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Judicial Watch • Weekly Update: Victory for a veteran – and our flag

Weekly Update: Victory for a veteran – and our flag

Weekly Update: Victory for a veteran – and our flag

APRIL 21, 2017

Court Rules Veteran Bob Rosebrock Not Guilty of Federal Crime for Displaying American Flags above Veterans Administration Fence
Judicial Watch Sues the IRS to Preserve Its Emails
Documents Reveal Early Security Concerns about Healthcare.gov
Judicial Watch Sues for Records about Government Funding of George Soros’ Political Foundation

 

Court Rules Veteran Bob Rosebrock Not Guilty of Federal Crime for Displaying American Flags above Veterans Administration Fence

In a tremendous victory for Judicial Watch and our supporters, a U.S. District Court in California has declared 75-year-old veteran Robert Rosebrock not guilty of violating federal law for allegedly displaying two four-by-six inch American Flags above a Veterans Affairs (VA) fence on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. The ruling was handed down in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (United States of America v. Robert L. Rosebrock, (CC11, 4920201; 4920202; 6593951).

Rosebrock had been charged with hanging the two napkin-sized American Flags on a section of the fence adjacent to the Great Lawn Gate at the entrance to the Veterans Park in violation of a VA regulation prohibiting the displaying of “placards” or posting “materials” on VA property without authorization. Rosebrock attorneys successfully argued that the VA’s case in chief did not, and could not, meet its burden of proving the charge as the VA violated Rosebrock’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the VA’s evidence fell short of proving Rosebrock posted the American Flags without permission.  Judicial Watch’s legal team also successfully obtained dismissal before trial of two separate charges that Rosebrock illegally photographed VA police on the ground that the VA regulation was not reasonable even under the most lenient First Amendment standard.

Rosebrock, 75, and fellow veterans have been assembling at the site nearly every Sunday and Memorial Day since March 9, 2008, to protest what they believe is the VA’s failure to make full use of the valuable West Los Angeles property for the benefit and care of veterans, particularly homeless veterans.

Judicial Watch attorney Sterling E. Norris, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, and Los Angeles-based defense attorney Robert Patrick Sticht represent Rosebrock, who faced up to six months’ imprisonment if found guilty on the flag-hanging charge.

Now that the court has rightly dismissed the government’s outrageous charge against Mr. Rosebrock, we hope that he and his fellow patriots will be allowed to honor the flag and commemorate their fellow veterans, as they deem appropriate. This should never have gone this far, and we are pleased that Judicial Watch was able to step in and help Mr. Rosebrock.

 

Judicial Watch Sues the IRS to Preserve Its Emails

We have enough history with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to be distrustful of anything it says about transparency.

Most recently we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to obtain records relating to the agency’s “preservation and/or retention” of the email records of officials who have left the agency since January 2010 (Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No.1:17-cv-00596)). We sued as part of our continuing efforts to gain information about the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and citizens during the Obama administration.

We filed the complaint after the IRS failed to respond to a November 15, 2016, FOIA request seeking:

  • All records concerning the preservation and/or retention of email records generated by IRS officials and employees upon their departure from the IRS; and
  • All records related to any changes, updates, or modifications to IRS policies and procedures for the retention of email records generated by IRS officials and employees.

We’re requesting records from January 1, 2010, to the present.

The IRS has long since sacrificed any credibility it might have had, especially given its dishonesty about Lois Lerner’s emails. Obama and his allies used the IRS to suppress his political opposition in an apparent effort to help guarantee his re-election. Now we need to make certain that the IRS is not continuing to try to cover its tracks by destroying records.

You will recall that Judicial Watch initially forced the IRS to claim that emails belonging to Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit, were supposedly missing. Then later it conceded to the court that the emails were on IRS back-up systems. Lerner was one of the top officials responsible for the IRS’ targeting of President Obama’s political opponents. In a case related to the current complaint, Judicial Watch learned first-hand to question the IRS’ record keeping:

  • In June 2014, the IRS claimed to have “lost” responsive emails belonging to Lerner and other IRS officials.
  • In July 2014,Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered the IRS to submit to the court a written declaration under oath about what happened to Lerner’s “lost” emails. The sworn declarations proved to be less than forthcoming.
  • In August 2014, Department of Justice attorneys for the IRS finally admitted to Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The IRS’ attorneys also disclosed that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was looking at several of these backup tapes.
  • In November 2014, the IRS told the court it had failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lerner and other IRS officials.
  • On February 26, 2015, TIGTA officials testifiedto the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it had received 744 backup tapes containing emails sent and received by Lerner. This testimony showed that the IRS had falsely represented to both Congress, Judge Sullivan, and Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails were irretrievably lost. The testimony also revealed that IRS officials responsible for responding to the document requests never asked for the backup tapes and that 424 backup tapes containing Lerner’s emails had been destroyed during the pendency of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit and Congressional investigations.
  • In June 2015, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to admitin a court filing that it was in possession of 6,400 “newly discovered” Lerner emails. Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the IRS to provide answers on the status of the Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost. Judicial Watch raised questions about the IRS’ handling of the missing emails issue in a court filing, demanding answers about Lerner’s emails that had been recovered from the backup tapes.
  • In July 2015, U.S District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan threatened to hold John Koskinen, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and Justice Department attorneys in contemptof court after the IRS failed to produce status reports and recovered Lerner emails, as he had ordered on July 1, 2015.

Obama IRS Commissioner Koskinen was nearly impeached in September 2016 for misleading Congress on Lerner’s emails. I do not understand why the Trump administration has allowed him to stay in place given his continual track record.

 

Documents Reveal Early Security Concerns about Healthcare.gov

As the Republicans try to figure out what they will do with the all-but-collapsed Obamacare program, we are making public 944 pages of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) records showing that the Obamacare website was launched despite serious concerns by its security testing contractor, Mitre Corporation, as well as internal executive-level apprehension about security.

We obtained the HHS documents in response to a court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:14-cv-00430)). The lawsuit was filed in March 2014 after HHS failed to respond to a December 20, 2013, FOIA request seeking:

  • All records related to the security of the healthcare.gov web portal including, but not limited to, studies, memoranda, correspondence, electronic communications (e-mails), and slide presentations from January 1, 2012 to the present.

July 2013 “Continuous Improvement Plan,” prepared for updates and improvements to the healthcare.gov website, defines the “Change Control Board” as a provider of final approval on new features and “politically sensitive issues.”

The documents reveal that Mitre recommended a “Denial Authorization to Operate” in the month prior to Obamacare’s launch, noting that it could not adequately test the confidentiality and integrity of the system. It said that complete end-to-end testing of the system never occurred. Miter found that 11 “moderate” security findings and eight “low” findings remained open as September 19, 2013 – 12 days before the launch!

And an unsigned “Authorization to Operate” prepared just five days before the Obamacare launch, indicates that the site’s “validation contractor” was “unable to adequately test the confidentiality and integrity of the [Federally Facilitated Marketplace] system in full.” That contractor, Blue Canopy, noted that they were able to access data “that should not be publically accessible.”

The Obama administration, of course, launched the defective site anyway. And on October 1, when Americans started shopping for health insurance on healthcare.gov, the site crashed.

Just days later, in an October 2013 email exchange requesting help with an upcoming test, healthcare.gov IT security Chief Tom Schankweiler complained of a lack of a “grand strategy” in security testing the Obamacare website. Schankweiler complained about hackers hitting the site, and noted that confidential information was “growing legs and growing way beyond the normal borders.”

Teresa Fryer, chief information security officer at CMS, agreed with Schankweiler, and also noted “conflict of interest issues” in the security testing.

In November senior CMS official Jon Booth discusses “a contingency system” for higher Obamacare enrollments that CMS Office of Administration wanted “kept under the radar” and “out of the spotlight, even from an internal perspective.” George Linares responds to Booth, noting that healthcare.gov was still operating without an “Authorization to Operate,” and that the “contingency system” meant they needed a plan to “close the security gap as well.”

Particularly revealing among the released documents is a November draft press background briefer, in which CMS officials crossed out a line that read that consumers could “trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards” and a line that the ACA website was “compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act.”

CMS Statement:

The privacy and security of consumers’ personal information are a top priority for us. When consumers fill out their online Marketplace applications, they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards. Security testing happens on an ongoing basis using industry best practices to appropriately safeguard consumers’ personal information. The HealthCare.gov website has been determined to be compliant with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), based on standards promulgated by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST).”

Also in November Schankweiler notes that they were faced with a choice of exposing users’ personal identifiable information or having the website down for days, resulting in “a new round of political attacks.” He also warns of a software problem causing a “high number of security and privacy incidents.” Schankweiler’s push to fix the problem was resisted by CMS official Rebecca Fender, who worried that the fix would take the Obamacare website down “for several days.”

In early December, Schankweiler complains of a software problem that was causing “a high number of security and privacy incidents.” Later in December Schankweiler complains about a security flaw that “allows anyone to access and edit records in the health care system.”

In December 2013, Colin McVeigh from the CMS Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight emails to his colleagues his concerns that: “More than a month ago we received reports that consumers were seeing other consumer’s notices through a link on the application.”

December 2013 email exchange – two months after the site’s launch – shows CMS official Lisa Feuerberg questioning Schankweiler as to why security testing wasn’t done of the site, and another security official respondes that his “one tester” couldn’t get all the ACA sites scanned in time.

Obamacare was corrupt from the start, and these FOIA documents are just more proof that sensitive health information on millions of Americans was put at risk. Yet, as these documents reveal, Obamacare’s promoters were determined to inflict Obamacare on us whether it was ready or not. And clearly it was not. Anyone who uses the Obamacare website does so at great risk to his or her private information. Let this be a lesson for those in Washington who are now trying to clean up this mess.

 

Judicial Watch Sues for Records about Government Funding of George Soros’ Political Foundation

One reason George Soros is so active in the political scene – both in the U.S. and worldwide – is that he is handed a lot of our tax dollars to fund his activities. And your Judicial Watch is hot on the trail of exposing this corruption.

This past week, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for records and communications relating to the funding and political activities of the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia. We want to learn why the Macedonia organization, part of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, received nearly $5 million from USAID from 2012 to 2016. We filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (No. 1:17-cv-00729)).

We sued after both the State Department and USAID failed to respond to a February 16, 2017, FOIA request seeking:

  • All records related to any grants, contracts, or disbursements of funds by the State Department to the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia and/or any of the Foundation’s subsidiaries. This request includes all related requests for funding, payment authorizations, or similar records, as well as all related records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the State Department and any official, employee, or representative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • Any records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the State Department and any officer, employee, or representative of the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia and/or any of the Foundation’s affiliated organizations. This request includes responsive records of communication sent from or directed to U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Jess L. Baily.
  • All analyses or similar records regarding the political activities of the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia and/or any of the Foundation’s affiliated organizations.
  • All messages transmitted via the State Department’s SMART system sent from any U.S. Government employee or contractor operating under the Chief of Mission’s authority at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje that pertain to the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia and/or any of the Foundation’s affiliated organizations.

The USAID website reports that between February 27, 2012, and August 31, 2016, USAID gave $4,819,125 in taxpayer money to Soros’s Open Society Foundation – Macedonia (FOSM), in partnership with four local “civil society” organizations. The USAID’s website links to www.soros.org.mk, and says the project trained hundreds of young Macedonians “on topics such as freedom of association, youth policies, citizen initiatives, persuasive argumentation and use of new media.”

Earlier, in February, in Judicial Watch’s Corruption Chronicles we reported:

The U.S. government has quietly spent millions of taxpayer dollars to destabilize the democratically elected, center-right government in Macedonia by colluding with leftwing billionaire philanthropist George Soros, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. Barack Obama’s U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Jess L. Baily, has worked behind the scenes with Soros’ Open Society Foundation to funnel large sums of American dollars for the cause, constituting an interference of the U.S. Ambassador in domestic political affairs in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

***

Here’s how the clandestine operation functions, according to high-level sources in Macedonia and the U.S. that have provided Judicial Watch with records as part of an ongoing investigation. The Open Society Foundation has established and funded dozens of leftwing, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Macedonia to overthrow the conservative government. One Macedonian government official interviewed by Judicial Watch in Washington D.C. recently calls it the “Soros infantry.” The groups organize youth movements, create influential media outlets and organize violent protests to undermine the institutions and policies implemented by the government. One of the Soros’ groups funded the translation and publication of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” into Macedonian. The book is a tactical manual of subversion, provides direct advice for radical street protests and proclaims Lucifer to be the first radical. Thanks to Obama’s ambassador, who has not been replaced by President Trump, Uncle Sam keeps the money flowing so the groups can continue operating and recruiting, sources in Macedonia and the U.S. confirm.

According to InsidePhilanthropy.com, Soros’ Open Society Foundation “may be the largest philanthropic organization ever built, with branches in 37 countries. While the Gates Foundation spends more money, OSF has a larger footprint worldwide thanks to its many local offices, including throughout Africa.” OSF’s budget will be around $930 million …”

The activities of Ambassador Bailey and USAID’s funding of the Open Society Foundation have recently come under Congressional scrutiny. On January 17, 2017, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) sent a letter to Baily asking him to explain the State Department’s relationship with Open Society Foundation. On February 24, 2017, Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and others called on the Government Accountability Office to conduct an investigation and audit of the State Department and USAID’s activities in Macedonia, including funding of Open Society Foundation entities and potential interference in domestic Macedonian political affairs in potential violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

It’s clear from what we have already learned that the Obama administration freely used our tax dollars for political purposes, including support of the Soros operation. Let’s hope the Trump State Department and USAID will get their act together and disclose the details of the Obama-Soros spigot.

Until next week …