Tag Archive: United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform


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Attorneys general raise ACA security concerns, ask for delay in implementation

September 18, 2013 12:41 pm by

Wilson, speaking for several state attorneys general at a U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington on Wednesday, said those concerns include the data hub that will connect various federal agencies as well as the local groups tasked with helping people sign up for health insurance starting Oct. 1.

Wilson asked Congress to “suspend implementation of the Affordable Care Act until security risks are mitigated; privacy protections are provided; and legally mandated deadlines are properly met.” Wilson’s points reiterated those he and 12 other Republican state attorneys general made a month ago in a letter to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

S.C. state Sen. Brad Hutto, a Democrat, provided a different viewpoint. “What we’re looking for is solutions, not road blocks,” Hutto said.

State officials from Kansas, Louisiana and Florida also spoke at the hearing.

The data hub, which will share insurance policy purchasers’ personal identification information with seven federal agencies, recently passed federal security standards, but Wilson said it hasn’t been tested or audited. He pointed out that personal information similar to what will be in the insurance data has been stolen in recent years from the Veterans’ Administration and from the S.C. Department of Revenue.

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Published time: June 04, 2013 01:33

AFP Photo / George Rose

AFP Photo / George Rose

An internal watchdog claims the IRS spent $50 million on ‘inappropriate’ conference funds during a three-year period – news that serves to further embarrass the agency in wake of its targeting of conservative groups.

The Internal Revenue Service allegedly spent nearly $50 million on about 200 employee conferences between 2010 and 2012, during which it frequently provided its workers with presidential hotel suites and allowed them to take dance classes and attend baseball games, according to excerpts from an inspector general’s report slated to be released Tuesday.

An August 2010 conference in Anaheim, Calif., cost the IRS $4 million. About 2,600 managers attended the event and stayed in presidential hotel suites that usually cost $1,500 to $3,500 per night. About 15 outside speakers were paid $135,000 each, one of which was hired to discuss “leadership through art”, according to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which released the excerpts.

The IRS also failed to negotiate lower room rates, which is a standard practice for federal government agencies. Employees who attended the conference also received a number of costly benefits, including baseball tickets at taxpayers’ expense.

“They ended up with free drinks, they ended up with tickets to games – basically kickbacks,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House oversight panel that released the excerpts, told NBC News.


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Report: Treasury finds IRS spent $50M on conferences in 3 years


By Meghashyam Mali 06/02/13 08:25 PM ET


A review by the Treasury Department’s inspector general found that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) spent $50 million dollars on conferences for employees between 2010 to 2012, according to reports.

The audit, set to be released on Tuesday, says the agency spent the funds on more than 200 employee conferences, including an August 2010 meeting in Anaheim, Calif., which cost taxpayers $4 million.


According to a statement from the House Oversight Committee, 15 outside speakers at the event were paid a total of $135,000 and many attendees were given perks including baseball tickets and suites at the hotel, the AP reported.The new report comes as the tax agency already faces congressional anger over its targeting of conservative political groups and will likely bring further scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is set to hold a hearing on IRS conference spending on Thursday.


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IRS Gift Rule Turned on Politics as Crisis Prompts Reform

Danny Werfel, the acting IRS commissioner  Photographer: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

IRS Gift Rule Turned on Politics as Crisis Prompts Reform

By Richard Rubin – Jun 2, 2013 11:00 PM CT

The last time the Internal Revenue Service waded into a fight on politically active nonprofit groups, the agency capitulated quickly and let people make undisclosed, untaxed payments to groups financing campaign ads.

In 2011, under pressure from Republicans, the IRS shut down an attempt to impose gift taxes on donations to so-called social welfare organizations. The move led to a “free-for-all” by donors while clearing up decades of ambiguity on how it would enforce the law, said Ofer Lion, an attorney at Hunton & Williams LLP (1130L) in Los Angeles.

The new controversy surrounding IRS scrutiny of small-government groups focuses attention again on how the agency handles politically sensitive issues. Lessons from the 2011 episode were obvious and yet recurred in 2013, as a lack of clear rules and management left the agency vulnerable to employee misconduct, open to charges of bias against Republicans and their allies and flat-footed when confronted with an outcry from lawmakers.

“It took a crisis to get reform, and I think that’s where we are now,” Greg Colvin, a partner at Adler & Colvin in San Francisco, said of the gift tax case. “It’s going to take a crisis like this to cause the IRS and Congress to realize that you can’t keep tolerating this kind of inadequate supervision and have the IRS refereeing what is and is not political.”

The IRS’s enforcement of tax laws on nonprofit groups re-enters the spotlight this week as Congress returns from a one-week recess, intent on searching for evidence of partisan motivations or senior executives’ involvement in targeting anti-tax Tea Party groups. The IRS revealed May 10 that some small-government groups got extra attention because of their names. Since then, six congressional committees have started inquiries, the Justice Department began a criminal probe, and three employees left their jobs early or were placed on leave.

First Appearance

Danny Werfel, the acting IRS commissioner, will make his first public appearance at a House hearing today since taking over May 22. Tomorrow, the House Ways and Means Committee is asking groups singled out for tougher scrutiny to testify about their experiences. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet June 6 to review an audit of spending on IRS conferences, including parody videos.

Congressional investigators are interviewing IRS employees and seeking past-due answers to lists of questions they sent the agency. The IRS says it is trying to be “exceedingly thorough” as it prepares responses.

The 2011 gift-tax flap and the new controversy over applications for tax-exempt status both stem from the same corner of the tax code.

Social Welfare

Groups organized under section 501(c)(4) are required to operate “exclusively” for the benefit of social welfare and don’t have to disclose their donors. Contributions aren’t tax-deductible and the groups don’t have to pay taxes on their investment income.

The IRS interprets that law to let 501(c)(4) groups engage in political activity, as long as that’s not their primary purpose. Many of those groups, including the Republican-allied Crossroads GPS and the Democratic-allied Priorities USA, spent heavily on campaign ads last year.

Such groups spent $256 million during the 2012 election cycle, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance issues.

The controversy for the past month has revolved around the scrutiny applied to groups applying for tax-exempt status.

Five Donors

The gift-tax issue is different because it involves donors to the groups. In 2011, the IRS sent letters to five donors, opening audits on whether their contributions to the groups should count as taxable gifts.

The Wall Street Journal reported May 31 that all five donors had given to Freedom’s Watch, which was formed to support President George W. Bush’s policies in Iraq. One of the group’s main backers was Sheldon Adelson, chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp.

The IRS was on solid legal ground, according to a 2012 analysis by the Congressional Research Service. The tax code specifically exempts contributions to charities under section 501(c)(3) and political groups under section 527 from the gift tax. The IRS hadn’t been enforcing the gift tax for contributions to 501(c)(4) groups although it had, in effect, said in a 1982 revenue ruling that the tax could be applied.


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Issa Sees Washington IRS Connection in Employee Interview

By Richard Rubin & William Selway Jun 3, 2013 12:11 PM CT

The tougher scrutiny given to Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service was “coordinated in all likelihood” from Washington, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee alleged, bolstering his case with excerpts of interviews with agency employees.

“The administration’s still trying to say there’s a few rogue agents in Cincinnati when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington,” Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, said yesterday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In the interviews, one employee, described as “more senior,” said it was understood that the purpose was to single out conservative and Republican groups and that some officials in Washington were involved.“I mean, rogue agent?” the employee said, according to a partial transcript released by Issa’s office. “Even though I was taking all my direction from” technical experts in Washington, “I didn’t want my name in the paper for being this rogue agent for a project I had no control over.”

The panel didn’t disclose which employees were being quoted, what else they said or who in Washington was thought to be involved. Working with other panels, the oversight committee has said it was interviewing John Shafer, Gary Muthert, Liz Hofacre and Joseph Herr, all of whom worked in the Cincinnati office, where the applications were processed. Issa said the committee staff has 18 more interviews to do.

Tax Exempt

Previous public reports on the IRS’s scrutiny of Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status, which started in 2010, have shown that some officials in Washington were aware of how the applications were being handled before a June 2011 meeting. At the time Lois Lerner, then director of exempt organizations, learned about what was happening and ordered it changed.

Nothing released yesterday directly undercuts that timeline or shows that Lerner or anyone above her was aware of the selective scrutiny earlier than stated.

Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on Issa’s committee, said in a statement yesterday that no witnesses have identified Washington IRS workers as ordering the use of “Tea Party” to screen applications.

“Rather than lobbing unsubstantiated conclusions on national television for political reasons, we need to work in a bipartisan way to follow the facts where they lead,” he said.

Three Executives

The revelation last month that the IRS applied extra scrutiny to small-government groups has led to six congressional inquiries, a criminal probe and three IRS executives, including Lerner, being pushed out of their jobs early or temporarily.

Danny Werfel, the acting IRS commissioner, is scheduled to make his first appearance at a congressional hearing today since taking over May 22.

Werfel announced several personnel moves today. He selected Heather Maloy, who had been overseeing large businesses, as deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, taking the place of Steve Miller, who was acting commissioner before he was forced out.

W. Todd Grams, the chief financial officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, will be Werfel’s chief of staff, rejoining the IRS, where he was chief information officer and chief financial officer. Jennifer O’Connor, who was a partner at the WilmerHale law firm in Washington, will be counselor to Werfel and Chief Counsel William Wilkins.

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Issa: White House spokesman ‘paid liar’ regarding IRS

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa said in an interview Sunday that the Obama administration directed the IRS to target Tea Party groups and that soon-to-be-released transcripts would prove his accusation.

“Their paid liar, their spokesperson—picture behind,” Issa said on CNN’s State of the Union while sitting in front a photo of White House spokesman Jay Carney. “He’s still making up things about what happens and calling this a local rogue.”

The IRS maintains that two “rogue” administrators at the agency’s Cincinnati office were responsible for singling out conservative Tea Party groups for scrutiny in their applications for tax-exempt non-profit status.

Last week, Lois Lerner, director of Tax-Exempt Organizations at the IRS, was placed on administrative leave. Lerner had invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in a House Oversight Committee hearing chaired by Issa.

In the weeks since the targeting was made public, it’s come to light that several of the Tea Party groups that were targeted for extra scrutiny have close ties to the Republican Party—a violation of the non-profit status rules that would allow them to remain tax-exempt.

There has been no evidence that the Obama administration knew of the targeting, although senior officials at the Treasury Department were alerted about the IRS audits last summer.

But Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said that the Obama administration directed the entire affair.

“As late as last week the administration’s still trying to say there’s a few rogue agents in Cincinnati when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington,” he said.

Watch Video Here


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Lois Lerner, director of Exempt Organizations for the IRS, is surrounded by Capitol police as she boards an elevator after being excused from a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington on Wednesday.

Additional scrutiny of conservative organizations’ activities by the IRS did not solely originate in the agency’s Cincinnati office, with requests for information coming from other offices and often bearing the signatures of higher-ups at the agency, according to attorneys representing some of the targeted groups. At least one letter requesting information about one of the groups bears the signature of Lois Lerner, the suspended director of the IRS Exempt Organizations department in Washington.

Jay Sekulow, an attorney representing 27 conservative political advocacy organizations that applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status, provided some of the letters to NBC News.  He said the groups’ contacts with the IRS prove that the practices went beyond a few “front line” employees in the Cincinnati office, as the IRS has maintained.

“We’ve dealt with 15 agents, including tax law specialists — that’s lawyers — from four different offices, including (the) Treasury (Department) in Washington, D.C.,” Sekulow said. “So the idea that this is a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati is not correct.”

Among the letters were several that bore return IRS addresses other than Cincinnati, including IRS headquarters in Washington, and the signatures of IRS officials higher up the chain. Lerner’s signature, which appeared to be a stamp rather than an actual signature, appeared on a letter requesting additional information from the Ohio Liberty Council Corp.

Lerner has become one of the public faces of the controversy after refusing to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last Wednesday, citing her Constitutional Fifth Amendment rights after reading a brief statement: “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws, violated IRS regulations or provided false information to this or any other committee.”

She was put on administrative leave at the end of last week after reportedly refusing to resign at Obama administration’s request. She is continuing to collect federal paychecks on her almost $180,000 annual salary, though at least one Republican senator, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is urging the agency to speed up the process and fire her.

In the two weeks since the IRS acknowledged it targeted conservative organizations seeking status as tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations for additional scrutiny, many Republicans have sought to link the agency’s actions to the White House. In an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post on May 22, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wrote that “the administration has been extremely creative in employing throughout the federal government the sorts of intimidation tactics that were used at the IRS.”

The White House has dismissed suggestions it was aware of the targeting, saying President Barack Obama only learned of the issue when it broke in the news on May 10. White House spokesman Jay Carney has since deflected most questions about the scandal, saying it would be inappropriate to comment until an FBI inquiry into the agency’s actions – one of five separate government investigations — is concluded.

For its part, the IRS has declined additional comment beyond its congressional testimony — including former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller’s testimony that IRS employees didn’t have partisan motives and only made “foolish mistakes … trying to be more efficient” — and other previously released public statements, including its response to a Treasury inspector general  (see pages 49-51) and a Q&A on 501 (c) groups it published on its website.

But attorneys for some of the targeted groups’ provided documentation and two IRS employees in the Cincinnati office made statements to NBC News that call into question parts of the official explanation Americans have heard from the IRS so far.

Sekulow, who worked with the office of the chief counsel of the IRS in the early 1980s as a trial lawyer representing the IRS on tax-exempt cases, said the number of groups he’s heard from, and the scope of the requests for information the IRS sent them, persuaded him “that this was not something that was just created at an agent level, that this was certainly higher up.”

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The Truth Comes Out: Former IRS Director Admits Taxes Are Voluntary

susanne_posel_news_ irs_political-groups_liveSusanne Posel
Occupy Corporatism
May 23, 2013

Steve Miller, former Director of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), admitted at a Congressional hearing that the taxes collected by the IRS are not mandatory – but voluntary.

When questioned at the House Ways and Means Committee (WMC) hearing last week, Miller told House Representative Devin Nunes that “America’s tax system is ‘voluntary’”. When Nunes remarked for clarification that the US tax code is a “voluntary system”, Miller said, “Agreed.”

House Representative Xavier Becerra commented that the ruse of the IRS is kept as a public confidence in the system scheme to keep Americans paying money to the IRS.

Miller confirmed this is so.

The shuffle at the IRS has landed Danny Werfel as the new acting director.

As his first message to those employed at the IRS, Werfel said that amid the mistrust of the public brewing against the organization, it is the mission of all employees to “help America’s taxpayers understand and meet their tax responsibilities.”

Werfel invoked the tragedy at Oklahoma to coerce his underlings into believing that they are doing a great work. He said: “. . . as the nation comes together to support the victims of the devastating tornados in Oklahoma, we should all feel a sense of pride that IRS is actively supporting the recovery effort and doing our part to help.”

President Obama anointed Werfel as a replacement for Miller who was asked to resign just a month before his term as acting director of the IRS was complete.

Werfel has a history working for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and an analyst for the Department of Justice (DoJ). Obama describes Werfel as having “proven an effective leader who serves with professionalism, integrity and skill.”

Senator Orin Hatch commented on Obama’s choice of putting a businessman in place at the IRS: “If I was the president I would find the very best businessman I possibly could who’d be willing to take it over and have the authority to be able to straighten the mess out. I don’t know whether Werfel has that kind of dimension or not, but I hope he does.”

Lois Lerner, director of the Tax-Exempt division at the IRS during the targeting of Patriot groups refused to speak to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, claiming her right of the 5th Amendment.

William Taylor III, attorney for Lerner, requested in a letter that preceded her arrival, asking the OGRC that she be allowed to refrain from appearing before the committee. Taylor claimed that be forcing Lerner, it “would have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her.”

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 photo empireofliesdeceptanddestruction_zps01a98216.jpg


Issa subpoenas State Dept. documents on Benghazi talking points

By Molly K. Hooper 05/28/13 01:23 PM ET

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has subpoenaed State Department documents related to the Benghazi talking points, according to a letter sent to Secretary of State John Kerry obtained by The Hill.

In the letter, Issa states that the department’s release of 100 emails earlier this month was “incomplete.” Issa demands that Kerry produce “relevant documents through subpoena. The enclosed subpoena covers documents and the communications related to talking points prepared for members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and used by Ambassador Susan Rice during her September 16th, 2012, appearances on CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and CNN.”Issa said that the documents released on May 20 did not answer “critical” questions posed by the committee as it investigates what happened during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the aftermath of that terror attack that killed former U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stephens and three other Americans.

More than one week after the attack, Rice took to the airwaves to blame the attack on a protest over an anti-Islam video, denying that it had anything to do with terrorism, despite the CIA’s belief that the attack was caused by terrorists.

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IRS official to plead the Fifth before House Oversight Committee

By Peter Schroeder and Bernie Becker 05/21/13 08:30 PM ET

Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service official at the eye of the storm over the improper scrutiny of conservative groups, will refuse to answer questions from the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

Through her attorney, Lerner stated her intention to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights after being called to testify.

“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” her attorney, William W. Taylor III wrote in a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).Her refusal to testify is the latest roadblock slowing lawmakers’ efforts to get to the bottom of the targeting of Tea Party groups.

Lerner, the head of the IRS’s exempt organizations division, was clearly going to be pressed by lawmakers about the honesty — or otherwise — of her previous responses before Congress on whether the IRS had targeted Tea Party groups.

She has already apologized for the imbroglio, but the Justice Department has launched a criminal probe into the matter. Lawmakers have repeatedly contended that IRS officials, including Lerner, misled Congress about its existence.

“We’re going to review with her what road she led us down previously,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), before news broke of Lerner’s refusal. “To be able to go back and review with her what she said previously versus what she might say on Wednesday, that’s going to make for an interesting exercise in contradictions.”

Both parties have criticized Lerner for being less than forthcoming with Congress. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) has called for her resignation, after she did not disclose the targeting in response to a direct question from the lawmaker at a hearing — two days before she publicly apologized for it.

A spokesman for the Oversight Committee noted that Issa has issued a subpoena to compel Lerner to appear before his panel Wednesday, even if she refuses to answer questions.

“The committee has a Constitutional obligation to conduct oversight,” said spokesman Ali Ahmad. “Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify [Wednesday].”

But if Lerner stonewalls Congress, it would exacerbate the frustration lawmakers feel about being stymied by tax collectors.

Wednesday’s hearing will mark the third in less than a week in which lawmakers have probed current and former IRS officials, but members are still searching for answers to a few critical questions. How did the IRS come to adopt the practice of singling out Tea Party groups for added scrutiny? What was the motivation behind filtering out the groups: partisan politics or poor judgment?

Current and former IRS officials at the top of the agency have so far been unable or unwilling to answer those questions, and lawmakers on the Oversight Committee had hoped Lerner could finally shed light on the matter.

After all, she was the IRS official who first thrust the matter into the spotlight, apologizing at a legal conference a week and a half ago for the improper targeting. And the report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) on the practice found that she directed IRS employees to stop using explicit Tea Party criteria in identifying tax-exempt applications for further scrutiny, back in June 2011.

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IRS Official Invokes 5th Amendment During Congressional Hearing On Scandal, Napolitano Cavuto

Massteaparty Massteaparty·






Published on May 22, 2013

MS. Lerner May Have Waved Her 5th Amendment Right By Making Statement During Congressional Hearing
IRS Official Invokes 5th Amendment During Congressional Hearing On Scandal – Napolitano Cavuto


Revealed: Three Benghazi survivors set to go before House committee to testify about 2012 attack identified as career State Department officials as their attorneys claim ‘Obama administration tried to silence them’

  • Gregory N. Hicks was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya
  • Mark I. Thompson is a former Marine and now the deputy coordinator for Operations in Counterterrorism Bureau
  • Eric Nordstrom is a diplomatic security officer who was the regional security officer in Libya
  • The House Oversight committee will hear their testimony on May 8, forcing the Obama administration’s hand
  • President Obama has professed ignorance of any effort to prevent whistle-blowers from telling Congress about the night terrorists attacked


By David Martosko and Daily Mail Reporter





On Wednesday, the three State Department officials will appear on Capitol Hill before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to talk about the September 11, 2012, assault on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Fox News revealed Saturday that the key witnesses are: Gregory N. Hicks, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Libya at the time of the Benghazi terrorist attacks; Mark I. Thompson, a former Marine and now the deputy coordinator for Operations in the agency’s Counterterrorism Bureau; and Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was the regional security officer in Libya.


First hearing: Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was the regional security officer in Libya, testifies on Capitol Hill on October 10

First hearing: Eric Nordstrom, a diplomatic security officer who was the regional security officer in Libya, testifies on Capitol Hill on October 10


Wintess: Gregory N. Hicks, a veteran officer of the Foreign Service – was in Tripoli on the night of the attack when he received a distress call from Ambassador Stevens



For Nordstrom, the upcoming hearing would not be the first time that he was called to testify on the events of last September.

‘For me the Taliban is on the inside of the [State Department] building,’ the former mission deputy chief angrily said while speaking at a hearing chaired by California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa in October 2012.   

During his testimony at the time, Nordstrom detailed for lawmakers how he and the late ambassador had repeatedly asked to increase security at the embassy in the months leading up to the attack, but said that their pleas fell on deaf ears as the situation in the country continued deteriorating.

Timeline: The Obama administration apparently altered their talking points heavily in the hours immediately after the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya (pictured here on September 11, 2011)

Witness accounts: The three career diplomats who were in Libya during the 2012 attacks will appear before a congressional hearing to testify about the deadly events of last September

The two other State Department officials have never publicly spoken about the attacks.  

At the time of the deadly attacks, Hicks was the highest-ranking American diplomat serving in Libya.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican and members of the House committee, said that Hicks – a veteran officer of the Foreign Service – was in Tripoli on the night of the attack when he received a distress call from Ambassador Stevens.

‘We’re under attacks! We’re under attacks’ Stevens reportedly yelled into his cell phone.

According to the Utah congressman, Hicks reacted to the news by calling Washington to alert officials and set off an ‘inter-agency response.’

What remains: As the investigation into the attack continues, the consulate remains damaged

What remains: As the investigation into the attack continues, the consulate remains damaged

According to the State Department website, Thompson ‘advises senior leadership on operational counterterrorism matters, and ensures that the United States can rapidly respond to global terrorism crises.’

Victim: U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed during the attack

Victim: U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed during the attack

Hicks and Thompson are believed to be represented pro bono by Joe diGenova, a former US attorney, and his wife, Victoria Toensing, a former chief counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Of the three men, Nordstrom is the only one who does not consider himself a whistle-blower.

According to diGenova and Toensing, their clients’ accounts of the attacks in Benghazi were dismissed by then-Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Accountability Review Board, and the two civil servants have been subjected to an intimidation campaign by their superiors meant to stop them from telling the truth about the tragic events in Libya.

The revelation of the witnesses’ identities comes just days after the Obama administration denied that it was prohibiting any U.S. personnel who survived last year’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya from testifying before Congress about what they experienced.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee announced on Wednesday that it will convene a hearing on May 8 aimed at ‘exposing failure’ in the Obama administration to respond to security threats to that diplomatic mission, and to present to the public and to Congress an accurate version of the attack that left Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans dead.

‘This Administration has offered the American people only a carefully selected and sanitized version of events from before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks, committee Chairman Issa, a Republican congressman from California, said in a statement. ‘Not surprisingly, this version of events casts senior officials in the most favorable light possible.’

Enlarge   Jay Carney insisted in a press briefing that no administration employees had sought security clearances so they could testify about he Benghazi raid, even after the House Oversight Committee asked for those very clearances

Jay Carney insisted in a press briefing that no administration employees had sought security clearances so they could testify about he Benghazi raid, even after the House Oversight Committee asked for those very clearances

Issa’s committee has already shed public light on the U.S. State Department’s denials of requests for more robust security at the consulate in Benghazi. And in an October 2012 hearing, it produced evidence contradicting the administration’s initial claim that the the Sept. 11, 2012 military-style assault on the diplomatic compound began as a ‘protest’ sparked by a low-budget YouTube video that lampooned the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

‘Next week’s hearing will expose new facts and details that the Obama Administration has tried to suppress,’ Issa said.

At least four surviving witnesses to the Benghazi attack have retained attorneys to help them navigate the process of testifying before Congress about what they saw. They are all employees of the CIA and the State Department, according to a Fox News report.

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and burned on Sept. 11, 2012 in a military-style attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans

The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and burned on Sept. 11, 2012 in a military-style attack that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans

Fiscal cliff deal includes at least $67.9 billion for special interests

Getty Images for NASCAR, file


By M. Alex Johnson, NBC News

Taxpayers aren’t the only ones who won’t be flying off the fiscal cliff — this year, at least. Add race cars, movies and asparagus to the list.

As part of their last-second deal to slam the brakes on an economy racing toward the so-called fiscal cliff, lawmakers gave the green light this week to extending dozens of business and industry tax breaks, like a cost-recovery program that will save the owners of “motorsports entertainment complexes” (that is, racetracks) about $70 million over the next two years.

Much of the compromise agreement that President Barack Obama’s autopen signed into law Thursday was targeted at individuals and families, notably preserving most of the tax cuts that passed under President George W. Bush, which were set to expire Monday. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC that the deal was “a big gift-wrapped present of certainty to the middle class.”

But the agreement also came loaded with extensions of separate existing tax breaks for businesses and industries, many of which had expired in the past year — about $67.9 billion in all in 2013, as tabulated by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation.

(The extensions will actually cost much more: Not only were they made retroactive to cover 2012, but some of the breaks and credits would be in effect for 10 years if left in place. Many cover only one or two years, however.)

Read the full 10-year analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation (.pdf)

In addition to extending tax breaks for racing moguls, the legislation also extended:

• A tax credit for construction of renewable energy projects, like wind turbines and biomass, geothermal and hydropower generation, for one year. It’s projected to cost about $116 million, the committee said.

That may seem like a drop in the bucket, but here’s the kicker: While the extension to qualify for new projects covers only 2013, the actual tax credit itself is good for 10 years. That means new projects that break ground in 2013 will be able to claim the credit for the next decade, at an overall price tag the committee put at slightly less than $12.2 billion.

• An arcane provision of corporate tax law, called active financing income, that lets U.S. corporations defer taxes on some income they earn from their overseas subsidiaries. That provision will cost the U.S. Treasury more than $9 billion this year and $1.8 billion next year.

• Tax breaks for Hollywood producers who shoot their movies and TV shows in the U.S., at a cost of about $430 million through 2014.

• A program that sends most federal taxes collected on rum produced in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands back to those territories to subsidize domestic production. Bar tab: $222 million over two years.

• A tax break worth about $15 million a year for asparagus growers hit hard by cheap asparagus imported from Peru.

• $4 million in tax breaks over the next two years for people who buy “2- or 3-wheeled plug-in electric vehicles” — in other words, electric scooters, Segways and the like.

The purpose of the deal was to prevent a series of steep spending cuts and tax increases on the middle class from automatically taking effect in the new year. But “we’re not making it (the tax system) better or fairer,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said on the House floor Tuesday in explaining why he was voting against the measure.

Big policy losers in tax deal: deficit reduction and ‘certainty’

 Politics, Legislation and Economy News

 Wars and Rumors of War :  Government Corruption – Psy – Ops – Special Interests – Murder


State Dept.: No Mob In Benghazi; Whistleblower: We Begged For Help



Chris Stevens in better daysThe Obama administration’s unraveling story of the deadly September 11 attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya has not finished unraveling. A State Department official yesterday confirmed that there was no mob outside the Benhazi compound prior to the Al Qaeda attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. And a former security officer at the embassy told Congress that officials on the ground had spent months prior to the attack requesting more protection for the site.

From AP’s Bradley Klapper:

Senior State Department officials on Tuesday revealed for the first time certain details of last month’s tragedy in the former Libyan rebel stronghold, such as the efforts of a quick reaction force that rushed onto the scene and led the evacuation in a fierce gun battle that continued into the streets. The briefing was provided a day before department officials were to testify to a House committee about the most serious attack on a U.S. diplomatic installation since al-Qaida bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania 14 years ago.

The account answers some questions and leaves others unanswered. Chief among them is why for several days the Obama administration said the assault stemmed from a protest against an American-made Internet video ridiculing Islam, and whether the consulate had adequate security.

This new admission contradicts the administration’s previous position that the embassy was subjected to a peaceful protest that was “hijacked by extremists.” Obama administration officials were maintaining this claim nearly a week after the attack, although it was known within 24 hours that the attack was a pre-meditated act of war. Here is Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice making this claim the weekend after the attack:

Meanwhile, ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that the former top security official at the embassy says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s bureaucracy rejected his requests, over most of this year, to beef up security at the site in response to credible threats of a terrorist attack:

Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Libya, has told congressional investigators that security at the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, was “inappropriately low” – and believed that State Department officials stood in the way of his attempts to change that.

Nordstrom and the commander of a 16-member Security Support Team, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood, heard that foreign fighters were flowing across the Egyptian border and were making their way across the border to the Libyan city of Derna – which is to the east of Benghazi — and from there were making their way to Benghazi. But State Department officials seemed oblivious to their Benghazi post’s vulnerability.

Nordstrom was worried -he did not know how much the Americans could rely on members of a local Libyan militia in Benghazi that provided security — the “17th of February Martyrs Brigade.” Mostly merchants and shopkeepers before the war, they seemed eager, but they hadn’t much experience and other than a daily $30 stipend for food from the U.S. Embassy, they hadn’t been paid in months.

Nordstrom had “no idea if they would respond to an attack,” he told investigators.

As has been the case with many revelations about the Obama administration’s inner workings recently, this one comes courtesy of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California). State Department mismanagement continued after the attack, creating a critical delay in getting FBI investigators to the site.

And while Rice was a key player in Obama’s original disinformation campaign, there now appears to be a rupture between the president and his own State Department, with an unnamed official telling USA Today that State never claimed the Libya attack resulted from the little-seen trailer for the purported film Innocence of Muslims. “That was not our conclusion,” the official said, adding that “others” need to answer questions about the false linkage of the video and the attack.

Nevertheless, the producer of Innocence of Muslims remains the only person American authorities have taken into custody in connection with the attack.

The Oversight Committee will continue hearings later today.

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 Wars and Rumors of War – Black Ops  :  Secrecy – World News

Letting us in on a secret

When House Republicans called a hearing in the middle of their long recess, you knew it would be something big, and indeed it was: They accidentally blew the CIA’s cover.

The purpose of Wednesday’s hearing of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee was to examine security lapses that led to the killing in Benghazi last month of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others. But in doing so, the lawmakers reminded us why “congressional intelligence” is an oxymoron.

 New details of what led to Ambassador Christopher Stevens’s death in Libya emerged this afternoon. In a heated, partisan back-and-forth, Darrell Issa said security at the mission in Benghazi could have been better. Diplomatic correspondent Anne Gearan joins us, to tell us what she heard in the hearing.

Through their outbursts, cryptic language and boneheaded questioning of State Department officials, the committee members left little doubt that one of the two compounds at which the Americans were killed, described by the administration as a “consulate” and a nearby “annex,” was a CIA base. They did this, helpfully, in a televised public hearing.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was the first to unmask the spooks. “Point of order! Point of order!” he called out as a State Department security official, seated in front of an aerial photo of the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, described the chaotic night of the attack. “We’re getting into classified issues that deal with sources and methods that would be totally inappropriate in an open forum such as this.”

A State Department official assured him that the material was “entirely unclassified” and that the photo was from a commercial satellite. “I totally object to the use of that photo,” Chaffetz continued. He went on to say that “I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not ever talk about what you’re showing here today.”

Now that Chaffetz had alerted potential bad guys that something valuable was in the photo, the chairman, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), attempted to lock the barn door through which the horse had just bolted. “I would direct that that chart be taken down,” he said, although it already had been on C-SPAN. “In this hearing room, we’re not going to point out details of what may still in fact be a facility of the United States government or more facilities.”

May still be a facility? The plot thickened — and Chaffetz gave more hints. “I believe that the markings on that map were terribly inappropriate,” he said, adding that “the activities there could cost lives.”

In their questioning and in the public testimony they invited, the lawmakers managed to disclose, without ever mentioning Langley directly, that there was a seven-member “rapid response force” in the compound the State Department was calling an annex. One of the State Department security officials was forced to acknowledge that “not necessarily all of the security people” at the Benghazi compounds “fell under my direct operational control.”

And whose control might they have fallen under? Well, presumably it’s the “other government agency” or “other government entity” the lawmakers and witnesses referred to; Issa informed the public that this agency was not the FBI.

“Other government agency,” or “OGA,” is a common euphemism in Washington for the CIA. This “other government agency,” the lawmakers’ questioning further revealed, was in possession of a video of the attack but wasn’t releasing it because it was undergoing “an investigative process.”

Or maybe they were referring to the Department of Agriculture.

That the Benghazi compound had included a large CIA presence had been reported but not confirmed. The New York Times, for example, had reported that among those evacuated were “about a dozen CIA operatives and contractors.” The paper, like The Washington Post, withheld locations and details of the facilities at the administration’s request.

But on Wednesday, the withholding was on hold.

The Republican lawmakers, in their outbursts, alternated between scolding the State Department officials for hiding behind classified material and blaming them for disclosing information that should have been classified. But the lawmakers created the situation by ordering a public hearing on a matter that belonged behind closed doors.

Republicans were aiming to embarrass the Obama administration over State Department security lapses. But they inadvertently caused a different picture to emerge than the one that has been publicly known: that the victims may have been let down not by the State Department but by the CIA. If the CIA was playing such a major role in these events, which was the unmistakable impression left by Wednesday’s hearing, having a televised probe of the matter was absurd.

The chairman, attempting to close his can of worms, finally suggested that “the entire committee have a classified briefing as to any and all other assets that were not drawn upon but could have been drawn upon” in Benghazi.

Good idea. Too bad he didn’t think of that before putting the CIA on C-SPAN.




U.S. ambassadors killed in the line of duty: U.S. Ambassador to Libya John Christopher Stevens is the eighth American ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1950. Here are the others.