Obama Admin Approved Arms For Libyan Rebels Ended Up Going to Militants

Evidence has surfaced that weapons approved by the Obama administration, for rebels in Libya, ended up in the hands of Islamic militants. C.I.A. officers in Libya during the tumult of the rebellion, provided little oversight of the arms shipments and within weeks of endorsing Qatar’s plan to send weapons there in spring 2011, there were reports that they were going to Islamic militant groups. Weapons were also shipped from the United Arab Emirates.

Qatar, a tiny nation whose natural gas reserves have made it enormously wealthy, for years has tried to expand its influence in the Arab world. Since 2011, with dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa coming under siege, Qatar has given arms and money to various opposition and militant groups, chiefly Sunni Islamists, in hopes of cementing alliances with the new governments.

“To do this right, you have to have on-the-ground intelligence and you have to have experience,” said Vali Nasr, a former State Department adviser. “If you rely on a country that doesn’t have those things, you are really flying blind. When you have an intermediary, you are going to lose control.”

Mahmoud Jibril, then the prime minister of the Libyan transitional government, expressed frustration to administration officials that the United States was allowing Qatar to arm extremist groups opposed to the new leadership, according to several anonymous American officials. The administration has never determined where all of the weapons went inside Libya, officials said.

Some of the machine guns, automatic rifles, and ammunition are believed to have gone to militants with ties to Al Qaeda in Mali while several American and foreign officials and arms traders say some of the weapons have ended up in Syria.

The United Arab Emirates first asked the Obama administration for permission to ship American built weapons, supplied to the UAE, during the early months of the Libyan uprising. The administration instead urged the emirates to ship weapons to Libya that could not be traced to the United States.

“The U.A.E. was asking for clearance to send U.S. weapons,” said one former official. “We told them it’s O.K. to ship other weapons.”

“Nobody knew exactly who they were,” said one former defense official. The Qataris are “supposedly good allies, but the Islamists they support are not in our interest.”

No evidence has yet surfaced that any weapons went to Ansar al-Shariah, an extremist group blamed for the Benghazi attack.

 

Under Obama Only 13% of Drone Strikes Killed Leaders of Taliban or Al Qaeda

Obama administration officials often speak about how drone strikes target suspected terrorists plotting against the U.S., but according to the New York Times the U.S. has shifted away from that. Instead, it now often targets enemies of allied governments in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan. From the Times:

[F]or at least two years in Pakistan, partly because of the C.I.A.’s success in decimating Al Qaeda’s top ranks, most strikes have been directed at militants whose main battle is with the Pakistani authorities or who fight with the Taliban against American troops in Afghanistan.

In Yemen, some strikes apparently launched by the United States killed militants who were preparing to attack Yemeni military forces. Some of those killed were wearing suicide vests, according to Yemeni news reports.

Justin Elliott of propublica.org conducted an interview with  Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations on the issue of the ever expanding U.S. drone war:

 

You were quoted over the weekend arguing that the U.S., with the campaign of drone strikes, is acting as the “counterinsurgency air force of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” How did you come to this conclusion?

Under the Obama administration, officials have argued that the drone strikes are only hitting operational Al Qaeda leaders or people who posed significant and imminent threats to the U.S. homeland. If you actually look at the vast majority of people who have been targeted by the United States, that’s not who they are.

There are a couple pieces of data showing this. Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation has done estimates on who among those killed could be considered “militant leaders” — either of the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, or Al Qaeda. Under the Bush administration, about 30 percent of those killed could be considered militant leaders. Under Obama, that figure is only 13 percent.

Most of the people who are killed don’t have as their objective to strike the U.S. homeland. Most of the people who are killed by drones want to impose some degree of sharia law where they live, they want to fight a defensive jihad against security service and the central government, or they want to unseat what they perceive as an apostate regime that rules their country.

Why does this distinction matter so much?

This is a huge outstanding dilemma. Is the primary purpose of the drone attacks counter-terrorism, or is it counter-insurgency? If it’s counter-insurgency, that is a very different mission, and you have to rethink the justifications and rethink what the ultimate goal is of using lethal force.

There was a February article in the New York Times reporting that the goal of U.S. policy in Yemen was to kill about two dozen Al Qaeda leaders. There’s been about 50 drone strikes in Yemen since that article. Meanwhile, according to U.S. government statements, the size of AQAP has grown from “several hundred” to “a few thousand members.” So the question is, who is actually being targeted, and how does this further U.S. counterterrorism objectives?

Read more here.

Obama Administration Plans to Extend “War on Terror” For at Least Another Decade

For two years, the Obama administration has been secretly creating a new terrorist targeting list called the “disposition matrix.” The matrix contains the names of suspected terrorism suspects matched against the collective resources being used to pursue them, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists and the reach of American drone strikes. The conventional wars in the middle east may be winding down but there is broad consensus among senior Obama administration officials that these operations are likely to be extended at least another decade while some say there is no clear end in sight.

“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do. . . .We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”

The number of militants and civilians killed in drone strikes over the past 10 years will soon exceed 3,000 by various estimates, surpassing the number of people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan wants to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced. CIA Director David H. Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones. The proposal reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has made it clear that if elected he would continue the drone campaign. “We can’t kill our way out of this,” he said, but added later that Obama was “right to up the usage” of drone strikes and that he would do the same.

 

Justice Dept. to Buy Illinois Prison

Attorney General Eric Holder informed congressional appropriations leaders that despite their objections, the Justice Department is moving forward with the purchase of a maximum-security prison in Thomson, Ill.

The Obama administration had wanted to use the facility to hold high-security terrorism suspects before the administration’s efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba failed. Holder stated in the letter to Chairman Frank Wolf, R-Va., of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science that no Guantanamo Bay suspects would reside at the Thomson facility.

“Americans would rather their tax dollars be spent preventing attacks from terrorists, than spent bringing them into their cities and towns as the Obama administration has repeatedly tried to achieve,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement, calling it an “election-eve purchase.”

“The unilateral decision to purchase the Thomson Prison – even though Congress has repeatedly opposed the Obama administration’s effort to use taxpayer funds to do so – underscores the administration’s desire to move forward and bring these detainees to U.S. soil,” Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.

The Justice Department will purchase the prison from the state of Illinois for $165 million. Citing 38 percent overcrowding rates in federal prisons, Holder noted that building a new facility could cost as much as $400 million. The funds for the purchase will be obtained from DOJ seizures in asset-forfeiture cases.

“The administration is acutely aware of BOP’s need for the facility and the department’s inability to reach a resolution of the matter with you. Under these circumstances, the administration has decided to proceed with the purchase,” AG Holder wrote Tuesday to Rep. Wolf.

“Thomson is still desperately needed to reduce our current high level of overcrowding. And Thomson is specifically needed to house inmates particularly those appropriate for “administrative maximum,” Holder wrote in his letter, making reference to the highest security level in the Bureau of Prisons, “administrative maximum.”

A Government Accountability Office report released in September noted that Bureau of Prisons facilities are severely overcrowded with double- and triple-stacked bunk beds.

“According to BOP and our observations, the growth of the federal inmate population and related crowding have negatively affected inmates housed in BOP institutions, institutional staff, and the infrastructure of BOP facilities, and have contributed to inmate misconduct, which affects staff and inmate security and safety,” the GAO report noted.

But Wolf said in a statement issued after the decision was announced, “President Obama’s unprecedented directive to Attorney General Holder to circumvent Congress to purchase Thomson prison is deeply troubling.”

 

Obama The Hypocrite in Chief Attacks Mittens Romney Over Taxes

The Obama administration has been attacking presidential candidate Mitt Romney with some hard hitting questions over his refusal to release more than two years of his tax returns. It’s fairly obvious to most people that Mr. Romney is trying to hide what ever nefarious ways people as rich as him become as rich as he is, but is President Obama really the guy to chastise Romney over tax issues? Especially considering the fact that in 2010 as many as 41 people in Obama’s white house owed a total of $831,055 in back taxes.

Among the stand out tax delinquents connected to the white house were Tom Daschle, who was the president’s top pick to run the Health and Human Services Department, but it turned out that the former Democratic senator owed around $120,000 to the IRS, Daschle withdrew his name with the revelation. Chief performance officer nominee Nancy Killefer, withdrew her name from consideration after it was revealed that she had a $947 tax lien filed against her in Washington for not paying unemployment compensation taxes for a household employee. The husband of then Labor secretary nominee Hilda Solis paid $6,400 to settle numerous tax liens against his business dating to 1993 after being confronted by USA TODAY.

The most embarrassing or perhaps brazen of the president’s appointments has to be Timothy Geithner who at the time of his consideration owed something like $42,000 in back taxes and penalties to the IRS, which is one of the agencies that he is now in charge of after being confirmed as secretary of the Treasury.

Here is a video of Ben LaBolt, the president’s National Press Secretary, laying out some questions concerning Mitt Romney’s offshore bank accounts and tax returns.

 

Apparently the president has a problem with the highest office in the land being occupied by someone who is using loopholes in the tax code for his own benefit but has no problem with surrounding himself with tax cheats and tax dodgers.

Treasury Officials Solicited Prostitutes, Broke Conflict-of-Interest Rules, Accepted Gifts from Corporate Execs

According to a detailed but seemingly unnoticed document posted this month on governmentattic.orgTreasury Department officials have been cited for soliciting prostitutes, breaking conflict-of-interest rules and accepting gifts from corporate executives, according to the findings of official government investigations. The documents were posted in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Investigators at the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), found that employees had engaged in unethical, and perhaps criminal, conduct. The findings come on the heels of embarrassing scandals for the Obama administration at the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Secret Service.

In 2010, an employee of the now defunct Office of Thrift Supervision,“misused” government resources to solicit prostitutes on three separate occasions via Craigslist. While working at the OTS, investigators said, the government staffer “viewed websites offering erotic services on a weekly basis as well as communicating with and arranging meetings with women offering erotic services.”

According to the documents the case was referred for criminal prosecution to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which opted not to prosecute “absent aggravating circumstances such as underage prostitutes or human trafficking.” The employee, who was not a political appointee, subsequently retired from the government.

In another finding, the OIG cited an Office of the Comptroller of the Currency staffer for accepting golf fees and meals from bank executives. The staffer, who had received ethics training, said he believed playing golf with industry officials under the purview of OCC was “a condoned activity.”

The golf outings took place on multiple occasions during workweeks when OCC was conducting bank examinations. Many of the greens fees and meals at the golf course were paid for by corporate executives.

The OIG stated the OCC official “violated several regulations covering ethics and the conduct of employees in the performance of their official duties” but the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia declined to pursue criminal charges.

There were numerous other financial conflicts of interest with the OCC relating to contract bids and the acceptance of improper gifts such as flowers, meals and at least one limousine ride. A separate Treasury official was found to have a financial conflict of interest in 2010 when it was disclosed that he had an overdraft protection line of credit loan from a financial institution that was regulated by the OTS.

The documents from OIG also show that a few allegations of unethical conduct were found to be without merit.

Treasury Department officials say the violations are isolated incidents.

“Treasury has a strong ethics policy that we expect all of our employees to follow, and the overwhelming majority of them do. As with any large organization, issues of misconduct occasionally arise. When that happens at Treasury, we act promptly and decisively to address them. The OIG moved aggressively to investigate the isolated instances of misconduct referenced in these documents, most of which were brought to the OIG’s attention by bureau management,” a Treasury spokesman told The Hill.

The spokesman added that “all six of these isolated cases of misconduct were done by career federal employees.”

Unlike most government entities, the OCC does not receive appropriations from Congress. Its operations are primarily funded from assessments levied on national banks and federal saving associations.

 

Obama Admin. Urging Appeals Court to Reinstate $1.5 Million File-Sharing Verdict

The Obama administration is putting pressure on a federal appeals court to reinstate a $1.5 million verdict against a Minnesota woman for sharing two dozen songs on Kazaa.

A Minnesota federal judge lowered the verdict to $54,000, ruling that the jury’s award “for stealing 24 songs for personal use is appalling.”

The Copyright Act allows penalties of as much as $150,000 per infringement.

The decision by US District Judge Michael Davis follows the third trial in the Recording Industry Association of America’s lawsuit against Jammie Thomas-Rasset. She is the first file sharer to take an RIAA lawsuit to a jury trial.

Despite the judge’s reduction, Thomas-Rasset appealed the lowered damages verdict, (.pdf) claiming the Copyright Act was unconstitutional because of its large or “excessive” awards. The RIAA on the other hand, claims that judges do not have the power to alter jury awards dealing with copyright infringement.

The Obama administration, which is intervening because the constitutionality of the Copyright Act is at issue, agreed with the RIAA that the act was constitutional.

“The Copyright Act’s statutory damage provision is reasonably related to furthering the public interest in protecting original works of artistic, literary, and musical expression and its constitutionality must therefore be sustained under the applicable, highly deferential standards of judicial review,” the government wrote (.pdf) to the Missouri-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Davis has overturned the judgments of three separate juries in the Thomas-Rasset case dating back to 2007.

The first trial of Thomas-Rasset, of Minnesota, ended with a $222,000 judgment, but Davis declared a mistrial, on the grounds that he’d improperly instructed the jury on a point of law. After the second trial, Davis tentatively reduced the award from $1.92 million to $54,000, and ordered a new trial on damages if the parties didn’t agree to that amount or settle. That third trial ended in the $1.5 million judgement that Davis reduced again.

Judge Davis, the nation’s first judge to reduce the amount of damages in a Copyright Act case, said fairness demanded his decision to reduce the latest award to $2,250 per track.

The RIAA said in a legal filing with the appeals court that Judge Davis’ decision “is fundamentally incompatible both with Plaintiff’s constitutional right to have a jury determine what amount of statutory damages is just, and with the deference due to congressionally authorized awards.”

Most of the thousands of RIAA file sharing cases against individuals settled out of court for a few thousand dollars. The RIAA has ceased its 5-year campaign of suing individual file sharers and, with the Motion Picture Association of America, has convinced internet service providers to take punitive action against copyright scofflaws, including terminating service.