s as yet unrevealed in the Snowden documents? Is he a patriot or traitor? What undiscovered targets of government surveillance are yet to be exposed? Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is leading a Congressional effort to reform the surveillance laws that have allowed the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of American’s records.
2. Information clamp
While the government collects information on us, it continues to restrict the public information we can get from it. 2014 will see the press corps continue negotiating with the Obama administration over key issues of public records and access. The White House Correspondents’ Association and 37 news organizations including CBS News recently filed a formal letter of protest with the White House objecting to unprecedented access restrictions. “As surely as if they were placing a hand over a journalist’s camera lens,” the three-page letter addressed to Presidential spokesman Jay Carney reads, “officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the executive branch of government.”
3. Expansion of terrorism
Top government anti-terrorism officials believe al-Qaeda has expanded its official presence by several additional nations in the past two years and is growing. Whether it’s operators or sympathizers in Egypt, Kashmir, the Sinai Peninsula, Pakistan, Turkey, Maghreb, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Libya, Algeria, Russia, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, the Philippines, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, China, Malaysia, Germany, Spain, Algeria, Senegal, China, Indonesia, Lebanon, Spain, Tunisia, Mauritania or the Levant: it’s a global jihadist movement with a strategy. One counterterrorism official told me, all lines eventually lead to the U.S. CBS analyst and former deputy national security advisor Juan Zarate says al-Qaeda isn’t the only player to worry about. He calls the terrorist threat from South Asia to West Africa an “arc of instability” that we cannot ignore. Says Zarate, “Given the globalized nature of terrorism and the ability of transnational terrorist, militant and criminal groups to collaborate and morph, we are now at risk of failing to imagine how the terrorist threat may be changing — well beyond the exclusive al-Qaeda prism.”
4. Government debt, waste and fraud
2013 ends with America over $17 trillion in debt. That looks like:$17,000,000,000,000.00 ...and amounts to something like $54,000 per person. With no plan to drastically reduce the numbers, what’s the real impact? Meantime, federal Inspectors General consistently turn up billions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse each year: disability, unemployment, food stamp, Medicare and social security fraud; abuse of government credit cards; frivolous parties and conferences; and self-serving videos produced by federal agencies with your tax dollars to name a few. In 2012, the federal government reportedly lost $261 billion, or 7% of total spending, to fraud and waste.
5. Fast and Furious: the President’s executive privilege
The judicial case over President Obama’s use of executive privilege to withhold Fast and Furious gunwalking documents from Congress could be decided in 2014. Considering that it’s President Obama’s first and only exertion of executive privilege and it involves Attorney General Eric Holder, the first attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress, the whole court battle has drawn surprisingly little news coverage. Additionally, multiple Freedom of Information requests for public documents in Fast and Furious are still outstanding two years later and the Justice Department is withholding data on where the gunwalked weapons of Fast and Furious are showing up and in what crimes they’re being used.
With the first arrest yet to be made among the terrorists who planned and executed attacks on the U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012; with no wounded survivors having spoken publicly; with Hillary Clinton a possible candidate for President; with multiple outstanding Freedom of Information requests for documents; and with President Obama not yet speaking to his actions the night of the attacks, the story’s developments will continue to be a focal point in 2014.
7. Perils of medicine
If the trend continues, 2014 could see more fraud charges against pharmaceutical companies for illegally marketing their drugs and withholding safety data. In 2013, Johnson & Johnson paid $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil investigations into allegations it paid kickbacks to doctors and pharmacists to favor their drugs; and promoted Risperdal, Invega and Natrecor for uses not considered safe and effective. In 2012, it was GlaxoSmithKline that paid a $3 billion fine and plead guilty to criminal fraud (its fourth settlement). This one involved antidepressants Paxil and Wellbutrin and the diabetes drug Avandia. Even when there’s no fraud, there are many injuries and deaths suffered from approved drugs and vaccines since not all medicine is equally good or equally tolerated by every person.
8. Green energy in the red
Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu says we should expect more bankruptcies of green energy projects that received federal tax dollars. ECOtality, the electric car charging company, is the latest: it spent almost $100 million in federal grants before recently going bankrupt with assets valued by one bidder at only $3 million. Fisker Automotive went bankrupt after spending $192 million of a $529 million federal loan. Others include: BeaconPower, Abound Solar and Solyndra. Chu told the San Francisco Chronicle the government funding of green energy projects has been more successful than Wall Street.
9. Southwest border violence
According to the Congressional Research Service, there has been an elevated level of drug trafficking-related violence between drug cartels in Mexico and it’s generating more concern than ever that the effects will spill over into the U.S. Some American ranchers who live along the border claim that the drug cartels now effectively control the U.S. side of some border towns. The FBI has reported stepped up corruption among U.S. agents working the border, and has increased its focus on the possibility that terrorists could exploit the border for entry into the U.S.
Will healthcare.gov get the requisite 7 million customers with the proper mix of young, healthy Americans to make the program viable? If not, will taxpayers keep dumping money in to try to make it work? Will the documented security risks come to roost? The government itself predicted millions of families will lose their work-based insurance in 2014 due to the Affordable Care Act. Will all the negatives be balanced out by many more happy, previously-uninsured Americans? How big of an election issue will all of this be in 2014 and will it work to the benefit of Democrats or Republicans? Stay tuned.
11. Transportation crisis