Avoiding Transparency

As I have previously written, Judicial Watch has done an amazing job of keeping our government transparent, regardless of which party is in power. Recently, Judicial Watch uncovered records that the State Department (during the Obama administration) had told them did not exist. The documents uncovered reveal that the Obama administration was tracting FOIA requests. The question is whether or not Secretary of State Clinton was attemptig to evade FOIA by using her private server.

Yesterday Judicial Watch issued the following Press Release:

WH called – have we received a FOIA request’ – State Department 

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it obtained 44 pages of records from the State Department through court-ordered discovery revealing that the Obama White House was tracking a December 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records concerning then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of an unsecure, non-government email system. Months after the Obama White House involvement, the State Department responded to the requestor, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), falsely stating that no such records existed.

Judicial Watch’s discovery is centered upon whether Clinton intentionally attempted to evade the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by using a non-government email system and whether the State Department acted in bad faith in processing Judicial Watch’s FOIA request for communications from Clinton’s office. U.S District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ordered Obama administration senior State Department officials, lawyers, and Clinton aides, as well as E.W. Priestap, to be deposed or answer written questions under oath. The court ruled that the Clinton email system was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency.”

The State Department’s Office of Inspector General issued a report in January 2016 saying “At the time the request was received, dozens of senior officials throughout the Department, including members of Secretary Clinton’s immediate staff, exchanged emails with the Secretary using the personal accounts she used to conduct official business.” Also, the IG “found evidence that [Clinton Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills] was informed of the request at the time it was received …”

The State Department produced records in response to court-ordered document requests that detail Obama White House involvement in the Clinton email FOIA request.

In a December 20, 2012, email with the subject line “Need to track down a FOIA request from CREW”, Sheryl L. Walter, director of the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and Services (A/GIS/IPS), writes to IPS officials Rosemary D. Reid and Patrick D. Scholl and their assistants:

WH called – have we received a FOIA request from CREW (Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington) on the topic of personal use of email by senior officials? Apparently other agencies have. If we have it, can you give me the details so I can call the WH back? I think they’d like it on quick turnaround. Thanks! Sheryl

In the same email chain, Walter on December 20, 2012 also emailed Heather Samuelson, Clinton’s White House liaison, describing the CREW FOIA request:

Hi Heather – Copy attached, it was in our significant weekly FOIA report that we send to L and S/ES also. Do you want us to add you to that list? It’s a subset of things like this that we think likely to be of broader Department interest. More detail below re this request. As a practical matter given our workload, it won’t be processed for some months. Let me know if there are any particular sensitivities. If we don’t talk later, happy holidays! All the best, Sheryl

Sheryl: The request is assigned Case #F-2012-40981. It was received on 12/6/2012 and acknowledged on 12/10/2012. The request is assigned for processing.

On January 10, 2013, Walter writes to Samuelson that she is not including “personal” accounts in the FOIA request search:

Hi Heather – did you ever get any intell re what other agencies are doing re this FOIA request that seeks records about the number of email accounts associated with the Secretary (but isn’t specifying “personal” email accounts so we are interpreting as official accounts only). We are considering contacting the requester to find out exactly what it is they are looking for. Do you have any-concerns about that approach?

Soon afterward, Samuelson responds, “White House Counsel was looking into this for me. I will circle back with them now to see if they have further guidance.”

CREW’s general counsel, Anne Weismann, submitted a FOIA request to the State Department on December 6, 2012, seeking “records sufficient to show the number of email accounts of or associated with Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the extent to which those email accounts are identifiable as those of or associated with Secretary Clinton.”

On May 10, 2013, [Information Programs and Services] replied to CREW, stating that “no records responsive to your request were located.”

Samuelson became Secretary Clinton’s personal lawyer and in 2014 led the review of Clinton’s emails to determine which ones were work-related and which were personal. She was also one of five close Clinton associates granted immunity by the Department of Justice in the Clinton email investigation.

Samuelson is one of several Obama administration and State Department officials ordered by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth to respond under oath to Judicial Watch questions regarding whether Clinton’s private email use while Secretary of State was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA.

The new documents also include a January 2013 email exchange discussing Clinton’s departure from the State Department in which Agency Records Officer Tasha M. Thian specifically stating that Secretary Clinton “does not use email.”

This was directly contradicted by an email exchange between Secretary Clinton and Gen. David Petraeus dating back to January 2009 – the very first days of Clinton’s State Department tenure – in which she tells Petraeus that she “had to change her email address.”

Interestingly, this email exchange between Petraeus and Clinton was not produced in a related FOIA lawsuit seeking “all emails” of Hillary Clinton. The bottom portion of the email chain was produced, but not the beginning emails.

In a January 2013 email under the subject “RE: Sec Clinton’s papers,” Thian writes:

Just so you know, Secretary Clinton – she brought with her a lot of material as Senator and First Lady – 47 boxes. In case you hear there are many boxes I wanted you to know what they are. She is taking her copies of photos, public speeches, press statements, contacts, templates (some of these are both hard copy and electronic), reimbursements, etc …

Although Sec. Clinton does not use email [emphasis added] her staffers do – I have agreed that the emails of the three staffers will be electronically captured (and not printed out).

Also included in the new batch of documents is the draft Departing Officials Notice, which states that State Department personnel are not to remove classified records from Department “custody and control.”

The new records obtained by Judicial Watch are further evidence revealing the Obama White House’s early knowledge of questions surrounding Clinton’s email use. In late April, Judicial Watch announced that E.W. (Bill) Priestap, assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, had admitted, in writing and under oath, that the agency found Clinton email records in the Obama White House, specifically, the Executive Office of the President.

“These documents suggest the Obama White House knew about the Clinton email lies being told to the public at least as early as December 2012,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “A federal court granted Judicial Watch discovery into the Clinton emails because the court wanted answers about a government cover-up of the Clinton emails. And now we have answers because it looks like the Obama White House orchestrated the Clinton email cover-up.”

Judicial Watch’s filed its 2014 FOIA lawsuit after the State Department failed to respond to a May 13, 2014 FOIA request (Judicial Watch v. Department of State (No. 1:14-cv-01242)).

Real news is out there, you just have to look for it. Sometimes you simply have to go after it using the legal process.

Ignoring Government Transparency Rules

The following is a Judicial Watch Press Release dated November 1:

Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed lawsuits regarding the maintenance of text messages as federal records and for records of the audit of communications of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

After the FBI claimed that text messages are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Judicial Watch filed suit to ensure that text messages are being preserved. The new Administrative Procedure Act lawsuit against the FBI challenges the FBI failure to preserve FBI text messages as required by the Federal Records Act. (Judicial Watch v. FBI (No.1:18-cv-02316)).

In its lawsuit Judicial Watch points to a related case in which Michael G. Seidel, the assistant section chief of the Record/Information Dissemination Section in the FBI’s Information Management Division, stated: “text messages on [FBI]-issued devices are not automatically integrated into an FBI records system.” (Danik v. U.S. Department of Justice, (No. 1:17-cv-01792)).

Judicial Watch argued that the FBI “does not have a recordkeeping program in place that provides effective controls over the maintenance of electronic messages, including text messages.” Moreover, “The FBI relies upon its personnel to incorporate their text messages into a recordkeeping system. If FBI personnel do not actively incorporate their text messages into a recordkeeping system, the text messages are not preserved.”

Judicial Watch asked the court to declare the FBI’s failure to have a recordkeeping program for electronic messages to be “not in accordance with law” and that the court order the FBI “to establish and maintain a recordkeeping program that provides effective controls over the maintenance of electronic messages.”

If text messages are not preserved, then they may be deleted and never produced to Congress, criminal investigators, and to the American people under FOIA.

Judicial Watch also filed suit against the Justice Department after the DOJ failed to respond to an August 27, 2018, FOIA request seeking the FBI’s audit records of McCabe’s communications (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-02283)).

In 2015, a political action committee run by Terry McAuliffe, a close friend and political supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, donated nearly $500,000 to Andrew McCabe’s wife Jill, who was then running for the Virginia State Senate. Also, the Virginia Democratic Party, over which McAuliffe had significant influence, donated an additional $207,788 to the Jill McCabe campaign. In July 2015, Andrew McCabe was in charge of the FBI’s Washington, DC, field office, which provided personnel resources to the Clinton email probe.

In July 2017, Judicial Watch filed three FOIA lawsuits seeking communications between the FBI and McCabe concerning “ethical issues” involving his wife’s political campaign; McCabe’s communications with McAuliffe; and McCabe’s travel vouchers.

Following an Inspector General Report, a grand jury reportedly was impaneled recently to investigate McCabe’s possible role in leaks to the media “to advance his personal interests.”

The FBI has told Judicial Watch that it is under no legal obligation to produce any of Andrew McCabe’s text messages under FOIA, which has attracted criticism from President Trump.

“This lawsuit exposes a massive FBI cover-up of its text messages, which are government records and are, by the thousands, likely to have been deleted and lost by FBI employees,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And of course, this cover-up conveniently impacts the production of text messages to Judicial Watch and Congress of disgraced FBI officials Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and James Comey.”

It is time to uncover the corruption in the FBI during the Obama administration. The FBI should be subject to FOIA requests.

Another Reason FOIA Requests Are Valuable For Providing Transparency

John Solomon at The Hill posted an article on Friday about more information found in the memos recently released to various Senate and House Committees. The memos reveal government agencies misused to achieve a political goal. Thankfully, in spite of all their efforts, that goal has not been achieved. However, I have no doubt that the people behind the attempt to undo the 2016 presidential election have not given up.

Here are some of the highlights of the information in the recently released memos (as noted in the article):

The memos show Strzok, Lisa Page and others in counterintelligence monitored news articles in September 2016 that quoted a law enforcement source as saying the FBI was investigating Carter Page’s travel to Moscow.

The FBI team pounced on what it saw as an opportunity as soon as Page wrote a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey complaining about the “completely false” leak.

“At a minimum, the letter provides us a pretext to interview,” Strzok wrote to Lisa Page on Sept. 26, 2016.

Within weeks, that “pretext” — often a synonym for an excuse — had been upsized to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant, giving the FBI the ability to use some of its most awesome powers to monitor Carter Page and his activities.

To date, the former Trump adviser has been accused of no wrongdoing despite being subjected to nearly a year of surveillance.

Some internal memos detail the pressure being applied by the FBI to DOJ prosecutors to get the warrant on Carter Page buttoned up before Election Day.

In one email exchange with the subject line “Crossfire FISA,” Strzok and Lisa Page discussed talking points to get then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to persuade a high-ranking DOJ official to sign off on the warrant.

This group did not give up after the election:

The day after Trump’s surprising win on Nov. 9, 2016, the FBI counterintelligence team engaged in a new mission, bluntly described in another string of emails prompted by another news leak.

“We need ALL of their names to scrub, and we should give them ours for the same purpose,” Strzok emailed Page on Nov. 10, 2016, citing a Daily Beast article about some of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s allegedly unsavory ties overseas.

“Andy didn’t get any others,” Page wrote back, apparently indicating McCabe didn’t have names to add to the “scrub.”

“That’s what Bill said,” Strzok wrote back, apparently referring to then-FBI chief of counterintelligence William Priestap. “I suggested we need to exchange our entire lists as we each have potential derogatory CI info the other doesn’t.” CI is short for confidential informants.

It’s an extraordinary exchange, if for no other reason than this: The very day after Trump wins the presidency, some top FBI officials are involved in the sort of gum-shoeing normally reserved for field agents, and their goal is to find derogatory information about someone who had worked for the president-elect.

The article concludes:

These and other documents are still being disseminated to various oversight bodies in Congress, and more revelations are certain to occur.

Yet, now, irrefutable proof exists that agents sought to create pressure to get “derogatory” information and a “pretext” to interview people close to a future president they didn’t like.

Clear evidence also exists that an investigation into still-unproven collusion between a foreign power and a U.S. presidential candidate was driven less by secret information from Moscow and more by politically tainted media leaks.

And that means the dots between expressions of political bias and official actions just got a little more connected.

Please follow the link to read the entire article. It is chilling to think that supposedly non-partisan members of the government used the powers of government for political purposes. It is more chilling to realize that at this moment they have not paid for their crimes. Unless someone is held responsible for these crimes, Americans will totally lose faith in what used to be upstanding organizations–the FBI and the Department of Justice.

Washington Agencies Are Totally Out Of Control

The Daily Caller posted an article today about a New York federal court case involving the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The twisted logic being used by the CIA in the case is simply amazing.

The article reports:

Intelligence officials can selectively release classified information to trusted journalists while withholding the same information from other citizens who request it through open records laws, CIA lawyers argued Wednesday.

That is simply an amazing statement. If the journalists receive the information, isn’t the public also entitled to see it?

The article states:

The case stems from lawsuit against the CIA by New York-based independent journalist Adam Johnson, who had used FOIA to obtain emails between the agency’s public information office and selected reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and The New York Times. The emails the CIA provided to Johnson were redacted, leading him to question why he was not allowed to see the same information that had been given to uncleared reporters.

Johnson challenged the redaction in court, arguing that the CIA, once it has selectively disclosed information to uncleared reporters, cannot claim the same information is protected by a FOIA exemption.

…“In this case, CIA voluntarily disclosed to outsiders information that it had a perfect right to keep private,” she wrote. “There is absolutely no statutory provision that authorizes limited disclosure of otherwise classified information to anyone, including ‘trusted reporters,’ for any purpose, including the protection of CIA sources and methods that might otherwise be outed.

MacMahon also said it didn’t matter if the journalists in question published the information they received, only if the CIA waived its right to deny the information.

As President Trump continues to drain the swamp, hopefully one of the things his administration will look at is the practice of classifying information that Washington agencies don’t want the public to see for reasons other than national security. It is amazing how much material has come to light recently that was classified only for political reasons–it revealed nefarious activities on the part of the government.

Was Anyone Paying Attention To The Law?

Judicial Watch released the following Press Release today:

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released new U.S. Department of State documents showing former Secretary Hillary Clinton and her then-Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin were permitted to remove electronic and physical records under a claim they were “personal” materials and “unclassified, non-record materials,” including files of Clinton’s calls and schedules, which were not to be made public. The documents show the Obama State Department records would not be “released to the general public under FOIA.”

The new records also show that Huma Abedin was allowed to take five boxes of “physical files” out of the State Department that include records described as “Muslim Engagement Documents.”

Judicial Watch obtained the reports about the records from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for:

Any and all DS-1904 (Authorization for the Removal of Personal Papers and Non-Record Materials) forms completed by, or on behalf of, any of the following individuals:

Former Secretary Hillary Clinton

Former Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin

Former Deputy Chief of Staff Jacob Sullivan

The documents include a list of official and personal calls and schedules that Clinton removed, which carry a special notation that the documents were not to be made public records. The notation is on an addendum to a DS-1904 signed by Clarence N. Finney Jr., then-director of the Office of Correspondence and Records, who was the reviewing officer. (Judicial Watch has a pending request for the deposition of Finney in separate litigation concerning Clinton emails and the Benghazi terrorist attack.):

NOTE: The Secretary’s call log, grid and schedules are not classified, however, they would not be released to the general public under FOIA. They are being released to the Secretary with this understanding. [Emphasis in original]

***

Electronic copy of “daily files” – which are word versions of public documents and non-records: speeches/press statements/photos from the website, a non-record copy of the schedule, a non record copy of the call log, press clips, and agenda of daily activities

Electronic copy of a log of calls the Secretary made since 2004, it is a non-record, since her official calls are logged elsewhere (official schedule and official call log)

Electronic copy of the Secretary’s “call grid” which is a running list of calls she wants to make (both personal and official)

16 boxes: Personal Schedules (1993 thru 2008-prior to the Secretary’s tenure at the Department of State.

29 boxes: Miscellaneous Public Schedules during her tenure as FLOTUS and Senator-prior to the Secretary’s tenure at the Department of State

1 box: Personal Reimbursable receipts (6/25/2009 thru 1/14/2013)

1 box: Personal Photos

1 box: Personal schedule (2009-2013)

The originals of some Clinton documents were retained, such as the call logs and schedules. For other records, including material that predates Clinton’s tenure, there is no indication that a copy was made. The most significant of these are her personal correspondence and gift binders, which could reflect Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative ties.

Through its previous investigations Judicial Watch made public numerous examples of Clinton’s schedule being broadcast via email through her unsecure, non-government server (for example, see here, here, here and here.)

The records uncovered by Judicial Watch also contain a list of materials removed by Clinton accumulated by Robert Russo, Clinton’s then-special assistant, including PDFs of Clinton’s “correspondence in response to gifts … thank you and acknowledgements,” as well as other records.

The documents indicate that Clinton removed a physical file of “the log of the Secretary’s gifts with pictures of gifts.”

The receipt of gifts by federal employees in the Executive Branch is regulated:

A “prohibited source” [of gifts] under the regulations is one who seeks official action from the employee’s agency; one who does business or seeks to do business with the agency; one whose activities are regulated by the employee’s agency; one whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s official duties; or an organization a majority of whose members fit any of the above categories.

A gift is given “because of” the employee’s official position if it would not have been offered “had the employee not held the status, authority or duties associated with his Federal position.”  Gifts that are “motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship” may therefore be accepted without limitation.

“We already know the Obama State Department let Hillary Clinton steal and then delete her government emails, which included classified information. But these new records show that was only part of the scandal. These new documents show the Obama State Department had a deal with Hillary Clinton to hide her calls logs and schedules, which would be contrary to FOIA and other laws,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “When are the American people going to get an honest investigation of the Clinton crimes?”

What are they trying to hide?

It Just Gets Uglier

It would be nice to be done with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal by now, but new things keep showing up. The latest should be a cause for concern to all Americans, regardless of which political party they belong to.

Judicial Watch released a report today about its latest findings as a result of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed regarding the IRS. The findings are very unsettling to those of us who believe in free speech.

Here are a few highlights:

The newly obtained records also reveal that the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress. Records also detail how the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups  – or nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States – as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.”

The documents were produced subsequent to court orders in two Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits: Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:14-cv-1956) and Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:14-cv-1239).

The new IRS documents include a October 11, 2010 “DOJ Recap” memo sent by IRS Exempt Organizations Tax Law Specialist Siri Buller to Lerner and other top IRS officials explaining an October 8 meeting with representatives from the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and “one representative from the FBI” to discuss the possible criminal prosecution of nonprofit organizations for alleged political activity:

Why was the IRS coordinating with the Justice Department on Congressional testimony?

The article continues:

“These new documents show that the Obama IRS scandal is also an Obama DOJ and FBI scandal,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The FBI and Justice Department worked with Lois Lerner and the IRS to concoct some reason to put President Obama’s opponents in jail before his reelection. And this abuse resulted in the FBI’s illegally obtaining confidential taxpayer information. How can the Justice Department and FBI investigate the very scandal in which they are implicated?”

On April 16, 2014, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to release documents revealing for the first time that Lerner communicated with the DOJ in May 2013 about whether it was possible to launch criminal prosecutions against targeted tax-exempt entities. The documents were obtained due to court order in an October 2013 Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit filed against the IRS.

This sounds like Soviet Russia–not like America. Please follow the link above to Judicial Watch to read the entire article. There is quite a bit there that confirms the much of the Obama Administration was conducting a war on any group that did not agree with them.

About That Transparency Thing…

Today’s Washington Free Beacon posted an article about the Department of Justice’s handling of Freedom of Information Act requests. The article points out that the Department of Justice has not challenged a single instance of a federal agency withholding records from Freedom of Information (FOIA) requesters since 2009.

The article reports:

The audit (a government-wide audit performed by the National Security Archive in December) prompted a letter to the justice Department from Issa and Cummings.

“Given OIP’s role in in implementing compliance with FOIA, the committee seeks information about a number of issues including what many term as outdated FOIA regulations, exorbitant and possibly illegal fee assessments, FOIA backlogs, the excessive use and abuse of exemptions, and dispute resolution services,” Issa and Cummings wrote in February.

The Justice Department did not respond to oversight’s letter for four months.

The National Security Archive sought the information through a FOIA request in March, but the Justice Department told the NSA the records were exempt from disclosure.

“The fact that this document was blocked from release using a b(5) exemption is a good example of why the DOJ isn’t meeting the president’s instruction on FOIA,” National Security Archive FOIA coordinator Nate Jones told the Free Beacon.

Issa and Cummings wrote to the department again on Monday, saying Justice’s failure to respond “extremely disappointing.”

The Washington Free Beacon has previously reported that the number of FOIA requests has greatly increased during the Obama Administration.

The article further reports:

An August 2012 Washington Post analysis found that early freedom of information progress by the Obama administration “stalled and, in the case of most departments, reversed in direction.”

The number of FOIA requests denied in full due to exemptions rose more than 10 percent last year, to 25,636 from 22,834 the previous year, according to the Post’s analysis.

This really does not sound like transparency to me.

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This Is Not Right–But It’s Not A Surprise

Today’s Daily Caller posted a story about Eric Holder‘s Justice Department collaborating with Media Matters to control press coverage on some of the scandals within the department. The information in the story was obtained through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests.

The article states:

Dozens of pages of emails between DOJ Office of Public Affairs Director Tracy Schmaler and Media Matters staffers show Schmaler, Holder’s top press defender, working with Media Matters to attack reporters covering DOJ scandals. TheDC obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Two of the main cases discussed in the article are the New Black Panthers voter intimidation case in Philadelphia and Operation Fast and Furious. In both cases Media Matters was asked to attack the people investigating the scandals or the people attempting to inform the American public. The goal was to make sure the American people never learned the truth in either case.

Please follow the link above to read the entire article. It is worth reading. This is the kind of story that explains why the mainstream media is dying and the alternative media is growing. It is obvious that there was very little truth in what was reported by the mainstream media.

 

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