We’ve known for years that the Feds are tapping phones, reading e-mails, checking on which site we go to on the internet, all without warrants. This afternoon the news broke that the DOJ subpoenaed two months
of phone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
The records obtained by the Justice Department listed incoming and outgoing calls, and the duration of each call, for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery, according to attorneys for the AP.
In all, the government seized those records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices whose phone records were targeted on a wide array of stories about government and other matters.
Naturally AP reporters and executives are outraged and President and CEO Gary Pruitt has sent a letter of protest to Attorney General Holder.
The government would not say why it sought the records. U.S. officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have leaked information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.
The story in question was about the successful foiling of the so-called underwear bombing plot. There’s much more at the AP link. So the feds are enraged because of a leak about a successful counterterror operation. Imagine if it had been unsuccessful? Maybe those reporters would be headed to re-education camps by now.
But that’s not the whole story, according to Think Progress. The reason the feds were so nervous about that AP story was that the CIA stopped the underwear bomber rather than the FBI.
Why that drew the attention of the Justice Department, however, is that the CIA was the one who foiled the plot, which the AP report made clear:
The FBI is examining the latest bomb to see whether it could have passed through airport security and brought down an airplane, officials said. They said the device did not contain metal, meaning it probably could have passed through an airport metal detector. But it was not clear whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it.
The would-be suicide bomber, based in Yemen, had not yet picked a target or bought a plane ticket when the CIA stepped in and seized the bomb, officials said. It’s not immediately clear what happened to the alleged bomber.
AP learned of the plot a week before publishing, but “agreed to White House and CIA requests not to publish it immediately” due to national security concerns. But, by reporting the CIA’s involvement in foiling the plot, they put AQAP on notice that the CIA had a window into their activities. The AP’s reporting also led to other stories involving an operative in place within AQAP, and details of the operations he was involved in. That operative, it was feared, would be exposed and targeted by AQAP as retribution for siding with the United States.
John Brennan, who is now the head of the CIA, said at his confirmation hearing that the release of information to AP was an “unauthorized and dangerous disclosure of classified information.”
The AP knew they were being investigated–the shock came when they realized the breathtaking extent of the federal intrusion.
The DOJ issued a statement claiming that “because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the free flow of information and the public interest”
Okay, if you say so….
So now what? Will mainstream reporters who have been accepting of government surveillance as long as it was directed at us “little people” now begin a real pushback? We shall see.
If you do leave your house with a pressure cooker, you could be surrounded by FBI agents in an instant!
First let me clarify that this is not satire. This isn’t from The Onion, it’s from The Detroit News:
Federal agents arrested a suspicious traveler with an altered Saudi Arabian passport at Detroit Metro Airport over the weekend after discovering a pressure cooker in his luggage.
According to a criminal complaint filed today in U.S. District Court, the passenger, Hussain Al Khawahir arrived at Detroit Metro on Friday from Saudi Arabia via Amersterdam. He had a visa and a Saudi Arabian passport, and told officers in the baggage control area that he would be visiting his nephew at the University of Toledo, the complaint said.
In the baggage area, two customs officers interviewed the passenger and noticed a page had been removed form the man’s passport, the complaint said. The man said that he did not know how the page was removed form the passport, and stated that the passport was locked in a box that only he, his wife and three minor children have access to in his home, the complaint said. His hometown was not listed in court documents.
While at the airport, customs and border officials also examined his luggage and found a pressure cooker inside. When questioned about it, the man initially said that he brought the pressure cooker for his nephew because pressure cookers are not sold in Saudi Arabia, the complaint said. The man then changed his story and admitted his nephew had purchased a pressure cooker in America before, but it “was cheap” and broke after the first use.
So basically, he was arrested for lying about why he had a pressure cooker in his luggage. He couldn’t possibly have been so flustered by what happened that he couldn’t think of what to say, right? Obviously, he must be a dangerous “terrorist” carrying one pressure cooker into the country to make a bomb. Because no one sells pressure cookers in the U.S., right? So is he part of a terrorist “cell” that brings pressure cookers into the country one at a time for some future plot?
At least they read the guy his rights, according to the article.
Of course the hysteria stems from the Boston Marathon bombings in April in which pressure cooker bombs were used.
Here’s a little more information:
Hussain Al Kwawahir appeared for a brief hearing at 1 p.m. in federal court on charges he allegedly used an altered passport and lied to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent about the pressure cooker.
It was unclear Monday whether his arrest is terrorism related or a misunderstanding. But the prosecutor handling the case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel, who prosecuted the terror case against underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
No one has told his court-appointed lawyer anything either.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade declined comment on the particulars of the case or whether there are any links to terrorism.
“We never want to jump to conclusions and read more into a situation than is there, but we want to make sure all cases are fully investigated to protect the public,” McQuade said.
Don’t these people have anything better to do? We have children shooting each other with guns all over the country, but they’re worried about cooking equipment. What if I order a pressure cooker on Amazon? Will the FBI come to my house and question me? Don’t worry, I’m not taking that chance.
This story follows on a previous one–also in Michigan–in which a Saudi student cooked rice in his pressure cooker and was carrying it over to his next door neighbor’s house when other neighbors freaked out and called the FBI. From The Daily Mail: FBI surrounds house of Saudi student after sightings of him with pressure cooker pot – only to discover he was cooking RICE.
A Saudi student living in Michigan was questioned in his home by FBI agents after neighbours saw him carrying a pressure cooker and called the police.
Talal al Rouki had been cooking a traditional Saudi Arabian rice dish called kabsah and was carrying it to a friend’s house.
According to reports in a Saudi newspaper on Friday, the FBI are increasingly vigilant about ‘pressure cooker’ home-made bombs after the Boston bombers used one to make an explosive….
The young student showed them his pressure cooker and explained to them he used to make a rice dish.
An FBI agent said: ‘You need to be more careful moving around with such things, Sir’
So watch out! If you’re going to take a meal to a sick friend or an elderly neighbor, for heaven’s sake use a transparent glass casserole dish so the “authorities” can see what you’re carrying. Especially if you happen to be a brown person or have a foreign accent, of course.
I guess we can expect a long string of pressure cooker arrests, while Congress refuses to vote for background checks on gun sales and Americans continue to kill and maim each other with firearms on a daily basis.
I only wish this were a joke.
Stunning news just breaking now from ABC News: ‘Mounting Evidence’ Boston Bombers Involved in 2011 Triple Murder
Massachusetts investigators have developed what they call “mounting evidence,” bolstered by “forensic hits,” that point to the possible involvement of both Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar in a gruesome, unsolved triple homicide in 2011, law enforcement officials told ABC News.
The officials cautioned that until more definitive DNA testing is complete, it is still too early to consider bringing an indictment against the younger of the two brothers, who officials said has admitted his role in the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured 260 more on April 15. Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with police days after the Marathon bombing attack, but Dhzokhar survived and was captured.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s “best friend” Brendan Mess was murdered along with Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken in Mess’ apartment in Waltham, MA on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Knowing what we know now, that Tamerlan believed the 2001 attacks were a Jewish conspiracy to turn Americans against muslims.
Tamerlan and Mess were once roommates and did boxing and martial arts training together.
Now law enforcement officials tell ABC News that some crime scene forensic evidence provided a match to the two Tsarnaev brothers. The officials also said records of cell phones used by the Tsarnaevs appears to put them in the area of the murders on that date. Several officials confirmed the new findings but declined to be identified because they are not authorized to comment on the ongoing investigation.
A number of Tamerlan’s friends have reportedly begun to suspect that he may have been involved in the murders, but this is the first time I’ve heard any mention of a connection to Dzhokhar. One reason the friends became suspicious is that Tamerlan did not go to his supposed “best friend’s” funeral.
Back to the ABC story:
…the case went cold, until photos of the Boston Marathon suspects were released and family and friends of the Waltham victims recognized them and remembered Tamerlan’s strange behavior after the murders. He did not attend his friend’s funeral and vanished from the martial arts gyms where the men had sparred together.
Then, Gerry’s Italian Kitchen became a focal point again on April 24, nine days after the Marathon bombing, after investigators removed a Planet Aid charity donation bin from its parking lot. A driver had discovered discarded fireworks inside and law enforcement sources told ABC News the gunpowder had been removed from the cartridges.
This led to investigators questioning whether Tamerlan had ever worked at Gerry’s. “The eatery’s management” told ABC that neither of the brothers ever worked there. Still…
looking back, multiple residents of Waltham and Watertown remember Tamerlan Tsarnaev delivering food to their homes and Tsarnaev family members have told reporters the brothers worked as pizza deliverymen. The eatery’s management, however, steadfastly denied that either Tsarnaev brother worked there.
Scott Wood, a jiu jitsui trainer who befriended and trained Mess at a martial arts studio in Vermont, said he always believed whoever the killer or killers were, they got in Mess’ home “under the guise of being a friend.”
This is a breaking story. I’ll update if I get more information.
Friday Reads: Why Media Must Examine Record of Cleveland Police Dept. in Violence Against Women CasesPosted: May 10, 2013
Yesterday I read something that infuriated me. I usually admire Amanda Marcotte’s writing on women’s issues, but I have real problems with her take on the neighbors of Ariel Castro who claim they called 911 over the years to report suspicious activity at his house on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland. Marcotte can’t believe that the Cleveland police would ignore such reports especially “considering Castro’s frightening history of domestic violence and child abuse.” She even provides links in the opening paragraph to a post at Slate in which she suggests that Castro’s neighbors must be “creating false memories”
As more details emerge from the bizarre kidnapping case in Cleveland, people are beginning to wonder how Ariel Castro could have kept women locked up in his house for a decade without anyone actually noticing that something strange was going on. Enter the neighbors,some of whom are telling the press that they did, in fact, see all sorts of weird behavior—and that they called the police, who did nothing about it. The police, however, are denying these reports, saying that the two visits made to the house in the decade were unrelated to any suspicious activities. Considering Castro’s frightening history of domestic violence and child abuse, it’s hard to imagine the police would just ignore it if the neighbors kept complaining about him doing things like dragging naked women around on leashes in his yard.
So what’s going on? Are all these people lying? Are the cops? Or is this a case of lost records or unrecorded police calls? One possible explanation is that the neighbors are simply caught up in the excitement over a national story unfolding in their backyard, and they’re misremembering their pasts because of it. False memories, particularly regarding incredibly emotional situations, are easier to develop than many realize.
This makes no sense to Marcotte, so she dredges up Elizabeth Loftus’ research on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and the human ability to create “false memories.” For Amanda Marcotte, who seems to really care about the treatment of women who have been raped and otherwise abused, to excuse the Cleveland PD on this basis is a terrible mistake, in my opinion. Doesn’t she realize that Loftus is an expert witness who testifies almost exclusively for defendants accused of sexual abuse and assault? Couldn’t Marcotte at least look at the history of the Cleveland PD before dismissing accusations against them?
But no, she assumes that surely the Cleveland police department did the best they could, so any neighbor who worried about something being wrong at Castro’s house with it’s high fences, boarded up and trash-bag-covered windows must be “inadvertently” making up past concerns in order to alleviate their guilt or make themselves seem more important. I won’t go into a long essay on the problems with applying Loftus’ research in this case; I’ll just agree that anything is possible. But we need to ask ourselves: what is the most likely explanation in this particular case?
In another post at Slate, Justin Peters “explains” why he thinks the Cleveland PD “did everything they could and it still wasn’t enough.”
No. No, they didn’t. Let’s keep in mind that the Cleveland PD didn’t in fact find Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus. What happened is that
Berry noticed the front door of the home was unlocked but the outer storm door remained bolted. She was reluctant to attempt an escape because Castro was known to test the women by leaving doors in the house unlocked. He would beat them if they attempted to leave the unlocked rooms, police sources said. Berry made the decision to try to break through the storm door after seeing people on a neighbor’s porch. She gained the attention of neighbors such as Charles Ramsey, and they helped her and her 6-year-old child get out. She called 9-1-1 from a nearby home. [Ramsey was aided by another neighbor Angel Cordero, who wasn't as good an interview as Ramsey]
When Berry called 911, she got an operator who tried his best to blow her off by saying
Dispatcher: We’re going to send them as soon as we get a car open.
It took Berry’s continued urging to get him to act immediately. Even Charles Ramsey said in his interview with Anderson Cooper, “Bro, this is Cleveland,” seemingly calling attention to the fact that in Cleveland missing women don’t get found in neighborhoods like his. This is a fact that all of Cleveland is aware of, which is why there is a lot of anger toward police in the city right now.
This is a morning reads post, so I’m not going to rant on and on about this. Instead I’ll give you some links to articles that support what I’m saying. But first let me ask a rhetorical question for Slate and Amanda Marcotte: Were the women who claimed they were attacked by now convicted Cleveland serial rapist and murderer Anthony Sowell “creating false memories” when they call 911 and were ignored? Were the neighbors who reported the smell of rotting corpses emanating from Sowell’s house and yard “creating false memories?” What about the thousands of rape kits that Cleveland PD never had tested? Why is the Cleveland Police Department currently under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department?
Violence against women is huge problem in this country, and the Cleveland PD is not alone in treating it as a lower priority than other crimes. IMHO, it’s very important not to forget that. Not ever.
Now I’ll end my rant and give you some links to click on. I know this is a distasteful subject, a painful subject, and I understand why no one really wants to read all the gory details. But sometimes gory details are necessary to wake people up to the reality of what happens to women in this country every fucking day–especially poor women, drug-addicted women, sex workers, and others whom society sometimes sees as “disposable.”
I’ll begin with a video from Democracy Now–an interview with Cleveland reporter Eric Sandy.
Here is Sandy’s article, The Long History of Ariel Castro, Cleveland Kidnapper and Monster. Please note that Castro did come in contact with law enforcement over the years because of his horrific abuse of his wife and children. None of his violent behavior was really taken seriously or adequately dealt with. I apologize for this long excerpt:
Once again, Tomba’s words at the Tuesday morning press conference hang in the air: “Every single lead was followed up no matter how small,” he said. Unavoidable thoughts hearkening back to Anthony Sowell’s 2011 serial murder convictions hang in the air, as well. The rescue at the Seymour Avenue house will bear out a legacy on the backs of all involved, much like Cleveland’s other high-profile crimes.
Stories revolving around Castro’s work as a bus driver and his interactions with family members fill out characteristics about the man – elements of his personality that may have led to both the kidnapping and to his evasion from law enforcement.
In 1993 and 2005, Castro was accused of domestic violence from his one-time wife. The former charges were reduced to mere disorderly conduct, while the latter incident offered grisly imagery of a fractured marriage still capable of wreaking havoc. Castro broke his ex-wife’s nose and ribs, dislocated her shoulders, knocked out one of her teeth and battered her so hard that a blood clot formed on her brain, according to filings in court. In an interview with investigators after the fact, Castro denied ever being abusive toward her.
That filing effectively killed Castro’s chances at even partial custody of his children. Nevertheless, as sources familiar with the man report, his penchant for manipulation pulled Emily and Arlene back into his gravitational pull at times.
Several years after the gross sexual imposition conviction of Colon blew over, Emily Castro gave birth to a girl. It’s unclear who the father was – though speculation points to either a former boyfriend who now lives in Cleveland or, according to the private investigator, something much more untoward, evil, and incestuous.
Emily was living in Fort Wayne, Ind., where she attempted to murder her 11-month-old daughter by slashing her throat four times in 2007. She was later convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“It is certainly a mystery as to how this happened or why this happened,” Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck told The Journal Gazette at the time.
It is indeed a mystery that may yet hold more clues as to who Ariel Castro has been all these years. Any answers that lay within may illuminate a gap in local law enforcement’s own investigations.
More articles to ponder:
Note the padlocked door in the background of the photos, which were taken in 2001–before the abductions of Knight, Berry, and DeJesus took place. Who or what was in those locked rooms at that time?
Daily Telegraph: ‘Ariel Castro locked my sister in a box and beat her’
CNN on the similarities with the Anthony Sowell case: Cleveland abductions a chilling reminder of ‘House of Horrors’
19 Action News: “Note of admission” written by Ariel Castro in 2004
KNYC.com: Police Report
Joan Walsh on the media sliming of Charles Ramsey: Charles Ramsey is still a hero
Note that the stepfather tried to get police and FBI to investigate Ariel Castro in the disappearances. They ignored his pleas, and Castro was used as a source against the stepfather and allowed to testify against him–even with his history of domestic abuse! Did you know that Castro repeatedly abducted his own daughters?
The Daily Beast: My Neighbor the Monster
Doug Parker owns the home next to Cleveland suspect Ariel Castro. In his first interview, he recalls 20 years of confrontations, a bitter court case, and more red flags….
Parker says the police have been to the house more than they claim. For one, he says, he called the police in May 1996 when Castro pulled fence posts out of the ground and rolled up a chain link fence that ran between the two properties.
“He did it while I was at work, so I couldn’t stop him,” Parker says.The posts had been buried 18 inches, leaving holes that DeaAna, 6 years old at the time, tripped over while playing and injured herself. “The cops came, we talked, and one of them suggested I go to court on this,” Parker says. “And that’s what I did.”He was awarded $900 in damages and Castro was ordered to put the fence back up.
I guess those court records must have gone missing…
If you are stunned that three Cleveland women could be held captive for a decadewithout being discovered, then you are unacquainted with the case of Anthony Sowell, also known as the Cleveland Strangler.
Sowell was a registered sex offender who remained at liberty despite a series of sexual-assault complaints against him, until the police finally acted and discovered the bodies of 11 murdered women in his house and backyard.
At least some of those murders and rapes could have been prevented if the police had not reacted so indifferently when a distraught woman called them in September 2008, after being repeatedly raped, beaten, and choked by Sowell. She had at one point sought refuge in a bathroom, where she saw a headless body wrapped in plastic and positioned in a sitting position in the bathtub.
After managing to get away, the woman had stumbled as far as a bus stop before she could go no further. She would later testify: “I couldn’t walk no more. I was tore up. My body was tore up … My face, my female parts, my butt.”
She called the police. “They told me I had to come in and make a report,” she would testify. She further testified that she asked the dispatcher, “How do I get there?” The dispatcher told her: “Come in and make a report. We can’t take a report over the phone.”
She told the court that after the call, “I felt less than human. I didn’t know who to turn to.”
Cleveland police removed Michelle Knight’s missing person entry from an FBI database 15 months after she was reported missing in 2002 — and nearly a decade before she was rescued from her captor’s home on Cleveland’s West Side.
City spokeswoman Maureen Harper said Thursday that police followed proper procedures by removing Knight’s name from the database in November 2003 because they were unable to contact Knight’s mother by telephone to verify that her then-22-year-old daughter still was missing.
However, the police department’s written policy on investigating missing adults, at the time of Knight’s disappearance on Aug. 23, 2002, describes a different verification process. It states that an officer must go and see that a missing person has been found, then inform the FBI within two hours for removal from the National Crime Information Center database.
Kym Pasqualini, a national advocate for missing adults, said in an interview Thursday that the removal of Knight’s name and description from the database helped the case fall through the cracks.
She got pregnant from the rape and that victimization probably set her up to be revictimized when she learned her son was to be taken away from her. Sadly, she left home angry and upset and Ariel Castro offered her a ride.
NY Daily News: Michelle Knight’s twin brother talks about their history and his happy reunion with her.
This one is heartbreaking but speaks beautifully to me about human nature and our need for connection.
I guess this is enough for now. I’ll provide other links in the comment thread. If you made it this far, thanks for reading.
As always, this is an open thread and you are welcome post links on any topic in the comments.
Again, I understand this is a painful and distasteful subject. But please be aware that violence against women is truly endemic in the U.S. and it still isn’t treated with the necessary seriousness by law enforcement, the courts, or the media.
I got an e-mail this morning from Dakinikat saying that she arrived safely late last night and is completely exhausted. Hopefully, she’ll get to see her Dad today and give him a great big hug.
Now let’s see what’s going on in the world this morning.
I’ve got to be honest, I’m confused about the latest GOP Benghazi hearings. I have no idea what the fuss is all about, and I really don’t even want to try to figure it out. Apparently, car thief and arsonist Darrell Issa just can’t let go of Benghazi, and is going to keep right on harping on it until someone figures out a way to stop him. I’m going to highlight some articles on this “controversy,” but, as I said, I can’t really explain it.
First, the allegations of wrongdoing:
A veteran diplomat gave a riveting minute-by-minute account on Wednesday of the lethal terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11 and described its contentious aftermath at a charged Congressional hearing that reflected the weighty political stakes perceived by both parties.
During a chaotic night at the American Embassy in Tripoli, hundreds of miles away, the diplomat, Gregory Hicks, got what he called “the saddest phone call I’ve ever had in my life” informing him that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was dead and that he was now the highest-ranking American in Libya. For his leadership that night when four Americans were killed, Mr. Hicks said in nearly six hours of testimony, he subsequently received calls from both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama.
But within days, Mr. Hicks said, after raising questions about the account of what had happened in Benghazi offered in television interviews by Susan E. Rice, the United Nations ambassador, he felt a distinct chill from State Department superiors. “The sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning,” said Mr. Hicks, who has been a Foreign Service officer for 22 years.
He was soon given a scathing review of his management style, he said, and was later “effectively demoted” to desk officer at headquarters, in what he believes was retaliation for speaking up.
After the disrupted phone call with Ambassador Stevens, Mr Hicks said he received calls from Libyans using the ambassador’s phone who said they had the envoy with them.
But Mr Hicks decided not to act on the calls, fearing an ambush.
So the “whistleblower” chose not to do anything? What is his complaint then?
UN Ambassador Susan Rice has been the focus of outrage from Republicans in Congress, for giving the news media what has been acknowledged as an incorrect explanation for the attack.
She said on a Sunday chat show on 16 September that the attack had grown out of an anti-US protest, while other officials have said they knew at the time it was an organised, armed assault, possibly by an Islamist militant group.
“My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed,” Mr Hicks said on his reaction to her interview.
I guess it’s still about Susan Rice. . . Or more likely, it’s about Hillary Clinton and attempts to hobble any plans she may have to run for president.
Three State Department officials on Wednesday provided a riveting, emotional account of last year’s fatal attack on U.S. installations in eastern Libya as they accused senior government officials of withholding embarrassing facts and failing to take enough responsibility for security lapses.
The testimony provided new details on the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults on U.S. installations in Benghazi and their aftermath. But the new information failed to break the political logjam the attacks spawned, with Republicans and Democrats offering starkly different interpretations of what happened and who within the U.S. government is to blame.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) opened the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing by saying that panel Democrats had “mostly sat silent” while Republicans tried to wrest the truth from an uncooperative Obama administration.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the senior Democrat on the committee, countered that Issa’s GOP majority had launched a “full-scale media campaign . . . of unfounded accusations to smear public officials.”
But in expanding the narrative of the intensely politicized episode, the witnesses raised fresh questions about whether then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her deputies were sufficiently engaged in assessing the security posture of diplomatic posts last year.
Time Magazine’s Michael Crowley: Terror, Security, and Hillary 2016: Making Sense of the Benghazi Hearings
The hearing by the Republican-led House Government Oversight & Reform Committee was not the first on the events surrounding the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. Hillary Clinton, who was running the State Department at the time of the attack, testified for hours back in January. But the story was given fresh dramatic life and new narrative details through the testimony of two self-described whistle blowers who had not previously spoken in public: Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy of mission in Libya. Joining them was Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya, who had previously testified on the issue.
But “[c]ould the U.S. military have done more to help?”
Not according to the Pentagon – and the hearing’s key witness. Aircraft that might have buzzed the compound where the second pair of Americans died – and scared the militants away — were 900 miles north in Italy. “Time and distance are a tyranny of their own,” Admiral James Stavridis, who responded to the attacks as the NATO commander, told Congress earlier this year. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated it would take as long as 20 hours to get the planes above Benghazi. Hicks testified that he asked the U.S. defense attaché in Tripoli if planes could be scrambled to help those under attack in the CIA annex in Benghazi, a battle that unfolded hours after the initial assault on the nearby U.S. consulate, which killed Stevens, and led to two more American deaths. “He said that it would take two to three hours for them to get on site, but that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel,” Hicks said Wednesday. “And I said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and we went on with our work.” Hicks also testified that a four man team of Green Berets in Tripoli were denied a request to deploy to Benghazi the morning after the attack began, though officials doubt they could have arrived early enough to save lives at the CIA annex.
Apparently the complaint is that the State Department didn’t order all military resources to get to Benghazi even though there was no way they could have gotten there in time to do anything to help?
So we’re back to preventing Hillary 2016?
Whether or not Republicans intended it, the shadow of national politics loomed over Wednesday’s hearing. Hillary Clinton completed a generally well-reviewed tenure of Secretary of State, as evidenced by her sky-high public approval ratings. But Benghazi is a clear black mark on her Foggy Bottom record, one that could haunt Clinton if she runs for president in 2016. Conservatives seized on Hicks’s testimony that, in a call with Clinton on the fateful night, he told her that a terrorist attack was underway–a fact that was slow to appear in the administration’s public rhetoric. Still, despite repeated discussion about what Clinton knew and when she knew it, no smoking gun emerged from Wednesday’s hearing, leading one Congressional Democrat to dismiss questions about her role as a “witch hunt.”
I guess that’s pretty much what it’s all about . . . A few more links:
“I think the notion of a quote, cover up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it,” former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said on MSNBC. He also rebutted claims that the review board tried to protect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from scrutiny:
PICKERING: I saw no evidence of it. She did publicly take responsibility for what happened below her and indeed one of the things the Congress did in preparing the legislation that established the Accountability Review Board was to say we don’t want a situation where heads of agencies take responsibility and then nobody who made the decision in the chain has to suffer any consequences for failure for performance. I believe in fact the Accountability Review Board did it’s work well. I think the notion of a quote, cover up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it.
Pickering offered to testify at the latest hearing, but Chairman Issa wouldn’t let him.
The “whistleblowers” at today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on what really happened in Benghazi, Libya last September were supposed to break the dam that would lead to President Obama’s eventual downfall, in the eyes of conservatives. Instead, these witness actually served to debunk several theories that the right-wing has pushed on Benghazi, leaving the hearing a fizzle for the GOP.
Read the explanations at the link.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) said Wednesday that he’s “fairly satisfied” with the Obama administration’s account of events that led to the deaths of American diplomats in Benghazi last year.
“We need to know were these people culpable or not. If they were, why are they still on the payroll? Other than that, I’ve been able to read all the cables. I’ve seen the films,” Corker told MSNBC. “I feel like I know what happened in Benghazi. I’m fairly satisfied.”
He cautioned House Republicans to be “respectful” if they probe the issue further.
“Look, if the House wants to have hearings,” he said, “I hope they’re done in a respectful way and hopefully it will shed some light on what happened.”
I guess that’s enough about Benghazi. I apologize for giving it so much space, but I thought if I were confused about this, some of you might be too.
A bit more news in the form of a link dump:
There has been another factory fire in Bangladesh! Reuters reports: Bangladesh factory fire kills eight; collapse toll tops 900
A DailyKos diary deals with a question that has been rattling around in my head: How did Jason Richwine Get a PhD from Harvard?
WBUR Boston University (NPR): Markey Edges Gomez In WBUR Senate Poll
The Hill on Suffolk University Poll: Markey builds strong lead over Gomez in Mass. Senate race
I realize the media is dying for another Scott Brown surprise, but it’s just not gonna happen.
Unfortunately, it looks like Huckleberry Closetcase will be back in 2014.
Chicago Tribune: Cleveland kidnapping: Bond for Ariel Castro set at $8 million
Why is he getting any chance of getting out on bail??
Could there be a worse idea by the candy industry? Kids would be getting that gum!