The Next Benghazi Scandal

It’s been burbling up from the conservative media for nearly six months, starting with Fox News. Last year, the network’s reporter Catherine Herridge reported on a ship that had arrived to Turkey from Libya laden with weapons. Ordnance left unsecured after the fall of Gaddafi was being taken to Syria to overthrow another dictator.

This isn’t in much dispute. The dispute, and the theory, is that the weapons used to kill Americans in Benghazi were made available by bungling American gun-runners. That’s the theory floated by Roger Simon, who talks to two “Benghazi whistleblowers” (multiplying like rabbits now).

[Chris] Stevens’ mission in Benghazi, they will say, was to buy back Stinger missiles from al-Qaeda groups issued to them by the State Department, not by the CIA. Such a mission would usually be a CIA effort, but the intelligence agency had opposed the idea because of the high risk involved in arming “insurgents” with powerful weapons that endanger civilian aircraft.

It’s a nearly perfect scandal—Fast and Furious plus Benghazi, a sort of Neapolitan sundae of outrage and disgrace. If the anonymous accusers are wrong, we have plenty of other ways to explain the loose weapons in Benghazi and the transfer to Syria. And making it possible for the stray weapons to get to Syria is the sort of thing both parties in Congress largely favor. But the darkest version of the theory is gaining ground on the right.

via The Next Benghazi Scandal.

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Obama Drone Speech – The Lethal President Sends His Regrets

A few hours before President Obama delivered his national security speech, I called a lawyer who used to work for him. I wanted to gain some insight into a question that everyone seemed to be asking: Why now? Why had the President decided, four months into his second term in office, to admit responsibility for the deaths of four American citizens, to cut back on the drone strikes that have been the hallmark of his counter-terrorism policy if not his entire presidency, and then to give a speech that, if it lived up to its advance billing, would propose limits on his administration’s own lethality?

The lawyer said that the speech was a response to several things, among them the drawing down of the war in Afghanistan and the promotion of John Brennan to the directorship of the CIA. But most of all, the lawyer added, the speech was an opportunity — a chance for the President, finally, to be himself. “From what I know of the president, these are things he really cares about. He’s been displeased with the constant war footing and frustrated with the lack of transparency. These are themes he’s been pressing from day one. But now he thinks that time is running short and he thinks it’s important to the United States and the world for him to be clear about what the administration is doing. It’s hard to move the institutions he has to deal with. He’s finally said, ‘Enough. We have to do this.’ I think this was always coming. What you’ll hear from the president today is what he’s always wanted to say. It’s what I’ve always heard him say.”

A few minutes later, I called one of President Obama’s former counter-terrorism advisors. I told him what the lawyer had said, about the entrenched institutions of government frustrating the president’s inclination to push for transparency, and he said, “I never saw any inclination to push for these things. He’s always talked transparency without being transparent. He must have started pushing after I left.”

From the start, Barack Obama has been a man of epic divisions in matters of national security. He outlawed torture and announced his intention to close Guantanamo as his first significant act in office; he approved a drone strike as his second. He won and accepted a Nobel Peace Prize while personally approving the elimination of those identified in secret as our enemies. Even now, in the matter of national-security leaks, he speaks of reporters not having to go to jail for doing their jobs in response to his administration raising the prospect of reporters having to go to jail for doing their jobs. What passes as his breadth of vision is often the result of the lengths to which he’ll go to reconcile the irreconcilable… via Obama Drone Speech – The Lethal President Sends His Regrets – Esquire

Obama speech: Drones, Benghazi, and Gitmo responsibility lies with Congress

Maybe that headline’s a little unfair. We have a divided government; Congress holds the purse strings; Congress passed the 2001 Authorization of Force in Iraq. But most discussion of foreign policy focuses on the president, the commander-in-chief. Why didn’t he close Gitmo, like he promised? Is he saying he and he alone can kill citizens with drone attacks?

At four moments in his speech today, the president pointed at Capitol Hill and asked it to move on or admit its role in the security decisions that have become so controversial… via Obama speech: Drones, Benghazi, and Gitmo responsibility lies with Congress.

Holder OK’d search warrant for Fox News reporter’s private emails, official says

Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

The disclosure of the attorney general’s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists.

“I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” Obama said. “Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”

Rosen, who has not been charged in the case, was nonetheless the target of a search warrant that enabled Justice Department investigators to secretly seize his private emails after an FBI agent said he had “asked, solicited and encouraged … (a source) to disclose sensitive United States internal documents and intelligence information.”

Obama’s comments follow a firestorm of criticism that has erupted over disclosures that in separate investigations of leaks of classified information, the Justice Department had obtained private emails that Rosen exchanged with a source and the phone records of Associated Press reporters… via Holder OK’d search warrant for Fox News reporter’s private emails, official says – Open Channel

U.S. Acknowledges Killing 4 Americans in Drone Strikes

President Obama plans to open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military.

In his first major speech on counterterrorism of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to refocus the epic conflict that has defined American priorities since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and even foresees an unspecified day when the so-called war on terror might all but end, according to people briefed on White House plans.

As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States. Mr. Obama approved providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.

A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists… via U.S. Acknowledges Killing 4 Americans in Drone Strikes – NYTimes.com

The Audacity of Eric Holder’s Letter Admitting Team Obama Killed 4 Americans

Attorney General Eric Holder has just sent a truly incredible letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In it, he acknowledges that the U.S. has killed four of its own citizens in drone strikes. Casual news consumers may find that confusing. Hasn’t there already been an extremely public debate about the killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman? Indeed, everyone knows that, despite the 5th Amendment, the Obama Administration believes it can target and kill American citizens without due process, and that it has done so.

But that hasn’t stopped Team Obama from keeping what everyone knows officially classified, permitting them to broach the subject when convenient and to dodge it when inconvenient. Wednesday’s revelation, first reported by the indispensable Charlie Savage of the New York Times, is therefore a good thing. Team Obama has dispensed with the absurd pretense that targeting Americans is a secret, and admitted that they’ve killed a total of 4 Americans with drones.

It’s actually three other features of the letter that are incredible.. via The Audacity of Eric Holder’s Letter Admitting Team Obama Killed 4 Americans – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic

Congress hosts IRS bloodbath, slamming tax authorities for partisan targeting of conservatives, as one official refuses to answer questions

Tempers flared in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday, with members on both sides of the aisle castigating the Internal Revenue Service for targeting conservative groups with special scrutiny, and then hiding the practice from Congress.

Rep. Darrel Issa, the committee’s chairman, said that the committee learned just yesterday that the IRS completed its own investigation a year before a Treasury Department Inspector General report was completed.

But despite the IRS recognizing in May 2012 that its employees were treating right-wing groups differently from other organizations, Issa said, IRS personnel withheld those conclusions from legislators.

Just yesterday the committee interviewed Holly Paz, the director of exempt organizations, rulings and agreements, division of the IRS,’ Issa said. ‘While a tremendous amount of attention is centered about the Inspector General’s report, or investigation, the committee has learned from Ms. Paz that she in fact participated in an IRS internal investigation that concluded in May of 2012 – May 3 of 2012 – and found essentially the same thing that Mr. George found more than a year later… via Congress hosts IRS bloodbath, slamming tax authorities for partisan targeting of conservatives, as one official refuses to answer questions | Mail Online

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