The United States will continue to suffer increasingly damaging cyber attacks against both government and private sector networks as long as there is no significant response, according to a recent U.S. intelligence community assessment.
Disclosure of the intelligence assessment, an analytical consensus of 16 U.S. spy agencies, comes as the Obama administration is debating how to respond to a major cyber attack against the Office of Personnel Management. Sensitive records on 22.1 million federal workers, including millions cleared for access to secrets, were stolen by hackers linked to China’s government.
U.S. officials familiar with the classified cyber assessment discussed its central conclusion but did not provide details.
Spokesmen for the White House and office of the director of national intelligence declined to comment.
Recent comments by President Obama and senior military and security officials, however, reflect the intelligence assessment.
Obama said during a summit in Germany June 8 that he would not disclose who conducted the OPM hack. But he said such attacks would continue.
“We have known for a long time that there are significant vulnerabilities and that these vulnerabilities are gonna accelerate as time goes by, both in systems within government and within the private sector,” the president said.
Last week, Adm. Mike Rogers, commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, said the increase in state-sponsored cyber attacks is partly the result of a perception that “there’s not a significant price to pay” for such attacks.
Privately, administration officials said the assessment appears to be an indirect criticism of the administration’s approach to cyber attacks that has emphasized diplomatic and law enforcement measures instead of counter-cyber attacks.
“The administration is expecting more attacks because they’re unwilling to do anything,” said one official. “They’re preparing for more attacks because we’re failing to deter and defend against them.”
Intelligence and cyber security experts agreed with the assessment that weak U.S. responses are encouraging more cyber attacks.
“Until we redefine warfare in the age of information, we will continue to be viciously and dangerously attacked with no consequences for those attackers,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, a former Defense Intelligence Agency director.
“The extraordinary intellectual theft ongoing across the U.S.’s cyber critical infrastructure has the potential to shut down massive components of our nation’s capabilities, such as health care, energy and communications systems. This alone should scare the heck out of everyone.”
James Lewis, a cyber security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed. Lewis said the defensive approach that emphasizes closing vulnerabilities to cyber attacks is not working.
“Unless we punch back, we will continue to get hit,” Lewis said.
Lewis says that conducting retaliatory cyber strikes without starting a war is difficult but not impossible.
“There are a lot of ways to do this – leaking some party leader’s bank account could be a good start,” Lewis said. “Many people think a cyber response is the best way to signal where the lines are the other side should not cross.”
“We’re all coming to the same place – that a defensive orientation doesn’t work,” he added.
Rogers, the Cyber Command chief who has stated in the past that he favors more aggressive U.S. responses, acknowledged that the U.S. response to the OPM hack has been muted compared to the government’s highly-public response to North Korea’s damaging cyber attack in November against Sony Pictures Entertainment. The Sony hack was a failed bid by the North Koreans to derail the release of a comedy film critical of dictator Kim Jong Un.
Major incidents in recent months include the Sony attack; cyber attacks against the health care provider Anthem that compromised the records of some 80 million people; attacks against State Department and White House networks from suspected Russian government-linked hackers; the OPM hacking; and an Iranian-backed cyber attack against the Sands casino in Las Vegas.
Asked about the increase in state-sponsored attacks, Rogers said during a security conference in Colorado that one factor has been a lack of response.
Rogers earlier in congressional testimony has suggested a more muscular cyber policy that would include demonstrations and threats of retaliatory cyber attacks against hackers in a bid to create deterrence similar to the Cold War-era strategic nuclear deterrence.
In addition to more capable hackers, “you’ve got a perception, I believe, that to date there is little price to pay for engaging in some pretty aggressive behaviors,” Rogers aid.
“Whether it’s stealing intellectual property; whether it’s getting in and destroying things as we saw in the Sony attack; whether it’s going after large masses of data – OPM being the most recent but go back to the summer of ’14 and we saw a successful penetration of a large health insurance company and the extraction of most of the medical records and personal data information that they had.”
Nation states are only one part of the threat. Criminal groups also are conducting large-scale cyber attacks, Rogers said.
In November, Rogers said he argued for going public in naming North Korea’s communist regime for the Sony hack and having the president make a public statement that Pyongyang would pay a price.
Rogers said some officials in the administration favored a less public response to the Sony case.
“So one of my concerns was this time it was a movie,” Rogers said. “What if next time a nation state, a group, an individual, an actor decides I don’t like the U.S. policy, I don’t like a U.S. product, I don’t agree with this particular position taken by a company, or taken by an individual. If we start down this road, this is not a good one for us as a nation.”
Rogers said he argued strongly that “we cannot pretend that this did not happen,” and that the attack had to be linked to North Korea directly.
“My concern was if we do nothing, then one of the potential unintended consequences of this could be does this send a signal to other nation states, other groups, other actors that this kind of behavior [is okay] and that you can do this without generating any kind of response,” Rogers said.
On not naming the Chinese for the OPM hack, Rogers appears to have lost out during the administration’s debate on naming the Chinese.
“OPM is an ongoing issue,” Rogers said, adding that he would not discuss the specifics of internal discussions.
“But I would acknowledge, hey, to date the response to OPM, there’s a thought process and I’m the first to acknowledge to date we have to take a different approach.”
Asked if he agreed with doing nothing about the OPM response, Rogers suggested some action might be forthcoming.
“Just because you’re not reading something in the media does not mean that there’s not things ongoing,” he said. “So I would argue, let’s step back and see how this plays out a little bit.”
He defended the more public U.S. response to the Sony hack that included limited sanctions against North Korean agencies and officials, by noting that to date no similar cyber attacks by Pyongyang have been conducted.
The U.S. military was totally taken by surprise when Saudi Arabia attacked Houthi rebels in Yemen this week.
NBC’s Richard Engel says Arab nations, and former allies, no longer trust the United States due to the Obama administration’s new friendship with Iran.
The damage of Barack Obama’s disastrous foreign policy builds with each new day.
The Washington Free Beacon reported:
NBC’s Richard Engel reported Friday that U.S. officials were stunned they were not given any notice before Saudi Arabia launched attacks against Houthi rebels. According to Engel, military leaders were finding out about the developments on the Yemen border in real time.
Engel said officials from both the military and members of Congress believe they were not given advanced warning because the Arab nations do not trust the Obama administration after they befriended Iran.
“Saudi Arabia and other countries simply don’t trust the United States any more, don’t trust this administration, think the administration is working to befriend Iran to try to make a deal in Switzerland, and therefore didn’t feel the intelligence frankly would be secure. And I think that’s a situation that is quite troubling for U.S. foreign policy,” Engel said.
And, why would any US ally trust the Obama regime?
** The Obama administration intentionally leaked information on Israel’s secret military alliance with Azerbaijan in 2012.
** The Obama administration released a 1987 report on Israel’s top secret nuclear program this week.
In an interview with the New Yorker’s David Remnick in January, President Obama dismissed ISIS as the “jayvee”:
The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.
Yesterday, with much of Iraq now in the jayvee’s hands, Obama finally recognized it as enough of a threat to warrant the authorization of U.S. military action. Sort of:
To stop the advance on Irbil, I directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move towards the city.
What is magic about Irbil? For one thing, many American diplomats and other U.S. nationals are there. In fact, the State Department relocated staffers from the embassy in Baghdad to the consulate in Irbil on the theory that the Kurds could keep the jayvee out. And then Obama ignored warnings from the Kurds that, without U.S. military supplies, they could not defend their territory.
To this conditional authorization of force, Obama added another conditional one. He authorized airstrikes “if necessary” to help Iraqi forces break the siege of Mount Sinjar.
Here, one assumes, Obama is being disingenuous. How else besides through U.S. military action might the jayvees’ siege of Mount Sinjar be broken. Diplomacy?
Speaking of diplomacy, Obama’s reliance on it is what permitted the situation in Iraq to deteriorate to its current state. Months ago, it became clear that the jayvee was on the march and would not be halted without substantial U.S. assistance.
But Obama conditioned such assistance on the overhaul of Iraq’s government and sought that overhaul through diplomacy. Naturally, Prime Minister Maliki liked his government just fine so, naturally, no overhaul occurred. And then the jayvee continued its bloody march.
Ironically, Obama ended up liking Maliki’s government well enough when it came time to decide whether to grant the Kurds’ request for weapons and ammunition. Obama turned them down on the theory that he didn’t want to bypass the central government – unreformed though it was. And then the jayvee overran the Kurdish border.
Assuming Obama deems his conditions for using force satisfied – and, objectively, they surely will be – the questions become how much force is needed and will Obama authorize that much force.
As to the first question, Fox News’ military expert, Ret. Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney said last night that “pin prick” strikes won’t be enough. He called for round-the-clock sorties.
Other military experts, including active service commanders in Iraq, say that air power won’t be enough. Apparently, the jayvee, having seized all sorts of U.S. military equipment and grown significantly in number off of its successes, has become Kobe Bryant after all. As Army Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, U.S. chief of the Office of Security and Cooperation-Iraq, put it: “[ISIS] is an army, and it takes an army to defeat an army.”
Gen. Bednarek was talking about “neutralizing” ISIS, though. Obama, presumably recognizing what doing so would entail, described his objectives much more narrowly as protecting Ibril and ending the siege of Mount Sinjar. These objectives can, perhaps, be accomplished without an army, and conceivably even with pin point strikes.
But if this is all Obama accomplishes, he will have accomplished little. And pretty soon, the jayvee’s blitz will produce another crisis that will grab the attention of even our criminally inattentive president.
“Christianity in Mosul is dead, and a Christian holocaust is in our midst,” said Mark Arabo, a Californian businessman and Chaldean-American leader. In an interview with CNN’s Jonathan Mann, he called what’s happening in Iraq a “Christian genocide” and said “children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being hung.”
“Right now, three thousand Christians are in Iraq fleeing to neighboring cities,” he told Mann. Arabo is calling on the international community to follow France’s lead and offer the Christians of Iraq asylum.
“You’re startling me with the severity of what you’re describing,” the CNN host said. “You said they are – beheading children?”
“They are systematically beheading children,” Arabo repeated slowly. “And mothers and fathers. The world hasn’t seen an evil like this for generations.”
“There’s actually a park in Mosul where they actually beheaded children and put their heads on a stick… this is crimes against humanity. They are doing the most horrendous, the most heart-breaking crimes that you can think of.”
Mann asked about the ISIS letter sent to Christians in Mosul, demanding that they either convert to Islam, pay a fine or be put to “death by the sword.”
“It’s very clear they are killing people, but are Christians managing to escape by paying a fine?” he asked.
Arabo reports that after Christians pay the fine, the fighters take the Christian wives and children “and make them their wives – so it’s really convert, or die.”
This is a tweet that reportedly shows Yazidi children who escaped the fighters by fleeing to the mountains, but have died from lack of food and water there:
100 Retweets 13 favorites
A quick scan of Youtube shows the truth of what Arabo is saying – there are gruesome videos of heads on spikes, and many of live beheadings (one poor Christian is forced to say the Shahada ‘there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet’ and then beheaded anyway.)
Warning: don’t google these things unless you have a strong stomach.
“They are absolutely killing every Christian they see,” Arabo said of ISIS. “This is absolutely a genocide in every sense of the word. They want everyone to convert, and they want sharia law to be the law of the land.”
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday the United States cannot use its military to solve humanitarian problems and that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a good enough reason to keep U.S. forces there.
“Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now – where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife – which we haven’t done,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea,” he said.
Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, said it’s likely there would be increased bloodshed if U.S. forces left Iraq.
“Nobody is proposing we leave precipitously. There are still going to be U.S. forces in the region that could intercede, with an international force, on an emergency basis,” Obama said between stops on the first of two days scheduled on the New Hampshire campaign trail. “There’s no doubt there are risks of increased bloodshed in Iraq without a continuing U.S. presence there.”
The greater risk is staying in Iraq, Obama said.
“It is my assessment that those risks are even greater if we continue to occupy Iraq and serve as a magnet for not only terrorist activity but also irresponsible behavior by Iraqi factions,” he said.
The senator has been a fierce critic of the war in Iraq, speaking out against it even before he was elected to his post in 2004. He was among the senators who tried unsuccessfully earlier this week to force President Bush’s hand and begin to limit the role of U.S. forces there.
“We have not lost a military battle in Iraq. So when people say if we leave, we will lose, they’re asking the wrong question,” he said. “We cannot achieve a stable Iraq with a military. We could be fighting there for the next decade.”
Obama said the answer to Iraq – and other civil conflicts – lies in diplomacy.
“When you have civil conflict like this, military efforts and protective forces can play an important role, especially if they’re under an international mandate as opposed to simply a U.S. mandate. But you can’t solve the underlying problem at the end of a barrel of a gun,” he said. “There’s got to be a deliberate and constant diplomatic effort to get the various factions to recognize that they are better off arriving at a peaceful resolution of their conflicts.”
GOP: ‘Obama can’t seem to make up his mind’
The Republican National Committee accused Obama of changing his position on the war.
“Barack Obama can’t seem to make up his mind,” said Amber Wilkerson, an RNC spokeswoman. “First he says that a quick withdrawal from Iraq would be ’a slap in the face’ to the troops, and then he votes to cut funding for our soldiers who are still in harm’s way. Americans are looking for principled leadership – not a rookie politician who is pandering to the left wing of his party in an attempt to win an election.”
Obama, who has expressed reservations about capital punishment but does not oppose it, said he would support the death penalty for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“The first thing I’d support is his capture, which is something this administration has proved incapable of achieving,” Obama said. “I would then, as president, order a trial that observed international standards of due process. At that point, do I think that somebody who killed 3,000 Americans qualifies as someone who has perpetrated heinous crimes, and would qualify for the death penalty. Then yes.”
Sex education for kindergartners?
In response to criticism from Republican Mitt Romney, Obama said the former Massachusetts governor was only trying to “score cheap political points” when he told a Colorado audience that Obama wanted sex education for kindergartners.
Video: Sex education for kindergarteners? “All I said was that I support the same laws that exist in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in which local communities and parents can make decisions to provide children with the information they need to deal with sexual predators,” Obama said.
Romney on Wednesday targeted Obama for supporting a bill during his term in the Illinois state Senate that would have, among other things, provided age-appropriate sex education for all students.
“How much sex education is age appropriate for a 5-year-old? In my mind, zero is the right number,” Romney said.
Obama said Romney was wrong to take the shot and incorrect on its basis.
“We have to deal with a coarsening of the culture and the over-sexualization of our young people. Look, I’ve got two daughters, 9 and 6 years old,” Obama told the AP. “Of course, part of the coarsening of that culture is when politicians try to demagogue issues to score cheap political points.”
“What we shouldn’t do is to try to play a political football with these issues and express them in ways that are honest and truthful,” Obama said. “Certainly, what we shouldn’t do is engage in hypocrisy.”
Romney himself once indicated support for similar programs that Obama supports.
In 2002, Romney told Planned Parenthood in a questionnaire that he also supported age-appropriate sex education. He checked yes to a question that asked: “Do you support the teaching of responsible, age-appropriate, factually accurate health and sexuality education, including information about both abstinence and contraception, in public schools?”
For many, it is difficult to decide whether Barack Obama is intentionally trying to destroy the United States or that he is doing so as a consequence of some type of ideology-induced stupidity.
The damage wrought through the implementation of his absurd and impractical liberal “solutions” to national problems is readily evident.
When Barack Obama was inaugurated on January 20, 2009 the national debt of the United States was $10,626,877,048,913. As of Jun 26, 2014, the debt was $17,512,592,730,102.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2007 on the eve of the recession, there were 146.6 million Americans working. Today, after six years of the Obama Administration, there are 145.8 million Americans in jobs, 800,000 below the previous peak. Since Obama came into office in 2009, 7.2 million people have left the workforce, making the true unemployment rate 8.3 percent, not 6.1 percent. Median household income is down almost $2,300 from what it was when Obama took office. Real wages are lower than they were in 1999. Growth in the first quarter of this year was a negative 2.9%, the biggest downward revision from the agency’s second GDP estimate since records began in 1976.
In April, prior to the present massive and growing surge in illegal minor immigration, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Obama has created an “open borders” situation by failing to enforce U.S. immigration law. One could fairly conclude that the current crisis was a deliberate policy decision because the Obama indicated that he would expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that offers amnesty for illegal immigrant children and provides an incentive for exactly the type of mass illegal invasion we are witnessing on our southern border.
There should be little doubt that Obama’s open borders policy is meant to fundamentally transform the country’s demographics, produce millions of additional Democratic voters and welfare recipients and permanently undermine the national security of the United States.
The ATF “Fast and Furious” scheme, likely designed to erode Second Amendment rights, allowed weapons from the U.S. to “walk” across the border into the hands of Mexican drug dealers. The ATF lost track of hundreds of firearms, many of which were used in crimes, including the December 2010 killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Obama’s IRS targeted his perceived political enemies, conservative and pro-Israel groups, prior to the 2012 election. Questions are being raised about why this occurred, who ordered it, whether there was any White House involvement and whether there was an initial effort to hide who knew about the targeting and when. Obama apparently lied when he told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” in IRS activities.
The Obama administration knew about allegations of secret waiting lists at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as early as 2010, although, on May 19, 2014, White House spokesman claimed Obama learned about the scandal only recently through press reports.
The unfolding sectarian violence in Iraq is just the latest crisis where the Obama administration seemingly has been caught off guard. From the Veterans Affairs scandal to Russia’s swift annexation of Crimea, news of the world somehow keeps taking Obama and his team by surprise. Or are they just lying to camouflage flawed or failed policies, which have harmed the United States?
The attack on our “consulate” in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 was perhaps the most egregious of Obama’s many foreign policy failures because four Americans needlessly died due to a failure to provide adequate protection both before and during the attack.
Obama falsely blamed an internet video as the cause of the attack to hide the truth: the resurgence of jihadists in Muslim Brotherhood-governed Egypt, the continuing demand for the Blind Sheikh’s release (which underscored the jihadists’ influence), and the very real danger that jihadists would attack the embassy (which demonstrated that al-Qaeda was anything but “decimated”).
It is likely that a clandestine operation supplying weapons through Turkey to the Syrian rebels was being run out of Benghazi. Efforts were made not to draw attention to what was happening there. That could explain why local militias were paid to provide security, why requests for increased security were denied and why the US military was either unprepared to respond or told not to do so.
A Benghazi cover-up may have also prevented a thorough examination of the possible passivity or complicity of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood government in the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi and the potentially dangerous consequences of arming Islamic factions in Syria over which the US has little control, where the weapons we supplied may someday be used against us.
It should be obvious that Obama lied about Benghazi, he lied about Obamacare, the IRS, the VA scandal and in countless other instances.
Nevertheless, the liberal media remain willfully ignorant, will not report the truth and continue to protect Obama, regardless of the costs to the country.
Obama will survive in office until public awareness of his administration’s treachery matches its level of incompetence and exceeds the media’s capacity to tolerate corruption.
Jimmy Carter made mistakes. Barack Obama, a creator of crises, practices deceit and the willful betrayal of trust.
It does matter whether the damage inflicted upon our country results from ineptitude or premeditation.
It is ideology-induced treachery.
On Tuesday, the Washington Post revealed a memorandum dated April 26, 2010, sent from the Deputy Undersecretary for Health for Operations and Management (10N) to Network Director (10N1-23). That memo spelled out 17 methods being used by VA hospitals to cover up long wait times. Those tactics included:
* Telling veterans to call back after 30 days so that they would not appear in the records as having waited longer than 30 days;
* Use of a manual logging system;
* Creation and cancellation of new patient visits, marking those cancellations as “cancelled by patient” rather than “cancelled by clinic.”
The list goes on and on.
The White House claimed that it was utterly unaware of the memo, although Dr. Robert Petzel, the top health official at the Veterans Administration, admitted, “It’s absolutely inexcusable.”
So, what did the Obama administration know and when did it know it?
It knew, according to a 2008 briefing memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs, that the waiting times reported from the VA were not reliable: “This is not only a data integrity issue in which [Veterans Health Administration] reports unreliable performance data; it affects quality of care by delaying – and potentially denying – deserving veterans timely care.” Such problems, the document stated, “are systemic throughout the VHA.”
In 2007, then-Senator Obama, running for president, acknowledged massive problems within the VA. “No veteran should have to fill out a 23-page claim to get care, or wait months – even years – to get an appointment at the VA,” he told the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He continued:
When we fail to keep faith with our veterans, the bond between our nation and our nation’s heroes becomes frayed. When a veteran is denied care, we are all dishonored. It’s not enough to lay a wreath on Memorial Day, or to pay tribute to our veterans in speeches. A proud and grateful nation owes more than ceremonial gestures and kind words.
Caring for those who serve – and for their families – is a fundamental responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief.
He concluded, “The VA will also be at the cutting edge of my plan for universal health care.”
But Obama now claims that he was only informed of bureaucratic snafus from the newspapers. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated that the Phoenix falsifications of wait lists were news to Obama:
We learned about them through the reports. I will double check if that is not the case. But that is when we learned about them and that is when I understand Secretary Shinseki learned about them, and he immediately took the action that he has taken.
Apparently he was reading the wrong newspapers. Problems with veteran wait times have been heavily covered by the media for years. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times wrote:
Some veterans wait up to six months to get their initial VA medical appointment. The typical veteran of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars waits 110 days for a disability claim to be processed, with a few waiting up to a year. For all veterans, the average wait is 161 days. The VA says a ruling on an appeal of a disability rating takes more than 600 days on average. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or IAVA, an advocacy group, says the average delay is 776 days. Up to 17% of veterans’ disability ratings are incorrect, the VA says. Thousands of dollars in disability payments hinge on the ratings, which are determined by the VA. The agency says it hopes to eventually cut the error rate to 2%.
In February 2013, lawmakers accused the VA of covering up five veteran deaths from Legionnaires’ disease, with Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) stating, “This has got the federal government’s footprints all over it. I am stunned at the coordination that took place and that is occurring at the highest levels of government to try and counter the blame.” The VA originally claimed that a minor Legionnaires’ outbreak had killed no one.
In March 2013, a whistleblower told the Daily Beast that the VA “routinely disseminated false information about the health of America’s veterans, withheld research showing a link between nerve gas and Gulf War syndrome, rushed studies out the door without taking recommended fixes by an independent board, and failed to offer crucial care to veterans who came forward as suicidal.” The whistleblower said that his bosses responded by attempting to intimidate and silence him, and that he was even admonished. He said that almost 2,000 suicidal veterans did not receive proper follow-up.
In November 2013, CNN reported:
Military veterans are dying needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. veterans hospitals… Military veterans are dying needlessly because of long waits and delayed care at U.S. veterans hospitals, a CNN investigation has found. What’s worse, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is aware of the problems and has done almost nothing to effectively prevent veterans dying from delays in care.”
CNN reported at least six patient deaths at just one facility. Money was even given to the VA to fix the problem. It wasn’t fixed. Debra Draper at the Government Accountability Office explained, “Long wait times and a weak scheduling policy and process have been persistent problems for the VA, and both the GAO and the VA’s (inspector general) have been reporting on these issues for more than a decade.”
So, what did President Obama know, and when did he know it? He knew plenty. And he had plenty of time to do something about it. He just didn’t. And crocodile tears now come too little too late.
This actually happened on the Senate floor this afternoon. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) asked for consent to take up and pass the Veterans Affairs Management Accountability Act, a bill that would make it easier/possible for the scandal-plagued department to fire employees based on poor performance. The House overwhelmingly passed the legislation on Wednesday, with a bipartisan vote of 390 to 33. (Only Democrats objected.)
Surely the Senate would follow suit, right? Not exactly. Senator Bernie Sanders, a union-backed socialist from Vermont, objected on behalf of Senate Democrats to Rubio’s request. Instead of taking any action now, Sanders said he is going to hold a hearing – several weeks from now.
Sanders, who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, has been one of the most outspoken defenders of the VA against allegations of misconduct. When asked about reports of multiple deaths related to long wait times at the VA healthcare system, Sanders told CNN: “People die every day.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) on Thursday offered a lukewarm assessment of the House-passed legislation, describing it as “not unreasonable.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) was not happy. “As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, I am disappointed, and – frankly – shocked that Senate Democratic leaders chose to block legislation that would hold VA managers accountable,” Boehner said in a statement. “As we head home to honor the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, it’s fair to ask why Senate Democrats won’t stand up for more accountability?”
The number of VA facilities under investigation after complaints about falsified records and treatment delays has more than doubled in recent days, the Office of Inspector General at the Veterans Affairs Department said late Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for the IG’s office said 26 facilities were being investigated nationwide. Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin told a Senate committee last week that at least 10 new allegations about manipulated waiting times and other problems had surfaced since reports of problems at the Phoenix VA hospital came to light last month.
The expanded investigations come as President Barack Obama’s choice to help carry out reforms at the Veterans Affairs Department was set to travel to Phoenix to meet with staff at the local VA office amid mounting pressure to overhaul the beleaguered agency.
Obama announced last week that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors would be assigned to the VA after allegations of delayed care that may have led to patient deaths and a cover-up by top administrators in Phoenix. Similar claims have been reported at VA facilities in Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Florida, and elsewhere.
Nabors met Tuesday in Washington with representatives of several veterans’ organizations, including the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans, among others. He will meet Thursday with leadership at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Medical Center, including with interim director Steve Young, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Young took over in Phoenix after director Sharon Helman was placed on leave indefinitely while the VA’s Office of Inspector General investigates claims raised by several former VA employees that Phoenix administrators kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide delays in care.
Critics say Helman was motivated to conceal delays to collect a bonus of about $9,000 last year.
A former clinic director for the VA in Phoenix first came out publicly with the allegations of secret lists in April. Dr. Samuel Foote, who retired in December after nearly 25 years with the VA, says that up to 40 veterans may have died while awaiting treatment at the Phoenix hospital. Investigators say they have so far not linked any patient deaths in Phoenix to delayed care.
The allegations have sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill and some calls for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation. The VA’s undersecretary for health care, Robert Petzel, has since stepped down.
However, Republicans denounced the move as a hollow gesture, since Petzel had already been scheduled to retire soon. And several lawmakers are proposing legislation to take on VA problems.
Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told The Associated Press on Tuesday he plans to introduce legislation this week to ensure that internal probes by the VA’s Office of Medical Inspector are released to Congress and the public “so the full scope of the VA’s dysfunction cannot be disguised.”
Moran noted that a VA nurse in Cheyenne, Wyoming, was put on leave this month for allegedly telling employees to falsify appointment records. The action came after an email about possible wait-list manipulation at the Cheyenne hospital was leaked to the media.
But Moran said the Cheyenne center was already the subject of a December 2013 report by Office of the Medical Inspector. That report apparently substantiated claims of improper scheduling practices, but it’s unclear if action taken at the Cheyenne center was based on the medical inspector’s findings, Moran said.
“Because OMI reports are not available to the public and have not been previously released to Congress, it is impossible to know whether the VA has taken action to implement the OMI’s recommendations for improvement in each case,” Moran said.
Meanwhile, two Republican senators introduced legislation to prohibit payment of bonuses to employees at the Veterans Health Administration through next year. Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Deb Fischer of Nebraska said the VA should focus its spending on fixing problems at the agency, “not rewarding employees entrenched in a failing bureaucracy.” Burr is the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Fischer is a panel member.
The House passed a bill in February eliminating performance bonuses for the department’s senior executive staff through 2018.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, also called on Obama to back off plans to nominate Jeffrey Murawsky to replace Petzel at the VA. Murawsky, a career VA administrator, directly supervised Helman from 2010 to 2012.
The White House has said Obama remains confident in Shinseki’s leadership and is standing behind Murawsky’s nomination.
Shinseki and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday to discuss how the two departments can improve interactions between their health records systems. The two Cabinet members said in a joint statement that the meeting was productive and that both men share the same goal – to improve health outcomes of active duty military, veterans and beneficiaries.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.) issued a blistering condemnation of the Obama administration for their handling of various scandals Wednesday in a statement to the press.
Blunt said there seems to be an endemic aversion at the White House to take responsibility for any of the scandals currently facing the administration. The Missouri senator listed the VA scandal, Serco Obamacare workers apparently being paid to do nothing, and the State Department’s obliviousness to the case of Meriam Ibrahim as instances where the Obama administration is simply failing to take responsibility.
Blunt was particularly apoplectic about the State Department being unaware of his letter concerning Ibrahim despite having it for four days. “This is a woman, one of her sentences in Sudan is to be flogged for marrying a non-Muslim. And the second after they flog her is to hang her for refusing to renounce her Christian faith,” he said.
“We don’t seem to be concerned about that. She and her toddler son are in a prison cell right now waiting for the baby to be born so the mother can be killed. And nobody in our government appears to want to say anything about it.”
President Obama’s plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs for the treatment of troops injured in service has infuriated veterans groups who say the government is morally obligated to pay for service-related medical care.
Calling it a “desperate search for money at any cost,” Craig Roberts, media relations manager for the American Legion, told FOXNews.com on Tuesday that the president will “wish away so much political capital on this issue” if he continues to insist on private coverage for service-related injuries.
Cmdr. David K. Rehbein of the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, called the president’s plan to raise $540 million from private insurers unreasonable, unworkable and immoral.
“This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle,’ given that the United States government sent members of the Armed Forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies,” Rehbein said late Monday after a meeting with the president and administration officials at the Veterans Affairs Department.
“I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service-connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America’s veterans,” Rehbein said.
Roberts said that 11 veterans service organizations were told to come up with another plan if they didn’t like this one. The groups met on Monday with Obama, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Office of Management and Budget defense spending chief Steven Kosiak.
“What we’ve been tasked with now is to raise this money through alternative means and we’re supposed to have a conference call in two or three days… with Rahm Emanuel. So the implication was… you guys come up with a better idea or this is what’s going to happen,” Roberts said.
A summary of the proposed budget says the president wants to increase funding for VA by $25 billion over five years, and bring more than 500,000 eligible veterans of modest income into the VA health care system by 2013.
However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that no plans have been enumerated yet about veterans health care.
“Let me not make the case for a decision that this administration hasn’t made yet regarding the final disposition or decision on third-party billing as it relates to service-related injuries,” he said.
“The veteran service organizations… can have confidence that the budget the president has proposed represents an historic increase in discretionary spending to take care of our wounded warriors, those that have been sent off to war, have protected our freedom, and have come back wounded,” Gibbs continued.
But Roberts said the president’s plan would increase premiums, make insurance unaffordable for veterans and impose a massive hardship on military families. It could also prevent small businesses from hiring veterans who have large health care needs, he said.
“The president’s avowed purpose in doing this is to, quote, ‘make the insurance companies pay their fair share,'” Roberts said. “It’s not the Blue Cross that puts soldiers in harm’s way, it’s the federal government.”
Roberts said that the American Legion would like the existing system to remain in place. Service-related injuries currently are treated and paid for by the government. The American Legion has proposed that Medicare reimburse the VA for the treatment of veterans.
He added that the argument about the government’s moral obligation to treat wounded soldiers, sailors and Marines fell on deaf ears during the meeting.
“The president deflected any discussion when it got into any moral issue here,” he said. “Any attempt to direct the conversation (to the moral discussion) was immediately deflected.”
Private insurance is separate for troops who need health care unrelated to their service. But Roberts noted that if a wounded warrior comes back and needs ongoing treatment, he or she could run up “to the max of the coverage in very short order,” leaving his family with nothing
Roberts added that how the plan would raise $540 million “is a great mystery and it seems to be an arbitrary number… The commander said it seemed like this phantom number.”
Monday’s meeting was preceded by a letter of protest earlier this month signed by Rehbein and the heads of 10 service organizations. It read that “there is simply no logical explanation” for the plan to bill veterans’ personal insurance “for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide.”
The letter called it “unconscionable” to shift the burden of the country’s “fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country.” Rehbein testified to both the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees on those same points last week
US veterans started receiving letters from the government last year informing them that they are disabled and not allowed to own, purchase or possess a firearm. If the veteran does decide to purchase a firearm he will by fined, imprisoned or both.
This comes on page 2 of the VA letter.
Here is the full copy of the letter-
Here is page 1 of the letter:
Here is page 2:
The majority of US veterans receive basically the same letter. Many of the veterans do not even know the VA declared them incompetent. The targeted veterans say the VA offers an appeals process but then does not share required information.
VA Benefits Administrators are the ones making these declarations against veterans robbing them of their due process rights and arbitrarily submitting their names to the FBI’s NICS database without cause and many times without a veteran’s knowledge.
This is an outrage!
Last April the United States Justice Foundation (USJF) filed a suit against the Obama Administration on behalf of these abused veterans.
Katharine Russ reported:
The United States Justice Foundation (USJF) has filed the first lawsuit of what promises to be a string of lawsuits in the US District Court for the Southern District of California against the US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)…
…Current policies of the VA have caused more than 129,000 veterans to, arbitrarily, be deprived of their Second Amendment Rights to own firearms without due process simply because they were declared financially “incompetent.”
These arbitrary policies, in no way, consider whether a veteran represents a danger to themselves or to others.
It is, unequivocally, unsound and irrational thinking that sends our young men and women off to war and expects them to come home “whole.” Most veterans experience minor depression, minor PTSD, and even minor short-term memory loss when they return home but can still function- competently.
No court would find them incompetent and strip them of their second amendment rights for such minor diagnoses unless they were proven to be a detriment to society. In some these cases, the VA does not even offer reasons or evidence for such a Determination.
It is outrageous to think that over 100,000 US veterans are the victims of this sort of abuse.
US veterans deserve the same Constitutional rights as the rest of us.
The definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over while getting the same result. During the early 2000’s, the government – and Wall Street – urged banks and mortgage companies to lower their standards and give creative loans to people with bad or marginal credit. The result? An epic meltdown that we are still trying to recover from today.
In the last few years, Wall Street has once again begun to gamble recklessly in the mortgage security market. And now we find out that the administration is pushing home loans for those same marginal consumers.
The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.
President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.
In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs – including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration – that insure home loans against default.
Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.
Officials are also encouraging lenders to use more subjective judgment in determining whether to offer a loan and are seeking to make it easier for people who owe more than their properties are worth to refinance at today’s low interest rates, among other steps.
Obama pledged in his State of the Union address to do more to make sure more Americans can enjoy the benefits of the housing recovery, but critics say encouraging banks to lend as broadly as the administration hopes will sow the seeds of another housing disaster and endanger taxpayer dollars.
“If that were to come to pass, that would open the floodgates to highly excessive risk and would send us right back on the same path we were just trying to recover from,” said Ed Pinto, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former top executive at mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
Banks and mortgage companies are extremely leery of lending to these customers because the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill criminalized the process. If a consumer defaults on a loan, they can go to the new enforcement agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and lodge a complaint against the lender that they were had – they didn’t understand the terms of the loan. If found guilty, the offender can go to prison for a long time. This is a decided discouragement against giving loans to people who are likely to default.
So what’s the rush? if consumers have “weak” credit as a result of the recession, let them build it back up by living within their means and paying their bills on time. And why should the taxpayer be on the hook for someone who has demonstrated in the past that they are irresponsible?
There are still millions of unsold housing units out there with the prospect that many of them will never be inhabited again. Some neighborhoods in Florida and Nevada still look like ghost towns. This is hardly the time to be pushing marginal credit risks into taking tens of thousands of dollars in new debt.
September 27, 2012
Ironically, Barack Obama led the effort that caused the mess that needs cleaning up. Barack Obama was a pioneering contributor to the national subprime real estate bubble – the attack dog that terrorized banks to make mortgage loans that they did not want to make. According to research by TheDailyCaller, about half of the 186 African-American clients in President Obama’s landmark 1995 mortgage discrimination lawsuit against Citibank have since gone bankrupt or received foreclosure notices. As few as 19 of those 186 clients still own homes with clean credit ratings, following a decade in which Obama and other progressives pushed banks to provide “booby trap” adjustable rate mortgages to poor African Americans.
The origins of our current Great Recession began neither with the Obama Administration, nor the Bush Administration, but with the Clinton Administration. In June 1995 President Clinton introduced his National Homeownership Strategy, which included the expansion of Credit Default Swaps (CDSs). President Clinton, Vice President Gore and Secretary Cisneros announced the administration’s comprehensive new strategy for raising home-ownership in America to an all-time high. Representatives from ACORN were guests of honor at the ceremony. In his remarks, Clinton emphasized that: “Our homeownership strategy will not cost the taxpayers one extra cent. It will not require legislation.” Clinton meant that informal partnerships between Fannie and Freddie and groups like ACORN would make mortgages available to customers “who have historically been excluded from homeownership.”
When President Clinton introduced his National Homeownership Strategy in June 1995, no one realized it would create the path of doom that would have such a long-term devastating effect on the economy, particularly for millions of Americas who experienced foreclosure. The volume of foreclosures, and foreclosure trends, are telling and underappreciated economic indicators for the American economy. Foreclosures accelerated as the Housing Price Bubble began to form in 1997. Based on Realty Trac, Federal Reserve, Equifax sources, in the last year of the Clinton Administration foreclosures were already on the rise even though the economy was expanding (470,000 foreclosures in 2000). The legacy of the National Homeownership Strategy would be millions of foreclosures during the Bush and then Obama Administrations.
As the table below shows, foreclosures still have not peaked. During the first three years of the Obama Administration, there have been 11,221,609 foreclosures that are expected to continue its trend upward in 2012 (for a 4 year total of approximately 16 million).
|Year||Foreclosures||Foreclosure Filings||Home Repossessions|
Barack Obama and the Citibank Lawsuit
It is important to note that the last four years of the Clinton term experienced a housing boom, driven primarily by subprime homeownership, which helped balance the budget, create millions of jobs in housing, and eliminated unnecessary entitlements. Unfortunately the nation is now paying for the ill-fated redistribution of wealth policies of Obama, Clinton, and other progressives. Their Subprime Social Engineering experiment lead to the real estate market collapse and Great Recession (2007-12) that we are mired in today, and will be for several more years.
Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act in 1977. Congress repeatedly expanded the law, and in combination with Clinton’s regulators, effectively gave liberals in government the power to greatly harm a bank’s business if it did not increase minority mortgages. Citibank felt this pressure when it sought federal approval for a merger with Travelers Group in 1998. It only got approval from the Clinton administration after it promised to provide \$115 billion for subprime homeownership loans. Before striking its deal with the Clinton Administration, Citibank needed to get rid of the Chicago lawsuit by paying off Barack Obama and the other Chicago lawyers: the settlement provided \$950,000 for the lawyers, \$20,000 for each of the three named plaintiffs, and \$360,000 for the 183 other clients. (The \$1,965per client was not in cash, but coupons.) Although legal fees are customarily 33% of settlements, in this case, the team of Obama lawyers take was 66%.
“I think that the responsibility that the Democrats had may rest more in resisting any efforts by Republicans in the Congress, or by me when I was President, to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” – Former President Bill Clinton (D-AR), September 25, 2008
“Like a lot of my Democratic colleagues I was too slow to appreciate the recklessness of Fannie and Freddie. I defended their efforts to encourage affordable homeownership when in retrospect I should have heeded the concerns raised by their regulator in 2004. Frankly, I wish my Democratic colleagues would admit when it comes to Fannie and Freddie, we were wrong.” – Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL), September 30, 2008
Presidents Clinton and Obama, Senators Reid and Dodd, Congressman Barney Frank, and the liberal media all owe an apology to former President Bush for not heeding his warning about reforming Fannie and Freddie. After only a few months in office, in April 2001, the Bush Administration’s first budget (FY02 budget) declares that the size of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is “a potential problem,” because “financial trouble of a large GSE could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting Federally insured entities and economic activity.” The need for Freddie and Fannie reform was repeated at least 17 more times by Bush Administration officials.
When the Bush Administration came into office in January 2001, the subprime mortgage market was already a freight train that long ago left the station. Subprime mortgage activity grew an average 25% a year from 1994 to 2003, with the industry accounted for about \$330 billion, or 9%, of U.S. mortgages in 2003, up from \$35 billion a decade earlier. The Mortgage Bankers Association of America (MBAA) reported that subprime loans in the third quarter of 2002 had a delinquency rate 5 1/2 times higher than that for prime loans (14.28 versus 2.54 percent) and the rate at which foreclosures were begun for subprime loans was more than 10 times that for prime loans (2.08 versus 0.20 percent).
Aided by Barack Obama and ACORN foot soldiers, the Clinton Administration actions of creating and pushing subprime mortgages has had a devastating effect on all American homeowners. Americans bought homes at inflated prices, which were further driven up by unscrupulous lenders and speculators. Collapse was inevitable. The resulting tremendous drain on wealth threatens the ability of families to send their children to college, and have any type of nest egg for retirement. This is just another example of Democratic politicians misguided social engineering interference in a market. Their interference not only did not work, but left us with a legacy of economic hardship and devastation.
And to think that President Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy never would have happened if President Clinton did not win election in 1992, and reelection in 1996. Today we face an even more perilous economic future if we reelect President Obama, whose vampire socialism policies are only likely to continue to hurt all Americans, especially the poor and middle class.
Unfortunately, in a few short years, President Obama has done more harm than good. In particular, during the 2009 Christmas media lull, President Obama issued a series of Executive Orders that further distorted the real estate market:
Increased the amount – from $400 billion to unlimited – that the US federal government would commit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the event those agencies/companies could no longer service the mortgages it held/guaranteed.
Deregulated the total amount of mortgages that Fannie and Freddie can own or guarantee, enabling the GSEs to fully return to the lower-quality, higher-risk segments of the mortgage market. Fannie and Freddie currently finance roughly three-quarters of all new mortgages.
Empowered the Treasury Department to pressure the GSEs to hold more subprime/non-performing mortgages, instead of clearing the risk off their balance sheets. According to Edward Pinto, Fannie’s chief credit officer during the Reagan Administration, “They’ve (the Obama Adminstration) cleared the decks to use Fannie and Freddie as a vessel for whatever they want.”
Regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac management, Kenneth Feinberg, an Obama Administration official, made statements supporting multi-million-dollar incentive-based compensation packages for senior executives, citing the unique stresses of the jobs. Sadly, these are the exact same type of compensation packages that were identified by regulators as prime enablers of the housing/financial crisis. (http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2009/12/31/obamas-pay-czar-defends-fannie-freddie-compensation-deals)
Despite President Obama’s Executive Orders giving Fannie and Freddie access to unlimited funding, and the September 13, 2012 Federal Reserve announcement to buy $40 billion in mortgages a month (already were buying $25 billion), U.S. foreclosures will probably surpass a record 4 million in 2012 and continue to trend upward. As many Americans are instinctively aware, an Obama reelection and 4 more years of Obama Administration intervention will only further threaten our capitalist system. If you still have any doubts, ask any small, medium or large business person.
Subprime Economic Analysis The Affordable Mortgage Depression by Whitney Ross http://theaffordablemortgagedepression.com/2010/03/11/origin-of-the-housing-bubble-the-national-homeownership-strategy.aspx Housing Bubble, Financial Crisis – What Happened, Who is Responsible by T.J. Hancock http://tjhancock.wordpress.com/housing-bubble-financial-crisis-detailed-comprehensive-assessment The Nature and the Origin of the Subprime Mortgage Crisis by Thayer Watkins http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/subprime.htm Foreclosure Rates US Census 1990-2010 http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s1194.pdf Barack Obama Connection With landmark lawsuit, Barack Obama pushed banks to give subprime loans to Chicago’s African-Americans by Neil Munro September 3, 2012 http://dailycaller.com/2012/09/03/with-landmark-lawsuit-barack-obama-pushed-banks-to-give-subprime-loans-to-chicagos-african-americans/6 Subprime Bubble: Obama ‘Vampire Socialism’ Built It; Investment Business Daily Editorial 9/4/12 http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/090412-624522-obama-launched-subprime-crisis-with-lawsuit.htm?p=full
In a story that’s been largely buried by the media for years upon years – and was doubly buried in the aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack on September 11 resulting in the death of four Americans – the New York Times is now reporting that US-approved arms that were supposed to go to Libya rebels went to Islamist terrorists. Even more importantly, the Obama administration knew about it before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks. The Times reports:
No evidence has emerged linking the weapons provided by the Qataris during the uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to the attack that killed four Americans at the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in September.
But in the months before, the Obama administration clearly was worried about the consequences of its hidden hand in helping arm Libyan militants, concerns that have not previously been reported. The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya, allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government…
The United States, which had only small numbers of C.I.A. officers on the ground in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments. Within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, the White House began receiving reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups
This was clearly a risk in arming the rebels in the first place. As Breitbart News reported, Benghazi was controlled by terrorist group Ansar Al-Shariah. And terrorists like Sufyan Ben Qumu, who was originally rumored to be the planner of the Benghazi attack (sources later denied he was the planner), were armed and supplied by the United States in their war against Muammar Qadaffi.
If, in fact, US-funneled weapons were used in the Benghazi attack and the administration knew about it, that would explain their initial attempt to position the Benghazi attack as a spontaneous riot gone amiss. It’s one thing to hand guns to Libyan rebels who later go crazy about a YouTube video – that’s at least mildly justifiable. It’s radically unjustifiable to hand over weapons to terrorists, who then go on to plan attacks against the United States.
Now we’re learning that yesterday, you know, on 9/11, MTV confirmed that although Obama can’t find time to meet with Netanyahu, he has found time to attend a fundraiser with Jay-Z and Beyonce:
Entertainment Weekly confirmed Tuesday (September 11) that Hov and wife Beyoncé will host a fundraiser for President Obama at the rapper’s 40/40 Club in Manhattan next Tuesday. The president will be in attendance at the 100-guest event, with ticket prices hitting $40,000 per guest. Reportedly, it will be Obama’s last fundraising event in New York City before the November 6 election.
Maybe if Netanyahu changed his name to The “Pimp with the Limp,” Obama might find some time for him.
On the last night of the Democratic National Convention, a retired Navy four-star took the stage to pay tribute to veterans. Behind him, on a giant screen, the image of four hulking warships reinforced his patriotic message.
But there was a big mistake in the stirring backdrop: those are Russian warships.
While retired Adm. John Nathman, a former commander of Fleet Forces Command, honored vets as America’s best, the ships from the Russian Federation Navy were arrayed like sentinels on the big screen above.
These were the very Soviet-era combatants that Nathman and Cold Warriors like him had once squared off against.
“The ships are definitely Russian,” said noted naval author Norman Polmar after reviewing hi-resolution photos from the event. “There’s no question of that in my mind.”
Naval experts concluded the background was a photo composite of Russian ships that were overflown by what appear to be U.S. trainer jets. It remains unclear how or why the Democratic Party used what’s believed to be images of the Russian Black Sea Fleet at their convention.
A spokesman for the Democratic National Convention Committee was not able to immediately comment Tuesday, saying he had to track down personnel to find out what had happened.
The veteran who spotted the error and notified Navy Times said he was immediately taken aback.
“I was kind of in shock,” said Rob Barker, 38, a former electronics warfare technician who left the Navy in 2006. Having learned to visually identify foreign ships by their radars, Barker recognized the closest ship as the Kara-class cruiser Kerch.
“An immediate apology [from the committee] would be very nice,” Barker said. “Maybe acknowledge the fact that yes, they screwed up.”
The background – featured in the carefully choreographed hour leading up to the president’s Sept. 6 speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination – showed four ships with radar designs not used in the U.S. fleet.
For example, the ship in the foreground, on the far right, has a square radar antenna at the top of its masthead. That is the MR-700 Podberezovik 3-D early warning radar, commonly identified as “Flat Screen” for its appearance, a three-dimensional early warning radar mounted on the Kerch, said Eric Wertheim, editor of “Combat Fleets of the World.”
Similarly, the third ship has a MR-310 “Head Net” air search radar, shaped like two off-set bananas, at its masthead and is mostly likely the guided missile destroyer Smetlivyy. The first two ships seem to be Krivak-class frigates, but it’s hard to discern from the silhouette, experts said.
But the fact they are Russian ships is not in doubt. In addition to the ship’s radar arrays and hulls, which are dissimilar from U.S. warships, the photo features one more give-away: a large white flag with a blue ‘X’ at the ships’ sterns.
Polmar, who authored “The Naval Institute Guide to the Soviet Navy,” recognized the blue ‘X’-mark: “The X is the Cross of St. Andrew’s, which is a Russian Navy symbol,” Polmar said. (An anchored U.S. warship, by contrast, flies the American flag on its stern.)
Based on this specific group of these ship types, one naval expert concluded that this was most likely a photo of the Black Sea Fleet.
“Ships are all Black Sea Fleet,” A. D. Baker III, a retired Office of Naval Intelligence analyst, told Navy Times after looking at the image. “These four ships, at the time the photo was taken, constituted the entire major surface combatant component of the Black Sea Fleet,” Baker said, noting the photo was likely to be six years old or older. (The Kerch is now on the list to be scrapped, Baker said.)
Barker, the former sailor who first spotted the errors, believes the seven aircraft streaking by are F-5 jets, a trainer used by the U.S. Navy. Asked to explain how he reached that conclusion, the former airplane spotter ticked off a list: “Twin engine, single rudder, with hard points on the wingtips, with that silhouette is going to make them F-5s.”
Prof. Robert F. Shedinger, the head of the religion department at Luther College in Iowa, told ITCTV back in 2010 that Jesus was a Muslim.
(Mohammed was born six centuries after Christ!)
This crackpot is still pushing his nonsensical thesis that Jesus was a Muslim.
The head of the religion department at Luther College in Iowa recently argued that Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, was in fact, a Muslim.
“‘Was Jesus a Muslim?” asks Prof. Robert F. Shedinger in the beginning of a book he published this year entitled Was Jesus a Muslim? ” I will answer with a very qualified yes.”
In a recent interview Shedinger also defended his controversial thesis explaining that a Muslim undergraduate student had sent him on academic odyssey that culminated with him asking himself “Was Jesus a Muslim?”
“Even as a Christian I have to answer yes to that,” said Shedinger, who is the head of the religion department at Luther College in Iowa.
Shedinger also argued that Islam is a better fit for Jesus since it is not a religion but a “social justice movement.”
“I had to rethink what Islam is… I came to the conclusion that it was a social justice movement and I think that’s who Jesus was in the first century so I conclude Jesus is more like a Muslim,” he said.
The vast majority of scholars, historians, Muslims, and Christians date the birth of Islam to 622 ADE when the Prophet Muhammad claimed to have received visions that were eventually compiled into the Koran. Jesus, on the other hand, is believed to have existed more than 600 years earlier, at around 0 BCE.
The Obama Administration proposed a $3.73 trillion budget today. The administration also said they expect the Obama deficit to grow to a record $1.65 trillion this year.
Barack Obama tripled the national deficit in one year. Last year it was at $1.29 Trillion dollars. This year it will be even higher.
And next year the deficit is also expected to be over $1 trillion dollars for the fourth straight year in a row.
President Obama is sending a $3.73 trillion budget to Congress today.
The AP reported:
President Barack Obama is sending Congress a $3.73 trillion spending blueprint that pledges $1.1 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through spending cuts and tax increases.
Obama’s new budget projects that the deficit for the current year will surge to an all-time high of $1.65 trillion. That reflects a sizable tax-cut agreement reached with Republicans in December. For 2012, the administration sees the imbalance declining to $1.1 trillion, giving the country a record four straight years of $1 trillion-plus deficits.
Senior administration officials say Obama would achieve two-thirds of his projected savings through spending cuts that include a five-year freeze on many domestic programs. The other one-third of the savings would come from tax increases, including limits on tax deductions for high-income taxpayers.
Even before Obama’s new budget for 2012 was unveiled on Monday, Republicans were complaining that it did not go far enough. They branded Obama’s budget solutions as far too timid for a country facing an unprecedented flood of red ink that has pushed annual deficits to all-time highs above $1 trillion.
“We’re broke,” House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He was defending a Republican effort not only to squeeze more savings out of Obama’s 2012 budget but also to seek $61 billion in cuts for the current budget year.
The Obama Administration say they intend to get two-thirds of the $1.1 trillion in savings from spending cuts and one-third from tax revenues. That comes to $367 billion in tax hikes.
Swing batter, batter, batter… SWING!
The White House yesterday leaked the news that the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had begun cooperating with FBI interrogators last week. The Washington press corps quickly declared victory for the Obama administration and suggested that the news vindicated the decision to read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights just 10 hours after he was detained and after just 50 minutes of questioning.
It’s good news that Abdulmutallab is talking.
But he started talking five weeks after the attack. Intelligence is perishable. The U.S. government passed on an opportunity to interrogate him at a time when his al Qaeda sponsors in Yemen probably thought he was incapable of talking. And the the fact that he is cooperating now should not obscure the gross mishandling of the incident by the Obama administration.
For those capable of looking beyond the White House spin, the hearing yesterday raised more troubling questions than it answered.
*For days the Obama administration has tried to convince reporters that Abdulmutallab stopped talking before he was Mirandized. Accounts in both the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post in recent days carried that claim. Three sources familiar with the interrogations told TWS that those claims were incorrect. And yesterday FBI Robert Mueller acknowledged that that Abdulmutallab stopped talking “after he was given” Miranda warnings.
*That’s important. One of the greatest concerns about the handling of Abdulmutallab is that FBI interrogators — in their initial 50 minute interview — questioned him without the benefit of the information the U.S. intelligence community had collected on him in the six months prior to his attack. Mueller confirmed this, saying, “we did not have much information at 3:30,” when Abdulmutallab was initially questioned. Mueller testified that they had gathered more information on Abdulmutallab to use in his second interrogation. But when the “clean team” met with Abdulmutallab some five hours later to read him his rights, he stopped talking. So despite the fact that the intelligence community had compiled a dossier on Abdulmutallab — which included information from his father and from intercepts — none of that information was used to question him for five weeks after he was detained.
*In testimony before the Senate Homeland Security Committee two weeks ago, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair testified that the FBI interrogation of Abdulmutallab was a “mistake.” Blair and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan were said to be angry that Abdulmutallab had been Mirandized so quickly and that an opportunity to collect valuable intelligence had been lost. That changed abruptly on Tuesday. As Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) questioned FBI Director Mueller, Blair interrupted to offer his unsolicited opinion that “the balance struck was a good balance.” Blair is supposed to be the independent voice of the intelligence community — and many intelligence professional remain dismayed at the botched handling of Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day. Why did Blair, the nation’s top intelligence official, change his mind?
*Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) asked Dennis Blair about a claim from top White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, that he was “surprised” al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula could attack the United States. Feingold wanted to know if we should have been surprised by the attack. “We had some indication that they were planning attacks on the U.S. homeland,” he said. What were those indications? Why didn’t Brennan know about them?
These new questions and contradictions would have occasioned front-page, fact-checking treatment if they’d taken place under George W. Bush. But not now. Last week, the White House argued that the FBI had gotten everything they could out of Abdulmutallab in their 50-minutes of interrogation. Today, the same White House is boasting about the valuable intelligence they are getting from him. And the White House press corps reports it without skepticism.
There are reasons to be skeptical beyond the obvious, inherent contradictions in those claims. The Obama administration has mishandled the response to Abdulmutallab from the beginning, when the White House message machine tried to convince the country that “the system worked.”
Four top U.S. counterterrorism officials — including Mueller, Blair, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter — were not consulted about whether to handle Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant or a criminal. Leiter went on vacation the day after the attack. John Brennan, the top White House counterterrorism adviser, told him he could go. Three days after the attack, despite copious evidence that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was involved, President Obama declared the attempted bombing the work of “an isolated extremist.” Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, said that she was surprised by AQAP’s “determination” to attack the U.S. homeland and shocked to learn that they would send an individual, not a group, to carry out the deed. DNI Blair told Congress that an elite interrogation team should have questioned Abdulmutallab — only to amend his remarks hours later to acknowledge that the new unit does not exist.
Let’s hope Abdulmutallab is talking with the candor the White House suggests. And the FBI deserves credit for using Abdulmutallab’s family to gain his cooperation. But serious problems remain.
The Obama administration’s law-enforcement first strategy has thoroughly confused those whose job it is to keep us safe. Intelligence officials — both at home and abroad — have told members of Congress that they do not have clarity on even the most basic procedures to follow upon capturing and detaining terrorists.
It’s not hard to see why. At the end of the hearing yesterday, Senator Bond asked DNI Blair whether the U.S. government would have to read Miranda rights to Osama bin Laden if he were captured. He paused. The scene was reminiscent of a hearing last fall, when Senator Lindsey Graham posed the same question to Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder’s response: “It depends.”
After thinking for a moment, Blair chuckled and said he would “very much hope” that the intelligence community would have an opportunity to “squeeze all the information” out of bin Laden. Bond, clearly taken aback by the non-answer, asked him again.
Blair’s response: No comment.
So in the space of six months, the nation’s top law enforcement official and the nation’s top intelligence official have refused to rule out reading Miranda rights to terrorists.
Are we at war?
A 78-year-old Hallandale Beach grandmother ticketed for driving on a suspended driver’s license spent 15 days in jail before authorities announced her license wasn’t suspended and an outraged judge set her free.
County Court Judge Lee J. Seidman ordered Gabrielle Shaink Trudeau’s release in December at her arraignment.
“She’s handcuffed like Houdini, for the record. She’s got chains around her waist, and she’s got handcuffs in front around her hands as if she was some kind of a violent criminal,” said Seidman, according to a transcript. “I want her released. I think she’s suffered enough at our system’s mistakes.”
Safeguards built into Broward’s judicial system are designed to prevent what happened to Shaink Trudeau. But the prolonged jailing of an elderly woman with no previous criminal record over a traffic ticket has left red-faced authorities admitting they botched her case.
“We fell down and we fell down badly,” said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein, better known to South Florida television viewers as WSVN-Ch. 7’s “Help me Howard.”
Foul-ups and inaction are what kept the frail and passive senior behind bars for the first time in her life. Those missteps were largely, but not entirely, the result of Finkelstein’s office — the very office whose job it is to look out for indigents like Trudeau.
Two assistant public defenders who staff Broward’s magistrate court neglected to represent Shaink Trudeau during her initial appearance in magistrate’s court the morning after her Nov. 18 arrest, Finkelstein said. And contrary to office procedure, no public defender went to meet with Shaink Trudeau at the Broward County Jail.
“It was almost like she was invisible. I deeply apologize to this woman,” said Finkelstein.
Shaink Trudeau was having a bad 2009 even before a police officer pulled her over in the 1000 block of West Hallandale Beach Boulevard on Sept. 7 for driving her 1995 green Mercury sedan too slowly.
Neighbors at the Lone Pine Mobile Country Club West said the former waitress lost about $20,000 — nearly all her money — to a Jamaican land sale scheme and that the trailer park was taking steps to evict her because she could no longer pay the rent. Shaink Trudeau confirmed that account in an interview late last week at the assisted living facility in Hollywood where she now resides.