Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Hillary Clinton confidants were present to “separate” damaging documents before Benghazi probe

The best reporter in the universe is Sharyl Attkisson, and here’s her latest up at the Daily Signal.

Excerpt:

As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the first time Maxwell has publicly come forward with the story.

At the time, Maxwell was a leader in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which was charged with collecting emails and documents relevant to the Benghazi probe.

“I was not invited to that after-hours endeavor, but I heard about it and decided to check it out on a Sunday afternoon,” Maxwell says.

He didn’t know it then, but Maxwell would ultimately become one of four State Department officials singled out for discipline—he says scapegoated—then later cleared for devastating security lapses leading up to the attacks. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were murdered during the Benghazi attacks.

Maxwell says the weekend document session was held in the basement of the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters in a room underneath the “jogger’s entrance.” He describes it as a large space, outfitted with computers and big screen monitors, intended for emergency planning, and with small offices on the periphery.

When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment.

“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisers.

“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”

A few minutes after he arrived, Maxwell says, in walked two high-ranking State Department officials.

In an interview Monday morning on Fox News, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, named the two Hillary Clinton confidants who allegedly were  present: One was Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff and a former White House counsel who defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. The other, Chaffetz said, was Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan, who previously worked on Hillary Clinton’s and then Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.

[...]Maxwell also criticizes the ARB as “anything but independent,” pointing to Mullen’s admission in congressional testimony that he called Mills to give her inside advice after the ARB interviewed a potential congressional witness.

[...]Maxwell also criticizes the ARB for failing to interview key people at the White House, State Department and the CIA, including not only Clinton but Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, who managed department resources in Libya; Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro; and White House National Security Council Director for Libya Ben Fishman.

“The ARB inquiry was, at best, a shoddily executed attempt at damage control, both in Foggy Bottom and on Capitol Hill,” Maxwell says. He views the after-hours operation he witnessed in the State Department basement as “an exercise in misdirection.”

It’s so surprising to me that we are just finding out about these things now, and through the Daily Signal, not through the mainstream media. It certainly does show what a Hillary Clinton presidency would be like, though – after all, she was Secretary of State when the attack occurred, and we can see where her staff’s priority’s were. This is the woman who blamed a terrorist attack on a Youtube video, to the grieving families of the victims. It sounded good to her, and made her look good, and that’s what matters, right? It’s not like anyone is out to harm us, right?

Filed under: News, , , ,

IRS auditing conservative news provider Breitbart.com

Yes, the same IRS that targeted Tea Party groups in order to help Obama win re-election.

Ted Cruz wrote a letter to the IRS about the audit, and you can read it here on the Breitbart web site.

Excerpt:

Dear Commissioner Koskinen:

I write to express deep concern over the recent announcement by Breitbart News that the Internal Revenue Service recently notified the Breitbart News Network, LLC that it would be subject to a far-reaching, burdensome, and open-ended audit.

As you know, the Breitbart News Network LLC is a conservative-leaning press outlet. It has editors and reporters who cover daily political news and regularly breaks stories that are critical of the Obama Administration’s policies. To conduct this audit, Breitbart News Network, LLC was asked to provide the IRS with all of its organizational documents, financial records, W-2s, W-4s, 1099s, and K-1s filed, personal income tax returns for each member of the company, payroll tax forms, information regarding properties and assets acquired by the company, bank statements, and array of other records documenting revenues, expenses, and depreciation costs.

This media audit, coupled with the recent proposal of 49 Senate Democrats to amend the Constitution to give Congress plenary power to regulate political speech, paints a disturbing picture of a coordinated assault on the First Amendment.

In another time, under another Administration, the decision to audit a conservative news organization might not have risen to a worrisome level of concern. However, given the IRS’s disturbing track record of illegally targeting conservative organizations-including the IRS recently paying a $50,000 settlement for having wrongfully leaked a conservative group’s confidential tax information-and the persistent refusal by the current Department of Justice to meaningfully investigate or prosecute those crimes, the decision to audit Breitbart News Network, LLC appears highly questionable.

For the IRS to behave like a partisan political organization, targeting media organizations whose views differ from the President’s, would represent a gross abuse of power. It would undermine the statutory mission and integrity of the IRS. And it would likely subject IRS employees to criminal prosecution.

The rest of the letter is Ted Cruz’s questioning of the IRS for their actions. It’s cases like this that make me want to abolish the entire IRS and go with a two-tier flat tax system with almost no deductions. Put the corrupt bureaucrats out of a job. That’s the only thing they will understand – the unemployment line.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Judge orders DOJ to release Fast and Furious documents blocked by Obama

Katie Pavlich reports on it for Townhall.com.

Excerpt:

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit pursued against the Department of Justice by government watchdog Judicial Watch, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled documents being withheld from Congress under President Obama’s claim of executive privilege must be turned over. Obama made the claim on the same day Attorney General Eric Holder was voted in criminal and civil contempt of Congress in June 2012.

“This order forces the Obama DOJ, for the first time, to provide a detailed listing of all documents that it has withheld from Congress and the American people for years about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal,” Judicial Watch released in a statement.

The FOIA lawsuit has been ongoing for 16-months and is now proceeding after a lengthy delay. The Justice Department originally asked the court for an indefinite hold on a FOIA request from Judicial Watch, citing executive privilege and an ongoing investigation. That indefinite hold request was shot down more than a year ago.

The documentation DOJ is required to now turn over is a “Vaughn index” of “all requested Fast and Furious materials from a June 2012 Judicial Watch FOIA request.”

A Vaughn index must: (1) identify each document withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption.” In ordering the DOJ to provide Judicial Watch the Vaughn index, the Court ruled, “In this circuit, when an agency is withholding documents under exemption claims, courts require that the agency provide a Vaughn index so that the FOIA requester – at a distinct informational disadvantage – may test the agency’s claims.”

“Once again, Judicial Watch has beat Congress to the punch in getting key information about another Obama scandal – this time, the Fast and Furious outrage,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “A federal court has ordered the Obama administration to produce information that could, for the first time, provide specific details who in the administration is responsible for Fast and Furious lies to Congress and the American people. This is a battle that put Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, saw Nixonian assertions of executive privilege by Barack Obama, and a hapless Congress in face of all this lawlessness. Finally, we may get some accountability for Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and the countless others murdered as a result of the insanely reckless Obama administration program.”

Unfortunately, this is coming too late for Obama’s 2012 re-election contest, and the mainstream media is unlikely to report it, just like they failed to report the IRS scandal. But if we all share this story, it will help people to realize how lawless and corrupt this administration really is. It’s gangster government, as Michele Bachmann said. The crooks are in charge.

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After a year of stalling, IRS blames loss of e-mails on “hard drive crash”

Most ethical administration in history - not a smidge of corruption

Most ethical administration in history not a smidgeon of corruption

Sharryl Atkisson (formerly of CBS News) is has questions for the IRS about lost e-mails..

Excerpt:

According to the House Ways and Means Committee, the IRS reports having “lost” former IRS manager Lois Lerner’s emails to and from other IRS employees sent between January of 2009 and April of 2011 due to a ‘computer crash.’

In light of the disclosure, these are some of the logical requests that should be made of the IRS:

  • Please provide a timeline of the crash and documentation covering when it was first discovered and by whom; when, how and by whom it was learned that materials were lost; the official documentation reporting the crash and federal data loss; documentation reflecting all attempts to recover the materials; and the remediation records documenting the fix. This material should include the names of all officials and technicians involved, as well as all internal communications about the matter.
  • Please provide all documents and emails that refer to the crash from the time that it happened through the IRS’ disclosure to Congress Friday that it had occurred.
  • Please provide the documents that show the computer crash and lost data were appropriately reported to the required entities including any contractor servicing the IRS. If the incident was not reported, please explain why.
  • Please provide a list summarizing what other data was irretrievably lost in the computer crash. If the loss involved any personal data, was the loss disclosed to those impacted? If not, why?
  • Please provide documentation reflecting any security analyses done to assess the impact of the crash and lost materials. If such analyses were not performed, why not?
  • Please provide documentation showing the steps taken to recover the material, and the names of all technicians who attempted the recovery.
  • Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.
  • Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.
  • I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably lost.

The Committee had requested the Lerner emails as part of its investigation into to the targeting of conservative non-profits by the IRS. The Obama administration has denied any corruption or intentional wrongdoing. Lerner took the Fifth when asked to testify to Congress. The House of Representatives subsequently held her in contempt. The lost materials are said to include any communications that may have occurred between Lerner and outside agencies or groups such as the White House, the Treasury Department, the Department of Justice, the Federal Elections Commission and the offices of Democrats.

House and Ways Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) says that along with providing news of the emails that have been lost, the IRS suggested in the same letter to Congress that it end its investigation.

The leftist Washington Post explains that the Democrats’ excuse of “computer crash” makes no sense, since e-mails are not stored on individual computers, but on servers that are protected from disasters.

Excerpt: (links removed)

On Friday afternoon, the IRS apparently informed the House Ways and Means Committee that it cannot produce any e-mail correspondence from January 2009 to April 2011 between Lois Lerner and anyone outside the IRS – e.g., the White House, the Department of Justice, the FEC or Democratic congressional offices.  According to the IRS, these 28 months of e-mails were wiped out by a “computer crash.”

Here is the commissioner of the IRS, testifying before Congress in March that the e-mails of employees such as Lerner are “stored in servers.”  Here is a PowerLine post arguing that the “computer crash” excuse is “implausible to anyone who understands how email systems work.”  And here is House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) calling for “an immediate investigation and forensic audit by Department of Justice as well as the Inspector General.”

The IRS is blaming a “hard drive” crash for the loss – as it the e-mails were stored on Lois Lerner’s computer. But as an IT professional with 15 years experience, this is a joke – on the order of the blaming of a terrorist attack on a Youtube video.

In enterprise IT systems, critical data (including e-mails) are replicated across multiple server clusters in multiple geographic locations. Large companies typically have disaster recovery exercises in order to ensure that even catastrophic situations will not result in data loss. You would think that the Democrats could have come up with a better story to cover up who was responsible for the persecution of Tea Party groups  in order to win the 2012 election, but alas, no. We truly have been governed by clowns since January 2009.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

VA socialized medicine: bonuses awarded as customers died on waiting lists

In the private sector, bonuses are paid to people who can offer customers the best products and services at the lowest price. That’s how a firm like Apple or Amazon makes a profit. By pleasing customers. But government-run firms make money a different way – by killing customers.

Stephen Moore explains in Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

The Veterans Affairs Department health care scandal has deepened in recent days, with new revelations of incompetent management and misplaced spending priorities, including millions of dollars paid out in bonuses at the very hospitals where services were the worst.

[...]Freedom of Information Act requests by Illinois-based watchdog group Open the Books reveal that the VA spent millions on bonuses during the last three years at Hines.

Worse, in 2013, only about one-in-four of Hines’ 4,230 employees were those providing the actual primary care: doctors (309) or nurses (about 800), Open the Books found.

Five veterans died waiting for care at Hines.

As far back as 1999, the VA had found systemic quality-of-care problems at Hines with little done to correct them. A VA study concluded that “Hines has the most inefficient physical plant for inpatient care and the most significant compliance issues with patient privacy.”

In 2005, a VA study rated Chicago the worst regional office in the country. Now the man in charge at Hines, Murawsky, has been elevated to oversight of the entire VA system.

Democrats have been trying to say that the problem is that they were not able to spend even more money, because the national debt at 17.5 trillion is not high enough.

Moore notes that the problem is misspending:

The revelations of bonuses suggest that misspending may be the biggest problem.

The VA’s own budget numbers indicate a more-than doubling of the agency’s expenditures to $57 billion from $28 billion since 2003. The patient load is up only about one-third over the decade.

So the VA has more money than ever per patient, even after adjusting for inflation.

As far as mismanagement, the problem of “performance” bonuses at the VA appears to have been systemic. An Open the Books investigation has found:

  • One in five employees at the Phoenix VA received bonuses in 2013, with some receiving extra pay of $5,000 or more. The total bonus payouts were $337,885.
  • As many as 40 veterans may have died awaiting care at this hospital system and about 1,300 waited more than six months for care.
  • In 2013, Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman received the No. 1 bonus out of 3,170 employees (at Phoenix): $9,345. The number of avoidable deaths was higher than at nearly any other hospital.
  • In Chicago, $1 billion in salaries were supplemented with $4 million in bonuses over a three-year period.
  • At the seven most troubled VA facilities, almost $9 million in bonuses were paid out to 13,000 employees.

This might remind you of the National Health Service’s “Liverpool Care Pathway” program, in which doctors were awarded bonuses for freeing up hospital beds by transferring patients to terminal care.

Paul Krugman approves

Supporters of more government-run health care like Paul Krugman had previously praised the VA system as “huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.”

Ben Shapiro has a full quote from Krugman:

Paul Krugman in 2011 wrote of the VA’s “huge success story”:

Multiple surveys have found the VHA providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers…the VHA is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense.

Krugman added, “Yes, this is ‘socialized medicine’…But it works, and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of US health care more broadly.”

This is what people on the left wanted. The VA system is even WORSE than single-payer. At least in a single-payer system, only the payment is government-run. But the VA system is completely government-run. And the outcomes we are seeing in the system is exactly what you would expect when the people running the system are paid regardless of whether the customer is served. Or whether the customer even lives! At least in the private sector system, you have to serve the customer to make money – otherwise they will take their money to a competitor. Not so in the VA system, and that’s the problem. They don’t have to make a profit to survive, so they don’t care about winning business from customers in a competitive market.

Filed under: News, , , ,

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