A conservative group backed by several Fox News contributors has pulled ads featuring footage of murdered journalist James Foley after his family sharply criticized the campaign as “deplorable.”
Secure America Now (SAN) had been running advertisements attacking Democratic candidates with footage of Foley’s beheading at the hands of ISIS. Foley’s parents told New England Cable News (NECN) that the ads are “very sad” and “deplorable,” and called for them to be pulled with an apology.
The group announced on October 15 that it would launch advocacy campaigns featuring the Foley footage in ads against Democratic Senators Mark Pryor (AR), Mark Udall (CO), Mary Landrieu (LA), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), and Congressman Gary Peters (MI). Secure America Now president Allen Roth said that “Pryor, Udall, Landrieu, Shaheen, and Peters have all ignored the crisis at our southern border. While evading efforts of those attempting to secure the border, they have silently supported President Obama’s rumored amnesty plans.” The group also posted on Facebook that day, “Watch the ad that’s got the left riled up. Help us get it out, SHARE this video now.”
Roth later told NECN, “It has been brought to our attention that a news report image of American hostage James Foley that appeared in a Secure America Now video has upset his parents, so we have decided to take the video down. It was never our attention to upset Mr. Foley’s family and we apologize for any pain we inadvertently caused.”
SAN used the Foley ad to fundraise. An October 15 email stated, “With your help, we can finally capture the attention of these ignorant few. Every dollar you donate will go directly to advocating for border security in the Senate race of your choice” and included links to donation pages featuring the now-removed ads.
The group’s advisory board includes Fox News host Mike Huckabee and Fox News contributors John Bolton and Pat Caddell. Despite claiming to be “non-partisan,” the group has previously been involved in projects pushing for President Obama’s impeachment and more investigations into the already thoroughly-investigated attacks in Benghazi.
Bolton previously defended the use of the Foley video in other campaign advertising. Commenting to The Hill in early October about a Republican House candidate’s ad, Bolton said that ”When you hear people say, ‘Oh you shouldn’t run ads on that issue,’ to me it demonstrates fear of the issue … if we don’t talk about it as adults we’re never going to understand the problem fully.”
NECN reported that Roth said “SAN board members are not involved in creating ads, nor do they see them before they go public. Roth says Bolton had nothing to do with this.” Regardless, Fox News contributors like Bolton are integral to establishing the group’s credentials, as the group touts their advisory board membership and testimonials.
Fox News contributor Allen West claims followers of the Islamic State are using the “progressive socialist tactic of ‘trolls’” to harass members of the military.
In an October 9 post to his website, the former Republican congressman highlighted reporting from Fox News about Islamic State sympathizers harassing military personnel and their families online. According to West, the online supporters “learned” from progressives how to “flood a website or Facebook account with vile and insidious comments.”
He continued, arguing that the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is using the “exact same tactics” as Media Matters and the progressive website Daily Kos:
It normally begins with some leftist central command, such as Media Matters or Daily Kos, to issue a call of attack — and the mindless lemmings follow, normally completely devoid of any knowledge or understanding of a topic. It is the leftist progressive tactic of instilling fear, coercion and intimidation. And ISIS is following suit, using the exact same tactics.
As Media Matters explained when a Washington Post piece floated West as the new head of the Secret Service, West has a constantly expanding list of incendiary commentary, including:
- Calling President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder “the most vile and disgusting racists.”
- Claiming “Barack Hussein Obama has an Islamist sympathy … I don’t understand where this president’s loyalties lie, and I have to ask the question, whose side is he on?”
- Declining to dispute an audience member who falsely claimed that “Obama is a Muslim.” Instead, West responded that he’s “not going to get into that” but the president “has an Eastern orientation, I’ll put it that way.”
- Arguing that the “Democrat Party is an anti-Semitic party.”
- Accusing Democrats of being Nazis, communists, and modern-day slaveholders.
H/T: Ben Dimiero at MMFA
Secret Service director resigns
New York Times: U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced.
Several major security breaches have recently become public and Pierson faced criticism during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.
Photo: Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, answered questions at a House committee hearing regarding security protocols. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and former general Robert Dees appeared on a foreign policy panel at the Values Voter Summit this morning, where they and their fellow panelists spent a good amount of time discussing the 2012 Benghazi attack and President Obama’s supposed un-American attitude.
Dees said that Common Core is also a threat to America’s security, saying that the school standards initiative, just like the White House account of Benghazi, is a left-wing effort to promote “historical revisionism” that undermines the country’s “spiritual infrastructure.”
“The historical revisionism that we see in Benghazi is symptomatic of historical revisionism we see across our country, across the world of politics and even in the Common Core curriculum of the Obama administration,” he said, claiming White House officials “change the truth to fit our liberal agenda objectives.”
Meadows, for his part, mocked government officials who are concerned about climate change’s implications for national security: “How ridiculous is that when you have our fighting men and women, they get up and they say, ‘man it’s a little chilly, maybe today is the day that we’ve got to worry about climate change.’ It’s just ridiculous.”
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Bill O’Reilly has an idea: employ an “anti-terror army” of 25,000 “English-speaking” mercenaries to take on all terrorists around the world.
Thankfully, U.S. Naval War College Professor Tom Nichols didn’t hesitate to decimate O’Reilly’s “terrible idea” while appearing on Fox:
It’s a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security. This is something Americans are going to have to do for themselves. We’re not going to solve this problem by creating an army of Marvel’s Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy. We’re gonna have to do it ourselves.
While the U.S. certainly used mercenaries before, the national security expert pointed out that we’ve never used them “to do the bulk of our fighting.”
Update: On CBS News, Bill O’Reilly stood by his suggestion, saying that a mercenary force would "take the politics out of it." He predicted, "It’s going to happen. This anti-terror army is going to happen."
Because we all know how well it works out when the U.S. wages a war against a faceless, shapeless enemy, justifying military intervention in any part of the world…
With the House Select Committee on Benghazi scheduled to convene for its first public hearing tomorrow, Media Matters is unveiling All Questions Answered, the definitive user’s guide to the committee that demonstrates how conservative inquiries into the 2012 attacks have been litigated over and over again.
You can read All Questions Answered at BenghaziHoax.com, a new Media Matters website featuring our latest research and curating nearly 1,000 pieces we have produced over the past two years chronicling and debunking the lies right-wing media have pushed about Benghazi.
Fox News and the conservative media have been politicizing Benghazi for more than two years, seeking to turn the tragic events of that night into a phony scandal in order to damage President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The network took credit for House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to create the select committee, a development Fox News contributors had sought for months. In the two weeks after the announcement the network devoted over 16 hours and 27 minutes — at least 227 segments — to Benghazi, a value of more than $124 million.
An excerpt from All Questions Answered details how the right-wing press turned an innocuous email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes into a sham “smoking gun,” leading to the creation of the committee:
Conservative media outlets were up in arms, and they were soon followed by mainstream reporters. According to this new right-wing narrative, the White House had been withholding these emails from the public and congressional committees. But what did these emails actually demonstrate?
Rhodes’ job on the National Security Council was to provide communications guidance to administration officials speaking on foreign policy issues. In the wake of upheaval across the entire region, with violent protests taking place in Cairo and the attack on the United States’ diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Rhodes was tasked with preparing messaging guidance for then-national security adviser Susan Rice. In the emails unveiled by Judicial Watch, Rhodes took CIA-authored talking points — whose creation had been made public in detail a year earlier — and turned them into a messaging document.
That no new information was revealed mattered little. Simply the perception that the Obama administration was hiding something from the public created a media firestorm.
All Questions Answered goes down the list of conservative questions about Benghazi one by one, debunking the lies and myths about the attacks and the Obama administration’s response.
All Questions Answered is a supplement to Media Matters' best-selling 2013 ebook The Benghazi Hoax, which “tells in intimate detail the story of the deception created by those who fill airtime with savage punditry and pseudo-journalism and how the Republicans in charge of the investigative committees were empowered but ultimately failed to find a scandal - any kind of scandal - to tar a Democratic White House.”
h/t: Matt Gertz at MMFA
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle has no credentials in national security, terrorism or international policy and she never seems to have spent one minute in military service. But that’s no reason not to play an expert on how to handle ISIS on Fox News.
On yesterday’s The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld – another Fox talking head without a single credential qualifying him to make pronouncements about such a serious subject – seemed to view ISIS as just another excuse to smear President Obama, talk tough and bang the drum for a new war. With other people doing all the fighting and dying, of course:
Obama should get his head out of his golf bag or get out of town… It’s time to dispense with political correctness and get over being nice. Nice equals death. …And if our president isn’t up to it, then find someone who is. Hell, maybe it’s better if he stays on the course – for good.
Then it was Guilfoyle’s turn. Surprise! She also saw it as an excuse to smear Obama and talk tough about a new war! One that she didn’t mention serving in.
There should be no mercy involved because they (ISIS) have shown none. That’s the only language that they understand. …I really think there’s just really one right answer here. We can talk about the ways to get it done – air strikes, certainly – but it’s gonna take more than that. We’ve already got troops on the ground. We already need help from our U.K. and European allies and counterparts.
I mean, can I just make a special request on the magic lamp? Can we get, like, Netanyahu and, like, Putin in for 48 hours, head of the United States? I don’t know. I just want somebody to get in here and get it done right so that Americans don’t have to worry and wake up in the morning fearful of a group that’s murderous and horrific, like ISIS.
Nothing says “patriotic American” like demanding military action and wishing someone else were president!
Watch Fox’s latest ISIS “experts” below, via Media Matters.
Obama also addressed post-9/11 America in remarks about the Central Intelligence Agency. “We tortured some folks,” he said. “We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell, and the Pentagon had been hit, and a plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this.”
This isn’t the first time Obama has said that the US tortured people but the usage of “folks” immediately set tongues wagging. Presumably it’s because “folks” is far more humanizing than “detainees” or “enemy combatants”. The US did torture people (real flesh-and-blood human people) after 9/11, and it’s good that Obama says so—even if he was just trying to get off the topic of his CIA admitting to spying on Congress.
For a long time it was incredibly controversial to call “enhanced interrogation” torture. It’s a sign of progress that no one batted an eye at the “torture” bit and instead focused on the “folks” part. To their credit, even conservatives have come around to using the dreaded T word.
I am stunned our President just said “we tortured” people from the podium. This is a PR victory for our enemies. Make it stop. Make it stop.— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) August 1, 2014
Typical week in the Obama Administration: conservatives labeled ‘a**holes’ terrorists labeled ‘folks’— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) August 1, 2014
Barack Obama is an inexperienced “celebrity” community organizer/campaigner-in-chief who won’t stop apologizing for America and was only elected president because of The Decemberists.
The right-wing media’s smear campaign against the Obama administration over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, appears to be paying dividends in the form of donations.
A Media Matters review of fundraising emails and websites found that conservatives have routinely invoked Benghazi to ask followers for money. The fundraising solicitations accuse the Obama administration of “lies,” “cover-ups,” a “dereliction of duty,” and crimes worse than Watergate.
The fundraising is only likely to intensify with the recent creation of a House select committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), to investigate the attacks. The Republican leadership convened the committee despite numerous previous inquiries into Benghazi. The Department of Defense wrote in March that it had already participated in “approximately 50 congressional hearings, briefings, and interviews” about the 2012 attacks.
Gowdy said on MSNBC today that fellow Republicans should not fundraise off of the Benghazi attacks, stating: “Yes, and I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans.”
Like their counterparts in the media, the main Republican Party campaign apparatuses are actively fundraising off of Benghazi. The Republican National Committee has a donation page asking Republicans to demand “the truth about Benghazi” by contributing money. The National Republican Senatorial Committee asks Republicans to “donate today” because of Benghazi. And the National Republican Congressional Committee has a fundraising page stating: “You’re now a Benghazi Watchdog. Let’s go after Obama & Hillary Clinton. Help us fight them now.” The page features an image of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the text, “Benghazi Was A Coverup. Demand Answers.”
Here are five recent examples of conservative pundits raising money off their Benghazi witch hunt.
Fox News Host Mike Huckabee
Huckabee sent a May 6 email to his Fox News-promoted MikeHuckabee.com list titled, “Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.” Huckabee claimed that Clinton “has some explaining to do” and the Obama administration was responsible for “subsequent lies and cover-ups.”
He later suggested that Benghazi is worse than Watergate, writing: “We once had real newspapers and broadcast news outlets that cared about a government lying to the people. Now, they dismiss Benghazi as ‘no Watergate.’ And they’re right: in Watergate, the press didn’t look the other way and neither did Congress. And in Watergate, no one died.” At the conclusion of his email, Huckabee wrote: “Help support conservative candidates through Huck PAC. Chip in $5 or more to Huck PAC!”
Fox News Contributor John Bolton
Bolton sent an April 16 fundraising email for his John Bolton PAC with the title, “Benghazi is a disgrace.” Bolton wrote that “Obama, Hillary, [Leon] Panetta - not one of them will take the fall because they know their actions, leaving Americans to die at the hands of terrorists, were a gross dereliction of duty … Our enemies know that under Obama, you can kill his personal representative and get away it scot-free.” Bolton later wrote: “I encourage you to make a generous donation to support John Bolton PAC’s efforts.”
Bolton also sent an April 30 fundraising email in which he wrote that Obama “did absolutely nothing to avenge the murder of our Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, at the hands of Al-Qaeda terrorists.”
Fox News Contributor Allen West
West sent a January 21 email for his Allen West Guardian Fund PAC claiming there “is an ongoing cover-up to hide the truth” about Benghazi. West offered a solution by writing “we need to clean up Washington.” He explained readers could help do so by making “an immediate contribution of $25, $50, $100 or more right now to the Allen West Guardian Fund.”
West sent a March 14 email claiming “Obama and his party are defeatists. When Obama retreated from his warnings to Syria regarding their chemical weapons program and told lies to avoid taking military action for the terrorist attack in Benghazi, he sent a clear message to the world: ‘America is weak. We’ll just talk tough and back down. Do as you wish.’” West then asked for donations to his political action committee.
Accuracy In Media
A May 2 email from AIM chairman Don Irvine claimed, “After a year and a half of Benghazi damage control enforced by the administration and their lapdogs in the press, the genie is suddenly out of the bottle.” It concluded: “To move ahead with this vital work to shine the light of truth on Benghazi, Accuracy in Media needs your support. We urge you to express your confidence in our efforts by sending a generous donation today.”
AIM also convened a “Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi” which included members such as Fox News contributors Allen West, and Thomas McInerney. A donation plea on the website states: “Accuracy in Media and the CCB are taking the lead in reporting the truth about Benghazi that even Republicans on the Hill won’t touch. We are doing the real work of interviewing witnesses, collecting documents, and finding out the facts—why it happened, how it happened and why it was covered up. In order to proceed with our investigation, we must have your help. Please donate to Accuracy in Media today to shine the light of truth on this issue and end the Benghazi cover-up.”
American Center For Law And Justice / Jay Sekulow
The ACLJ, a conservative group headed by radio host and regular Fox News guest Jay Sekulow, asks for donations to “Demand Answers on Benghazi.” The group states: “The Obama Administration has not given the American people the truth about Benghazi. Congress is forming a select committee to get to the bottom of this foreign policy disaster and get answers. We’re working with Members of Congress to get the truth. Stand with us with your tax-deductible donation today.”
Fox's New Benghazi Conspiracy: "Maybe 20 Months Ago" Admin Started "Covering Up" For Hillary 2016 Campaign | Video | Media Matters for America
Fixed Noise the Benghazi! This, Benghazi! That channel.
From the 05.03.2014 edition of FNC’s Cashin’ In:
Citizens Committee On Benghazi Releases Findings From Benghazi Review. On April 22, the Daily Mailreported on findings from the Citizen’s Committee on Benghazi, a self-selected group created by Accuracy in Media, that pushed a number of conspiracy theories regarding the attack in Benghazi, Libya. According to theDaily Mail, the report claims that the attack was a “failed kidnapping plot” of Ambassador Chris Stevens, that the U.S. had “switched sides in the war on terror,” and that President Obama had coordinate with the Muslim Brotherhood to blame the attacks on a YouTube video. [Daily Mail, 4/22/14]
Fox News Hypes Citizen’s Committee Findings As “Blistering New Report”
Fox News Hypes Committee Findings As “Blistering New Report.” On the April 23 edition of Fox News’Fox & Friends First, co-host Ainsley Earhardt hyped the committee’s “blistering new report” and repeated the claims that the attacks “could have been prevented,” and that “Ambassador Chris Stevens was supposed to be captured and traded for the Blind Sheik”:
EARHARDT: A blistering new report reveals the Benghazi terror attacks could have been prevented. The Citizen’s Committee on Benghazi claims the U.S. allowed $500 million in weapons to flow to Al Qaeda terrorists who opposed the Libyan dictator, Muammar Gadaffi, and their rise to power lead to the embassy attack two years ago that left four Americans dead. The commission concluding the attack was actually a failed kidnapping plot. The report says that Ambassador Chris Stevens was supposed to be captured and traded for the Blind Sheik, the mastermind of the 1993 world trade center bombing. [Fox News, Fox & Friends,4/23/14]
Meet The Citizen’s Committee Panelists: Birthers, Conspiracy Theorists, And Anti-Muslim Advocates
Capt. Larry Bailey, USN (Ret.): Obama’s Birth Certificate Is A Forgery, Real Father Is Frank Marshall Davis. Retired Capt. Larry Bailey is the founder of Special Operations Speaks, an anti-Obama group of Special Operations veterans. Bailey has admitted on numerous occasions that he is a birther, telling Foreign Policymagazine in 2012 “”I have to admit that I’m a Birther” … “If there were a jury of 12 good men and women and the evidence were placed before them, there would be absolutely no question Barack Obama was not born where he said he was and is not who he says he is.” Bailey has also touted the conspiracy theory that President Obama’s real father was actually the late community writer Frank Marshall Davis. [Foreign Policy, 8/17/12,Media Matters, 8/8/13; Accuracy in Media, accessed 4/23/14]
Gen. Paul Vallely (Ret.): FBI Is Covering Up Truth About Birth Certificate Out Of Fear Of A “Black Backlash.” Retired General Paul Vallely, who was a Fox News contributor from 2001-2007, has claimed that Obama’s real birth certificate “has never been found in Hawaii nor released from Hawaii hospital there,” and that it was a “forged document.” Vallely told fringe right-wing website WND that both versions of Obama’s birth certificate were forgeries and alleged that the FBI and Congress were covering up the truth about Obama’s place of birth out because they are “afraid of a black backlash from some of the urban areas.” [WND, 6/15/11; Media Matters, 7/27/12; Accuracy in Media, accessed 4/23/14]
Gen. Thomas McInerney (Ret.) Claimed Obama Was Not A Natural Born Citizen. On September 1, 2010 Talking Points Memo reported that Thomas McInerney had “officially joined the legions of birthers,” citing McInerney’s support for an Army Lieutenant who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because he did not believe Obama was born in the United States. McInerney’s affidavit claims:
According to our Constitution, the Commander in Chief must now, in the face of serious— and widely held— concerns that he is ineligible, either voluntarily establish his eligibility by authorizing release of his birth records or this court must authorize their discovery.
McInerney has also worked as a military analyst for Fox News, where he pushed other conspiracy theories including the theory that WMDs were never discovered in Iraq because Saddam Hussein hid them other countries. [Talking Points Memo, 11/1/10; Accuracy in Media, accessed 4/23/14; Media Matters, 11/1/10,3/22/13]
Col. Allen West: Islam Is Not A Religion, It’s “A Totalitarian Theocratic Political Ideology.” Retired Col. Allen West is a former U.S. Representative and also a Fox News contributor, and has a history of pushing an Islamophobic narrative. After West lost his re-election bid, MSNBC reported on some of West’s most outrageous claims including that “Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion. It has not been a religion since 622 AD, and we need to have individuals stand up and say that.” After the attack on a British soldier in 2013, West claimed that the violence was due to “appeasement” of “Islamists.” [MSNBC,11/20/12; Media Matters, 5/17/13, 5/23/13; Accuracy in Media, accessed 4/23/14]
Clare Lopez Is A Senior Fellow At Two Anti-Muslim Organizations. Clare Lopez is a prominent member of two anti-Muslim groups - the Clarion Project and the Center for Security Policy. The Center for Security Policy was funded by one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes, Frank Gaffney, who also sits on the board of the Clarion Project. The Clarion Project is funded by three of the seven top anti-Islam and anti-Muslim think tanks in the United States. Lopez has authored several articles for both organizations, and has made claims that Obama’s administration has been infiltrated by Islamist-supporters to institute Sharia law. In a 2011 interview, Lopez claimed “the bottom line really is that, unless ethnic Europeans begin to have an awful lot more babies, the forces of shariah Islam will inherit Eurabia by sheer dint of their numbers.” [Media Matters 2/20/14; Center for Security Policy, accessed 4/23/14; Clare Lopez, 12/2/09 via YouTube; Examiner.com, 3/11/11; Accuracy in Media, accessed 4/23/14]
Benghazi Conspiracy Theorists
Adm. James Lyons (Ret.) Claimed Benghazi Was A Cover-Up. Adm. James Lyons who regularly writes for the conservative outlet, The Washington Times, is known to push old Benghazi conspiracies and debunked assertions; Lyons has claimed that he has never seen “a cover-up as intense as the Benghazi cover-up” and compared the State Department’s Accountability Review Board that investigated the attack to “having the mafia investigate a crime scene.” Lyons has also made an unfounded claim that Libyan militia guards protecting the Benghazi compound “were not allowed to put ammunition into their weapons,” and suggested that David Patreus’ affair was a cover-up for Benghazi. [Media Matters, 7/30/13, Accuracy in Media, accessed 4/23/14]
Wayne Simmons Has Suggested That White House Gave “Stand Down” Order. Former CIA officer Wayne Simmons, who is a frequent guest on Fox News, has pushed the debunked claim that the White House gave a “stand down” order during the Benghazi attack and that the people killed in Benghazi “were sold out.” Simmons has also advocated profiling students from Muslim countries. [Media Matters, 7/30/13, 5/2/13; Accuracy in Media, accessed 4/23/14]
Citizens’ Committee Is Organized By Fringe Conservative Group, AIM
Accuracy in Media (AIM) Has A History Of Promoting Conspiracy Theories. The Citizens’ Committee on Benghazi is organized and supported by Roger Aronoff’s fringe conservative group Accuracy in Media (AIM). AIM is responsible for promoting many conspiracy theories over the years, and is also well-known for extreme anti-gay views and hate speech. [Media Matters, 2/7/12]
WASHINGTON, DC — Two top Democrats slammed their Republican colleagues on Wednesday for the “insulting way” they have carried out a year and a half worth of investigations into the supposed Benghazi scandal, urging them to relent and focus on preventing another such tragedy from occurring.
Reps. Adam Smith (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) are the ranking members on the House committees on Armed Services and Oversight respectively, two of the four that have devoted considerable time and effort to getting to the bottom of just what happened the night of the Benghazi attack in 2012. Together they have sat through dozens of hours of hearings and depositions related to the Obama administration’s response to the assault that left four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, dead at its end. “When something happens like happens in Benghazi,” Smith said, “we absolutely have to investigate, we have to exercise [our] oversight function in a responsible manner to figure out what happened and most importantly how to prevent it from happening again.”
But enough is enough according, they said. “That’s the great tragedy of this investigation that the Republicans have led,” Smith said, calling it “relentlessly partisan” and focused on finding something that can be used to embarrass the administration. Smith pointed to the fact that a week after the attack a Republican member of Congress first mentioned possible impeachment as evidence of the blatantly partisan tenor the investigations have taken on from the start.
“As a member of the Armed Services Committee, my biggest objection is that it makes Congress look bad and it undermines the legitimate reason that we should be exercising oversight,” Smith said. “When you do that, when you [launch investigations] in a partisan manner as the Republicans have done … we are not performing the function we are supposed to be performing, which is smart, valid oversight,” he continued.
“Frankly, it is an embarrassment for our committees,” Cummings agreed. “It undermines our credibility, and nobody will take us seriously.” Cummings also hit out at Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), noting the numerous times he has massaged facts or outright fabricated them in order to move the Benghazi scandal forward. “Take a minute and think about what he suggested: that Hillary Clinton told the Secretary of Defense of the United States to withhold military assistance when her friend, Ambassador Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were dying,” Cummings said, referring to the conspiracy theory that the Obama adminsitration had ordered the military to “stand down” the night of the attack. Despite a Republican-written report debunking the existence of such an order, Issa went on to repeat the claim only days later. “That is a horrendous and baseless accusation,” Cummings chided.
The latest push from the GOP to rekindle Benghazi involved calling Gen. Carter Ham (Ret.), the former commander of U.S. Africa Command, before a closed session of the Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning. This, Cummings pointed out, marked the sixth time that Ham had been compelled to appear before Congress since the attack nearly nineteen months ago. “This is the insulting way Republicans have conducted this investigation,” Cummings lamented. “Instead of honoring his service and looking for ways to save future lives, Republicans are playing a game of political ‘gotcha’ with our military.”
Smith described the process that Republicans have taken in the Benghazi instance as “throwing something against the wall and hoping something sticks” without any basis in fact. “There’s too many hypothetical, too many suppositions,” he said, in response to a question from the crowd about allegations that former CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell’s helping clear the pathway for Hillary Clinton’s possible presidential run. The question, Smith added, mirrored the Republican model of “make it up first, then try to figure it out later.” Cummings jumped in, adding: “Try to find facts that don’t exist to support the allegation.”
Democrats have spent the last few weeks urging their friends across the aisle to end their Benghazi witchhunt, citing a recent letter from the Department of Defense saying that millions of dollars have been spent in pursuit of facts that don’t exist. And while Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) seems content to let these investigations run indefinitely, he’s resisting calls from even more conservative wings of his party to appoint a special committee in the House to seek out White House malfeasance.
As if to punctuate how the supposed scandal isn’t going away anytime soon, however, on Wednesday afternoon on the other side of the Capitol, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-AZ) will be holding a press conference. The subject? Why the media refuses to cover the Benghazi cover-up and demanding a joint committee investigate the Obama administration. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s at least the fifth such call for a committee.
"I think he’s proud of it," Pelosi added when Crowley asked if there could be proof that Cheney did give the CIA orders on interrogation.
Right on, Nancy Pelosi!
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal to drastically overhaul the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program.
Under the proposal, data about Americans’ calling habits would be kept in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would, according to senior administration officials. If approved by Congress, the changes would end the most controversial part of the bulk phone records program, a major focus of privacy concerns inside the United States since its existence was leaked last year.
In a speech in January, President Obama said he wanted to get the N.S.A. out of the business of collecting call records in bulk while preserving the program’s capabilities. He acknowledged, however, that there was no easy way to do so, and had instructed Justice Department and intelligence officials to come up with a plan by March 28 — Friday — when the current court order authorizing the program expires.
As part of the proposal, the administration has decided to renew the program as it currently exists for at least one more 90-day cycle, senior administration officials said. But under the plan the administration has developed and now advocates, the officials said, the government would no longer systematically collect and store records of calling data. Instead, it would obtain individual orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain only records linked to phone numbers a judge agrees are likely tied to terrorism.
The N.S.A. now retains the phone data for five years. But the administration considered and rejected imposing a mandate on phone companies that they hold onto their customers’ calling records for a period longer than the 18 months that federal regulations already generally require — a burden that the companies had resisted and that was seen as a major obstacle to keeping the data in their hands. A senior administration official said that intelligence agencies had concluded that the impact of that change would be small because older data is less important.
The new surveillance court orders would require phone companies to swiftly provide those records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said.
They would also allow the government to seek related records for callers up to two calls, or “hops,” removed from the number that has come under suspicion, even if those callers are customers of other companies.
The N.S.A. uses the once-secret call records program — sometimes known as the 215 program, after Section 215 of the Patriot Act — to analyze links between callers in an effort to identify hidden terrorist associates, if they exist. It was part of the secret surveillance program that President George W. Bush unilaterally put in place after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, outside of any legal framework or court oversight.
In 2006, as part of a broader Bush administration effort to put its programs on a firmer legal footing, the Justice Department persuaded the surveillance court to begin authorizing the program. It claimed that Section 215, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain court orders for business records deemed “relevant” to an investigation, could be interpreted as allowing the N.S.A. to systematically collect domestic calling records.Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyAdvertisement
Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the administration’s proposal a “sensible outcome, given that the 215 program likely exceeded current legal authority and has not proved to be effective.” While he said that he would like to see more reforms to other surveillance authorities, he said the proposal was “significant” and addressed the major concerns with the bulk records program.
Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “We have many questions about the details, but we agree with the administration that the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of call records should end.” He added, “As we’ve argued since the program was disclosed, the government can track suspected terrorists without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance.”
The administration proposal will join a jumble of bills in Congress ranging from proposals that would authorize the current program with only minor adjustments, to proposals to end it.
In recent days, attention in Congress has shifted to legislation developed by leaders of the House Intelligence Committee. That bill, according to people familiar with a draft proposal, would have the court issue an overarching order authorizing the program, but allow the N.S.A. to issue subpoenas for specific phone records without prior judicial approval.
The Obama administration proposal, by contrast, would retain a judicial role in determining whether the standard of suspicion was met each time.
The administration’s proposal would also include a provision clarifying whether Section 215 of the Patriot Act, due to expire next year unless Congress reauthorizes it, may in the future be legitimately interpreted as allowing bulk phone data collection.
The proposal would not, however, affect other forms of bulk collection under the same provision. The Central Intelligence Agency, for example, has obtained orders for bulk collection of records about international money transfers handled by companies like Western Union.
The existence of the N.S.A. program was disclosed and then declassified last year following leaks by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. The disclosure set off a controversy that scrambled the usual partisan lines in Congress.
The government has been unable to point to any thwarted terrorist attacks that would have been carried out if the program had not existed, but has argued that it is a useful tool.
A review group appointed by Mr. Obama and an independent federal privacy watchdog both called for major changes to the program; the latter also concluded that the bulk collection is illegal, rejecting the government’s Patriot Act interpretation.
In January, Mr. Obama narrowed how far out from suspects N.S.A. analysts could go in analyzing calling records, reducing the limit to two steps from three. He also began requiring the N.S.A. to obtain prior court approval for using a phone number to make queries of the database.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Sunday used the Russian invasion of Crimea to say that the United States should be focusing on stopping undocumented immigrants from coming across its border.
During a Fox News panel discussion on Crimea that included former deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz, Ingraham began by blasting the Iraq war, which he helped to orchestrate.
"Upwards or two trillion dollars in Iraq, right? We don’t have a lot to show for it," she said. "We are stumbling still in Afghanistan. The American people — we can talk about, we can do this and we can do that [to stop Russia]. And I understand that, I really do."
"But we have a country right now where people look around and say, why do we only care about borders and sovereignty when they’re other countries’ borders and sovereignty?" the frequent Fox News guest host added. "Why is it that we’re obsessed about that, but in our country, we have a middle class completely flat-lining, we have economic opportunity dwindling?"
Ingraham noted that she had supported the “military adventurism” in Iraq, but people now wanted to know, “Where’s the bang for the buck?”
"You can’t do this in the rearview mirror," Wolfowitz insisted.
"You got to learn from the past, Paul," Ingraham interrupted.
"One of the things to learn from the past, including the past of the 1930s, is if you don’t deter these sort of moves early, when you can do it without military force, you end up in wars," Wolfowitz replied. "And that’s what we’re trying to avoid here."
She’s wrong as usual.