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Monday, May 20, 2013

Incompetence or Criminality?

“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse." — James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Constitutional Convention, December 2, 1829.

Today the Washington Post reported that Justice Department obtained a portfolio of information about a Fox News correspondent's conversations and visits as part of an investigation into a possible leak in the latest example of the government seizing records of journalists.

The information follows the charge that the department secretly obtained two months of phone records from Associated Press journalists as part of a separate leak probe.

In the case involving Fox News' James Rosen, a government adviser was accused of leaking information after a 2009 story was published online which said North Korea planned to respond to looming U.N. sanctions with another nuclear test.

The Post reported that federal investigators, in pursuing the case, obtained email records from Rosen — but also records of his visits to the State Department headquarters by tracking security-badge information. According to the article, a court affidavit said they used the badge records to log his visits as well as the movements of the adviser, Stephen Jim-Woo Kim.

An FBI agent said in the affidavit that the visits suggested a "face-to-face" meeting.

The documents reportedly show investigators seized two days of Rosen's personal emails, including exchanges with Kim, as well as two months of phone records from Kim's office.

In the documents, FBI agent Reginald Reyes described in detail how Kim and Rosen moved in and out of the State Department headquarters at 2201 C St. NW a few hours before the story was published on June 11, 2009.

“Mr. Kim departed the States Department at or around 12:02 p.m. followed shortly thereafter by the reporter at or around 12:03 p.m.,” Reyes wrote. Next, the agent said, “Mr. Kim returned to the State Department at or around 12:26 p.m. followed shortly thereafter by the reporter at or around 12:30 p.m.”

The activity, Reyes wrote in an affidavit, suggested a “face-to-face” meeting between the two men. “Within a few hours after those nearly simultaneous exits and entries at Department of State, the June 2009 article was published on the Internet,” he wrote.

The court documents don’t name Rosen, but his identity was confirmed by several officials, and he is the author of the article at the center of the investigation. Rosen and a spokeswoman for Fox News did not return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

The Post suggested that unlike the AP, Fox News was the likely target of the investigation.

Reyes wrote that there was evidence Rosen had broken the law, “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” That fact distinguishes his case from the probe of the AP, in which the news organization is not the likely target....

Privacy protections limit searching or seizing a reporter’s work, but not when there is evidence that the journalist broke the law against unauthorized leaks. A federal judge signed off on the search warrant — agreeing that there was probable cause that Rosen was a co-conspirator.

[U.S. Attorney Ronald] Machen’s office said in a statement that it is limited in commenting on an open case, but that the government “exhausted all reasonable non-media alternatives for collecting the evidence” before seeking a search warrant.

However, it remains an open question whether it’s ever illegal, given the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom, for a reporter to solicit information. No reporter, including Rosen, has been prosecuted for doing so.

The question now is whether other journalists will see Obama's Justice Department spying on Fox News as objectionable as spying on the Associated Press.

AP President Gary Pruitt said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that the AP records grab was not only unconstitutional but damaging to the operation of the press.

"It will hurt," he said. "We're already seeing some impact. Officials are saying they're reluctant to talk."

This is just one more layer of the onion that is being revealed as investigations into the incompetence or criminality of the actions of the Obama administration. The Benghazi terrorist attack the killed Ambassador Chris Stevens along with Sean Smith, Tyron Woods, and Glen Doherty; the escalating scandal of the IRS targeting conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) tax exemption while fast-tracking left-wing organizations like and Organizing for Action (formerly Organizing for America); and the growing scandal of the Justice Department’s snooping on reporters working for AP and Fox News.

This latest revelation of the Justice Department’s actions against James Rosen does not merely put a chill on the First Amendment — it puts in a deep freeze. History tells that for a tyrant to succeeded they must muzzle a free press. The latest revealed actions of Eric Holder’s Justice Department mirrors the actions of the Argentinian Junta in the 1980s and how the Mexican drug cartels deal with investigative journalists. The message has gone out to the press — don’t mess with the Obama administration. This is pure Nixonian.

Peter Morici writes on Fox News — Obama is Failing as CEO of America, Inc.

“CEOs of large organizations all face the same problem – driving their agendas in organizations too diverse and geographically dispersed to manage directly.

They hire competent managers for their units, set goals and establish clear metrics for evaluating performance. As in politics, competition in business is tough, and CEOs must set ethical boundaries for their managers’ conduct.

In all this, the CEO’s personal conduct is critical.

Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama flaunted American constitutional tradition by pushing through major social legislation, ObamaCare, without a bipartisan compromise and consensus. And he relied on a legislative sleight of hand to pass the Senate.

Simply, Mr. Obama’s hard left agenda requires him to treat the Constitution and Congress as mere inconveniences – expediency is his ethical standard.

For example, unable to obtain Congressional ascent, even among moderate Democrats, for limits on CO2 emissions and other environmental goals, the EPA – at his public behest – has written regulations imposing new and onerous requirements on business.

The Obama Credo of Management: We’ll do as we please, stop us if you can.

His failure as a CEO, now with grave political consequences, was to impose no limits on managers’ behavior and implement adequate controls – mechanisms for the CEO to monitor the performance of units and head off emerging threats to the survival of the organization. Regarding the latter, of paramount importance is to insulate the president from any fallout from their actions.

Cabinet secretaries and agency heads took their cues from the boss – at State, Justice and the IRS senior management would have had us believe they were unaware of what was happening in Benghazi, with the Associated Press, or at the Cincinnati Office of the IRS. And the president only learns about many problems when reported in the news?

Mr. Obama simply has been too busy giving speeches, raising money, and trying to turn every event to political advantage to keep tabs on his managers, as any good CEOs would do.”

“Prior to his presidency, Americans never observed Mr. Obama running anything, other than a campaign. He had not been a governor or a congressional committee chair. In military terms, we made him a five star general before even serving as a lieutenant.

By his own actions, he is arrogantly ambitions but sadly incompetent. He has corrupted the foundations of our Republic, and for that he gets a failing grade.”

I think Mr. Morici is much too soft on Obama. Like, Nixon in Watergate, theobama_angry1-620x413 actions of the Obama administration border on criminal — if not being outright a violation of the Constitution they have sworn to defend.

It has yet to be proven that Obama ordered the IRS to discriminate against tea-party, pro-life, or Jewish groups opposed to his agenda (though why anyone should take his word for it is beyond me). And his outrage now — however convenient — is appreciated. But when people he views as his “enemies” complained about a politicized IRS, what did he do? Nothing.

Jonah Goldberg writes in National Review On Line:

“Imagine for a moment if black civil-rights organizations, gay groups, or teachers’ unions loudly complained to members of Congress and the press that the IRS was discriminating against them. How long would it take for the White House to investigate? Answer honestly: Minutes? Hours? Okay, maybe days if there was an attack on one of our embassies that the administration was busy ignoring. Obviously, it would take longer for Obama to actually get to the bottom of the accusations and, if they’re true, punish those responsible. But you can be sure that the moment he heard credible allegations of political persecution of liberal groups — outfits with “progressive” or “civil rights” in their names — he would have moved heaven and earth to make things right.

But when such allegations came from the right, the response from the president — and from a press corps that until recently acted like a king’s guard — ranged from smirks and eye-rolling to flat-out lies and virtual applause.

For 27 months, groups with such terms as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names were singled out for deeply intrusive and expensive scrutiny, while groups flying the “progressive” banner sailed through. Drew Ryun gave up trying to get IRS approval for a free-market organization after 17 months of bureaucratic stonewalling. But when he applied for approval of an organization called “Greenhouse Solutions,” he got the go-ahead in three weeks.”

“He’s made it clear that people who disagree with him are fevered, illegitimate, weird, creepy, dangerous, stupid, confused, ignorant, or some other adjective you might assign to a revamped version of the Seven Dwarfs. He’s explained that he doesn’t mind “cleaning up after” Republicans but he doesn’t want to hear “a lot of talking” from them. The time for democratic debate is always behind us with an administration that began with the mission not to let a crisis go to waste, for as Obama said in his second inaugural address, “Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.”

Moreover, President Obama often insists we live in a country where the “government is us,” where there’s no need to fear tyranny “around the corner” because we could never be tyrannical against ourselves.”

“In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama lamented that the American people couldn’t function more like the military. Soldiers aren’t “consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach.” Never mind that we have a military to keep us free, not to be a role model. Translation: I wish Americans would fall in line and follow orders.”

Since the beginning of May I have heard nothing but spin from the White House — mainly through Obama’s mouthpiece Jay Carney. Each day’s spin seems to contradict the previous day’s spin as more and more documents are revealed. I keep harkening back to the Watergate hearings of 1973 as the Nixon White House spin was faster than a child’s spinning top. Eventually in one of Nixon’s final press conferences held on November 18, 1973 he declared “I’m no crook.”

In the famous question of Howard Baker of the Watergate Committee — “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

Those simple questions are at the heart of the scandals buffeting the White House, and they were only obscured by White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer, appearing on the Sunday talk shows to represent the administration. Asked by Fox News' Chris Wallace where the president was in the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks, Pfeiffer dodged, only saying he was "kept up to date throughout the day." When pressed if he was being briefed in the Situation Room, Pfeiffer responded that it was an "irrelevant fact"—a formulation he used on several other shows to deflect scrutiny. On all the Sunday shows, Pfeiffer's party line on the IRS scandal is that it would be more problematic if the president knew about the agency's problems and interfered, raising the perception of meddling.

That argument is starting to fray, as well. The Wall Street Journal reported today that White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was aware of the IRS wrongdoing on the week of April 22—nearly three weeks before the agency acknowledged its mistakes. It's hard to believe Obama's chief counsel was aware of what happened without informing at least the president's senior staff. Adding to the confusion, the White House hasn't allowed Ruemmler to be interviewed to add clarity to the timeline.

At last Thursday's press conference, Obama chose his words about the IRS scandal very carefully. "I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press." Even though he was asked about the overall malfeasance, he specifically said he didn't know about the report. That parsing alone raises questions about the level of candor coming from the White House.

Swamped in controversies, President Obama and his slow-footed team are essentially telling the American public, “We’re not crooked. We’re just incompetent.”

The IRS targeting conservatives, the Justice Department snooping at The Associated Press and Fox News, the State Department injecting politics into Benghazi, the military covering up sexual assaults, and the Department of Veterans Affairs leaving heroes in health care limbo — each of these so-called scandals share two traits.

First, there is some element of “spin," the cynical art of telling just enough of the truth to avoid political embarrassment. Obfuscation and demagogy, the dirty tools of Chicago style political quackery that Obama pledged to purge from Washington, enjoy top-shelf status at his White House.

Second, there is almost comical bungling. While denying involvement in high crimes and misdemeanors, the Obama administration appears to be pleading guilty to lesser crimes of bureaucratic incompetence. But that is an unsustainable position for a president who wants Americans to believe again in the power and grace of good government, particularly as it relates to the implementation of ObamaCare.

  • IRS agents targeted conservatives. Their bosses lied about it for months.
  • Justice Department investigators violated internal guidelines to secretly spy on The Associated Press and James Rosen of Fox News.
  • White House and State Department officials minimizing if not denying their role in shaping initial explanations for the Benghazi attack.
  • Military officers assigned to sexual assault prevention units are charged with sexual battery. The Pentagon’s own study finds that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012. It’s not a new problem.
  • Despite a 40 percent increase in funding, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs cannot ease a backlog of cases. The typical wounded warrior waits more than 300 days for action on a claim. In major cities, the wait can be 642 days.
  • The administration’s role (Vice President Joe Biden) in outing SEAL Team 6 as the unit that got bin Laden contributing to Taliban’s setting a trap from Extortion 17 in Afghanistan

The backdrop to this parade of buffoonery is a decades-long decline in the public’s faith in government, a trend continued under Obama. Restoring the public’s trust in his governance is the only way Obama can survive the controversies with his agenda and legacy intact.

If Obama wants to restore any degree of trust in his administration here are the steps he must take — and soon:

Appoint a bipartisan oversight board to oversee the implementation of ObamaCare. There is no way around the fact that a vast majority of voters will not trust the IRS to implement the greatest piece of social legislation in decades. Before the tempests, ObamaCare is unpopular and largely misunderstood by most Americans. The law’s success hinges on the government recruiting young adults into insurance pools. And polls show young adults are the least likely to trust government.

Layer the White House communication team with experienced crisis managers. Obama needs to realize that the dedicated public servants in the West Wing are not getting the job done. He needs people with integrity, not sycophantic spin doctors like Ben Holder and Jay Carney.

Apologize to the AP and Fox News for the egregious and unconstitutional actions of the Justice Department and announce a new policy for leaks investigations. The White House needs to punish people who leak classified information that endangers national security. But the scope of the snooping at AP combined with Obama's unprecedented zeal for leaks investigations raises doubts about his commitment to transparency and to an unfettered media. He has pursued more such cases than all previous administration combined, according to the Washington Post. It is also advisable to ask for Eric Holder’s resignation. Again, this is a matter of trust in our law enforcement agencies.

Appoint a special prosecutor on the IRS. The last thing the country needs is another subpoena-powered fishing expedition like the Valarie Plame inquiries. But we need a special prosecutor with a defined mission to investigate the actions and motives of IRS agents and their superiors. Is there a better way to restore the agency’s integrity? The administration investigating itself will not lift the cloud from Obama’s White House.

A new story from The American Spectator that has been gaining steam begins with this startling intro:

  • Is President Obama directly implicated in the IRS scandal?
  • Is the White House Visitors Log the trail to the smoking gun?
  • The stunning questions are raised by the following set of new facts.

The story focuses on Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (i.e. the union for IRS employees), and her meeting with President Obama on March 31, 2010 — one day before the IRS started targeting conservative groups.

Reset the narrative and public expectations with a major speech on trust. Obama has spoken eloquently and convincingly about this issue. If his next address included painful solutions such as the ones above, he might restore the public’s audacity to hope.

These are actions Obama can take, but I doubt he will do any of them. It’s just not in his nature. Also, Congress needs to continue to investigate the Benghazi and Justice Department’s actions.

With this latest revelation of the Justice Department’s targeting of Fox News and James Rosen the layers of the opinion are peeling off faster than the Obama administration can sustain the obfuscation and spin. Soon Jay Carney will get very dizzy and fall down.

This is becoming a great time for honest journalists and bloggers. Each day as a new layer of the proverbial onion is revealed they have so much to report and opine on it’s hard for them to keep up. This is a far cry from 2008 when king Obama was anointed by the mainstream media.

In the famous utterance of Henry II when referring to Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Obama is asking the same when it comes to the honest press.

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