There is a nasty pattern in American political speech, going back into the 1980s at least: when a senior U.S. official labels you a thug, often times wars follow. Thug is the safest word of American Exceptionalism.
So it is with some concern that lots of folks are pushing each other away from the mic to call Putin a thug (fun fact: Putin has been in effective charge of Russia for 15 years. As recently as the Hillary Clinton Secretary of State era, the U.S. sought a “reset” of relations with him.)
While the current throwing of the term thug at Putin is tied to the weak evidence presented publicly linking a Russian hacker under Putin’s employ to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee computers, there may be larger issues in the background. But first, a sample of the rhetoric.
Putin the Thug
Obama on Putin: “a thug who doesn’t understand his own best interests.”
Mario Rubio on Putin: “A gangster and a thug.”
Paul Ryan’s spokesperson on Putin: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug.”
John McCain on Putin: “A bully and thug.”
And for fun, Sir Peter Westmacott, Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. in 2014, on Putin: “A thug and a liar.”
Thugs in American Military Adventurism
That word, thug, seems to be a sort of dog whistle that when blown signals Americans and their media to psyche up for a new fight. For example:
John Kerry on Bashar Assad: “A thug and murderer.”
John Kerry on Islamic State: “Daesh [ISIS] is in fact nothing more than a mixture of killers, of kidnappers, of criminals, of thugs, of adventurers, of smugglers and thieves.”
George W. Bush on al Qaeda: “If we let down our guard against this group of thugs, they will hurt us again.”
George W. Bush on Saddam Hussein: “He is a thug.”
Bernie Sanders on Gaddafi: “Look, everybody understands Gaddafi is a thug and murderer.”
But Why Putin, Now?
Perhaps what we’re seeing here is a realignment for the next iteration of America’s perpetual war. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the conclusion of the Cold War (“the end of history”, as one author called it), there was no global enemy. No big nasty to spur weapons procurement, or to justify a huge standing military with hundreds of bases around the world, or to pick fights with to allow a boring president to morph into a superhero war president.
A lot of people had a lot of power and money in play that demanded some bad guys. An attempt was made in the 1980s to make narco lords the new major bad guys, but they were too few in number and the popularity of drugs among Americans got in the way. Following 9/11, the bad guys were supposed to be “the terrorists.” The George W. Bush administration riffed off that theme, appointing Saddam a massive weapons of destruction threat and tagged on Iran and North Korea as part of an Axis of Evil, because, well, no one knows, things sound good in groups of threes.
Saddam turned out to be a bust, and the Iraq War ultimately very unpopular. Bin Laden never launched a second attack on the U.S., and the Taliban were hard to picture, coming and going as they do. The U.S. made a good faith effort trying to label all sorts of others, Gaddafi, Assad, ISIS, et al, as global enemies worthy of perpetual war but they either were defeated, or are just plain are kicking American butt. Meanwhile, the Middle East in general turned into a huge, complicated, sticky clusterf*ck quagmire.
A New Hope Emerges
Like Batman, Washington needs an Arch Enemy, preferably one poster-child kind of guy who can be shown on TV looking like a Bond villain. With actual nukes (Washington spent years trying to convince us the terrorists were a 24/7 nuclear threat [smoking gun = mushroom cloud] and the damn terrorists never complied.)
Enter Putin The Thug.
Americans are already well-prepared by the old Cold War to see Russia as an evil empire, and Putin does look the part. A new Cold War with Russia will require lots of expensive military hardware, plus a large standing army and new areas of Europe to garrison. It might breathe new life into a NATO wondering why it still exists.
For politicians, shouting about Muslim threats has proven to have a downside, as it has enflamed many Muslims and pushed them toward radicalization. It turns out also there are Muslim voters, and people who like Muslims, in the U.S. Putin doesn’t vote, only a handful of hippies think he’s a good guy, and he can be slapped around in sound bites relatively without risk.
It is a political-military-industrial complex wet dream.
And so I predict in the coming Hillary regime a tamping down of terrorism stuff and a ramping up of a new Cold War. After all, isn’t that what her mentor Henry Kissinger would do?
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
The following memo was written by a group of U.S. intelligence, diplomatic, and military veterans, calling on President Obama to expedite the FBI review of former Secretary of State Clinton’s alleged email security violations so the public can assess this issue in a timely fashion.
Clinton’s judgement — never mind the significant question of legality — is an important criterion which Americans must consider in choosing their next president.
Yeah, it is long, but sometimes important things are complex, and need to be explained clearly. That is especially true in the case of the Clinton Emails, where the media has failed in its job of explaining how classification works, and the significance of exposing classified material.
I am a member of the group that drafted this memo, and proudly signed it before it was sent to the White House.
MEMORANDUM FOR: The President
FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
SUBJECT: Those “Damn Emails” – “Really a Concern”
Last Wednesday Robert Gates, CIA Director under President Bush-41 and Defense Secretary under President Bush-43, publicly commented that Secretary Hillary Clinton’s “whole email thing … is really a concern in terms of her judgment,” adding, “I don’t know what originally prompted her to think that was a good idea.”
What originally prompted her does not matter. As your Secretary of State and your subordinate, she willfully violated laws designed to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure. It may be somewhat difficult for those not as immersed in national security matters as we have been to appreciate the seriousness of the offense, including the harm done in compromising some of the most sensitive U.S. programs and activities. This is why we write.
Pundits and others are playing down the harm. A charitable interpretation is that they have no way to gauge what it means to expose so much to so many. We do know, and our overriding concern is to protect the national security of our country from further harm. It would be a huge help toward this end, if you would order Attorney General Loretta Lynch to instruct the FBI to stop slow-walking the email investigation and release its findings promptly.
If you choose, instead, to give precedence to politics over national security, the American people will be deprived of timely appreciation of the gravity of the harm done; national security officials who do follow the rules will be scandalized; FBI investigators will conclude that that their job is more political than professional; and the noxious impression will grow that powerful people cannot be held accountable when they break the law. Worse: if the results of the FBI investigation remain under lock and key, dangerous pressures are likely to be exerted on the most senior U.S. officials by those who have the key – as we explain below.
We the undersigned Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have spent 400 years working with classified information – up to and including TOP SECRET, Codeword, and Special Access Programs (SAP). Given that experience, we believe that much of the commentary on the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton email controversy has been misplaced, focusing on extraneous issues having little or nothing to do with the overriding imperative to protect classified information.
As intelligence, military, and foreign service professionals, we are highly aware not only of that compelling need, but also of the accompanying necessity to hold accountable those whose actions compromise – whether for reasons of convenience or espionage – sensitive operations, programs and persons. In addition, we know that successful mutual cooperation with foreign intelligence services depends largely on what they see as our ability to keep secrets secret.
Last August, Secretary Clinton handed over her private email server to the FBI, five months after she acknowledged she had used it for work-related emails as Secretary of State. She admitted to having deleted about 31,000 emails she described as personal. Media reports last fall, however, indicated that the FBI was able to recover the personal emails, and was reviewing them, as well as the 30,000 others she had described as work-related.
In January, the Department of State announced that, of the 30,000 work-related emails, at least 1,340 contained classified material. The Department retroactively classified 22 of those TOP SECRET and prevented their release. Among the 22 were some that, according to media reports, included information on highly sensitive Special Access Programs (SAP).
The White House has said it will do nothing to impede the FBI investigation and possible filing of charges against Clinton, if the facts should warrant that kind of action. Inasmuch as the outcome of the investigation is bound to have major political consequences, such White House assurances stretch credulity.
By all indications, the FBI is slow-walking the investigation and mainstream media are soft-pedaling the issue. As things now stand, most Americans remain unaware of the import of this industrial-scale compromise of very sensitive national security information in Secretary Clinton’s emails.
Our concern mounted in January when the Inspector General of the intelligence community wrote to the chairs of the congressional intelligence committees that he had received from one of the intelligence agencies two “sworn declarations” asserting that Secretary Clinton’s emails contained not only CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET information, but also information at the TOP SECRET/SAP level.
In 2009, you signed an Executive Order regarding SAP (Special Access Programs), so we assume you were briefed on their extremely high sensitivity and the consequent need to sharply limit the number of people allowed to be “read-in” on them. The mishandling of SAP information can neutralize intelligence programs costing billions of dollars, wreck liaison relationships assiduously cultivated for decades, and get a lot of people killed.
‘It Wasn’t That Bad’
All those directly or peripherally involved in the investigation of the Clinton email issue know very well that it could have a direct impact on who is likely to become the next President of the United States, and they will be making decisions with that reality in mind. They know that it is with you that “the buck stops,” and they are sensitive to signs of your preferences. Those were not difficult to discern in your commencement address at Howard University on May 7, in which you strongly advocated the same basic policy approaches as those espoused by one Democratic presidential candidate – Hillary Clinton.
Your White House has also made excuses for deliberate security violations by Secretary Clinton that would have gotten senior officials like us fired and probably indicted. We look with suspicion at what we see as contrasting and totally inappropriate attempts by the administration and media to play down the importance of Secretary Clinton’s deliberate disregard of basic security instructions and procedures.
It appears that the option chosen by the White House is using the declared need for “thoroughness” to soft-pedal and delay completion of the investigation for several more months, while the corporate media sleeps on. Four months have already gone by since the smoking-gun-type revelations in the intelligence community Inspector General’s letter to Congress, and it has been well over a year since Secretary Clinton first acknowledged using an insecure email server for official business.
Another claim emanating from your White House is that Clinton was careless in managing her emails and has admitted as much, but that she has not damaged American national security. She has called it a “mistake,” but security officials of the National Security Agency explicitly forewarned her against violating basic laws and regulations designed to prevent the compromise of classified information.
NSA, FBI Have Enough Evidence
Surely, enough time has passed, and enough material has been reviewed, to permit a preliminary damage assessment. The NSA has the necessary information and should, by now, have shared that information with the FBI. Secretary Clinton’s server in her house in Chappaqua, New York, was not a secured device. Her email address incorporated her initials, “hdr” (apparently for her maiden name, Hillary Diane Rodham). It also included the “clinton” server identity, so it was easy for a hacker to spot.
Anyone with the proper equipment, knowledge and motivation might have been able to obtain access. That is what hackers are able to do, with considerable success, against government servers that are far better protected than the private email server located in her New York State home.
In fact, there have been reports that Secretary Clinton’s emails were, indeed, hacked successfully by foreigners. The Romanian hacker who goes by the name Guccifer claimed earlier this month that he had repeatedly hacked her email server. He described the server as “like an open orchid on the Internet” and that “it was easy … easy for me, for everybody.” Guccifer has been extradited from Romania and is now in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, where the FBI is said to be questioning him on the emails. There have also been credible claims that Russian intelligence and other foreign services were able to hack the Secretary’s server.
Another argument being surfaced, in a transparent attempt to defend Secretary Clinton, has to do with intent. It is said that she did not intend to have classified information on her computer in New York and had no intention of handling secret material in a way that would be accessible to foreign intelligence or others lacking the proper security clearances and the need-to-know.
But while intent might be relevant in terms of punishment, it does not change the fact that as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, then Senator Clinton had clearances for classified information for years before becoming Secretary of State. She knew the rules and yet as Secretary she handled classified information carelessly after a deliberate decision to circumvent normal procedures for its safeguarding, thus making it vulnerable to foreign intelligence, as well as to criminal hackers.
Anyone who has ever handled classified material knows that there are a number of things that you do not do. You do not take it home with you, you do not copy it and share it with anyone who does not have a clearance and a need-to-know, you do not strip off the classification marks and treat it as unclassified, and you do not transfer it to another email account that is not protected by a government server.
If you have a secured government computer operating off of a secure server that means that what is on the computer stays on the computer. This is not a matter of debate or subject to interpretation. It is how one safeguards classified information, even if one believes that the material should not be classified, which is another argument that has been made in Clinton’s defense. Whether or not the classification is unnecessary is not your decision to make.
Apart from the guidelines for proper handling of classified information, outlined in Executive Order 13526 and 18 U.S.C Sec. 793(f) of the federal code, there is some evidence of a cover-up regarding what was compromised. This itself would be a violation of the 2009 Federal Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act.
Numerous messages both in New York and in Washington have reportedly been erased or simply cannot be found. In addition, the law cited above explicitly makes it a felony to cut and paste classified information removing its classification designation. Retaining such information on a private email system is also a felony. In one of Secretary Clinton’s emails, she instructed her staff simply to remove a classification and send the information to her on her server.
So the question is not whether Secretary Clinton broke the law. She did. If the laws are to be equally applied, she should face the same kind of consequences as others who have been found, often on the basis of much less convincing evidence, guilty of similar behavior.
Some More Equal Than Others
Secretary Clinton’ case invites comparison with what happened to former CIA case officer Jeffrey Sterling, now serving a three-and-a-half-year prison term for allegedly leaking information to New York Times journalist James Risen. Sterling first came to the media’s attention when in 2003 he blew the whistle on a botched CIA operation called Operation Merlin, telling the Senate Intelligence Committee staff that the operation had ended up revealing nuclear secrets to Iran. When in 2006 James Risen published a book that discussed, inter alia, this amateurish cowboy operation, the Department of Justice focused on Sterling as the suspected source.
In court, the federal prosecutors relied almost entirely on Risen’s phone and email logs, which reportedly demonstrated that the two men had been in contact up until 2005. But the prosecutors did not provide the content of those communications even though the FBI was listening in on some of them. Risen has claimed that he had multiple sources on Operation Merlin, and Sterling has always denied being involved.
Jeffrey Sterling was not permitted to testify in the trial on his own behalf because he would have had to discuss Operation Merlin, which was and is still classified. He could not mention any details about it even if they were already publicly known through the Risen book. No evidence was ever produced in court demonstrating that any classified information ever passed between the two men, but Sterling, an African American, was nevertheless convicted by an all-white jury in Virginia based on “suspicion” and the presumption that “it had to be him.”
The contrast between the copious evidence – some of it self-admitted – of Secretary Clinton’s demonstrable infractions, on the one hand, and the very sketchy, circumstantial evidence used to convict and imprison Jeffrey Sterling, on the other, lend weight to the suspicion that there is one law for the rich and powerful in the United States and another for the rest of us.
Failing to take steps against a politically powerful presidential candidate and letting her off unscathed for crimes of her own making, while an institutionally unprotected Jeffrey Sterling sits in prison would be a travesty of justice not dissimilar to the gentle wrist-slap given Gen. David Petraeus for giving his mistress extremely sensitive information and then lying to the FBI about it.
Your order to then-Attorney General Eric Holder to let Gen. David Petraeus off easy created a noxious – and demoralizing – precedent in the national security community indicating that, whatever the pains taken at lower levels to prevent compromise of duly classified information, top officials are almost never held accountable for disregarding well-established rules. These are some of the reasons we are so concerned that this is precisely the direction in which you seem to be leaning on the Clinton email issue.
In our view, the sole legitimate reason for disclosing classified information springs from the only “oath” we all took – “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” When, for example, Edward Snowden saw the U.S. government grossly violating our Fourth Amendment right to be “secure” against warrantless “searches and seizures,” he gave more weight to that oath (ethicists call it a supervening value) than to the promise he had made not to disclose information that could harm U.S. national security.
Possibly Still Worse Ahead
You might give some thought, Mr. President, to a potentially messy side of this. What is already known about NSA’s collect-it-all electronic practices over the past several years strongly suggests that NSA, and perhaps the FBI, already know chapter and verse. It is virtually certain they know what was in Secretary Clinton’s emails – including the ones she thought she had deleted. It is likely that they have also been able to determine which foreign intelligence agencies and other hackers were able to access the emails.
One ignores this at one’s peril. Secretary Clinton’s security violations can have impact not only on whether she becomes your successor, but also on whether she would, in that case, be beholden to those who know what lies hidden from the rest of us – perhaps even from you.
Intelligence professionals (in contrast to the occasional political functionary) take the compromise of classified information with utmost seriousness. More important: this is for us a quintessentially nonpartisan issue. It has to do, first and foremost, with the national security of the United States.
We are all too familiar with what harm can come from blithe disregard of basic procedures designed to protect sensitive intelligence and other national security information. Yes, the lamentable unevenness in how such infractions are handled is also an important issue – but that is not our main focus in the present context.
The Truth Will Out
Not all workers at the NSA or the FBI are likely to keep their heads in the sand, as they watch very senior officials and politicians with their own agendas disregard laws to safeguard the nation’s security. We know what it is like to do the difficult, disciplined work of protecting information from being compromised by strictly abiding by what often seem to be cumbersome rules and regulations. We’ve been there; done that.
If you encourage the Department of Justice and the FBI to continue slow-walking the investigation, there is a good chance the truth will come out anyway. As you are aware, the Justice Department, the FBI, and NSA have all yielded recent patriots who, in such circumstances, decided that whistleblowing – rather than silence – was the only way to honor the oath we all swore – to support and defend the Constitution.
To sum up our concern regarding how all this plays out, if you order the Justice Department and FBI to pursue the investigation with “all deliberate speed,” so to speak, and Secretary Clinton becomes president, the juicy email secrets in the hidden hands of the NSA and FBI are likely to give those already powerful institutions a capacity for blackmail that would make J. Edgar Hoover’s mouth water. In addition, information hacked by foreign intelligence services or Guccifer-like hackers can also provide useful grist for leverage or blackmail.
Taking Care the Laws Are Faithfully Executed
We strongly urge you to order Attorney General Loretta Lynch to instruct FBI Director James Comey to wind up a preliminary investigation and tell the country now what they have learned. By now they – and U.S. intelligence agencies – have had enough time to do an early assessment of what classified data, programs and people have been compromised. Realistically speaking, a lengthier, comprehensive post-mortem-type evaluation – however interesting it might be, might never see the light of day under a new president.
We believe the American people are entitled to prompt and full disclosure, and respectfully suggest that you ensure that enforcement of laws protecting our national security does not play stepchild to political considerations on this key issue.
On April 10, you assured Chris Wallace, “I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI – not just in this [Clinton email] case, but in any case. Full stop. Period.”
We urge you to abide by that promise, and let the chips fall where they may. Full stop. Period.
For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)
William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)
Thomas Drake, Senior Executive, NSA (former)
Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)
Sen. Mike Gravel, Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service, special agent the Counter Intelligence Corps and United States Senator
Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)
Larry C. Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)
Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF Intelligence Agency (ret.), ex-Master SERE Instructor
John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer
Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)
Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA (ret.)
Todd Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)
Scott Ritter, former MAJ, USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq
Diane Roark, DOE, DOD, NSC, & professional staff, House Intelligence Committee (ret.)
Robert David Steele, former CIA Operations Officer
Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)
Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA, (ret.)
Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
You remember Bryan Pagliano, pictured above, the guy who ran Hillary’s IT during her 2008 presidential campaign. After Obama tossed Hillary the job of secretary of state, Hillary had Pagliano hired by the State Department. She also had him continue to administer her private server, supposedly paying him on the side for the help.
Taking the Fifth
In addition to everything else swirling in the cesspool of that email server, there are also questions about whether or not whether the State Department spent taxpayer money to manage Hillary’s email server. See, Pagliano was working for both State as a government employee and Hillary as a private employee at the same time. One wonders if he always kept the two tasks fully separate, and of course what a government employee was doing working privately for the Clintons at the same time.
When asked back in September to provide testimony to Congress, Pagliano refused, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights.
Now things have changed.
The Justice Department has granted immunity to the former State Department staffer, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s private email server, as part of a criminal investigation into the possible mishandling of classified information, according to a senior law enforcement official.
The official said the FBI had secured the cooperation of Bryan Pagliano, who worked on Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign before setting up the server in her New York home in 2009.
What Pagliano Likely Knows
Bryan Pagliano can shed light on several issues:
— Pagliano’s dual role as government employee and Clinton employee opens a whole new arena for investigation against Clinton, similar to the one already ongoing with aide Huma Abedin, who at one point worked simultaneously for the State Department, the Clinton Foundation, Hillary herself and a private company closely tied to the Clintons.
— While at State, what was Pagliano’s day-to-day job? What did he really do, not just his job description, but is actual work accomplishments? Is there a paper trail showing he did any actual work at all, or was the State “job” just a make-work position to get him on the payroll as a gift in return for his service to Clinton?
— He listed on LinkedIn his political-appointee position as “Serve as strategic advisor and special projects manager to the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) / Deputy Chief Information Officer (DCIO) overseeing the operations of the Information Resource Management (IRM) bureau.” Employed at such a high level inside State’s IT structure assures that State’s most senior information officers knew about Clinton’s email setup, and apparently did not or were not able to stop it. Unless Brian never told his supervisor about his other job.
— What was going on inside the State Department vis-a-vis the email server. Who knew about it? When did they know? Was it ever vetted/approved, and if so, by whom? Were objections raised by security personnel and how were those objections dealt with? Who is on the complete list of people who had email addresses on the server? What discussions took place inside State regarding the presence of classified information on the server? Were objections ever raised from outside State, say from the White House or the intelligence community?
— Pagliano can also speak to what security measures if any were in place on Clinton’s server, and when were they instituted. He had visibility into server logs, showing any attacks or penetrations into the server.
— Pagliano, as a State Department employee, had access to the State Department computer systems. He currently works as a computer contractor for State, and still has access to State Department computer systems. Has he ever been asked by Clinton to use his positions to gain information she would ordinarily not have access to, or to which she did not want her name attached?
— Pagliano may have knowledge of where any backups of the server are, shedding light on what emails were deleted by Clinton before her “full disclosure” of what was in fact a highly curated batch of documents.
There is a lot to learn from Bryan Pagliano. His testimony could be like when the Feds turn a Mafia accountant, a low-level guy with access to the family jewels.
BONUS: The State Department’s Chief Information Officer, who should have stopped the Clinton email server? Well, well, she retired from State a few months before Hillary left, into a nice job at the IMF. It pays to be a winner!
Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!
About the Democratic debate last night on CNN: Is this it? Is this the best the Democratic side of America can offer?
I have to admit, by not screwing up, Hillary did well.
She clung to her talking points tenaciously, brushed off any scandals (aided by CNN’s Anderson Cooper lobbing her softballs on the tough issues, and of course, Bernie absolving her of any email problems, the FBI investigation be damned), invoked her dead blue collar mom several times to the point where we were looking for the ghost to appear on stage, and absent a weird and untrue story about her and Barack chasing down some Chinese fellas to yell at them about climate change, told no apparent whoppers. She even made a funny about how long it takes us ladies to pee pee between commercials.
She did muff on Wall Street, claiming oddly she “represented Wall Street” as Senator. That line will live on in a thousand Republican attack videos. In that same little speechlet, Hillary also mentioned in 2007 she went down to Wall Street and told them to “cut it out,” in relation to the massive financial crisis dumped on American a year later.
Her statements about how well Libya worked out, and how she personally took down bin Laden with a rusty switchblade, were utterly false, but whatever, she’s said all that before. She did not shapeshift into her lizard form, and thus was the debate’s big winner.
Bernie. Oh Bernie.
Bernie played to his loyal base and left the vast pool of others disappointed. At times he sounded like your drunk old hippy uncle, ranting about revolution. His most salient points, about climate change and the one percent, were often shouted. One could imagine the spittle that some poor stagehand had to swipe off the lectern afterwards. It is very unclear how many voters Bernie persuaded to switch over to him. He instead cemented his place in history as an “issue” candidate, one who runs to push some ideas further into the mainstream with no hope of actually winning.
Bernie’s ideas are good. But he needed to show enthusiasm, righteous anger, and instead we just got a lot of bitching. See ya, Bernie, you have achieved footnote-in-the-history-books status for all time.
The others really should have just stayed home. They were the equivalent of the Star Trek red shirts, background actors filling out scenes, handy to have around when a scriptwriter needs to kill someone off.
Martin O’Malley was running for something, maybe Hillary’s foot massager come 2016, but stumbled to make any real points. He sounded desperate about his turn as Baltimore’s mayor, saying things were actually pretty good then. Come on Martin, we’ve all seen The Wire.
Lincoln Chafee — brother, it is over, if it had ever begun. When you explained you flubbed an early vote in Congress because you were new and your dad had died, you sounded like an undergrad begging his Psych 101 prof for extra credit.
Then there was Jim Webb, the man who has overnight spawned a million Tweets. Webb was angry. Webb whined about not getting called on. Webb didn’t seem to remember his kids’ names. Webb dragged his wife into this, twice, the only family member pictured out the audience unless someone was related to the Santa Claus guy. But Webb saved the best for last, playing out his PTSD live on stage, grinning manically while explaining how he killed a man in Vietnam. Get some help, Jim, we’re worried about you, man.
And no props to CNN. A full thirty minutes of trash and commercials before the debate proper started? Why not bring out some Vegas showgirls? Letting Obama do a full-on promo piece saying “Vote Democrat?” Having their Official Black Guy Reporter Don Lemon ask one and only one question about #BlackLivesMatter? Then having the Official Hispanic guy (“Gracious, Anderson”) do the questions about weed and illegal immigration? And no questions at all about Israel, the Palestinians, the current war in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Planned Parenthood?
The only question left: what was Joe Biden, watching this all at home, thinking?
Hillary Clinton announced in a Tweet that she wants her former employer, the Department of State, to review her emails with an eye toward releasing them. Here, she said it herself, on The Official Twitter:
I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible. — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 5, 2015
So accepting the fact that it took Clinton almost three full days’ worth of controversy to get around to saying even that, that’s it, right? Problem solved? Maybe not.
I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 5, 2015
Who Will End Up Holding the Bag?
The key part of what Clinton no doubt feels is some pretty slick sleight of hand is that State only has in its possession some fraction of all of her emails sent while Secretary of State. The emails State does have were hand-picked by Clinton, curated by her staff, from the total.
Clinton, alone in the entire U.S. government, has left herself in the unique position of being the only one to determine what records the American people are entitled to see. Her basis for her decisions? Trust me.
Even at that, she now throws State under the bus, thinking anytime between now and inauguration day anybody asks about a missing email or ten, Clinton will just “refer them” back to State, who of course decided what to withhold from what Clinton personally chose not to withhold. Clinton no doubt thinks herself clever with this bit of political jujitsu, turning the State Department into her campaign spokesperson. But putting the burden on State is a red herring; this isn’t really the State Department’s dog.
Her attempt to use the White House this week in the same capacity has only returned mediocre results. The Counsel’s office there claimed it had no knowledge of Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email system, and quickly mentioned once it found out that it had directed the State Department to make sure all appropriate rules were followed (CYA.) They also made clear that the administration gave “very specific guidance” that employees should use official accounts when conducting government business.
Obama’s spokesman was careful to note “There was not an Obama administration official that was responsible for reviewing those emails.”
While trying to avoid doing political damage to Clinton, the White House has put the onus on her aides to explain exactly what happened. If there is gonna be a bag of sh*t to hold at some point, the White House does not want to get stuck with it.
State, ever the lap dog to the rich and famous, is ready to do its part in dragging its feet. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Riyadh Thursday that his department “will undertake this task as rapidly as possible in order to make sure that we are dealing with the sheer volume in a responsible way.” State spokeswoman Marie Harf warned that the review could “take some time to complete” while other officials indicated it could take months. And, surprise! State’s current review personnel are already overwhelmed with nearly 11,000 other pending requests, which for complex cases can take an average of more than 18 months to complete.
Maybe first-come, first-serve will get the Clinton emails reviewed at least in time for her second term.
Perhaps State will want to turn its attention to previous Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. More than 75 separate requests for her emails were filed with the State Department between 2009 and 2013 by media organizations and other parties. Associated Press requests for Clinton emails and other documents have been delayed for more than a year — and in one case, four years — without any results. All “answered” FOIA requests were told that the State Department did not have any emails from Clinton to consider releasing, sort of true in that State had no Clinton emails on file; they were all held on her private server. The AP says it is considering legal action against the department to compel responses.
And that all leads deep into another can of worms. FOIA requests are strictly limited to U.S. government documents. You cannot FOIA Michelle Obama’s personal NetFlix viewing list. A very tricky legal question arises about whose emails those are on Clinton’s private mail server. Google and other tech companies have regularly won legal challenges to say that the Gmail you send actually belongs to Google, not you. It resides on their server, after all. Much of the NSA’s quasi-legal ability to gobble up your emails rests on the same premise, as they request “your” email not from you but your internet service provider. Requests for Clinton emails not turned over to State could be refused based on the fact that they are her private property.
The Trouble with Republicans
Meanwhile, Clinton’s troubles with the Republicans are just starting.
The Republican National Committee on Thursday asked the Inspector General of the State Department to investigate Clinton’s use of personal email to conduct government business. RNC Chief Counsel John Phillippe wrote in a letter that the investigation should focus on whether Clinton violated department policies or caused the department to violate the requirement to archive emails. Such inspections can take a long time, but in this case, those delays could easily help keep the email issue alive well into the 2016 campaign, and the Republicans know it.
The Inspector General should also look into where State Department management and security were sleeping while all this email fun transpired. One can speculate that if a mid level employee proposed to do all his official work off a personal email server they would have had something to say about that. Oh wait, they already did, roundly criticizing one State Department ambassador for bypassing State’s email system.
The House committee investigating Benghazi also just got a new lease on life. The committee announced Wednesday it has issued a subpoena to Clinton for all of her communications relating to Libya, including emails from her personal server, texts, attachments and pictures. New emails mean new hearings, new questions for Clinton, new demands for in-person testimony and new accusations of information being withheld or scrubbed. This clearly will keep the red-meat-to-the-base Benghazi issue alive well into the 2016 campaign, even if nothing substantive emerges. And if it does…
Clinton, in her own sense of transparency, has issued only the Tweet (above) as her sole public response to all this. Her spokesperson disingenuously claimed Clinton had complied with both the letter and the spirit of the law, a tough one to swallow even for a group of supporters used to swallowing.
Clinton has announced in advance that she will take no questions at her next scheduled public appearance, somewhat ironically the March 23 ceremony celebrating the winner of the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.
But here are a few very simple questions we’d like Clinton to answer:
— Why did you alone in the State Department not use official email and only use private email run off a private server?
— Why didn’t you turn over your full set of emails to State for review?
— Why did you wait until your private server was disclosed publicly to turn over even the subset of emails you did? Why didn’t you turn them over during your tenure as Secretary?
— As president of the United States, will you encourage or condone your Cabinet level officials employing personal email servers in lieu of U.S. government systems?
— Is the way you handled your email at State and now in the aftermath indicative of your approach to public service?
That’ll be a good start.
Want to have Hillary Clinton show up at your next event? Kid’s birthday party? Political rally? It’s easy, as long as you have a lot of freaking money to spend.
A ‘found” document posted on Cryptome.org lays out the terms for Hillary to attend your event.
Right up front is Hillary’s most important term: a fee of $225,000. We are all familiar with the economic travails of the Clinton’s, and the fee is really important to Hillary’s integrity as a woman of the people and, need you need reminding, her role as a mother and soon-to-be grandmother.
The fee of course is just the start. Like with cell phone plans and cable TV, the up-front price is only a starting point. Hillary also requires you to pay for a roundtrip private jet for her, which must be a Gulfstream 450 or larger. Clinton’s “travel aide” flies separately (can’t get too familiar with the help you know) first class. Her two required advance staffers need you to pay for two business class tickets. On Team Hillary, some pigs are more equal than others.
You’ll shell out for ground transportation for the whole crew as well. Though the details are not specified, expect it to be more than SuperShuttle’s blue van.
Same for the hotel rooms you will pay for. Madame requires a Presidential Suite (ironic!) while her dear travel aide needs three adjoining rooms. The lowly advance people get only single rooms. Perhaps to make up for that, you will also pay a $500 fee for “incidentals,” apparently to include buying out the minibar at that rate, to the advance lead.
Everybody has to eat, and your toll to invite Hillary over also means you pay for everyone’s meals. You’re also responsible for their phone bills and cell phone costs.
Paranoid much? As host you will also pay $1000 for a court-reporter type person to transcript Hillary’s speech. The text is apparently only for her upcoming presidential library, as the terms sheet says they will not share a copy.
The Event Itself
What do you get for these costs? About 90 minutes of Hillary’s precious time, broken down by her rules:
— A 30 minute meet and greet, but no more than 100 people and no more than 50 photos total.
— A 20 minute speech.
— Big one here: a full hour of Q&A, moderated of course.
— Clinton does not/not have meals with you.
It is specified that the meet and greet take place close to the speech area, and that the three segments be continuous so as not to take any more of the lady’s time than really necessary. Clinton must approve the person who introduces her, and the moderator.
That moderator person is quite important. S/he will pose all questions, so that there will be no naughtiness from the audience.
A Rough Tally
So let’s put some numbers to all this. We’ll assume dearest Hils is departing from Washington DC for an event in Denver, with a one night stay. Here are some rough numbers based on web searches.
Private Jet $52,000, round-trip
First Class Ticket for Travel Aide, round-trip $800
Business Class Ticket, x 2, round-trip $1400
Limo Service Two days x two cars x $500/day $2000 (includes free wet bar!)
Travel Advance Incidentals $500
Meals, based on USG per diem rate, total $1860
Phone Bills, est. $250
Hotel, Best Suite, one night $756
Hotel, three adjoining rooms, one night $1145
Hotel, two singles x three days, one night $1654
Colorado State Tax on all of the above, est. 4.49% $12,947.58
Is it Worth It?
Understand that that $301,312.58 for 90 minutes of Hillary’s time is just an estimate; she might hit the minibar hard, even with the free wet bar in the limo. There are no specified charges for internet access, candy or paper clips and staplers. It is highly unlikely that she or her staff will be content with only the standard U.S. government per diem rates for their meals (Congresspersons traveled abroad on “official business” routinely get double per diem.)
On the other hand, you might be able to negotiate some deep discounts based on the amount of your purchases. For example, the hotel rates quoted above are “best web prices.” You could go through Expedia, or maybe even get the hotel to apply the U.S. Government Employee discount rates, given how Hillary will soon be president and all.
And you do get 90 full minutes of Clinton’s time. That all works out to about $3347.91 per minute. By comparison, a high-class hooker in Denver, according to the internet, runs about $425 (link NSFW) for the same time. You can get a professional clown for your kid’s birthday party for about $200, even less if you choose one of the really creepy ones. I could not find rates for clown hookers.
So you be the judge. And bring money.
I suppose I have to get this over with. Sigh. Hillary’s book, Hard Choices, is out this week. As I write it is ranked Number 5 on Amazon.
The main theme of the book echoes the current media meme around Hillary: that her successes and accomplishments as Secretary of State make it almost mandatory that she be elected president in 2016.
For that to snuggle even close to truth, there must be successes and accomplishments that rose to the level of being the president. These must be real and tangible, not inflated intern stuff gussied up to look like “work experience.” The successes and accomplishments should not be readily debatable, hard-to-put-your-finger on kind of things. Last time around we bet big on just the two words hope and change, so this round we probably should do a little more due-diligence. And we need to be able to do that. It will not be a good thing heading into an election cycle unable to talk about Hillary except in ALL CAPS BENGHAZI RETHUGS!!! or ELECT HER ‘CAUSE SHE’S A DEM AND A WOMAN!
So, Can We Talk?
Let’s start with Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times. Nick pulls no punches in a column headlined “Madam Secretary Made a Difference.” He frames his argument:
Clinton achieved a great deal and left a hefty legacy — just not the traditional kind. She didn’t craft a coalition of allies, like James Baker, one of the most admired secretaries of state. She didn’t seal a landmark peace agreement, nor is there a recognizable “Hillary Clinton doctrine.” No, her legacy is different.
The Clinton Legacy Difference
Specifically, Nick offers the following examples (all quotes from his article):
— For starters, Clinton recognized that our future will be more about Asia than Europe, and she pushed hard to rebalance our relations. She didn’t fully deliver on this “pivot” — generally she was more successful at shaping agendas than delivering on them.
— Clinton vastly expanded the diplomatic agenda. Diplomats historically focused on “hard” issues, like trade or blowing up stuff, and so it may seem weird and “soft” to fret about women’s rights or economic development. Yet Clinton understood that impact and leverage in 21st-century diplomacy often come by addressing poverty, the environment, education and family planning.
— Clinton was relentless about using the spotlight that accompanied her to highlight those who needed it more… On trips, she found time to visit shelters for victims of human trafficking or aid groups doing groundbreaking work.
— Clinton greatly escalated public diplomacy with a rush into social media.
— So, sure, critics are right that Hillary Rodham Clinton never achieved the kind of landmark peace agreement that would make the first sentence of her obituary. But give her credit: She expanded the diplomatic agenda and adopted new tools to promote it — a truly important legacy.
First up, Nick used the word “agenda” three times. Not sure what that means really. Also, I am not sure when and where diplomats historically focused on “blowing up stuff.” I also think issues such as “poverty, the environment, education and family planning” were in State’s portfolion pre-Hillary. But matter, we move on.
A read of Kristof’s article (which mirrors Clinton’s own self-written list) begs the question: What really did Clinton accomplish as Secretary of State? Even her supporters’ lists make it seem like her four years as Secretary and nearly endless world travel were little more than a stage to create video footage for use in the 2016 campaign.
Here’s Clinton talking about a pivot to Asia (that never happened); Here’s Clinton talking about all sorts of soft power issues (that little was accomplished on; readers who disagree please send in specifics, with numbers and cites and do not try and get away with the cop-out of “raising awareness,” that’s what Bono does); Here’s Clinton visiting shelters and all sorts of victims (whose plight seemed to drop off the radar after the brief photo-op; hey, how’s Haiti doing these days?); Here’s Clinton making her whole Department do social media (without any measures or metrics accompanying the push to see if it helps in any way other than generating hashtag mini-memes and please, let’s not go on about how Twitter changed the world ) and so forth. Clinton’s State Department did spend $630,000 of taxpayer money to buy “likes” on Facebook, so I guess that is one metric.
The many lists of Clinton’s accomplishments that trailed her departure from State are not very different; here are some examples.
Missing are things that in the past have stood out as legacies for others, history book stuff like the Marshall Plan, or ending a war we didn’t start in the first place, or saving something or advancing peace even a little in the Middle East or opening relations with China to forever change the balance of power in the Cold War. And for the purposes of this discussion we will not get into Clinton’s mistakes and no-shows on important foreign policy issues.
Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State does not show she is a leader. She showed no substance. She focused on imagery. She remained silent on many issues of import (the aftermath in Libya and Iraq stand out.) Her time at State was more of a reality show many Americans seemed to enjoy, projecting their own ideas about women’s empowerment and modern social media onto her willing shell. We deserve all that we get– and are going to get– enroute to 2016.
The personal Gmail account of a State Department whistleblower, Richard P. Higbie, a diplomatic security agent, was hacked, and four years worth of messages — some detailing alleged wrongdoing at the agency — were deleted. The emails allegedly included evidence about misconduct by top officials at the Department, communications with other potential whistleblowers, and correspondence with members of Congress who are investigating allegations of misconduct by State Department employees to include use of prostitutes, soliciting child sex and more. See the sleazy details here.
According to the New York Times, information hacked raises a flurry of questions about the management of the State Department under Hillary Rodham Clinton. Higbie, a senior criminal investigator and the second-highest-ranking agent with the service’s Dallas office, has an employment lawsuit against the State Department, alleging it retaliated against him.
Another coincidence is that in July 2013 Higbie’s lawyer’s office was broken into, though only three laptops were taken. Other valuables in clear sight were left untouched. The burglars entered the law offices by busting through a wall. The burglars were seen on surveillance video, and the lawyers claim they know where the laptops may be via IP tracking software, but so far no arrests have been made.
Another coincidence is that at the time of the break-in and stolen laptops, Higbie’s lawyers were also representing another State Department whistleblower, Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator for the Department’s inspector general. She revealed in June a pattern of alleged cover-ups by top department officials. The alleged cover-ups included keeping quiet separate IG investigations that found that members of then-Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton’s security detail had engaged hookers and that the U.S. ambassador to Belgium solicited underage prostitutes. These were among a string of investigations by the service, responsible for protecting dignitaries and investigating crimes within the Department, that were allegedly derailed by senior officials, including one instance of interference by Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills. Mills is expected to play a significant role in a Hillary administration, and was also rumored to have squashed any investigation into the sexual shenanigans of State Department employee Brett McGurk.
The lawyers for both State Department whistleblowers made an interesting comment concerning the break-in at their offices. ““We do not believe the federal government officially authorized the actions. We are very suspicious and do believe it definitely has the insinuations of a political crime. Meaning, the individuals who broke into our office were looking for information that has significant ramifications.”
Legal folks are familiar with the term cui bono, commonly used to suggest that the person or people guilty of committing a crime may be found among those who have something to gain. That said, any speculation that the email hacks and the break-ins have anything at all to do with protecting the reputation of Hillary Clinton are without evidence. For now.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa announced three witnesses will appear at a full committee hearing, “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage,” on Wednesday, May 8, 2013.
The witnesses are Mark Thompson, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Counterterrorism, Gregory Hicks, former Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya and Eric Nordstrom, Diplomatic Security Officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya. Only Nordstrom has testified publically before, basically pointing out tactical security failures.
“I applaud these individuals for answering our call to testify in front of the Committee. They have critical information about what occurred before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks that differs on key points from what Administration officials – including those on the Accountability Review Board – have portrayed,” said Issa.
Gotta Be Said
OK, let’s get this initial stuff out of the way. Yes, yes, there are lots of important things about America Congress should address, but yes, this hearing is happening, And yes, of course it is aimed at Hillary 2016.
But to play fair, Hillary 2016 is a big deal. If the election were held today, she’d be the next president. So maybe, albeit with some political mud slung alongside, we should pay attention to how she acted, how she failed to act, and whether she enjoyed some sort of coverup/soft-sell over what really happened in Benghazi. To paraphrase Mrs. Clinton’s own political rhetoric, we need to know how she’ll act when that tragic 3am phone call comes through. While past performance is no guarantee of future success or failure, it is how the smart money should bet.
So let’s preview what might happen in the upcoming hearing.
1) Easy Stuff: Lots of shout-outs to fallen colleagues, grieving relatives, brave troops, yeah, yeah.
2) The Basics: Lots of in-the-weeds failures to be detailed. Interesting to see if much of this will be blamed on the Libyans, who should have intervened, or soft-pedaled along the lines of “mistakes were made.” Also, budgets cut, requests ignored. At great cost. To fallen colleagues.
Someone else has already neatly discredited the story that some sort of special ops mission could have saved lives in Benghazi, including the possible use of Avis rental cars from their Benghazi outlet. Expect a fair amount of inconclusive, uninformed speculation about what the military should or could have done, but it is likely to hover above disagreement over tactics and below some sort of conspiracy-level move.
Not to be discussed: How Obama’s intervention created a power vacuum in eastern Libya, which eventually led not just to this attack but the sacking of Mali, which was prevented only by the French military with U.S. help, essentially a new war to fix the mistakes of the previous war.
3) The Coverup: Expect Susan Rice to be re-thrown under the bus, then thrown again one more time for good measure. Rice, you’ll recall, pretty much got on national tee vee the Sunday after the Consulate attacks and told fibs, blaming it all on some dumb anti-Muslim movie and trying to avoid any mention of terrorism. She is widely held to have tried to soft-pedal the attack in the run-up to Obama’s re-election in November 2012. Obama was bleating about defeating al Qaeda and crushing bin Laden with his bare hands at the time, so no one wanted a “successful” terror attack on the news. Rice was the designated messenger, with Hillary’s excellent sense of avoiding trouble guiding her into not making substantive statements about her own Consulate and her own Ambassador being murdered.
There will also be a string of sleazy emails, featuring then-State Spokesdrone Victoria Nuland trying to rewrite the talking points to protect Hillary and, if possible, Obama. Absent some real surprise, these are unfortunately business as usual in Washington now. Don’t expect any discussion on how every administration seeks to buffalo the public and the media to its own advantage. Also, drones like Nuland are trained to never mention their boss’ name– Hillary Clinton– per se in any communication. They just say things like “our leadership” or “higher authorities.” This is a clever trick to ensure no name-retrievable documents are ever created, and allows deniability over to whom she was actually referring. It’s inside Washington stuff they don’t teach you at Georgetown kids!
After weeks of delays in late 2012, to include a self-inflicted concussion, as expected, Hillary Clinton’s perfunctory testimony on the deaths of four Americans in Libya a) took “responsibility” for Benghazi in words alone, shucking blame and (in)action onto others, b) wrapped herself in the flag to shout down her questioners and c) revealed nothing new. Always eyes on the 2016 prize, that one.
The re-death of Rice has been clearly signaled by the former Deputy Chief of Mission in Libya, Gregory Hicks, in his leaked statements slathered all over CNN. The Republicans will go red meat crazy over all this, but they won’t find any smoking gun at the White House or from Hillary Land. Both are too clever, even if they were involved, and Rice was too gullible and too disposable. Poor Susan Rice, she even now on Twitter is just a shell of her old self. Whereas pre-Benghazi she’d often be calling for the blood and stones of some dictator, her Tweets now are just sad little acknowledgments of some International Women’s Day or the like. She’ll hang around the UN where she does not matter and is outside Washington, or drift into some make-work academic slot. Bye.
Proof that Rice is finished? Biden just confirmed the President’s “confidence” in her, even though no one asked.
4) The Big Money Shot: How high did State Department malfeasance for the Benghazi attack go?
Here’s where the action is. State’s own internal review, the so-called After Action Review Board, pinged only some relative worker bees, sending them into administrative leave purgatory. The highest ranking person spanked just changed job titles. The Board, hand-selected by Hillary, never even bothered to interview Hillary. Will the hearing find a way to stick some blame on her? Expect no discussion about the After Action process itself, or why Obama has not appointed an Inspector General for the State Department, a job empty since 2008.
Or maybe not. Hicks’ leaked statement aims a bit higher, but only it seems as high as Under Secretary for Management slug Pat Kennedy. Inside State, this is a big deal, as Kennedy effectively runs the bureaucratic, administrative and personnel sides of the State Department and is thus a very powerful man in there (Diplomatic Security reports to him.) However, outside of State (i.e., on Fox News) he is a nobody. Still, if Kennedy were encouraged to retire after this, an awful lot of garbage would go out the door at State with him, to the betterment of the organization.
If Kennedy is as high as it goes, it goes nowhere really. Kennedy is well-known for throwing himself on his sword to save his Boss, and the likelihood of him implicating Hillary is precisely zero.
Zero with extreme prejudice.
And in the End?
Prediction: Much smoke, nothing more, at least a default win for Hillary 2016, even more for her if Issa makes an idiot of himself.
By now we have all heard that the Foreign Service Officer killed recently in Afghanistan was there in part to help Afghan women be “free” (she “gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future”). Indeed, women’s empowerment has become a sub-meme for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, replacing the now less-politically correct freedom and democracy thing.
Not sure? Have a look at what Yale University is saying:
NGOs and diplomats, often working alongside troops, have transformed lives by setting up programs on education, health and more. Many, like Project Artemis of Thunderbird School of Global Management, strive to lift women through education and trade: Entrepreneurs attend an intensive program at the Arizona campus, then connect with mentors in the US, Canada and Europe and remain in touch online. Project Artemis graduates have gone on to train and employ more than 15,000 other Afghan men and women, presenting an alternative future for Afghanistan other than war and ignorance.
Zip over to your Department of State and search “afghan women” and you’ll see things like this:
The President’s strategy for Afghanistan includes the provision of assistance to women to build their capacity to participate fully in Afghan society thereby building their country’s future. Secretary Clinton has long been committed to improving the rights of Afghan women, both in her work as Senator and as Secretary of State. When Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer traveled to Afghanistan in June 2009, she noted that “the women in Afghanistan are critical to progress and stability…it is only by men and women working together can Afghanistan move forward.”
O.K., fair enough. The U.S. has been engaged in Afghanistan for some twelve years now and must have had a pretty significant effect on the state of women there given the time, money and effort expended.
The Associated Press tells us they toured:
…the Badam Bagh prison, built by the Italian government six years ago to house female inmates from the Kabul area.
More than two-thirds of the 202 inmates are serving sentences of up to seven years for leaving their husbands, refusing to accept an arranged marriage, or leaving their parents’ home with a man of their choice, according to the prison’s director.
Some of the women were jailed while pregnant, others with their small children. 62 children are living with their imprisoned mothers, sharing the same gray, steel bunk beds and napping in the afternoon behind a sheet draped from the upper bunk, oblivious to the chatter and the crackling noises from the small TV sets shoved off to one side of the rooms.
But all the efforts by Yale to empower women and deceased FSOs to help must have done some good?
“I haven’t gone to court. I am just waiting,” Mariam told the AP, hugging a ratty brown sweater to protect her from the damp cold of the prison.
While it might not be against the law to run away or escape a forced marriage, the courts routinely convict women fleeing abusive homes with “the intent to commit adultery,” which are most often simply referred to as “moral crimes,” says a United Nations report released last month. It also said most cases of abuse go unreported.
The director-general of prisoners, Gen. Amer Mohammad Jamsheed, said about 650 women are jailed nationwide, and “most are in jail for moral crimes.”
O.K., good thing those imprisoned women don’t have the Taliban after them.
Hey nation builders, here’s a practice tip: take a break from the deadly feel-good book drops (yeah, too soon and too harsh, but people are dying over this stuff) and the endless string of women as entrepreneurs-a-paloozas and see if you can’t at least do something for the women held in a NATO-built prison that did not even exist under the Taliban, ‘kay?
Lingering Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has not been seen in public and who has not commented substantively about the report blaming State Department leadership failures for the deaths of four Americas in Benghazi (below) since early December, was hospitalized Sunday after doctors discovered a blood clot during a follow-up exam related to a concussion she suffered this month, her spokesman said.
Clinton, who missed several opportunities to speak publicly about Benghazi, including most recently due to a leisurely three week recovery from a self-inflicted concussion, is now off-line once again. Her hospitalization raises new doubts that she will ever testify before Congress.
C’mon you guys, she’s in the hospital and all now, this is serious for realz! You could make fun when she was just recovering at home but now it’s mean and inappropriate!111!
OK, OK, while of course we all wish a swift recovery for America’s Sweetheart, we can’t help but wonder, coincidences being what they are, about the future. Too sick to testify? Sure, of course, get well soon. But questions about an older person’s ability to serve as president four accident-prone years in the future? Naw, no problem.
Obama, please do not nominate Susan Rice for Secretary of State. It has nothing to do with her being a woman, or a sort-of African-American, or even the Benghazi mess (though that’s a symptom of the broader problem). It has nothing to do with John Kerry’s Senate seat. Susan Rice is all appetite, all in for only herself and the Department of State, and America, needs a leader in the job, not another person primping her resume for what comes next.
A Biography Fit for a Queen
Look at Rice’s biography: She was raised in a well-to-do Washington DC neighborhood by elite parents. Emmett Rice, was an economist who in 1979 became the second African American appointed to the Federal Reserve Board. Her mother, Lois Dickson Rice, was a corporate executive and a longtime member of the College Board. Rice attended fancy schools — Beauvoir and the National Cathedral School. Her parents’ friends were people such as Madeleine Albright, the future secretary of state, who served on school boards with Rice’s mother, and whose former husband played tennis with Rice’s father. Albright became a mentor, helping to elevate Rice to assistant secretary of state for African Affairs when Rice was 32. They have been so close that people assumed Rice was her godchild, Albright said in an interview. Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a wealthy D.C. art patron, was a kind of surrogate godmother. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton took Rice to lunch when she was deciding whether to attend law school. Inheritances from husband Cameron’s and Rice’s families are largely responsible for her $20 million-plus net worth.
Rice finished her schooling in 1990, and started work as an international management consultant at McKinsey & Company in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Rice took a job with the National Security Council in Washington, D.C., under Clinton in 1993. She became special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs in 1995. Only two years later, in 1997, Madeleine Albright made Rice assistant secretary of state for African Affairs when Rice was 32. It was unclear if Rice had ever been to Africa absent a short trip or two or done anything significant related to Africa outside of academia, or what the hell she knew about Africa at age 32 only seven years in the job market. Rice moved into a think tank during the Bush years and then the Obama campaign in 2008+. She has never worked outside of Washington since a brief job stint right out of school.
The Buck Stops Elsewhere
She was one of the youngest assistant secretaries of state ever. Among her accomplishments in the position was to be the top diplomat for African issues during the 1998 terrorist embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya.
In a 2002 op-ed piece in the Washington Post, former Ambassador to Sudan Timothy M. Carney and news contributor Mansoor Ijaz implicated Rice in missing an opportunity to neutralize Osama bin Laden while he was still in Sudan in 1996. They wrote that Sudan and Secretary of State Albright were ready to cooperate on intelligence potentially leading to Bin Laden, but that Rice persuaded National Security Adviser Sandy Berger to overrule Albright. Similar allegations were made by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose and Richard Miniter, author of Losing Bin Laden, in a November 2003 interview with World.
Rice, as assistant secretary for African Affairs, also contributed to the bloodshed on the Continent, saying at one point “Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e., the United States] have to do is look the other way.”
Rice also famously said about the horrific genocide then unfolding in Rwanda “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional midterm] election?”
Oh, and yes, Rice’s misstatements about Benghazi, when she claimed that the attack was based on that silly anti-Islam film no one knew about until she honked about it on the Sunday teevee talk shows. According to Obama:
If Senators McCain and Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me… but for them to go after the U.N. ambassador? Who had nothing to do with Benghazi? And was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? To besmirch her reputation is outrageous.
Not Rice’s Fault
But none of that was her fault and she had nothing to do with any of that in any way whatsoever. The buck always stopped somewhere else for Susan Rice.
“She always reminds me of someone who’s had every drop of Kool-Aid, always espousing 1,000 percent of whatever point of view the administration is putting forward,” said Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
So here’s the money shot: Susan Rice is not qualified to be Secretary of State. Susan Rice would have (Spoiler Alert) told six year olds on the Sunday talk shows that Santa Claus isn’t real if Obama asked her to say that. Susan Rice for all her life has been about promoting Susan Rice, about hitching herself to a powerful person (Albright, Clinton, Obama) and then doing exactly what she was told to do in return for favorable promotions and bureaucratic protection. Susan Rice is always the handmaiden of failure without ever being tainted by accepting responsibility. Susan Rice is 100 percent a product of the slimy sad way Washington works nowadays, people who ignore the “service” portion of “public service” simply for self-advancement. Susan Rice cares not a jot for the Department of State as as organization, and little for the United States as a concept. Both exist only to serve the needs of Susan Rice. Her self-serving nature has left enough collateral damage blood on her hands for two lifetimes.
There are some seven billion people on earth, and almost any one of them would be a better choice for Secretary of State than Susan Rice. We need better. Please?
Bonus: Additional blah blah blah on Rice from the New York Times and a significant contribution to hagiography by the Washington Post, polishing Hillary’s reputation.
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) chose ten memorable quotes for 2011, saying “From the outrageous to the sublime to the profound, newsmakers had a lot to say in 2011. Here’s some of the things said in 2011 that are worth a second take.”
The POGO folks liked this line from We Meant Well:
In Iraq, we had money everywhere. It was literally in boxes you had to step over. At one point in time, I had $100,000 in a safe in my office…There was so much money that the Iraqis invented a new slang term in Arabic that means ‘a large pile of hundred dollar bills.’
See who else’s quotes made the list (my boss Hillary beat me by coming in at No. 8, with me in tenth place) at The Project on Government Oversight website. Psst… Anthony Weiner “shows” us all how to land in first place.
Here is your Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who as Secretary is America’s top diplomat. She practices diplomacy, which in one sense as been defined as “the employment of tact to gain strategic advantage or to find mutually acceptable solutions to a common challenge, one set of tools being the phrasing of statements in a non-confrontational, or polite manner.”
Now, here is our diplomat talking about the death of Qaddafi. She says “we came, we saw, he died” and then laughs about that with some robo journalist.
If the video is not embedded, try here.
For all those who write in complaining that I am at times crude or offensive, chortling over anyone’s death is a disgrace. What’s next, displaying the skulls of our enemies in the Foggy Bottom lobby? Oh my god America, what have we become?
And if you are among those leaving negative comments for me, here’s more war porn video to get off on.
Lastly, by overwhelming popular demand, I have toned down the language in this posting. The comments below may refer to an earlier version which used considerably more naughty language. I still pretty much feel that way, but understand I don’t always need to write down exactly the words in my head.
Hillary: People, we need some new ideas. We’re taking a beating on Iraq. First, the US military is pulling out at the end of the year, and we’ll be reduced to being Fort Apache at the embassy. Our chosen main man in Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki, is acting more and more like just another dictator thug. What can we do?
Staff Aide: What about holding another election in Iraq? Every time things went south on Bush, he threw together another election there and got great press.
Hillary: No, no, we ran out of purple ink and besides, Jimmy Carter can’t do any observations, some kind of back and neck problem.
Staff Aide: Could Bill go instead?
Hillary: Maybe, I’ll ask Chelsea to ask Bono to Tweet him later but to tell the truth, no purple ink means no nice photos of “democracy.”
(laughter in the room when Hillary uses ‘air quotes” around “democracy”)
Staff Aide: I got it. We start telling the press that instead of having the World’s Largest Embassy in Baghdad (c), which is now seen less as a symbol of American power and more as a symbol of American excess and hubris, that all the people there are actually part of a new movement, Occupy Baghdad.
Hillary: I like, I like. Occupy Baghdad. Instead of being seen as a money sink, the last remnants of a dead Bush-era policy, our people in Baghdad will seem cool and hip. Right now the whole mess in Iraq for State seems like a vestigial tail, but by taking the Occupy Baghdad label, we move to cutting edge.
Staff Aide: Yes Ma’am. Occupy Baghdad. But what will we say are our goals and objectives?
Hillary: That’s the beauty. Occupy Wall Street has vague goals. Same for us. Like those hippies, we can claim our lack of leadership and unclear purpose is actually a good thing, instead of getting beaten up over them.
Staff Aide: I see now. I’ll try and get Michael Moore on the phone for you, and check if he’d like us to book him a flight to Baghdad.
Hillary: Make sure he travels coach. No business class. And no double per diem like the Congressionals get.
Staff Aide: Yes Ma’am.
Hillary: Great, innovative. Now, how about some NYPD?
Staff Aide: Ma’am?
Hillary: We’ve dropped some $5 billion on training the Iraqi cops, but they are still useless. We’ll need to import NYPD to pepper spray some of our entry level officers in Baghdad to create controversy.
Staff Aide: We could have the Sadr militia do it instead. They’d probably work for free.
Hillary: Innovative again! Have Nides add this to his QDDR slides.
Staff Aide: Anything else Madame Secretary?
Hillary: Yeah, can you get me some more office supplies? One of those old Foreign Service guys I keep trying to get rid of keeps stealing all my yellow stickies.