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Friday, June 14, 2013

What’s Next in Scandal Plagued Washington D.C.?

"If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress and don't trust federal judges to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution, due process and Rule of Law, then we're going to have some problems here." — Barack Obama

Senior State Department and Diplomatic Security officials may have covered up or stopped investigations of inappropriate or even criminal misconduct by staff, according to an internal memo from the department's Office of the Inspector General.

If Hillary Clinton thought the soft glow of the good press she received while roaming the globe to no great effect during her four years as secretary of state would last until her planned 2016 coronation as president, it’s time to for her to rethink her strategy. Public anger about the lies that were told about the Benghazi terror attack as well as her failure to provide adequate security to diplomats that were placed in harm’s way was bad enough. But the latest State Department scandal linked to her office is the sort of thing that could begin the process by which Clinton’s status as the inevitable Democratic presidential nominee starts to unravel.

As CBS first reported yesterday, investigation into a series of cases involving sexual misconduct by both ambassadors as well as security personnel were called off on the orders of senior State Department officials on Clinton’s watch. Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills gave the order in one case while other top-level officials stopped other probes. The confirmation of the cases in an internal State Department memo shows a pattern of sexual misconduct—including on the part of those charged with protecting Clinton—that is troubling. But the manner in which higher-ups consistently suppressed these embarrassing investigations is even more worrisome. While Clinton is not personally named as the one ordering the cover-ups, the links between the secretary and those committing the bad behavior as well as those shutting down the probes are clear.

The most egregious in a list of potentially explosive stories involves HowardHoward_W._Gutman Gutman, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium who was accused of routinely ditching his security detail and then soliciting prostitutes, including minors. But Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management, ordered the investigation shut down. Gutman was apparently given a stern lecture but otherwise got off without any sanctions and is still serving as America’s envoy in Brussels. According to the State Department report, Gutman’s security detail and staff were well aware of what he was up to.

A leaked internal document obtained by CBS News said staff protecting ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regularly solicited sex workers. The reports also allege a drug ring may have provided narcotics to state department contractors in Iraq. But it is suggested officials may have tried to cover up the misconduct.

According to CBS, a draft copy of a state department inspector general's report alleges eight specific examples of improper behavior by US officials.

Some allegations were suppressed, according to CBS, such as an investigation into an unnamed ambassador who was said to be visiting prostitutes in a public park.

The document cites allegations that the envoy "routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children".

It went on to say that the ambassador's security team and other colleagues "were well aware of the behavior", according to the reports.

CBS reports that attempts to look into the allegations were stopped in their tracks.

According to CBS, the copy of the draft report said: "Hindering such cases calls into question the integrity of the investigative process, can result in counterintelligence vulnerabilities and can allow criminal behavior to continue."

CNN also reports that the inspector general found an attempt to investigate claims that a drug ring near the US embassy in Baghdad was supplying illegal substances to state department security contractors was stopped.

It was also alleged that a state department security official in Beirut "engaged in sexual assaults" against foreign nationals hired as embassy guards. The same person was accused of similar attacks during previous foreign postings, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, members of Mrs. Clinton's security detail solicited prostitutes on official trips, a problem the leaked report is said to have described as "endemic".

Aurelia Fedenisn, who was an investigator with the state department's inspector general, told CBS: "We also uncovered several allegations of criminal wrongdoing in cases, some of which never became cases."

The inspector general's office has reportedly asked external law enforcement experts to look at the way the state department handles complaints of serious misconduct by its senior staff.

Speaking at a press briefing Monday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said:

"We hold all employees to the highest standards. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly. All cases mentioned in the CBS report were thoroughly investigated or under investigation, and the department continues to take action. Finally, the department has responded to the recommendations in the OIG report regarding the Bureau of Diplomatic Security's of Investigations and counter-intelligence. Diplomatic Security has taken the further step of requesting additional review by outside experience law enforcement officers on top of the OIG inspection so that officers with law enforcement experience can make expert assessments about our current procedures. We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly.”

Psaki went on to say the "notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case, any case, is preposterous ambassadors would be no exception." Without speaking about specific cases, Psaki described any misconduct as "hardly endemic."

A statement provided to CBS News by the Inspector General's office said:

“OIG does not comment on drafts of reports.

On its own initiative, OIG Office of Investigations has been conducting its own independent review of the allegations made. This is our standard procedure.

We staffed it independently and appropriately and they were people hired specific for this review at the end of 2012. They are on staff. We staffed it with the best people we can find at hand to do the job.

DS does not speak for us.”

The timeline surrounding the allegations places the incidents during former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's tenure, opening the possibility that a widening scandal might taint both her record and her possible political aspirations. Clinton has also taken heat for the department's response to the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

The memo itself, purportedly written by Ambassador Larry Dinger, describes some of the information as coming from office chatter.

Senior State Department and Diplomatic Security officials may have covered up or stopped investigations of inappropriate or even criminal misconduct by staff, according to an internal memo from the department's Office of the Inspector General.

According to CNN They include:

(1) An active U.S. ambassador "routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children," the memo says. The ambassador's protective detail and others "were well aware of the behavior," the memo asserts. When a diplomatic security officer tried to investigate, undersecretary of state for management Patrick Kennedy allegedly ordered the investigator "not to open a formal investigation."

On Tuesday, CNN obtained a statement from the ambassador, who vigorously denied the allegations, calling them "baseless."

A source close to the investigation of the ambassador told CNN that the ambassador's security detail reported to the inspector general that the ambassador would leave his house at night without notifying the detail. The detail followed the ambassador and saw the ambassador once go to a park that's known for illegal activity, the source told CNN. The detail said they never witnessed the ambassador engage in any sexual activity, the source said.

The ambassador went to Washington and was asked what he was doing and he denied any wrongdoing, the source told CNN. The ambassador explained that sometimes he fights with his wife, needs air and he goes for a walk in the park because he likes it.

Kennedy also issued a statement Tuesday, saying it is his responsibility "to make sure the department and all of our employees — no matter their rank — are held to the highest standard, and I have never once interfered, nor would I condone interfering, in any investigation."

(2) A State Department security official in Beirut allegedly "engaged in sexual assaults" against foreign nationals working as embassy guards. The security official, the Office of the Inspector General says, was also accused of committing "similar assaults during assignments in Baghdad, and possibly Khartoum and Monrovia." The office's memo says that an inspector general's investigator who went to Beirut to try to conduct an investigation was not given enough time to complete the job.

(3) A member of Clinton's security detail allegedly "engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries." The inspector general's agent assigned to investigate "concluded" that the "prostitution problem was endemic."

(4) In Iraq, an "underground drug ring" may have been operating near the U.S. Embassy and "supplying" drugs to State Department security contractors, but an agent sent to investigate the allegations was prevented from completing the job.

Also Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, R-California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he has asked his staff to begin an investigation into the allegations, and sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding an explanation.

"The notion that any or all of these cases would not be investigated thoroughly by the Department is unacceptable," Royce wrote in his letter to Kerry.

CNN obtained a draft, dated December 2012, of a report by the inspector general's office evaluating the performance of the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security Special Investigations Division.

The report says that the bureau "lacks a firewall" that would preclude higher-ups from "exercising undue influence in particular cases."

The bureau doesn't have a manual with approved guidelines on how to investigate cases, the report also says. Investigators with the inspector general's office "discovered uncertainty" among state agents about how to conduct thorough investigations, and noted that not going through the proper mechanisms can "ruin" a potential criminal investigation.

The report also calls the department's Criminal Investigations Division "unwieldy" and says that "frequent agent turnover" makes it harder for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to conduct investigations.

The inspector general's office published a February 2013 final report whose key findings are, largely, the same as stated in the December 2012 draft.

The division's current management structure, the report says, does not "foster independence from career pressures and creates significant potential for undue influence, favoritism, and potential retribution.

The implication of the shutting down of an investigation into Gutman’s behavior is clear. Senior people at the State Department, including those who report to Clinton, were obviously under the impression that a scandal involving in a major Obama giver and appointee would be political poison for the president during an election year.

The same applies to the fact that similar investigations into Clinton’s personal security detail were also shut down. Apparently those tasked with protecting the secretary were believed to have hired prostitutes during her trips to Russia and Colombia. The practice was said to be endemic and going on in the same hotel where the secretary stayed.

You don’t have to be a CIA spook or John le Carre to understand the implications of such misconduct in terms of security breaches and possible blackmail by foreign intelligence agencies. Yet none of those involved got anything more than a slap on the wrist.

In yet another case, Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff and personal enforcer, intervened directly in order to shut down an investigation into possible misconduct by Brett McGurk, Clinton’s choice to be ambassador to Iraq.

According to a report in New York Magazine:

“Barack Obama's choice for the next ambassador to Iraq has bailed on the confirmation process rather than continue to face questions about his romantic, and sometimes lewd, correspondence with aBrett-McGurk-008 Wall Street Journal reporter. Brett McGurk, a former national security aide to George W. Bush, got to know the Journal's Gina Chon, now his wife, while they were working in Baghdad (and he was married to someone else). The online leak of their e-mails, which show the pair flirting about and around official business, already resulted in Chon's resignation and has now sunk McGurk too, despite White House insistence yesterday that, "We've made this nomination and we think he will ably serve as ambassador." Scratch that.

Iraq urgently needs an ambassador," McGurk wrote in a letter to Obama and Hillary Clinton today, the Times reports. "The country is in the midst of a political crisis and our mission is undergoing rapid transformation." A vote on his nomination was planned for tomorrow, but may have been delayed due to rising Republican discomfort with McGurk's "poor judgment" in the e-mail fracas. Thanks to his Bush affiliation, the Times notes, Democrats weren't exactly prepared to go to bat for him.”

“I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating,”Gutman told the Daily Mail. “I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity.”

The Mail indicates that the Ambassador is “a top donor to President Obama,74228791 having raised a total of $775,000 for his 2008 campaign and inauguration committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A native New Yorker and son of a Holocaust survivor, he has been married to his wife, Michelle Loewinger, since 1981.”

The British newspaper also notes that “a damning internal memo” from the State Department implicates “Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy ordering the investigation closed shortly after it was opened”.

While American diplomatic personnel enjoy immunity on foreign soil, they can be prosecuted in U.S. courts for having intercourse with minors.

The Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today — PROTECT — Act of 2003 deems it a federal offense for Americans to engage in such an activity abroad. If convicted of this, one can face serious fines and up to thirty years in prison.

Prior to his ambassadorship, Gutman was a clerk for powerful federal judges as well as a lobbyist and a sought-after attorney. He is not known to have done any work in the diplomatic sector.

In 2011, Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary called the man “a)Washington “super lawyer” who bought his title of ambassador with massive contributions to President Obama’s campaign.”

Only time will tell if Gutman is actually guilty. What does seem apparent, though, is that he did not become an ambassador due to merit in the field of foreign affairs.

Taken in total, the reports present a picture of a Clinton State Department lacking in accountability and mired in a culture of cronyism in which anyone connected to either Clinton or President Obama had a permanent “get out of jail free” card. Like Benghazi and other administration scandals in which President Obama’s defenders are forced to claim he knew nothing about misconduct in order to preserve him from accusations of involvement, Clinton must now use the same excuse. There is no way to avoid the conclusion that if she did not take part in the ordering of these cover-ups, she was completely out of touch with what was happening under her nose.

Hillary Clinton’s approval rating has fallen 12 points in the wake of the Benghazi scandal, especially since some Americans still hold her responsible for the inadequate security in Libya during the September 11, 2012 attack. Now, additional scandals, which may have been covered up by the State Department under Hillary’s watch, could further threaten her approval rating. These scandals, if given enough traction by the media, could possibly jeopardize Hillary’s chances to run for president. It is therefore in the media’s best interest to keep their beloved political candidate away from controversy, and distance the department’s cover-up from her leadership.

Two news accounts do so. CBS News’ groundbreaking story mentions Hillary only once. NBC News’ story mentions Hillary only once, as well.

“CBS News’ John Miller reports that according to an internal State Department Inspector General’s memo, several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off,” reports CBS news. “The memo obtained by CBS News cited eight specific examples” (emphasis added).

So, the State Department, under Hillary Clinton, may have covered up eight different investigations—if not more. These investigations include allegations of prostitution, pedophilia by an ambassador, sexual assault, and drug purchases.

Bloomberg reports that Hillary’s approval rating was at an all-time high in December, at 70 percent. Would it have remained as high had the Inspector General’s report come out with the eight cited cases? It is unlikely.

“Since leaving the state department, Clinton has mostly kept a low profile, other than delivering a few public speeches and releasing a video in March in which for the first time she announced support for same-sex marriage,” reported John McCormick for Bloomberg News. “Even so, she’s done just enough in the political arena to keep potential donors and supporters intrigued by the historic potential of backing a candidate who could become the first woman president.”

According to the recent Bloomberg poll, “47 percent said they disapprove of how Clinton handled the situation in Benghazi, while roughly a third — 34 percent — said they approve.” Bloomberg credits Benghazi as the reason Clinton’s favorability dropped 12 percentage points since last December.

It could have been more, as the recent leak by former State Department investigator Aurelia Fedenisn demonstrates.

480px-Patrick-F-Kennedy_2002The scandal reaches up to Hillary’s right-hand man Patrick Kennedy, at the very least, and involves her own guards. It is no surprise, then, that Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy interceded on the ambassador’s behalf. “Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered the investigation ceased, and the ambassador remains in place, according to the memo,” reported the Post.

In addition, “At least seven agents in Clinton’s security detail hired prostitutes while traveling with her in various countries, including Russia and Colombia.

Also, the Special Investigations Division was unable to interview Brett McGurk, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Iraq, because long-time Clinton loyalist Cheryl Mills “interceded,” according to the memo. Mills has been working for the Clintons “on and off” since 1992 and was the general counsel and chief of staff to Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi attack, reported The Washington Free Beacon, which called Mills “The Whistleblower Blocker.”

For more than a decade, Mills has been a Clinton cover-up expert,67978215 specializing in subverting investigations of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Whether in the Bill Clinton White House or the Hillary Clinton State Department, Mills has served as something of a “double agent” — working on the taxpayers’ tab while seeming to spend all her time defending the personal fortunes of the Clintons. If you have ever watched the ABC TV show “Scandal” Olivia Pope fits the perfect image of Cheryl Mills.

Judicial Watch first encountered Mills’ double agent status in 2000, when, as Bill Clinton’s deputy White House counsel, she helped orchestrate the cover-up of a major scandal, often referred to as “Email-gate.” During the course of litigation against the Clinton White House — which pilfered the private FBI files of former Reagan and Bush staffers — Judicial Watch uncovered more than 1.8 million email communications the Clinton administration had withheld from our attorneys, federal investigators, and members of Congress.

When Mills testified on the matter, she admitted that she was aware of the missing White House emails, and that she just “assumed” someone else was handling the matter. But, in 2008, when Email-gate was finally brought before Judge Royce C. Lamberth, he termed Mills’ participation in the cover-up “loathsome.” And he further stated that she was responsible for “the most critical error made in this entire fiasco — Mills’ actions were totally inadequate to address the problem.”

But, even then, Mills was not new to scandals involving White House communications records. In the early 1990s, she was also one of three Clinton White House lawyers who recommended Bill Clinton release theHillary-Clinton-Cheryl-Mills-State-Dept-Unedrage-Prostitution-Coverup private government records of Kathleen Willey, who had accused Clinton of sexually assaulting her in the White House. The release of the information, which included presidential records of communications from Willey to Clinton, were an attempt to discredit the Clinton accuser and help cover up Clinton’s egregious behavior. Mills was also referred to the Clinton Department of Justice for criminal prosecution for her alleged obstruction and perjury in yet another congressional investigation — this one into an illegal taxpayer-funded White House database of Clinton donors. Rather than be prosecuted, Mills gained headlines defending the indefensible as Bill Clinton’s impeachment defense lawyer.

Now, Mills is at it again. According to Gregory Hicks’ testimony before a congressional committee, it was Mills, Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, who instructed him to try to derail the congressional investigation into the Benghazi terrorist attack by refusing to speak to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Here’s a partial transcript of the testimony:

“Hicks: I was instructed not to allow the RSO [Regional Security Officer], the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be personally interviewed by Congressman Chaffetz.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH): So the people at State told you, “Don’t talk to the guy who is coming to investigate”?

Hicks: Yes, sir.”

Let’s be clear here. Rep. Chaffetz was officially acting on behalf of the United States Congress. He was attempting to get to the bottom of a major terrorist attack that left four Americans dead, including the Ambassador to Libya. And Mills, clearly in her full cover-up mode for Hillary Clinton, ordered her subordinates to stonewall Congress.

If the rule of law meant anything in this morally debauched city, such conduct would immediately result in a criminal investigation. And, who knows, it still may. If so, it will be a clear-cut case of justice delayed — because Cheryl Mills, cover-up expert extraordinaire, has a long track record of using her official government positions to obstruct lawful investigations into Bill and Hillary’s nefarious activities.

After all, we have Hillary’s guards soliciting prostitutes, her right-hand man overlooking alleged pedophilia, and a long-time Clinton loyalist intervening in Iraq. Shouldn’t this put the nail in the coffin for a Clinton presidency, or will the media cover for her as it has the Obama Administration?

No doubt, Clinton’s apologists will use the same tactic as these scandals unravel. But if Mrs. Clinton is truly looking ahead to 2016, she might consider that a bumper sticker that reads “Incompetent Rather Than Corrupt” does not make for an appealing campaign slogan.

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