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benghazi Archives | Judicial Watch

Judicial Watch Reacts to Speaker Boehner’s Support for Select Committee on Benghazi

 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton made the following statement today in response Speaker John Boehner’s decision to have the House vote on forming a Select Committee on Benghazi:

I applaud Speaker Boehner’s decision today to finally move toward a Select Committee on Benghazi in response to revelations from Judicial Watch. This is long overdue. Judicial Watch is pleased that its work uncovered the “smoking gun” Rhodes email that led to this important step. Five House Committees have failed for nearly two years to get to the bottom of the Benghazi mess and have been trifled with by a stonewalling administration. We stand ready to assist Congress in any investigation of this important issue.

Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request on October 12, 2012, to gain access to documents about the controversial talking points used by then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for a series of appearances on television Sunday news programs on September 16, 2012. The email was produced in response to a court order in Judicial Watch v. State, No. 1:13-cv-00951.

The Rhodes email was sent on sent on Friday, September 14, 2012, at 8:09 p.m. with the subject line: “RE: PREP CALL with Susan, Saturday at 4:00 pm ET.” The documents show that the “prep” was for Amb. Rice’s Sunday news show appearances to discuss the Benghazi attack.

The document lists as a “Goal”: “To underscore that these protests are rooted in and Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”

 

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Obama Administration Withholds Key Benghazi Emails

 (Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that the Obama administration was seeking to withhold key emails about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, indicating what it terms “a continued cover-up of the deadly scandal.” The documents, released in December, include multiple emails, which are heavily redacted, about the controversial Benghazi talking points that falsely portray the attack as being the result of a spontaneous protest.

On October 18, 2012, JW filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request with the Department of State seeking information about talking points used to discuss the Benghazi attack that were given  then UN Ambassador Rice and others in the Obama administration.  After waiting months for a response, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the State Department on June 21, 2013, captioned (Judicial Watch, Inc., v. U.S. Department of State, (Civil Action No. 13-cv-00951 (EGS)) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and requested that the State Department be compelled to produce all non-exempt responsive documents.

To date, the State Department has produced two sets of documents, each containing little or no information not previously available to the public. The first set of documents consisted of 1192 pages of daily press clips from the United States Mission to the United Nations, dated September 12-28.  The documents contained nothing beyond published news stories.  The second set of documents, provided to Judicial Watch on December 13, 2013 consists of 67 pages of emails.  The majority of the content is redacted, aside from three prepared talking points sent to members of Congress on September 15, 2012, the first containing the administration’s false claim that the attack was “spontaneously inspired:”

  • “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annex.  There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”
  • “This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.”
  • “The investigation is on-going, and the US Government is working with Libyan authorities to bring justice to those responsible for the deaths of US citizens.”

The Obama administration has withheld the name of the CIA official who distributed these inaccurate talking points, which seemed to have been used to brief Congress.

“Even after a year and a federal lawsuit, the Obama administration is still in full stonewall mode on Benghazi.  Why else would they produce dozens of blanked out emails?” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our lawyers are considering challenges to latest Obama secrecy gambit.”

In June, 2013, Judicial Watch obtained the first seven photos from the Department of State depicting the aftermath of the September 11 Benghazi attacks, including: a burned and ransacked building, burned vehicles, and Arabic graffiti with militant Islamist slogans. In November, it obtained additional previously withheld photos, depicting: a car on fire; what appears to be the exterior of a burned out building; ransacked rooms within the building with files and office supplies strewn across the floor; and additional militant Islamist slogans.

Judicial Watch currently has four pending FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration for documents about the attack, 14 FOIA requests and one Mandatory Declassification Review Request. It has published two in-depth special reports on Benghazi, the last one on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack. [The first Special Report can be accessed here , the second here.]

 

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To the living we owe respect. To the dead we owe the truth. –Voltaire

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
The Capitol, H-232
Washington, D.C., 20515

January 6, 2014

Dear Speaker Boehner,

We write to express our grave concern over the failure of your House of Representatives to extract the truth from the Obama administration concerning the attack on our diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi, Libya; and, the brutal deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and security officers Ty Woods and Glen Doherty.

To date, five (5) different committees of the House have conducted separate hearings, uncovering information in a piecemeal fashion lacking professional investigators.  The five committees’ efforts are disjointed and uncoordinated.  The Obama administration has benefited from that dysfunctional process to hide the truth.  Hardly any Obama administration witnesses have testified – publicly or privately.  You have resisted repeated calls for the creation of a select investigative committee with subpoena authority. It appears that you are satisfied to allow that state of investigative incoherence and ambiguity to continue.  The last public hearing by any of the five committees was held in September – four (4) months ago.  The families of the dead who fought valiantly to protect the mission and their families, the survivors, and the American people deserve better from you and your Members of Congress. They deserve the absolute truth from their government. Your failure to get the truth and hold public officials accountable increases the possibility of other repeat attacks and additional failures to defend Americans abroad.

On Sunday, December 29, 2013, the New York Times published a story concerning the Benghazi attacks that directly contradicts the sworn testimony of witnesses who appeared before various committees.  Besides the obvious New York Times editorial and political objectives of inoculating Hillary Clinton and her 2016 presidential campaign from further criticism of her failures as Secretary of State, the story contradicts objective truth and established facts in a way that confuses the public.  Your inaction and failure to lead on the Benghazi investigation directly contributes to the repetition of lies; a lack of accountability from responsible government officials; and the political advancement of persons who seek to continue to “fundamentally transform” the Constitution and our country.  The New York Times recent publication proves the Benghazi story is not “going away.”

Your oversight of the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation has been without any meaningful effect or result.  Not a single terrorist in this well-planned and executed military attack by radical Islamists has been apprehended.  Ahmed Abu Khattala, a ringleader of the attack, granted long interviews to reporters in Benghazi cafes, while the Obama administration – and you – have done nothing.  Nearly 16 months after the terrorist attack, the American public has no accountability and no plan of action from House leadership. The public is subjected to undisputed disinformation from a White House who calls the terror attack a “phony scandal.”  While the White House repeats false and misleading information, you continue to ignore claims, documented by Rep. Frank Wolf, of intelligence officers being intimidated with multiple, punitive polygraph examinations and harassing non-disclosure agreement demands.  If Benghazi is “phony” why are intelligence officers being threatened not to speak and subjected to polygraph exams? Why do you stand by passively?

Some analysts believe your inaction and passivity towards getting to the truth concerning Benghazi is because you were briefed on the intelligence and special operations activities in Libya as a member of the “Super 8.”   You may possess “guilty knowledge.”  We recall how then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi developed a form of “amnesia” concerning a documented briefing she received on so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” – later termed “torture” for political purposes.  Are you in the same position as your predecessor?  Are you dodging a legitimate, thorough, coordinated investigation of Benghazi because it will damage your political position as Speaker?

You should be embarrassed that members of Congress, and your own party, are forced to file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with Obama administration agencies to get basic information about the Benghazi issue.  What a sad and pathetic statement about the operations of House standing committees looking into this tragedy that FOIA has become the last resort of even Republican Members seeking the truth!  Are you concerned that the scattershot and untimely efforts of the various committees may actually be doing more harm than good at documenting facts?  These are all examples of Republican leadership failures.  How are you accountable?

Rep. Mike Rogers and the Intelligence Committee seem to act as defense counsel for the Obama administration.  A recent Intelligence Committee weekly update note stated as fact that no arms shipments were being run from Libya, and that no intelligence officers were being coerced not to speak.  There is substantial evidence to the contrary on both counts.  Why does Rep. Rogers parrot the discredited falsehoods of the so-called “Accountability Review Board” (ARB)?  Conflicting accounts, testimony and evidence need to be investigated – not dismissed or ignored.  Don’t those contradictions and questions compel you, on behalf of the American people, to take any action to resolve the matter and get to the truth?

Aren’t you concerned that General Carter Ham was suddenly and prematurely recalled from AFRICOM, and then made statements at the Aspen Institute that directly contradicted the Obama administration’s position on the nature of the attack in Benghazi?  Why has General Ham not testified publicly before one of the House committees?

The New York Times story reports that the CIA was, in fact, collecting weapons in Benghazi.  If true, why was the CIA running a separate, parallel weapons program from the State Department’s $40 million collection effort?  Where did the CIA-purchased weapons go?  Is the Obama administration arming al Qaeda affiliated jihadists in Syria?

If you wished, you could have publicly engaged Rep. Devin Nunes concerning his November 6, 2013 letter to you, addressing the nine unanswered questions about Benghazi. Instead, there was thundering silence from your office. You have an opportunity to show strong leadership and resolve a national disgrace perpetrated by specific public officials. You are failing.

Your reluctance to lead and resistance to create a Select Committee on Benghazi must end.  More than 75% of all House Republicans – with the conspicuous absence of those in leadership or committee chairmen – have cosponsored Rep. Wolf’s Select Committee bill.  Few bills in this Congress demonstrate such overwhelming support from Republicans.  Additionally, the bill enjoys the support of national security advocacy groups, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, among many others.

We urge you to bring the bill to the floor for a vote immediately to start effective oversight on this critical national security matter immediately. We have waited long enough. Your approach is not working.

Mr. Speaker, we call upon you to act now and create a Select Committee on Benghazi to investigate all aspects of the United States involvement in Libya, to include, but not be limited to the attacks of September 11, 2012.  It must now also include the protracted cover-up the American people, the families of the fallen and those with loved ones serving overseas have endured. The new committee must have subpoena power, capable staff and Members from both parties who are committed to finding the truth, not playing politics.  The Committee must be staffed with new, professional, qualified and experienced investigators. It must have resources to conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation and issue an exhaustive report before this Congress adjourns.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned:

(Titles for identification purposes only)

Charles Woods, Father of Ty Woods

Pat Smith, Mother of Sean Smith

Michael Ingmire, Musician/Writer, Uncle to Sean Smith

and

Adm. Jerome L. Johnson, USN Ret., former Vice Chief of Naval Operations

Lt. Gen. E.G. “Buck” Shuler, Jr., USAF, (Ret)

Lt. Gen. Richard D. Lawrence, USA (Ret)

LTG William G. Boykin, USA (Ret)

Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, USA Ret, Chairman, Stand Up America

Maj. Gen. Carroll D. Childers, USA (Ret), Ranger

Maj. Gen. Thomas F. Cole, USA (Ret)

Maj. Gen. Richard M. Cooke, USMC (Ret)

Amb. Henry F. Cooper, Former Director, Strategic Defense Initiative

LTC Allen B. West (US Army, Ret) former Congressman, FL

Captain Joseph R. John, USNA ‘62, USN (Ret), Chairman, Combat Veterans For Congress PAC

Debra Burlingame, Co-founder, 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America

Elaine Donnelly, President, Center for Military Readiness

Dick Brauer, Col, USAF (Ret), Special Operation Speaks

Tom Fitton, President, Judicial Watch

Allen Roth, Secure America Now

Joel A. Arends, Veterans for a Strong America

Ginni Thomas, President, Liberty Consulting

Catherine Engelbrecht, President, True the Vote

Anita MonCrief, Black Voters Alliance

David Wallace, Restore America’s Mission

Dr. James Pollock, Maj., USAF (Ret), OIF VETx2, SOCOM, Wounded Warrior Congressional Advocate

John J. Molloy, Chairman, National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition

James C. Harding, Col USAF (Ret) National Spokesman for Veteran Defenders of America

Diane M. Sendlenski, Veteran US Air Force, Special Operations Speaks Coordinator 

John G. B. Howland, Publisher, USNA-At-Large

Katherine Cornell Gorka, Executive Director, The Westminster Institute

Paul Caprio, Executive Director, Family Pac Federal

William L. Walton, Chairman, Rappahannock Ventures LLC

Sandy Rios, Director of Governmental Affairs, American Family Association

David Horowitz, President, Freedom Center

Peter Thomas, Chairman, The Conservative Caucus

Rear Adm. Hugh P. Scott, MC, USN (Ret)

Rear Adm. Bill McDaniel, USN (Ret)

Rear Adm. John A. Moriarty, USN, (Ret)

Rear Adm. Robert B. McClinton, USN (Ret)

Rear Adm. Don G. Primeau, USN (Ret)

Brig. Gen. Michael Neil, USMCR (Ret)

Brig. Gen. Francis Hughes, USA (Ret)

Brig. Gen. John Zierdt, Jr., USA (Ret)

Brig. Gen. Michael T. Byrnes, USA (Ret)

Brig. Gen. William A. Bloomer, USMC (Ret)

Captain Kenneth Rauch, USN (Ret)

Captain Peter A. Hewett, JAGC, U.S. Navy (Ret)

Captain James Knight, USN (Ret)

Captain Roger W. Barnett, USN (Ret)

Captain Gregory Streeter, USN (Ret) USNA ’58

Col. G. Huntington Banister, USA (Ret), and former Acting Director, Selective Service System, 1994 

Col. S. Badiner, USMC (Ret)

Col. Gregory G. Raths, USMC (Ret)

Col. Joseph V. Potter, USAF (Ret) 

Col. Rob Maness, USAF (Ret), U.S. Senate Candidate 2014, R-Louisiana

Dan Bongino, 2012 Republican Nominee for US Senate, MD

Lt. Col. Ken Benway, USA (Ret)

Lt. Col. Dennis B. Haney, USAF (Ret)

CDR Randolph J. Horhutz, USNA ’61, SC, USN (Ret)

Everett Woolum, CMSGT, USAF (Ret)

Gregory J. Rose, USNA ’73

Thomas Corboy, USNA, ‘61

Anthony R. Papandrea, USNA ‘61

Raymond H. Clary, Jr., USNA ‘65

John W. Slagle, U.S. Navy Aviation veteran (Ret) Special Agent U.S.B.P. Anti-Smuggling Unit

Sarah Folger White, Former Presidential Commissioner

Dick and Patricia Schermerhorn, Appleton, WI

Lee Boyland, Author, former military officer, entrepreneur, nuclear engineer

Susan Creed Percy, Advocate for Military Families

Dave Hollenbeck, retired CA Highway Patrol 

Paul F. Wirtz, Military family, OH resident

John Lillywhite, U.S. Citizen

Gene Andrews, U. S. Citizen

Mrs. Nancy Olbert, Supervisor Criminal Advocates, Daytona, FL State Attorney Office

Dr. Frank Ingels, Military Defense Consultant, MSIC/TETRA Office

Robert M. Trent, Senior Special Agent, USINS and former Marine and Vietnam combat veteran

Kelly Monroe Kullberg, Christians for a Sustainable Economy; OH resident

November 22, 2013

Cincinnati IRS Employee Slams Lerner for Blame Game
Judicial Watch Obtains New Photos of Benghazi Attack Aftermath
JW Releases 2013 “Transparency 101: Freedom of Information Act and Open Records Handbook”
JW Senior Attorney Testifies in Pennsylvania in Support of Election Integrity
Obamacare Disaster Continues

Cincinnati IRS Employee Slams Lerner for Blame Game

If you could peek inside the Obama administration’s “crisis management” handbook for scandals, it would read as follows:

  1. Deny the scandal ever happened.
  2. Rally the liberal press to your defense.
  3. Stonewall the release of information.
  4. Destroy the evidence.
  5. And if all else fails, blame it on a low level employee.

But we don’t have to peek, do we? We’ve seen this strategy on display time and time again.  Remember the Black Panther scandal, where the Obama Justice Department (DOJ) scuttled the agency’s own lawsuit against racist thugs who threatened white voters at a polling station in Philadelphia? No political appointees were involved in the decision, so said one top DOJ official in testimony. Wrong. Top political appointees (perhaps Holder himself) were involved and Judicial Watch obtained the evidence to prove it.

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And now they’re at it again. Only this time, it’s the IRS. And according to emails just released by the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the “low level employees” did not take it lying down.

Per The Washington Post:

A top manager from the Internal Revenue Service’s Cincinnati office was “furious” last May over allegations from Lois Lerner that “front-line” employees were responsible for the agency’s inappropriate actions toward conservative groups, according to e-mails from a former top official with the division.

Lerner, who headed the exempt-organizations office in Washington, D.C., blamed rank-and-file workers for the agency’s behavior during a legal conference in which she apologized on behalf of the IRS. She said actions were misguided efforts by workers to deal with a flood of applications from tax-exemption applicants during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. We know now that Lerner’s comments were about as true as Obama’s lies about keeping your health insurance, doctors, and affordable health care.

“Based on the [news] articles, Cincinnati wasn’t publicly ‘thrown under the bus’ [but] instead was hit by a convoy of mack trucks,” stated former IRS Cincinnati office manager Cynthia Thomas in an email sent to Lerner last May, the very day Lerner admitted to agency abuse of conservative organizations.

“Was it also communicated at that conference in Washington that the low-level workers in Cincinnati asked the Washington office for assistance and the Washington office took no action to provide guidance to the low-level workers?” Thomas asked.

Thomas then complained that the morale of the “low level” employees under her management was “the lowest it had ever been.”

And why wouldn’t it be? As noted by the Daily Caller, the moment Lerner shifted the blame to Cincinnati, the press piled on, with the New York Times going so far as to characterize the Cincinnati office as “backwater.”

Now I want to be careful here, not to leave the impression that I would exonerate any “low level” employee for allowing this illicit suppression of the Tea Party and conservatives to happen. But, what I am saying is that this new email evidence clearly shows that officials at the highest levels of the Obama IRS knew about the agency’s flagrant targeting of conservative organizations.

Of course liberals in Congress are saying these emails are much ado about nothing. Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), ranking member of the committee, said: “The fact is that Lois Lerner was rightfully held responsible for gross mismanagement of the IRS tax-exempt division.”

Sure, if “rightfully held responsible” means allowing Lerner to retire with full benefits, as she did in September. This is yet another scandal that goes to the top of the Obama White House, with zero repercussions for the “high level employee” responsible for it.

If you ask Lerner today, she might still stick to her story that low level employees acted alone in this abuse of power. But she can’t say that about the evidence Judicial Watch uncovered a few weeks ago.

As you recall, JW released email evidence showing that Lerner was personally involved in unethical – and perhaps criminal – activity involving the confidential records of conservative organizations.

JW recently unearthed emails that seem to suggest that Lerner handed over detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the Federal Election Commission in violation of federal law.

The bulk of the records obtained by Judicial Watch consist of extensive materials from the IRS’ files sent from Lerner to the FEC.

These include annual tax returns (Form 990) and request for exempt recognition forms (Form 1024), Articles of Organization and other corporate documents, and correspondence between the nonprofit organizations and the IRS.  And there lots of emails and documentary records of at least one phone call between the IRS and the FEC.

Under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, it is a felony for an IRS official to disclose either “return information” or “taxpayer return information,” even to another government agency.

It doesn’t matter if they fax it, email it, or talk about it on the phone, the IRS is absolutely prohibited from speaking out of school about anyone’s tax information.

The Obama administration never lets the truth stand in the way of an exculpatory narrative. So don’t expect the White House to hold any feet to the fire. That’s our job. (See our mega-FOIA lawsuit to get the IRS scandal documents.)  And trust me when I say this administration is keeping us busier than ever. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

Judicial Watch Obtains New Photos of Benghazi Attack Aftermath

Take another look at the Obama crisis management plan in the story above. And take note of strategy number 3: stonewall the release of information. As the nation’s leading expert in using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to force the release of government information, this is a strategy with which our investigators are intimately familiar.

And it is a strategy that has been central to the Obama administration’s Benghazi-gate cover-up.

As the attack was occurring on the Benghazi consulate, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, the evidence shows the Obama administration knew the attack was organized.  And there was little doubt that it was organized by al Qaeda terrorists.

But these facts proved inconvenient to the president, who was in the middle of a re-election campaign, and so President Obama and his underlings peddled the false story that an obscure Internet video inspired an impromptu attack on the consulate. And when that failed to pass the laugh test, the administration went into stonewall mode.

Fortunately, Judicial Watch knows how to bust through stonewalls, and we recently got hold of some additional Benghazi records previously withheld by the Obama administration. We had to sue to get them, but we got them.

Specifically, we obtained 30 pages of records from the Department of State, including 13 previously withheld photos depicting the devastating aftermath of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

(We previously released the first seven photos of the devastation obtained in response to our FOIA lawsuit filed in February.)

And what do they show?

The new photos seem to depict portions of the so-called “Special Mission Compound” in Benghazi, including: a car on fire; what appears to be the exterior of a burned out building; ransacked rooms within the building with files and office supplies strewn across the floor; and Arabic graffiti with militant Islamist slogans.

We first learned about these documents from the Accountability Review Board (ARB) after the board released its final report on December 31, 2012.

According to ARB Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering the Board “reviewed thousands of documents and watched hours of video” during the course of its investigation.  The Obama administration also reportedly shared Benghazi video with certain members of Congress. Until the State Department released the first seven Benghazi photos to Judicial Watch, however, the State Department had withheld all videos and photos from the American people.

And what of the videos?  A Justice Department attorney told us last week that the State Department is withholding all videos in full, citing privacy and law enforcement exemptions.

Folks, we know from experience that the more fiercely the government withholds records, the more serious the scandal. And the administration is doing everything within its power to conceal the truth from JW and from the American people, which tells me there is much to hide. Even the liberal Washington Post made fun of the fact that the Obama gang had withheld news articles from Judicial Watch. That’s right, the “most transparent administration in history” forced us to sue for public news articles that it had marked “SECRET”!

But the administration’s zealous secrecy notwithstanding, I want to congratulate our investigations and legal teams for obtaining these records, which provide another piece to the puzzle of what happened in Benghazi.

These new photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama’s original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video.

The fact that we’ve had to wait nearly a year and file a federal lawsuit for basic documentary material of the attack shows that this administration is still in cover-up mode. And now the Obama administration brings the Benghazi stonewall to a whole new level by withholding video of the attack using frivolous arguments such as “privacy.”

Once again, our intrepid work generated worldwide headlines and put in focus the Obama administration’s scandal Benghazi stonewall. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the leading House member for Benghazi accountability, reacted strongly to the JW revelations in the Washington Times:

“It’s inexcusable that members of Congress and the press who want to learn the truth about what happened in Benghazi have had to use FOIA requests to obtain answers. Absent the creation of a House select committee that will hold public hearings and have cross-jurisdictional subpoena authority, I don’t think the American people will ever learn the truth,” said Mr. Wolf, who has been calling for a Watergate-style committee to investigate Benghazi.

“To date, there have been too few answers and absolutely no accountability,” he said. “Just what exactly were the State Department and CIA doing in Benghazi that has led the government to go to such great lengths to obstruct requests for information?”

But we’re not giving up. We will fight to get the video, of course.

Judicial Watch has four pending FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration for documents about the Benghazi attack, 14 FOIA requests and one Mandatory Declassification Review Request.  Judicial Watch’s special report about the deadly assault is available online: “The Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012: Analysis and Further Questions from a Diplomatic Security Service Regional Security Officer and Special Agent.”

Stay tuned.

JW Releases 2013 “Transparency 101: Freedom of Information Act and Open Records Handbook”

As I mentioned, Judicial Watch is the leading organization when it comes to obtaining government records. And we do not keep our winning strategies to ourselves. Quite the contrary. We see it as an important part of our mission to make certain that like-minded conservatives and conservative organizations have the tools they need to know what the government is up to.

And for this reason, JW recently released its 2013 “Transparency 101:  Freedom of Information Act and Opens Records Handbook,” which provides comprehensive information about how organizations and individuals can use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act to gain access to government documents and scrutinize the behavior of public officials.

The 33-page transparency primer explains in the introduction, “Judicial Watch … seeks to put the knowledge of using federal [open records] laws into the hands of families, churches, communities, organizations and all individuals interested in learning more about the decisions, operations and activities of their government…”

The “Transparency 101” handbook, which contains detailed information about how to file requests for information from the government, warns: “The centralization of power at the federal level over the past century and the sheer vastness of the federal bureaucracy have made it easy for officials to keep important decisions from public scrutiny … This handbook seeks to empower Americans with the ability to: (1) identify records sought; (2) draft, submit, and administratively appeal requests; and (3) prepare to litigate [open records] requests regarding information that they seek either for public benefit or information pertaining directly to them that they have a right to access.”

JW has now worked through three presidential administrations to help educate Americans in the art of breaking through government stonewalls though the open records process. But this effort is more important now than ever.

As I’ve said many times, the Obama administration has erected a stone wall of secrecy despite the president’s promise to have “the most transparent administration in history.”

That’s why JW has filed more than 1200 FOIA requests with the federal government in the first five-plus years of the Obama administration. And Judicial Watch has filed over 120 lawsuits against the Obama administration to force it to obey FOIA, the federal government’s main transparency law.

Our government, at all levels, is off the rails and out of control. The open records laws are among the best tools available to Americans to hold government officials accountable to the rule of law. The Obama administration’s arrogant refusal to follow the Freedom of Information Act has led to a “transparency crisis” in Washington.

JW is second to none in pursuing transparency from the Obama administration.  Now, with our “Transparency 101” FOIA handbook, we hope to enlist other Americans in the herculean effort to find out what our government is up to.

JW Senior Attorney Testifies in Pennsylvania in Support of Election Integrity

Voter fraud certainly did not end when the ballots were counted in 2012; it remains a real threat to the proper functioning of our republic. And for that reason, JW remains committed to expanding our Election Integrity Project to better ensure clean and fair elections.

That’s why we recently hired experienced attorney Robert Popper to help run our election integrity initiatives. Robert brings with him a tremendous amount of experience in such matters, having served as Deputy Chief in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice for the better part of eight years.  Simply put, he is one of the top lawyers in the country on election integrity issues.

On November 19, 2013, Robert traveled to Pennsylvania to testify at a public hearing of the House State Government Committee in order to educate state legislators about a number of statewide measures designed to protect the integrity of the voting process, namely:

  • HB 1830, which raises the penalties for basic acts of intimidation and coercion from a misdemeanor to a third degree felony under Pennsylvania law. (The bill was inspired by the New Black Panther scandal, where members of the group guarded polling stations and intimidated white voters with billy clubs.)
  • HB 1172, which adds painted materials to the kinds of political materials that are banned inside a polling place. (The bill would have disallowed the floor-to-ceiling mural of President Obama that adorned one Philadelphia polling station.)
  • HB 1827 and HB 1835, which have the effect of increasing the available pool of poll watchers and minority inspectors to guard against voter fraud.
  • HB 1572 eliminates straight-party ballot voting, which is the practice of voting for candidates of the same party for multiple positions by pushing one button on the voting machine.  The bill’s purpose is to prevent fraud and to assist voters in deliberating more carefully over their candidate of choice.
  • HB 1371, which renders it a third degree felony to knowingly make a false statement in an affidavit appended to a nomination petition in which several signatures appear to be in the same hand.

I highly suggest you click here and read Robert’s testimony in full, or here (House State Government Committee meeting – 11/19/2013) to see his deft handling of the issue on video (his testimony begins at 22:59). But here are a few highlights:

  • The topics you are considering today are among the most important that public officials are asked to address.  Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset observed that “The health of democracies, of whatever type and range, depends on a wretched technical detail: electoral procedure. All the rest is secondary.”
  • While the particular details of the bills before you concern a variety of different practices, they all are practical reforms addressing many of the issues I observed in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. They also would help to achieve the crucial goal of reassuring the public that our electoral procedures are honest.
  • There are good reasons to believe that the public needs to be reassured on this point. In poll after poll, for some time now, large segments of the American populace have expressed their dismay with various aspects of our electoral system…. These polls reveal a startling lack of faith in our electoral system.
  • A fundamental threat to the perceived integrity of elections occurs where voters face violence or violent threats at the polls. Election-related violence is typically a mark of a fledgling democracy or of a society where true democracy has yet to take root. No citizen voting in the United States today should have to endure such intimidation.
  • Allegations of fraud are a regular feature of every federal election cycle, and fraud does sway elections. For those who care to look, there are websites that collect stories concerning electoral fraud of various kinds.  But the justification for voter identification laws does not depend on establishing such fraud. It is enough that fraud should not be permitted, and that the opportunity to commit such fraud exists.

You may recall that we have been active for some time in Pennsylvania on election law issues, providing testimony and legal support to vigorous voter ID efforts there.   As I say, as long as the Left wants to be able to steal elections, election integrity will remain a top priority for Judicial Watch and its members.

(If you want the latest news on JW’s Election Integrity Project, click here. If you want to make a tax-deductible contribution to support our cause, please click here.)

Obamacare Disaster Continues

I realize I have covered Obamacare fraud quite a bit over the last few weeks, but this is a massive and ever-growing scandal that is causing massive damage across this nation and deserves all of the attention it receives. As I am running a bit long this week, I will close with a few of the most important headlines. Barack Obama lied to the American people about the horrific consequences of the ill-conceived, unconstitutional, socialist healthcare overhaul. And they managed to corruptly push the legislation through Congress and through a pliant United States Supreme Court.

Rest assured there will be more on this in coming weeks.

50-100 Million Cancellations? “A new and independent analysis of Obamacare warns of a ticking time bomb, predicting a second wave of 50 million to 100 million insurance policy cancellations next fall — right before the mid-term elections. The next round of cancellations and premium hikes is expected to hit employees, particularly of small businesses,” writes Fox News.

93% of Americans Oppose Obamacare: “A fascinating number in Wednesday’s CBS poll is that only 7% of the American public want Obamacare “kept in place.” A full 93% either believe that changes are needed to the law (48%) or want a full repeal (43%). This pits President Obama and Democrat lawmakers — who thus far have refused to make any meaningful changes — against 93% of the American people and 72% of Democrats,” writes Breitbart.com.

White House Anticipated Obamacare Disaster: “Top White House and health officials feared that HealthCare.gov would not work correctly and would set off a wave of bad publicity, according to emails shortly before the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare enrollment website,” writes Politico.

Our team is on it here at Judicial Watch and is investigating and considering additional litigation.

Until next week…

 Obama State Department Withholds Videos of Attack

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on November 12, 2013, it obtained 30 pages of records from the Department of State, including 13 previously withheld photos depicting the devastating aftermath of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Judicial Watch obtained the documents pursuant to a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the State Department on February 25, 2013 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1-13-cv-00242)). In June, Judicial Watch released the first seven photos of the devastation obtained in response to its February FOIA lawsuit.

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The new photos obtained by Judicial Watch seem to depict portions of the so-called “Special Mission Compound” in Benghazi, including: a car on fire; what appears to be the exterior of a burned out building; ransacked rooms within the building with files and office supplies strewn across the floor; and Arabic graffiti with militant Islamist slogans.

Judicial Watch filed its FOIA request with the Department of State on December 19, 2012, seeking:

Any and all videos and photographs depicting U.S. Consulate facilities in Benghazi, Libya (including the Special Mission Compound and the Annex) between September 10, 2012, and September 13, 2012, that were provided to the Accountability Review Board (ARB) for Benghazi and/or to any individual member of the ARB.

Judicial Watch became aware that the documents existed when they were referenced by the ARB in issuing its final report on December 31, 2012. According to ARB Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering the Board “reviewed thousands of documents and watched hours of video” during the course of its investigation.  The Obama administration also reportedly shared Benghazi video with certain members of Congress. Until the State Department released the first seven Benghazi photos to Judicial Watch, however, the State Department had withheld all videos and photos from the American people.

Despite being forced to release the 30 new Benghazi pages of records to Judicial Watch, the State Department continued to withhold the videos reviewed by the ARB.  A Justice Department attorney informed Judicial Watch last week that the State Department is withholding all videos in full, citing privacy and law enforcement exemptions.

“The new photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama’s original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The fact that we’ve had to wait nearly a year and file a federal lawsuit for basic documentary material of the attack shows that this administration is still in cover-up mode. And now the Obama administration brings the Benghazi stonewall to a whole new level by withholding video of the attack using frivolous arguments such as ‘privacy.’”

Judicial Watch has four pending FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration for documents about the Benghazi attack, 14 FOIA requests and one Mandatory Declassification Review Request.  Judicial Watch’s special report about the deadly assault is available online: “The Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012: Analysis and Further Questions from a Diplomatic Security Service Regional Security Officer and Special Agent.”

Updated Report focuses on “Unanswered Questions and the Quest for Accountability from the Obama Administration;” calls for House Select Committee to fully investigate the attack

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released “On the Anniversary of the Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012: Unanswered Questions and the Quest for Accountability from the Obama Administration,” a Special Report containing new in-depth analyses of “the Obama administration’s Benghazi stonewall.” A follow-up to its January 22, 2013, Benghazi report, the new Special Report includes extensive information uncovered in the organization’s 23 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Mandatory Declassification Review, and four lawsuits against the Obama Department of State and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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Judicial Watch is the only non-governmental organization in the country litigating in federal court to uncover the full story about what happened before, during, and following the Benghazi massacre. What it has discovered to date, according to the Special Report, is a “story of political treachery in high places.”

Part One of the new Special Report contains in-depth analysis, conducted exclusively for Judicial Watch by former State Department Security Special Agent Raymond Fournier, examining the critical time period leading up to the Benghazi attack, when repeated requests for increased security were shunned by top State Department officials. It also examines the Obama administration’s official claim that “an obscure Internet video” triggered the attacks. It also raises questions as to the internal problems within the State Department that may continue to leave overseas diplomats without adequate security.

Part Two of the Special Report contains new information focusing on the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, including continuing attempts by the Obama administration to withhold information about the attacks and its subsequent actions. It includes a “Benghazi Chronology,” revealing details about more than 30 violent incidents that occurred in and around Benghazi dating back to December 2011, and leading up to the day of the attack. The chronology includes a cable sent to Washington by Ambassador Christopher Stevens on the morning of September 11, 2012, reflecting Libyans’ “growing frustration with police and security forces who were too weak to keep the country secure.”

The Judicial Watch Special Report addresses a series of “Loose Ends and Unanswered Questions,” including the following:

  • “Almost immediately after the September 11 terrorist attack in Benghazi” the Report says, “the President pledged, ‘We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done’ … Despite these vows of swift justice, no one has yet been arrested or killed for participation in the attack.”

“Of particular concern to lawmakers,” the Special Report adds, “is the fact that CNN was able to conduct an interview with Ahmed Abu Khattala in July [2012]. Libyan officials identified Khattala as the ‘mastermind’ of the attack as early as October [2011].”

  • The Special Report continues, “The administration has also reportedly undertaken a concerted effort to keep government personnel who were on the ground in Benghazi on the night of the attack from testifying to Congress or providing information to the media. In July, Rep. Frank Wolf reported on the House floor that, ‘According to trusted sources that have contacted my office, many if not all of the survivors of the Benghazi attacks along with others at the Department of Defense, the CIA have been asked or directed to sign non-disclosure agreements about their involvement in the Benghazi attacks.”
  • “The activities of Ambassador Stevens on the day of the attack also raise questions regarding a possible weapons transfer being conducted out of the SMC at Benghazi [to Syrian rebels via Turkey],” according to the Special Report. “Stevens met with Mahmoud El-Mufti, the owner of a Libya-based shipping company Al-Marfa … Stevens’ final meeting of the day was with Ali Akin, the Turkish Consul General in Benghazi … So, while the official version of events holds that the Ambassador was in Benghazi for routine meetings and opening of a cultural center, it seems clear that he was working on something undisclosed that involved both Turkey and cargo shipments.”]
  • “Some evidence of the power of the FOIA law, and Judicial Watch’s persistence, came about with the release of the first US Government images of the aftermath of the attack on the Benghazi SMC,” the Special Report says. “Judicial Watch’s lawsuit against the State Department compelled production of the images on June 21, 2013 – four months after going to federal court to get the Obama administration to obey the law. A total of seven (7) photographs were produced to Judicial Watch by the State Department.” Two of the images obtained by Judicial Watch are in the Special Report.
  • According the Special Report, “DOS hired a British firm, Blue Mountain, to manage its security in Benghazi, and Blue Mountain subcontracted the job to a local jihadist militia called the February 17 Martyrs Brigade who have known Muslim Brotherhood ties.” The Report also reveals that [Regional Security Officer in Libya, Eric] “Nordstrom testified at the October 11, 2012 Congressional hearings that ‘in deference to sensitivity to Libyan practice, the guards at Benghazi were unarmed’ [emphasis added] – an inexplicable practice for a place as dangerous as Benghazi.”  The Report says Nordstrom also “told Congressional investigators that DOS Deputy Assistant Director for International Programs Charlene] Lamb “wanted to keep the number of U.S. security personnel in Benghazi ‘artificially low.”

The Judicial Watch Special Report concludes with a call for the creation of a bipartisan House Select Committee to fully investigate the terrorist attack on Benghazi. “Five different House committees have, each in their own way, conducted disjointed, uncoordinated inquiries,” the Report says. “A single Select Committee appears to be the best forum for the American people to ever learn the truth.”

“Here we are, one year after the Benghazi attack, and there has been zero accountability.  No military action, no drones, no arrests.  No one has been fired for the Obama administration lies and malfeasance.” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “Without a select committee, Congress will continue to drift on Benghazi accountability.  Grassroots Americans want justice for the Benghazi Four but I fear, but for our independent investigations and lawsuits, the Washington Establishment would be happy to sweep Benghazi under the rug.”

The State Department has long known that weak security at American embassies and consulates worldwide could result in a tragedy like Benghazi but warnings have been ignored and a former Clinton administration official runs the division behind the scandal.

Alarming details are laid out in a scathing new report put together by an independent panel of security and intelligence experts investigating the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the first diplomat to be killed overseas in decades, and three other Americans were murdered by Islamic terrorists.

The report has not yet been released to the public but Al Jazeera America obtained a copy and it reveals government negligence that’s downright shocking. It shows that senior officials have stood by while some of the United States’ most dangerous diplomatic posts have for years been vulnerable to attacks like the one that occurred in Benghazi. The State Department has known about security problems but has failed to correct them, according to the panel’s findings.

In fact, Benghazi was simply the latest in a long string of security failures that date back more than a decade. From 1998 to 2012, there were more than 270 “significant attacks” against US diplomatic facilities and personnel, according to State Department data cited in the report. Bottom line, according to Al Jazeera’s analysis: “U.S. embassies and other missions have been under siege for decades.”

It’s only going to get worse, according to the security and intelligence experts that conducted the Benghazi investigation. They write that attacks on State Department facilities and diplomatic personnel overseas are likely to continue because “terrorists have proven to be determined over time and readily adapt to the environment to advance their causes.”

The State Department division responsible for the security lapses is headed by Patrick F. Kennedy, a career diplomat who served as Bill Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State from 1993 to 2001. In late 2007 Kennedy was named undersecretary for management at the State Department, which means he ranks quite high at the agency. The security experts blast Kennedy’s office in their report and suggest “as a matter of urgency” to establish a new undersecretary to address security.

Incredibly, investigators found that the State Department’s security structure has a serious lack of accountability and no review process to learn from previous security failures. Furthermore, diplomatic security training is inadequate, with no designated facility available to train agents to work at high-risk diplomatic posts. Even low-risk diplomatic posts are vulnerable, the panel found. It appears, however, that there were plenty of warnings in Benghazi.   

Judicial Watch has been a leader in exposing the truth about Benghazi, filing a dozen public-records requests with various federal agencies. Just a few weeks ago JW obtained the first photos from the State Department depicting the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Libya.  JW has also published a special report featuring an in-depth analysis of Benghazi conducted by former State Department Security Special Agent Raymond Fournier.

The report examines the critical time period leading up to the Benghazi attack, when repeated requests for increased security were shunned by top State Department officials. It also looks at the Obama administration’s official claim that “an obscure Internet video” triggered the attacks, as well as apparently false claims that four top State Department officials had resigned in response to the Department’s December 18 Accountability Review Board report on the attack.

 

 

JW Sues Obama State Department for Benghazi Talking Points

This week a group of Special Operations veterans unfurled a 60-foot petition on the steps of the U.S. Capitol demanding answers on the Benghazi cover-up.  These heroes face a significant stone wall erected by the Obama administration to keep secret the truth behind the Benghazi attacks, which resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

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Judicial Watch is once again forced to go to court to hold the Obama administration’s feet to the fire over what is one of the most serious scandals and cover-ups in recent memory.

On June 21, 2013, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Obama Department of State. We are trying to obtain the “updates and/or talking points” given to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice concerning the September 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Specifically, pursuant to an October 18, 2012, FOIA request filed with the State Department, these are the records we want:

  • Copies of any updates and/or talking points given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency concerning, regarding, or related to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
  • Any and all records or communications concerning, regarding, or related to the talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency.

Once again, answers are in short supply. The State Department acknowledged receiving our FOIA request on October 26, 2012, and was required by law to respond within 20 working days. As of the date of JW’s lawsuit, however, the department has failed to produce a single record responsive to the request. State has also failed to indicate when any responsive records will be produced, or demonstrate that responsive records are exempt from production.

Here’s why these records are so vital.

Following the Benghazi attack, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Rice joined Hillary Clinton in a high-profile campaign to portray the attack as solely related to a privately produced YouTube video that Muslims reportedly found offensive. On the Sunday following the attack, Rice went on five TV talk shows, repeatedly claiming that the attack was “a spontaneous – not a premeditated response” to “a hateful video that was disseminated on the Internet.”

Shortly thereafter, on the eve of a congressional hearing, the Obama administration was forced to admit that Rice and others had provided false information, and that the attack was neither spontaneous nor the result of an Internet video.

On September 28, 2012, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that their “revised” assessment had determined the attack to be “a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists” and that “some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to, al-Qa’ida.”

But as Fox News reported, according to General Carter Ham, the head of U.S. forces in Africa, it was apparent “within hours” not weeks that Benghazi was an act of terror.

Last week, General Ham told the Aspen Security Forum that he was in a meeting with Secretary of Defense Panetta and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey when word of the attack came in: “It became apparent to all of us quickly that this was not a demonstration, this was a violent attack,” Ham said.

Nonetheless, Rice, on behalf of President Obama, took to the talk shows immediately following the attack to advance the false narrative blaming an Internet video. The claim has been made that they were simply reading from the talking points they were given. But which talking points?

Former CIA Director General David Petraeus reportedly testified before Congress that the initial talking points produced by the CIA “stated there were indications the attack was linked to al Qaeda,” and suggested the terrorism reference was removed sometime during an interagency review process.

So what happened between the time of General Ham’s meeting with Panetta and General Dempsey, the CIA-generated talking points that noted the terrorist connection and Ambassador Rice’s Sunday talk circuit circus? Given the lies and the spin and the contradictions, we want the records.  That’s the only way to clear this web of lies up.

The lawsuit for the underlying talking points and updates given to Rice for her controversial media appearances is the fourth FOIA lawsuit Judicial Watch has filed in its continuing efforts to uncover the full story of what transpired within the Obama administration before, during, and after the Benghazi attack.

And we did log one small victory for transparency.

As I reported a few weeks ago, in response to one of our other FOIA lawsuits, on June 6, 2013, Judicial Watch obtained the first seven photos released to the public by the State Department depicting the carnage at the Benghazi consulate.  These photos are significant, not so much for what they show, but rather because they represent the first leak in the Benghazi stonewall.

The Obama administration hopes that stonewalling Benghazi answers will make the scandal go away. But that never works.  On the contrary, there is a groundswell of Americans who want accountability for Benghazi. This new FOIA lawsuit further highlights the Obama administration’s utter contempt for transparency.

And, as if the Obama administration’s disdain for FOIA law were not enough, there is also the issue of witness intimidation.

As reported by the Daily Caller, evidently the Obama administration has intimidated and threatened people who witnessed the Benghazi attack which has delayed congressional investigations. In fact, last week, Congressman Frank Wolf said he had it on good authority that Benghazi witnesses have been forced by the Defense Department and the CIA to sign non-disclosure agreements preventing them from testifying to what they saw. Some of these agreements, as reported by Human Events, were signed as recently as this summer.

Stonewalling, lying, witness intimidation…these are the tactics we see employed time and time again by the Obama administration. It’s time to put an end to it.

Once again, if you want access to some of the key facts related to Benghazi, as opposed to the spin you get from the Obama administration, check out this prescient Judicial Watch Special Report entitled “The Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012.”

And I’ll be sure to update you on the progress of our Benghazi lawsuits in this space.

Judicial Watch Obtains Documents Revealing HHS Plans for High-Level Hiring Surge on Day Obamacare Passed

Ever see a high pressure sales job on a used car lot? You know, where the salesman with the slicked back hair and the bad cologne tries to stick you with a lemon. His job is to get you off the lot at sticker price before you realize the car has no power steering or air conditioning.

Well that’s exactly what we’ve seen from the very beginning with the president’s healthcare overhaul boondoggle known as Obamacare. (The Obama administration has already given businesses a one-year delay for implementation, conveniently shifting the mess past Election Day 2014, while businesses are moving to hire more part-time workers to avoid the penalties required by the law.)

As JW has uncovered, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has used every dirty trick in the book to shove Obamacare down our throats. The agency bankrolled a $200 million propaganda campaign to “persuade” the American people that the healthcare monstrosity would be in their best interest and trotted out aging television star Andy Griffith for a “public service” campaign.  HHS also spent $1.4 million to make “a big guerilla campaign splash” on the Internet through paid advertisements targeting Hispanics, blacks and women.

And now we learn that HHS was ready – on moment-one after Obamacare passage – to bypass compensation rules to hire a legion of high-priced government employees to push the lemon off the lot.

According to documents we released this week, on the day Obamacare passed, HHS obtained permission from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to cast aside normal hiring procedures in order to hire 1,814 highly-paid, top-level administrators to expedite Obamacare implementation.

According to the documents obtained by JW, OPM Director John Berry gave HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Denise Wells extraordinary “direct-hire appointing authority” (DHA) in order to bypass normal channels and, in Berry’s words, “hire quickly in order to execute the President’s directive with respect to implementing health care reform.” In all, HHS was granted permission to utilize what Wells termed the DHA “valuable human capital recruitment tool” to hire 1,814 GS 13 – 15 employees, including:

  • 59 Social Science Analyst/Specialists at the GS-15 level
  • 350 Health Insurance Specialists at the GS-15 level
  • 55 Administrative and Program Specialists at the GS-15 level
  • 235 Program Analysts/Management Analysts at the GS-15 level
  • 40 Accountants at the GS 15 level
  • 90 Dental Officers at the GS 14 level
  • 291 Public Health Advisors/Analysts at the GS-14 level
  • 261 Consumer Safety Officers at the GS-13 level
  • 92 Grants Management Specialists at the GS-15 level
  • 50 Criminal Investigators at the GS-13 level
  • 291 Information Technology Specialists at the GS-15 level

According to the Base General Schedule Pay Scale, in 2010, the nearly 2,000 new employees hired to “quickly” implement the Obamacare program would have received between $70,000 and $130,000 per year. More than 1,100 of the new employees would have come in at the GS-15 level, starting at nearly $100,000 annually.  The Daily Mail took a look at our documents that the Obama administration sought to spend $159 million a year on these new Obamacare government employees.

But there’s more.

Additional documents obtained by Judicial Watch reveal that, in early 2013, Anne Filipic, the president of Enroll America (a nonprofit “tasked with selling Obamacare”), worked with then-professional staff member of the House Ways and Means Committee Debra Curtis to organize Obamacare congressional briefings explicitly excluding Republican House members and their staffs. (Filipic is a former Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Deputy Director at HHS.)

Among the highlights from the records:

  • In an email dated February 11, 2013, Curtis wrote to Filipic, “They [House Democrat leadership] want to do another one next week while Congress is in recess that would be open all House Democratic Staff [emphasis added] to start getting folks up to speed.”
  • In email dated February 12, 2013, Curtis wrote to Filipic: “I would guess that this would be a well-attended event with upward of 100 people in attendance. We’ll check IDs to be sure we’ve got all Dems coming as well.” [Emphasis added]

(Once again, we see evidence that the president, who was supposed to usher in a new era of bipartisanship, has instead inspired divisiveness and exclusion.)

Filipic is also at the center of a growing controversy involving possible illegal Obamacare fundraising done on behalf of Filipic’s Enroll America by her former boss at HHS, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. On May 10, 2013, the Washington Post broke the story that in “an unusual fundraising push” Sebelius was pressuring health care industry officials regulated by HHS to make donations to Enroll America. On May 14, Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to Sebelius saying,Our initial reaction is that this appears at best to be an inherent conflict of interest and at worst a potentially illegal augmentation of appropriation.”

In a follow-up letter on June 27, a group of 28 Republican senators admonished Sebelius, “Article I of the Constitution gives Congress alone the power of the purse. Your agency requested additional money to implement the exchanges, and Congress denied that request. You cannot evade Congress’ Constitutional power of the purse through gifts or donations to an entity that appears to be ‘just an arm of the administration,’ as one health industry official described Filipic’s Enroll America in The Hill.” The House Commerce Committee is currently investigating the Sebelius solicitations.

Even as the ill-conceived Obamacare law continues to crumble, we are learning more and more about its massive cost to the American people the and backroom politics attendant to its passage and implementation.

Barack Obama and his cohorts created a bureaucratic contrivance to hand massive new powers to an already bloated federal government. And the cost in tax dollars, jobs, the rule of law, and individual freedom is becoming increasingly clear.

And the scary part is…this is only the beginning.

Judicial Watch Joins Military Religious Freedom Coalition

Judicial Watch recently joined a coalition with a very important mission: To protect the religious freedoms of our men and women in uniform.

It is a sad day indeed when there needs to be a coalition to preserve what has been recognized as a basic right for American servicemen and women (and all Americans) for 237 years. But that is the state of affairs in Obama’s military.

There’s the Air Force officer who was forced to remove a Bible from his desk because it might offend someone. There’s the military chaplain who was instructed to resign his commission if he refused to “get on board” with the abolition of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. There’s the 20-year old ethics course that was eliminated in July 2011 because it referenced scripture.  And there’s the painting containing a verse from scripture that was forcibly removed from the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho following a complaint by an anti-religious support group.

Did you ever imagine there would come a day when referencing scripture would be deemed “extremist” in this country? And these are but a few examples. And that’s why we’re joining this new coalition.

On July 9, I was pleased to participate in the inaugural Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition press conference at the U.S. Capitol to address the erosion of military religious freedoms.  In addition to Judicial Watch other groups represented at the press conference included the Family Research Council, the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, the Center for Security Policy, the Media Research Center, Liberty Counsel Action, the Center for Military Readiness, and the Ohio Faith and Freedom Coalition. I want to particularly note the leadership of our friends at Family Research Council in moving this coalition forward.

Press conference speakers included Representatives John Fleming (R-LA), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Here is the coalition’s mission as described on its official website http://www.militaryfreedom.org:

The history of religious expression in American military life dates back to the Revolutionary War. For over 200 years our servicemen and women have lived their faith in service to their country, often making the ultimate sacrifice. Unfortunately, in recent years, we have seen an increase in hostility to religious expression in the military. The Restore Military Religious Freedom coalition is committed to restoring and ensuring the religious freedoms of our military men and women who risk their lives every day for our freedoms.

(By the way, if you want to know more about this critical issue, please take a moment to click here and read the FRC’s report A Clear and Present Danger: The Threat to Religious Liberty in the Military.)

Now, there is legislation working its way through the Hill right now that addresses the coalition’s prime goal.  As reported by Breitbart.com:

On June 5, the House Armed Services Committee adopted two amendments for the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, which governs the Department of Defense during the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2013.

The first amendment was offered by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). It protects the rights of chaplains to speak and pray in a manner consistent with their faith, such as ending a prayer in Jesus’ name. This amendment passed by voice vote…

[The second] amendment is the most consequential. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) offered an amendment specifying that the religious speech and actions of all service members is a protected right, and that the Department of Defense will enact regulations to allow and accommodate those beliefs in both word and deed.

Separately, Judicial Watch is pursuing a number of Freedom of Information Act requests concerning this core issue of religious freedom in our military.  I am convinced that the Left wants to remake the military in a way as to make it to unappealing to God-fearing Americans.  The attack on this pillar of American freedom must be exposed, answered and stopped – whether through legislation or public pressure (and a lawsuit or two!).

In the meantime, I encourage you to get the word about this issue and to make your views about the importance of military religious freedom known in no uncertain terms to your elected representatives.

Until next week…

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