Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Chaos and violence continue, the western press loves to label dead Iraqi women "prostitutes," the Russian arms deal resurfaces, as does ExxonMobil's partnership with the KRG, more outcry in the US over the War on the First Amendment, CCR claps like a trained seal when the US Justice Dept announces 4 American have been killed by drones in The Drone War, things get testy (for the witnesses) at the US House Oversight Committee hearing, and more.

Starting with The War on the First Amendment.  Last week, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. This week's revelation is that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen.  This morning, the New York Times editorial board weighed in noting, "With the decision to label a Fox News television reporter a possible 'co-conspirator' in a criminal investigation of a news leak, the Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news."  The Sacramento Bee editorial board also weighs in, "Federal judges should be on notice: The U.S. Justice Department seems fully prepared to stretch the truth -- or worse, spreads falsehoods -- to obtain search warrants.  That's what it did in labeling a journalist as an espionage 'co-conspirator' for simply doing what reporters have always done -- attempting to solicit information from government employees."

On the targeting of Rosen and AP, Dana Milbank (Washington Post) argues:

But here’s why you should care -- and why this case, along with the administration’s broad snooping into Associated Press phone records, is more serious than the other supposed Obama administration scandals regarding Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service. The Rosen affair is as flagrant an assault on civil liberties as anything done by George W. Bush’s administration, and it uses technology to silence critics in a way Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of.
To treat a reporter as a criminal for doing his job -- seeking out information the government doesn’t want made public -- deprives Americans of the First Amendment freedom on which all other constitutional rights are based. Guns? Privacy? Due process? Equal protection? If you can’t speak out, you can’t defend those rights, either.

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, in a widely syndicated column (here for the York Dispatch), explains,  "If this had been the view of prior administrations, surely Bob Woodward would be a lifer in some federal prison. The cell next door might be occupied by my Post colleague Dana Priest, who disclosed the CIA's network of secret prisons. Or by The New York Times' James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, who revealed the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program.Fox Latino News' Rick Sanchez offers:

As a Latino immigrant now living in America, I’m proud to call a country home where the media remains courageous enough to poke holes around the pillars of power. 
That's why what has happened to my colleague James Rosen is so offensive to me.
Rosen has aggressively reported on the inner sanctum of diplomacy: the State Department. Yet he is now suspected of being a criminal, a co-conspirator, in a plan “to disclose sensitive United States internal documents and intelligence information.”   
It is an accusation wrought with the chill of all that is wrong with the kind of totalitarian government that my family escaped — except it’s happening here, in the U.S., in our democracy. 

On MSNBC's Morning Joe today, ABC News and NPR's Cokie Roberts pronounced the attacks on the First Amendment "mind boggling" and discussed the topic with Joe Scarborough, Steve Rattner,  and Bloomberg News' Al Hunt.  FYI, Scarborough jokingly termed Fox News "the opposition" to the White House (and made a joke that the only reason for the White House to spy on MSNBC was to find out what parties they were throwing for Barack Obama).  I note that because the term pops up in the excerpt below.

Joe This is a Justice Dept that to me seems out of control.

Cokie Roberts: It does.  It absolutely does.  This is an attack on the American press big time and the fact that they have gone after the AP records and now, as you say, the 'opposition' records, and it's not just -- I mean it's in the Bureau, it's in the White House, monitoring his movements in the State Dept -- 

Joe Scarborough: What is this?

Cokie Roberts: And they're talking about -- There's talk of prosecuting the reporter, not just the leaker.  And this administration, by the way, has prosecuted twice as many sources as all administrations in American history combined. And there's still more [time] to go. And this reporter being prosecuted for what?

Joe Scarborough:  For what?

Cokie Roberts:  Apparently for receiving stolen information.  Like he's a 'fence' or something, stolen property.

Joe Scarborough:  This is Daniel Ellsberg forty years later.

Cokie Roberts:  Right. Basically being prosecuted for -- if he is prosecuted -- doing his job.

Alexandra Petri (Washington Post) visits the portal to hell and finds one person overjoyed:

There is one upside to the increasingly distressing news about the Obama administration’s handling of journalists: In a small plot of land in Yorba Linda, Calif., Nixon sat up and smiled amiably.
“My name has been coming up a lot recently,” he said, “but in a phrase that I’ve seldom heard: ‘Worse than Nixon.’” He smiled a beatific smile. It still looked a little creepy. “Worse! You never hear that.”
Nixon went on: “I’ve been on the bottom of the presidential rankings for so long that James Buchanan, Warren Harding and I have become very close. We often go bowling together. You name the barrel, people stick me at the bottom of it. I was getting used to it, but then this week happened.”

Let's turn to peace news.  A War Criminal's about to be honored when he should be cuffed and behind bars.  ETAN explains:

Contact: John M. Miller, 917-690-4391
Media Advisory- Groups to Protest 'Democracy' Award to Kissinger
WHEN: Thursday, May 23, 2013  5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Pier 86, 12 Ave. & 46 Street, New York City
WHO: East Timor and Indonesia Action Network , Big Apple Coffee Party, Campaign for Peace and Democracy, Chelsea Neighbors United to End the War, War Resisters League/NYC, Veterans for Peace Chapter 34, War Criminals Watch/World Can't Wait.
WHAT : Protesters will express their outrage at the honoring of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with the Intrepid Freedom Award for his "his distinguished career defending the values of freedom and democracy." The protest will condemn the honoring of the accused war criminal by the museum's foundation.
“Of all the undeserved honors that Kissinger has received, this is one of the most absurd. Kissinger built his diplomatic career on undermining democracy and freedom throughout the world. He supported coups, armed dictators, undermined self-determination, and oversaw the bombing of millions,” said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN).
“Kissinger should be on trial, not honored. His actions led to mass murder, the overthrow of democratically-elected governments, and the invasion and occupation of nations," he said.
"With Kissinger's backing, Indonesia absorbed East Timor and West Papua against the will of their inhabitants. As a result of his policies, millions were killed, maimed and made homeless in East Timor, Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, Bangladesh, Angola, West Papua, and elsewhere,” Miller added .
Kissinger was National Security Advisor and/or Secretary of State from 1969-1976.
The ceremony also will honor a second controversial figure, David Koch, executive vice president of Kansas-based Koch Industries, Inc. Koch has funded foundations and other efforts to undermine labor and other rights, as well as climate denial campaigns.
Below is a sampling of some of the history he has made and the consequences:
* On behalf of Richard Nixon's candidacy for president, Kissinger is alleged to have secretly scuttled the Paris peace agreement reached by the Johnson Administration to end the war in Vietnam. The war continued for 7 more years. during which 32,000 US military personnel and hundreds of thousand of Indochinese died;

* As Nixon's National Security Advisor, Kissinger suggested and oversaw the illegal bombing of Laos and Cambodia from 1969 and the 1970 military invasion of Cambodia, followed by the overthrow of its government.;

* Approval and direction of the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende in 1973, and unqualified support for brutal military dictatorships in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and elsewhere in Latin America;
* In 1971, Kissinger tilted toward the government of Pakistan as its troops massacred hundreds of thousands in rebellious East Pakistan (Bangladesh);

* Kissinger refused to intervene to halt the plot by the ruling fascist Greek generals to overthrow of the democratically elected leader of Cyprus. Turkey invaded in response and the island nation remains divided to this day.

* Kissinger supported and illegally-armed Indonesian dictator Suharto's invasion and occupation of East Timor which resulted in the deaths of up to 184,000 people.
* Kissinger provided unwavering diplomatic and intelligence support to the apartheid regime in South Africa, including the provision of military support to the apartheid government’s military intervention in Angola.
For background on Kissinger's role in the illegal invasion and occupation of East Timor (Timor-Leste) see

To be taken off this list click here


John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391
Email: Skype: john.m.miller
Twitter: @etan009  Website:

2012 Recipient of the Order of Timor (Ordem Timor)

Donate today. Read ETAN's fund appeal:

War Criminals aren't a thing of the past, sadly, they spring from the ground like weeds all the time.   The Drone War is a criminal war.  Tom Curry and Chuck Todd (NBC News) report today that ahead of US President Barack Obama's planned address tomorrow, the Justice Dept admits that 4 Americans have been killed by US drones in The Drone War:  Samir Khan, 'Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi, Jude Kenan Mohammed and Anwar al-Aulaqi.  The Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following:

The Justice Department’s acknowledgement of what we already know is a welcome step. But it is only the first step that is needed. Just as DOJ has now reversed its long-held position that it could not acknowledge these strikes – the position it took in its motion to dismiss our lawsuit – it can and should reverse course on its position against judicial review. A letter to Congress is no substitute for judicial process. The government should defend the legality of its actions on the merits in a court of law, including its decision to authorize the strike that resulted in the death of 16-year-old Abdulrahman, about whom Mr. Holder’s letter had almost nothing to say.

Yes, it is a weak statement from them. But they've ignored all the scandals in the last week because they serve, first and foremost, Barack Obama.  That's why they had the secret meeting with him in his first term.  A secret meeting with a sitting president goes against everything the Center for Constitutional Rights is supposed to be about.  It has been cowed, neutered and spayed.  Yet it rushes, tongue hanging out, to roll over or perform any other trick commanded.  The Drone War is illegal.  It goes against everything the US legal system is built around.  The acknowledgment is not "a welcome step."  It's piecing out a little info to try to mitigate the reaction.  It's a real shame that CCR has racked up 5 years now enabling the Barack Obama administration.  That will not look good when he's out of office and they will be seen as the hypocrites they are.  But then again, they never took accountability for their role in the imprisonment and punishment of a whistle blower under Bully Boy Bush who committed the 'crime' of thinking he could trust CCR and provided them with a list of names of prisoners at Guantanamo.  CCR gets a lot cozier with administrations than they'd ever want people to know.

The Drone War is a criminal war.  Like the ongoing war in Iraq.  Barack chose to back Nouri al-Maliki for a second term as prime minister in 2010 when the voters kicked him out.  Barack went around the voters and the Constitution with the extra-Constitutional Erbil Agreement.  Having backed him, Barack's now firmly in bed with him as they continue to arm Nouri who now uses the weapons the US provides to kill the Iraqi people.  Such as during the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija when Nouri's federal forces stormed it.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP has been reporting 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured). UPI reports today, "The U.S. Army reports its Project Office for Armed Scout Helicopters has completed deliveries of 407 Bell Helicopters to Iraq."  The Hawija massacre couldn't have happened without the helicopters the US has provided.

I say that not just because the helicopters swarmed overhead during the massacre.  I say that because Nouri's forces entered Kirkuk via the helicopters.  Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) interviewed the Governor of Kirkuk Najm al-Din Karim last week:

NIQASH: Let’s talk about the controversial Tigris Operations Command. It’s caused several crises around here. What’s your opinion on this Iraqi military base?

Al-Din Karim: Neither I, as governor, nor the provincial council have changed our opinions on this issue. We don’t want the Tigris Operations Command here and we don’t accept their presence. Although we have agreed to form a committee in Baghdad to try and resolve this impasse.

NIQASH: The incidents in Hawija, where protestors were killed by the Iraqi military, also seems to have seen more Iraqi army forces enter Kirkuk.

Al-Din Karim: Actually those forces did not come through Kirkuk - they entered Hawija by helicopter. They tried to come through Kirkuk but we prevented them from doing so. I know the Prime Minister disapproved of this – he told me so last time we met.

Barack's hands are all over the Hawija massacre.  And a massacre always happens when the US pops up a tyrant. Today, Harith Hasan (Al-Monitor) observes,  "Any future road map should recognize that Maliki has failed in transforming himself into a unifying figure and any possibility for him to win a third term will deepen the internal division."  Gulf News adds:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki missed the point when he said earlier this week that he would overhaul the country’s security structures and strategy. He has failed to recognise that the increasingly sectarian politics of his government have alienated large parts of Iraqi society. Al Maliki and his government have tended to favour Shiite politicians and communities, thereby affecting the national consensus. His purges of senior Sunni politicians have not helped at all. So, when Al Maliki says “We are about to make changes in the high and middle positions of those responsible for security and the security strategy,” the vast majority of Iraqis feel that the words mean nothing.

For some of the Sunni hatred that's helped make Patrick Cockburn pariah in the Arab world, you can click here.  There's nothing worth reading but it does firmly establish how biased he is.

 Violence never ends in Iraq.  National Iraq News Agency reports a Diyala Province car bombing ("north of Baquba") claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left four more injured, a Buhriz roadside bombing injured two Iraqi service members,  and a Kia mini-bus bombing left three people injured.  Alsumaria adds that an attack on a Baghdad home left 10 women and 4 men dead, an armed clash in Mosul left 1 rebel dead and two Iraqi soldiers injured, and they update the toll on the Kia mini-bus bombing noting 1 dead and seven injuredFars News Agency reports 1 corpse was discovered by Camp Ashraf.  AFP insists that the Baghdad home was a brothel.  They provide no quotes from neighbors maintaining that and, after the attack, they weren't allowed to enter the home so apparently AFP's confessing to visiting it before the attack?  They note, "Soldiers and police mainly armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and pistols cordoned off the site, which was visited by high-ranking officers."  Considering the stigma attached to prostitution in Iraq, I'm always amazed at how glibly some outlets are when it comes to making that charge about the just murdered.  They don't even wait a day.  They can't ever prove it, but it's apparently the thing to say when women die: "Prostitute."  Since they're so comfortable with it, maybe the need get off their little asses and start reporting on who is visiting these alleged brothels?  Or would that take all the fun out of their smearing dead women?  And note, it's not an even an 'allegation,' it's presented as fact.  Because smearing Iraqis -- especially dead Iraqis -- has always been a favorite hobby of the western press.

Iraq Body Count counts 619 violent deaths in Iraq through yesterday.  Jason Ditz ( notes of the ongoing violence:

Since then it is clear the Maliki government has had no real answer. Threats of further military operations are the order of the day, and a number of TV stations in Sunni areas were shut down for being unfriendly to the government. This of course is just fueling anger among Sunnis who already believed they were being persecuted, and is making it easier for militants to recruit.

World Bulletin provides a list of the most violent attacks this year.

October 9th, with much fanfare, and wall-to-wall press coverage, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  Yet shortly after taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away. In January, the Iraq Times stated Nouri was offering up his former spokesperson  Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt -- the truly corrupt -- according to members of Parliament -- including Nouri's son who got a nice little slice off the deal.  These charges came from Shi'ite MPs as well as Sunnis and Kurds.  Even the Shi'ite National Alliance has spoken out.  All Iraq News noted the same month that National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif is calling for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.  (The arms deal is now treated by the Iraqi press as corrupt and not allegedly corrupt, FYI.)   Latif remains a major player in the National Alliance and the National Alliance has backed Nouri during his second term.  With his current hold on power reportedly tenous and having already lost the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri really can't afford to tick off the National Alliance as well. And Kitabat reported at the start of the year MP Maha al-Douri, of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc in Parliament, is saying Nouri's on a list of officials bribed by Russia for the deal. As it became obvious that Nouri could sign a contract but not honor it (that is his pattern -- see especially the Erbil Agreement), the government of Russia apparently tired of being jerked around.  Nouri probably hoped the scandal had faded.

It has not.

Zee News reports today that MP Bahaa al-Araji, who serves on Parliament's Integrity Committee, says that the investigation is moving forward in "Iraq's central criminal court."

Another thing Nouri probably wishes would go away is international oil companies feeling the Iraq oil and gas fields Nouri controls are dogs and wanting instead to do business with the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Hurriyet Daily News reports:

After Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement that a Turkish company would be partnering with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Exxon Mobil to carry out oil exploration in northern Iraq before his U.S. visit last week, Turkey is now reportedly in talks with U.S. energy company Chevron about activities in KRG.
Turkish officials and the executives of Chevron have been talking about oil and natural gas pipelines that are planned to be built from the KRG through Turkey, according to sources.

That news could not have come at a worse time for Nouri.  Florian Neuhof (The National) reports today, "International oil companies in Iraq are negotiating to revise their contracts with the government, as new production targets undermine the profitability of their operations."

And bad news just keeps rolling in for Nouri.  Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Tareq al-Hashemi served as Iraq's's two vice presidents during Nouri's first term (they are Shi'ite and Sunni respectively).  They kept their posts for a second term in 2010.  Tareq al-Hashemi was targeted by Nouri and now lives outside of Iraq.  Adil Abdul-Mahdi gave up his post as vice president in 2011 after Nouri's '100 days to fix corruption' resulted in no action at all.  He denounced the government corruption and resigned his post.  Omar al-Shaher  (Al-Monitor) reports he's now denouncing what's happening with Iraq's economy including:

According to Abdul-Mahdi’s statement on his Facebook page, “This is a disturbing issue that takes us back to the policies of inflation and multiple exchange rates.” He continues, “Our problem is that we have a strong dinar coming from the oil revenues within a fragile, single-product economy that depends on foreign [markets], not only for imports and tourism, but also for medical treatments, migration, residence, investment, speculation and savings.”
“We have to enhance the performance of the economy in order to consolidate it. [We should] become more open for the sake of our society and the national economy, in order to establish a regional and international status for the dinar so as to make it more valuable and increase demand for it. We leaped forward, and our successful monetary policies began to suffer the consequences of the failed economic policies. While we were concerned about pennies, we lost dollars. We accused and detained people first, and gathered evidence later.”
Clearly, Abdul-Mahdi is alluding to the ouster and prosecution of former CBI Governor Sinan al-Shabibi in October of last year, on charges of corruption and wasting of public money. Subsequently, Abdel Basset Turki was assigned as the interim governor.

While he lacks to press profile of movement leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Abdul-Mahdi is a powerful Shi'ite in Iraq and he still may end up prime minister one day (he had hoped to become prime minister following the 2005 elections).  He's not the sort of politician that Nouri can just dismiss.  Alsumaria, meanwhile, notes that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is visiting Erbil to discuss the political crisis with KRG President Massoud Barzani and others.

Our democracy was created by the people and for the people. When government power is used to target Americans for exercising their Constitutional rights, there is nothing we as representatives should find more important than to take it seriously, get to the bottom of it and eradicate the behavior.  Since 2010, there appears to be a targeting of people based on their beliefs.  These people, particularly those who use "Tea Party" in their name, were mocked by the liberal media, mocked by late night television and referred to by this administration regularly with disdain.  Even hear in the halls of Congress, people would talk about who the Tea Partiers were, who was Tea Party supported?  When, in fact, there is no Tea Party.  As the evidence has shown, there are hundreds and hundreds of organizations -- as independent as any single American -- who simply wanted to live up to the Constitution, to have their freedom and to have it protected by our country.  So last week when we received troubling complaints by groups across the country who received what appeared to be inappropriate and unnecessary questions -- in many cases after more than a year, in some cases two years of inaction by the IRS -- we went to the Inspector General -- who is here with us today.  In March of last year, upon the request of our staff  and later in a letter from Mr. Jordan, the Subcommittee Chairman, and myself, the IG launched a formal investigation.  We knew then that something seemed to be wrong.  We knew then that there was smoke.  We knew then that in fact something just didn't seem to be right. 

That's Committee Chair Darrell Issa speaking at today's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.  The Ranking Member is Elijah Cummings who observed, "This is more important than one election.  The revelations that have come forward so far provides us with a moment pregnant with transformation -- not transformation for a moment but for generations to come and generations yet unborn."  The issue was the targeting of various groups by the IRS.  The
witnesses appearing before the Committee were former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Neal S. Wolin, Lois Lerner who is both Director of Exempt Organizations of the IRS and a Marcel Marceau protege, and Treasury Dept Inspector General J. Russell George.

Chair Darrell Issa:  Mr. George, before the Ways and Means Committee hearing, you told Representative Danny Davis the following, "Our audit, sir, began with the request of Congressional staff in -- I want to give you the correct date, sir -- I do not have it here.  March 1, 2012 is when there was an initial contact with the Government Oversight and Reform Committee  and are audit began or roughly" -- and then you go on with May or March, etc., etc.  So essentially, this began in your mind when you were made aware of it in March by members of my Committee -- staff members of my Committee.  Correct?

J. Russell George:  Uh, yes.

Chair Darrell Issa:  So, oddly enough, we have with us, and put it up on the board, from Holly Paz, a document just released to us from -- I guess in preparation for yesterday's interview -- that says "Forward TIGTA document request, the following are issues that could indicate a case to be considered, a potential Tea Party case, and sent for secondary screening. One Tea Party Patriots of 9-12 Project [. . .] 4, Statements in the case file that are critical of how the country is being run."  Now that's May 20, 2013.  To your knowledge -- and that is the result of an internal investigation done by the IRS, not your investigation. Oh, I'm sorry.  That's July 23rd, I'm looking at e-mails which are, unfortunately, this year, but that's July 23, 2012.  It's your understanding that the IRS concluded they had wrong doing from their own internal investigation by July 2012?

J. Russell George:  I have no information on that but, uh, let me consult with my counsel. [. . .] I have been informed that they conducted an internal review, sir, that was completed before that period. 

Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay. So it's your testimony that, in fact, independent of your activity, Mr. Shulman's reports conducted and concluded wrong doing and could have, in fact, reported that up the chain and taken appropriate action independent of your activities.

J. Russell George: That is certainly an option, sir.

Chair Darrell Issa:  So, Mr. Shulman, before I go back to Mr. George, it was your watch, your people did an internal review.  How is it you did not know that things were rotten in your shop in time to not only make sure it stopped, and stayed stopped, but in fact the Treasury, your boss sitting next to you, was aware of it?

 Douglas Shulman:  Uhm, you know, I, uh, said that I learned about this sometime in the spring -- and by "this," I mean I learned the fact that there was a list and the fact that "Tea Party" was on it --

Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay, so you knew at that time you knew that you had mistreated Americans within your organization and you saw no need to report it up the chain?  Is that your testimony?

Douglas Shulman:  My testimony is that I -- at that point I'd had a preliminary verbal report.  I'd been told at that same point that the activity was being stopped and I was told that the IG was looking at --

Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay, stop there.  I don't really care about the IG right now. The IG probably prompted the internal report.  The IG has been the reason, in fact, that we didn't hear about this until long after the election, till months or actually a year had gone by.  I'm asking you a question.  It was your job to make sure people weren't abused.  It was your job to stop abuse but also to report it.  Americans had been injured by the activity -- wrongful activity -- of your organization.  You say that you got it "vocal."  I don't care that the IRS doesn't keep paperwork.  I know that when I have to pay my taxes, I don't do it based on what I say I made or what I say my deductions are, that I need paper.  However, you knew.  You did not report up or did you report up to anyone else within your chain?

Douglas Shulman:  I had some of the facts, not all of the facts.  I had no idea of the scope and severity.  I didn't know the full list, I didn't know who was on the list.  I --

Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay, well I'm not going to belabor that because "I don't know" has been your answer previously.  I'm going to move back to the IG.  Mr. George, September 24, 2012, you mentioned your report would be ready in September.  These are exchanges we're putting up [on the screen] here. They're back and forth, they're not all personally with you.  So September 24, 2012, the answer to our request about this IG report was, "Field work for this audit is still ongoing."  Meaning we still don't get an answer.  December 18, 2012, "Any update on this?"  [Reply] "Sorry for the delayed response, I was studying for a final."  Okay.  That's when it was pushed off to March.  Just wanted to  check on the progress of this -- this is February 20, 2013 -- are you at a point where you can schedule a briefing?" From your organization, "We are leaving no stone unturned" -- this is February 22, 2013 -- "we won't be able to provide a detailed, substantive briefing until late April/early May."  My time is limited so I'll put the rest in for the record.  Mr George, I could go on as late as May 19th -- I'm sorry, May 9th -- where the Committee staff then sent on the 8th, "Can we go ahead and schedule a briefing?"  May 9th [reply], "I'll get back to you." And it goes on.  Mr. George, this Committee and the entire Congress has existing laws. Yesterday, I spoke before all of your fellow IGs.  Under existing law, you have a peer-level report of substantial misconduct or problems including waste, fraud and abuse.  The act describes your establishment -- meaning in this case, the IRS -- and Congress in the same sentence.  On August 3rd, I sent you a letter explaining the seven day rule, explaining the statute as it has been written for decades.  You have  responsibility to keep us continuously and -- according to statute -- equally informed. In this case it appears as though you certainly did not.  Would you agree with that?

J. Russell George: Uh, no, actually.

Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay, so when you conducted, day-after-day-after day, with Mr. Schulman's subordinate Ms. Paz, one after another interviews in which she's in the room, she's listening to all of these.  You're doing that.  You know, at some time, and I'm going to close with just a question, on what day did you know -- over this year period -- did you know personally that the IRS had abused Americans in the process of approval?  What was that day?  What was the a-ha moment?  And didn't you have an obligation to report that to Congress at that time?

J. Russell George:  Mr. Chairman, I have a detailed timeline which goes almost from month to month as to the interactions that we had with your staff  and then subsequently with the [IRS] commissioner as well as with officials at the Dept of the Treasury.  And I would appreciate the opportunity to give you a sampling of that.

Chair Darrell Issa:  We're going to accept that.  And I just want to close and then I'll let you take as much time as you need.  If your timeline essentially says you kept us informed so that we knew that in fact there was a pattern and could speak to Ways and Means to find out that 100s of organizations still languished not being approved after "the abusive behavior began," they still didn't get their answer in a timely fashion.  And if you're saying that you informed Mr. Wolin so that he would understand what is going on or others at Treasury and you informed us and Mr. Shulman, here's my problem.  Mr. Shulman has already said under oath, he didn't know.  Mr Wolin has already said under oath they didn't know.  And although I'm not under oath, I have reviewed my Committee staff documents, and of course it's a bipartisan relationship, we certainly did not have the information in any way, shape or form that could be understood so that Congressional action could occur until practically today.

J. Russell George:  Mr. Chairman, there are established procedures for conducting an audit and once again this is an audit.  And to ensure fairness and to ensure that we are completely accurate in the information that we convey to Congress, we will not report information until the IRS has had an opportunity to take a look at it to ensure that we're not misstating facts --

Chair Darrell Issa:  Mr. George, that is not the statute. That is not the statute.

J. Russell George:  But it would be incorrect for us to give you partial information which may not be accurate.  It would be counterproductive, sir, if we were to do that.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings called out Shulman for not coming back to Congress after he was informed there was a problem and correcting his earlier pronouncement to the Committee that no targeting was taking place,  "It seems to me that after saying to the Congress 'absolutely no targeting,' it seems to me that you would come back even if it was a phone call or a letter or something.  Common sense."  Shulman repeated that he felt he was doing the right thing by being silent.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  Well I'm sorry, that's simply not good enough.  It's simply not good enough, Mr. Shulman.  The IRS conducting an internal investigation of its own.  Not the IG investigation, but there own investigation.  You personally knew there was a target list.  You knew it said "Tea Party" on it.  You put new processes in place and you took personnel actions.  You reassigned at least one individual back in 2012.  Come on, Mr. Shulman.  Help us help the taxpayers.  Am I missing something?

 Douglas Shulman: So as I --

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  Did you have an investigation?  Was there an internal investigation?

 Douglas Shulman:  I never understood that word of internal investigation.

Ranking Member Elijah Cumings:  Did you reassign at least one person back in 2012?

Douglas Shulman: Not that I was aware of.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  You don't -- You don't know that?

 Douglas Shulman:  To the best of my knowledge, I was not involved in the reassignment of people in the uh determinations unit.  I have no recollection of that.


Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  So when you learned about the targeting, apparently, you made some kind of inquiry because you said you found out that it had been resolved.  Who did you go to and who told you that it had been resolved?  And what did they say the resolution was?  You were the head of the IRS.

Douglas Shulman: I was the head of the IRS -- 

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings: And you've got Congress people that were upset about targeting.  They had been asking questions.  You had come [before the Committee] and said there was "absolutely no targeting."  And so help me with this.

 Douglas Shulman: First of all, let me express this is a very serious matter and I fully recognize that.

Great.  It only took Shulman 80 minutes into the hearing to 'express' that.  He had a lengthy opening statement that missed that point.

With few exceptions, the Democrats only focused on Shulman.  There are two reasons for that.  The secondary reason is that it's because Shulman was a Bully Boy Bush appointee.  The primary reason is that Fridays Ways and Means House Committee hearing resorted in blistering comments to Democrats on the Committee.  From their supporters in their districts.  One member told me he couldn't believe that an elderly woman who block walks and phone banks for him every two years when he's up for election felt he was letting the IRS off.  The IRS, because it collects money from people and few are thrilled to fork over money, has a built-in hostility factor with voters.  Fridays meeting struck many Democratic voters as if their elected officials were defending the IRS after it was caught in wrong doing.  They didn't do it astro-turf wise.  They did it by contacting the local offices in their districts and making it clear to people who knew them from previous campaign work just how offended they were.  It doesn't poll well with independents, sticking up for the IRS in this case, but four Dems on House Ways and Means and on Oversight told me that the complaints were coming from the core of their volunteer staff for re-election campaigns.  These are strong supporters and their offense is why you saw more action on the part of the Dems this hearing.

Focusing on Shulman allowed them to land blows on the IRS that they need to going into the re-election campaign.  My question for Oversight was if this were a DoD scandal and it was 2010, would they really think going after Robert Gates and terming him a Bully Boy Bush appointee would have made a difference?  Because while some will grab "Bush appointee" and wrap themselves in it like a safety blanket, the reality is that Shulman could have been asked for his resignation in 2009, in 2010, in 2011 . . .

And while Lois Lerner refused to testify, pleading the Fifth, it should be noted that everyone
assumes that had Congress dropped rounds of questioning and instead offered a round of charades,
she would have really shined.

Kat will cover the hearing at her site tonight, Wally will cover it at Rebecca's site, Ava will cover US House Rep Stephen Lynch in the hearing at Trina's site (Lynch was one of the strongest members in the hearing).

On the topic of Congress, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budge Comittee and she and Senator Maria Cantwell and US House Rep Cathy McMorris Rogers are expressing disappointment over a decision announced today:

For Immediate Release

Murray: (202) 224-2834
Cantwell: (202) 224-8277
McMorris Rodgers: (509) 353-2374

MAY 22, 2013

Murray, Cantwell, McMorris Rodgers Disappointed By Air Force Decision on KC-46A Tanker Program

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) expressed their disappointment with the Air Force’s decision to base the KC-46A tanker program at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, despite the strong bid from Fairchild Air Force Base in Eastern Washington.

“Today’s decision by the Air Force is extremely disappointing, and seems to ignore the obvious advantages Fairchild has to support the military’s regional and global priorities and major flight programs like the KC-46A,” said Senator Murray.  “While pressing the top levels of the Pentagon for answers on today’s decisions, I will continue to work with the full delegation for future investments in Fairchild, including new tankers in the next rounds of basing decisions.”

"The Secretary of the Air Force stated today that Fairchild will be a strong contender for future tanker basing decisions,” said Senator Cantwell. “While today’s preliminary tanker decision is disappointing, I will work with the Washington delegation and local leaders to bring new tankers to Fairchild and ensure it remains a vital asset for our nation's tanker program. With Fairchild's 50-year history as a vital resource in the U.S. tanker refueling program, Spokane remains a strong choice for locating future refueling tankers.”

“This is not a loss. The Air Force has plans to procure 179 KC-46A refueling tankers. It is important to remember that this is only the first installment of 36 tankers. While it was our hope that Fairchild would be the preferred base to host the next-generation refueling tankers, today’s announcement continues to bolster Fairchild’s vibrant mission. In the next few years, the Air Force will continue to base KC-46A refueling tankers at additional installations,” said Rep. McMorris Rodgers. “Moving forward, Fairchild will compete very well and is in an excellent position to receive them. “For over a decade, our community has worked together to let the Air Force know we would welcome the tankers at Fairchild. Today’s decision demonstrates that our hard work was appreciated by the Air Force. I want to thank our community leaders – civilian and military; public sector and private sector; and by officials in both parties – for their commitment and teamwork. We have a lot to be proud of, and our efforts for Fairchild will continue.” 

In December 2011, May 2012, and most recently in April 2013, Murray, Cantwell, and McMorris Rodgers led Washington state delegation letters to U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, highlighting the unique benefits that Fairchild offers the Air Force and the KC-46A tanker program, specifically.  Fairchild, which is ideally situated to support the Department of Defense’s broad-based focus on the Asia-Pacific region, is already home to the Active Duty 92nd Air Refueling Wing and the Washington Air National Guard's 141st Air Refueling Wing, which both fly the KC-135 aerial refueling tankers, and has continually modernized its facilities through more than $400 million in military construction investments.

The Washington state delegation strongly advocated for Fairchild’s bid for the tanker program and has helped direct significant federal investments to the base. Those investments have included:
·         $11 million to fund a new Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Force Support Complex
·         $4.15 million for a Refueling Vehicle Maintenance Facility
·         Funding for a redesigned hangar, energy efficient improvements, mission support complex, resistance training facility, and Armed Forces Reserve Center
·         Funding for a new 14,000 foot runway, a new, state-of-the-art fitness center, and a new wing command headquarters to better integrate active-duty Airmen and Air National Guardsmen


Sean Coit
Press Secretary
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office