Weekly Update: Strzok Drafted Comey’s Letter to Congress About Weiner’s Laptop
Strzok’s ‘Fingerprints’ Are on Comey’s Letter About the Weiner Laptop
Army Must Rethink Purple Heart for Joshua Berry in Fort Hood Terror Attack
State Dept. Uses Outdated, Unsecure System to Spot Visa/Passport Fraud
We have added two new pieces to the giant jigsaw puzzle showing the effort to undermine President Trump. They show more of the workings of the disgraced former FBI Director James Comey and fired FBI official Peter Strzok.
We have released 424 pages of FBI records, including an email revealing that Strzok created the initial draft of the October 2016 letter Comey sent to Congress notifying lawmakers of the discovery of Hillary Clinton emails on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner.
Another email suggests that the FBI had not yet completed its review of Clinton’s emails by the time Comey sent a second letter to Congress on November 6, 2016, reconfirming his belief that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be charged with a crime.
The records were produced as a result of a June 2018 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed after the DOJ failed to respond to a September 1, 2017, request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-01448)). Judicial Watch is seeking:
- All drafts of James Comey’s statement closing the Clinton email investigation, from his original draft in April or May 2016 to the final version.
- All records of communications between or among FBI officials regarding Comey’s draft statement closing the Clinton email investigation, including all memoranda and/or analyses of the factual and/or legal justification for his July 5, 2016 announcement regarding his decision not to seek Mrs. Clinton’s prosecution.
- All records previously provided to the Office of Special Counsel in the course of its now-closed Hatch Act investigation of Mr. Comey.
The documents reveal that on October 27, 2016, Peter Strzok emailed other senior FBI officials a draft notice letter from Comey to Congress about the Weiner laptop discovery and the reopening of the Clinton investigation. The emails indicated that Strzok and another official Jon (Last Name Unknown) authored the notification to Congress. The notification, according the DOJ IG, came a full month after the emails were discovered by the FBI on the Weiner laptop.
According to the documents, at 11:04 p.m. on Saturday, November 5, 2016, FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki sent Comey an email containing a redacted draft document which he referred to as a “New Proposal” saying: “Folks, Per our 1000pm conversation, below is a revised straw man for discussion. Again, we could use this if the review when completed supports our conclusions. My comments again in ALL CAPS and bold italics.”
Rybicki’s “New Proposal … straw man” apparently refers to a draft of Comey’s letter to Congress concerning the FBI’s review of the 650,000 Clinton emails found on Weiner’s laptop. At the time of the Rybicki email, Comey was preparing his letter informing Congress of the FBI’s findings, and according to page 390 of the June 2018 report from the DOJ Office of the Inspector General, the deliberations regarding the letter began on the afternoon of November 3 and concluded “very early on November 6.”
Despite Rybicki’s email suggesting late on November 5 that the review of the new emails had not been completed, Comey’s November 6 letter to Congress stated, “[W]e reviewed all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State. Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.”
Comey’s “conclusions” in July were that no charges should be filed against Clinton, despite her repeatedly having sent classified information over her unsecured, non-State-Department server. Comey later admitted that he had drafted his July exoneration more than a month earlier.
RealClear Investigations’ reporter Paul Sperry recently reported that “only 3,077 of the 694,000 emails [found on the Weiner laptop] were directly reviewed for classified or incriminating information. Three FBI officials completed that work in a single 12-hour spurt the day before Comey again cleared Clinton of criminal charges.”
These new documents provide more details of the corrupt and dishonest FBI investigation of the incredible revelations that Clinton’s classified and other emails were present on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. When will the Sessions DOJ and Wray FBI finally begin an honest investigation of Hillary Clinton’s national security crimes?
In a related Judicial Watch lawsuit, the State Department told the court in October 2017: “The State Department identified approximately 2,800 work-related documents among the documents provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
In January 2018, in accordance with a court order, the State Department began turning Weiner emails over to us. Initially, 18 classified emails were found in the 798 documents produced by the State Department.
Further examples of our work in this case on your behalf can be found here.
We’ve helped the father of a deceased Army sergeant get a step closer to winning the recognition his son deserves for his role in a terrorist attack within our borders.
U.S. District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper has ordered the Army to reconsider its decision denying a Purple Heart to Sgt. Berry for injuries sustained in the 2009 international terrorist attack at Fort Hood, Texas.
If the Army wishes to stick with the denial, it must sufficiently explain why Sgt. Berry is not entitled to the Purple Heart.
On remand, the Army, assuming it wishes to stick with its determination, must explain why Berry is not entitled to a Purple Heart and do so with sufficient clarity that “a court can measure” the denial “against the ‘arbitrary or capricious’ standard of the [Administrative Procedures Act].”
On October 12, 2017, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sgt. Berry’s father, Howard M. Berry, who is challenging the Army’s denial of the Purple Heart under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) (Howard M. Berry v. Mark Esper, Secretary of the Army, et al. (No. 1:17-cv-02112)).
Following the Fort Hood attack, the Secretary of Defense declined to recognize the mass shooting as an international terrorist attack against the United States. Instead, the attack was characterized as “workplace violence.” As a result, active duty service members injured in the attack were ineligible for the Purple Heart, among other awards and benefits.
In response, Congress enacted legislation in 2014 mandating that service members killed or wounded in an attack targeting members of the armed forces and carried out by an individual in communication with and inspired or motivated by a foreign terrorist organization be eligible for the Purple Heart.
As a result, in 2015, the Secretary of the Army announced that service members injured or killed in the Fort Hood attack were eligible for the Purple Heart if they met the regulatory criteria.
The Purple Heart is not a “recommended” decoration for soldiers killed or wounded in combat or under attack. Rather, a soldier is entitled to a Purple Heart upon meeting specific criteria. Sgt. Berry met the regulatory criteria for an award of the Purple Heart.
Sgt. Berry suffered a dislocated left shoulder during the November 5, 2009, terrorist attack on Fort Hood by Maj. Nidal Hasan. Hasan, who admitted during his 2013 court martial that he had been influenced by al Qaeda, killed 13 people and injured 30 others.
In witness statements given to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command (“CID”) and in a separate statement given to a Texas Ranger, Sgt. Berry had estimated that Hasan fired 30-40 rounds outside Building 42004 at Ft. Hood. Sgt. Berry told those around him to get down on the floor and stay away from the doors and windows. When Sgt. Berry heard gunshots hit the metal doors near him, he leaped over a desk to take cover and, in so doing, dislocated his left shoulder. He then heard Hasan trying to kick in the doors. According to a witness statement from another individual, Hasan fired three rounds at the briefing room doors.
Mr. Berry applied for a posthumous award of the Purple Heart to his son. The U.S. Army Decorations Board denied Mr. Berry’s application. In April 2015, the Army awarded the Purple Heart to 47 service members injured in the Fort Hood attack. Sgt. Berry was not among them.
On April 17, 2016, upon Mr. Berry’s application for review, a three-member panel of the Army Board for Correction of Military Records recommended that all Army records concerning Sgt. Berry be corrected to award Sgt. Berry the Purple Heart. The panel found “[t]here is no question that [Sgt. Berry]’s injury met the basic medical criteria for award of the [Purple Heart].” The Board’s eight-page determination provided a detailed analysis of “the degree to which the enemy (i.e., the terrorist) caused [Sgt. Berry’s] injury.”
A few months later, however, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Review Boards) Francine C. Blackmon issued a single paragraph memorandum rejecting the Corrections Board’s recommendation:
I have reviewed the findings, conclusions, and Board member recommendations. I find there is not sufficient evidence to grant relief. Therefore, under the authority of 10 U.S.C. § 1552, I have determined that the facts do not support a conclusion that his injury met the criteria for a Purple Heart.
In his ruling, Judge Cooper said the court could not “meaningfully evaluate the reasoning behind” Blackmon’s decision. Decisions which are “utterly unreviewable,” the judge added “must be vacated as arbitrary and capricious.” Judge Cooper noted the Army’s final memorandum:
provides no meaningful analysis—only a boilerplate determination “that the facts do not support a conclusion that [Berry’s] injury met the criteria for a Purple Heart.” Why not? Was there conflicting evidence regarding how immediate of a threat Hasan posed to Berry as he sat inside the building? Was the evidence clear but the Deputy Assistant Secretary thought that Berry could have taken cover without injuring himself? Or did she read the regulations as categorically taking the Purple Heart off the table for service members injured while taking cover?
The denial letter provides no hints. In turn, the Court cannot meaningfully evaluate the reasoning behind it. That is enough to warrant remand.
We are thrilled by the court’s ruling and hope the Army quickly comes to its senses and finally awards Sgt. Berry a well-deserved Purple Heart.
You will no longer wonder how Hillary Clinton got away with using a non-government email system housed in her home basement when you read this incredible story from our Corruption Chronicles blog. And you’ll wonder if the government learned anything at all from 9/11.
Though it claims the 9/11 attacks “reenergized” its mission, the State Department branch responsible for spotting visa and passport fraud fails to practice basic security protocols, leaving the nation extremely vulnerable to foreign threats. To keep potential terrorists from entering the United States, the monstrous agency with a $37 billion annual budget uses outdated machines that are poorly monitored and fails to protect data and perform basic security scans, according to a distressing federal audit. The report documents the alarming inefficiencies in a decades-old system—Bureau of Consular Affairs Fraud Prevention Program (CA/FPP)—used by the State Department to determine if foreigners seeking U.S. visas are being candid about their identity and where they have traveled. The goal is to oversee and coordinate the integrity of U.S. visa and citizenship processes by stopping fraud in the visa and passport system, a crucial tool to protect national security.
It turns out that the State Department’s security team is a bit of a joke, according to the incredible lapses documented in the report, which was made public recently by the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The team doesn’t even bother to patch the system, scan it for computer viruses or audit for evidence of breaches or compromises by hackers. In short, the State Department consular division ignores basic information security practices in this essential program used to screen potential threats. Nearly two decades after the worst terrorist attack on American soil, this is incredibly disturbing. In fact, the report states that “the events of September 11, 2001, reenergized CA/FPP’s mission.” Not enough, apparently. “OIG found deficiencies that included shared passwords and lack of access control lists or visitor logs,” the watchdog writes in its report. In addition, the flawed system’s “security officer did not perform regular patch management or anti-virus scanning on the network or regular audit and accountability reviews to identify data loss or potential intruder activities.”
It gets better, or rather, more enraging. The OIG found that no one monitors the server and the State Department doesn’t keep adequate logs of who accesses the information on the database. In fact, a SharePoint site established by the agency a decade ago to track “possible consular malfeasance” has never even been examined. Auditors found that management was not even aware that the system had never undergone an assessment to determine whether it contained information that exceeded SharePoint’s security categorization. “Without applying appropriate controls, the case management system and its information are vulnerable to unauthorized access or compromise,” the report states. This indicates that breaches could very well have occurred, but we’ll never know for sure thanks to the government’s incompetence. This may seem inconceivable to most Americans as the nation faces serious threats from radical elements.
OIG investigators gathered mountains of evidence in the course of their probe, which considered interviews with hundreds of State Department personnel and contractors as well as observations of daily operations and written questionnaires. This includes 178 interviews and 224 questionnaires completed by consular officers in the field as well as 54 filled out by agency employees and contractors domestically. The watchdog makes a multitude of recommendations to fix this laughable “security” system, but this very basic one sticks out: “The Bureau of Consular Affairs should implement a website content management process for the Office of Fraud Prevention Programs that includes a dedicated team responsible for the regular updating of website content.” Another simple recommendation is that the State Department’s Office of Fraud Prevention Programs implement required security controls in accordance with federal standards. It’s troubling that the agency watchdog has to suggest these elementary, common sense approaches to a program that is so imperative to national security.
Then again, this is the same agency that allowed Hillary Clinton to traffic highly classified information on an unsecure, personal email server. It is also the agency run by high-level officials who knew weak security at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide could result in a tragedy like Benghazi long before Islamic jihadists raided the Special Mission, killing four Americans.
Every big organization has IT troubles, but this ineptitude imperils our country.
Until next week …