Russian Cyberattacks, Bucket Lists, and Anger Translators

Editor’s Note – In last night’s White House Correspondent’s Annual Dinner, Obama was quite the comedian, but this moment of levity belies the very serious nature of the current state of world affairs. Especially after learning how severe the recent Russian email hack was.

Mr. Obama tweaked his former secretary of state for her woman-of-the-people campaign kickoff that included a trip in a small van. He noted that times were still tough for plenty of people, and that one friend of his, “just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year.

And now she’s living out of a van in Iowa.” [In a handicapped zone.]MysteryMachine

He also poked fun of the email scandal that has dogged Mrs. Clinton.

“I thought it was going to be her private Instagram account that was going to cause her bigger problems,” he said as screens in the room showed pictures of Mrs. Clinton at parties and with an armful of cats. (Read more at NY Times. Brackets added for emphasis.)

As he chided Presidential Candidate Clinton over the email issue and her “woman of the people” rollout, we could not forget that just this week it was revealed how deeply Russian hackers had penetrated the White House’s unclassified email system. That certainly raises questions of course on how secure Hillary and Bill Clinton’s email system was.

With so many questions arising from Peter Schweizer’s book, “Clinton Cash,” we are not laughing about ‘erased personal’ emails, or for that matter IRS emails as well as Benghazi related emails.

“I am determined to make the most of every moment I have left” of his second term, the president quipped in a line that drew laughter and a few startled reactions. “My advisers asked, ‘Mr. President, do you have a bucket list. And I said, ‘Well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.’ ” (Read more at the Washington Post and view the entire speech.)

Mr. Obama may have his “Bucket List,” but we are not using that term “bucket” as cavalierly as he used it last night. To the Obama/Clinton/Kerry/Rice team – “we are not pleased!” And we don’t need an ‘anger translator’ Mr. Obama.

Russian Hackers Read Obama’s Unclassified Emails, Officials Say

 – NY Times

WASHINGTON — Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.

White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.

Comedian Keegan-Michael Key, portrays the presidents translator as President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Correspondent's Association Gala on 25 April 2015 in Washington. (Getty Images)
Comedian Keegan-Michael Key, portrays the presidents “Anger” translator as President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Correspondent’s Association Gala on 25 April 2015 in Washington. (Getty Images)

But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.

Officials did not disclose the number of Mr. Obama’s emails that were harvested by hackers, nor the sensitivity of their content. The president’s email account itself does not appear to have been hacked.

Aides say that most of Mr. Obama’s classified briefings — such as the morning Presidential Daily Brief — are delivered orally or on paper (sometimes supplemented by an iPad system connected to classified networks) and that they are usually confined to the Oval Office or the Situation Room.

Still, the fact that Mr. Obama’s communications were among those hit by the hackers — who are presumed to be linked to the Russian government, if not working for it — has been one of the most closely held findings of the inquiry. Senior White House officials have known for months about the depth of the intrusion.

“This has been one of the most sophisticated actors we’ve seen,” said one senior American official briefed on the investigation.

Others confirmed that the White House intrusion was viewed as so serious that officials met on a nearly daily basis for several weeks after it was discovered. “It’s the Russian angle to this that’s particularly worrisome,” another senior official said.

While Chinese hacking groups are known for sweeping up vast amounts of commercial and design information, the best Russian hackers tend to hide their tracks better and focus on specific, often political targets. And the hacking happened at a moment of renewed tension with Russia — over its annexation of Crimea, the presence of its forces in Ukraine and its renewed military patrols in Europe, reminiscent of the Cold War.

Cecily Strong of "Saturday Night Live" performed at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Credit Zach Gibson/The New York Times
Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live” performed at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Credit Zach Gibson/The New York Times

Inside the White House, the intrusion has raised a new debate about whether it is possible to protect a president’s electronic presence, especially when it reaches out from behind the presumably secure firewalls of the executive branch.

Mr. Obama is no stranger to computer-network attacks: His 2008 campaign was hit by Chinese hackers.

Nonetheless, he has long been a frequent user of email, and publicly fought the Secret Service in 2009 to retain his BlackBerry, a topic he has joked about in public.

He was issued a special smartphone, and the list of those he can exchange emails with is highly restricted.

When asked about the investigation’s findings, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, said, “We’ll decline to comment.”

The White House has also declined to provide any explanations about how the breach was handled, though the State Department has been more candid about what kind of systems were hit and what it has done since to improve security. A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.

Officials who discussed the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the hacking. While the White House has refused to identify the nationality of the hackers, others familiar with the investigation said that in both the White House and State Department cases, all signs pointed to Russians.

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter revealed for the first time that Russian hackers had attacked the Pentagon’s unclassified systems, but said they had been identified and “kicked off.” Defense Department officials declined to say if the signatures of the attacks on the Pentagon appeared related to the White House and State Department attacks.

The discovery of the hacking in October led to a partial shutdown of the White House email system. The hackers appear to have been evicted from the White House systems by the end of October. But they continued to plague the State Department, whose system is much more far-flung. The disruptions were so severe that during the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna in November, officials needed to distribute personal email accounts, to one another and to some reporters, to maintain contact.

SCOOBY-TWO: Clinton's now-iconic souped-up van has a mechanically identical clone, which the Secret Service rolled out as a decoy on Wednesday
SCOOBY-TWO: Clinton’s now-iconic souped-up van has a mechanically identical clone, which the Secret Service rolled out as a decoy on Wednesday

Earlier this month, officials at the White House said that the hacking had not damaged its systems and that, while elements had been shut down to mitigate the effects of the attack, everything had been restored.

One of the curiosities of the White House and State Department attacks is that the administration, which recently has been looking to name and punish state and nonstate hackers in an effort to deter attacks, has refused to reveal its conclusions about who was responsible for this complex and artful intrusion into the government.

That is in sharp contrast to Mr. Obama’s decision, after considerable internal debate in December, to name North Korea for ordering the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, and to the director of national intelligence’s decision to name Iranian hackers as the source of a destructive attack on the Sands Casino.

This month, after CNN reported that hackers had gained access to sensitive areas of the White House computer network, including sections that contained the president’s schedule, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the administration had not publicly named who was behind the hack because federal investigators had concluded that “it’s not in our best interests.”

By contrast, in the North Korea case, he said, investigators concluded that “we’re more likely to be successful in terms of holding them accountable by naming them publicly.”

But the breach of the president’s emails appeared to be a major factor in the government secrecy. “All of this is very tightly held,” one senior American official said, adding that the content of what had been breached was being kept secret to avoid tipping off the Russians about what had been learned from the investigation.

Mr. Obama’s friends and associates say that he is a committed user of his BlackBerry, but that he is careful when emailing outside the White House system.

“The frequency has dropped off in the last six months or so,” one of his close associates said, though this person added that he did not know if the drop was related to the hacking.

Mr. Obama is known to send emails to aides late at night from his residence, providing them with his feedback on speeches or, at times, entirely new drafts. Others say he has emailed on topics as diverse as his golf game and the struggle with Congress over the Iranian nuclear negotiations.

George W. Bush gave up emailing for the course of his presidency and did not carry a smartphone. But after Mr. Bush left office, his sister’s email account was hacked, and several photos — including some of his paintings — were made public.

The White House is bombarded with cyberattacks daily, not only from Russia and China. Most are easily deflected.

The White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies put their most classified material into a system called Jwics, for Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. That is where top-secret and “secret compartmentalized information” traverses within the government, to officials cleared for it — and it includes imagery, data and graphics. There is no evidence, senior officials said, that this hacking pierced it.

An IRS 'Cause of Action' – WH Stonewalling a Court

Editor’s Note – In the latest twist or turn in the weaponization of the IRS Scandal, Cause of Action won a critical case regarding its FOIA requests that took over two years to adjudicate while the IRS stone-walled. Here is what Cause of Action lists as its focus on the IRS:

COA-Final4Cause of Action is investigating how the IRS conducts oversight of tax-exempt entities. Ranging from FOIA requests to tax status complaints to litigating against the agency for not releasing documents, the more we dig, the more we find how taxpayer dollars are funding an agency that is failing to properly oversee tax-exempt organizations.

Like Judicial Watch, these are great American patriots exposing government overreach, corruption, and what are in our opinion, criminal acts by the Obama Administration, its appointed hacks, and supporters already employed in the Federal Government.

Cause of Action won, but the Treasury Department; parent to the IRS, says no, just hold on there. They say they cannot release anything based on 6103 strictures.

Here is the report from the Washington Examiner:

Less than a week after ’fessing up that it found some 2,500 documents potentially showing that the IRS shared taxpayer returns with the White House, the Obama administration has reversed course and won’t release the trove to a group suing for access.

John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner at the Hearing.
John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner

In an abrupt decision, the Treasury inspector general’s office said that the documents are covered by privacy and disclosure laws and can’t be provided to Cause of Action, despite a promise last week to hand over some 2,500.

“All of the 2,043 pages of documents we have determined to be responsive were collected by the Secretary of the Treasury with respect to the determination of possible liability under Title 26 of the United States Code.

These pages consist of return information protected by 26 U.S.C. § 6103 and may not be disclosed absent an express statutory exception,” said the office in a letter dated Dec. 1.

What’s more, Treasury, which oversees the IRS, is still considering what to do with another 466 documents and said that they will provide a “response regarding” them.

Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, said Treasury was using “sophisticated” lawyering to weasel out of providing the documents. And he noted that their letter said that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is now looking into “potential liability” that his tax aides broke laws in sharing taxpayer information with the White House. (Read the rest here.)

But it gets even more puzzling, the administration is using circle logic to defend their choice to not obey the order. Why, because of confidentiality issues. But the White House was in possession of ‘your’ confidential documents. Can they do that? Apparently yes, but we ask why?

Why does the White House need these documents and data? Is this just another example of weaponization of federal agencies for some gain, likely political gain. But we cannot know that because we cannot see whose records were requested as is laid out for us, but did Congress already know this? Here is the Hot Air article on the latest:

IRS holding “thousands” of requests by White House for tax documents

Update: Congress already knew?

By Jazz Shaw – Hot Air

Are you ready to finally hear some good news about the IRS? Me too! Sadly, you’ll have to wait a bit longer because this looks like yet another example of something particularly shady at the agency.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew

A watchdog group claims that after two years worth of court actions and battles with the government, the Internal Revenue Service has admitted that it has thousands of documents pertaining to requests made by the White House for the tax documents of individuals and businesses. But (wait for it…) they are refusing to turn them over.

The revelation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) came as part of a lawsuit filed by non-profit group Cause of Action, which began investigating whether the IRS was improperly sharing taxpayer information with the White House in 2012.

Cause of Action originally filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the IRS to turn over any documents, if they existed, related to correspondence between the IRS and the White House about requests for tax returns for individuals or businesses.

When the IRS said it was unable to do so because of constraints in the Internal Revenue Code, the group filed the lawsuit. A judge ruled that the IRS must turn over any relevant documents to Cause of Action by Dec. 1 to comply with the FOIA request.

On Tuesday, an attorney with TIGTA wrote a letter to Cause of Action, and acknowledged that the watchdog had located “2,509 pages of documents potentially responsive to your request.” Of those, TIGTA confirmed that 2,043 were in fact responsive to the request.

Just admitting that the documents exist doesn’t mean that we’re going to get them. The IRS maintains that the documents are covered under 26 U.S.C. § 6103 and can not be handed over without an express statutory exception. In response to the request, the IRS stated that no such statutory exception exists, so basically… go pack sand.

But that leads us to a second question. If the tax returns of individuals and businesses are so private that they can’t be viewed without an act of congress, how is it that the White House was gobbling up thousands of them for reasons unknown? To find that out, we need to look a little more closely at 26 U.S.C § 6103. After explaining how important it is to keep tax returns private and the terrible penalties to be incurred for their unauthorized release, way down in section (f) we find a list of exceptions. Your tax returns can be revealed to certain committees of Congress, such as Ways and Means, Committee on Finance, and Joint Committee on Taxation. Kind of makes sense, right? But a whole separate section is included which for some reason allows the White House to request your tax returns as well.

(g) Disclosure to President and certain other persons

(1) In general

Upon written request by the President, signed by him personally, the Secretary shall furnish to the President, or to such employee or employees of the White House Office as the President may designate by name in such request, a return or return information with respect to any taxpayer named in such request. Any such request shall state—

(A) the name and address of the taxpayer whose return or return information is to be disclosed,
(B) the kind of return or return information which is to be disclosed,
(C) the taxable period or periods covered by such return or return information, and
(D) the specific reason why the inspection or disclosure is requested.

Well, that certainly seems convenient, eh? The President himself – or his specifically designated representative – can ask for tax returns, provided he includes a specific reason why he wants them. Of course, there is no mention of what would qualify as a valid reason… he just has to provide one.

So why was Barack Obama requesting that many tax returns in 2012? And how many others has he requested in the years prior to or since then? Absent an act of Congress, we may not find out. But by the wording of the law, this can’t be tossed off onto the shoulders of some scapegoat. These requests came directly from the Oval Office or a specific person designated by the President. This could get very interesting very quickly.

UPDATE: Another interesting note on the law caught by one of our eagle eye commenters. If everyone was following the rules, at least some members of Congress should already know about this.

(5) Reporting requirements

Within 30 days after the close of each calendar quarter, the President and the head of any agency requesting returns and return information under this subsection shall each file a report with the Joint Committee on Taxation setting forth the taxpayers with respect to whom such requests were made during such quarter under this subsection, the returns or return information involved, and the reasons for such requests.

The President shall not be required to report on any request for returns and return information pertaining to an individual who was an officer or employee of the executive branch of the Federal Government at the time such request was made.

Reports filed pursuant to this paragraph shall not be disclosed unless the Joint Committee on Taxation determines that disclosure thereof (including identifying details) would be in the national interest. Such reports shall be maintained by the Joint Committee on Taxation for a period not exceeding 2 years unless, within such period, the Joint Committee on Taxation determines that a disclosure to the Congress is necessary.

Here are the current members of the Joint Committee on Taxation [Link and title added by SUA]:

HOUSE:

  • Dave Camp (R-MI 4) Vice ChairmanJCOT_b
  • Sam Johnson (R-TX 3)
  • Kevin Brady (R-TX 8)
  • Sander M. Levin (D-MI 9)
  • Charles B. Rangel (D-NY 13)

SENATE

  • Ron Wyden (D OR) Chairman
  • John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV)
  • Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT)
  • Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

More Editor’s Note:

Who do you believe after the recent revelations that the missing and lost emails were found, despite the IRS telling us otherwise? Also, we must ask again, who were these people that had their records delivered to the White House and why!

Valerie Jarrett – Time for the "Shadow COS" to go? Never!

Editor’s Note – Is it time to fire someone? Valerie Jarrett? It’ll never happen, but for the good of America, she never should have been in such a position of influence in the first place. No, especially since she had so little experience and ability other than being Michelle’s best buddy and confidant, and therefore Barack’s protector extraordinaire.

When Bill Clinton was running for the White House in 1992, we were told that we were getting a two-for-one deal, himself and his wife Hillary. In 2008, no one told us that voting for Barack Obama was a three-for-one deal. Himself, his wife Michelle, and the “shadow COS” Valerie Jarrett. (COS – Chief of Staff)

In a surprisingly candid and thorough article posted at Politico, Carol Felsenthal takes a very brave and comprehensive look at Valerie Jarrett, she of the “lofty titles,” the “kibitzer-in-chief” to Obama, “Night Stalker,” “Eric’s appeals court,” and the reputation for “failing upwards.”

Felsenthal does such a good job describing what many of us have been known for a long time, that all we should really say is please read the whole article. It is truly comprehensive and eye-opening way to understand Obama himself, and further points to the one thing he does well, fail.

We just hope Carol Felsenthal has someone trustworthy who will dare to start her car for her every morning.

Carol Felsenthal is author of Power, Privilege & the Post: The Katharine Graham Story. She is also a contributing writer to Chicago and is the magazine’s political blogger.

Fire Valerie Jarrett – If Obama really wants to shake things up, his closest adviser should be the first to go.

By CAROL FELSENTHAL – Politico

Almost since the start of Barack Obama’s presidency, people who have actual, real duties in the West Wing of the White House—the working, executive part of the government, that is—have been urging him to do something about Valerie Jarrett. Push her into the East Wing, where she can hang out with Michelle Obama and the White House social secretary, or give her an ambassadorship—or something—but for Pete’s sake get her out of the way of the hard work of governing that needs to be done.

Now it’s really time to do it.Untitled

Let’s stipulate right away that it would be unfair to blame Jarrett, the longtime Obama family friend and confidante, for the walloping that the president and his party suffered at the polls on Tuesday. And Jarrett will no doubt be needed in the weeks ahead to comfort her old pals, Barack and Michelle.

What happened on Tuesday almost couldn’t be worse for Obama personally—not just the Senate’s going Republican but all those governorships lost, including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s defeat in Obama’s adopted home state, even after the president and first lady came to Illinois to campaign for him. The morning after the elections, Democrats and their top staffers were hopping mad, blaming Obama and, by extension, his staff for the defeat.

But let’s also face facts—and expect the president to do so as well. We’re at that point in an already long-toothed presidency when things inside really need to change. In the days before anyone knew how brutally the Democrats would get beaten, politicians and staffers and pundits were urging a shakeup of the White House staff.

This is, after all, a time-honored practice for an administration in trouble. Somebody’s got to take the blame other than president, who’s not going to resign himself. Past presidents who fared badly in midterm elections have not been shy about making high-level changes—George W. Bush fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the 2006 midterms and also replaced his chief of staff. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan at the same low point in their administrations replaced their chiefs of staff when they failed to perform up to expectations or fell from grace. George H.W. Bush did the same to chief of staff John Sununu.

Jarrett is more than a mere senior staffer to this president, and of course she is not going to be fired outright. Not ever. If her role in this administration reflected reality, Jarrett would be called “First Big Sister” to both Michelle and Barack. And who would fire the kind of big sister who “really dedicated her entire life to the Obamas,” as New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor told me when I interviewed her about her intimate look at the first family, The Obamas? “She has thrown her entire life into their cause, and she’s made it very clear that she would happily run in front of a speeding truck for them.”

Very moving. But the fact is, on balance it appears that Jarrett has been more an obstructer than a facilitator over the past six years when it comes to governing, and it’s probably long past time for the president to move her gently into another role.

For starters, even today, nobody knows precisely what Jarrett does in the White House. What exactly do her titles—senior advisor to the president, assistant to the president in charge of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Public Engagement, the White House Council on Women and Girls—mean? More to the point, Jarrett has often used the aura of authority that these titles give her to stand in the way of talented White House staffers and a smoother-running administration, according to several books that have been written about the Obama presidency, among them Chuck Todd’s forthcoming The Stranger.

Take Obama’s first-term chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who clashed early and often with Jarrett and felt “undermined” by her, as political reporter Jonathan Alter, the author of two in-depth books on the Obama administration, told me in 2013. Emanuel recognized early on that Jarrett was trouble and worried that she could become what former Newsweekcorrespondent Daniel Klaidman, in his book Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, called a “shadow COS.” Emanuel tried to sideline Jarrett by pressing for her to be appointed to Obama’s old U.S. Senate seat, according to Alter: “He wasn’t sure that he wanted a competing power base that was closer to the president and first lady than he was.” But Michelle Obama wanted Jarrett in the White House, so Emanuel’s plan fizzled. He left in the fall of 2010 to run for mayor of Chicago.

Former White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was said to be another casualty of heated friction with Jarrett. In his new book, NBC’s Todd describes conflicts between Jarrett and Emanuel and Gibbs, and he adds senior adviser David Axelrod and Obama campaign manager and senior adviser David Plouffe to the list of those who had “run-ins” with Jarrett. All of them failed to persuade the president to nudge Jarrett out of the White House, Todd writes, because Jarrett held a “trump card” that the others did not—her close relationship with the first lady. Todd writes that “one advisor remembers the president sympathizing with a particular critique of Jarrett, but he made it clear that it was important that she be in the room, because it was important to Michelle that Valerie be in the room.”

West Wing staffers in general believed that Jarrett didn’t handle power well. Mark Halperin and John Heilemann report in their book Double Down that West Wing staffers “were scared to death” of her. Fear can be productive if the person wielding the power is accomplishing great things, but Jarrett was not.

FF20120108-Jodi-Kantor-Obamas-Part-2Her undefined role combined with what by all accounts has been almost unlimited proximity to the Obamas has proved a bad mix. She seems to isolate the president from people who might help him or teach him something—and if there’s one thing that has become clear about Obama, it’s that he doesn’t get to hear enough outside voices. (According to Alter, she once declared that the Obamas wouldn’t be making “new friends” in Washington.)

Jarrett micromanages guest lists for White House events big and small, hangs out in the private quarters and often joins the Obamas for dinner, says little in meetings, but walks out whispering in the president’s ear and leaving nervous staffers in her wake, according to Alter.

She vacations with the first family in Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard. She is often the last one they speak to at night, and according to Alter, White House staffers took to calling her the “Night Stalker.”

Last month, none other than Mitt Romney was quoted in a New York Times Magazine article reflecting on the well-established insularity of the Obama White House: “I won’t mention who it was, but I met with one of the nation’s top Republican leaders, and he said, ‘You know, the strange thing is that the president seems to answer to only two people—Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama.’”

Jarrett wields real power on personnel matters, but her choices often seem based on whom she particularly likes rather than who might be best suited for the job. She reportedly pushed the president to give a personal favorite, Eric Holder, the attorney general’s job, then propped Holder up in the face of harsh (and, to the president, very damaging) criticism over controversies ranging from Holder’s “nation of cowards” speech, which accused Americans of racism, to the “Fast and Furious” quasi-scandal involving questionable sting operations run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. (In doing so she acquired another nickname—“Eric’s appeals court.”) When Holder delivered his resignation speech earlier this year, he thanked the president, the vice president, his family and Valerie Jarrett.

She is also supposed to be the president’s liaison to business, which was “an effort that many in the West Wing believe she failed at,” writes Todd. “And yet they didn’t get why she didn’t pay a price.” Jarrett walked into the White House with some impressive looking credentials: CEO of the Habitat Company, chairman of the board of the Chicago Stock Exchange, director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

But Chicago business people who knew Jarrett have told me over the years that she was not respected for her business skills. In January 2011, when Bill Daley, the banker and former commerce secretary who had top credentials in both politics and business, was brought in to replace Emanuel as chief of staff and to improve Obama’s relations with business, Jarrett was not happy and “frequently shared her unflattering assessments with Obama,” Politico’s Glenn Thrush wrote in an ebook about the 2012 campaign. Daley lasted barely a year.

barack_obama_and_valerie_jarrett_in_the_west_wing_corridor

Many Wall Streeters, meanwhile, considered her “a political hack, ineffectual and entitled,” Halperin and Heilemann write. And economists who talk to her about policy are sometimes astonished at the things that come out of her mouth, reflecting very little understanding of economic solutions. Although she has no experience in foreign policy either, she regularly travels abroad with the president. “She would frequently take one of the half-dozen seats alongside the president in bilateral meetings,” Alter wrote, “which meant one less seat for a policy expert.”

It’s not that she hasn’t accomplished anything. Jarrett, who holds a law degree from the University of Michigan, has public service in her genes and has used the White House bully pulpit to promote the work of the White House Council on Women and Girls, focusing attention on such issues as equal pay for equal work, family leave and affordable child care. Jarrett’s council also co-sponsors the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, charged with “provid[ing] institutions with additional tools to respond to and address [campus] rape and sexual assault.”

But along the way, no White House staffer has garnered more distracting and embarrassing press than Jarrett. Most of the stories, in one way or another, portray her as entitled and clueless. There’s the New York Times profile in which she flags a four-star general to order a drink. Then there’s the “Magic of Valerie” memo that New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich wrote about in his book This Town—said to be intended to counter the negative press on her, but which instead heaped further humiliation on her head with a ham-handed deputy White House press secretary concocting a talking-points list of 33 of Valerie’s unsung virtues.

My favorite was the following: “Valerie is someone here who other people inside the building know they can trust. (need examples).” And, of course, there’s her round-the-clock Secret Service protection. The Chicago Sun Times gossip columnist Mike Sneed wrote last month that Jarrett “has been criticized for personal use of her Secret Service security detail” and is thought a “double diva for using her bodyguards as personal valets.” In too many instances, she seems to be more interested in the trappings of her office (and Obama’s) than in the decisions of the office. This fall, she had an “extended cameo” on CBS’s “The Good Wife,” playing herself and making a cold call to the main character, Alicia Florrick, urging her to run for state’s attorney in Chicago.

Jarrett’s questionable career inside the White House somehow symbolizes the opportunity cost of the Obama presidency—a wasted chance to make change. From foreign trips to White House policy meetings, she is occupying a critical space that ought to belong to an operator focused on governing and government, someone experienced in the levers of the bureaucracy and playing on the world stage. Now in his sixth year, humbled by the midterms, the president badly needs the best people around him, people who can provide real advice and build a lasting legacy. Instead, he’s got the palace guard watching his back—and judging from Obama’s poll numbers, they haven’t done it well.

Rather than boosting the president, lifting him above the clouds and helping him be—well—presidential, Jarrett appears to drag him down into the weeds. As Thrush wrote in his ebook, staff hated her because she filled his head with negative extraneous stories. Finally, the campaign realized they needed to dispatch Jarrett to her own campaign events to calm him down.

So if Obama is considering a shakeup, why not finally add Jarrett—the lady of the lofty titles, enormous influence on her boss and few actual accomplishments that have helped the shaker-in-chief—to the mix? Well, we know it’s not going to be a traditional firing, and it’s probably too late to give her an ambassadorship. But if Jarrett’s not going anywhere, how to safely occupy her—and keep her out of the way—until she turns off the lights in the White House on January 20, 2017?

I did email Jarrett’s spokeswoman, Rachel Racusen, for some thoughts on this question, as well as any comments she might have on all the criticism of her boss. She didn’t have much to say about that on the record. But I do have an idea of my own.

There’s a role that perhaps Valerie Jarrett was born to fill: The Obama librarian. Having written a book about Bill Clinton’s post-White House years, I followed Clinton’s work on his library—his legacy—during his final two Monica Lewinsky-scarred years in the White House. The more he felt marginalized—as Obama was during the midterms and increasingly will be in the run-up to the 2016 presidential race—the more Clinton clung to his library plans. His library became the focus of his life, and a kind of comfort as he braved the humiliation of impeachment and the exposure of his sad sex life with an intern.

So, the library. People in Chicago believe Valerie means to run it, whether it’s in Chicago—probably at the University of Chicago—in New York at Columbia University, one of Obama’s alma maters, or in Hawaii. (I’ve been told, never for attribution, that Valerie favors Columbia because, she has told the Obamas, it will be so much fun for them all to live in New York.) The president could put her in charge, but alas, given her track record of failing upward, that might not help his endangered legacy either.

Mauro – White House Partners with Muslim Brotherhood Front

By Ryan Mauro – Front Page

Ryan Mauro

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group with Muslim Brotherhood origins and an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing trial, recently toured the White House and met with multiple officials.

According to the group, Paul Monteiro, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, “cited ISNA as his primary means of outreach to the American Muslim community.”

The Obama administration’s close relationship with ISNA is about more than photo ops and press releases. It is about policy formulation. The input of ISNA is so treasured that the officials coached the organization on how to engage the White House.

On March 8, ISNA President Mohamed Magid joined 10 other religious leaders in a 90-minute conversation with President Obama about immigration reform.

Also present was senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, who spoke at ISNA’s 2009 convention. Three days later, Magid took part in a meeting with President Obama where he got “recommendations” in preparation for his Middle East trip, including some from groups with a history of defending Hezbollah.

“Over the past two years, I-along with my White House colleagues-have benefited from the advice of many of your [Magid’s] organizations through our Office of Public Engagement,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough on March 6, 2011 during a speech at the mosque that Magid leads.

ISNA’s White House tour included spending time with George Selim, the White House Director for Community Partnerships, who is an annual speaker at ISNA’s conventions. Selim previously admitted that “hundreds” of meetings have taken place between government officials and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, another group with Brotherhood origins that was designated an unindicted co-conspirator.

The U.S. government stated that ISNA is a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity when it designated it as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation. A federal judge upheld the designation in 2009 because of “ample” evidence linking ISNA to Hamas.

1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo lists ISNA and several of its components among “our organizations and the organizations of our friends,” and a 1988 document says it is part of the Brotherhood “apparatus.”

The FBI had sources inside the U.S. Brotherhood network reporting that ISNA was a front as early as 1987.

The source traveled on behalf of ISNA and allied groups and he told the FBI that he is “convinced that this organization has a secret agenda which includes the spread of the Islamic Revolution to all non-Islamic governments in the world which does include the United States.”

The source provided a secret ISNA document in 1988 that “clearly states that ISNA has a political goal to exert influence on political decision making and legislation in North America that is contrary to their certification in their not-for-profit tax returns,” says a declassified FBI memo.

ISNA’s White House tour was part of its Founders Committee meeting. Even if it were true that newer moderate leaders have made ISNA evolve, this event wasn’t about them. It was about those who established it as a Muslim Brotherhood front and it still was warmly received by the White House.

A 2009 Hudson Institute study concluded that “All but one of the individuals on the ISNA founding documents remain active either in ISNA or one of its affiliated organizations,” undermining the position that the ISNA of today is different than the original ISNA.

A good example is Sayyid Syeed. He is an ISNA founder and served as its secretary-general from 1994 to 2006. He was recorded in 2006 stating “our job is to change the constitution of America,” as seen in the Grand Deception documentary.

Now, he is ISNA’s point man for interfaith engagement, efforts it often showcases as proof of its moderation. He even spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in front of 100 evangelical leaders.

As the declassified FBI memos from the 1980s warned, ISNA is using its position as a representative of the Muslim-American community to influence policies and that includes those related to national security.

ISNA President Magid was chosen to serve on the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. Even though he accused elements of the U.S. government of being “intent on dismantling Muslim organizations and bringing them down” in 2004, the Obama administration saw him as a suitable adviser to the Department of Homeland Security.

The outcry over the content of counter-terrorism training materials offered ISNA another opportunity. On February 8, 2012, ISNA and its allies met with the director of the FBI to discuss the review of the training. Afterwards, the FBI said it would consider forming an advisory panel with the meeting participants to help cleanse the training.

Instead of working with anti-Islamist Muslim groups like the American Islamic Leadership Coalition or the LibForAll Foundation, the Obama administration is embracing the larger Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups.

The way to engage in the Muslim-American community is by discrediting the Islamist theme, not by giving a platform to those broadcasting it.

This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Benghazi Report – White Wash and White-Out

Editor’s Note – The report is out and America is supposed to be happy – we finally know! Or do we? Of course not – this report is not worth the paper it is printed on – the cover-up continues. Yet, three people just resigned over its release, guess who:

The State Department’s security chief and two others are resigning after an independent review of the U.S. Consulate attacks in Benghazi, Libya blasted “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies,” in the department, an official told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

The AP reports that Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, and his deputy Charlene Lamb, who was responsible for embassy security, have resigned. A third unnamed official from the Middle East bureau also stepped down. The resignations came “under pressure,” according to the AP, after the report’s release. (Read more here at Slate.)

From day one of the original hearings, it was easy to see who was going to take the fall. Read the report here.

But we need $1.6 Billion to fix it? Fix what exactly? The void in decision making, the void in lying about a video, the lying about no one said ‘not to rescue Americans’? Just what are we fixing? Does that mean there is pork in that money request and are we going to stay in Libya?

Really folks? We are supposed to believe this “independent” tripe? As usual, Diana West has broken it down into bite size chunks so you do not have to choke on it all at once:

Benghazi White-Out

By Diana West

The “independent” Benghazi Report has concluded the White House remained in the dark.

The Benghazi Report is out and it’s official: President Obama, SecState Hillary Clinton, CIA Director Petraeus all had nothing to do with the US government response to the attack on the US mission in Benghazi. Indeed, the names Obama, Clinton, Petraeus, Panetta, Rice do not appear anywhere in its 39 pages. DoD — Panetta? — however, is singled out for having deployed unarmed drones that, for example, “provided visual surveillance during the evacuation.”

Hooray?

The red flags didn’t go up over this so-called investigation for nothing. The White House isn’t just whitewashed in the report, it’s whited-out.

Here, for example, is how the report on Benghazi sums up the US government response.

Upon    notification   of    the    attack  from the TDY  RSO  (temporary regional  security officer in  Benghazi)  around  2145  local (9:45 pm) , Embassy Tripoli set up a command center and notified Washington.

What “Washington” said or did next we never find out.

About 2150 local (9:50 pm), the DCM (deputy chief    of   mission) was able to reach Ambassador Stevens, who briefly reported that  the SMC (mission) was under attack before the call cut off. The Embassy notified Benina Airbase in Benghazi of a potential need for logistic support and aircraft  for extraction and received full cooperation. The DCM (deputy chief of mission) contacted the Libyan Presidentand Prime Minister’s offices to urge  them  to  mobilize a rescue effort, and kept Washington apprised of post’s efforts.

The Embassy also reached out to Libyan Air  Force and  Armed  Forces contacts, February 17 leadership, and UN and  third country embassies, among others.

Isn’t it just too bad that “Washington” had no armed forces “contacts” of its own and thus had to rely on the Embassy “reaching out” to Libyan shadow-government forces and jihadists for assistance? Meanwhile, it would be helpful to know what, if anything, the Embassy asked of the UN and “third country embassies” in “reaching out” — so, naturally, the report doesn’t include that information, either. One tiny bit of news to chew on is that about a half an hour after the 19:40 departure of the Turkish diplomat (Ali Akin)  — which jibes with the Turkish timeline, if not the initial State Department timeline — a British security team stopped by the US mission.

Between 2010  and  2030  local, a  UK  security team supporting  a  day  visit  by  British diplomats dropped off vehicles and equipment at the SMC (per arrangements made after  the UK diplomatic office in Benghazi suspended operations in June  2012).When  the UK  security  team departed via the C1 gate at about  2030  local, there were no signs  of  anything  unusual, including  no  roadblocks  outside  of  the  c ompound, and traffic   flowed  normally. …

Another item previously unnoted is that on the afternoon of September 10, Ambassador Stevens went to the Annex — never i.d.’d in the report as a CIA installation — for a briefing.

Back to the US response to the attack under way. The report correctly defines this response as “Embassy Tripoli Response” since “Washington” had nothing to do with anything.

Within hours, Embassy Tripoli chartered a private airplane and deployed a seven-person security team, which  included  two U.S. military personnel, to Benghazi.

No mention of take-off time.

At  the direction of  the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), DoD moved a remotely piloted, unarmed surveillance aircraft which arrived over the SMC shortly before the DS (diplomatic security) team departed (for the Annex). A second remotely piloted, unarmed surveillance  aircraft  relieved the first, and monitored the eventual evacuation of personnel from the Annex to Benghazi airport later on the morning of September 12.

End of US government response to the attack itself. That’s it. Nonetheless, it isLibya that the report finds fault with. In its findings section, the report says:

The Libyan response fell short in the face of a series of attacks that began with the sudden penetration of the Special Mission compound by dozens of armed attackers.The Board found the responses by both the BML (Blue Mountain contractors) guards and February 17 to be inadequate. The Board’s inquiry found little evidence that the armed February 17 guards offered any meaningful defense of the SMC (mission), or succeeded in summoning a February 17 militia presence to assist expeditiously.

There is no discussion of why this could be — the jihadist culture in which “February 17” and, indeed, all of Benghazi and eastern Libya more generally  is steeped — no comprehension such a culture could be at odds with U.S. interests.

The Board  found the Libyan government’s response to be profoundly lackingon the night of the attacks …

But not the US government’s response.

The board also takes a whack at intelligence, an easy shot with the publicly disgraced Petraeus already past expendable.

The Board found  that intelligence provided no immediate, specific warning of the September 11 attack.

That Zawaheri video on 9/9 and 9/10 calling on Libyans to avenge the US killing of a Libyan Al Qaeda leader was not on intelligence’s radar. Why not? No answer. Come to think of it, no question, either.

Then this tortured apology for jihad-denial in intelligence and everywhere in the US government:

Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.

Herein lies a rich vein for investigation, of course, which makes it radioactive for any “independent” investigation. But keep in it mind on reading through the report’s section called  “Attack on the Annex.”

Just  before midnight,  shortly after  the  DS and Annex security teams arrived from the SMC (US mission),  the  Annex  began to be targeted by gunfire and RPGs, which continued intermittently for an hour. Annex security personnel engaged from their defensive positions, which were reinforced by DS agents. Other personnel remained in contact with Embassy Tripoli from the Annex.

The seven-person response team from  Embassy Tripoli  arrived  in  Benghazi to lend support.

She’s guilty, he is cleared – bunk!

What time was that? The report doesn’t say. We know from press reports that they were met at the airport by members of the Libya Shield militia, which is led by jihadist Wissam bin Hamid (not mentioned, of course). He is a poster boy for “known gaps” in the US government’s understanding of threats to U.S. interests.

The response team then spent precious time (hours) wrangling with Libya Shield over their conduct into Benghazi. From the CIA timeline, we know that the ragtag team did not go to the hospital to recover Amb. Stevens’ body specifically because “it was surrounded by the Al Qaeda linked Ansar-al Sharia militia that mounted the attack.” That decision is pegged to 1:15 am.

Back to the report:

It (that seven-“person” response team) arrived at the Annex about 0500 local.

Almost 4 hours later. Not a word on what held them up for all that time.

Less than fifteen minutes later,  the  Annex  came under  mortar and  RPG  attack, with five mortar rounds impacting close together in under 90 seconds.

Could our Libya Shield “allies” have had anything to do with the timing or accuracy of the attack? Not considered (mentioned) in the report.

Three rounds hit the roof of an Annex building, killing security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

When?

The attack  also severely injured one  ARSO   and   one  Annex  security  team   member.  Annex, Tripoli, and ARSO security team members at other locations  moved  rapidly to provide combat   first aid to the injured.

At approximately 0630 local, all U.S. government personnel evacuated with support from a quasi-governmental Libyan militia.

All of a sudden, it’s 6:30 am. Was fighting continuous?

They arrived at the airportwithout incident. The DoD unarmed surveillance aircraft provided visual oversight during the evacuation.

All hail the American drone.

Embassy Tripoli lost communication with the convoy atone point during transit, but quickly regained it. Evacuees, including all wounded personnel, departed Benghazi on thechartered jet at approximately 0730 local.

How many? And why can’t Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT) talk to them?

Embassy Tripoli staff, including the Embassy nurse, met the first evacuation flight at Tripoli International Airport.Wounded personnel were transferred to a local hospital, in exemplary coordination   that   helped save the lives of    two   severely injured Americans.

Embassy Tripoli worked with the Libyan government to have a Libyan Air Force C-130 take the remaining U.S. government personnel from Benghazi toTripoli. Two American citizen State Department contractors traveled to the airport and linked up with the remaining U.S. government personnel.

While awaiting transport, the TDY RSO and Annex personnel continued to reach out to Libyan  contacts to coordinate the transport of the presumed remains of AmbassadorStevens to the airport. The body was brought to the airport in what appeared to be a local ambulance  at  0825    local, and the TDY RSO verified Ambassador Stevens’identity.

So, Americans didn’t retrieve Stevens’ body, even on the morning after.

At 1130 local, September 12, 2012, the Libyan government-provided C-130 evacuation flight landed in Tripoli with the last U.S. government personnel from Benghazi and the remains of the four Americans killed, who were transported to a local hospital.   In coordination with the State Department and Embassy Tripoli, the Department of Defense sent two U.S. Air Force planes (a C-17 and a C-130) from  Germany to Tripoli to provide medical evacuation support for the wounded.

At 1915   local (7:15 pm)  on September 12, Embassy Tripoli evacuees, Benghazi personnel, and those wounded in the   attacks departed Tripoli on the C-17 aircraft, with military doctors and nurses aboard providing en route medical care to the injured.

Still no word on numbers of wounded.

The  aircraft arrived at Ramstein Air Force Base at approximately 2230 (Tripoli time) (10:30 pm) on September 12, just over 24 hours after the attacks in Benghazi had commenced.

Is there just a tremor of triumphalism in that last “just over 24 hours” comment? If so, it is misplaced, to say the least, in a report so narrowly focused as to avert any notice of the real Benghazi scandal that took place that night in Washington.

Meanwhile, something else is missing from the report. The Youtube video. “Innocence of Muslims.” The Benghazi “protest” over the video that the President harped on as a “natural” reaction for two weeks up to and including his anti-Islamic blasphemy UN address on September 25.

“The Board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks.”

The unasked $64,000 question remains: Why did the Obama administration — Obama, Hillary, Petraeus, Rice — lie to the American people and the world (and, in Petraeus’ case, to Congress) that it was free speech about Islam that led to “protests” that led to the attack?