Obama Lawyers Afraid to Go to Court on Email Scandal
MARCH 27, 2015
The Obama administration’s fraud, misconduct and misrepresentation on the Hillary Clinton email scandal continues in federal court. Crafty, corrupt politicians realize that transparency and accountability go hand-in-hand. So that is why Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (with the federal bureaucracies at their beck and call) have a personal and political interest in keeping their records away from the American people – even if it means violating the federal transparency law: the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
So it will not surprise you to learn that Hillary Clinton’s former colleagues at the Obama State Department (with the help of taxpayer-funded lawyers in the Justice Department) continue to mislead the court and oppose Judicial Watch’s work to obtain emails and other documents sent by Hillary Clinton and her aides using secret email accounts.
Judicial Watch recently filed a strong brief in federal court, a Reply in Support of a Motion for a Status Conference, that argues that the State Department should be required to inform both Judicial Watch and the court itself “about the details surrounding the retention of agency emails within the Office of the Secretary and the extent of the Department’s ability to search, request and retrieve those records…” in order to avoid “further undue delays, prejudice and potential spoliation” of those documents. The request is before U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who is the judge assigned to what should have been a simple FOIA lawsuit to find out more about Hillary Clinton’s role in the Benghazi cover-up.
In a brief filed last week opposing a court hearing on this issue, the Obama administration argued that there was no need for urgency in resolving the issue, and continued their attempt to stonewall. They want no hearing until at least late April!
With this contemptuous response to our push for transparency, the Obama administration shows that it wants to protect Mrs. Clinton, not enforce the law.
What’s more, this administration is willing to mislead more than one federal court in order to do so. The cover-up continues. Why else would the Obama team fear telling the court immediately about this important issue? What possible harm could one court hearing do!
Continuing the cover-up, State argued that only recently had they been made aware of the secret email accounts, an argument in direct contradiction with the department’s previous statements and as we note, Mrs. Clinton’s statement about the issue:
The State Department cannot claim it was unaware of the…failure to records-manage agency emails from the Office of the Secretary. In fact, the “Statement from the Office of Former Secretary Clinton” states that “[h]er usage [of non-“state.gov” email for State Department business] was widely known to the over 100 Department and U.S. government colleagues she emailed.”
Given that the State Department is willing to make misrepresentations about what and when it knew, Judicial Watch accuses the Obama administration (which is using tax dollars to defend this cover-up) of playing games:
The State Department has yet to demonstrate how it is satisfying its obligations under FOIA in light of recent revelations that Secretary Clinton’s emails were not being properly managed, retained and produced. This also applies to emails received or sent by other officials or employees within the Secretary’s office to conduct government business who used non-“state.gov” email addresses. To determine the adequacy of the State Department’s search, both Judicial Watch and the Court should be informed by the Department directly of the details surrounding the retention of agency emails within the Office of the Secretary and the extent of the Department’s ability to search, request and retrieve those records …
Had Judicial Watch not challenged the State Department’s search, this case would most likely have been dismissed before any public revelations were made about the unlawful arrangement relating to the State Department’s handling of agency emails during Secretary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department …
[T]he State Department has still not responded to Judicial Watch’s request to confirm whether its supplemental search includes all non-“state.gov” email addresses used by other officials or employees within the Secretary’s office for government business …
To the extent that Secretary Clinton used her non-“state.gov” email address to communicate with State Department employees outside her office who used “state.gov” email addresses, the State Department would also have to conduct agency wide searches to respond properly to Judicial Watch’s FOIA request.
So as Congress gets out of Dodge for a few weeks without having done much of anything to address the massive obstruction of its investigations, your Judicial Watch is in federal court highlighting that quick action is necessary as the Clinton/Obama gang can’t be trusted to keep these emails secure:
Time is of the essence in this case. The statement by former Secretary Clinton during a press conference that she did not preserve approximately 30,000 emails she sent or received through her non-“state.gov” email address she used exclusively to conduct government business is a matter of public record – not [as the State Department alleged] “conjecture.” Only last week, the State Department publically disclosed that it was unable to automatically archive the emails of most of its senior officials until last month. This is also a matter of public record – not conjecture. The State Department has still not informed the Court or Judicial Watch whether it has undertaken any efforts to retrieve agency emails from non-“state.gov” email addresses used by other officials or employees within the Office of the Secretary during the relevant time period or from other employees within the agency. The State Department needs to request these agency records immediately in light of the Department’s history of poor records-management and preservation of agency records.
It is a big, absurd lie – now being peddled by the Justice Department (following Hillary Clinton’s lead) – that Hillary Clinton’s alleged removal of the records would prevent them from being subject to FOIA. There is no precedent for the head of an agency “purposefully rout[ing] a document out of agency possession in order to circumvent a FOIA request.”
We have been down this road before. You may recall our historic FOIA lawsuit against the Clinton Commerce Department. For some background, that FOIA case, sometimes known as Chinagate, uncovered and stopped a scheme by Bill and Hillary Clinton to sell seats on taxpayer-financed trade mission trips in exchange for political contributions.
In that case, Judge Lamberth himself “found that discovery was appropriate where it was ‘designed to explore the extent to which [the Department of Commerce [(“DOC”)]…illegally destroyed and discarded responsive information, and possible methods for recovering whatever responsive information still exists outside of the DOC’s possession.’”
Our current independent litigation exposed the email scandal and just forced, for the first time, the Obama administration to admit accountability for at least some of the records Hillary Clinton concealed from the American people.
The Washington Times, in a story entitled, “White House scrambles to limit damage from Hillary Clinton email scandal, White House attorneys admit in court that messages withheld,” summed up the state of affairs:
Mr. Fitton said the Obama administration is trying to keep the courts from delving too deeply into the situation, but he said plenty of unanswered questions pose tricky problems for the administration and for Mrs. Clinton, who is expected to announce a bid soon for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“We still don’t know who has separate email accounts, who had these alias accounts, how many records there are, were records destroyed, who was responsible for these records legally, who in the agency knew about these records, when did the Justice Department know about these records, why wasn’t Judicial Watch aware of these records, why wasn’t the court aware of these records?” Mr. Fitton said.
If Mrs. Clinton were a CEO or some other private individual whose records came under scrutiny, Mr. Fitton said, the FBI would have rushed to secure the records and ensure they weren’t being destroyed. The government then would try to recover any lost or deleted records.
Let’s hope the courts take strong action. As with Benghazi, you can expect more results from us than anything you will get from Congress or a liberal media that is in the tank for fellow liberals like Hillary Clinton.
As I write, we’ve pushed for action on this scandal before at least three federal court judges. And our Judicial Watch investigations team just reported to me that, since the scandal broke, our investigators have filed 20 NEW information requests on the Clinton email scandal. If you want the truth about Hillary Clinton (and other corrupt officials are up to), then you’ll want to start with Judicial Watch. As Rush Limbaugh said recently:
“Mrs. Clinton, if you have nothing to hide, will you turn your servers over to Judicial Watch, who issued a Freedom of Information Act request for them?”
Some of that personal health care information that you want kept private and confidential is anything but secure. Apparently, Obama White House pressure led to changes to the Healthcare.gov privacy policies that make it possible for certain private information to be shared with advertisers and who knows who else.
So here, on the fifth anniversary of the passage and signing of the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, the law offers neither protection nor affordability. As the Daily Signal has reported, the plans offered under Obamacare have limited provider networks. This in turn makes it difficult for certain consumers to keep their original doctors without paying additional costs, if at all. So much for affordability or keeping your doctor and insurance if you like it, as Obama purposefully falsely promised.
That’s disturbing enough, but now we are also finding that right from the beginning, security on the Obamacare site was viewed as little more than an “afterthought.” We also know that 70,000 Healthcare.gov records have been easily viewable using Google and that the top security figure in charge of Healthcare.gov refused to sign off on its launch. Those are just some of the disturbing highlights we have pulled out of the new documents we obtained from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). What may be most disturbing are documents that show the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) worked with HHS on security for the Healthcare.gov site.
The government officials on the receiving of end of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit we filed on March 18, 2014, were not exactly forthcoming. The 117 pages we received were heavily redacted, but a close look revealed troubling information.
In a heavily redacted November 6, 2013, email, Julie Bataille (former CMS director of the office of communications) informs then-CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Jeffrey Zients (former Healthcare.gov “tech surge” manager), that “the Dept Homeland Security’s public affairs team reached out to ASPA” (an apparent reference to the assistant secretary for public affairs). The outreach originated with Kevin Greene, Program Manager – Software Assurance, of the DHS Cyber Security Division.
On November 8, 2013, Tavenner forwarded Bataille’s email to David Nelson (acting CMS chief information officer) and Tony Trenkle (outgoing CMS chief information officer) with the message, “For you guys to follow up. I support. Thanks.” The following email exchange shows when the Department of Homeland Security began working with Obamacare officials on Healthcare.gov:
- November 8, 2013, Nelson to Greene: “As the new Acting Chief Information Officer for CMS, I would be very interested in talking to you about the type of support DHS may be able to provide for Healthcare.gov.”
- December 9, 2013, Greene to Nelson: “I had a very productive meeting with Kevin Charest [HHS Chief Information Officer] and his team on last week and would love to meet with you soon. Please let me know a good time to schedule a meeting.”
- December 11, 2013, Lisa Mack (special assistant to David Nelson) to Greene and Nelson: “Dave is available in Baltimore on Monday, January 13th between 1:00 – 2:00 pm.”
It is bad enough that the IRS is empowered to monitor your health care choices under Obamacare, now we learn that DHS, another federal law enforcement agency, is potentially snooping around your private health and other personal information. And why did it take a Judicial Watch lawsuit to uncover the Department of Homeland Security’s secret involvement in Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov? We want to know, and I’m sure you do: what private health information was shared with DHS by the Obama administration? And, assuming it was proper to work with DHS, these documents show (again) that Healthcare.gov was operating a full month with known and unaddressed security issues!
So you can see why it takes “the most transparent administration in history” months to review and release 117 pages!
The documents also show that it was pressure from the Obama White House, desperate to boost enrollment in its unpopular government health care program, which may have led to a mass breach of the privacy of innocent Americans.
Members of Congress from both parties were up in arms after a January 2015 report by The Associated Press that revealed that HHS was disclosing health and other private information of Healthcare.gov users to advertisers:
The government’s health insurance website is quietly sending consumers’ personal data to private companies that specialize in advertising and analyzing Internet data for performance and marketing, The Associated Press has learned.
The scope of what is disclosed or how it might be used was not immediately clear, but it can include age, income, ZIP code, whether a person smokes, and if a person is pregnant. It can include a computer’s Internet address, which can identify a person’s name or address when combined with other information collected by sophisticated online marketing or advertising firms.
So who was behind this massive breach of trust, confidentiality, and privacy of the millions forced to use the Obamacare site? The Obama White House.
Why else would bureaucrats in HHS think they had the authority to violate potentially both the Privacy Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPPA, the federal health care privacy law that I’m sure you’ve seen referenced in the forms you fill out in many doctor visits these days)?
The documents we forced out of the Obamacare bureaucracy at HHS include a January 2014 email chain, in which one subject line is “Call on Tagging Issues.” One of the emails in this chain notes that Jon Booth (director of the CMS Web and Media Group) informs his colleagues in the computer information and press operations of the White House’s interest in employing Healthcare.gov user information for advertising. “There is a huge push from the White House,” Booth writes, “to implement a robust (and more importantly) measureable digital ad campaign.”
Typically, “tagging” means tagging user information for later use, such as for targeted advertising. So, reading between the redactions, we know now that it was Obama White House pressure to push “Digital Media Campaign Tagging” which led to changes in Healthcare.gov privacy policies to allow certain private information of Healthcare.gov users to be shared with advertisers.
And it isn’t as if the Obamacare gang at HHS was oblivious to the security and privacy concerns in using this sensitive government health information that citizens, under law, had to give to the Obama administration. In this very email chain was a link to an informative website posting by a security expert who details that security was an “afterthought” on the Obamacare website, that 70,000 Healthcare.gov records were easily viewable using Google, and that “the head of [Healthcare.gov’s] security, who had to sign off on the security of the website during its launch wouldn’t, and was forced out the door…”
There’s some history here that comes full circle with these latest revelations. Back in September 2014, we received 94 pages of HHS documents in response to this same FOIA lawsuit. These documents told us that in the days leading up to the rollout of Obamacare, top CMS officials knew of massive security risks with Healthcare.gov and chose to roll out the website without resolving the problems. These documents also showed CMS officials, including then-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. Seemingly wanting not to be a party to the mess, Trenkle himself resigned before the site’s launch date.
In fact, we forced the Obama administration to provide details about security flaws that were previously withheld from public disclosure and from Congress.
We also obtained “Sensitive Information – Special Handling” memos sent from CMS to Mitre Corporation, the Healthcare.gov security testing company, in which CMS rated “political … damage” and “public embarrassment to CMS” as factors in defining “Risk Rating” priorities.
Recall that the Healthcare.gov portal was hacked back in July 2014.
A few days prior to the AP report detailing the Obama White House’s desperate push to misuse our private information to boost enrollment in the Obamacare scheme, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner took one for the Obama team and resigned after being accused of padding Obamacare enrollment numbers. According to the New York Times:
Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California and former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Ms. Tavenner “had to go.” He said that she had “padded the Obamacare enrollment numbers” to make them look larger than they were.
Congressional investigators discovered in November that the administration had overstated enrollment by including about 400,000 dental insurance subscribers in the total of 7.1 million people with coverage purchased through the exchanges.
This administration’s Obamacare lawlessness is not just a political fight in DC between Congress and President Obama. It is about the rule of law. It is about your private health care information being secure from misuse. It is about fraud, waste, and abuse of your tax dollars. And it is about the Obama administration’s contempt for federal transparency law. And thankfully, it is also about Judicial Watch, one watchdog group doing the hard work of exposing this corruption to the light of day so, at a minimum, you and other citizens can be warned: If you share private information on Healthcare.gov or a related Obamacare site, you should assume that your private information is unsecure, will be used to tag and target you for advertising/government propaganda, is at risk of being used by the Department of Homeland Security, and is at risk of being hacked by criminals outside of government.
Until next week…