SEPTEMBER 19, 2014
Judicial Watch Asks Court for Discovery in IRS Scandal
When a government agency becomes abusive and recalcitrant, that agency calls for the need of vigorous, legal challenge. That’s why Judicial Watch is pleased to report that we have filed a Motion for Limited Discovery in our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service. Thus far, the IRS has refused to obey federal court orders to provide information that explains how its “lost and/or stolen” records pertaining to the targeting of conservative groups may be retrieved. And we intend to find out.
Remarkably, the IRS has filed a total of seven declarations that make an end run around court orders and omit pertinent information about the missing emails. So, we filed our Motion for Discovery on September 17, 2014, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
In our latest filing, we describe how during a July 10, 2014, status conference, the Court directed the IRS to furnish sworn statements from agency officials that cut right to the heart of the ongoing controversy. These sworn statements were supposed to detail how the emails on Lois Lerner’s laptop computer were stored and how they could possibly be retrieved. The Obama IRS, of course, has stonewalled the court order. So, as you can see, the discovery process is critical since it can tell us what steps the IRS has taken to obtain these missing emails. It can also tell if the IRS has not taken any steps. The discovery request is pending before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.
A critical turning point in this case came on August 22, 2014, during a telephone conference call when IRS attorneys admitted to us that an electronic data backup system existed. This matters because this system stores all government records in the event of a catastrophic event and the IRS did not disclose to the court the existence of any back-up system for IRS electronic records. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is now investigating whether or not these backup tapes include the missing emails. Judicial Watch asked the IRS to include this material in its declaration, but the agency, true to form, refused to cooperate with this request.
We have put together a summary of the information the IRS has made public over the past year. Some top officials have said under oath that the backup systems do not exist, while others admit that they do. As we told the court in our Motion for Discover, the existence of additional storage systems for IRS records raises serious questions about how candid and honest the IRS has been in responding to court orders. Our own experience is that the IRS will go to great lengths to avoid full disclosure of pertinent information.
You may recall that, in May 2013, we submitted four separate FOIA requests for IRS communications concerning the current scandal. Then, we filed a FOIA lawsuit on October 9, 2013, when the IRS ignored our requests. While the agency began to produce a few scant documents in response to a court order, it declined to tell us or the court about Lerner’s missing emails.
Despite the IRS’s continued stonewalling, the Judicial Watch lawsuit has brought forth several new disclosures that have attracted much-needed congressional and media attention. We will continue to apply pressure where needed.
The bottom line is that the Obama IRS has pursued a dangerous course by ignoring Judge Sullivan’s orders to provide full information about the ‘missing’ Lois Lerner emails. To put it plainly, we’re asking the Court to allow our attorneys to put IRS and other administration officials under oath about the IRS’s missing email cover-up. At this point, our lawsuit is the surest way for the public to get all the information to which it is entitled about the Obama IRS abuse scandal. And make no mistake about it: if we are allowed discovery, it could blow this scandal wide open.
Once again, we have exposed how government-run health care jeopardizes the health, safety and well-being of the American people. Judicial Watch has obtained 94 eye-popping pages of documents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that detail how top government officials knew of, but concealed, security breaches within Obamacare’s website. Less than one month before the Healthcare.gov rollout, it became clear to HHS that a malicious code could be uploaded to the website. Nevertheless, they did not take action to protect the public interest and instead proceeded with the rollout, according to the documents.
We obtained the HHS documents as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed on March 18, 2014, after HHS declined to respond to the FOIA request of December 20, 2013. Suing to get information as required under federal law is the usual drill with the self-described “transparent administration.”
This lawsuit forced the Obama appointees at HHS to cough up “Sensitive Information-Special Handling” memos that were sent from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Mitre Corporation, the company selected to test security at Healthcare.gov.
The documents obtained by Judicial Watch also show that top CMS officials, including CMS Chief Information Officer Tony Trenkle and CMS Director Marilynn Tavenner, were aware of the gaping security flaws, yet Tavenner chose to launch the website anyway. A September 3, 2013, “Authorization Decision” memo explains how Trenkle revealed a system flaw that made the website vulnerable to a malicious, uploadable code using Excel macros. An unredacted memo that we acquired says, “FFM [Federally Facilitated Marketplaces] has an open high finding: Macros enabled on uploaded files allow code to execute automatically.”
A key element here concerns the “Finding Description” within that same memo, which states: “An excel file with a macro which executes when the spreadsheet is opened was uploaded for review by another user. The macro only opened up a command prompt window on the local user’s machine; however, the threat and risk potential is limitless. [Emphasis added] Keeping macros enabled relies on the local machine of the user who downloads to detect and stop malicious activity.”
The memo includes a list of “Recommended Corrective Actions” to fix the problem. But here’s the kicker: The due date listed for corrective actions is May 31, 2014, which is eight months after the launch of Healthcare.gov.
The FOIA documents obtained by Judicial Watch show big government in its natural state. Where there should be a sense of urgency aimed at protecting the public’s interest, there is only a slow, bureaucratic crawl. Go back to that same September 3, 2013, memo and it details another “high risk” finding. “FFM has an open high finding: No evidence of functional testing processes and procedures being adequate to identify functional problems resulting in non-functional code being deployed,” the memo says. “Software is being deployed into implementation and production that contains functional errors. Untested software may produce functional errors that cause unintentional Denial of Service and information errors.”
Take note of the due date listed to correct this risk flaw: February 26, 2015. That is almost a year and half after Obamacare’s launch.
The fact is, these smoking gun documents demonstrate that the Obama administration knowingly put the privacy of millions of Americans at risk through Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov “marketplace.” And these documents show that this administration was concerned about the political problems of the security flaws, but showed little or no concern about the threat to the privacy of millions of innocent Americans. Given what we now know about Obamacare’s security, I have little doubt that Healthcare.gov is in danger of being in violation of federal privacy laws. If you share private information on Healthcare.gov or a related Obamacare site, you should assume that your private information is unsecure and at risk of being hacked.
There is more: Judicial Watch also acquired the August 20, 2013, and December, 6 2013, Security Controls Assessment Test Plans from Mitre Corporation advising CMS that the highest risk rating should be attached to the flaws that could result in “political damage” to CMS.
In short, as usual for the Obama administration, it is politics uber alles. Transparency laws, privacy laws, your personal security and finances, your health – all this takes a back seat to this government’s political need to implement the monstrous Obamacare law.
Our focus on this new font of government corruption will continue so you can bet I will keep you informed.
Judicial Watch Won’t Stand Down on Benghazi
We are now up to 40 and still counting.
That’s the number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests Judicial Watch has filed with the Obama administration in an effort to acquire information on the Benghazi terrorist attack. We have also filed a Mandatory Declassification Review and seven lawsuits against the administration concerning Benghazi.
Our efforts are met with considerable success, despite the administration’s many efforts at obstruction. Earlier this year, in response to a FOIA lawsuit, we forced the release of an email from former White House Deputy Strategic Communications Adviser Ben Rhodes that demonstrates how the Obama White House put forth false talking points that incorrectly blamed an Internet video and spontaneous demonstrations for the terrorist attack on our consulate in Libya. Once this information became public, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) obtained approval for a Special Select Committee to investigate the Benghazi scandal.
Now is the time to maintain the pressure.
On September 10, 2014, Judicial Watch announced three FOIA lawsuits – two against the Department of Defense and one against the Department of State. This is part of an ongoing effort to compel the Obama administration to provide access to records concerning what transpired in the days before, during, and after the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
When you have a chance, I urge you to take a look at the complaints we filed to get the full details of this latest legal offensive: Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense, Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State, and Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State. They lay out the JW case with unequivocal clarity.
Thanks to your Judicial Watch, Congress has a renewed focus on Benghazi. But, rest assured, we will continue our independent lawsuits and investigations, which not only get documents Congress has often been unable to obtain, but also forces the Obama administration to account to federal courts for its lawless cover-up and lies.
Regular readers of the Weekly Update may recall that at a July 23 House Oversight subcommittee hearing on the “missing” emails, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) credited Judicial Watch with exposing the truth about the IRS missing email cover-up when questioning IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “My theory is this, Mr. Koskinen,” Jordon said, “you guys weren’t ever going to tell us until we caught you. And we caught you because Judicial Watch did a FOIA request.”
What happens next could prove pivotal.
On September 3, 2013, we filed a FOIA lawsuit against the State Department for the following records in accordance with a June 13, 2013, FOIA request. Here is what we are seeking:
“Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to notes, updates, or reports created in response to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S, Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. This request includes but is not limited to, notes, taken by then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or employees of the Office of the Secretary of State during the attack and its immediate aftermath.”
We know that the information could be remarkably revealing because in a recent NBC News interview to promote her latest memoir former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conceded that she took extensive notes during the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi. “I kept a lot of notes,” Clinton said. When asked if she would turn them over to the House Select Committee investigators she responded, “They can read the book.” The Judicial Watch lawsuit could force Clinton to turn over all notes taken during and following the attack. And we don’t intend to buy the book.
The key question remains: What did she know, and when did she know it?
Clinton is widely viewed as the Democratic frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination. The role she played during the terrorist attack in Benghazi has already become part of a larger national conversation. And our latest FOIA lawsuit for her communications during the fatal attack could help provide critical information for that crucial discussion.
Here are some additional details about the latest FOIA lawsuits.
On the same day we filed the Clinton FOIA lawsuit, we filed suit against the Defense Department in connection with a June 12, 2014, FOIA request seeking the following:
“Any and all activity logs, reports, or other records produced by the U.S. Africa Command operations center between September 10, 2012 and September 13, 2012 regarding, concerning, or related to the attack at the U.S. Special Mission Compound and Classified Annex in Benghazi, Libya.”
The final FOIA lawsuit against the State Department was filed on July 21, 2014, pursuant to a May 13, 2014, FOIA request. It sought:
“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 relating to talking points or updates on the Benghazi attack given to Ambassador Rice by the White House or any federal agency.”
We are just getting started, and we will keep you posted.
Until next week …