Issa submits facts into Congressional Record

By Scott W. Winchell

Be careful what you ask for Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Dingle, Mr. Cummings, et al – you want a “thorough bipartisan investigation”? America just got one, and now you say it wasn’t? Well check out just how disingenuous the left are. Watch out – bomb fragments are flying.

Look at what Mr. Issa entered into the Congressional Record. No matter how the left tried to change the aim, focus, and discourse, those pesky facts always tear their sails down. They cannot rely on the evidence or the law to support their man, so they attack the prosecutor.

The display we witnessed on the floor of the House yesterday showed exactly how disingenuous the left is. They are not interested in the truth, they only want to paint the prosecutor as conducting a witch hunt.

The trouble is, it appears Holder just may be a ‘witch’. The manner in which they avoided the facts, tried to accuse the other side of lying, and made up things out of whole-cloth only demonstrated what they were up to – obfuscation.

Each accusation was soundly shot down by facts, yet they kept repeating the same tripe, over, and over, and over.

The Democrats were all marching to the same tune, chapter and verse, as distributed by their caucus, not one of them deviated. Then in the end, they walked out, and walked out of seeking the truth over a murder.

Mrs. Pelosi, as the former Speaker-of-the-House, how dare you demean that office so! Mr. Dingle, what were you trying to intimate? How dare you! You never once spoke to the Terry Family.

There must be some really damning stuff yet to be found if they are so willing to put on such an unprofessional display. The White House and Mr. Holder have a lot of explaining to do.

America deserves the truth – the TERRY FAMILY deserves the truth. Mr. Holder – resign now!

Darrell Issa Puts Details of Secret Wiretap Applications in Congressional Record

By Jonathan Strong – Roll Call Staff

In the midst of a fiery floor debate over contempt proceedings for Attorney General Eric Holder, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) quietly dropped a bombshell letter into the Congressional Record.

The May 24 letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member on the panel, quotes from and describes in detail a secret wiretap application that has become a point of debate in the GOP’s “Fast and Furious” gun-walking probe.

The wiretap applications are under court seal, and releasing such information to the public would ordinarily be illegal. But Issa appears to be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, which offers immunity for Congressional speech, especially on a chamber’s floor.

According to the letter, the wiretap applications contained a startling amount of detail about the operation, which would have tipped off anyone who read them closely about what tactics were being used.

Holder and Cummings have both maintained that the wiretap applications did not contain such details and that the applications were reviewed narrowly for probable cause, not for whether any investigatory tactics contained followed Justice Department policy.

The wiretap applications were signed by senior DOJ officials in the department’s criminal division, including Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco and another official who is now deceased.

In Fast and Furious, agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed assault guns bought by “straw purchasers” to “walk,” which meant ending surveillance on weapons suspected to be en route to Mexican drug cartels.

The tactic, which was intended to allow agents to track criminal networks by finding the guns at crime scenes, was condemned after two guns that were part of the operation were found at U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder scene.

Straw purchasers are individuals who buy guns on behalf of criminals, obscuring who is buying the weapons.

While Issa has since said he has obtained a number of wiretap applications, the letter only refers to one, from March 15, 2010. The full application is not included in what Issa entered into the Congressional Record, and names are obscured in Issa’s letter.

In the application, ATF agents included transcripts from a wiretap intercept from a previous Drug Enforcement Administration investigation that demonstrated the suspects were part of a gun-smuggling ring.

“The wiretap affidavit details that agents were well aware that large sums of money were being used to purchase a large number of firearms, many of which were flowing across the border,” the letter says.

The application included details such as how many guns specific suspects had purchased via straw purchasers and how many of those guns had been recovered in Mexico.

It also described how ATF officials watched guns bought by suspected straw purchasers but then ended their surveillance without interdicting the guns.

In at least one instance, the guns were recovered at a police stop at the U.S.-Mexico border the next day.

The application included financial details for four suspected straw purchasers showing they had purchased $373,000 worth of guns in cash but reported almost no income for the previous year, the letter says.

“Although ATF was aware of these facts, no one was arrested, and ATF failed to even approach the straw purchasers. Upon learning these details through its review of this wiretap affidavit, senior Justice Department officials had a duty to stop this operation. Further, failure to do so was a violation of Justice Department policy,” the letter says.

Holder declined to discuss the contents of the applications at a House Judiciary Committee hearing June 7 but said the applications were narrowly reviewed for whether there was probable cause to obtain a wiretap application.

Thousands of wiretap applications are reviewed each year by the DOJ’s criminal division. The applications are designed to obtain approval, so they tend to focus on the most suspicious information available.

A line attorney first creates a summary of the application, which is then usually reviewed by a deputy to Lanny Breuer, the head of the division, on his behalf. It is then reviewed and approved or denied by a judge.

Cummings has sided with the DOJ in the debate over the secret applications, but the full substance of his argument is unknown.

A June 5 letter from Cummings responding to Issa’s May 24 letter said Issa “omits the critical fact that [redacted].” The entire first section of the letter’s body is likewise blacked out.

“Sadly, it looks like Mr. Issa is continuing his string of desperate and unsubstantiated claims, while hiding key information from the very same documents,” a Democratic committee staffer said. “His actions demonstrate a lack of concern for the facts, as well as a reckless disregard for our nation’s courts and federal prosecutors who are trying to bring criminals to justice. We’re not going to stoop to his level. Obviously, we are going to honor the court’s seal and the prosecutors’ requests. But if Mr. Issa won’t tell you what he is hiding from the wiretaps, you should ask him why.”

Here is the Congressional Record entry:

CREC-2012-06-28-pt1-PgH4177-2

Islamist trend in Egypt alarms Israel on border

Editor’s Note – Tensions rise after the election of Muslim Brotherhood ministers and the presidency.

Alarmed Israel tightens its Sinai border

From Space War.com

The Israeli military will deploy mobile radar systems along the Sinai border with Egypt amid fears that Palestinians, possibly aided by militants linked to al-Qaida, plan to step up attacks on the Jewish state.

The emergence of a jihadist organization in the vast wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula on Israel’s southern flank, its least defended frontier, is causing deep concern in Israel’s military and intelligence establishment because it may reflect Egypt’s lurch toward Islamist rule.

Until 2011, Palestinian rocket attacks were launched from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, and Israeli forces retaliated without hindrance, usually with airstrikes, and in December 2008 a 22-day invasion by a large ground force.

Previous border attack scene along the Israel-Sinai corridor

But the Feb. 11, 2011, downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a staunch supporter of Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, in a pro-democracy revolution, immensely complicated Israel’s security situation on its southern border.

Mubarak’s ouster after weeks of bloodshed in the streets put the future of the landmark pact, which the vast majority of Egypt’s 82 million oppose, in serious doubt.

There have been several attacks mounted from Sinai since August 2011, when eight Israelis were killed in the worst terrorist assault in years. Two 122mm rockets fired from southern Sinai hit Israel earlier this month.

A jihadist group calling itself the Mujahedin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem claimed responsibility for a June 18 attack from Sinai that killed an Israel and triggered a gun battle in which two attackers died.

This has coincided with a weeklong surge in rocket attacks from Gaza that drew retaliatory airstrikes in which several Palestinians were killed.

Tension remains high and there’s been talk of another Israeli ground offensive.

In December 2011, an Islamist group named Ansar al-Jihad in the Sinai Peninsula announced its formation, the first jihadist organization in the region, and pledged loyalty to al-Qaida.

“Terrorist bases are being established in Sinai and we expect the Egyptians to restore sovereignty there,” declared Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.

“If international awareness does not spur immediate Egyptian action to address the growing security vacuum and increased terrorist incidents on the border with Israel, the Sinai powder keg may soon explode,” observed retired Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog, a former head of the Israeli military’s Strategic Planning Division.

Cairo’s hold over the Sinai Peninsula, the westernmost edge of the Arab world which Israel captured in 1967, was never strong, even after Israel returned the region under the 1979 treaty.

The sparsely populated region, which is largely desert, has long been neglected by Cairo.

Even before Mubarak’s ouster, disgruntled Bedouin tribesmen were gravitating toward al-Qaida, which is reported to have built up a network that has in recent months begun hitting Israel, or allowed Gaza militants to launch attacks from there.

The post-Mubarak political rise of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has further deepened alarm in Israel that its southern border, calm and pretty much undefended for the last three decades, is once more becoming a combat zone.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 and subsequently the godfather of just about every radical Islamist group in the Arab world, has made spectacular political gains since Mubarak was booted out.

The organization dominates Egypt’s Parliament with other Islamists and on Sunday Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader who served years in Mubarak’s prisons, was declared the country’s first freely elected president.

He narrowly beat the military’s candidate, former air force chief Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister.

The Muslim Brotherhood has publicly declared it will observe all foreign treaties signed during Mubarak’s three-decade dictatorship. But the Israelis, increasingly jumpy because of the bloodbath in neighboring Syria, Iran’s nuclear program and a recent surge in Palestinian attacks from Gaza, fear Egypt’s new leadership will make little effort to restore control in Sinai, and might even encourage attacks.

“The challenge Israel is facing in the Sinai is very similar to the daily terror threats it faces in the Gaza Strip,” noted The Jerusalem Post’s military expert, Yaakov Katz.

“But here’s the main difference: while Israel can retaliate and respond militarily to attacks from Gaza, its hands are — for the time being — tied in face of the same threats it faces from Egypt Â… even if it knows about a ticking terrorist bomb.”

McCarthy – We’ve Accepted the Left’s Flawed Premise

Editor’s Note – Opinions over today’s rulings are just now being developed, but as usual, Andrew McCarthy has already composed his take on the events of today concerning the SCOTUS ruling on Obama Care, officially the PPACA. Please read and decide for yourself:

We’ve Accepted the Left’s Flawed Premise

By Andrew C. McCarthy – National Review

Andrew C. McCarthy
I want to read the ruling before I start piling on Chief Justice Roberts — though my sense is he richly deserves to be piled on. And even if the Court is correct that, under its jurisprudence, the mandate that undergirds Obamacare can be sustained as a tax, it is surely intolerable for the Supreme Court to aid and abet Congress and the president in the commission of a massive fraud: upholding as a tax something they swore up and down was not a tax — allowing them to enact as a tax something that would never have passed if honestly presented as a tax, allowing them to escape accountability for passing a massive tax increase.

But, at the risk of being a broken record, we remain focused on the wrong issue because conservatives and Republicans do not want any part of the right issue. Congress would not be able to tax anyone a penny if the subject matter on which lawmakers sought to spend the money raised was not within Congress’s constitutional authority to address. Health care and health insurance are precisely such issues. So why does Congress get to raise taxes for and spend money on them? Because the country — very much including Republican leaders and many conservatives — has bought on to the wayward progressive premise that the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution empowers Congress to spend on anything it wants to spend on as long as their is some fig-leaf that ties the spending to the betterment of society. That, and not an inflated understanding of the Commerce Clause, has always been the problem. Republicans are afraid to touch this because, if you follow the logic, you’d have to conclude that Congress has no constitutional authority to set up a Social Security system, a Medicare or Medicaid program, or most of the innumerable Big Government enterprises that Republicans support while, of course, decrying Big Government. Republicans occasionally want to limit what government spends, but they don’t want to acknowledge any constitutional limits on what government could spend — that’s what has gotten us to this point.

made this very argument — not for the first time — three months ago, in the context of discussing with Jonah the Obamacare “tax or penalty” controversy (i.e., is the mandate a “penalty” imposed under Congress’s Commerce Clause power or a “tax” imposed under Congress’s broader tax-and-spend power — the issue the Court resolved today in favor of the latter). I don’t mean to try anyone’s patience, but the point seems more urgent to me now than it ever did, so I repeat:

 Jonah is quite right that much of the argument over Obamacare’s constitutionality will hinge on whether the individual mandate is a “tax” or a “penalty.” Not to be too much of a broken record on this, but I think that’s unfortunate: It assumes that Obamacare is a proper exercise of federal power if the mandate is a tax. The more profound question, and the one that, regrettably, the Supreme Court won’t touch is: For what purposes should the federal government be able to impose taxes in the first place.

The reason this is an issue is the General Welfare clause in the preamble of the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8. Congress can only impose fines or penalties in conjunction with one of its enumerated powers. The one at issue in Obamacare is the power to regulate interstate commerce. Obamacare is an unprecedented expansion of the commerce power because it compels Americans to buy a commodity. That is why many experts think the Court will say it goes too far and strike it down. (for what it’s worth, I do agree that it goes too far, but I do not believe this will prevent five justices on the current Court from doing the wrong thing.) The point is that if Obamacare does not pass muster under the Commerce Clause, Congress has no authority to fine people for non-compliance.

That is not the end of the story, though, because the Court has held that the General Welfare clause is a broader grant of congressional authority than the Commerce Clause. How much broader? We don’t know . . . and that’s the problem.

In my mind, if you buy the progressive theory of the General Welfare clause (as not only Democrats but the vast majority of Republicans in government do), there are virtually no limits at all. That is why I thought that, rather than asking Mitt Romney and the other GOP candidates about the constitutionality of contraception bans that no one is actually seeking, it would have been worthwhile [during the GOP presidential debates] to ask these champions of limited government what, if any, limits there are on Congress’s power to tax and spend for the “general welfare.”

As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, this was an open question until 1936. There were two schools of thought. Hamilton argued that the preamble’s reference to a power to tax to “provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States” was a separate, substantive source of authority, empowering the government to tax for any purpose so long as it arguably benefited all Americans — i.e., it had to be “general,” not for the good of some at the expense of others. Madison countered that this would defeat the purpose of the rest of Sec. 8 — which, following the preamble, exactingly enumerates Congress’s powers. For Madison, the preamble simply made clear that Congress could tax and spend for the purpose of carrying out these limited grants of authority to regulate interstate commerce, establish Post Offices, establish lower federal courts, etc. Otherwise, the federal government could grow into an uncontrollable monstrosity that spends trillions more than the trillions it takes in in taxes. (Oh, right …).

I think Madison was correct, but the New Deal Supreme Court sided with Hamilton in United States v. Butler (1936) (more on this here). Alas, it appears commentators on the right have little stomach to revisit this conclusion because it would be tantamount to arguing that the welfare state is unconstitutional. Gov. Romney, for example, took umbrage at Gov. Rick Perry’s suggestion that social security is unconstitutional — but he was never asked to explain why he thinks it is constitutional, nor were he, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich asked to tell us whether there are any limits on Congress’s General Welfare power.

So we’ll instead play the semantics of “tax” versus “penalty”. It seems like an inconsequential difference — most people just want to know what they have to pay, not whether the government labels the payment a tax, fee, fine, penalty, etc. The semantics are of tremendous consequence only because of the bedrock question that nobody will be asking.

Contempt vote on, talks fail, some Dems to vote yea

Editor’s Note – Today, the table is set, tomorrow is the big vote. Last minute talks with the White House have failed and we also learned that many Democrats are planning to vote FOR contempt. That is a sign of two things; one, Obama has no coat tails to help congressmen to get re-elected, and two, Holder and the White House are guilty as sin.

Thursday is going to be a busy news day – contempt vote, and the SCOTUS decision on Obama Care – we hope neither is over-shadowed by the other. Stay tuned.

Boehner: House will go ahead with contempt vote

By LAURIE KELLMAN | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker John Boehner (BAY’-nur) says the House will move forward with a contempt of Congress vote against Attorney General Eric Holder over the botched gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious.

The Ohio Republican told reporters Wednesday that last-minute talks with the White House about releasing documents had failed to avert the vote. President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege to keep the documents secret, but Republicans say there’s no basis for that.

The issue has political implications this election year. The National Rifle Association is keeping score, prompting some Democrats to join Republicans in voting for contempt. Such a citation would not cause the release of more documents on the operation, in which guns were allowed to “walk” from Arizona to Mexico in hopes they could be tracked.

__________________________________________

Hoyer: Some Dems Will Vote To Hold Holder In Contempt For Fast And Furious

CBS News Local – DC

WASHINGTON (AP) — Now that the politically potent National Rifle Association is keeping score, some Democrats may join House Republicans if there’s a vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress in a dispute over documents related to a botched gun-tracking operation.

House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) speaks to the media December 21, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The chief Democratic House head counter, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, declined to tell reporters how many defections he expected, but acknowledged that some in his party would consider heeding the NRA’s call for a “yes” vote.

The gun owners association injected itself last week into the stalemate over Justice Department documents demanded by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The NRA said it supports the contempt resolution and will keep a record of how members vote.

An NRA letter to House members contended that the Obama administration “actively sought information” from Operation Fast and Furious to support its program to require dealers to report multiple rifle sales.

The program, which began last August, imposed the requirement for sales of specifically identified long guns in four border states: Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico. A federal judge upheld the requirement.

Republicans want Eric Holder to become the first attorney general to be cited by the House for contempt, because he has refused to give the Oversight and Government Reform Committee all the documents it wants related to Operation Fast and Furious.

Unless a last-minute deal is worked out, always a possibility in Congress, the contempt vote is scheduled for Thursday — the same day the Supreme Court is to announce its ruling on the legality of the nation’s health care law.

A vote to hold Holder in contempt of Congress wouldn’t send any documents to the Oversight committee and its chairman, Republican Rep. Darrell of California. President Barack Obama has claimed executive privilege, a legal step that presidents have used to maintain secrecy of internal administration documents.

Obama invoked what is known as “deliberative process privilege,” a claim designed to broadly cover executive branch documents. However Issa, in a letter to the president, said Obama was misusing the narrower “presidential communications privilege,” which is reserved for documents to and from the president and his most senior advisers.

White House Spokesman Eric Schultz said Tuesday that Issa’s analysis “has as much merit as his absurd contention that Operation Fast and Furious was created in order to promote gun control. Our position is consistent with executive branch legal precedent for the past three decades spanning administrations of both parties.”

Ironically, the documents at the heart of the current argument are not directly related to the workings of Operation Fast and Furious, which allowed guns to “walk” from Arizona to Mexico in hopes they could be tracked. The department has given Issa 7,600 documents on the operation.

Rather, Issa wants internal communications from February 2011, when the administration denied knowledge of gun-walking, to the end of that year, when officials acknowledged the denial was erroneous. Those documents covered a period after Fast and Furious had been shut down.

In Fast and Furious, agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Arizona abandoned the agency’s usual practice of intercepting all weapons they believed to be illicitly purchased. Instead, the goal of gun-walking was to track such weapons to high-level arms traffickers who long had eluded prosecution and to dismantle their networks.

Gun-walking long has been barred by Justice Department policy, but federal agents in Arizona experimented with it in at least two investigations during the George W. Bush administration before Fast and Furious. These experiments came as the department was under widespread criticism that the old policy of arresting every suspected low-level “straw purchaser” was still allowing tens of thousands of guns to reach Mexico. A straw purchaser is an illicit buyer of guns for others.

The agents in Arizona lost track of several hundred weapons in Operation Fast and Furious. The low point of the operation came in Arizona in 2010, when U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a firefight with a group of armed Mexican bandits and two guns traced to the operation were found at the scene.

Issa, in his letter to the president, wrote, “Courts have consistently held that the assertion of the constitutionally-based executive privilege … is only applicable … to documents and communications that implicate the confidentiality of the president’s decision-making process.”

The letter said that while the privilege covers only the president and his advisers, it is a qualified privilege that can be overcome by a showing of the committee’s need for the documents.

Issa quoted from a 1997 case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in which the court said the privilege should not extend to staff outside the White House in executive branch agencies.

Rather, the court said, it should apply only to “communications authored or solicited and received by those members of an immediate White House adviser’s staff” with responsibility for formulating advice for the president.

However, the case Issa repeatedly cited in his letter distinguishes carefully between the “presidential communications privilege” and the “deliberative process privilege,” which Obama invoked in the current dispute over Operation Fast and Furious. In the case Issa cited, the court dealt only with the presidential communication privilege but observed that both the communications privilege and the deliberative privilege are executive privileges designed to protect the confidentiality of executive branch decision-making.

Cyber attackers caught, others steal millions

Editor’s Note – Every time we hear that a ring was broken up and the people were protected, along comes another one. Just yesterday the FBI reported the following:

U.S. law enforcement officials on Tuesday said 24 suspected hackers had been arrested on four continents in a sting operation targeting online financial fraud involving stolen credit card and bank information.

The two-year investigation, in which FBI agents posed as hackers on Internet forums, prevented more than $205 million in losses on more than 411,000 compromised consumer credit and debit cards, U.S. authorities in New York said.

Eleven people were arrested in the United States, the FBI and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The 13 others were arrested in countries spanning from Britain to Japan, the authorities said.

“Clever computer criminals operating behind the supposed veil of the Internet are still subject to the long arm of the law,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Fraud Ring In Hacking Attack On 60 Banks

Some 60m euro is stolen from bank accounts in a massive cyber raid, after fraudsters raid dozens of banks around the world.

By Pete Norman, Sky News Online

Sixty million euro has been stolen from bank accounts in a massive cyber bank raid after fraudsters raided dozens of financial institutions around the world. According to a joint report by software security firm McAfee and Guardian Analytics, more than 60 firms have suffered from what it has called an “insider level of understanding”.

“The fraudsters’ objective in these attacks is to siphon large amounts from high balance accounts, hence the name chosen for this research – Operation High Roller,” the report said.

“If all of the attempted fraud campaigns were as successful as the Netherlands example we describe in this report, the total attempted fraud could be as high as 2bn euro (£1.6bn).”

The automated malicious software programme was discovered to use servers to process thousands of attempted thefts from both commercial firms and private individuals. The stolen money was then sent to so-called mule accounts in caches of a few hundreds and 100,000 euro (£80,000) at a time. Credit unions, large multinational banks and regional banks have all been attacked.

Sky News defence and security editor Sam Kiley said: “It does include British financial institutions and has jumped over to North America and South America.

“What they have done differently from routine attacks is that they have got into the bank servers and constructed software that is automated. It can get around some of the mechanisms that alert the banking system to abnormal activity.”

The details of the global fraud come just a day after the MI5 boss warned of the new cyber security threat to UK business. McAfee researchers have been able to track the global fraud, which still continues, across countries and continents.

“They have identified 60 different servers, many of them in Russia, and they have identified one alone that has been used to steal 60m euro,” Kiley said.

“There are dozens of servers still grinding away at this fraud – in effect stealing money.”