Critics Put Brennan, Hagel, Obama, Petraeus on Firing Line

A Republican senator threatened Feb. 10 to block two of President Obama's top national security opponents over administration secrecy regarding the Benghazi Lindsay Grahammassacre of four Americans in September.

Threatening an unprecedented denial of a president's historic ability to choose advisors, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, left, said he would fight the nominations of John Brennan as CIA director and Chuck Hagel as defense secretary unless the Obama administration meets his demands. He wants more information about the president's reaction on Sept. 11 to the attack that date on U.S. outposts in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three Americans providing security.

Meanwhile, revelations continue regarding key figures in the administration, including Brennan, former CIA Director David Petraeus and their secret activities.

Former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley wrote that the CIA's drone program is seriously hurting U.S. alliances with Muslim nations, for example. Also, former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb and former Green Beret Jack Murphy are publishing a book this week arguing that Petraeus and Stevens were vulnerable because the Obama White House and Defense Department failed to brief them about U.S. military operations in Libya. The authors assert additionally that militants launched their fatal attack as a retaliation for reprisals authorized by Brennan in his current job as chief of counter-terrorism and assistant to the president.

The allegations are pieces of the puzzle I am presenting in Presidential Puppetry, my book later this month. In the meantime, material from diverse sources is excerpted below. On this kind of national security story especially, conventional reporting is limited by partisan half-truths, fear of retaliation by sources, and media self-censorship. Therefore, the material includes both mainstream United States news outlets as well as small, independent, and foreign media.

Hagel, Brennan nomination

Regarding the Graham attempt to derail the Obama nomination:  The senator made his remarks during a CBS interview, and declined under repeated questioning to threaten a filibuster. One reason might be because that escalation might force Democratic leadership to try to scuttle its recent filibuster "reform" agreement with Republicans. Far from real reform, the agreement maintained the power of senate minorities to thwart the majority. 

Graham is the senior senator from his state after election in 2002. Earlier, he was the Republican congressman for South Carolina's Third district from 1995 to 2003. The president is shown at right with, from left to right, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Hagel, and Brennan.

Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, responded to Graham on the CBS "Face the Nation" program by stating that opposition would be "unprecedented and unwarranted.” No modern president has seen his nominee for Defense Secretary blocked on policy grounds. Graham's threat is unusual in another respect: He is threatening to block installation of Hagel because of Graham's dispute with the president, not against Hagel. Hagel was a Republican senator from Nebraska before he retired in 2009 following two terms.

More generally, CIA Director David Petraeus was a Republican favorite whose agency was in part responsible for security of the outpost in Benghazi. On Sept. 11, Petraeus attended a movie. Graham has focused on Obama, not Petraeus activities that evening.

Both parties have invoked so-called "executive privilege" to thwart congressional oversight. The privilege is a modern innovation, much like the 60-vote "filibuster" requirement. Neither has a solid basis in the actual Constitution but represent supposedly solid legal doctrines that are convenient rationales for politicians to cite as justifications for their behavior.

Graham as a member of the Armed Services Committee likely knows also why the Benghazi operation so damages both parties and the country that parts of it are being kept secret. Like any insider, he knows that Obama would not release all information because some of it would damage both Democrats and the country. Other parts would embarass Republicans as well, perhaps even more seriously.

Thus, Graham is likely posturing to win favor from his supporters by trying to disrupt Obama's second-term launch. Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama put a hold on every Obama federal appointment during February 2009.  Scholars increasingly recognize that senators and House members are able to extract far more funds from lobbyists by keeping congress in a state of constant flux, argumentation and stalement, as opposed to passing legislation.

Another development over the weekend involves Crowley, a retired admiral. His column argued the administration's drone warfare program is causing serious repercussions long-term, including opposition by Pakistan, one of the most important United States allies in South Asia. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) published the column, The cost of Obama's secret drone war, Crowley writes as a supporter of the Obama administration who from time to time voices what he regards as constructive criticism.

Webb and Murphy, the former SEAL and Green Beret commentators, run a website called that reports on the activities of current and former special forces personnel for the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines. They announced on the site publication of a book Feb. 11, Benghazi: The Definitive Report. The publisher is William Morrow, an imprint of the HarperCollins, which is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The format is an e-book, with a length of slightly more than 80 pages. 

The Daily Mail, the second largest newspaper in the United Kingdom, published a preview over the weekend headlined, David Petraeus was brought down after betrayal by vengeful CIA agents and his own bodyguards who made sure his affair was exposed, claims new book. The story, labeled as an exclusive, quotes the authors as finding that "Petraeus was humiliated after a 'palace coup' by high-level intelligence officers who did not like the way he was running the CIA."  The authors also assert  that  the Benghazi attack was retaliation for secret raids authorized by Brennan.

Webb, 37, was deployed overseas five times, including a tour in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11, during his 10 years of service. He left the Navy in 2006 as a chief petty officer, according to the newspaper. Murphy, 28, spent eight years as a Ranger and Special Forces Green Beret. After three deployments, he retired in 2010 as a staff sergeant. Their book draws on their unusual experiences and access. Webb, for example, co-authored a 2010 book with his best friend, Glen Doherty, 42, a former Navy SEAL and one of the two CIA contractors killed in September while guarding the operations base where the ambassador was killed by militants. Ty Woods, another victim, was also a former SEAL

The Daily Mail article, the book excerpts, and the authors' website do not have an obviously partisan tone. Webb, in a personal site, states he is trying to stay "apolitical" in order to share the stories of special operations forces members with maximum credibility.

The family of the Daily Mail's founder remains heavily invested in the newspaper's parent company. Alfred Harmsworth, later Viscount Rothermere, founded the paper in 1896 as a conservative newspaper for the lower-middle class. That approximates its marketing positioning today under Jonathan Harmsworth, 45, the fourth Viscount Rothermere. Ranked as a billionaire, he was educated at Duke University in North Carolina. He is a supporter of the UK's Prime Minister David Cameron, a member of the Conservative Party.

Excerpted below are several other recent news reports and commentaries on related themes. Some are predictable, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney's attack on Obama administration appointments. Some are less so, such as a tea party leader's attack on Karl Rove. Also excerpted below are the conservative WND analysis of Benghazi, and complaints by former Reagan administration official, Paul Craig Roberts, about the danger of losing civil liberties.

The diverse material cries out for more synthesis. But there is good reason also to present these voices ASAP in their own words.


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Related News Coverage


Huffington Post, David Petraeus To Head Private Equity Firm KKR's New Global Institute, Tom Murphy, May 30, 2013. Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus will take a new job with investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. as he attempts to rebuild his reputation after an extramarital affair with a biographer triggered his resignation as CIA director last fall. Petraeus, 60, will serve as chairman of the New York firm's newly created KKR Global Institute. He was CIA director from September 2011 until last November. Before that, Petraeus served more than 37 years in the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of four-star general. Petraeus served as commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan and also commanded forces in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, when violence in that country dropped following a surge in military forces.

WhoWhatWhy, Exclusive -– Petraeus: the Plot Thickens, Douglas Lucas and Russ Baker, Feb 5, 2013. Was the ambitious General David Petraeus targeted for take-down by competing interests in the US military/intelligence hierarchy—years before his abrupt downfall last year in an adultery scandal? Previously unreported documents analyzed by WhoWhatWhy suggest as much.

They provide new insight into the scandalous extramarital romance that led to Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director in November after several years of rapid rise—going from a little-known general to a prospective presidential candidate in a stunningly brief time frame. Among other revelations the documents show that: 1) Petraeus was suspected of having an extramarital affair nearly two years earlier than previously known; 2) Petraeus’s affair was known to foreign interests with a stake in a raging policy and turf battle in which Petraeus was an active party; and 3) Those providing the “official” narrative of the affair—and an analysis of why it led to the unprecedented removal of America’s top spymaster— have been less than candid with the American people.

John Brennan

Truthout/Buzzflash, John Brennan Was Number Two at the Bush/Cheney CIA During Renditions, Enhanced Interrogations, and the Iraq War, Mark Karlin, Feb. 21, 2013. Given that we are coming up on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, it is worth noting that President Obama's CIA chief nominee, John Brennan, was a Bush/Cheney man at the top level of the intelligence agency during the post 9/11 period.

In 1999 he was appointed chief of staff to George Tenet, then-Director of the CIA. Brennan became deputy executive director of the CIA in March 2001. Remember, this was at a time that Cheney, as vice president, was taking unprecedented trips to CIA headquarters in Virginia to muscle the intelligence officers there to create facts to fit the propaganda justification for invading Iraq. There is no indication that Brennan objected or tried to keep the agency independent of the coercion. More than that, Brennan was a cheerleader for torture and rendition, as Glenn Greenwald noted back in 2008, when he expressed concern about Brennan's role as a national security advisor in the Obama White House: "It simply is noteworthy of comment and cause for concern — though far from conclusive about what Obama will do — that Obama’s transition chief for intelligence policy, John Brennan, was an ardent supporter of torture and one of the most emphatic advocates of FISA expansions and telecom immunity."

Lawfare, John Brennan’s Answers to SSCI Post-Hearing Questions, Jack Goldsmith, Feb. 15, 2013. They are available here.  Lots of interesting stuff on a first quick read, but two thing stand out.  First, in response to the question “Could the Administration carry out drone strikes inside the United States?,” Brennan gave this non-response, which is sure to lead to more questions and concerns: “This Administration has not carried out drone strikes inside the United States and has no intention of doing so.”  And when asked to identify “those specific individuals to whom you expressed concerns (regardless of medium – email, text, conversations, phone calls) about the effectiveness, or legality of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs) program,” he listed no specific individuals but reiterated the nature of his concerns.

Associated Press/Washington Post, Sen. Graham threatens to delay Obama’s nominees for defense, CIA because of Libya attack, Staff report, Feb. 10, 2013. The White House has urged quick approval of the president’s second-term national security team and scolded any lawmakers trying to “play politics” with critical nominations. The White House did not address Graham’s demand for more information, but did note that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified Thursday before Congress about the chaotic day of the attack. In January, Graham had signaled he would delay Brennan’s pick and told Fox News he would “absolutely” block Hagel unless Panetta and Dempsey testified about Benghazi. Graham contended that a six-person rescue team was delayed from leaving the Benghazi airport because of problems “with the militias releasing them and a lot of bureaucratic snafus,” and he said he wants to know whether Obama called any Libyan officials to expedite their mission.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said: “We believe the Senate should act swiftly to confirm John Brennan and Sen. Hagel. These are critical national security positions and individual members shouldn’t play politics with their nominations.” Reed said that “to dwell on a tragic incident and use that to block people is not appropriate. At the Senate hearing, Panetta testified that he and Dempsey were meeting with Obama when they first learned of the Libya assault. He said the president told them to deploy forces as quickly as possible. Graham asked whether Panetta spoke again to Obama after that first meeting. Panetta said no, but that the White House was in touch with military officials and aware of what was happening. At one point, Graham asked Panetta if he knew what time Obama went to sleep that night. The Pentagon chief said he did not.

Washington Post, Why Lindsey Graham is holding out on Chuck Hagel, Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake, Feb. 11, 2013. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham knows that he can’t stop Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as Secretary of Defense — at this point only Hagel, President Obama or a huge revelation can do that — but he signaled Sunday that he is keeping his options open when it comes to a confirmation vote. While there’s no doubt that Graham does genuinely believe that the administration has not been forthcoming regarding what actually happened in Benghazi, there’s also more going here that better explains — and contextualizes — his approach to the Hagel and Brennan confirmations. Remember that Graham is up for reelection in 2014 and has been, for the better part of his first term, someone who conservatives have viewed skeptically — particularly in regards his support for comprehensive immigration reform (Lindsey Graham-nesty!) and his comments on climate change. Fighting the administration like hell — particularly on the former Republican Hagel — then is a way for Graham to prove (or, maybe remind) the party base that while they may not be with him on every issue, he remains a committed conservative.

Huffington Post, Lindsey Graham Plans To Block Chuck Hagel, John Brennan To Get Answers On Benghazi (VIDEO), Amanda Terkel, Feb. 10, 2013.  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) plans to block two of President Barack Obama's top national security nominees until he gets answers from the White House on the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Graham said he was not going to let Chuck Hagel go forward as Secretary of Defense nor let John Brennan, right, move ahead as CIA director unless he gets more information on the president's involvement in the response to the consulate attack that resulted in the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others.

Daily Mail (United Kingdom), David Petraeus was brought down after betrayal by vengeful CIA agents and his own bodyguards who made sure his affair was exposed, claims new book, Michael Zennie, Feb. 10, 2013. The revelations come from Benghazi: The Definitive Report, written by Brandon Webb, a retired Navy SEAL, and Jack Murphy, a former Army Ranger and Green Beret.

Associated Press/Huffington Post, Dick Cheney Criticizes Obama National Security Appointees In Speech, Bob Moen, Feb. 10, 2003. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, left, said Saturday night that President Barack Obama has jeopardized U.S. national security by nominating substandard candidates for key cabinet posts and by degrading the U.S. military. "The performance now of Barack Obama as he staffs up the national security team for the second term is dismal," Cheney said in comments to about 300 members of the Wyoming Republican Party. Cheney, a Wyoming native, said it was vital to the nation's national security that "good folks" hold the positions of secretary of state, CIA director and secretary of defense.

Huffington Post, John Brennan Confirmation Hearing: Obama CIA Director Pick Faces Senate Intelligence Committee, Kimberly Dozier, Feb. 7, 2013. President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA faces a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing just hours after lawmakers are expected to receive a classified report providing the rationale for drone strikes targeting Americans working with al-Qaida overseas.John Brennan, right, the White House counterterrorism chief and Obama's nominee to run the nation's spy agency, helped manage the drone program. The confirmation hearing Thursday sets the stage for a public airing of some of the most controversial programs in the covert war on al-Qaida, from the deadly drone strikes to the CIA's use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding during President George W. Bush's administration.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), The cost of Obama's secret drone war, P.J. Crowley, Feb. 8, 2013. By the time John Brennan, President Barack Obama's nominee to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, finished three hours of public testimony before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, two things were clear. First, Mr Brennan will be confirmed. And second, despite nearly a dozen years of war, there are profound disagreements both within the United States and beyond about how this conflict has been and should be waged. Mr. Brennan provided a forceful defense of the Obama administration's war against al-Qaeda over the past four years, particularly its increased employment of drones in various countries he declined to specify. He made clear that the administration believes it has the legal authority to use lethal force in self-defence against al-Qaeda and associated forces wherever there is an imminent threat against the United States and capture is not feasible. "The drone campaign undercuts the very civilian government the United States is spending billions in aid to build up.” The committee was clearly supportive of the continued use of drones in the ongoing war against al-Qaeda. Americans by a wide margin share this view. But that is not the case outside the United States. The rest of the world questions the legality of their use, viscerally so in a country such as Pakistan, where drone attacks increased significantly during President Obama's first term. While Mr. Brennan declined to discuss where drones are employed, Ambassador Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, displayed no such reticence. In a discussion with reporters in Washington two days before Mr. Brennan's testimony, she made clear that the civilian government in Islamabad views America's continued deployment of drones as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, as well as strategically counter-productive. "We need to drain this swamp and instead it [the drone campaign] is radicalising people," Ambassador Rehman said. Pakistani demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest in Multan on 8 January 2013 Some 74% of Pakistanis polled by Pew last year termed the US an "enemy." "It creates more potential terrorists on the ground and militants on the ground instead of taking them out. If it's taking out, say, a high-value or a medium-value target, it's also creating probably an entire community of future recruits." Recent polling tends to support Ambassador Rehman's view. An estimated 74% of Pakistanis polled by Pew last year termed the United States an "enemy." Drones are a clear factor.

WhoWhatWhy, Exclusive -– Petraeus: the Plot Thickens, Douglas Lucas and Russ Baker, Feb 5, 2013. Was the ambitious General David Petraeus targeted for take-down by competing interests in the US military/intelligence hierarchy—years before his abrupt downfall last year in an adultery scandal? Previously unreported documents analyzed by WhoWhatWhy suggest as much. They provide new insight into the scandalous extramarital romance that led to Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director in November after several years of rapid rise—going from a little-known general to a prospective presidential candidate in a stunningly brief time frame. Among other revelations the documents show that: 1) Petraeus was suspected of having an extramarital affair nearly two years earlier than previously known; 2) Petraeus’s affair was known to foreign interests with a stake in a raging policy and turf battle in which Petraeus was an active party; and 3) Those providing the “official” narrative of the affair—and an analysis of why it led to the unprecedented removal of America’s top spymaster— have been less than candid with the American people. The director's lover, Paula Broadwell, is shown at left with her flattering biography of him published in January 2012 before their affair was revealed.

Town and Country, Four-Star Scandal, Vicky Ward, March 2013. Sisters Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam invaded Tampa society like twin buccaneers. They were hilariously over-the-top, stars of their own imaginary reality show. But as they climbed ever higher, the revelations became ever more disturbing, with an FBI investigation, an American hero brought down, and, told here for the first time in detail, a tangled history of their own.

Huffington Post, John Brennan And Warrantless Wiretapping, Matt Sledge, Feb. 7, 2013. It's been all drones and all John Brennan all the time this week: ever since Michael Isikoff dropped his bombshell about an administration white paper justifying targeted killing on Monday, everyone's been talking about flying death robots. Last night the White House announced that it would allow Congress access to the Office of Legal Counsel memos that lay out why it thinks it can kill American citizens. Today John Brennan gets grilled by the Senate Intelligence Committee. In all this talk about targeted killing (and remember, it's not just drones), it's easy to forget that John Brennan has also been at the heart of two other high-profile national security controversies. One was the CIA's torture program, which Brennan was aware of but did not object to during the Bush administration. The other is warrantless wiretapping. During the Bush administration, said journalist James Bamford, author of several books on the National Security Agency, it is likely that Brennan would have known about the secretive program that allowed spy agencies to listen in on Americans' phone calls without a warrant.

Fox News, Brennan-led secret raids may have led to Benghazi retaliation, book claims, Staff report, Feb. 12, 2013. Former CIA Director David Petraeus and other top intelligence officials were kept out of the loop on secret raids in Libya which may have triggered the attacks on the U.S. Consulate last year, according to a new book out Tuesday. According to the authors -- a former Navy SEAL and former Army Ranger -- the man tapped by President Obama to lead the CIA in his second term, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, was behind those classified "combat operations" which were allegedly conducted in the run-up to the September 2012 terror attack. The e-book, called "Benghazi: The Definitive Report," covered a number of behind-the-scenes claims, including that Petraeus was ensnared by a "palace coup" at the CIA that ultimately helped expose his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. But the fresh claims about Benghazi fuel a debate that has simmered steadily since last year about what led to the Benghazi attack. Brennan is fielding questions in a classified Senate committee meeting Tuesday, as part of his nomination to lead the CIA and Libya is likely to come up. The new book, by Jack Murphy and Brandon Webb, describes highly classified operations that were conducted against Libya militants after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi. "Brennan waged his own unilateral operations in North Africa outside of the traditional command structure," the book says, calling it an "off the books" operation not coordinated with Petraeus and the CIA. The authors then claim that these raids were a "contributing factor" in the militant strike on the U.S. Consulate and CIA annex on Sept. 11. The raids, they said, "kicked the hornets' nest and pissed off the militia." While highly critical of Brennan, the authors also go on to detail tensions at the highest levels of the CIA. They claim that, while the FBI had already been investigating Petraeus and Broadwell, officials inside the CIA aided and encouraged that investigation. The officials, according to the book, were disappointed with Petraeus for "pursuing paramilitary operations" and allegedly moving the CIA away from its "roots in intelligence collection." Further, the book claimed Petraeus' bodyguards helped spill the beans on Petraeus' affair. It was well known to Petraeus' Personal Security Detachment (bodyguards) that he and Broadwell were having an affair. He wasn't the only high-ranking Agency head or general engaged in extramarital relations, but when the 7th floor wanted Petraeus out, they cashed in their chips," they wrote. "The reality of the situation is that high-ranking CIA officers had already discovered the affair by consulting with Petraeus' PSD and then found a way to initiate an FBI investigation in order to create a string of evidence and an investigative trail that led to the information they already had -- in other words, an official investigation that could be used to force Petraeus to resign."  The White House has not responded to a request for comment on the book.

National Review Online, Was Petraeus Taken Out by a CIA Palace Coup? John Fund, Feb. 10, 2013. A shocking new book makes dramatic claims about the motives behind the 9/11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. It also claims former CIA director David Petraeus was the victim of an internal coup by some of his deputies and bodyguards, who arranged for his extramarital affair to be investigated by the FBI, a highly unusual course of action.

New York Times, Debating a Court to Vet Drone Strikes, Scott Shane, Feb. 8, 2013. Since 1978, a secret court in Washington has approved national security eavesdropping on American soil — operations that for decades had been conducted based on presidential authority alone. Now, in response to broad dissatisfaction with the hidden bureaucracy directing lethal drone strikes, there is an interest in applying the model of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court — created by Congress so that surveillance had to be justified to a federal judge — to the targeted killing of suspected terrorists, or at least of American suspects. “We’ve gone from people scoffing at this to it becoming a fit subject for polite conversation,” said Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas. He said court approval for adding names to a counterterrorism kill list — at least for American citizens abroad — “is no longer beyond the realm of political possibility.” A drone court would face constitutional, political and practical obstacles, and might well prove unworkable, according to several legal scholars and terrorism experts. But with the war in Afghanistan winding down, Al Qaeda fragmenting into hard-to-read offshoots and the 2001 terrorist attacks receding into the past, they said, it is time to consider how to forge a new, trustworthy and transparent system to govern lethal counterterrorism operations.

Guardian, Drone attacks and new NDAA law under fire as critics fear US civil liberties are being undermined, Paul Harris, Feb. 9, 2013. President Barack Obama is facing a liberal backlash over his hardline national security policy, which critics say is more extreme and conservative than that pursued by George W Bush. The outrage comes after a week in which Obama's nominee to be the next head of the CIA, current White House adviser John Brennan, faced a grilling from the Senate intelligence committee over his enthusiastic support of using unmanned drones to strike suspected Islamic militants all over the globe. It also comes after a court hearing in New York in which numerous liberal activists and journalists argued that a new Obama law – the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) – has dealt a serious blow to civil liberties by allowing American citizens to be detained indefinitely without trial.

Washington Post, In heated exchanges at Senate hearing, Brennan defends drone strike policies, Greg Miller, Feb. 6, 2013. CIA director nominee expresses dismay with way administration’s actions have been perceived.A Senate hearing on the nomination of John O. Brennan to serve as CIA director exposed deep skepticism of key aspects of the Obama administration’s approach to fighting terrorism, including its unprecedented reliance on targeted killing and the secrecy it maintains around the exercise of that lethal power. Brennan, who served as the White House’s top counterterrorism adviser for the past four years, was challenged in often blunt terms to explain why under President Obama the number of drone strikes has soared while captures of terrorism suspects have dwindled to single digits. He was prodded to defend the administration’s refusal to provide basic information, including the death toll in drone strikes, and was asked to square his assertion that he opposed the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation measures with not trying to stop them while he was in the agency’s leadership ranks during the George W. Bush administration.

Washington Post, Panetta: Pentagon backed arming Syrian opposition groups, Associated Press, Feb. 7, 2013. Top Pentagon leaders said for the first time Thursday that the Defense Department backed the idea of providing arms to opposition groups in Syria. Until Thursday, the Pentagon had only said publicly that U.S. policy is to give only humanitarian assistance to rebels battling President Bashar Assad’s regime. Providing arms has been the subject of ongoing internal administration debate. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said President Barack Obama made the final decision against arming the rebels. “Obviously there were a number of factors that were involved here that ultimately led to the president’s decision to make it nonlethal,” Panetta said. “I supported his decision in the end.”

WND, Media ignore Hillary’s bombshell Benghazi claim; Secretary insists she did not know about gun-running at U.S. mission, Aaron Klein, Jan. 24, 2013. During the Senate hearing on Benghazi yesterday, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed she did not know whether the U.S. special mission attacked on Sept. 11 was involved in gun-running. The remarks were perhaps the most important and telling of the entire hearing since they address a possible motive behind the jihadist attacks. Yet Clinton’s answers were largely unreported by U.S. news media. The exchange on the subject took place with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Paul asked Clinton: “Is the U. S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?  WND has filed numerous reports quoting Middle East security officials who describe the mission in Benghazi as a meeting place to coordinate aid for the rebel-led insurgencies in the Middle East. In September, WND also broke the story that the slain U.S. ambassador, Christopher Stevens, played a central role in recruiting jihadists to fight Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, according to Egyptian security officials. In November, Middle Eastern security sources further described both the U.S. mission and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi as the main intelligence and planning center for U.S. aid to the rebels that was being coordinated with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Many rebel fighters are openly members of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida. Among the tasks performed inside the building was collaborating with countries, most notably Turkey, on the recruitment of fighters – including jihadists – to target Assad’s regime, the security officials said.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Huffington Post, Study Confirms Tea Party Was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaire Koch Brothers, Brendan DeMelle, Feb. 11, 2013.  A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene. Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry's role in driving climate disruption. The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party's anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

OpEdNews, Roger Shuler Muses on Justice Department's Odd Priorities, Joan Brunwasser, left, Feb. 10, 2013. How is this for irony? The Democratic Party, since passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, has consistently stuck its neck out to stand up for justice issues. In the process, it has paid a huge electoral price, just as Lyndon Johnson predicted. But now we have our first black president turning his back on the very justice issues that have given his party its moral authority.

Legal Schnauzer, A Skillful Interviewer Helps Yours Truly Shine Light On The Obama Administration's Justice Priorities, Roger Shuler, Feb. 11, 2013. The Q & A is one of my favorite journalism formats. In the hands of a skillful practitioner, a question-and-answer session can shine light on issues that might be missed or hidden in a standard narrative. For my money, Joan Brunwasser of OpEd News is one of the most astute interviewers in the world of progressive online news. I've had the honor of being Joan's subject on a number of occasions, usually on matters related to the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

Legal Schnauzer, "Your Honor" In Michigan Gets A Witness Pregnant To Join Our Growing List of "Judges Gone Wild," Roger Shuler (with pet schnauzer at right), Feb. 11, 2013. A judge in Detroit has been suspended after reports that he was having sex with a woman who had a child-support case in his court. For good measure, the judge has been accused of getting the woman pregnant.  Wayne County Circuit Judge Wade McCree has worked to earn his title as "Detroit's Sex Judge." In April 2012, he made headlines by sending nude photos of himself via text to a married court bailiff. Did McCree display any remorse on that occasion? Not exactly. His response, upon being confronted with the photos, was, "Hot dog, yep, that's me. There's no shame in my game."  McCree fits right in with other "Judges Gone Wild" we've covered here at Legal Schnauzer. Our favorite has to be Jack Camp, the U.S. district judge from Atlanta who was arrested on drug and weapons charges stemming from his relationship with a stripper. But McCree is coming up fast on the outside, and here is how, from a report about "Your Honor's" most recent escapades.

Fox News, Wireless exec with ties to Obama wins contract to supply poor with smartphones, Feb. 7, 2013. A cellphone company run by a major Democratic donor and President Obama backer has extended its foray into government contracts, from the so-called “Obama phone” to a project intended to provide high-speed Internet access to low-income families -- amid criticism its product is ill-equipped. Critics also suggest TracFone Wireless CEO F.J. Pollak used his Obama connections to help his company get one of the 14 contracts. At issue is a $13.8 million pilot project by the Federal Communications Commission that attempts to find the best ways to increase the broadband access rate among the poor and help improve their digital skills – to eventually help them manage household finances, look for work and do other tasks. The contracts were awarded late last year. The maximum support for the project is $915,000. Pollak and his wife, Abigail, are major Obama bundlers and Democratic donors. The couple hosted a $40,000-a-plate fundraising dinner in June at their Miami Beach home. And Abigail Pollak alone raised at least $632,000 for the Obama re-election effort, a total $1.56 million for him since 2007, according to a financial documents obtained by the New York Times. "That has absolutely nothing to do with business,” Jose Fuentes, a spokesman for TracFone's parent company, America Movil, told the Washington Times. “There's been no pay-for-play — or even favors. What he does in his private time is his."

Institute for Political Economy, It Has Happened Here, Paul Craig Roberts, Feb. 7, 2013. The Bush regime’s response to 9/11 and the Obama regime’s validation of this response have destroyed accountable democratic government in the United States. So much unaccountable power has been concentrated in the executive branch that the US Constitution is no longer an operable document....Just consider the wrongful conviction of Alabama’s Democratic governor, Don Siegelman by what apparently was a Karl Rove plot to rid the South of Democratic governors. The “Democratic” Obama regime has not investigated this false prosecution or given clemency to its innocent own. Remember how quickly Bush removed the prison sentence of Cheney’s operative who revealed the name of a CIA undercover agent? The Democrats are a cowed and cowardly political party, fearful of justice, and as much a part of the corrupt police state as the Republicans. Today the purpose of a prosecution is to serve the prosecutor’s career and that of the party that appoints him or her. A prosecutor’s career is served by high conviction rates, which require plea bargains in which the evidence against a defendant is never tested in court or before a jury, and by high profile cases, which can launch a prosecutor into a political career, as Rudy Giuliana achieved with his frame-up of Michael Milken. The US actually has more of its citizens in prison than “authoritarian” China which has a population four times larger than the US.

Washington Post, Menendez tried to help donor in billing dispute, Carol D. Leonnig and Jerry Markon, Feb. 6, 2013. Democratic N.J. senator raised concerns with federal health-care officials about their finding that a Florida doctor’s clinic had overbilled the government by $8.9M. Sen. Robert Menendez, left,  raised concerns with top federal health-care officials twice in recent years about their finding that a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor — had overbilled the government by $8.9 million for care at his clinic, Menendez aides said Wednesday. Menendez (D-N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government’s audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said. Last year, in a meeting with the acting administrator of the agency in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, Menendez again questioned whether federal auditors had been fair in their assessment of Melgen’s billing for eye injections to treat macular degeneration, the senator’s aides said.

The Hill, Karl Rove: The biggest loser, Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator, Tea Party Patriots, Feb. 7, 2013.While Barack Obama is busy shredding the Constitution, Washington, D.C. insider Karl Rove is busy trying to destroy what is left of the Republican Party by launching a multi-million dollar Super PAC to usurp representative democracy, disenfranchise American voters, and concentrate even more power in Washington DC. Rove and the professional “consultant class” think that only Washington D.C. insiders like them – not the American people – should get to decide who runs for public office. That’s why he is launching the “Conservative Victory Project” – a Super PAC whose mandate is to wrestle local decision-making power away from the American people, so that only Washington DC insiders can hand-pick our candidates – against our will – again. What happened the last time Washington D.C. insiders hand-picked our candidate? We got Mitt Romney; a man who struggled day after day to articulate a conservative position on the economy, which the consultant class told us was the area of his expertise. The result of their “brilliant” campaign: four more years of Barack Obama. That’s what happens when the consultant class decides what’s best for American citizens.

Newsmax, The Ed Koch I Knew – A Remembrance, Christopher Ruddy, Feb. 2, 2013. The president and CEO of Newsmax writes: On Friday I learned that my good friend Ed Koch passed away.ggg; Late yesterday I posted to Newsmax a remembrance about him, sharing some personal insights about him and the role he played in my career and with Newsmax. I also discussed his relationships  with President Obama, Cardinal O’Connor, the Clintons, George Bush and others – and how he made a significant difference in the lives of so many. Please enjoy.

Huffington Post, Gulf War Syndrome, Other Illnesses Among Veterans May Be Due To Toxic Environments, Lynne Peeples, Feb. 7, 2013. In 1991, as part of Operation Desert Storm, former U.S. Ar  injuries inflicted by bullets or shrapnel. "It's just been one thing after another," said the veteran, who now resides in Miami and whose ailments run the gamut from lung disease and sleep apnea to, most recently, terminal breast cancer. "At one point," she said, "I was on over 50 pills." Former Air Force Tech. Sgt. Tim Wymore, who was deployed to Iraq in 2004, suffers from an array of health problems that mirror Lovett's. "Everyone has the same things," said Wymore, who has inexplicably shed 40 pounds in the last few months. "It's just weird."



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