Weekly Update: Obama: Catch Me If You Can
Obama Administration’s Secret Email Scandal
I cannot remember a time quite like this. Approximately one-third of congressional committees are investigating Obama corruption; every day brings with it a new scandal, each just as serious as the last.
There just is no other way to put it. The District of Columbia is drowning in a cesspool of corruption. From new scandals, such as the IRS attacks on conservative groups and Benghazi-gate to unresolved outrages from Obama’s first term, including Fast and Furious and Obamacare, the Obama administration is out of control.
And to make matters worse, the president who promised to make transparency and the rule of law the “touchstones” of his presidency has employed every trick in the book to avoid coming clean on any of these scandals.
Just this week, we learned of a new scheme employed by federal officials that allows them to continue to operate in secrecy and beyond the prying eyes of investigators. Per The Associated Press:
Some of President Barack Obama’s political appointees are using internal government email accounts that are separate from their external accounts to conduct official business, The Associated Press found.
The practice could complicate agencies’ legal responsibilities to find and turn over emails under public records requests and congressional inquiries…
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday acknowledged the practice and said it made eminent sense for Cabinet secretaries and other high-profile officials to have what he called alternative email accounts that wouldn’t fill with unwanted messages….
“There’s nothing secret,” Carney said.
No one is buying what Carney is selling on that point. Carney also noted that these accounts are innocent. Federal employees need them, he explained, to conduct business because their other email addresses are deluged with emails. Whether cluttered in-boxes are a problem inside our federal agencies or not, certainly establishing shadow email accounts is not an appropriate (or ethical) answer.
Here’s why: These secret email accounts allow federal officials to skirt open records laws. And this is a particularly sensitive issue for Judicial Watch, which is the nation’s most aggressive organization using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to force the release of government documents.
We are forced to scratch and claw to gain access to every scrap of information, every detail. And to learn that the government can use secret email accounts to further obstruct these efforts is not only frustrating, it is deeply disturbing.
The AP explains the problem further:
Having separate accounts could put an agency in a difficult spot when it is compelled to search for and release emails as part of congressional or internal investigations, civil lawsuits and public records requests. That’s because employees assigned to compile such responses would necessarily need to know about the accounts to search them. Secret accounts also drive perceptions that government officials try to hide actions or decisions.
The size and scope of the problem appears systemic. While the AP says it is still waiting for responses from as many as ten federal agencies regarding their email addresses, Town Hall’s Katie Pavlich has a nice summary of what is publicly known about the agencies involved in these shadow email accounts as of now:
- The Environmental Protection Agency? Check. Lisa Jackson, former head of the EPA reportedly used an alias (Richard Windsor) to conduct official government business and “sidestep disclosure rules.” When AP reporters learned of this secret account, they dug a little deeper, and down the rabbit hole they went, implicating some other federal agencies.
- The Department of Justice? Yep. In fact, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, the Thomas Perez (of Black Panther scandal fame) reportedly used a private email account on 1,200 occasions. He used this account to “leak information about official business,” concluded the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
- The Obama Labor Department? Seems a good bet, given that Labor reportedly ordered the AP to pay $1 million to gain access to its email addresses, which seems a clear attempt to dissuade the AP from continuing its probe.
- And then there’s Health and Human Services. The HHS response to the AP’s request was suspicious from the start. The agency did, in fact, turn over email addresses, but curiously failed to disclose any addresses for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. And then when the AP objected to the obfuscation, the agency reluctantly handed over three email addresses for the secretary, one of which they deemed “secret.”
HHS cautioned the AP against disclosing the shadow account, but it fell on deaf ears. The not-so-secret-anymore email address is [email protected].
The dirty little secret is that the Obama administration typically redacts (blacks out) the email addresses on most documents, making it difficult to decipher who sent or received a particular email or document. And as I told Brietbart.com:
Unless we know about the alias accounts, we can’t accurately analyze Freedom of Information responses. This revelation could impact dozens of our Freedom of Information lawsuits. If we know an email has the address of a senior official, we will look at it carefully. If we don’t, it might be overlooked or, more importantly, we might not go to court over it. With this administration, transparency is a game of “catch me if you can” — even with the courts.
Judicial Watch has filed over 1,100 FOIA requests with the Obama administration and over 100 FOIA lawsuits against it, making it the top public interest FOIA requestor and litigator in the country.
Of course the response from the agencies to these secret email accounts (as exemplified by Carney’s “nothing to see here” defense) is “don’t worry, just trust us.” But how can we? Consider new revelations about yet another Obama appointee scandal/abuse of office.
As reported by Fox News: “House Republicans are expanding their investigation into Health [Health and Human Services] Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ campaign to solicit support for a pro-Obamacare group, after she acknowledged reaching out to companies her agency regulates as part of that effort.”
The Obamacare propaganda group is Enroll America. And the three companies referenced above are Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente and Ascension Health. Sebelius said she did not troll for checks from these companies, but this assertion remains an open question. She did admit to fundraising from other companies not regulated by her agency.
As you now, JW has been all over the improper efforts by the Obama administration to brainwash the American people into accepting the president’s socialist healthcare overhaul. Whether we are talking about the Obama administration’s taxpayer funded ads featuring television star Andy Griffith, or large chunks of cash paid to expensive public relations firms to persuade the American people to buy Obamacare, the blurred lines between administration policy and outright propaganda are wholly inappropriate. We’re pushing hard to find the full truth on the thoroughly corrupt Sebelius (who made our list of Washington’s “Top Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” in 2012).
Of course, what we know about these efforts is bad enough. But it is what we don’t know – the kind of information likely hiding in secret email accounts within the bowels of the Obama administration – that could do serious and irreparable harm to our institutions of government. That’s what makes these shadow email accounts so dangerous.
Obama Taps Benghazi-Tainted Rice for National Security Advisor
In a shockingly arrogant and irresponsible move, President Obama has nominated Benghazi-tainted UN Ambassador Susan Rice to serve as his National Security Advisor, replacing the outgoing Tom Donilon.
Per The Associated Press:
President Barack Obama’s top national security adviser Tom Donilon is resigning and will be replaced by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, marking a significant shakeup to the White House foreign policy team…
…Rice, a close Obama confidante, came under withering criticism from Republicans as part of the investigations into the deadly attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. Rice, relying on talking points from the intelligence community, said in television interviews that the attacks were likely spontaneous, which was later proven incorrect.
“Proven incorrect,” does not come close to capturing it. Congressional testimony by Benghazi whistleblowers has shown the Obama administration’s response to the attacks to be “a deadly combination of ineptitude, political calculations, and outright lying.”
Remember all of those morning shows, where Rice peddled tall tales about the nature of the Benghazi attacks? Rice (and Clinton) falsely blamed the attack, which led to the death of a U.S. Ambassador and three others, on a rudimentary Internet video mocking Muslims. Not true. We now know this was a terrorist attack pure and simple.
We also know that intelligence officials (including former CIA Director General Petraeus) had noted a link to terrorism in their initial assessments just hours after the attacks. This connection to terrorism was purposely scrubbed from the talking points. Why? I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this was done to protect President Obama, who was then locked in a tight re-election battle.
A major push of the Obama reelection campaign had been that, under President Obama’s policies, al Qaeda was in decline (“GM is alive and bin Laden is dead” was an Obama campaign slogan.). This was a fair, however debatable, talking point for Obama. But what is not appropriate is lying to the American people about a terrorist attack because it might conflict with this president’s reelection campaign narrative.
Did Rice know the “video explanation” was complete bunk when she took to the morning talk shows? We don’t know for certain. The Obama administration continues to stand in the way of the truth. But whether she knowingly lied or was just a patsy for others in Obama’s inner circle, Rice is most certainly compromised. Who on earth could trust a word out of Rice’s mouth when we know for a fact she peddled a fabricated explanation for the Benghazi attacks?
And now our national security policy is in her hands.
Of course, there is a political angle to the Rice appointment as well. Former Clinton campaign hack James Carville characterized this as an “in your face appointment,” noting that Rice is “not confirmable.” The president initially wanted to have Rice serve as Secretary of State, but Republicans in Congress scuttled those plans. This was payback.
We’ve seen this tactic before with Obama’s czars, right? When President Obama wants to get his “unconfirmable” friends past Congress, he simply installs them. In this case, the appointment does not require Senate confirmation, and Obama is technically within his right to appoint Rice to this post. But it doesn’t make the move smart – or good government.
The liberal press is doing its part to avoid dealing with the controversial nature of this appointment. As media watchdog site NewsBusters points out, The Washington Post played “hide the Benghazi” in its story on the Rice appointment. Readers had to wait until paragraph 20 to see the “B” word, writes NewsButers’ Tim Graham.
How Benghazi gets “paragraph 20” treatment is beyond me. This is one of the most serious scandals in a generation.
And for this reason, Judicial Watch has made it a priority to fight the Obama administration for the full truth on Benghazi. We have multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests pending and three lawsuits trying to get hold of attack videos, information on the fraudulent talking points, and details about a foreign security firm hired to “protect” the consulate and the ambassador.
I guarantee you this: Congress will move on and the media will, too. But your Judicial Watch is in it for the long haul and won’t let this “worse than Watergate” scandal fall by the wayside.
A New Scandal at the IRS
It seems evident that the behemoth Obama administration is setting some new records for wasting taxpayer dollars on ridiculous programs. (Remember the racist “cultural diversity” workshops that required federal employees to chant that our Founding Fathers were illegal aliens?)
And it is particularly offensive when the agency responsible for draining every last cent out of American taxpayers is the very same agency engaging in shameful waste.
Fresh off a “scandal for the ages,” where the Obama IRS abused Tea Party and conservative organizations seeking tax exempt status and subjected conservative donors to retaliatory audits, new details emerged this week about more embarrassing and corrupt activities inside the agency. USA Today had the story:
A division of the Internal Revenue Service spent $4.1 million on a conference in 2010 in Anaheim, Calif., that included “questionable expenses” for keynote speakers, video production and gifts for IRS employees, according to an audit released Tuesday by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
The audit found that the IRS held 225 conferences from fiscal years 2010 to 2012 at a cost of $49 million. The Anaheim conference, attended by 2,600 IRS employees, was the driving focus of the audit because it was the most costly during the three-year period of review. The IRS says it has changed spending practices to prevent a recurrence of these incidents.
Now, as is often the case, the devil is in the details here. So let’s take a look at what happened to these public funds. (You can access the TIGTA report here.)
How about $50,187 dollars to craft a Star Trek parody on video? Seem like a wise use of funds to you? How about another video of IRS division managers dancing on stage? Or $44,500 for two speakers, one of whom was paid to create paintings on stage of Michael Jordan and Albert Einstein, among other cultural icons.
Can someone please explain how watching someone paint a picture of a former NBA basketball player contributes to the efficient and proper functioning of a federal agency!
Also among the charges on this trip was a tab of $64,000 to buy gifts (such as plastic squirting fish toys) for IRS employees, two of whom are now no longer with the agency.
Per Fox News:
The IRS placed two employees on administrative leave for accepting hundreds of dollars’ worth of food and gifts at a party in 2010, on the heels of a scathing watchdog report that said the agency blew more than $4 million on the conference where that party was held.
Evidently, the IRS believes it can avoid accountability for its corrupt activities with tepid promises to “do better” and by releasing two low-level employees from their roster. By the way, the Washington Examiner picked up on the fact that this conference was supposed to help “train” new IRS employees hired to implement Obamacare! So this IRS spending scandal is, in reality, an Obamacare scandal!
As you might imagine, there is little sympathy for the IRS in Congress or around the country.
The New York Times reported Thursday morning that the majority of Americans believe the IRS campaign to attack conservative groups was wrong. But check out how the Times reported this data: “Three-fifths of the public think the I.R.S. actions were wrong, but they are evenly divided over whether the targeted inquiries rose to the level of illegality or were just unethical.” Don’t you love the phrase “just unethical?”
The Times also points out that there is an even division as to whether the IRS in Cincinnati acted alone or if the Obama administration was involved. And this week we learned some new details on this question courtesy of The Wall Street Journal via Fox News:
Two IRS employees have provided more details to congressional investigators about how targeting of Tea Party groups in 2010 came from agency officials in Washington, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
Transcripts of interviews with the two employees seem to contradict previous claims by top IRS officials blaming lower-level workers in Cincinnati, The Wall Street Journal reported. While the transcripts don’t suggest Obama administration officials knew of or were involved in the flagging of the groups, questions regarding who ordered the targeting still linger.
Whether President Obama is explicitly or directly to blame for this scandal is still an open question. But as has been pointed out by many, his persistent attempts to defame and undermine the Tea Party movement set the tone for the inappropriate targeting of conservatives on a number of different levels. As President, he is responsible.
Judicial Watch has a number of active Freedom of Information Act investigations into these various matters, and our legal and investigative staff has been appropriately mobilized. I’ll also give you an early heads-up on a panel discussion on June 20 aiming to get more of the truth out about the IRS scandals.
Until next week…