NOVEMBER 18, 2016
Obama IRS Official Admits Cincinnati Office Targeted Groups Based on ‘Guilt by Association’
Judicial Watch Goes to Court For Records about Exchange of GTMO Prisoners for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
Clinton Accountability Goes Forward
We know now, right from the horse’s mouth, how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted Tea Party and conservative groups during the Obama administration. In the notes of a top IRS official, written down during a 2011 interoffice meeting, we discovered that Cincinnati office agents were targeting organizations requesting tax-exempt status based on “guilt by association” and “party affiliation.” According to Holly Paz, former IRS director of the Office of Rulings and Agreements, “They think they know what the org is really doing, rather than looking at actual activities.” This revelation, among others, comes from 1,593 pages of new documents obtained by Judicial Watch in late October from the IRS.
Your Judicial Watch obtained these new documents through a 2013 Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)) against the IRS. Included among these IRS documents are handwritten notes from an unidentified source taken during an interoffice meeting in the Washington headquarters, which apparently took place in or around August 2011. According to an IRS court filing provided to Judicial Watch by the agency, the notes reflected a conversation between “four Chief Counsel employees (Victoria Judson, Janine Cook, Susan Brown, and Don Spellmann), Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division employee Nalee Park, and former IRS employee Sarah Hall Ingram.” The notes reveal Holly Paz’s concerns about the Cincinnati office’s targeting of groups based upon ideology and party affiliation:
Holly – Cinci paralyzed by letting any issue go unaddressed. They think they know what the org is really doing, rather than looking at actual activities. Q’s were not activity based, but guilt by association questions – like q’s asking party affiliations …
They see approval of something that will turn out to be very bad org – terrified of that – that’s why they personally will need to have power to say yes. Agents felt if they could ask enough questions, they will find a problem. Agents were jumping to negative conclusions and assumptions – particularly where relationship with political groups or affiliations.
This is, once again, confirmation that the IRS knew about abuses years before they were exposed in May 2013. Donald Trump needs to reopen the criminal investigation of the IRS as soon as he is sworn into office.
The Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit came on the heels of an explosive May 14, 2013, Treasury Inspector General report revealing that the IRS had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status. The IG probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” According to the report, the illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election. (For the full history on this case, click here.)
To be clear, the IRS was used by Obama and his allies to suppress his political opposition in a way that helped guarantee his reelection. Recall this the next time you hear Obama dishonestly boast how his administration had no major scandals.
Oral arguments were heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week in our appeal of a 2015 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking an Obama Defense Department memo regarding the exchange of five senior al Qaeda leaders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO), for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl walked off his post in Afghanistan, was held captive for five years and is now facing a court-martial (Judicial Watch v Department of Defense (No. 1:14-cv-01935)).
A lower court found that the document we are seeking, known as the “Lumpkin Memorandum,” was exempt from production under FOIA Exemption B5’s “deliberative process privilege.”
Your Judicial Watch contends that then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressly adopted the memo, making it a final agency decision. Final decisions are not protected from disclosure under the deliberative process privilege.
Bergdahl left his post and was held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan from June 2009 until May 2014. The circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance and subsequent capture have become the subject of intense controversy. He was released on May 31, 2014, as part of a prisoner exchange by the Obama administration, which included the five Taliban leaders.
The Government Accountability Office found that the Obama administration violated “clear and unambiguous” law in the prisoner swap. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 says that all prisoner transfers from Guantanamo Bay require 30 days’ notice to Congress. No such notice was provided in Bergdahl’s case.
This case takes on added importance as President Obama scrambles to release more captives from (GTMO) before he leaves office. His own intelligence advisers reveal that a growing number of inmates freed from the compound reengage in terrorism. This is nothing new, and, in fact, it has been documented over the years in various government assessments. But this latest information comes in the midst of the administration’s frenzy to clear out the maximum-security facility in order to realize the president’s longtime dream of closing it. The document your Judicial Watch is seeking in this case, which was expressly adopted as the Defense Department’s final decision, will reveal the official rationales and what judgments were made in releasing the terrorists, and it should provide insight into how and why the process for evaluating potential prisoner releases has failed.
I was able to attend the appeals court hearing last week. Judicial Watch was ably represented by staff attorney Jason Aldrich and Director of Litigation Paul Orfanedes. I’m not sure if this court will endorse continued secrecy, but I can tell you we are honored to battle on for the rule of law against this administration’s cover-up of its dangerous national security schemes.
In news related to the Bergdahl swap, a new report released in September 2016 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) shows that of the 161 GTMO detainees released by the Obama administration, nine are confirmed to be “directly involved in terrorist or insurgent activities.” The ODNI, the broad agency that serves as an umbrella for the intelligence community and advises the president, also writes that 113 of the 532 GTMO captives released during the George W. Bush administration have engaged in terrorist activities since their release. This demonstrates that the recidivism rate among this demographic group of hardened terrorists is dangerously high. Yet the administration keeps releasing more and more captives from the facility at the U.S. Naval base in southeast Cuba.
The ODNI further reveals that at least two prisoners released from GTMO by Obama and two others released by Bush have returned to “terrorist activities” during the first half of this year alone. “Based on trends identified during the past eleven years, we assess that some detainees currently at GTMO will seek to reengage in terrorist or insurgent activities after they are transferred,” according to the ODNI, which is composed of more than a dozen spy agencies, including Air Force, Army, Navy, Treasury and Coast Guard intelligence as well as the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The agency also stated in its report that around 500 detainees had been transferred to other countries though defense officials maintained that most should never have been released because they pose a serious threat to the United States.
A perfect example is an al Qaeda operative who was put on a global terrorist list a few years after the U.S. released him from GTMO. Embarrassingly enough, the U.S. government even offered a $5 million reward for information on his whereabouts. The Saudi national, Ibrahim al-Rubaysh, was repatriated back home under a Saudi Arabian “rehabilitation” program that supposedly reformed Guantanamo Bay jihadists but instead has served as a training camp for future terrorists. In fact, in 2008, counterterrorism officials confirmed that many of the terrorists who return to “the fight” after being released from U.S. custody actually graduated from the laughable Saudi rehab program, which started under President Bush and continued under President Obama.
You can see how this “catch and release” policy began under a Republican administration and continued under a Democratic administration. So you can see why we must remain vigilant even as Obama turns the Oval Office over to President-elect Trump.
We’ve repeated time and time again that your Judicial Watch would pursue accountability for Hillary Clinton and her associates no matter what happened on Election Day.
Keeping that promise, we released this week 508 pages of documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking information about possible conflicts of interest between the actions taken by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Bill Clinton’s activities. Further demonstrating the Obama administration’s contempt for transparency, more than 440 pages of the documents were redacted either in full, or with only minor notations remaining. The documents were released as a result of a federal court order in FOIA lawsuit filed against the Obama State Department back in 2013.
The documents included an undated, unsigned memo entitled “Private Sector Opportunities for WJC” [William Jefferson Clinton]. The memo provided capabilities analysis of three companies with major investment interests in Haiti: Tetra Pak, Seaboard, and Cemex.
The documents also include a lengthy March 2009 email from Clinton Foundation Director of Foreign Policy Amitabh Desai to former Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro and subsequently forwarded to top Clinton aide Jake Sullivan containing the names of nearly 200 then-current and former heads of state to be invited to the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. Clinton hadn’t yet been Secretary of State three months before her cash machine was shaking down the world!
The list includes dignitaries from Saudi Arabia, which gave $14.5 million to the Clinton Foundation; Kuwait, which gave between $5 and $10 million; Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar – all of which donated between $1 and $5 million over the years. In February 2015, the Washington Post reported, “A third of foundation donors who have given more than $1 million are foreign governments or other entities … and foreign donors make up more than half of those who have given more than $5 million.”
In July 2014, Judicial Watch released more than 200 conflict-of-interest reviews by State Department ethics advisers of proposed Bill Clinton speaking and consulting engagements during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. The documents show that Mr. Clinton’s office proposed 215 speeches around the globe. And 215 times, the State Department stated that it had “no objection.” The Washington Examiner published a report by Judicial Watch Chief Investigative Reporter Micah Morrison and Examiner then-Senior Watchdog Reporter Luke Rosiak which notes that Mr. Clinton “earned $48 million while his wife presided over U.S. foreign policy, raising questions about whether the Clintons fulfilled ethics agreements related to the Clinton Foundation during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State.”
We sued for these documents in 2013 but we first asked for them in 2011. It is a scandal that the Obama administration (including Clinton’s top operatives at the State Department) stalled the release of these smoking gun documents for over five years.
These documents show that Hillary and Bill Clinton’s money machine sought to shake down almost every country in the world, from Saudi Arabia to desperately poor Haiti. President-elect Trump can’t move fast enough to launch a serious criminal investigation of the unholy – but highly profitable – alliance between the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton State Department.