• State Department Now Just Making It Up to Explain Away Clinton’s Excesses

    March 27, 2015 // 11 Comments »

    ?????

    State Department spokesdrone Jen Psaki is now just straight out making things up to explain away the questions surrounding Clinton and her email, and the State Department’s complicity.

    Her “misstatements” can now be debunked with a click of a mouse, which we will do in a moment.

    The devil is in the details on these things, as no one expects to find a notarized document that reads “Yes, I did it all to hide embarrassing stuff from the Freedom of Information Act because dammit it is my turn to be president, signed, Hillary”).

    So let’s drill down.



    The OF-109 Form

    Outgoing State Department personnel are required to sign a statement called an OF-109. I signed one when I retired from the State Department.

    Though the possibility exists some folks get out the door without signing for whatever reason, mostly negligence, I can find no stated exceptions to having to sign. The document is straightforward; read it here. Basically it says you turned over “all [classified and] unclassified documents and papers relating to the official business of the Government acquired by me while in the employ of the Department or USIA.” The rest has to do with acknowledging you understand disclosure laws relating to those documents.

    Clinton, somewhat infamously, never signed an OF-109. Had she done so, she would have committed perjury, at the minimum, because as we now know she did not turn over her emails upon exiting the job. She did not do what every other outgoing State Department person is required to do. Clinton has a large staff, and no doubt had the attention of State’s HR people, so it seems there was near zero chance her not signing was some mere oversight.

    What Jen Psaki Said

    But here’s what Jen Psaki said instead of all that:

    The State Department spokesperson also explained why Clinton would not have signed the OF-109 separation statement. Psaki said that former secretaries of state “want to remain accessible” to future secretaries and presidents, which is why they maintain their security clearance. Psaki added that former secretaries may also want access to their files for future books.

    See, none of that is true. Signing the OF-109 has nothing at all to do with retaining one’s security clearance. That is a fully separate, independent process. Signing the OF-109 has nothing at all to do with remaining accessible to future secretaries and presidents. Signing the OF-109 has nothing to do with accessing files for future books. As a private citizen, Clinton has no more special access to State Department files than you do.

    It was all a lie. Psaki is the spokesperson. She has been asked about this matter numerous times, and has the full resources of the State Department behind her to research an answer. There is near zero chance she was uninformed. She just lied.

    But It’s Just Some Form

    One true thing Psaki did say was “that there has long been a responsibility placed on the outgoing employee to account for his or her emails.” Indeed. That accountability is embedded in the OF-109 form; that’s where the outgoing employee certifies she has done what she is required to do.

    Of course signing or not signing the form does not change the underlying law and regulation requiring outgoing personnel to turn over their stuff, so there is also that independent of the form itself.

    In rebuttal you will no doubt hear someone say “Yeah, yeah, it’s just another government form, so let’s focus on the important stuff.” This is the important stuff. Judging character, honesty and intent requires understanding the details.


    BONUS: Sounds like somebody is leaning forward hoping for that sweet, sweet White House spokesperson job in 2016. Also, an unexplored side of all this is the complicity of the State Department in Clinton’s email “issues.” State allowed her to operate outside its rules and regulations, perhaps outside the law, for four years.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Clinton Lied about Location of Email Server

    March 20, 2015 // 3 Comments »

    US-POLITICS-FOOD-CLINTON-AGUILERA

    In her only public comment on her personal email server, Clinton said:


    It was on property guarded by the Secret Service and there were no security breaches. So I think that the use of that server… certainly proved to be effective and secure.

    According to tech site Ars Technica, she lied.

    Since at least 2010 (the server went online in early 2009) the email server with the Secretary of State’s official government emails was located in a commercial facility in Huntsville, Alabama. There would not be any Secret Service there.

    Clinton’s staff has allowed the meme to circulate that the email server was a stand-alone device located at her Chappaqua, New York, home. That may have been true initially. Historic DNS records from October 2010 showed Clinton’s e-mail server was in fact at a static IP address provided by Optimum, a Cablevision subsidiary, that corresponded to the Clintons’ Chappaqua address.

    After that, however, the home server was dropped in 2010, and the mail exchange (MX) record for clintonemail.com was moved to a hosted Microsoft Exchange server running out of a data center in Huntsville, Alabama. Such commercial data servers can be expensive stand alone devices, but are more commonly shared computers. Clinton’s email could conceivably been on a server alongside of www.ILikeBigButtsXXX.com. It would be a good question to ask the candidate.

    The other feature of such rental data center hosting is the extensive backups they offer. Even a cheapo plan like the one used on this blog offers daily backups kept for a year. That means the likelihood of a backup of Clinton’s email exists in Huntsville, Alabama.

    If I was a Congressional committee with subpoena power, I’d be on the phone right now to Huntsville.


    BONUS: The server Clinton uses even to this day runs Microsoft Exchange 2010 server software, on an instance of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 with Internet Information Server 7.5, both of which have had numerous security vulnerabilities uncovered since this particular server was configured. Here’s a short list. One certainly hopes the host has kept tidy with his patches.

    We have noted previously that Clinton’s earliest server ran for three months of her overseas travel without encryption, and that her use of a commercial spam filter service left her emails viewable to that company.

    Clinton can make no credible claim that her email server was secure.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Did Spam Filtering Service Have Full Access to Clinton Emails?

    March 19, 2015 // 20 Comments »

    readyclinton

    A researcher says the commercial spam filtering service Hillary Clinton used for her personal email server had full, unfettered access to her messages. A person at the company — or someone who could hack into the company — could read and save any of her messages.

    Marc Perkel tells us that “Hillary Clinton used a spam filtering service MxLogic to filter her spam and viruses. What this means is employees at MxLogic, now owned by McAfee (which has been bought out by Intel), had full access to all her State Department email in unencrypted form.”

    Perkel explains email from the Internet is routed by DNS records called MX records which are used to look up where to deliver email. When someone uses an external spam filtering service they point their MX records to that service and all email for that domain goes to the spam filtering service first. They clean it and forward the good email on to the recipient.”

    So, without such a filtering service, your email goes from You straight to Me. When I sign up for such a service, your email goes from You to the MxLogic Company to Me.

    Setting things up is pretty easy, once you sign up for the filtering service. McAfee says “activation starts with a simple mail exchanger (MX) record redirection.” That redirects emails from you to them, and then them to me.

    Exposing Clinton’s Technical Details

    Did Hillary use the services of MxLogic/McAfee? Perkel says yes, that the MX records for clintonemail.com are:

    clintonemail.com. 7200 IN MX 10 clintonemail.com.inbound10.mxlogicmx.net.
    clintonemail.com. 7200 IN MX 10 clintonemail.com.inbound10.mxlogic.net.

    We know that Clinton’s server was fully unencrypted for her first three months of overseas travel. It is unclear exactly when after that encryption was employed, but it does not matter. McAfee had to be able to read the email messages to filter them. So a message might have been encrypted into McAfee, and it might have left McAfee encrypted, but inside the company it was visible. A company employee could have accessed it. A foreign intelligence service could have planted someone inside the company. Someone could have hacked into McAfee from outside.

    Now one of the ways all this could be quickly checked and parsed through is to examine the header information on Clinton’s emails, the technical stuff you usually don’t see when you open a message (but it is in there.) Oh, wait. You can only see that information if you have the actual electronic email. If someone prints the message out, as Clinton did in delivering 55,000 pages to the State Department, the technical information is lost forever. In that sense, Clinton did not deliver her actual records to State as required by law, just partial copies.

    Now if someone — anyone — who received an actual Clinton email and has it electronically would share that with some responsible technical people, much would be revealed. Someone with access should also look to see if Guccifer leaked full headers with Sidney Blumenthal’s email from the Clinton server.

    Is Clinton Secure?

    So how secure is Clinton’s email server? Well, first of all, the log-in page is still online. Go here and let me know if you get in, please. Keep in mind this may be considered felony hacking and you could go to jail for a long time, so don’t do it.

    But in addition to that, let’s see what security company Qualys’ online server security checker does with Clinton’s rig. Here are the results. Oops! She got only a “B,” with lots of technical stuff marked as “weak.”

    One recalls Clinton in her press conference stating that her server was in a location guarded by the Secret Service. However, researcher Perkel claims to have evidence that the server is at a commercial facility, and not in Clinton’s home or another known location guarded by the Secret Service.

    To be fair, all of the information above pertains to the current state of Clinton’s email server. We do not know much about the state of the server during her four years as Secretary of State. It does seem funny to think, however, that there was any reason to downgrade security at any point. That does not make sense, especially since until recently all of the State Department emails were still on the server.

    Important Note

    Trying to figure out these details is at the edge of my own limited technical knowledge, so I invite readers to clarify, debunk or support all this.

    It also seems that large media companies who can pose questions to Clinton have smart IT personnel. It remains a source of great frustration that these significant issues are being raised exclusively in non-mainstream forums. THE INTERCEPT, WIRED, NEW YORK TIMES — where are you?




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    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    White House Email Archiving Office Exempts Self from FOIA Disclosures

    March 18, 2015 // 9 Comments »

    Transparency



    Hot on the high heels of the Clinton email atrocity, where one individual determined for her own campaign and indeed for all of history which parts of her work as a taxpayer-paid government official would be forever sent down the Memory Hole, the White House announced it is deleting a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), making official an unofficial policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to simply reject requests for records to that office.

    And in case you proles still have not got it, the White House announcement comes in the middle of “Sunshine Week,” an annual nationwide celebration of access to public information.

    And in case you proles really still have not gotten the message, the White House made the announcement on March 17, National Freedom of Information Day.

    And in case you proles really, really still have not gotten the message, the Office of Administration handles, among other things, White House record-keeping duties like the archiving of emails and White House visitor logs. The impact of this action is thus significant — the public will have no means to seek disclosure of what is written inside the White House among public servants nor information on who visits the White House.

    The White House said the “cleanup” of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings which hold that the office is not subject to the transparency laws such as FOIA. The government’s senior adviser for Open Government defended the policy by citing multiple instances of transparency.

    The defense is more Newspeak. The problem with those “multiple instances” is that they were all voluntary, the release of information the government wished to release. The key to the Freedom of Information Act was that it could once compel the government to release information it did not otherwise want to release. That now, in Post Constitutional America, is gone.

    Get it now?





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    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Clinton Team Never Really Reviewed Emails Before Deletion

    March 16, 2015 // 14 Comments »

    clinton


    Oh, this just gets worse.

    The Process as Stated

    Here is how Clinton described the “process” by which her own staff determined which of the 60,000 emails on her personal server were work-related, and thus turned over to the State Department for even further review, and which were not work-related and deleted.

    I am very confident of the process that we conducted and the e-mails that were produced… I have absolute confidence that everything that could be in any way connected to work is now in the possession of the State Department… My direction [was] to conduct the thorough investigation to err on the side of providing anything that could be possibly viewed as work related.

    The image created was one of completeness, and complexity, of interns and lawyers, perhaps Clinton herself for the tough calls, working their way painstakingly through four years worth — 60,000 messages — one-by-one, always erring on the side of caution to ensure a complete record before things were (perhaps) forever deleted.

    But like seemingly everything else connected with the Clinton speech and the email server, it was all a fudge. What she said was not what really happened.

    The Process in Reality

    According to David Von Drehle of Time, the process used was actually as follows:

    She commissioned a review of the 62,320 messages in her account only after the Department — spurred by the congressional investigation — asked her to do so.

    And this review did not involve opening and reading each email; instead, Clinton’s lawyers created a list of names and keywords related to her work and searched for those. Slightly more than half the total cache, 31,830 emails, did not contain any of the search terms, according to Clinton’s staff, so they were deemed to be “private, personal records.”

    And then deleted.


    More Questions

    So instead of answering any questions, Clinton’s actions only create more. Would someone in the media please acquire some brass and ask Clinton:

    — Give us the list of keywords and names.

    — Question why XYZ was not on the list, as appropriate.

    — If someone’s full name was “William Jefferson Clinton,” was a search also run on “Bill,” “William J. Clinton” and the like? Did they run searches for “WH” and “White House,” “ISIS, IS, ISL, Islamic State, Daesh”?

    — Ask if the keyword search process was set up to catch “Obama” as well as “Obbama” like Google, or only exact matches, like Microsoft Word does. Upper and lower case? Names as part of email addresses?

    Other issues with even a decent keyword search done fairly are that people don’t always write emails in complete, referential sentences. Sometimes they write things like “I hope the press never hears about that thing from yesterday” or “As I told you on the phone, time to act” that can be critical when matched against events and other information.

    Jeez, everyone who has ever watched a gangster movie knows they say things like “We’re gonna have to pay a visit to our friend in Yonkers” before they put out a hit.

    Get It?

    You get it. Running a keyword search is not a process that could create “absolute confidence” on a potential world-leader scale. Claiming it does is prevarication of the worst kind, deliberate manipulation of expectations and words. There is no basis on which to trust, not even a decent feint at creating trust. Just smoke and mirrors and misdirection.

    Here it is in a clearer way: No one looked at more than 30,000 emails before they were deleted. No one.

    There is a crushing certainty to Clinton’s supporters, and I hear that from many of them in explicit terms, that eliminates doubt. It troubles me greatly. Because if you people keep dismissing these signs of what is headed our way with silly tropes like “everybody does it” and “it’s a partisan attack,” we are all going to pay for it.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Clinton Lickspittle James Carville Blames it All on ‘The Press’

    March 15, 2015 // 6 Comments »

    jamescarville



    After a row of tumbling, failed excuses for her use of personal email to shield her official actions as Secretary of State from Freedom of Information Act requests (which basically boiled down to, it was more convenient to set up my own mail server than to carry two devices on the road even when I already carried two devices on the road), Clinton has released the hounds.


    The running dog in question is James Carville, a major player in Bill’s campaigns known for his take-no-prisoners approach to dirty politics. Carville, in his new role as propagandist for Media Matters, ignores every single substantive question regarding Hillary’s actions to identify the real issue behind all those substantive questions: it’s all the fault of the press.

    In his “response,” here’s some of what Carville has to say:

    It is an ironclad rule that most any journalist covering the Clintons must follow: There shall be one standard for covering everyone else in public life, and another standard for the Clintons. Because, well… because they are the Clintons. Henceforth this will be referred to as the Clinton Rule. My point to you, dear reader, is that it is the Washington Press Corps’ rule, and they’re not going to change it,

    So that’s settled, dear reader. Carville goes on oblivious to his own contradictions by saying while Clinton did nothing wrong, others like Jeb Bush and Colin Powell did it too.

    Carville also knows where the nefarious press conspiracy against Clinton came from:

    Based on all my time in Washington watching the GOP scandal machine go, my guess is that this story came as a result of contact between the New York Times and Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

    And now it is all over:

    You could almost touch the disappointment of the media yesterday when Secretary Clinton brought down the curtain on this charade.

    So that too is settled, dear reader. Oh dear God is it going to be a long campaign.




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    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Clinton Email Server was Not Encrypted for Her First Three Months of Foreign Travel

    March 13, 2015 // 16 Comments »

    Hillary-Clinton

    At her recent press conference, Clinton assured America that her personal email server was secure, that there had never been any security breaches and in fact it was “at a location” guarded by the Secret Service as if Spetsnaz ninjas might attack. Nothing to worry about here folks, time to move on.

    Except that is not true.

    Clinton’s email was extremely vulnerable. This is not a partisan attack; it is technology.



    Clinton’s Email Domain was Accessible Over the Internet and Cell Phones

    Online security company Venafi TrustNet has the world’s largest database of digital certificates and associated metadata, allowing it to go back in time and identify how digital certificates were used in the past, a kind of forensics capability for IT security. Here’s what they found on the now-infamous clintonemail.com server, and it is not good.

    Using non-intrusive Internet scanning tests routinely performed throughout by IT security teams (meaning foreign intelligence agencies have them too), Venafi learned the Clinton server was enabled for logging in via web browser, smartphone, and tablets. That automatically makes it vulnerable to interception, as the information Clinton was sending and receiving abroad was traveling via other nations’ web infrastructure and open-air cellular networks.

    Clinton’s email log-in page was also hung out on the web all pink and naked, meaning anyone who stumbled on it could try and log in, or employ the standard array of password hacking and brute force attacks against it, much like they could with your Gmail account.

    Had Clinton used a legitimate State Department email account, none of this would have been a problem. Unclassified State accounts can be accessed only one of three ways (for security purposes!) A) From inside a State Department facility; B) Using a State Department-issued Blackberry running exclusively on a State Department-owned server or C) Using a one-time code generated by a physical fob device hand-carried by a State employee. No web access. No straight-line cell access. Nope.

    Luckily all her communications were encrypted so someone couldn’t just pluck them from the air like some rube sitting in Starbucks using the public WiFi, right? Wrong.



    No Encryption

    Oops. Clinton’s email traffic was not encrypted for the first three months of her term as Secretary of State.

    But luckily Clinton stayed around Washington for that time, right?



    Travels with Hillary

    Wrong. State Department records show during her first three months in office Clinton had her walking shoes on. Among the 19 locations visited were spying hotspots like China, South Korea, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, a NATO event and a meeting in Switzerland with her Russian counterpart.

    But how could she know she was at risk? Well, her own State Department says this about China:

    Security personnel carefully watch foreign visitors and may place you under surveillance. Hotel rooms (including meeting rooms), offices, cars, taxis, telephones, Internet usage, and fax machines may be monitored onsite or remotely, and personal possessions in hotel rooms, including computers, may be searched without your consent or knowledge. Business travelers should be particularly mindful that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other business-sensitive information may be taken and shared with local interests.

    Now we’ll grant you that Hillary’s hotel room was closely guarded, but go back and re-read that warning, the part about how electronic communications might be monitored remotely.

    Clinton Unclassified

    Well, heck, Clinton claims none of the 30,000 some work emails were classified, so what?

    Leaving aside exactly what Clinton had to say 30,000 times that somehow never crossed the line into classified, it seems there must have been some sensitive information tucked in there somewhere. For example, the one, single Clinton (unclassified) email that has been released was entirely redacted by the State Department, including Clinton’s personal server email address. The multi-months State Department review process now underway on Clinton’s turned-over emails is designed to redact sensitive information.

    So there is something to hide. Too bad it appears likely that the Chinese government has access to information on Clinton the American people can’t be trusted to see.

    There’s more.


    Spoofing the Secretary

    Without a security certificate and encryption for three months, Clinton’s server would not have been uniquely identified as being clintonemail.com and therefore could have been spoofed, allowing attackers to more easily trick an unsuspecting user of the site to hand over their username and password. She was also running a standalone Microsoft Windows Server, which is very vulnerable to attack, with at least 800 known trojans/spyware in existence that can steal keys and certificates. If the credentials on the server were compromised in those first three months (nah, the Chinese and the Israelis would never try that) then the next four years of encryption might have meant nothing.

    But don’t worry. Clinton’s most recent digital security certificate was issued by GoDaddy. The domain’s blank landing page is hosted by Confluence Networks, a web firm in the British Virgin Islands, which is sorta a foreign country.



    Questions of the Candidate

    So, would some reporter please ask Hillary Clinton these two questions:

    Where was the NSA? Where was the State Department’s Diplomatic Security technical security staff? Did they just miss all this, or did they report it to Clinton’s staff and were ignored?

    What is the price America paid for your personal convenience?

    BONUS: By claiming her server was secure, Clinton threw down the gauntlet to America’s geek and hacker communities, who do not take kindly to their moms pretending to know their business. Big tactical mistake…



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Bill Clinton Defends Foreign Donations to Clinton Foundation

    March 12, 2015 // 6 Comments »

    bill-clinton-birthday

    See if you can spot what is wrong with this picture!

    Conflicts of Interest?

    We told you earlier about how during her term as Secretary of State, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation did not accept donations from foreign governments. Now, with Hillary as a pseudo-candidate for president, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation has started to accept donations from foreign governments.

    According to The Wall Street Journal, the foundation has already received funding from the United Arab Emirates (somewhere between $1 million and $5 million, the Clinton’s only report ranges), Saudi Arabia (total between $10 million and $25 million), and others.



    Bill Responds

    Some people raised concerns about the Clinton Foundation receiving such generous donations. Was the UAE and Saudi money simply because those nations believe in the good work the Foundation does, or were the donations a conflict of interest, an advance pay off, given that Clinton Foundation principle Hillary intends to be the next president?

    Because those questions can be so hard to parse out, Bill Clinton now explains.

    “My theory about all this is, disclose everything,” Clinton said at an event sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative University. “And then let people make their judgments.” Clinton did not explain how his “disclose everything” mantra seems in conflict with the foreign donations coming to light only after extensive media reporting, and how the full details still remain hidden because the Foundation refuses to disclose any further details, such as precise numbers.

    “I believe we have done a lot more good than harm,” he added. “And I believe this is a good thing.”

    “For example, the UAE gave us money,” Clinton said. “Do we agree with everything they do? No. But they are helping us fight ISIS and they built a great university with NYU, open to people around the world… Do I agree with all the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia? No.”

    Bill did not mention how the NYU UAE project is mired in accusations of near-slave labor conditions for some of its workers, or how NYU has bowed to the UAE to “scrub” its curriculum and campus policies to match local anti-democractic political beliefs.

    He also forgot to mention how the UAE pulled out of America’s ISIS bombing campaign after that Jordanian pilot was captured in December (the UAE has since re-entered the campaign in a limited way.)



    What is Wrong with This Picture

    But we began with a test: See if you can spot what is wrong with this picture. Got it yet?

    Bill never answered the key question regarding the foreign donations. Is it ethical for the Clinton Foundation to accept such generous foreign donations as Hillary prepares to run for president? Is there a conflict of interest? Why or why not?

    And there is the heart of the matter. When things begin to unfold around a Clinton, the “answers” and explanations do not seem to match the questions. It is almost as if we are meant to be… distracted.

    BONUS: Who was interviewing Bill in the interaction above? Why didn’t the interviewer probe a bit, maybe ask a follow-up question or two? The guy asking Bill about all this was Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show.” Wilmore’s show purports to skewer politicians and pass satirical judgement on the news. Whether anyone likes it or not, a very large number of Americans now get their “news” from Comedy Central’s faux news shows. No conflict of interest evident there, with him pitching softballs at Clinton, right?




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Law and Order SVU: Clinton Email Case

    March 11, 2015 // 6 Comments »

    law

    Police Interrogation Room, 50th Precinct


    “She gonna roll over?” Captain Media said.

    “Don’t know Captain. So far she’s sticking to her story. The whole email server thing for four years as Secretary of State was just for her personal convenience.”

    “And she expects us to buy that and let her walk? In the office she would have used one computer for two accounts, same as the average Joe, so the story doesn’t hold up there. That carrying two pocket-sized devices only outside the office, that’s more convenient that setting up a whole parallel system? C’mon, I’ve been on these streets for 20 years, that doesn’t fly.”

    “I hear you Captain, but she’s lawyered up. Sticking to the story like glue on sticky flypaper.”

    “That’s a load of horse hockey pucks. Everybody else in the State Department deals with it, and so does every other Cabinet secretary we know of, never mind 90 percent of the corporate world. Lemme see her exact quote again.”

    Cop flips open notebook.

    “Here it is, verbatim. ‘First, when I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.'”

    “OK, time to hit her with the information we have. Show her the video.”




    “Now that was just two weeks ago, at a fluff Q and A. You heard her, right? She flat out said she carries two devices, an iPhone and a Blackberry. Doesn’t that shoot down her case, make her a liar?”

    “I hear you Captain, but her people say ‘That’s now, not when she was Secretary of State.’ Maybe some folks are that gullible.”

    “Hit her with her own quote: ‘Well, I have a quite large purse… So in addition to makeup and all that goes with that, usually my Blackberry and papers of all kinds… And my iPod, just the usual wonderful musical “interluding” diversions that we all need, a wide variety. And on my iPad… ‘”

    “That’s, lemme see, three devices at one time. Blackberry, iPod and iPad. iPad’s can access email just fine. So she was carrying three devices at once, two of which could access email.”

    “Yep.”

    “But is that quote new? Did it come from some Republican attack group?”

    “The quote is from November 2011, while she was Secretary of State.”

    “And the source?”

    “An official State Department transcript. It’s online. Anyone can see it.

    “So she lied. We got her. Bulletproof.”



    Later that Same Day, Captain’s Office

    “Captain, good news. We just heard from Clinton’s lawyer. They want to retract all her statements. They wanna talk. She’ll plead.”

    “Nice work.”

    (Theme music, Ba Bum…)




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Hillary Press Conference About Her Email

    March 10, 2015 // 17 Comments »

    hillary blackberry

    Hillary needed a home run, and she only even tried for a safe infield hit. That, in this case, is the same as a strike-out.

    She needed to do two things in her brief press conference March 10 about her use of personal email to conduct four years of Secretary of State business and the aftermath. Primarily, she needed to lay out an explanation that made enough “sense” that her Democratic supporters could get behind her on this issue, and she needed to explain enough to take the wind out of future press stories, create a “nothing to see here” meme. We all can expect the Republicans to try and work the issue no matter what she says, and we can all expect her strongest supporters did not need convincing.

    Hillary’s task was to hold the center. Let’s look at what she said, and didn’t say, in light of those two themes.


    What She Said

    — Clinton said she “opted out” of using an official email system for her convenience, stating she did not want to use two email devices.

    — She said that the “vast majority” of her official emails were sent to official government addresses and thus archived somewhere no matter what she did.

    — Clinton claimed she turned over any work-related emails when State asked for them, “after I left office.”

    — She said she has asked State to review and ultimately release the releasable emails.

    — She said she would not allow any third party review of her server (such as the State Department’s Inspector General) because it is a Federal employee’s personal responsibility to determine work versus personal emails, and it is a moot point anyway because she has already deleted the 30,000 emails she determined were not work-related.


    Looking at What She Said: Convenience

    The “two devices” would have been inconvenient argument is very weak.

    One does not have “two devices,” one has two accounts. Do you have separate computers for your Gmail and your Yahoo mail? State employees are allowed to access private webmail on their official desktop computers. State employees access web mail on their official Blackberrys, though it is slow. Many State Department employees do carry two devices.

    There is also no prohibition from receiving and sending personal email from an official account as long as one does not misrepresent a personal message as an official State Department document. Indeed, in some overseas posts where decent Internet service does not exist because of limited infrastructure, or because of security concerns, all personal messages travel through USG accounts. It is encouraged.

    And who is ready to believe Clinton as Secretary of State needed to carry her own devices anyway? She has people for that; she doesn’t carry her own luggage, does she?

    And is setting up and maintaining in secret a personal server in some way “convenient?” How do all other Cabinet officials handle this? Do they all have personal servers? Why not? If this Clinton-only technique is so handy, why didn’t she share it with others in government as some sort of best-practice? How does Bill Gates or George Clooney handle such issues? We know Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, for one, had a single device with both a personal email account and a work email account.

    Can Democrats answer Clinton critics with concerns about transparency, mistrust and prevarication simply by saying, “Well, it was convenient for her. Accept that, OK?”

    Looking at What She Said: Archiving

    That the emails were archived “somewhere” because she sent the “vast majority” to someone else’s government accounts is also weak. Many FOIA requesters to the State Department for Clinton’s emails were told no records exist. Any emails archived at the Pentagon, or the UN or the White House would have to be FOIA’ed agency-by-agency — you can’t send a FOIA request to “the government.” Any let’s not forget the term “vast majority.” How many emails are not archived anywhere?

    There also appears to be some questions. Huge gaps exist in the emails Clinton provided to a congressional committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, the panel’s chairman said. Republican Representative Trey Gowdy said his committee lacked documentation from Clinton’s trip to Libya after the attack despite a popular photo image of her using her famous Blackberry during a flight to that country. “We have no emails from that day. In fact we have no emails from that trip,” said Gowdy. “There are huge gaps.” – See more at: http://wemeantwell.com/blog/#sthash.YUWe4QIz.dpuf


    Looking at What She Said: Other Points

    Clinton claimed she turned over her any work related emails when State asked for them, “after I left office.” Left unanswered is why State had to ask in the first place, and of course the way the statement “after I left office” will only beg the question someone else will need to answer of how Clinton can characterize waiting to be asked two years later as “after I left office.”

    Good for Hillary to ask State release all her emails. That is what the law behind the many FOIA requests now pending at State demands anyway. What is missing is a timeframe; no one seems to know when that release might take place, though State has suggested it will be months. Remember too that first Clinton had a cut on which emails were to her mind “work related,” and then the State Department gets to make a second cut and/or redact portions of those emails for sensitive or personal information. The “release them all” line sounds good but does not parse out well.

    Clinton’s final point that it is a Federal employee’s personal responsibility to determine work versus personal emails is sort of true but largely a fudge. State Department regulations make it clear that government email must be used whenever possible for official business. While not explicitly forbidden, there is no section of law, regulation or practice that allows an employee to “opt-out” of the system. Hillary’s assertion that the decision on what is and is not work-related is based on the premise that almost everything work-related is already on a government server, and the culling of personal email for archiving is a minimal task. State Department practice is that a personal email deemed work-related be forwarded to the employee’s official account as soon as possible to create a single archive.


    What She Didn’t Say

    Clinton’s omissions and non-answers are however more troubling.

    — She did not answer a question about whether or not she sought or received guidance from State’s IT, Diplomatic Security or legal staff on her use of a personal email server.

    — She did not answer a question about whether or not she had been briefed on possible security issues regarding her use of personal email.

    — She did not say why she curated her email archive herself and did not involve a neutral third party.

    — She did not demand State commit the resources necessary to get her emails out before the primaries, or before the convention, or even before the election.

    — She did not say why, after holding them for two to six years, she only after the recent notice decided to delete all of her personal, non-work-related emails.

    — She did not say why she did not hand over her emails and/or discuss the issue of a personal server for the two years since leaving office, the seven months since this became known to Congress, the three months since she delivered her email tranche to the State Department, the eight days since the story broke widely in public or two days after members of her own party asked her publicly to do so.

    On another topic, she did not answer a question about the foreign money, particularly from Middle Eastern countries oppressive to women, that has poured into the Clinton Foundation.


    The Biggest Omission

    There was no action statement, no suggestion Clinton would do anything more in regard to all this. She spoke for about 18 minutes, including taking eight questions, and seems to have left us with “that is that.”

    It appears unlikely that “that is that,” with important questions still unanswered. It is unclear that Clinton gave her own centrist supporters enough red meat to get behind her on this issue. It seems instead that Democrats are left wondering what else is out there, and whether a Clinton candidacy, or a Clinton administration, will not look far too much like Bill’s time, herky-jerking from crisis to scandal to crisis, both real and imagined. That will be hard to get behind.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Hillary at Selma? Not This Year…

    // 10 Comments »

    In the 2007 video below, when Hillary was last overtly running for president, at about the 0:37 mark she slips into a cliched African-American accent, kinda weird, and also weird that what appears to be a largely African-American audience applauds her. But that was 2007 and candidate Clinton shilling for Black votes.




    And in that same year, 2007, here’s both candidate Clinton, hubby Bill and then-candidate Obama marching in Selma:




    And here, in 2015, is Clinton in Selma:







    Oh, wait, she wasn’t there this year. Obama and his family were there. Hell, even George W. Bush and his wife Laura attended. Where was Hillary (and for that matter, Bill) on this very important 50th anniversary?

    In Miami, shilling at a Clinton Foundation Global Initiative event. The Clintons were in Miami, visiting Miami-Dade’s Coral Gables wealthy neighborhood for the weekend. Coral-Gables is 91 percent white and no doubt full of potential campaign donors. The Clintons did have time to drop by crappy Liberty City for a photo-op “community service” thing.

    Like they say, it is all about priorities. Anyone want to wager that the Clintons will march at Selma in 2016?



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Famed Women’s Rights Proponent Accepts Millions from Governments Who Oppress Women

    // 1 Comment »

    clinton1995


    We told you about how the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation accepts donations from foreign governments, including the United Arab Emirates (somewhere between $1 million and $5 million, the Clinton’s only report ranges) and Saudi Arabia (total between $10 million and $25 million). At least $1 million more was donated by the group Friends of Saudi Arabia, co-founded by a Saudi prince.

    The donations raise concerns. Was the UAE and Saudi money simply because those nations believe in the good work the Clinton Foundation does, or were the donations a conflict of interest, an advance pay off, given that Clinton Foundation principle Hillary intends to be the next president?


    Women’s Rights are Human Rights

    Fair question. But here’s another.

    You know, just this week Clinton commemorated her 1995 women’s rights speech in Beijing with back-to-back events in New York. However, no one raised this question: How ethical is it for a candidate who cites her global activism and support for women’s rights to accept huge donations from countries that have some of the most abysmal global records for the treatment of women? It seems almost like a double-standard or something.

    But maybe Clinton didn’t know how things really are in those nasty places that shower her in cash. Let’s turn to the Human Rights Reports from her own former employer, the Department of State, for a quick glimpse into where all that moolah comes from.

    Women’s Rights in Clinton Donor Countries

    So in Saudi, “Rape is a criminal offense under sharia with a wide range of penalties from flogging to execution. The government enforced the law based on its interpretation of sharia, and courts punished victims as well as perpetrators for illegal ‘mixing of genders,’ even when there was no conviction for rape… Most rape cases were unreported because victims faced societal reprisal, diminished marriage opportunities, criminal sanction up to imprisonment, or accusations of adultery.” Also “Women continued to face significant discrimination under law and custom, and many remained uninformed about their unequal rights. Although they may legally own property and are entitled to financial support from their guardian, women have fewer political or social rights than men, and society treats them as unequal members in the political and social spheres.”

    But Clinton has taken hard stands against the Saudis, at least when it wouldn’t put her on the spot. In her memoir, Hard Choices, Clinton tells of intervening when Saudi courts wouldn’t block the marriage of an 8-year-old to a 50-year-old man. “Fix this on your own, and I won’t say a word,” she recalled telling the Saudis.

    But it’s better in the UAE, right? State says “The penal code allows men to use physical means, including violence, at their discretion against female and minor family members. Domestic abuse against women, including spousal abuse, remained a problem. There were reports that employers raped or sexually assaulted foreign domestic workers… female victims of rape or other sexual crimes faced the possibility of prosecution for consensual sex instead of receiving assistance from government authorities.” Also “For a woman to obtain a divorce with a financial settlement, she must prove that her husband had inflicted physical or moral harm upon her, had abandoned her for at least three months, or had not maintained her upkeep or that of their children. Alternatively, women may divorce by paying compensation or surrendering their dowry to their husbands.”

    The Clinton Foundation has also taken in chunky donations from Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Algeria and Brunei, none of whom ever begin to respect the rights of women.


    You get the picture. But does Clinton? Hey, it’s just money right, and what do women know about that stuff anyway?



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    A Child’s Treasury of Clinton Email Excuses

    March 9, 2015 // 16 Comments »

    hillary-clinton



    Though Madame herself has said nothing out loud (she did send one Tweet) about the bubbling scandal that she used private email to conduct four years’ of official business as Secretary of State, perhaps to help shield her communications from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, there has been no shortage of third-party defenders.

    Let’s take a look at their arguments, and see how they sound.



    It’s Not Illegal

    Clinton supporters fired their first shots claiming she did nothing illegal, that current laws on using personal email were enacted only in 2014. And so if you have done nothing illegal, by definition your actions are legal.

    As to the rules/laws/regulations, there are some clear issues.

    Clinton as Secretary of State held herself to lower standards than the rank and file. According to eight pages of State Department regulations (5 FAM 440, 443.1), “All Government employees and contractors are required by law to make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency (Federal Records Act, or “FRA,” 44 U.S.C. 3101 et seq).” Those regs have been in place since at least 2009, most since 1995. There’s also another section that’s relevant. The State Department through a series of memos and internal interpretations clarified that persons using personal email for government business should forward copies to their official account as soon as practical. There are no provisions for maintaining a private archive at home and turning over a curated selection years later when asked.

    There is also what the official custodian of U.S. government records, the National Archives and Records Administration, in the 2009 National Records Act, has to say, specifically in 44 U.S.C. Chapters 31 and 33 and the regulations issued in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), specifically Subchapter B – Records Management of 36 (CFR) Chapter XII. See Records management by agency heads; general duties (§ 3101), Establishment of program of management (§ 3102), Transfer of records to records centers (§ 3103) and Certifications and determinations on transferred records (§ 3104). Read as much of it as you care to; the requirements are long, specific and mandatory. A personal email server in your home does not fit the bill.

    Here’s the shortest version: In 2009, regulations required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency’s records.



    Everybody Does It

    The question isn’t whether Clinton was allowed to have a private email account; she was, as secretaries of state before her did. The question is whether she was allowed to be the steward of the archives under the 2009 Federal Records Act. She was not. That’s where the violation occurs.

    There also exists an important question of degree. Though Condi Rice denies ever using any personal email for official business, and Colin Powell famously used an AOL account more than ten years ago as part of his attempt to drag State into the late 20th century vis-vis technology, no previous government official in the known history of the United States has set up his/her own personal email server and used that exclusively for four full years. The scale sorta really matters.

    The other side of the “everybody does it” argument is that it is a really poor argument. Anyone who has been a teenager has likely tried it (“But Mom, everybody drinks beer at my age, yeah I know I’m not 18 but everybody does it!”) and seen it fail. Defendants who went on to become convicted felons also know how unconvincing judges find it when people offer as their criminal defense that others have committed the same offenses but just didn’t get caught.

    It seems sad that such an excuse is even thrown out there for a presidential contender, never mind that some are willing to accept it.



    What Does it Matter?

    Absent someone starting an actual courtroom prosecution, this is not about whether an actual crime per se has been committed. It is about what Clinton’s image of open, good government looks like, what her plans for a transparent administration in line with America’s democratic principles might come to be. It is about whether what she says connects tightly to what she does.

    It also matters because Clinton’s email actions were deliberate, and included an effort to hide what she was doing. Her email domain was registered in a way to hide its actual ownership (still unknown), and was set up just as she re-entered public life. Clinton never disclosed the email account until the media learned of it. That lack of disclosure continued even as she testified about the tragedy in Benghazi, assuring the public her Department’s internal review represented the full story. It could not have; she still held the emails at that time.

    She still has not spoken about all of this, despite it being one of America’s top news stories.

    Will she tell the electorate why she set up a personal server and did not use government email? For argument’s sake we’ll agree she was allowed, but that does not tell us why, and why matters.

    Why didn’t Clinton turn over her personal emails years ago? Why only recently,and only when asked?

    As president of the United States, will she encourage or condone Cabinet level officials to employ personal email servers in lieu of U.S. government systems?

    How did she weigh out the security risks of using a personal email service? Yes, the emails were said to be unclassified, but if they were indeed not sensitive enough to warrant high levels of security, then one hopes they will all be released now, unredacted.

    Is the way she handled her email at State and now in the aftermath indicative of her approach to public service?

    Those things are in part what people are supposed to be assessing when they vote.


    Suck It People, and Just Trust Me

    Clinton’s people have said they combed through all of the (unknown amount) of emails and pulled out 55,000 pages, delivered literally on paper to the State Department so as to impede electronic searches (sorry to the intern who has to scan them) and of course eliminate the metadata. They all swear cross-their-fingers-hope-to-die that those are all the official emails in the stash. Honest sir, there can’t be even one more we might’ve missed.

    But… Huge gaps exist in the emails Clinton provided to a congressional committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, the panel’s chairman said. Republican Representative Trey Gowdy said his committee lacked documentation from Clinton’s trip to Libya after the attack despite a popular photo image of her using her famous Blackberry during a flight to that country. “We have no emails from that day. In fact we have no emails from that trip,” said Gowdy. “There are huge gaps.”

    So maybe Clinton’s staff missed just a few?


    It’s All Republican Attack Cheap Shots

    Which brings us to the all-purpose Clinton excuse: whatever bad things have happened to her and/or are being said about her are all a partisan attack, perpetrated by her Republican enemies, just like everything else from Vince Foster/White Water to 2008’s lying about being under fire in Bosnia to everything Benghazi.

    And there is truth in that. It is without question that the Republicans will seize on anything negative about Clinton they can find. It is also without question that the Democrats will seize on anything negative about Bush or whoever they can find. Such is the nature of politics in America.

    But that doesn’t mean what is under discussion is not true and it does not mean it does not matter. The easiest way for Clinton to escape answering questions is to stifle any discussion (“What does it matter anymore anyway?”) There are things that are worth talking about here, questions that need answers, regardless of whether you lean right or left. Don’t get sucked down the tunnel of partisan politics encouraging you to shut your brain off.

    Think about it.



    BONUS THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: Wouldn’t it be great is some mid-level State Department staffer set up her own email server in her apartment next week and sent a message to everyone at work she interacts with saying she was no longer going to use her official email account? Wouldn’t that be a hoot?



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Department

    March 4, 2015 // 24 Comments »

    hillary blackberry



    That sound you hear?

    That’s Republicans dancing a merry jig, and Benghazi investigators sharpening their subpoenas, because 2016 just got a lot more interesting with the revelation that as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton conducted all official business using a personal email account on her own web domain.

    Here’s what happened, and why it matters. A lot.

    What Happened

    Hillary Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, violating federal regulations that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record and thus subject to Freedom of Information Act and Congressional requests. Clinton did not have a government email address during her entire four-year tenure, and her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

    It was only two months ago, in response to a new State Department effort to comply with federal record-keeping practices, that Clinton’s personal advisers reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department. All told, 55,000 pages of emails were given to the Department. The contents of the rest are known only to Clinton insiders. The process Clinton’s advisers used to determine which emails related to her work at the State Department were turned over has not been explained.

    Instead, Clinton appears to have used email service through her own domain, clintonemail.com under the name hdr22@clintonemail.com. The domain was created on January 13, 2009, just before Obama was sworn into office, and the same day that Clinton’s confirmation hearings began before the Senate.

    In March 2013, an adviser to Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal, had his e-mail through the clintonemail.com domain hacked.

    The Clinton email domain is officially registered to a Jacksonville, Florida company called PERFECT PRIVACY, LLC. The company advertises itself by saying “By signing up for Perfect Privacy when you register your domain, our information is published in the WHOIS database, instead of yours.” That means Perfect Privacy acts as a cut-out, hiding the actual person or organization that set up the domain by sticking its own information online instead.

    Clinton as Secretary of State held herself to lower standards than the rank and file. According to eight pages of State Department regulations (5 FAM 440, 443.1), “All Government employees and contractors are required by law to make and preserve records containing adequate and proper documentation of the organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and essential transactions of the agency (Federal Records Act, or “FRA,” 44 U.S.C. 3101 et seq).”

    It is also apparent no one at State raised any questions. A large number of IT staff must have been aware that Clinton had no official email address, as must have security staff. Everyone who traded email with Clinton also knew. And no one said anything.

    Why It Matters

    The most basic reason this all matters is because it is the law. As Secretary of State, Clinton was required to maintain her emails as official records. She did not. She choose not to follow the law. Saying “everybody else did it” does not work for teenagers, felons in court or Secretaries of State. Since 2009, said Laura Diachenko, a National Archives and Records spokeswoman, federal regulations have stated that “agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency record-keeping system.” The question isn’t whether Clinton was allowed to have a private email account; she was, as secretaries of state before her did. The question is whether she was allowed to be the steward of the archives under the 2009 Federal Records Act. She was not. That’s where the violation occurs.

    It also matters because Clinton’s email actions were deliberate, and included an effort to hide what she was doing. Her email domain was registered in a way to hide its actual ownership (still unknown), and was set up just as she re-entered public life. Clinton never disclosed the email account until the New York Times learned of it. That lack of disclosure continued even as she testified about the tragedy in Benghazi, assuring the public her Department’s internal review represented the full story.

    That review clearly did not represent the full story, in that it did not include any of Clinton’s emails. The review also did not note that the documents it had access to somehow did not include any emails from the Secretary of State. A careful analysis of Clinton’s testimony on Benghazi will need to be made to look for signs of possible perjury. If anything in the Clinton emails is new and relevant to understanding what happened in Benghazi, she should be held to explain why it was not revealed at the time of her testimony.

    The contents of whatever small portion of Clinton emails released to State, and questions about what is in the tens of thousands of pages withheld, will revive hearings into what happened in Benghazi and what role Clinton played. There remain questions about what information was withheld from Congress. Even of the thousands of pages State received from Clinton, only 900 have been turned over to Congress.

    Use of personal email to conduct government business in the age of hacking raises serious security questions, and calls into question Clinton’s commitment to protecting America’s secrets. According to The New York Times, Clinton also used a gmail account, hdr22@gmail.com, to conduct her official business.

    With no oversight, the only check on Clinton not discussing classified information in her emails was Clinton herself. “We have no indication that Secretary Clinton used her personal e-mail account for anything but unclassified purposes,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said Tuesday. “While Secretary Clinton did not have a classified e-mail system, she did have multiple other ways of communicating in a classified manner (assistants printing documents for her, secure phone calls, secure video conferences).” Of course, since no one at State has seen the bulk of Clinton’s emails, they indeed may have “no indication.”

    2016 just got much more interesting. Republicans will raise the email issue in great detail, especially since Jeb Bush has already released his own email stash from his time as governor. Clinton does not seem prepared to address the question; her spokesperson said incongruously that her use of a personal email account was in compliance with the “letter and spirit of the rules.”

    Clinton as a leader allowed herself to be held to lower standards than that of her own rank and file. This, along with the decision to hide the emails itself and the violations of law, will raise questions about what type of president she might make.

    Not the First

    As Vox.com, and others, stated:

    [In 2009, as Clinton took office] The Bush administration had just left office weeks earlier under the shadow of, among other things, a major ongoing scandal concerning officials who used personal email addresses to conduct business, and thus avoid scrutiny.

    The scandal began in June 2007, as part of a Congressional oversight committee investigation into allegations that the White House had fired U.S. Attorneys for political reasons. The oversight committee asked for Bush administration officials to turn over relevant emails, but it turned out the administration had conducted millions of emails’ worth of business on private email addresses, the archives of which had been deleted.

    The effect was that investigators couldn’t access millions of internal messages that might have incriminated the White House. The practice, used by White House officials as senior as Karl Rove, certainly seemed designed to avoid federal oversight requirements and make investigation into any shady dealings more difficult. Oversight committee chairman Henry Waxman accused the Bush administration of “using nongovernmental accounts specifically to avoid creating a record of the communications.”

    That scandal unfolded well into the final year of Bush’s presidency, then overlapped with another email secrecy scandal, over official emails that got improperly logged and then deleted, which itself dragged well into Obama’s first year in office. There is simply no way that, when Clinton decided to use her personal email address as Secretary of State, she was unaware of the national scandal that Bush officials had created by doing the same.

    Clinton knew what she was doing, and was aware of the consequences for herself and the White House. She did it anyway. Under such conditions, people will be muttering “Hey, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

    Questions

    One of the main reasons government officials use personal email is because it is not clearly subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), as it is not a government document. Since Clinton now admits at least some of her personal email is indeed part of her official record as Secretary, will does emails become subject to FOIA? One assumes most major new organizations are drafting their FOIA requests as we speak.

    And speaking of FOIA, since many/most of Clinton’s emails were not a part of official State Department records until recently means they would not have been identified in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, subpoenas or other document searches conducted over the past six years. Is anyone planning to reexamine those requests in light of developments?

    There is also the question of how many email accounts where. Republican Trey Gowdy, who chairs the House committee investigating Benghazi stated Clinton had more than one private email account. “The State Department cannot certify that have produced all of former Secretary Clinton’s emails because they do not have all of former Secretary Clinton’s emails nor do they control access to them,” he said.

    Who administered Clinton’s personal email network? S/he was not a government employee but had unfettered, Snowden-like access to government information conveyed at the Cabinet-level. As she also used a Gmail account, an unknown number of Google employees enjoyed a level of access unavailable to Clinton’s own State Department staff. Clinton’s personal email server backed up to a Google drive, wide-open to hackers both foreign and domestic.

    Why didn’t Clinton turn over her personal emails years ago? Why only recently?

    Instead of focusing on the “but was it illegal?” smokescreen, ask the simpler question: why did Clinton alone in her State Department rely 100 percent on a personal email account?

    And what about that famous Clinton Blackberry? Blackberry messages go through a special server run by an organization itself. State maintains such a server for its staff’s required use. Did Hillary’s Blackberry run through a State server or a private one? Let’s ask.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Ethics? No, Thank You: Clinton Foundation Drops Ban on Foreign Government Donations

    February 20, 2015 // 13 Comments »

    Hillary Rodham Clintin


    During her term as Secretary of State, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation did not accept donations from foreign governments. Now, with Hillary is a pseudo-candidate for president, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation has started to accept donations from foreign governments. Still Ready for Hillary in 2016? ‘Cause here’s what you’re gonna be getting.



    Conflicts of Interest?

    According to The Wall Street Journal, the foundation has already received funding from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, and Germany. A Canadian government agency that supports the Keystone XL oil pipeline has also given money to the foundation.


    No potential conflicts of interest here, right? Let’s see:

    – The Canadian Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development agency donated between $250,000 and $500,000 (the Clinton’s only report donations in such ranges.) The Journal, however, claims the exact amount of the donation was somewhere around $480,000.

    — Last year, the United Arab Emirates donated somewhere between $1 million and $5 million.

    — Saudi Arabia’s donations total between $10 million and $25 million.

    — The Australian government has given between $5 million and $10 million in 2014. It also gave in 2013, when its donations fell in the same range.

    — Qatar’s government committee preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup gave between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. Qatar’s government had previously donated between $1 million and $5 million.

    — Oman, which had made a donation previously, gave an undisclosed amount in 2014. Over time, Oman has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million.


    A Familiar Face

    But of course, the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation is a stand-alone charitable organization, not a campaign PAC. Funny thing — earlier this month the Clinton Foundation’s chief development officer Dennis Cheng left the organization to serve as the finance director for Clinton’s expected presidential campaign. Since joining in 2011, Cheng raised $248 million for the foundation. He also worked as deputy chief of protocol in Clinton’s State Department and was Clinton’s New York State finance director on her 2008 campaign.



    Is it Just Me?

    The Washington Post had this to say:

    The [Bill, Hillary and Chelsea] Foundation of course provides luxury travel for Hillary Clinton and her spouse, a high-visibility platform and access to mega-donors. She is beholden in a meaningful sense to its donors. No presidential candidate can justify a conflict of interest of this magnitude; it is not merely the appearance of conflict but actual conflict of interest. (emphasis in the original)

    Travel expenses for the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation last year totaled more than $8 million, a greater amount than the nonprofit reported in previous years, according to Internal Revenue Service filings. That figure represents 10 percent of the Foundation’s total expenses.

    The travel expenses listed did not cover Hillary’s public travel for paid speeches, which were covered by the entity she was speaking to, according to contract terms.



    VOX added:

    The fact that the foundation previously stopped seeking such donations on the grounds that it would be improper given her role as Secretary of State only makes things worse… The problems with this move are so obvious that it naturally raises questions about the quality of the advice that Clinton is getting. Has she surrounded herself with people who aren’t comfortable telling her she’s making a mistake? Is she ignoring people who are raising obvious red flags? Is her husband and whoever he relies on for counsel just off the reservation? Whatever the answer, it doesn’t look good. Her 2008 campaign famously suffered from discipline and cohesion problems and this is not a great start to 2016.

    Chelsea is also pulling in significant amounts of money for not doing much. More information about Hillary’s complex finances are reported here by The New Yorker.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Libya: A Perfect Storm of Interventionist Failure

    February 17, 2015 // 13 Comments »

    Still image from video shows men purported to be Egyptian Christians held captive by the Islamic State kneeling in front of armed men along a beach said to be near Tripoli


    Libya is the perfect storm example of the failure of U.S. interventionist policy in the Middle East.


    The Obama-Clinton Model

    In 2011, Libya was to be the centerpiece of Middle East Intervention 2.0, the Obama-Clinton version.

    Unlike the Bush model, that of Texas-sized land armies, multi-year campaigns and expensive reconstruction efforts, the Obama-Clinton version would use American air power above, special forces and CIA on the ground, and coordinate local “freedom fighters” to overthrow the evil dictator/terrorist/super-villain of the moment. “We Came, We Saw, He Died,” cackled then-Secretary of State Clinton as Libyan leader Moamar Quaddafi was sodomized by rebels on TV.

    The idea was that the U.S. would dip in, unleash hell, and dip out, leaving it to the local folks to create a new government from scratch. So how’d that strategy work out in Libya?


    Benghazi Only A Sign

    Benghazi was only a sign of the chaos to come.

    Here’s the state of Libya today. Several Islamist groups vying for control in Libya have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and carried out barbaric executions, as in Iraq and Syria. The growth and radicalization of Islamist groups raise the possibility that large parts of Libya could become a satellite of the Islamic State where one never previously existed.

    Libya’s official government, led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, has only tenuous authority, having been run out of Tripoli last summer amid fighting between rival militias formed during the 2011 civil war.

    The shell government Thinni leads, pathetically still recognized by the international community, operates out of the eastern city of Bayda. The Libya Dawn movement, a coalition of militias and political factions, has wrested control of the capital and established a rival government.

    Fighters who identify themselves as part of the Islamic State have killed journalists and many other civilians. They took credit for the November 13 bombings targeting the Egyptian and United Arab Emirates embassies in Tripoli. Last month, fighters linked to the Islamic State kidnapped Egyptian Coptic Christians and bombed the Corinthia Hotel in the capital, killing ten people.

    And according to the New York Times, the chaos in Libya has paralyzed the economy. The one industry that is booming is human smuggling. Taking advantage of the lawlessness, smugglers who use Libya as a way station in moving impoverished sub-Saharan Africans and Syrian refugees to Europe have become increasingly brazen and reckless in their tactics, sending hundreds to their deaths.



    Egypt Bombs Libya after 21 Beheaded

    In what is only the latest evidence of the failure of the 2011 intervention, Egyptian jets bombed Islamic State targets in Libya recently, a day after the group there released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. That forced Cairo directly into the conflict across its border. While Cairo is believed to have provided clandestine support to some former-Libyan general fighting the rogue government in Tripoli with his own militia, the mass killings pushed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi into open action.


    The Obama-Clinton Model

    While Libya is the perfect storm example of what happens when the U.S. clumsily intervenes in a Middle Eastern country, it is certainly not the only example. The evacuation of the American embassy in Yemen is the marker for America’s policy failure there. The U.S. is again at war in Iraq, trying the new interventionist model as a recipe to rescue the old one. That conflict alone threatens to inflame the entire region, pulling in Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others.

    Want to see the future? Look to the recent past. Look at Libya.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Dems: Hillary Willing to Testify on Benghazi; Here’s What to Ask Her

    January 29, 2015 // 10 Comments »



    Hillary Clinton has agreed to testify before a House committee investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi ahead of her expected 2016 presidential run.



    Clinton Says Yes

    Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, told reporters Clinton was ready, after he reached out to Clinton at the request of committee Chairman Trey Gowdy.

    Gowdy reiterated on Tuesday that he would like to hear from Clinton but said the panel needed additional documents from the State Department before he would ask her to appear. The State Department has sent the Benghazi panel more than 40,000 documents — including 15,000 never previously sent to Congress — but Gowdy and House Republicans have dozens of standing requests State hasn’t filled.



    Clinton Previously Said No

    Clinton says she won’t “be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans” over the 2012 Benghazi attacks,” though she devotes a full chapter to the incident in her book Hard Choices, from which the quotes below are drawn.


    The Questions

    It is very, very difficult to discuss Benghazi and Clinton without almost immediately dipping deep into partisan politics, and no doubt any hearings she will testify at will be ugly and deeply partisan.

    That said, there are important questions about what Clinton’s handling of Benghazi that are relative to her desire to be president. Here are some of them.



    1) Where was Clinton?

    The Benghazi attack unfolded from about 4pm in the afternoon until very late at night, Washington time. Clinton said she was first told of the incident as it began. She has refused to be specific about her whereabouts and actions that night. Where was Clinton between 4pm and say midnight? The State Department Operations Center was on the phone live with officials in Benghazi, Tripoli or both locations and may have been monitoring live TV pictures fed to them from a drone. Was Clinton in the State Department Operations Center? If not, why not? When did she leave the State Department? Why did she leave? Did she go to the White House Ops Center, who no doubt was monitoring the situation? If not, why not?

    Senator Charles Schumer was called to the White House, from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, as the Benghazi attack unfolded. Clinton would be an unlikely source to explain Schumer’s presence, but certainly should be asked to explain her own non-presence.

    For example, the CBS timeline for the attack states that 4 a.m. Washington time Obama was told of Ambassador Stevens’ death. Where was Clinton at that time? If she was asleep, at home or elsewhere, why did she chose that over staying at the State Department?

    Clinton has refused to explain where she was the night of the Benghazi attack. CNN asked her, and here is her response:

    QUESTION: … could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing when that attack actually happened? I know Charlene Lamb, who as the State Department official, was mentioning that she back here in Washington was monitoring electronically from that post what was happening in real time. Could you tell us what you were doing? Were you watching? Were you talking with the President? Any details about that, please.

    SECRETARY CLINTON: … I think that it is very important to recognize that we have an investigation going on… So that’s what an investigative process is designed to do: to try to sort through all of the information, some of it contradictory and conflicting… So I’m going to be, as I have been from the very beginning, cooperating fully with the investigations that are ongoing, because nobody wants to know more about what happened and why than I do. And I think I’ll leave it at that.

    Why It Matters: A Commander-in-Chief is responsible for lives and decisions. She has to be present and ready to make the “hard choices” in real time. If Clinton was elsewhere and not directly monitoring Benghazi in real-time (as opposed to getting periodic “briefings” aside some other event), how will she act as president in a similar crisis?

    2) About That Anti-Muslim Video

    In her book Hard Choices Clinton states about Benghazi:

    There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives. It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence but logic as well.

    What evidence can Clinton present that any Benghazi attackers were directly motivated by the video so offensive to Muslims? The attacks appear to have been well-coordinated and goal-oriented, not the faceless mobs content to tear down the American flag as seen in Cairo. Some were certainly angry about the video, but was it truly a “motivation?”

    For example, at 6:07 p.m. Washington time an alert from the State Department Operations Center stated the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli reported the Islamic military group “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack”… on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli. It did not appear that the offensive video was cited.

    The UK’s Independent noted the Consulate attackers made off with documents listing names of Libyans who are working with Americans, and documents related to oil contracts.

    Why It Matters: If you cite evidence, put up or shut up. The president must speak precisely, both to avoid misunderstandings and to preserve her credibility.


    3) What is Responsibility?

    Clinton writes:

    As Secretary I was the one ultimately responsible for my people’s safety, and I never felt that responsibility more deeply than I did that day.

    Define “responsibility.” Many definitions imply some sort of relationship between being responsible, making decisions and accepting consequences. What decisions did Clinton make as Secretary of State vis-vis security in Benghazi? If delegated, to whom? What controls, management tools or other means did she employ to assure those delegates acted out her intentions?

    Why It Matters: As president, Clinton will need to delegate almost everything. If she is unable to manage that, simply saying she takes “responsibility” while shucking off consequences will undermine her leadership.


    4) More About Responsibility

    In Hard Choices, Clinton writes about the messages from Benghazi before the attack requesting more security:

    The cables were addressed to her as a ‘procedural quirk’ given her position, but didn’t actually land on her desk. “That’s not how it works. It shouldn’t. And it didn’t.”

    Fair enough. Obviously the Secretary cannot read even a fraction of what pours into the State Department. So, who were the highest level people to see those cables? What were their instructions on which issues to elevate to the Secretary and which to deal with themselves? Clearly the need for more security at Benghazi was not addressed. Following Benghazi, did Clinton initiate any internal review, leading to changes? Details are important here.

    Following Benghazi, no one in the State Department lost his/her job. No one was fired. Several people were placed on administrative leave, a kind of purgatory, until media attention focused elsewhere. All were eventually reinstated. The one person who claimed to have resigned actually just changed job titles, “resigning” from one to take on another.

    At the time, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “the discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs. That will in no way change [the] systemic failures of management and leadership in the State Department.”

    Why It Matters: God alone knows how much paper, how many memos and reports, arrive at the White House daily. The president must have staff and a system that filter the right things up and down. The country needs to have confidence that President Clinton will be able to handle that to prevent bad decisions that may lead to more tragedy. And when things go wrong, the president must be willing to shed ineffectual people and replace them with better ones.



    5) Leading

    Clinton writes of her non-appearance on television, with Susan Rice taking the lead:

    [People] fixate on the question of why I didn’t go on TV that morning, as if appearing on a talk show is the equivalent of jury duty, where one has to have a compelling reason to get out of it. I don’t see appearing on Sunday-morning television as any more of a responsibility than appearing on late-night TV. Only in Washington is the definition of talking to Americans confined to 9 A.M. on Sunday mornings.

    At the time, Susan Rice was America’s ambassador to the UN, what many saw as an unusual choice for a spokesperson for such a State Department-specific tragedy with little UN touchpoint.

    Clinton was Secretary of State, the leader of the State Department, which had just had one of its consulates overrun, and two of its employees killed, one an ambassador. Clinton admits she held “responsibility” for this. Why wouldn’t she be the person to speak of this to the American people? Indeed, it was Clinton, not Susan Rice, in the foreground of the serious, patriotic photos taken later at the Dover Air Force base when the remains of the dead were returned to the U.S. in their flag-draped coffins.

    Clinton went on to miss numerous opportunities to speak of her role regarding Benghazi.

    Why It Matters: The buck stops here, said president Harry Truman. The president needs to be the one who speaks to America, explains things that happened to Americans, the one who shows by example her role, her compassion, for those whom she sent into harm’s way. The president, to lead, can’t duck that.



    6) Information and Disinformation

    Clinton writes in her book:

    [There is a] regrettable amount of misinformation, speculation, and flat-out deceit by some in politics and the media, but new information from a number of reputable sources continues to expand our understanding of these events.

    Can Clinton be specific about what new information she is referring to, and from what sources? Can she explain how she determined these sources are reputable as opposed to those she characterizes as “flat-out deceit”?

    One Democratic talking point opposing additional investigation into Benghazi is that the event has been dissected fully and we know all there is to know, that a new hearing in Congress is simply partisan politics. But if there is new information, as Clinton says, it seems more investigation would be helpful.

    Why It Matters: A president’s word choice is very important. Precision is important and establishes credibility.


    7) Accountability

    Clinton writes that the Accountability Review Board (ARB), State’s after-action process following any tragedy abroad as significant as two employees being killed by terrorists, did not interview her for their report, by their own choice. She does not know why they did not call on her. The report was bland and singled out no one for discipline or sanction despite the deaths and the decisions (by someone) not to increase security as personnel on the ground demanded.

    Given the central role the Secretary of State and her office, delegates and staffers played in Benghazi before, during and after the crisis, how could this possibly be true? Assuming that the ARB truly found no reason whatsoever to speak to the head of an organization about arguably the most significant event of her term as head of that organization, why didn’t Clinton seek them out? Why didn’t she prepare a written statement, ask to add in her recollections? Get her role on record? Make sure history was recorded.

    The Accountability Review Board personnel were hand-selected by Clinton.

    And as John Kerry said (about Edward Snowden) “patriots don’t run away.”

    Why It Matters: Not participating in such a review process, and then dismissing such non-participation simply as “they didn’t ask,” even if true, raises significant credibility questions about the validity of the ARB and the leader who did not participate. Credibility to her own staff, as well as to the American people, is a critical thing for a president.

    If either lose faith in her, she cannot be effective. Leaders lead without excuses.


    Something Important

    OK, let’s get this out of the way. It is impossible to divorce an attempt at serious, dispassionate discourse about Benghazi from the political side promoted by Republicans and Democrats. And yes, of course, it is aimed at Hillary 2016.

    But Hillary 2016 is a big deal. If the election were held today, she’d likely be the next president. So maybe, albeit with some of the inevitable political mud slung alongside, we should pay attention to how she acted, if she failed to act, and whether she enjoyed some sort of cover-up/soft-sell over what really happened in Benghazi.

    To paraphrase Mrs. Clinton’s own political rhetoric as directed at then-candidate Obama, we need to know how she’ll act when that tragic 3 a.m. phone call comes through. While past performance is no guarantee of future success or failure, it is how the smart money should bet.

    What kind of president would Hillary Clinton be? Let’s ask some real questions, and hold out for real answers.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    State Department Quashed Investigations into McGurk Sex Caper

    October 21, 2014 // 8 Comments »

    mcgurk cheats


    Long-time readers of this blog will remember the name Brett McGurk. Embarrassing emails he sent using a U.S. government computer system in Iraq surfaced in 2012, just as he was heading into confirmation hearings to become America’s ambassador to Baghdad. We now learn that the State Department’s efforts to investigate the incident were quashed, in part by some of the same people involved in State’s handling of the post-Benghazi fall out.

    The McGurk Story

    McGurk worked in Iraq under multiple U.S. ambassadors and through both the Bush and Obama administrations. He was present at nearly every mistake the U.S. made during the years of Occupation. In return for such poor handling of so many delicate issues, McGurk was declared “uniquely qualified” and Obama nominated him as America’s ambassador to Baghdad in 2012.

    Unfortunately, around that same time a series of near-obscene emails appeared online, showing a sexual relationship between the then-married-to-someone else McGurk, and a then-married-to-someone else female reporter assigned to Baghdad. The emails suggested a) that official U.S. government communications were being used to arrange nooky encounters; b) that McGurk may have shared sensitive information exclusively with this one reporter as pillow talk; c) that he may have ditched his security detail to engage in his affair and d) rumors circulated that a McGurk sex tape, featuring a different woman, existed.

    McGurk withdrew his nomination for ambassador and was promptly appointed by the State Department as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, a position without the title of ambassador but one with a significant role in policy making. Conveniently, the position was not competed and did not require any confirmation process. McGurk just walked in to it with the thanks of a grateful nation.

    An Investigation

    Still, senior officials behaving poorly can damage the credibility of a nation, and so State’s Office of Diplomatic Security (DS) was asked to investigate McGurk’s actions. State’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) later stepped in to look at the question of whether or not “undue influence” was applied by senior Clinton officials to that Diplomatic Security investigation so as to allow McGurk to emerge squeaky clean.

    It seems we now know what may have happened with that investigation. It was, in the words of CBS News, quashed.

    As part of a release of OIG reporting into various State Department acts of debauchery, prostitution, child solicitation and other such acts, we learn this:

    The third DS internal investigation in which OIG found an appearance of undue influence and favoritism involved the unauthorized release in mid-2012 of internal Department communications from 2008 concerning an individual who was nominated in early-2012 to serve as a U.S. Ambassador. (The nominee’s name was withdrawn following the unauthorized release.) DS commenced an internal investigation related to the unauthorized release of the internal communications. The then Chief of Staff and Counselor to the Secretary of State [Cheryl Mills] was alleged to have unduly influenced that investigation.

    OIG found no evidence of any undue influence by the Chief of Staff/Counselor. However, OIG did find that the Assistant Secretary of State in charge of DS [Eric Boswell] had delayed for four months, without adequate justification, DS’s interview of the nominee, and that delay brought the investigation to a temporary standstill. OIG concluded that the delay created the appearance of undue influence and favoritism. The case was ultimately closed in July 2013, after the nominee was interviewed and after DS conducted additional investigative work.


    Some are More Equal Than Others

    Small world: Both Cheryl Mills and Eric Boswell of the McGurk case were deeply involved in State’s post-Benghazi actions.

    Now, let’s break down some important parts of the OIG report. First, Diplomatic Security commenced its work by trying to track down the person who released the naughty emails, claiming they were “internal Department communications” even though they dealt with purely personal matters. Never mind what the emails revealed, DS’ first move was to try and hunt down the whistleblower.

    While OIG could not find evidence of undue influence per se, they certainly found an “appearance” of such. Finally, we learn that the center of all this, the man seeking a senior position inside State, McGurk, was never even interviewed for four months by Diplomatic Security, and no adequate reason was given for why that delay was allowed to take place. In the short-attention span of Washington and the media, four months might as well be four years.

    Where are They Now?

    It would be easy to dismiss all this as business as usual in Washington (it is), or sour grapes on my part (a little) or even an I-Told-You-So on my part given the role I played in seeing McGurk’s indiscretions reach a wide audience (guilty).

    But this is not just about me, no matter how much that was part of my motivation to write about the topic. It is, at the end of the day, about how our nation’s policies are created, managed an enacted, because the people and systems I’ve written about here do that.

    So where are they all now? McGurk, as we know, is deeply involved in America’s new war in Iraq. The reporter who appeared to have slept with her source still works for a major media outlet. Eric Boswell, who quashed the investigation into McGurk, was reassigned and then allowed to retire post-Benghazi. Cheryl Mills remains one of Hillary’s closest advisors and is expected to play a significant role in any Clinton administration.


    BONUS: The OIG report cited above was first surfaced by the best State Department blog out there, Diplopundit.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Ray Maxwell, Whistleblowers, Hillary Clinton and Benghazi

    September 24, 2014 // 5 Comments »

    Ray Maxwell has a helluva story: Hillary Clinton’s most senior aides participated in a Benghazi cover-up. Maxwell says he knows because he was there.

    Proving or disproving his allegations will be an uncertain thing. One thing that is certain is that people will claim he is nothing more than a disgruntled employee with an agenda. I don’t think so. Because once I was also there.

    Who is Ray Maxwell?

    Raymond Maxwell was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, covering Libya. Soon after Ambassador Chris Stevens and others were killed in Benghazi, Maxwell says he participated in a secret Sunday session where Clinton aides Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan oversaw a document review with the aim to “pull out anything that might put anybody in the front office or the seventh floor in a bad light” (“Seventh floor” is slang for the Secretary of State.)

    As the House Select Committee on Benghazi held its first hearing Wednesday, the focus was on the Secretary of State’s role in securing American embassies and consulates abroad. Maxwell did not testify, and may or may not be eventually called to speak publicly to the Committee, but his allegations loom in the background.

    I’ve met Maxwell, talked with him, though he did not confide in me. When you join State, you serve whomever is in the White House and like me, Maxwell worked Reagan through Obama. “For any Foreign Service Officer, being at work is the essence of everything,” Maxwell told a reporter after he was ultimately pushed into an early retirement following State’s internal review of the Benghazi debacle. In 2013, Maxwell spoke to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Oversight Committee, and kept quiet about the bombshell information. Maxwell impresses as a State Department archetype, dedicated to the insular institution, apolitical to the point of frustration to an outsider, but shocked when he found his loyalty was not returned.

    Whistleblowers at State

    He has revealed what he knows only two years after the fact. People will say he is out for revenge. But I don’t think so. As a State Department whistleblower who experienced how the Department treats such people, I was there, and there is not a place anyone readily wants to be.

    My own whistleblowing seems minor compared to something that might alter the race for the presidency. With 22 years at State, I spent twelve months leading two Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq. The staggering incompetence and waste of taxpayer money I saw, coupled with the near-complete lack of interest by the Department I found trying to “go through channels,” lead to me write a We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People book exposing it all. The response was devastating: my security clearance was pulled, my case was sent to the Department of Justice for prosecution, I was frog-marched out of my office and forbidden to enter any State Department facility, I was placed on a Secret Service watch list as a potential threat to Mrs. Clinton, the pension I earned over a long career was threatened and only after the intercession of some of the same lawyers now representing Edward Snowden was I “allowed” to retire. My case appeared in Glenn Greenwald’s column. All over a book that discussed history, and named no names.

    Inside the Mind of a Whistleblower

    For whistleblowers to go public, there is a calculus of pain and gain, and that takes time. You try to go through channels; Congressman Jason Chaffetz says Maxwell first told lawmakers his full story privately some time ago. Then you wait in hopes the information will come out without you, that someone else might speak up first, you hint at it hoping someone will take the bait, and instead see faux investigations and bleats about “it’s just politics” further bury it.

    There was a two year gap between much of what I saw in Iraq and my public coming out. The same was true for Snowden and other whistleblowers. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to turn your own life, and that of your family’s, upside down, risking financial ruin, public shaming and possibly jail time. It is a process, not an event. You have to wonder what your fate will be once the media grows bored with your story, how far your actions will follow you. Fear travels with you on your journey of conscience. In my case, I was ignorant of what would happen once I blew the whistle. Ray Maxwell examples to learn from. He likely calculated he needed to securely retire from State before taking Team Clinton head-on.

    Why It Matters

    Now of course much of this is politics, in all its forms, though non-political questions about Benghazi still exist, especially as America resumes war in Iraq with its largest embassy vulnerable. Politics still do matter, and are indeed inevitable, as the measure of candidates needs to be taken. Among other things, their view of whistleblowers is important.

    Document reviews at State following some significant event are not unheard of; an office affected needs to recap how it got to where it is. Conducting such a review in secret, on a Sunday, with some of the Secretary’s most senior advisors personally overseeing things, is unheard of. The details of Maxwell’s story ring true, the place, the procedures. Checks of State Department entry and exit records and room use requests should establish the basic facts. Proving what happened at that document review will be much, much harder, and will focus in large part on Maxwell’s own credibility.


    Who is Ray Maxwell?

    Is Maxwell a disgruntled employee with an agenda? Possibly, but whistleblowers act on conscience, not revenge; the cost is too high for that, and in this day revenge is available much cheaper via a leak or as an unnamed source. Going public and disgruntlement often coincide but are not necessarily causal. You can be both bitter and a truth-teller. Knowing what the right thing to do is easier than summoning the courage and aligning one’s life to step up and do it.

    I think Ray Maxwell is credible. I don’t think his timing suggests he is not. We’ll see, paraphrasing Clinton’s own words on Benghazi, if it really matters anymore, and what difference does it make.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Seven Important, Non-Partisan Questions about Benghazi That Need Answers

    June 2, 2014 // 9 Comments »

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she won’t “be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans” over the 2012 Benghazi attacks,” though she devotes a full chapter to the incident in her forthcoming book Hard Choices. Politico was given a pre-release excerpt from the book, from which the quotes below are drawn.

    Clinton’s book raises some important points. Here are the questions some reporter should ask her if given the chance, along with a note about “why it matters” for each one to make clear these are things we need to know from the likely-next president of the United States, far apart from any political slugfest.

    The Questions

    1) Where was Clinton?

    The Benghazi attack unfolded from about 4pm in the afternoon until very late at night, Washington time. Clinton said she was first told of the incident as it began. She has refused to be specific about her whereabouts and actions that night. Where was Clinton between 4pm and say midnight? The State Department Operations Center was on the phone live with officials in Benghazi, Tripoli or both locations. Was Clinton in the State Department Operations Center? If not, why not? When did she leave the State Department? Why did she leave? Did she go to the White House Ops Center, who no doubt was monitoring the situation? If not, why not?

    Senator Charles Schumer was called to the White House, from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, as the Benghazi attack unfolded. Clinton would be an unlikely source to explain Schumer’s presence, but certainly should be asked to explain her own non-presence.

    For example, the CBS timeline for the attack states that 4 a.m. Washington time Obama was told of Ambassador Stevens’ death. Where was Clinton at that time? If she was asleep, at home or elsewhere, why did she chose that over staying at the State Department?

    Clinton has refused to explain where she was the night of the Benghazi attack. CNN asked her, and here is her response:

    QUESTION: … could you tell us a little bit about what you were doing when that attack actually happened? I know Charlene Lamb, who as the State Department official, was mentioning that she back here in Washington was monitoring electronically from that post what was happening in real time. Could you tell us what you were doing? Were you watching? Were you talking with the President? Any details about that, please.

    SECRETARY CLINTON: … I think that it is very important to recognize that we have an investigation going on… So that’s what an investigative process is designed to do: to try to sort through all of the information, some of it contradictory and conflicting… So I’m going to be, as I have been from the very beginning, cooperating fully with the investigations that are ongoing, because nobody wants to know more about what happened and why than I do. And I think I’ll leave it at that.

    Why It Matters: A Commander-in-Chief is responsible for lives and decisions. She has to be present and ready to make the “hard choices” in real time. If Clinton was elsewhere and not directly monitoring Benghazi in real-time (as opposed to getting periodic “briefings” aside some other event), how will she act as president in a similar crisis?

    2) About That Anti-Muslim Video

    In her book Hard Choices Clinton states about Benghazi:

    There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives. It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence but logic as well.

    What evidence can Clinton present that any of the Benghazi attackers were motivated by the video so offensive to Muslims? The attacks appear to have been well-coordinated and goal-oriented, not the faceless mobs content to tear down the American flag as seen in Cairo.

    For example, at 6:07 p.m. Washington time an alert from the State Department Operations Center stated the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli reported the Islamic military group “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack”… on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli. It did not appear that the offensive video was cited.

    The UK’s Independent noted the Consulate attackers made off with documents listing names of Libyans who are working with Americans, and documents related to oil contracts.

    Why It Matters: If you cite evidence, put up or shut up. The president must speak precisely, both to avoid misunderstandings and to preserve her credibility.

    3) What is Responsibility?

    Clinton writes:

    As Secretary I was the one ultimately responsible for my people’s safety, and I never felt that responsibility more deeply than I did that day.

    Define “responsibility.” Many definitions imply some sort of relationship between being responsible, making decisions and accepting consequences. What decisions did Clinton make as Secretary of State vis-vis security in Benghazi? If delegated, to whom? What controls, management tools or other means did she employ to assure those delegates acted out her intentions?

    Why It Matters: As president, Clinton will need to delegate almost everything. If she is unable to manage that, simply saying she takes “responsibility” while shucking off consequences will undermine her leadership.

    4) More About Responsibility

    In Hard Choices, Clinton writes about the messages from Benghazi before the attack requesting more security:

    The cables were addressed to her as a ‘procedural quirk’ given her position, but didn’t actually land on her desk. “That’s not how it works. It shouldn’t. And it didn’t.”

    Fair enough. Obviously the Secretary cannot read even a fraction of what pours into the State Department. So, who were the highest level people to see those cables? What were their instructions on which issues to elevate to the Secretary and which to deal with themselves? Clearly the need for more security at Benghazi was not addressed. Following Benghazi, did Clinton initiate any internal review, leading to changes? Details are important here.

    Following Benghazi, no one in the State Department lost his/her job. No one was fired. Several people were placed on administrative leave, a kind of purgatory, until media attention focused elsewhere. All were eventually reinstated. The one person who claimed to have resigned actually just changed job titles, “resigning” from one to take on another.

    At the time, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said “the discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs. That will in no way change [the] systemic failures of management and leadership in the State Department.”

    Why It Matters: God alone knows how much paper, how many memos and reports, arrive at the White House daily. The president must have staff and a system that filter the right things up and down. The country needs to have confidence that President Clinton will be able to handle that to prevent bad decisions that may lead to more tragedy. And when things go wrong, the president must be willing to shed ineffectual people and replace them with better ones.

    5) Leading

    Clinton writes of her non-appearance on television, with Susan Rice taking the lead:

    [People] fixate on the question of why I didn’t go on TV that morning, as if appearing on a talk show is the equivalent of jury duty, where one has to have a compelling reason to get out of it. I don’t see appearing on Sunday-morning television as any more of a responsibility than appearing on late-night TV. Only in Washington is the definition of talking to Americans confined to 9 A.M. on Sunday mornings.

    At the time, Susan Rice was America’s ambassador to the UN, what many saw as an unusual choice for a spokesperson for such a State Department-specific tragedy with little UN touchpoint.

    Clinton was Secretary of State, the leader of the State Department, which had just had one of its consulates overrun, and two of its employees killed, one an ambassador. Clinton admits she held “responsibility” for this. Why wouldn’t she be the person to speak of this to the American people? Indeed, it was Clinton, not Susan Rice, in the foreground of the serious, patriotic photos taken later at the Dover Air Force base when the remains of the dead were returned to the U.S. in their flag-draped coffins.

    Clinton went on to miss numerous opportunities to speak of her role regarding Benghazi.

    Why It Matters: The buck stops here, said president Harry Truman. The president needs to be the one who speaks to America, explains things that happened to Americans, the one who shows by example her role, her compassion, for those whom she sent into harm’s way. The president, to lead, can’t duck that.

    6) Information and Disinformation

    Clinton writes in her book:

    [There is a] regrettable amount of misinformation, speculation, and flat-out deceit by some in politics and the media, but new information from a number of reputable sources continues to expand our understanding of these events.

    Can Clinton be specific about what new information she is referring to, and from what sources? Can she explain how she determined these sources are reputable as opposed to those she characterizes as “flat-out deceit”?

    One Democratic talking point opposing additional investigation into Benghazi is that the event has been dissected fully and we know all there is to know, that a new hearing in Congress is simply partisan politics. But if there is new information, as Clinton says, it seems more investigation would be helpful.

    Why It Matters: A president’s word choice is very important. Precision is important and establishes credibility.

    7) Accountability

    Clinton writes that the Accountability Review Board (ARB), State’s after-action process following any tragedy abroad as significant as two employees being killed by terrorists, did not interview her for their report, by their own choice. She does not know why they did not call on her. The report was bland and singled out no one for discipline or sanction despite the deaths and the decisions (by someone) not to increase security as personnel on the ground demanded.

    Given the central role the Secretary of State and her office, delegates and staffers played in Benghazi before, during and after the crisis, how could this possibly be true? Assuming that the ARB truly found no reason whatsoever to speak to the head of an organization about arguably the most significant event of her term as head of that organization, why didn’t Clinton seek them out? Why didn’t she prepare a written statement, ask to add in her recollections? Get her role on record? Make sure history was recorded.

    The Accountability Review Board personnel were hand-selected by Clinton.

    And as John Kerry said (about Edward Snowden) “patriots don’t run away.”

    Why It Matters: Not participating in such a review process, and then dismissing such non-participation simply as “they didn’t ask,” even if true, raises significant credibility questions about the validity of the ARB and the leader who did not participate. Credibility to her own staff, as well as to the American people, is a critical thing for a president.

    If either lose faith in her, she cannot be effective. Leaders lead without excuses.

    Something Important

    OK, let’s get this out of the way. It is impossible to divorce an attempt at serious, dispassionate discourse about Benghazi from the political side promoted by Republicans and Democrats. And yes, of course, it is aimed at Hillary 2016.

    But Hillary 2016 is a big deal. If the election were held today, she’d be the next president. So maybe, albeit with some of the inevitable political mud slung alongside, we should pay attention to how she acted, if she failed to act, and whether she enjoyed some sort of cover-up/soft-sell over what really happened in Benghazi.

    To paraphrase Mrs. Clinton’s own political rhetoric as directed at then-candidate Obama, we need to know how she’ll act when that tragic 3 a.m. phone call comes through. While past performance is no guarantee of future success or failure, it is how the smart money should bet.

    What kind of president would Hillary Clinton be? Let’s ask some real questions, and hold out for real answers.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Piketty’s Reality? The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

    May 22, 2014 // 7 Comments »




    Robert Reich, once Clinton the First’s Secretary of Labor and now a professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has emerged as one of the clearest pre-Piketty voices on income inequality and how it is affecting America. He asks why, in the face of incontrovertible evidence of their coming demise, our middle class remains complacent.

    So why is there no revolution brewing?

    Reich’s reasons– a working class paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has, debt-laden students who are no longer a major force for social change, and an American public so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible– are valid. His idea that somehow some kind of reform is still possible is less so. Let’s look into this.

    The Reality of Wealth

    The gap between most Americans and those who sit atop our economy continues to grow. For two decades after 1960, real incomes of the top five percent and the remaining 95 percent increased at almost the same rate, about four percent a year. But incomes diverged between 1980 and 2007, with those at the bottom seeing annual increases only half of that of those at the top.

    This is not some aberration. Instead, lower savings and hyper-available credit (remember fraudulent Countrywide mortgages and usurous re-fi’s?) put the middle and bottom portions of our society on an unsustainable financial path that increased spending until it triggered the Great Recession of 2008. Meanwhile, America’s the top earners’ wealth grew even as those responsible for the collapse were never punished and the companies involved received federal bail-out money (the money came from taxes paid in part by those destroyed in the Recession.) In the U.S., the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom ninety percent became poorer. The recession represented the largest redistribution of wealth in a century.

    How did the most wealthy achieve this? The reality of possession.

    The Reality of Possession

    A rising tide lifts all yachts, as historian Morris Berman observed. Less than half of Americans do not own any stock at all. The wealthiest of Americans own over 80 percent of all stock, and 40 percent of America’s land.

    It is worse on an international scale. Only 85 human beings own half of all the world’s wealth. Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

    Short answer: The rich just get richer. They have no interest in reform or change. Things are working just fine for them. It is the reality of the system.

    The Reality of the System

    Walmart associates make minimum wage. Most associates are nowhere near full-time, so their take home pay is well below the poverty threshold.

    In return for paying below-poverty wages, Walmart makes over $18,000 per employee, including $13,000 in pre-tax profits, after paying salaries, plus taxpayer subsidies of $5,815 per worker in the form of food stamps paid by the government to keep the workers nearer the poverty line than below it, and tax breaks given to “create jobs.”

    The top four members of the Walmart family made a combined $28.9 billion from their investments last year. Less than a third of that would have given every U.S. Walmart worker a $3.00 raise, enough to end the public subsidy, though the four Walmart scions would have to make due with only $20 billion a year. But why bother to change when the reality of politics is so much in the company’s favor?

    Essentially the interests of the 99 percent are in direct conflict with those of the one percent. The only hope lies in the reality of politics.

    The Reality of Politics

    Over large swaths of the earth, there are no elections. In some of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East and Asia, there is not even the pretext of anyone choosing a government. Most governments are controlled by family ascension, not unlike the scene in the Middle Ages. In many other places, elections are simply public stage plays, with the actual winners decided by corruption and manipulation. Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that power and wealth work together.

    Such is the case now in the United States. According to Professor Lawrence Lessing, that with the concentration of wealth, 132 people in the U.S. essentially control elections. They do so by donating, just that handful of people, over 60 percent of the SuperPac money. Those 132 people represent 0.000042 percent of the total number of voters; most other contributions to candidates are small, many below $200. How much is your vote worth?

    It is not a coincidence that in 2016 the presidential race will likely again be a Clinton versus a Bush.

    By reducing the ostensible choices to two, and by making the choice a false one as both candidates will differ little in their practices toward wealth and corporate profits, a very few super rich (indeed, a tiny subset of even the vaunted one percent) control the government. It is impossible under such circumstances for the government to create laws again the interests of the wealthy; after all, they work for them. The reality of change is that there is no reason to change.


    The Reality of Change

    The world has seen this before, for the West, during the Middle Ages, when feudalism was the dominant social and political state. A very, very few owned most everything of value. The 99 percent majority– serfs then, associates now– worked for whatever the feudal lords allowed them to have. In our more modern version of society, even the skilled artisan class that helped lift us out of the dark times may not exist as those activities (programming, services to the rich, medicine) are largely outsourced to places on earth were the pay even for skilled work is low.

    Spayed, we’ll all accept it. Noisy but ineffective dissent will exist as a kind of entertainment, a diversion. The few real leaders among us will fall quickly under an almost-complete surveillance state coupled with militarized police. There thus, with apologies to Reich and Piketty, may be no means to foment a revolution, nor real reform. It remains possible, if not likely, that our nation will find itself in a new birth of feudalism, progress and growth a mere historical blip.

    Still don’t believe me? Remember, at the fall of Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages only two thousand people owned all the land between the Rhine and Euphrates rivers. In 2014, 85 people own half of the world’s wealth.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Government Watch Lists, Ray McGovern and Post-Constitutional America

    February 24, 2014 // 25 Comments »




    The Passion of Ray McGovern

    Ray McGovern is a hell of a guy. An Army veteran, he worked for the CIA from the Kennedy administration up through the first Bush presidency, preparing the president’s daily intel brief and other important stuff. Along the way, McGovern began to see the fraud and evil of much of the government’s work, and has since become an outspoken critic of the intelligence world and an advocate for free speech. He speaks on behalf of people like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.

    McGovern is also a very nice person, soft-spoken, serious, kinda looks like your uncle playing Santa Claus, full of fascinating Cold War history. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ray. He’s the kind of guy you meet and like almost immediately. I bet he was a hell of a spy.

    A Wanted Man

    Ray McGovern is also on the State Department’s BOLO list– Be On the Look Out– one of a series of government watch lists.

    The old-timey wanted poster State’s Diplomatic Security printed up cites McGovern’s “considerable amount of political activism” and “significant notoriety in the national media” as if those points were somehow relevant to his inclusion on the watch list. Though McGovern is a thin man, age 75 with no history of violence, Diplomatic Security warns that its agents should USE CAUTION (their emphasis) when stopping McGovern and conducting the required “field interview.”

    A Dangerous Man

    What did McGovern do to end up on Diplomatic Security’s dangerous persons list? His offense was to turn his back on Hillary Clinton, literally.

    In 2011, at George Washington University during a public event where Clinton was speaking, McGovern stood up and turned his back to the stage. He did not say a word, or otherwise disrupt anything. University cops grabbed McGovern in a headlock and by his arms and dragged him out of the auditorium by force, their actions directed by a from the side by a third man whose name was redacted from public records of the event. Photos of the then-71 year old man taken at the time of his arrest show the multiple bruises and contusions he suffered while being arrested. He was secured to a metal chair with two sets of handcuffs. McGovern was at first refused medical care for the bleeding caused by the handcuffs. It is easy to invoke the words thug, bully, goon.

    The charges of disorderly conduct were dropped, McGovern was released and it was determined that he committed no crime.

    And one more thing: the speech Clinton was making at the time of McGovern’s protest and arrest? She was condemning authoritarian governments who repress dissenters and internet freedom. As McGovern was being dragged out, Clinton stated that “The government does not want the world to watch,” in reference to Egypt, not her America as unfolding before her eyes. Clinton did not acknowledge the arrest, never broke character as it happened.

    An Enemy of the State

    In old-timey America, that might have been the end of McGovern’s troubles. However, in our post-Constitutional America, it was only the beginning.

    Despite all charges having been dropped against McGovern and despite having determined that he engaged in no criminal activity, the Department of State then opened an investigation into McGovern, including his political beliefs, activities, statements and associations. The investigative report noted “McGovern does
    seem to have the capacity to capture a national audience – it is possible his former career with the CIA has the potential to make him ‘attractive’ to the media.” The investigation ran nearly seven months, and resulted in the Be On The Lookout Alert.

    Subjects of such alerts are considered potential threats to the Secretary of State. Their whereabouts are typically tracked to see if they will be in proximity of the Secretary. If Diplomatic Security sees one of the subjects nearby, they detain and question them. Other government agencies and local police are always notified. The alert essentially constitutes a standing directive by Diplomatic Security that the subject be stopped and seized in the absence of reasonable suspicion or probable cause that he is committing an offense. Stop him for being him. It is easy to see how these directives slash across the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unwarranted search and seizure.

    Subjects are also not allowed inside any State Department facility, including embassies and consulates abroad where typical Americans are by treaty allowed to seek refuge and protection. But not for Ray McGovern.

    McGovern v. John Kerry

    As we’ve said, McGovern is no typical guy. On February 15 he filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State John Kerry and his State Department, as well as George Washington University where the arrest took place, claiming his First Amendment rights were violated by unlawful police misconduct in retaliation for his act of protest. He also is suing over violation of his Fourth Amendment rights due to excessive use of force and his wrongful arrest. McGovern seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the State Department from directing law enforcement stop and question him on sight.

    We’ll keep track of the lawsuit and report on its progress.

    Why I Know So Much about BOLO Alerts

    Information reluctantly made available to me as the State Department sought to persecute, prosecute and /or fire me for my whistleblowing book, We Meant Well, showed that I too was and may still be subject to a Diplomatic Security alert.

    After a blog post I wrote in 2011 that was deemed insulting to then-Secretary of State Clinton, and after over two decades of public service, my State Department access card was impounded, I was marched out of the building and I was given a letter stating I was prohibited from entering any State Department facility, domestic or abroad. When a bit of necessary bureaucratic business came up a week or two later, I was told that I could only enter the State Department building as far as the public lobby, where I would be met by the appropriate Human Resources person in the presence of security personnel.

    State later was forced to reveal that not only was I placed on its own Diplomatic Security watch list, but also on the Secret Service’s watch list, as they share responsibility for Clinton’s security as a former First Lady. McGovern may want to check on that.

    My lawyers sought to have State remove me from the lists. State refused to confirm or deny my continued presence on the lists. State did not respond to my several requests for this information under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Post-Constitutional America

    Diplomatic Security knew of course I was no threat to anyone. I’m a fat old guy, short, and had a clean track record inside the Department since the 1980’s. Same for Ray McGovern; the cops that mistreated and arrested him for standing silently knew damn well he was neither disrupting anything nor a threat. They knew exactly what the First and Fourth Amendments said.

    And they didn’t care.

    This is what post-Constitutional America is about. The government, from major issues such as extrajudicial drone killings down to the pettiness which preoccupies the bullies in places like Diplomatic Security, no longer cares whether its actions are legal, and no longer cares if everyone knows it.

    From the Founders forward, government has always done illegal things, naughty things, things that it knew were likely unconstitutional. What is new is that the acts have scaled up significantly, moving from analog to digital, and that the government is so sure that neither the courts nor the People will object that they no longer even go through the motions of hiding what they do.

    Remember, both the Stasi and the Nazis did what they did quite openly, and kept excellent records.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Hey, Who’s that American? Probably a Special Forces Guy

    December 30, 2013 // 10 Comments »

    Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, foreigners would point at awkward people in brightly colored shorts, and socks with sandals, and know they were American tourists visiting their country. Goofy, then-rich and usually benign, they were the face of America abroad.

    These days, if a foreigner encounters an American, he is mostly likely a special forces guy.


    A Quick Recap on Libya

    Today’s case in point, Libya. But first a quick recap. In August 2011 (just a little more than two years ago), then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the country:

    The events in Libya this week have heartened the world. The situation remains fluid, but it is clear that the Qadhafi era is coming to an end, opening the way for a new era in Libya—one of liberty, justice, and peace. We join the Libyan people in celebrating the courageous individuals who have stood up to a tyrant and defended their homes and communities against Qadhafi’s violence. The United States and the international community have stood by the Libyan people during many difficult days in the last six months. Together, we prevented a massacre, and we supported the people’s efforts to gain their freedom.

    In October 2011, Clinton herself traveled to Libya, bringing along $46 million in U.S. aid, after freeing up over $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets. Hopefully some opposition researcher is collecting these choice moments ahead of the 2016 elections.

    Good times, yes, good times.


    Two Years Later…

    So here we are, two years later and the news out of Libya is about other Americans visiting. A few days ago, a convoy of Americans “from the embassy” raced through a checkpoint in Libya. One car had no license plates. Another shot past guards and caused an accident, after which the vehicle “suddenly caught fire which authorities could not explain,” said al-Taher al-Gharbali, an army colonel in the local military council. Eventually four armed Americans with U.S. embassy ID cards were arrested by some form of the Libyan authorities (i.e., a couple of guys with AK-74 on loose slings.)

    After a lot of initial silence, the Department of Defense confirmed that the travelers were U.S. military personnel. While their unit identification was not made public, one can probably surmise they were not clerk typists on shore leave. DOD said they were scouting evacuation routes for embassy personnel. The embassy said they were part of security preparedness. A State Department spokesperson said “the United States valued its relationship with ‘the new Libya'”.


    More Freedom

    Elsewhere, we have learned that the four Americans wounded in South Sudan as part of the humanitarian evacuation process were Navy SEALS.

    And who can forget American Citizen Raymond Davis, who, while touring Pakistan, killed a couple of local guys. Davis wasn’t Special Forces; he worked for the CIA, perhaps as their actual employee, perhaps as a mercenary for the private security contractor Xe, formerly known as Blackwater.

    While it is kinda hard to find a list of all the places U.S. Special Forces are currently deployed abroad, it is comforting to know that the U.S. military as a whole has armed personnel in more than 150 nations worldwide. The U.S. Special Operations Command has over 67,000 acknowledged personnel and a known budget of $7.483 billion for Operations and Maintenance; $373 million for Research, Development, Test, & Evaluation; $1.6 billion for Procurement; and $441 million for Military Construction funding.


    BONUS: An excellent list of U.S. military interventions abroad, 1890-2011.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Bruce Oreck, Former Douche of the Week, Reclaims Title as America Weeps

    December 18, 2013 // 24 Comments »

    Ambassadors are a nation’s principle representative abroad.

    In the case of America and the U.S. Department of State, the ambassador is considered the ranking American government official in-country, the head of the embassy and indeed the president’s personal and direct representative to that foreign nation. Symbol, figurehead, molder of America’s image in the eyes of foreigners.

    Many of you will remember how about this time last year we named U.S. ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck “Douche of the Week,” a prestigious title to go along with his official one. Oreck rose to these heights by sending out Christmas cards with the photo shown to the left. Oreck fancies himself a well-built fellow, with a cheeky sense of humor. He is beloved by millions of his staff for presenting a regular guy image; he is beloved by millions of Finns for confirming their belief that Americans are complete idiots who should never be allowed to travel.

    Signature Accomplishment: Renovating his Own Office

    As an ambassador, Oreck’s signature accomplishment so far, not including the photo here, has been to get the U.S. government to spend more money on the U.S. embassy in Finland, because that somehow must be good for the Finns. Indeed, an official USG report acknowledged that “the embassy renovation project would not have been funded or advanced at an accelerated pace without the constant pressure of the Ambassador, both from Helsinki and during frequent trips to Washington.” Oreck picked up 250,000 frequent flier miles (ambassadors fly first class, ‘natch) in dozens of trips between Washington, D.C., and Helsinki to personally address concerns. Luckily, he was able to divert scarce State Department building and security funds from dumps like Benghazi.

    Oreck of course has a long resume of living off his family’s money. Oreck earned his lifetime title of ambassador by being the son of famed vacuum cleaner manufacturer David Oreck. Ambassador Oreck then went on to serve as General Counsel and Executive Vice President for the Oreck Corporation. Oreck’s most important contribution to diplomacy was to bundle more than $500,000 in donations for Obama in the 2008 election.

    Merry Douche Christmas

    We all know asshats like Oreck, and we all know they feed off of lower people like ourselves calling them asshats. Kind of perks them up, and so they go out of their way to bait us, begging for a response. As hard as I have tried not to feed him, Oreck did it again. Here’s his Christmas card for this year, as posted on his Facebook page:




    I guess it is supposed to be some kind of meta-social commentary thing, like because last year everybody called him a douche for posing with his bicep curled, this year he is wearing a shirt and tie in a place where you’d expect him to be shirtless. And it is also of course “culturally sensitive” because it is in a sauna, and Finns like saunas. As with the State Department’s goofy videos, if this kind of ambassador-with-a-sense of humor thing is such an effective “tool” of diplomacy, why is it only the U.S. that seems to have cottoned on to that?

    Oreck also has on Facebook lots of “I’m not really a frustrated, closeted gay man, even though that’s cool” photos. Here he is with Richard Branson, and there is he checking out the Old Dog’s package.



    So, America, in this Christmas season, let us rejoice. Taxpayers, you are paying for all this. But in a larger sense, rest easy knowing that our bumbling idiot of a nation is in fact quite accurately represented in Finland.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Veteran’s Day: State Department Sleaze Flows Unabated and Unpunished

    November 11, 2013 // 12 Comments »

    We pause to honor America’s veterans today, and recognize their sacrifices. At the same time, we wish to let those still on active duty, living in the mud, eating MREs away from their families and of course putting their lives at risk, what some have called “America’s Other Army,” the Department of State, has been up to home and abroad.

    That said, we’ve tried to keep up with the near-continuous flow of sleaze at the State Department, but it a tough job. Luckily, the New York Post has also been keeping track, and presents us with some updates.

    (This blog’s catalog of sleaze is here if you need to refresh your memory)

    From the Post:

    – Chuck Lisenbee, a former Beirut security officer who was being probed for allegedly sexually assaulting local guards, is now a special agent in Washington for the Office of Diplomatic Vehicles, Enforcement and Outreach, according to a State Department phone directory. Agents were only given three days to investigate the allegations against him, according to a memo seen by the Post.

    An alert blog reader has submitted in the comments below: “More details on Lisenbee: he first got into trouble when he tried to make out with a fellow (male) ARSO in Baghdad. His depredations against local guards in Liberia were then discovered. Lisenbee started every lunch with prayer because “Jesus Christ, my lord and savior, is the most important thing in my life” (exact quote heard by this source on at least 50 occasions). ”

    — Brett McGurk — a former senior adviser to the ambassador to Iraq — was appointed the deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran in August, according to the State Department Web site. He was President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Iraq but withdrew after his extramarital affair with a Wall Street Journal reporter was exposed. Apparently, investigators never interviewed McGurk because Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, intervened. (this blog has A LOT more on McGurk’s dalliances; and you’ll see a lot more of Under Furher Cheryl Mills in the Hillary Clinton administration)

    — Former Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman was allowed to retire in July. A State Department investigator believed Gutman solicited “sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to the Post. The IG’s Office is reviewing the charges and the Department’s procedures and plans to release a followup report. Howard Gutman and members of Clinton’s security detail were also accused of hired prostitutes.

    — An alert blog reader has submitted in the comments below: “Remember old Linda Howard, profiled on this blog for holding her Ethiopian housekeeper as a slave. She lost a big lawsuit over that. The U.S. Attorney was unable to prosecute her and her husband, Russell, because Linda’s sex parties in Yemen were really popular and the “semi-pro” Ethiopian girls in attendance made a lot of money at them. As a result, they didn’t make terribly good witnesses. The Howard’s are currently hiding out in an undisclosed SouthEast Asian country (Russell used to be a diplomatic courier in the Australian Foreign Service).”


    Meanwhile, a quick update also on America’s Favorite Diplomatic Security agent, Chris Deedy. Deedy shot and killed an unarmed man in Hawaii while there on official State Department business (albeit off duty when he pulled the trigger multiple times), guarding Hillary Clinton during APEC meetings. The judge declared a mistrial, released the jury and stated she was thinking about scheduling a retrial for May or June 2014. The killing took place in 2011. At last report, the victim remains dead. Much more here about this story; Deedy remains a full-time paid employee of the State Department.

    The Honolulu Star Advertiser and HawaiiNewsNOW have filed a complaint in state Supreme Court to force the judge to release transcripts of the parts of the Deedy trial where she kicked everyone out of the courtroom, saying the judge violated the U.S. Constitution by holding closed-door court proceedings.

    Deedy’s support group is also busy, asking readers to donate their frequent flyer miles and hotel points so Deedy can fly and stay in Hawaii for free. Jump on over to their site if you want to pony up.

    Also, Benghazi.



    And don’t miss more State sleaze later this week, with a blog post we’ll call “Sex, Lies and Rotten Meat at the American Consulate in Naples.”



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    State Department Sleaze Accumulates without Real Response

    June 16, 2013 // 56 Comments »


    Breaking Bad! Two new sleazy State Department actions– a sweetheart consulting deal for one of Hillary’s best buds and accusations of an affair and hookers for a senior State official. See below!

    Attempted suicide after a harsh interrogation? Hiring armed guys with criminal backgrounds? Senior officials having sex with subordinates, prostitutes and minors? Investigations into all of the above covered up or halted? That’s the news, not from Gitmo or some banana republic, but from your U.S. Department of State. Better get out the hand sanitizer, this blog post gets filthy fast.

    A Sad Pattern of Sleaze from America’s Diplomats

    Ever since the story broke on CBS News that the State Department covered up numerous allegations of wrong-doing to protect its public image, the details of said wrong-doing have been leaking out.

    The reasons to care about this are many, and all the Hillary-love and attempts to just call it (just) a Republican witch hunt are a smokescreen. The obvious reason to care is that these people represent America abroad, and we need to ask what image they are projecting. In addition, such crimes and personal traits as alleged below make them vulnerable to blackmail, either by other members of the USG (promote me, give me a better assignment, or else…) or foreign intelligence (turn over the secrets or the photos go to the press). The fact that the organization apparently cannot police itself internally raises questions about competence (and the former SecState saying she was wholly ignorant of all this sludge is not a defense that actually makes her look presidential), and about what if anything it is accomplishing on America’s behalf.

    Here’s a roundup to date:

    – As a special shout-out to We Meant Well regulars, USA Today claims it has a memo detailing how Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, allegedly interceded in an investigation by Diplomatic Security into an affair between failed-Iraq ambassador-designate Brett McGurk and Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon.

    — Cheryl Mills again: Mills, a longtime confidante of Hillary, reportedly played a key role in the State Department’s damage-control efforts on the Benghazi attack last year and was also named in accusations that department higher-ups quashed investigations into diplomats’ potential criminal activity. Cheryl Mills, who served in a dual capacity in recent years as general counsel and chief of staff to Clinton, was accused of attempting to stifle congressional access to a diplomat who held a senior post in Libya at the time of the attack.

    — U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman accused of soliciting “sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children.” The ambassador “routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” according to documents obtained by NBC News. State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered an end to the investigation. “The ambassador’s protective detail and the embassy’s surveillance detection team [Note: A State Department team that conducts counterespionage surveillance, watching State Department officials to see if they are being watched by foreign spies] . . . were well aware of the behavior.”

    The ambassador explained that sometimes he fights with his wife, needs air and he goes for a walk in the park because he likes it. The Atlantic reported that the park Gutman trolled, Parc Royal Warandepark, was well-known as a place to pick up adult homosexual and adolescent boy prostitutes.

    A Belgian newspaper described the park: “I see young children go to adult waiting. Later, another adult waits, often to extort money from the victim after. I’ve been awakened by cries and my terrace, I saw someone being beaten. I had my legs were shaking. Time to call the police, I saw the victim painfully get up and go.”

    — A State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” with foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. State’s former regional security officer in Beirut, Chuck Lisenbee, allegedly sexually assaulted guards and was accused of similar assaults in Baghdad, Khartoum and Monrovia. Justine Sincavage, then-director of Diplomatic Security Service, called the allegations a “witch hunt” and gave agents “only three days” to investigate, and no charges were brought, according to USA Today.

    — Members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries,” a problem the report says was “endemic.” Three members of Clinton’s security detail admitted to hiring prostitutes while on foreign trips and were given suspensions of one day. An investigator for Diplomatic Security launched an investigation into similar allegations against four other members of Clinton’s security detail but was ordered by Kimber Davidson, chief of the special investigations division, and Rob Kelty, his deputy, to shut down the investigation.

    — The State Department has hired an “alarming number of law-enforcement agents with criminal or checkered backgrounds” because of a flawed hiring process, a stunning memo obtained by The New York Post reveals. “Too many people entering the [Diplomatic Security and Information Management] communities end up as subjects of [Special Investigation Division] investigations and HR adjudications, become Giglio-impaired and can play only limited roles thereafter,” according to the memo. “Giglio” refers to a US Supreme Court case dealing with jury notification that witnesses have made deals with the government to induce testimony. Some Diplomatic Security field offices “have major problems just waiting to be discovered,” the memo adds.

    — In one case, aggressive interrogation techniques by Diplomatic Service agents “drove an employee to attempt suicide” when accused of raping his maid in Bangkok, Thailand, a memo suggests. “After “being told he would end up in a Thai prison, his wife would lose her job and his children would be pulled out of school, [the man] attempted suicide by jumping out of the 16th-story window at a hotel in Bangkok.” The guy lived, and was flown back to Washington for in-patient psychiatric care, where the agents continued to harass him. The rape charges were ultimately dropped.

    — The same Diplomatic Security memo cites eight cases involving Diplomatic Security agents who resorted to “false, misleading or incomplete statements in reports,” “privacy-act violations” or “lack of objectivity” in investigations.

    — Diplomatic security agents learned that James Combs, a senior diplomatic security agent in Baghdad and formerly of the DS Office of Professional Standards, was having an extramarital affair with a subordinate and had numerous affairs with men over a 30-year span without the knowledge of his wife. This presented “counterintelligence concerns,” but the investigation never reached a conclusion.

    — A security contractor in Baghdad died of an overdose of methadone, which he was taking to counteract an addiction to the painkiller oxycodone. An underground drug ring may have been supplying the drugs, but State’s regional security officer did not allow a special investigations agent to pursue that possibility.

    — In Miami, agents investigating a car accident by diplomatic security agent Evelyn Kittinger learned that she had been claiming full pay for several years “but had actually only worked very few hours.” State Department supervisors told the investigator to advise her to resign to avoid facing criminal charges and a major fine.

    — Another report states that a top State Department official stymied investigators trying to get to the bottom of four killings in Honduras involving DEA agents and local police. The incident ended in the deaths of two pregnant women and two men last year, after Honduran national police opened fire from a State Department-owned helicopter on a small boat. Honduran police said drugs were involved, but locals said the boat was full of fishermen.

    –ADDED: Sen. Charles Grassley is probing longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s employment status, asking how she got a sweetheart deal to be a private six-figure consultant while still serving as a top State Department official. Abedin, one of Clinton’s most loyal aides, is of course married to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who’s in the midst of a vigorous effort to beat off his own sexting scandal and become mayor of New York. Abedin hauled in as much as $350,000 in outside income on top of her $135,000 government salary. She was redesignated a “special government employee” who was able to haul in cash as a private contractor while still on the government dole.

    –ADDED: Consulate General Naples’ Kerry Howard says she was bullied, harassed and forced to resign after she exposed Consul General Donald Moore’s alleged office trysts with subordinates and hookers. “When our diplomats disrespect the Italians by hiring and firing them because they have seen too much — or use them for ‘sex-ercise’ — we have to question why we have diplomats abroad at taxpayer expense,” said Howard. As a senior foreign-service officer, Moore makes as much as $179,700 a year. His first office romance supposedly occurred within days of his arrival in Italy, when he allegedly bedded a consulate employee, a single mom who fell in love with him. Moore was honored as “Consular Officer of the Year” (Barbara Watson Award) in 2005.

    — A Foreign Service Officer, Michael Todd Sestak, 41, has been arrested and charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit bribery and visa fraud. Dude was a senior visa official in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and supposedly pocketed some $2 million dollars for his work.

    It appears that Foggy Bottom has sprung multiple leaks as hard-working folks grow tired of their bosses being allowed to do just about anything without punishment. What is going on? I don’t recall this much garbage coming into the daylight ever before. I assume it was happening all the same forever, but not this much in the public eye. I think it is time for Kerry to say something about at least trying to control his organization.

    And of course someone should throw Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy out. He *may* be getting the message that in this internet age if you don’t give people a realistic internal avenue to fix things they’ll just go outside. That’s kinda what I did… So there is no doubt much more to come…


    State Department Responds

    The State Department spokesman said, “We hold all employees to the highest standards.” Spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters repeatedly this week that the accusations are “unsubstantiated.”

    So that’s that apparently. No reporter has seen it useful to ask why for more than four and a half years, the State Department has had no appointed inspector general, the longest such vacancy of any federal agency. Or why, during his entire time in office, Obama has not nominated anyone to fill the slot. Or why during her four years as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not demand an inspector general for her organization.

    Hillary Responds

    A spokesman said Clinton was completely unaware of any of the investigations mentioned in the Office of the Inspector General’s reports and memos, including the case involving her personal security detail allegedly soliciting prostitutes. “We learned of it from the media and don’t know anything beyond what’s been reported.”

    It means nothing that a candidate who will no doubt cite her endless efforts on behalf of women everywhere remained unaware of sex crimes occurring, well, under her.

    Opposition researchers and taxpayers alike, once again, Hillary Clinton’s defense is that she was totally unaware of what was going on in the organization she lead and managed, up to and including the actions of her own lifelong advisor and chief of staff, as well senior officials who reported directly to her. She’ll make a great president!

    Oh wait– these are just “allegations.” They need to be investigated. Well, the problem of course is that one of the allegations is that powerful trolls inside State prevented or derailed any investigations, and indeed the over-arching allegation is that Diplomatic Security, charged with investigations, is riddled with political considerations that prevent full and transparent investigations. So that’s a pretty weak excuse to blow off everything said.

    That said, maybe some are false. OK, but if even a small number of these serious accusations are true (rape, murder, minors) then even that suggests an organization operating without internal controls and the best defense its leader can come up with is her own ignorance. Not a good thing.




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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Eric Holder is Not a Patriot

    May 15, 2013 // 9 Comments »

    Eric Holder has told us that he “recused” himself from decisions the organization he heads made to help destroy freedom of the press in the United States by seizing the phone records of the Associated Press. He simply said that he was not involved, so please address your concerns somewhere else. The President, Holder’s boss, made similar remarks. The government did things to belittle the Constitution and neither the President nor the Attorney General has much concern or connection with it all. Things happen.

    The pattern is not unique to the phone records, nor to even the nobody-is-responsible actions of the IRS against organizations seeking non-profit status whose political beliefs ran counter to the Obama Administration. Indeed, even as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton claimed that she had no idea of what was going on underneath her in the organization vis-vis Libya, and that counted as a defense. Hell, we fire football coaches when the team loses, even though they don’t punt, pass or kick themselves. Leaders are responsible for what their organizations do. That’s what the job is, not just photo-ops and world travel.

    But for all the recent “-gates” and scandals, let’s take a moment to remember the uber-scandal of the Obama Administration: it’s claim that it may legally kill Americans by drone, with no due process.

    Looking Back

    Historians of the future, if they are not imprisoned for saying so, will trace the end of America’s democratic experiment to the fearful days immediately after 9/11, what Bruce Springsteen called the days of the empty sky, when frightened, small men named Bush and Cheney made the first decisions to abandon the Constitution in the name of freedom and created a new version of the security state with the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, secret prisons and sanctioned torture by the US government. They proceeded carefully, making sure that lawyers in their employ sanctioned each dark act, much as kings in old Europe used the church to justify their own actions.

    Those same historians will remark from exile on the irony that such horrendous policies were not only upheld by Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and professor of Constitutional law, but added to until we came to the place we sadly occupy today: the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, publicly stating that the American Government may murder one of its own citizens when it wishes to do so, and that the requirements of due process enshrined in the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, itself drawn from the Magna Carta that was the first reflowering of basic human rights since the Greeks, can be satisfied simply by a decision by that same President.

    We will thus be remembered as the ones who gave up. No more clever wordplay (enhanced interrogations, “patriot” act, targeted killing, kinetic operations) but a simple declaration that the US Government will kill its own citizens when it wishes to, via a secret process we, and our victims, are not allowed to know or contest.

    Brevity in Our Freedom

    Like most of the Bill of Rights, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution is beautiful in its brevity and clarity. When you are saying something true, pure, clean and right, you often do not need many words: “…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

    There are no footnotes in the Fifth Amendment, no caveats, no secret memos, no exceptions for war, terrorism, mass rape, creation of concentration camps, acts of genocide, child torture or any evil. Those things are unnecessary, because in the beauty of what Lincoln offered to his audience as “a government of the people, by the people, for the people,” the government would be made up of us, the purpose of government was to serve us, and the government would be beholden to us. Such a government would be incapable of killing its own citizens without care and debate and open trial.

    With the excuse all tyrants proclaim, protecting the nation, on or about September 30, 2011 a US drone fired a missile in Yemen and killed American Citizen Anwar al Awlaki, born in the United States and tragically devoted to al Qaeda. A few days later the US also killed al Zawaki’s 16 year old American Citizen son. The US had shot at the elder al Awlaki before, on May 7, 2011 under Obama’s orders, and under the Bush administration. Before the US government killed his son, attorneys for al Awlaki’s father tried to persuade a US District Court to issue an injunction preventing the government killing of al Awlaki. A judge dismissed the case, ruling the father did not have standing to sue. This was the first time in our nation’s history that a father sought to sue to prevent the government from extra-legally killing his son. The judge in the case surrendered to his post-9/11 fear and wrote that it was up to the elected branches of government, not the courts, to determine whether the United States has the authority to murder its own citizens by decree.

    Fear Shaped by Lies to Compel Compliance

    Attorney General Holder said things no honest man would ever believe would be said by the highest law officer in the United States.

    Holder said “that a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process’ and that the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against depriving a citizen of his or her life without due process of law does not mandate a ‘judicial process.’”

    Holder thus also declaimed that the victim also has no right to a defense, no right to speak on his behalf, no right to examine and refute the evidence against him and no right even to know his life will be taken under the decision of a few men in Washington. Indeed, Holder made clear that the government’s decision to kill overshadowed the right to self-defense in saying “An individual’s interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant. Yet it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks.”

    Holder said he rejected any attempt to label such operations assassinations, invoking the same airbrush of lawfulness that fueled the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials and the Holocaust. “Assassinations are unlawful killings. The US government’s use of lethal force in self-defense against a leader of al-Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful.” In other words, if the President does it, it is no illegal.

    Sluts All

    Historians will look back on us as the people of America who gave up on its experiment with unalienable rights, rights that are natural, not given, rights independent of governments, what our Declaration explained to an unsure forming nation as “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    America was different. We became a country not based on a common language, or religion or anything else except adherence to a common set of beliefs, our Bill of Rights. When you take that away, there is nothing left in common, and dammit Eric Holder and Barack Obama know that.

    The saddest part of a very sad day: the majority of Americans– the consent of the governed– seemingly do not care what Holder said, and are even now bleating on internet forums and likely in comments below to this article about the need to kill more, adding terrified, empty justifications to Holder’s clever statements. We did not have our freedom taken from us, we gave it away. That is real terror.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Deedy Done It Different

    March 28, 2013 // 20 Comments »

    America’s favorite Diplomatic Security “special” agent Chris Deedy is engaged in what promises to be one of Hawaii’s longest trial processes.

    For those just joining us, recap here. For those too multi-tasked to click on the link, the real short now version is that in November 2011 while in Hawaii protecting then-SecState Hillary Clinton from the APEC conference, Deedy shot and killed an unarmed man in a Waikiki McDonalds. Deedy was arrested by the Honolulu Police Department and charged with Murder in the Second Degree and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Separate Felony, punishable by a term of life in prison. Despite the whole thing being on both a surveillance videotape and on someone’s iPhone video, along with multiple eye witnesses, the case has not yet come to full trial. Deedy maintained that he acted legally in his capacity as a law enforcement official.

    Until now.

    On March 11 Deedy changed his story, with his lawyer withdrawing the request to dismiss the case on the basis that he was acting as a federal agent at the time of the incident. The new rationale for the killing is self-defense. Withdrawing the motion relieves Deedy of having to testify during a pretrial hearing. It also cancels his desire to have the case transferred to federal court. The change also, finally, clears the way for the actual trial to begin on/about April 2 in Honolulu unless some new delay is introduced.

    There has been no clear explanation/reason as to why the case has taken so long to (almost) reach trial. Deedy has been out on bail since the shooting, working a desk job at the State Department on full salary.

    Deedy also now has a “support” group on the web raising money for him (they’re up to $12k), as well as to provide his side of the story.

    According to the local Honolulu newspaper, in pretrial documents, city prosecutors say Deedy appeared “intoxicated” after a night of drinking and bar hopping and became the aggressor who started an altercation. According to prosecutors, Deedy kicked the deceased Elderts and repeatedly told him he was going to shoot him “in the face.”

    The defense’s position outlined in court documents contends it was Elderts who was the aggressor. Hart’s filings said an intoxicated Elderts called Deedy a “fucking haole” and challenged him to a fight. Hart said Deedy identified himself as a law enforcement officer, but Elderts attacked Deedy, who felt compelled to fire in self-defense.

    Deedy’s self-defense argument will need to convince a local jury that as a trained law enforcement officer from the State Department temporarily in Hawaii for wholly unrelated reasons, after a night on the town with friends, he was required to fire multiple shots at near point-blank range into an unarmed inebriated local man inside a crowded McDonalds at 2:30 am.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

    Did Eric Boswell Really Resign over Benghazi Fail? Define “Resign”

    March 18, 2013 // 16 Comments »




    In one of her final acts as Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton accepted the “resignation” of her head of Diplomatic Security, Eric J. Boswell. Boswell was portrayed in the media as the highest ranking State Department official to lose his job over the security failures in Benghazi, Libya that lead to the deaths of four Americans. Clinton sold the resignation to Congress as a sign of accountability over decisions made and mistakes committed. Case closed, right?

    But did Boswell really “resign?” Or is he still employed by the Department of State?

    Define “Resign”

    Before his December 19, 2012 “resignation,” Boswell actually held two jobs: head of Diplomatic Security and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions (DS/OFM) at State. The former position held immediate responsibility for the safety of America’s diplomats abroad, while the latter job covered both the security and administrative needs of foreign diplomats in the U.S. As head of OFM, Boswell was responsible for the safety of say the French Embassy in Washington as well as the duty-free import of cars for the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles.

    His celebrated resignation was cleverly worded: he resigned as head of Diplomatic Security (Benghazi accountability!) only. In a December 19 statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she “has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign as Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, effective immediately.” When questioned about whether Boswell really left the State Department’s employ by a cowed media, State would only reissue the carefully crafted statement put out December 19. No one was interested in even a follow-up question– is Boswell still on State’s payroll?

    Where’s Boswell?

    So who is now head of the Office of Foreign Missions at State? Is it Boswell? Turns out that is a hard question to really answer.

    Let’s start with the list of senior officials on the State Department website. That page lists the position of Director of the Office of Foreign Missions as vacant. No Boswell.

    However, on the same main State Department site, a page from the Office of the Historian puts Boswell still in the job, as he has been, since 2008. Another page says he is still in the job. Hmm.

    But, the page for the actual Office for Foreign Missions lists no personnel by name. Curiouser and curiouser.

    The main State Department telephone directory lists no position at all as “Director of the Office of Foreign Missions.” That’s kind of odd, as the office should in fact have a Director, they all do, somebody. Boswell’s name also appears nowhere in the phone book. Hmmm.


    Just Call Them

    So, I just called up the Office of Foreign Missions at the number (202-647-3417) listed in that public directory for the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Foreign Missions, the titular number two person there. I spoke with someone named *****, and said I wanted to write a letter to the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions– to whom should I address it? She helpfully said “Eric Boswell.” I asked “Eric J. Boswell?” and she said yes. I asked what salutation/title I should use and she said “Director.” She then helpfully added “But Director Boswell does not often come in to the office so you should in fact contact the Deputy Assistant Secretary.” ***** would not give me her last name.

    Then a concerned citizen still working at State told me on background that Boswell, thanks to a sweetheart deal with Under Secretary for Management Pat Kennedy after the Benghazi hearings, retains his salary and title but basically delegates all of his responsibilities as Director of the Office of Foreign Missions. He did “resign” from one titled position while cleverly keeping his other position, according to my source. Ka-ching!

    Accountability for What?

    About a week after Boswell “resigned” back in December 2012, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she could not independently confirm a New York Post report claiming Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, remains at the State Department.

    Ros-Lehtinen said “If these reports are correct, they’re pathetic examples of yet another ruse about the tragedy of Benghazi. State Department officials proclaimed to the world that heads would roll after the deception related to the deceitful video excuse and the non existent spontaneous protest outside the consulate. Now we see that the discipline is a lie and all that has happened is the shuffling of the deck chairs. That will in no way change [the] systemic failures of management and leadership in the State Department.”

    Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, or any journalist, why not contact the Department of State and simply ask “Who is the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions?” and/or “Is Eric Boswell still employed by the Department of State?” Depending on the answers you receive, better follow-up with this question: If indeed no one lost their jobs over the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, exactly what accountability is there?

    And do ask them how the term “resign” is actually defined at the State Department.



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    Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

    Posted in 2016, Embassy/State

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