TODAY, IRS OFFICIAL LOIS LERNER PLANS TO APPEAR BEFORE THE U.S. CONGRESS AND PLEAD THE FIFTH.
REACHED FOR COMMENT, A VERY NERVOUS LERNER INVITED THESE REPORTERS INTO HER HOME AND EXPLAINED, "I'M REALLY AFRAID OF WHAT THEY MIGHT ASK ME. LIKE AM I COMMUNIST? DID I EVER ATTEND A PTA MEETING? DO I DO TIME-SHARES? I AIN'T GOING DOWN LIKE THAT. NO, SIREE, BOB. MISS LOIS LERNER IS NOBODY'S FOOL."
APPARENTLY FEELING BETTER TO GET IT ALL OF HER CHEST, LERNER PUT ON HER TIN FOIL HAT, SMILED AND HEADED OFF TO SEE CONGRESS.
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Countcounts 564 violent deaths so far this month and they have 11 more days in the month to count. Including today when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Tarmiya suicide bomber claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers (seven more injured), a Tuk Hurmato car bombing which claimed 5 lives (forty-three more injured), and 3 Kirkuk roadside bombings which claimed 6 lives (twenty-five more injured). Mustafa Mahmoud, Isabel Coles and Alistair Lyon (Reuters) quote Kirkuk survivor Mahmoud Jumaa stating, "I heard the explosions, but never thought this place would be targeted since these animals have nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with sect, nothing to do with ethnicity or religion." Alsumaria notes that in Ramadi a leader of the ongoing demonstrations died from a car bombing. NINA identifies him as Sheikh Malik al-Dulaimi and adds that he," along with other capable tribal chiefs of Anbar, took care of supplying tents, food and other requirements to the protestors in Ramadi." Nouri issued no statement demanding that the killers responsible for Sheikh Malik al-Dulaimi be brought to justice. Nouri issued no statement condemning the killing of al-Dulaimi. Kareem Raheem (Reuters) counts over 40 dead from violence today.
First to blame for the increasing bloodshed, which killed at least 86 on Monday alone and 352 so far this month, is Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki. "Mr Al Maliki failed to contain the rising sectarian tensions in the early stages, resorting instead to security solutions and rejecting dialogue with his opponents," the editorial noted. Mr Al Maliki ignored the demands of residents in Anbar province, where the largest sit-ins and protests have been taking place. A Shia Muslim, Mr Al Maliki is accused by Sunnis of being biased towards his sect in terms of official posts. The bomb and gun attacks on Monday targeted mainly Shia areas, including in the capital Baghdad. In a statement reported yesterday, the Iraqi premier said: "I assure the Iraqi people that the [the militants] will not be able to bring us back to sectarian conflict," pledging an overhaul at the high and middle levels of his security apparatus following its failure to stop the attacks. A statement like this shows how Mr Al Maliki is still "in denial", since the crisis is about political failure, rather than security flops, Al Quds Al Arabi argued.
AFP makes much of Nouri's 'big shake up in security command' yet all they can list is that a someone over the security in the city of Baghdad lost his post. Woah! What a shake up. All Iraq News notes that's the only position changed (Lt Gen Abdul Amir Kamel will replace Lt Gen Ahmed Hashim).
Meanwhile Abbas al-Mahmadawi flaunts ignorance. He's the Secretary General of Iraq's Abna Al Iraq coalition. (At one point, this was a term for Sahwa aka Sons of Iraq.) According to Press TV, "Britain and the US are responsible for the growing number of bombings in Iraq because of their sales of fake bomb detects to the country, Secretary Genera of Iraq's Abna Al Iraq coaltion Abbas Al Mahmadawi says." England did not sell the 'magic' wands. A British citizen did and the UK put him on trial, convicted him and sentenced him.
The US government did not sale any magic wands and no US citizen was in charge of that company. I believe it was also the US press that first raised objections about the wands. At the start of November 2009, Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported on these 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board' -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosive divining rod."
It's amazing that Abbas is too cowardly to blame Nouri al-Maliki. From yesterday's snapshot: So in 2010, it was known that the magic wands were not working? No. It was known before that. May 11th, Alsumaria reported that new documents from the Ministry of Interior (reproduced with the article) demonstrate that a Ministry committee said the wands were not working and, in 2009, recommended that they not be purchased anymore. There were calls for Nouri to appear before Parliament to answer questions. He needs to. But he has refused all calls so far -- despite the Constitution on this issue. He continues to violate and ignore the Constitution. Kitabat also coverd the revelations about the 2009 recommendation at length here. May 12th, Alsumaria reported Parliament's Integrity Committee held a hearing to determine the details surrounding the purchase of these wands and Committee Chair Bahaa al-Araji states that the Integrity Commission appeared before the Committee and offered names of "top officials" involved. Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reported that even after Nouri was personally warned by a British commander "Colonel Powell" that the devices did not work, an order was still place and Al Mada reproduced that order -- it came from Nouri's office. Last Thursday, National Iraqi News Agency reports that Iraqiya MP Nada al-Jubouri is calling for an emergency session of Parliament to address yesterday's bombings, "These repeated security breaches came as a result of the lack of a way to detect car bombs, which claim the lives of people, in addition to the weakness of the intelligence information." May 3rd, Ammar Karim (AFP) reported that despite the wands being found not to work, despite the conviction and sentencing of their seller and maker in a British court, the wands were still being used in Baghdad.
Nouri was told they didn't work and he ordered them anyway. They're still being used -- and they don't work.
Wait, it gets better.
Al Mada reports that Nouri held a press conference today and announced that the magic wands work. Back when Karim reported they were being used, I noted Nouri's plan to sue the maker just lost standing. Any chance that it still had legal standing is now gone. Nouri stood up and Baghdad and declared that the rip-off devices work. That's money Iraq will now never get back. It doesn't matter that they don't work. Ignoring years of warnings, Nouri continues to use them. It no longer matters, he's lost standing to sue.
What an idiot. Dar Addustour has him insisting that these 'magic' wands can detect bombs 20 to 40% of the time. No, they can't. This was established in a court of law. What an idiot. Robert Booth (Guardian) reported May 2nd: McCormick sold 7,000 fake bomb detectors based on useless golf ball finders to the Iraqi government and other international agencies for prices ranging from £1,600 per unit to £19,000. They cost McCormick less than $50 (£32) and police believe sales to Iraq alone were worth more than £55m, buying McCormick a mansion in Bath, holiday homes abroad and a yacht. Judge Richard Hone told McCormick: "Your fraudulent conduct in selling so many useless devices for simply enormous profit promoted a false sense of security and in all probability materially contributed to causing death and injury to innocent individuals."
Get it? They didn't work. They were never going to work. They had nothing to do with bombs but were invented to be golf ball finders and were useless at even that.
Why didn't Nouri appear before Parliament today? Because he has blood on his hands and he knows it. Instead of getting honest, he's now insisting that the magic wands work.
Christiane Amanpour (Amanpour, CNN) spoke with Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari about the situation in Iraq and he stated, "The government has its own failing. I'm not here to give you a rosy picture or to portray unrealistic picture. But the country is not crashing."
Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujafi also held a press conference. All Iraq News reports that he called out Nouri for ordering State of Law MPs not to attend today's emergency session. He calls it a violation of the Constitution. National Iraqi News Agency notes that al-Nujaifi "added that there is no personal problem between him and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, confirming that the problem lies in the lack of respect from al-Maliki to the legislative authority." Alsumaria reports State of Law is screaming for al-Nujaifi to resign. (State of Law is Nouri's political slate. In the 2010 elections, Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat State of Law.) Alsumaria notes cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr has weighed in but their brief report doesn't make clear on whose side. He apologizes to the Iraqi people for what is happening and blames government officials -- Iraqiya and State of Law both? Nouri for calling for a boycott of the emergency session? It's not clear.
Following yesterday's violence in Basra and Baghdad, the Iraq Times reports professors and teachers belonging to the National Alliance coalition are asking that Nouri be dismissed as prime minister as a result of the continued violence and unstable security. Moqtada's bloc is part of the Shi'ite National Alliance (as is Nouri's State of Law). The report notes an MP from Moqtada's bloc said Nouri needs to resign or appear before Parliament. He's been denounced for the way he's managed Iraqi security. As Sheikh (Dar Addustour) has a column on the whole matter that strives for balance and notes that the Parliament was directly elected by the people (not true of the prime minister) and that Nouri should show respect for democracy and for the state institutions.
In the US, The War on the First Amendment continues. Last Monday brought the shocking news that the US Justice Dept had secretly seized two months of phone records from the historic, 167-year-old news organization the Associated Press. This was over a 'leak' supposedly. But the Justice Dept knew of the 2012 report over a week before it was published. The Justice Dept also felt that they would ignore laws requiring them to at first work with the AP and resort to secret seizure only after that. Instead, they moved to secret seziure and when the records were seized no one still knows. (It could have been 45 days prior to them notifying the AP. But it could have been as much as 90 days.) No one knows. This is not a free society, this is not an open society. This is an offense and it's outrageous.
Yesterday, another attack in The War on the First Amendment is revealed. Ann E. Marimow (Washington Post) breaks the news of the Justice Dept targeting Fox News' James Rosen over press reports he filed on North Korea. They not only seized his phone records, they also sezied his personal e-mails and "used security badge access records to track the reporter's comings and goings from the State Department." First Amendment attorney Charles Tobin tells the Post, "Search warrants like these have a severe chilling effect on the free flow of important information to the public. That's a very dangerous road to go down." CNN explains, "The case centered on the leak of intelligence about North Korea in 2009, in which analysts predicted the possibility of a nuclear test if the U.S. enacted further sanctions on the regime. Fox News reported on that analysis on June 11, 2009." Free Speech Radio News reports it this way:
Dorian Merina: More information has surfaced on the Department of Justice's surveillance of journalists. The Washington Post reports that the DOJ spied on Fox News DC correspondent James Rosen after he wrote an article in 2009 about North Korea's nuclear program. Not only did investigators review his phone records, they also tracked his security badge to find out when he visited the State Department and they got a search warrant allowing them to read his personal Gmail correspondence. The warrant identifies Rosen as a reporter, but also alleges that as a recipient of leaked information he is a co-conspirator, subject to charges that are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. So far, no formal charges against Rosen have been filed.
The revelation that the DOJ would classify a journalist as an un-indicted co-conspirator under the 1917 Espionage Act is “even a bigger deal” than the department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records, said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. "A line has been crossed that has always been a very critical bulwark,” he said. “That’s the line between government leakers and media publishers." No journalist has ever been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, what has traditionally "only been used against those who gave or sold secrets to the enemy."
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued the following statement after a report was released claiming that the Obama Administration targeted a FOX News reporter during a leak investigation: "I am very concerned by reports the Obama Administration targeted a FOX News reporter for possible criminal prosecution for doing what appears to be normal news-gathering protected by the First Amendment. The sort of reporting by James Rosen detailed in the report is the same sort of reporting that helped Mr. Rosen aggressively pursue questions about the Administration’s handling of Benghazi. National security leaks are criminal and put American lives on the line, and federal prosecutors should, of course, vigorously investigate. But we expect that they do so within the bounds of the law, and that the investigations focus on the leakers within the government – not on media organizations that have First Amendment protections and serve a vital function in our democracy. We must insist that federal agents not use legitimate investigations as an excuse to harass journalists they deem unfriendly to the President or the Administration. We shouldn’t even have to ask if our government would do such a thing, but unfortunately as the unfolding IRS scandal shows, this White House has created a culture where we do have to explicitly make these kinds of requests."
Digging around the story, Garance Franke-Ruta (The Atlantic) notes Rosen but also wonders who else in the press has the government gone after? She writes, "In an August 2010 report on the indictment of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim on charges of 'disclosing national defense information in June 2009 to a national news organization, believed to be Fox News,' several other reporters were mentioned in relation to the DoJ leak investigations, in addition to Rosen." She notes Siobhan Gorman (Wall St. Journal) and Richard Silverstein (Tikun Olam) were two others mentioned. Philip Klein (Washington Examiner) wonders if it goes beyond this case and AP: Last year, Bloomberg reported that Attorney General Eric Holder “has prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks under the World War I-era Espionage Act than all his predecessors combined, including law-and-order Republicans John Mitchell, Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft.” The administration has also received a failing grade for its ignoring of Freedom of Information Act requests. Taken together, all such actions have a toll. They mean that federal officials are less likely to blow the whistle on government wrongdoing and that journalists are less likely to obtain damning information that they can pass along to the public. The suggestion by the DOJ that Rosen broke the law, if followed to its logical conclusion, would mean the end of investigative journalism in America.
Why did Corn have to perform a tutorial? Because of the nonsense pushback of "Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby." Writing about the scandal of targeting the AP, Craig Aaron (The Progressive) noted last week: The probe appears to be unprecedented in its scale and scope. But as Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation notes: “In five years, the Obama administration has prosecuted more leakers under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined, and virtually all these prosecutions have engulfed journalists one way or another.” The initial reaction of the Obama administration was evasion from Attorney General Eric Holder and squirming by White House Spokesman Jay Carney -- who became flustered when the briefing-room lapdogs started to snarl. Pro-Obama messengers were instructed to act concerned the reporters might have tipped off the terrorists and -- if that didn’t work -- to shout “Valerie Plame” a lot. But that mostly served as a reminder of how much the most transparent administration ever™ was outdoing another famous Dick: Dick Cheney.
As many have noted, you can see the pushback nonsense at CJR again today. But who takes CJR seriously anymore? Rhonda Roland Shearer's expose "CJR Reporter Lying, Exploiting a Source? What's happening at Columbia Journalism Review?" revealed CJR doesn't check their facts, they humiliate a private citizen and won't apologize or correct their errors, they allow a 'reporter' to do a stunt to make a documentary and they treat it as news, they defend their 'reporter' lying to newspaper reporters . . . The list never ends.
Meanwhile, journalists around the country are asking, "What the heck is going on?" It should be the question on every concerned citizen's mind. It breaks my heart that we need this reminder: A thriving — and free — press is often the only check on representative government. Already, potential government whistle-blowers have lost their nerve and never will pick up that phone.
It's a point New York Times investigative reporter Mark Mazzetti makes to Greg Sargent (Washington Post) today, "There’s no question that this has a chilling effect. People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now. Everyone is worried about communication and how to communicate, and [asking if there] is there any method of communication that is not being monitored. It’s got people on both sides -- the reporter and source side -- pretty concerned." Jordy Yager and Mike Lillis (The Hill) point out, "Obama himself has made no apologies for the Justice’s sweep of AP phone records."
He issued no apologies for that. But late Friday, he did issue the following:
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 17, 2013
Notice -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to the Stabilization of Iraq
- - - - - - -
CONTINUATION OF THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO THE STABILIZATION OF IRAQ
On May 22, 2003, by Executive Order 13303, the President declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by obstacles to the continued reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq.
The obstacles to the continued reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, must continue in effect beyond May 22, 2013. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
THE WHITE HOUSE, May 17, 2013.
Why is a US president issuing declarations -- national emergency ones -- about the supposed 'free' Iraq? Oh, that's right. It's not really free of the US.
US House Rep Kenny Marchant: On July 25th, we had another Oversight Committee hearing in which Commissioner Miller and I had an extended conversation about this very subject. And that conversation is in this transcript, anyone can get it on the internet and read the questions but the questions were very specifically about Tea Party groups and their difficulties in getting their tax exempt status, the lengthy conversations that they were having, the questionnaires that they were having to answer. And, again, Mr. Miller in that exchange that you and I had, I came away with that, I felt, with the assurances by you and your office that there were no extraordinary circumstances taking place and that this was just a backlog and there was nothing going on. Mr. Miller, was that your impression of the hearing that day? Acting Commissioner Steve Miller: Uhm, no sir. What I said there and what I understood your question to be was -- again, we divide this world in two, there's a question of this selection process and there was a question of what was going on at the time of your question. At the time of your question, what was out in the public domain and what I thought we were discussing was the letter. As you called them, the questionnaire. Those were the over broad letters that had been referred to continuously here. Uhm, again, I stand by my answer there. Uh, there was not, uh-h-h-h-h-h, I-I-I-I did talk about the fact that we had centralized -- I believe, I'd have to take a look at it. But I was talking about the fact that we had fixed that problem. Kenny Marchant: But-but at that time, you knew, by that time, that there were lists being made, there were delineations, there was discrimination going on and that there were steps being taken to try to correct it. But you knew that it was going on at that time. Acting Commissioner Steve Miller: We had corrected it. TIGTA was taking a look. At that time, my assumption is TIGTA was going to be done with their report that summer. I was not going to go there because I did not have full possessions of all the facts, sir.
Any member of Congress who finds that 'answer' acceptable is an embarrassment. A government official appeared before Congress to testify at a hearing and was asked about potential abuses. He knew about abuses that the Congress didn't with regard to this subject and did not reveal them. His lousy excuse about a report coming out? No. He said (see above) that he had addressed it. But report or no report, you don't conceal from Congress. He played words games and he was dishonest. As USA Today's Susan Page observed on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Showtoday, "Well, we have to go back and look at that, but he certainly left a misimpression among everyone who heard his answers. People heard him as denying it. Now, maybe it will turn out to be some turn of phrase that gives him an exit hatch. But I think it is hard for him to argue that he did not mislead."
That took place this morning in the House Ways and Means Committee hearing. The Committee Chair is Dave Camp and the Ranking Member is Sander Levin. Appearing before the Committee were J. Russell George and Steve Miller. J. Russell George is an Inspector General for the Treasury Department while Steve Miller is the Acting Commissioner of the IRS. The Acting Commissioner. Wednesday, we carried in full the remarks from US President Barack Obama about the 'firing' of Miller. Miller is not fired. As was established in the hearing, he remains on the government payroll, he remains Acting Commissioner of the IRS. He stated so himself today when questioned.
US House Rep Vern Buchanan: Were you terminated or fired? What happened there? Or are you getting ready to retire? Steve Miller: I was asked to resign and I will retire. US House Rep Vern Buchanan: Okay. Steve Miller: Under the civil service rules.
[. . .] US House Rep Tom Reed: As you sit here today, you were not fired from your job. And I can tell you, in my private experience, you would have been fired on the spot. And all you were allowed to do is resign and retire? And now you come here and try to say I did the honorable thing by falling on my sword' when nothing bad is going to happen to you. You're going to get your full benefits. You're going to get everything that's associated with your retirement as an IRS employee. Steve Miller: [Laughing] Nohting bad is happening to me, Congressman? US House Rep Tom Reed: Financially. You're allowed to retire. That's the level of accountability in Washington, DC now. You're still acting [Commissioner]. You came here on the taxpayer dollar today. You're getting a paycheck for being here today. Correct? Correct? Steve Miller: [Pause] Correct.
There is no accountability. And he laughed. He found the exchange funny. He had many 'cute' moments.
US House Rep Peter Roskam: Why did you say you have notes if you don't have notes? Steve Miller: Sir, please. US House Rep Peter Roskam: Do you have notes or don't you have notes? Steve Miller: (voice dripping with sarcasm) I don't know.
US House Rep Lynne Jenkins stated at one point during the hearing, "I'm sad and I'm sick to my stomach that Americans could be targeted by a government agency based on their political beliefs." Miller was not sick, he laughed, he found things amusing. But why wouldn't it. He's getting away with everything he wanted.
There's no reason to believe Miller was being honest or knows what's going on. One of the people 'disciplined,' the press has noted this week, received an oral warning. Oops. Miller asked about that stated, "The oral counseling that was provided? It turns out that that person might not have been involved." This is a huge scandal. He is the official in charge -- still in charge, still on the job -- and he knew he was appearing before Congress but he still doesn't know who was at fault?
Is there any accountability at all? By his testimony, not at all. In the most outrageous moment, in response to questions asked by US House Rep Ron Kind, Miller declared, "We now have possession of the facts with respect to the TIGTA report. Now is the time we should be looking at that, now that we have the facts." What? No, actually, the time to look was before the TIGTA report. By the time the Inspector General of the Department is finding fault, you've failed at your job. You should have corrected it and, as we know, the IRS knew long before the TIGTA report. But, Miller insisted to Kind, that now is the time, now that the Inspector General's report has been released. No, supervisors -- including Miller -- should have addressed it, should have found out the problems, should have found out who was involved. Other signs of incompetence? He didn't know that, in addition to political groups, churches were targeted. He appeared before the Committee, after the report was released, to 'answer' questions and he didn't even know that churches were among the targeted. What does he do all day? He also made clear that though he doesn't "believe it should happen," he doesn't believe it's illegal. Maybe he had been fired, as we were led to believe he was, he might have cared a little damn more.
And let's also be clear, this isn't the only IRS problem. The IG has released one report. As IG Russell George's remarks made clear, there are other ongoing investigations about the IRS and this issue. Those investigations cannot be discussed because they are ongoing. Again, this was established in George's exchange with US House Rep Tom Reed. ("That is an accurate statement, sir," George agreed.)
US House Rep Aaaron Schock had a number of issues to raise about what the IRS did. A pro-life was group was asked about the content of their prayers and Miller couldn't weigh in on wehter or not that was an appropriate question for the IRS to ask. Another pro-life group was asked if they taught "both sides of the issue." As anyone knows, I'm firmly pro-choice. That does not mitigate my offense at these questions the IRS asked and, especially with regard to prayer, they crossed a line. It's a damn shame Steve Miller didn't know how to respond but a clear indication he was never up for the job. Schock noted another pro-life group was asked to reveal what writing would be on signs they carried at a protest? Again, Miller had no comment.
Popular responses from Miller included: "I don't know," "I don't believe so," "I have no reason to believe . . .," "I don't think so," "I don't have exact knowledge on that," "I'm really not sure" and "I'd have to go back and check." He wasn't sure if he had notes. He wasn't sure about timelines. He was sure about this or about that.
Tonight, Marcia will cover the hearing at her site, Kat at her site, Wally will cover it at Ann's site and Ava will cover it at Trina's site.
The scandal at the Internal Revenue Service goes far beyond the treatment of Tea Party groups and includes larger issues of abuse of power, the chairman of the House's chief tax-writing committee said at an oversight hearing Friday morning. "With all due respect, this systematic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation, or two," said Rep. Dave Camp, R. Mich., who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. "This is not a personnel problem. This is a problem of the IRS being too large, to intrusive, to abusive."
THAT HEARING STARTS IN AN HOUR IN FIFTEEN MINUTES. REPEATING, THAT HEARING, THAT GREGORY KORTE IS TELLING US ABOUT, HAS NOT YET STARTED.
AS THE SCREEN SNAP DEMONSTRATES, PSYCHIC KORTE ACTUALY POSTED HIS STORY LAST NIGHT "11:40 p.m. EDT May 16, 2013."
THURSDAY NIGHT PSYCHIC KORTE 'REPORTED' ON THE HEARING. AS C.I. OF THE COMMON ILLS HAS LONG NOTED, THE BULK OF THE 'REPORTING' ON CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS THAT THE PRESS DOES IS NOTHING MORE THAN READING THE WRITTEN STATEMENTS SUBMITTED TO THE COMMITTEE 24 HOURS AHEAD OF TIME.
Monday came news of the Justice Dept secretly spying on the 167 year-old news organization Associated Press by seizing their phone records for April and May of 2012. Earlier this month, May 5th, US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft observed: Today we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s proclamation of World Press Freedom Day, an occasion for the international community, governments, media organizations, civil society, and average citizens to promote press freedom around the world, to recommit to defend the media from attacks on its independence, and to pay tribute to the journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. Freedom of speech and expression is a cornerstone of all our democratic rights, for an uninformed citizenry cannot be a democratic citizenry. In the United States, our Founding Fathers saw this right as so crucial that they placed it first in our Bill of Rights, decreeing that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” World Press Freedom Day is an opportunity for us all to oppose repression of the media, to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression, to protect journalists, and to tolerate opinions with which we may disagree. As democracy has increasingly replaced dictatorship around the world, the right of free expression has become a vital mechanism to maintain those hard-won freedoms. Journalists and bloggers keep citizens informed, keep governments honest, and often reveal uncomfortable truths. We must work to ensure that journalists are not persecuted, threatened, attacked, or killed for seeking to inform and educate citizens; we must prevent newer online technologies – sophisticated media tools, networking groups and bloggers reaching millions – from being censored, firewalled, or closed.
Based on Attorney General Eric Holder's testimony to the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, this report by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo from May 2012 is what has angered the government. It opens with, "The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Associated Press has learned."
Today on his radio program The News Dissector (Progressive Radio Network, airs Thursdays at 5:00 pm EST), host Danny Schechter observed that the Justice Dept's actions have "outraged people left, right and center." On parts of the left, sure, parts. As Danny quickly found out when he spoke to his guests. Cult of St. Barack member Al Gioradano (who will never live down his disgraces in 2008) declared it a "big yawn." Hobbyist Gioradano then referred to it as "pout rage."
Pouting is accurate -- in terms of describing certain elements of the left. For everyone decrying, you have a large number of pouters. Chris Hedges pouted yesterday on Democracy Now!, whining that his personal stories of choice (no, not his October 2001 front page New York Times article falsely linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks) of choice didn't get coverage by the AP so what did it matter, the AP was silent, so what does it matter? Well the AP isn't silent on Bradley Manning. They do file repeatedly on Bradley Manning. That was one of his two stories. On Julian Assange? AP doesn't do feature writing. Julian Assange is yesterday's news. It's really not breaking news. AP is a wire service that covers breaking news. Some would journalist Chris Hedges would understand but those people probably missed his October 2001 front page effort to sell the war on Iraq. Before there was Judith Miller, there was Chris Hedges.
On Danny's radio program, it was said who could name a reporter at AP? Who can name a reporter anywhere these days other than TV? Most people can't. I can name a ton of AP reporters off the top of my head including Sameer N. Yacoub, Adam Schreck who are among the reporters covering Iraq. I can name former AP reporters such as Chelsea J. Carter but I'm someone who pays attention. I can track the career trajectories of the last ten years, for example, of Liz Sly and Sam Dahger -- two reporters who have changed outlets repeatedly.
AP stood alone in its coverage of the March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi by US soldiers stationed in Iraq. Brett Barrouquere owned that story. And though he wrote very important reports and would probably have emerged as the best in a crowded field, the reality is others ignored it after the initial revelations. There were court-martials of the soldiers still in the service and there was the trial of the ringleader who had already left the military. Pacifica Radio, Democracy Now!, The Nation, go down the list, didn't give a damn. In fact, Katha Pollitt only covered (half a sentence in a column) one of the most outrageous War Crimes of the Iraq War because she was shamed into doing so by the fact that non-feminist Alexander Cockburn had called it out and she hadn't. When readers and critics began noting that, she finally did a half sentence on a 14-year-old Iraqi girl at home with her family when US soldiers broke into her home, took her parents and her five-year-old sister into another room as they started gang-raping Abeer. As the gang-rape took place, Abeer could hear the gun shots and the screams as her parents and her sister were killed. Then Steven D. Green came back into the living room, took his part in the gang-rape and then shot and killed Abeer which was followed by an attempt to set her body on fire.
This wasn't news to The Nation magazine. This wasn't worthy of a column for feminist Katha Pollitt. When Green's trial started, the AP had a little competition -- local media in Kentucky and Arianna Huffington who, to her credit, saw this as a story worth paying for and The Huffington Post had regular coverage as a result. The trial kicked off April 27, 2009 in Paducah, Kentucky. Apparently, although I thought it was a nine hour drive from DC, it's actually all the way around the world and unreachable by our so-called 'independent media' who couldn't be bothered to cover it. By the same token, AP's the only US news organization filing regularly from Iraq now. Every day they're filing, several times a day.
The pouters on the left who can't be bothered by AP are joined by the Cult of St. Barack which will make you eat lead paint and tell you it's broccoli. Yesterday, Jason Linkins (Huffington Post) exposed Media Matters for America which was working a list of talking points about how the Justice Dept's seizure of records was no big deal: Finally, the most obvious thing needs to be said: I'm pretty sure that if this probe of the Associated Press had been conducted by a Republican administration, you would not be doing all of this "Let's give the snoopers the benefit of the doubt." I am pretty sure that your anger over the breach of these journalists' privacy would be epic and righteous and uncowed. ThinkProgress! You guys need to check yourselves as well! There are some deeds, I'm afraid, for which having the favored party identification is not an affirmative defense. It is not OK that the DoJ did this because the DoJ is being run by the guys who you perceive to be wearing the white hats. Snooping through the phone records of reporters doesn't become OK because Democrats are doing it, and it doesn't become evil by dint of the fact that Republicans are doing it. IT IS EITHER ALWAYS RIGHT, OR ALWAYS WRONG. The thing is, Media Matters, you have painted yourselves into a corner here. Someday, in America, there is going to be a Republican in the White House. They will run the DoJ. They will contend with leaks of their own. They will face a choice as to whether to abridge the rights of the press to hunt that source down. They might even choose to do something very much like the DoJ did in this instance.
Linkins is kind enough to add a statement from Media Matters where they insist it wasn't them, it was Message Matters. Here is Message Matters -- above their name at the top of the screen is "Media Matters Action Network." Message Matters is a division of Media Matters. Yesterday evening Michael Isikoff (NBC News) filed a report that even put into question the supposed reason for the investigation: Within hours after the AP published its May 7, 2012 story, then-White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, currently the director of the CIA, held a background conference call in which he assured television network commentators that the bomb plot was never a threat to the American public or aviation safety. The reason, he said, is because intelligence officials had “inside control” over it.
Stephen Walt (Foreign Policy) observes, "The greater but more subtle danger, however, is that our society gradually acclimates to ever-increasing levels of secrecy and escalating levels of government monitoring, all of it justified by the need to 'keep us safe.' Instead of accepting that a (very small) amount of risk is inevitable in the modern world, our desire for total safety allows government officials to simultaneously shrink the circle of individual freedoms and to place more and more of what they are doing beyond our purview." On the first hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane's topics were the IRS and AP scandals. Her guests were (all men -- how sadly normal for Diane's pathetic show) attorney Scott Fredericksen, NPR gadfly David Folkenflick and the ACLU's Gabe Rottman. We'll note Rottman on the AP scandal.
Gabe Rottman: Absolutely. And it's important to realize here that the First Amendment and the freedom of the press that it protects is not protecting the press. It's protecting the public. It's protecting our ability and our right to know what the government is doing in our name. And that's all the more important when it comes to national security cases like this where the government has vast authority to make secret its activities. And this particular subpoena is so chilling because of two reasons. First, it's extremely broad. It covered 20 phone lines in offices where more than 100 reporters work. And then in addition to that and perhaps more troubling, the Department of Justice elected to delay notifying the Associated Press that it had issued the subpoena for these telephone records. What that means is the Associated Press was robbed of the ability to go to court to challenge the subpoena.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER RANTED, GRUNTED AND SPEWED YESTERDAY AT THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
APPEARED TO THINK HE HAD BEEN ELECTED TO SOME OFFICE AND NOT GRASP THAT
AS AN APPOINTED OFFICIAL, HE HAS A DUTY TO ANSWER EACH AND EVERY
QUESTION THE PEOPLE'S REPRESENTATIVES IN CONGRESS PUT BEFORE HIM. HE
SEEMED TO THINK HE WAS ABOVE THE PROCESS AND ABOVE ACCOUNTABILITY.
On and on Holder went: “I don’t know. I don’t know. . . . I would not want to reveal what I know. . . . I don’t know why that didn’t happen. . . . I know nothing, so I’m not in a position really to answer.”
DID NO ONE EVER TELL HOLDER THAT ATTORNEY GENERAL WAS A FULL TIME JOB? THAT IT REQUIRED ATTENTION TO DETAIL?
FOR COMMENT BY THESE REPORTERS THIS MORNING, HOLDER REPLIED, "YOU
MOTHERF**KERS BETTER GET OFF MY DAMN PORCH BEFORE I SICK THE IRS ON YOUR
This afternoon, House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte noted
that "just two days ago, it was revealed that the Justice Dept obtained
telephone records for more than 20 Associated Press reporters and
editors over a two month period. These requests appear to be very broad
and intersect important First Amendment protections. Any abridgment of
the First Amendment right to the Freedom of the Press is very concerning
and members of the Committee want to hear an explanation today."
Ranking Member John Conyers noted, "I'm bothered by that our government
would pursue such a broad range of media phone records over such a long
period of time." Conyers used the occasion to call for the passage of his Federal Press Shield bill.
Appearing before the Commitee today, Attorney General Eric Holder
stated he supported such a law ("I continue to think that it should be
passed") in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee.
came the shocking news that the Associated Press had been targeting the
AP, secretly obtaining phone records for the months of April and May
2012. Lynn Oberlander (The New Yorker) observed: The cowardly move by the Justice Department to subpoena two months of
the A.P.’s phone records, both of its office lines and of the home
phones of individual reporters, is potentially a breach of the Justice
Department’s own guidelines.
Even more important, it prevented the A.P. from seeking a judicial
review of the action. Some months ago, apparently, the government sent a
subpoena (or subpoenas) for the records to the phone companies that
serve those offices and individuals, and the companies provided the
records without any notice to the A.P. If subpoenas had been served
directly on the A.P. or its individual reporters, they would have had an
opportunity to go to court to file a motion to quash the subpoenas.
What would have happened in court is anybody’s guess—there is no federal
shield law that would protect reporters from having to testify before a
criminal grand jury—but the Justice Department avoided the issue
altogether by not notifying the A.P. that it even wanted this
information. Even beyond the outrageous and overreaching action against
the journalists, this is a blatant attempt to avoid the oversight
function of the courts.
From this afternoon's hearing, we'll note this section. Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte: It was recently reported that the
Justice Dept obtained more than two months of phone records of more than
20 reporters and editors with the Associated Press -- including both
work and personal phone lines. There's been a lot of criticism raised
about the scope of this investigation. Including why the Dept needed to
subpoena records for 20 different people over a lengthy two month
period? Why was such a broad scope approved? Attorney General Eric Holder: Yeah, I mean, there's been a lot of
criticism, the staff of the RNC called for my resignation in spite of
the fact that I was not the person who was involved in that decision.
But be that as it may. I was recused in that matter as I described in a
press conference that I held yesterday, the decision to issue this
subpoena was made by the people who are presently involved in the case,
the matter is being supervised by the Deputy Attorney General. I am not
familiar with the ca[se] -- with the way the subpoena was constructed
in the way that it was because I'm simply not a part of the, uh, of the
case. Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte: It's my understanding that one of the
requirements before compelling process from the media outlet is to give
the media outlet notice. Do you know why that was not done? Attorney General Eric Holder: There are exceptions to that rule. I
do not know, however, with regard to that particular case, why that was
or was not done. I simply don't have a factual basis to answer that
question. Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte: And it's also been reported that the
Associated Press refrained from releasing this story for a week until
the department confirmed that doing so would not jeopardize national
security interests. That indicates that the AP was amenable to working
with you on this matter. If that is the case, why was it necessary to
subpoena the telephone records? Did you seek the AP's assistance in the
first place? And, if not, why not? Attorney General Eric Holder: Again, Mr. Chairman, I-I don't know
what happened there with the, uh, interaction between the AP and the
Justice Dept, I was recused from the case. Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte: I take it that you or others in the
Justice Dept will be forthcoming with those answers to those questions
as you explore why this was handled in what appears to be contrary to
the law and standard procedure. Attorney General Eric Holder: Uh, well, again, there are exceptions
to some of the rules that you pointed out. And I have faith in the
people who actually were responsible for this case that they were
responsible for the rules and that they followed them. But I don't have
a factual basis to answer the questions that you have asked because I
was recused. I don't know what has happened in this matter.
As disclosed before, I know Eric Holder. I like Eric. That doesn't mean
he gets a pass here. We didn't cover Fast and Furious -- it didn't
strike me as story nor was it part of our scope, sorry. Rebecca
did cover it and when it was tossed out -- I believe by one of her
readers -- that it was probably making me mad, she asked me for a
comment and I told her she needed to cover what she believed was
important and that there was no problem. (Rebecca and I are friends
from college, nothing will harm that friendship.)
With that out of the way, on the above, not acceptable. Holder isn't
there to be cute or funny or political or angry. He had no reason to
bring up the RNC. His job is to sit there, shut his mouth until he's
asked to speak and then answer the question. That is his job. And it
is Congress' time, not his. So if they ask a question in the midst of a
reply, he needs to be silent. He is not elected to office and he is
before Congress -- before The People's House, in fact. These are the
people citizens elected to represent them. So when he's insulting or
silly or anything but professional, it's unacceptable. If he were a
private citizen, fine and dandy. But he's unelected official appearing
before Congress to answer questions. His behavior was unacceptable. (Marcia
will cover more of this at her site tonight.) I don't care for Condi
Rice. I don't believe half of what she told Congress at hearings that
I've attended. But she's the one to hold up as the example of an
official in front of Congress for the way she carried herself. No
member of that administration was treated as hostilely as Rice was.
That's in part because she's a woman and in part because people like
Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft only served one term while Condi was
there the full 8 years. But while I rarely felt she was fully honest, I
never faulted her for the way she conducted herself before the
Committee. And she was treated rudely. I have no problem saying that.
What Senator Barbara Boxer did to her in a hearing was the rudest thing
I've ever seen.
Carrie Johnson: And Holder only raised more questions when he told
reporters he had seen a draft of Cole's letter beforehand. And is that
normal practice when you're recused from a case?
Eric Holder: Well, no. I just wanted to see the letter. I saw the
draft letter this morning and I just wanted to have an opportunity to
see what it looked like so I'd have at least some sense of the case, in
case there were things in the letter that [I] could talk about with the
Regardless, once you're recused, you stay out of it. That means you
don't read a letter because, in your kind, beautiful heart, you want to
help the press. I don't care. You recused yourself, you stay out of
it. Recusing means you wall yourself off. You don't get to choose
which parts you have access to and which parts your review. If you are
recused from the matter, you are out of it.
The wall is not porous. Out of it means out of it. That also means you
don't make statements of 'faith' about employees. You are out of it.
You cannot offer judgments, you can offer facts. You are out of it.
Eric Holder's actions are appalling because he is over executing the
laws for the Executive Branch and he fails to follow the recusal.
He did clear up that when the Attorney General is recused from a case,
the Deputy Attorney General becomes Acting Attorney General on that
case. This goes to the issue of the law requiring Holder to sign off on
the subpoena. As he explained it to US House Rep Jim Sensebrenner,
Deputy Attorney General James Cole would have signed off. (There's more
on that which Kat will cover at her site tonight.)
As Attorney General, he is over the Justice Dept and that means he needs
to know what's going on. So when he explains that he was recused
because he had been interviewed on this case, that's allowed. [Holder
knew the information leaked. He was interviewed to determine whether or
not he was the leak. For this reason he recused himself.] That's
expected. When he's asked by Sensebrenner if Cole was also interviewed
in the investigation that caused your recusal" and Holder responds, "Uh,
I don't know. I don't know. I assume he was, but I don't know," you've
got a problem.
He is the Attorney General. Part of recusing himself was ensuring that
whomever took over also had no appearance of a conflict of interest. I
have no idea whether Cole was interviewed or not. But I'm not Attorney
General. That is something Holder should know. If the answer was
"yes," Cole shouldn't have been put in charge? Correct. But Cole
shouldn't have been put in charge -- yes or no -- before it was
determined whether or not he too was questioned for the investigation.
It was Holder's job to not only ensure that he had no appearance of
conflicted interests but that the person who the case was handed off to
did not have a conflict of interest. Eric Holder didn't do that part of
Nor did he put his recusal in writing. This is an issue. It's not
minor. Holder is under the opinion that all he needs to do is say,
"Tag, you're it." No. He cannot just tell his Deputy AG that he is
recusing himself and the Deputy AG is in charge. It needs to be
formal. It wasn't. Under questioning from US House Rep Spencer Bachus,
he admitted that it was not done in writing. Did he inform the White
House? No, he said because it was an ongoing investigation. I'm sorry
but the White House nominated Holder for the post. He reports directly
to the White House, he should have informed the White House that he was
recusing himself and he should have done so in writing. Holder
disagrees. He does allow that it might have been helpful to have put it
in writing. Bachus pointed out, "Well it would be in this case becuase
you don't know when you recused yourself." To which, he replied, "Well
I don't know precisely but I have said that it was at the beginning of
the investigation." He also testified that he put two people in charge
of the investigation as part of his recusal. Why is he staffing the
investigation if he's recused? If he turned power over to the Deputy
Attorney General than the DAG should be the one appointing people to
lead the investigation.
We'll note more of the hearing throughout the snapshot. Wally's tackling an issue the hearing raises about Congress (he'll be writing at Rebecca's site tonight) and, at Trina's site, Ava's covering nonsense from a member and the member's failure to redeem himself.