Posted on

Judical Watch : “Elaborately Planned” Caravan Brings Human Traffickers & Violent Gangbangers to Guatemala

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, according to Judicial Watch , the migrant caravan marching northbound through Central America is an “elaborately planned” movement that’s benefiting human smugglers and bringing disturbing numbers of violent gang members and other criminal elements through Guatemala, according to government sources in the capital city. “MS-13 gang members have been detained and coyotes (human smugglers) are joining the march with clients who pay to get smuggled into the United States,” a Guatemalan official told Judicial Watch. People from Asian countries waiting to get smuggled into the U.S. through Central America are also integrating with poor Hondurans in the caravan, a high-level Guatemalan government source confirmed. Among them are nationals of Bangladesh, a south Asian Islamic country that’s well known as a recruiting ground for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). “There are lots of dirty businesses associated with this,” Guatemalan authorities told Judicial Watch. “There’s lots of human trafficking.”

Continue reading Judical Watch : “Elaborately Planned” Caravan Brings Human Traffickers & Violent Gangbangers to Guatemala

Posted on

Judicial Watch Obtains IRS Documents Revealing McCain’s Subcommittee Staff Director Urged IRS to Engage in “Financially Ruinous” Targeting of Tea Party Groups

John-McCain

McCain minority staff director Henry Kerner to IRS official Lois Lerner and other IRS officials: “the solution is to audit so many that it becomes financially ruinous”

July 17,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Washington DC, Judicial Watch today released newly obtained internal IRS documents, including material revealing that Sen. John McCain’s former staff director and chief counsel on the Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee, Henry Kerner, urged top IRS officials, including then-director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner, to “audit so many that it becomes financially ruinous.” Kerner was appointed by President Trump as Special Counsel for the United States Office of Special Counsel.

The explosive exchange was contained in notes taken by IRS employees at an April 30, 2013, meeting between Kerner, Lerner, and other high-ranking IRS officials. Just ten days following the meeting, former IRS director of exempt organizations Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS had a policy of improperly and deliberately delaying applications for tax-exempt status from conservative non-profit groups.
Lerner and other IRS officials met with select top staffers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a “marathon” meeting to discuss concerns raised by both Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that the IRS was not reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Senator McCain had been the chief sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act and called the Citizens United decision, which overturned portions of the Act, one of the “worst decisions I have ever seen.”

In the full notes of an April 30 meeting, McCain’s high-ranking staffer Kerner recommends harassing non-profit groups until they are unable to continue operating. Kerner tells Lerner, Steve Miller, then chief of staff to IRS commissioner, Nikole Flax, and other IRS officials, “Maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous.” In response, Lerner responded that “it is her job to oversee it all:”
Henry Kerner asked how to get to the abuse of organizations claiming section 501 (c)(4) but designed to be primarily political. Lois Lerner said the system works, but not in real time. Henry Kerner noted that these organizations don’t disclose donors. Lois Lerner said that if they don’t meet the requirements, we can come in and revoke, but it doesn’t happen timely. Nan Marks said if the concern is that organizations engaging in this activity don’t disclose donors, then the system doesn’t work. Henry Kerner said that maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous. Nikole noted that we have budget constraints. Elise Bean suggested using the list of organizations that made independent expenditures. Lois Lerner said that it is her job to oversee it all, not just political campaign activity.

Judicial Watch previously reported on the 2013 meeting. Senator McCain then issued a statement decrying “false reports claiming that his office was somehow involved in IRS targeting of conservative groups.” The IRS previously blacked out the notes of the meeting but Judicial Watch found the notes among subsequent documents released by the agency.

Judicial Watch separately uncovered that Lerner was under significant pressure from both Democrats in Congress and the Obama DOJ and FBI to prosecute and jail the groups the IRS was already improperly targeting. In discussing pressure from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat-Rhode Island) to prosecute these “political groups,” Lerner admitted, “it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity.”
The April 30, 2013 meeting came just under two weeks prior to Lerner’s admission during an ABA meeting that the IRS had “inappropriately” targeted conservative groups. In her May 2013 answer to a planted question, in which she admitted to the “absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate” targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, Lerner suggested the IRS targeting occurred due to an “uptick” in 501 (c)(4) applications to the IRS but in actuality, there had been a decrease in such applications in 2010.

On May 14, 2013, a report by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration revealed: “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status” (e.g., lists of past and future donors). The illegal IRS reviews continued “for more than 18 months” and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” in advance of the 2012 presidential election.
All these documents were forced out of the IRS as a result of an October 2013 Judicial Watch Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit filed against the IRS after it failed to respond adequately to four FOIA requests sent in May 2013 (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)). Judicial Watch is seeking:

All records related to the number of applications received or related to communications between the IRS and members of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
All records concerning communications between the IRS and the Executive Branch or any other government agency regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
Copies of any questionnaires and all records related to the preparation of questionnaires sent to organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.
All records related to Lois Lerner’s communication with other IRS employees, as well as government or private entity outside the IRS regarding the review and approval process for 501 (c)(4) applicant organizations.
“The Obama IRS scandal is bipartisan – McCain and Democrats who wanted to regulate political speech lost at the Supreme Court, so they sought to use the IRS to harass innocent Americans,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama IRS scandal is not over – as Judicial Watch continues to uncover smoking gun documents that raise questions about how the Obama administration weaponized the IRS, the FEC, FBI, and DOJ to target the First Amendment rights of Americans.”

Posted on

FBI Will Review 16,750 Pages of Comey Documents in Response to Judicial Watch FOIA

james-comey

FEBRUARY 16, 2018
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Washington DC, Judicial Watch today announced that the FBI agreed to review 16,750 pages of records in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the records for former FBI Director James Comey that were archived after he was dismissed. Judicial Watch came to this agreement with the FBI shortly after it filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to obtain the Comey records (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-00262)).

Judicial Watch discovered the cache of Comey records as a result of disclosures by the Justice Department in separate Judicial Watch litigation (here and here) to obtain the controversial “Comey memos” that allegedly memorialize conversations Comey had with President Trump.

There is significant public interest in Comey’s conduct and the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email and Russia collusion investigations and targeting of President (and candidate) Trump.

“The FBI has a terrible record of playing shell games with records – whether it be texts or memos by its disgraced former director James Comey,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Our lawsuit, we hope, will force the FBI to expedite the review and the release of the 16,750 pages of Comey documents. Open the files.”

Posted on

Judicial Watch : is the FBI Protecting James Comey?

james-comey

February 13,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Allendale NJ, according to Judicial Watch , “the more we learn about the FBI under Allendale native James Comey’s supervision the more we have reason to question the activities of the fired FBI Director. Because he has left a trail of suspicious activities in is wake, Comey now stands out as key figure in the Deep State’s illicit attempts to target President Trump.”

And it looks like the Deep State is protecting Comey still. We were forced to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for FBI records about former Director Comey’s book, which he signed to write in August 2017 and is set for publication in April 2018 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice, (No. 1:18-cv-00220)).
Our suit also seeks records of communications between Comey and the FBI prior to and regarding Comey’s controversial June 2017 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Judicial Watch filed on January 31 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Justice Department failed to respond to our August 14, 2017, FOIA request for:
All records of communications between the FBI and Comey prior to and regarding Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on June 8, 2017.
All records of communications between the FBI and Comey relating to an upcoming book to be authored by Comey and published.
All records, including but not limited to forms completed by Comey, relating to the requirement for prepublication review by the FBI of any book to be authored by Comey with the intent to be published or otherwise publicly available.

Comey reportedly received an advance in excess of $2 million for his book, Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, reportedly set for publication on April 17th. Former FBI agents and officials intending to write books concerning their tenure are customarily required to submit the entire transcript for pre-publication review.

A month after President Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017, Comey provided highly controversial testimony before the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about the circumstances that led to his dismissal, the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s illicit email server. During that testimony, Comey admitted he leaked information about his conversations with President Donald Trump in order to get a special prosecutor appointed. (In November, we filed a separate FOIA lawsuit against the Justice Department for its records about Comey’s testimony.)
Comey seems to have protected status for any misconduct, and we want to know if he had a special deal for his book from his friends in the FBI. The Deep State is in cover-up mode. The FBI, DOJ, and the Special Counsel are stonewalling our requests for Comey documents.

We have several other lawsuits pending for Comey-related records:
Two lawsuits (hereand here) seek specifically the “Comey memos” ((Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice(No. 1:17-cv-01189)) and (Daily Caller News Foundation v. U.S. Department Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01830));
Onelawsuit seeks metadata of the “Comey memos” and related records-management information ((Judicial Watch, Inc., v. U.S. Department of Justice(No. 17-cv-01520));
And anotherlawsuit seeks non-disclosure agreements pertaining to the handling, storage, protection, dissemination, and/or return of classified information signed by Comey ((Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-01624)).

On January 11, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg the FBI to turn over the “Comey memos” for in camera review by the court. In doing so, the court rejected arguments by the Sessions Justice Department to dismiss the lawsuits seeking the Comey information.

Unfortunately, on February 2, Boasberg ruled that the “Comey memos” would not be made public. Judicial Watch and the Daily Caller News Foundation almost immediately appealed the ruling. We don’t intend to let up in our pursuit of the truth about the egregious conduct of the FBI’s former director.

Posted on

Judicial Watch Files Amicus Curiae Brief Urging Federal Court to Unseal Depositions of IRS Officials Lerner, Paz in Tea Party Targeting Case

January 31,2018

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Washington DC,  Judicial Watch last week asked a federal court to unseal the depositions of Lois Lerner, the former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Holly Paz, her top aide and former IRS director of Office of Rulings and Agreements. Both played key roles in the targeting of conservative nonprofit groups opposed to Obama policies in the run up to the 2012 presidential election.

The request came in an amicus curiae brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division supporting NorCal Tea Party Patriots’ class action lawsuit seeking the unsealing of the depositions (NorCal Tea Party Patriots, et al. v. The Internal Revenue Service, et al. (No. 1:13-cv-00341)). The depositions were sealed by a federal judge after Lerner’s and Paz’s lawyers claimed the two were receiving threats. Judicial Watch’s brief argues that the documents sought may shed light on government misconduct, and the shielding of internal government deliberations does not serve the public’s interest.

Judicial Watch details how the Lerner and Paz depositions may significantly impact ongoing Judicial Watch lawsuits seeking information about misconduct of government officials in the IRS targeting scandal:

In addition to the revelation of IRS employees’ conduct in the emails uncovered, the records obtained by Judicial Watch [in the course of its FOIA investigation] also sparked investigations into Lois Lerner’s emails and IRS’ failure to preserve thousands of emails that were potentially relevant to the various investigations about the IRS’ treatment of conservative groups. While the federal government has now admitted that the targeting “was wrong” and “for such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology” the IRS continues to this day to withhold from the public in Judicial Watch’s main IRS case … email communications with Lois Lerner and/or Holly Paz …
Lerner was actively engaged in the attempted cover-up of IRS misconduct. In July 2016, Judicial Watch revealed that both Lerner and Paz, knew the agency was specifically targeting “Tea Party” and other conservative organizations two full years before disclosing it to Congress and the public. They also knew donor lists of tax-exempt organizations were being used to target those donors for audits.

After refusing to acknowledge the targeting, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to finally admit in that the agency had used “inappropriate political labels” to screen the tax-exempt applications of conservative organizations. IRS agents were targeting organizations requesting tax-exempt status based on “guilt by association” and “party affiliation.” Judicial Watch brought to light that the IRS was going to require 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations to restrict their alleged political activities in exchange for “expedited consideration” of their tax-exempt applications.

In April 2015, Judicial Watch released court ordered IRS documents that included an email from Lerner asking that a program be set up to “put together some training points to help them [IRS staffers] understand the potential pitfalls” of revealing too much information to Congress. The documents also contain a Lerner email from 2013 in which she says she is willing to take the blame on some aspects of the scandal. She also indicates that she “understands why the IRS criteria” leading to the targeting of Tea Party and other opponents of the President Obama “might raise questions.”

In July 2015, Judicial Watch revealed the IRS scandal also included the Justice Department and FBI as well. According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch under court order, in an October 2010 meeting, Lerner, Justice Department officials and the FBI planned for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity. As part of that effort, the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 non-profit, 501(c)(4) social welfare groups as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.”

“In a republic, citizens have a right to know what their government is up to, especially when officials abuse the powers entrusted to them,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This effort to seal Lois Lerner and Holly Paz depositions for all time is affront to the rule of law and government accountability.”

In response to Judicial Watch’s litigation, the IRS initially claimed that emails belonging to Lerner were supposedly missing. Later, IRS officials conceded that the “missing” emails were on IRS back-up systems. Throughout its litigation, Judicial Watch repeatedly exposed a variety of IRS record keeping inconsistencies, erroneous claims, and failures to produce court-ordered records:

In June 2014, the IRS claimed to have “lost” responsive emails belonging to Lerner and other IRS officials.
In July 2014 Judge Emmett Sullivan ordered the IRS to submit to the court a written declaration under oath about what happened to Lerner’s “lost” emails. The sworn declarations proved to be less than forthcoming.

In August 2014, Department of Justice attorneys for the IRS finally admitted Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe. The IRS’ attorneys also disclosed that Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) was looking at several of these backup tapes.

In November 2014, the IRS told the court it had failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lerner and other IRS officials.
On February 26, 2015, TIGTA officials testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it had received 744 backup tapes containing emails sent and received by Lerner. This testimony showed that the IRS had misled Congress, Judge Sullivan, and Judicial Watch that Lerner’s emails were irretrievably lost. The testimony also revealed that IRS officials responsible for responding to the document requests never asked for the backup tapes and that 424 backup tapes containing Lerner’s emails had been destroyed during the pendency of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit and Congressional investigations.

In June 2015, Judicial Watch forced the IRS to admit in a court filing that it was in possession of 6,400 “newly discovered” Lerner emails. Judge Emmet Sullivan’s ordered the IRS to provide answers on the status of the Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost. Judicial Watch raised questions about the IRS’ handling of the missing emails issue in a court filing, demanding answers about Lerner’s emails that had been recovered from the backup tapes.

In July 2015, U.S District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan threatened to hold John Koskinen, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and Justice Department attorneys in contempt of court after the IRS failed to produce status reports and recovered Lerner emails, as he had ordered on July 1, 2015.

Posted on

Federal Court Orders State Department to Conduct a Search of Benghazi Emails of Hillary Clinton’s Closest Advisors

Clinton-Benghazi-G1-620x362

AUGUST 10, 2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Washington DC in what can only be considered a major victory for Judicial Watch, Thursday they announced that on August 8, 2017, D.C. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta ordered the State Department “to search the state.gov e-mail accounts of Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, and Jacob Sullivan,” former aides of Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State. The State Department is ordered to search in those accounts “for records responsive to [Judicial Watch’s] March 4, 2015, FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request.” (A separate Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit first broke open the Clinton email scandal.)

Judge Mehta described Judicial Watch’s Clinton Benghazi FOIA lawsuit as “a far cry from a typical FOIA case. Secretary Clinton used a private e-mail server, located in her home, to transmit and receive work-related communications during her tenure as Secretary of State.” Further:

[I]f an e-mail did not involve any state.gov user, the message would have passed through only the Secretary’s private server and, therefore, would be beyond the immediate reach of State. Because of this circumstance, unlike the ordinary case, State could not look solely to its own records systems to adequately respond to [Judicial Watch’s] demand.

***

[The State Department] has not, however, searched the one records system over which it has always had control and that is almost certain to contain some responsive records: the state.gov e-mail server. If Secretary Clinton sent an e-mail about Benghazi to Abedin, Mills, or Sullivan at his or her state.gov e-mail address, or if one of them sent an e-mail to Secretary Clinton using his or her state.gov account, then State’s server presumably would have captured and stored such an e-mail. Therefore, State has an obligation to search its own server for responsive records.

***

State has offered no assurance that the three record compilations it received [from Secretary Clinton and her aides], taken together, constitute the entirety of Secretary Clinton’s e-mails during the time period relevant to Plaintiff’s FOIA Request. Absent such assurance, the court is unconvinced “beyond material doubt” that a search of the state.gov accounts of Abedin, Mills and Sullivan is “unlikely to produce any marginal return.”

***

Accordingly, the court finds that State has not met its burden of establishing it performed an adequate search in response to Plaintiff’s FOIA Request and orders State to conduct a supplemental search of the state.gov e-mail accounts of Abedin, Mills, and Sullivan.

“This major court ruling may finally result in more answers about the Benghazi scandal – and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in it – as we approach the attack’s fifth anniversary,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is remarkable that we had to battle both the Obama and Trump administrations to break through the State Department’s Benghazi stonewall. Why are Secretary Tillerson and Attorney General Sessions wasting taxpayer dollars protecting Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration?”

Judicial Watch asked a federal court to compel the Trump State Department to undertake a thorough search of all emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the terrorist attack on Benghazi, including those of Clinton’s closest advisors. Judicial Watch also specifically asked the court to compel the agency to produce all records of communications between Clinton and top aide Jake Sullivan relating to Ambassador Susan Rice’s appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” the Sunday following the 2012 Benghazi massacre.

The State Department has until September 22, 2017, to update the court on the status of the supplemental search and production of additional emails to Judicial Watch.

On May 6, 2015, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit when the State Department failed to respond to a March 4, 2015, FOIA request (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00692)), seeking:

All emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton relating to the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The timeframe for this request is September 11, 2012 to January 31, 2013.

Posted on

Judicial Watch Warns California to Clean Voter Registration Lists or Face Federal Lawsuit

old paramus reformed church
Data Show LA, San Diego, San Francisco Have More Registered Voters than Eligible Adult Citizens – LA Voting Rolls Have 144% of the Total Number of Eligible Residents
August 5,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced it sent a notice-of-violation letter to the state of California and 11 of its counties threatening to sue in federal court if it does not clean its voter registration lists as mandated by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Both the NVRA and the federal Help America Vote Act require states to take reasonable steps to maintain accurate voting rolls. The August 1 letter was sent on behalf of several Judicial Watch California supporters and the Election Integrity Project California, Inc.

In the letter, Judicial Watch noted that public records obtained on the Election Assistance Commission’s 2016 Election Administration Voting Survey and through verbal accounts from various county agencies show 11 California counties have more registered voters than voting-age citizens: Imperial (102%), Lassen (102%), Los Angeles (112%), Monterey (104%), San Diego (138%), San Francisco (114%), San Mateo (111%), Santa Cruz (109%), Solano (111%), Stanislaus (102%), and Yolo (110%).

In the letter, Judicial Watch noted that Los Angeles County officials “informed us that the total number of registered voters now stands at a number that is a whopping 144% of the total number of resident citizens of voting age.”

Under Section 8 of the NVRA, states are required to make a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters from official lists due to “the death of the registrant” or “a change in the residence of the registrant,” and requires states to ensure noncitizens are not registered to vote.

There is “strong circumstantial evidence that California municipalities are not conducting reasonable voter registration list maintenance as mandated under the NVRA,” Judicial Watch wrote in the notice letter sent to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Judicial Watch referred California officials to a settlement agreement it reached with the State of Ohio in which Ohio agreed to update and maintain its voter registration lists and to keep a current voter registration list online and available for public access.

“California’s voting rolls are an absolute mess that undermines the very idea of clean elections,” JudicialWatch President Tom Fitton said. “It is urgent that California take reasonable steps to clean up its rolls. We will sue if state officials fail to act.”

In April, Judicial Watch sent notice-of-violation letters threatening to sue 11 states having counties in which the number of registered voters exceeds the number of voting-age citizens.  The states are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Tennessee.

On July 18, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against Montgomery County and the Maryland State Boards of Elections under the NVRA. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division (Judicial Watch vs. Linda H. Lamone, et al. (No. 1:17-cv-02006)).

Election Integrity Project California, Inc. is a registered non-profit corporation that seeks to preserve a government of, by, and for the people. To that end, Election Integrity Project California empowers citizen volunteers through education and training to protect the integrity of the electoral process in California.

The director of Judicial Watch’s Election Integrity Project is senior attorney Robert Popper, who was formerly deputy chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

Posted on

Judicial Watch: HHS Documents Reveal Known Pre-Launch Security Flaws in Healthcare.gov 

healthcare-gov-homepage-thumb-570x348-125912
July 29,2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog
 Washington DC,  Judicial Watch today released two productions of documents 1123 pages of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) records showing security officials’ concerns about the Obamacare website prior to its launch.

Judicial Watch obtained the HHS documents in response to a court order in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:14-cv-00430)).  The lawsuit was filed in March 2014 after HHS failed to respond to a December 20, 2013, FOIA request seeking:

  • All records related to the security of the healthcare.gov web portal including, but not limited to, studies, memoranda, correspondence, electronic communications (e-mails), and slide presentations from January 1, 2012 to the present.

The documents show a flippant disregard for Senior IT Security Official Tom Schankweiler’s security concerns in a September 23, 2013, email exchange, one week before the launch of Obamacare, Fryer and CMS official Jacqueline Toomey. Toomey tells Fryer: “Breathe … don’t allow him to suck you in.” Toomey responds later in the exchange: “I’m afraid of who he’s ‘blind copying’ on his emails.”  Fryer says: “When [Consumer Information and Insurance Systems Group] gets theirs, can you make a gagging sound for me?” Toomey responds: “Giggling.”

In a September 28, 2013, review, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Jane Kim notes that “the risk associated with the Illinois Integrated Eligibility System ATC [Authorization to Connect] as “high,” noting that “87 security controls  [were] not documented or incomplete.” Risk associated with Minnesota’s application to connect was also deemed “high,” with 110 incomplete or undocumented security controls. Pennsylvania’s risk was also deemed “high,” with 10 high level security findings. Hawaii was also considered a “high” risk, with 23 “high-impact” security findings.

A security spreadsheet in a September 19, 2013, email exchange shows a “high” level defect in the Obamacare website was discovered. That finding prompted top IT security officials to schedule an emergency conference call in which Senior IT Security Official Tom Schankweiler tries to persuade then-CMS Chief Information Officer Teresa Fryer to issue a “short term ATO [Authorization of Operate]”

In the CMS “Pre-Flight Checklist” published on September 20, 2013, is a chart that indicates that the “Hub,” designed to help with verifying applicant information used to determine eligibility for enrollment, was unable to perform its tasks. Regarding verification of citizenship is the comment: “Hub has been too irregular to work thorough this, and still don’t have the right data to test to the 5 year bar.” Regarding verification of SSN is the comment: “Hub has reliability issues …” The Pre-flight Checklist also notes nine “high” security risks, 123 “moderate” security risks, 68 “low” and 17 “common” risks in various components of the Obamacare system.

On October 1, 2013, Americans started shopping for health insurance on healthcare.gov, and the site crashed.

“The Trump administration should do an immediate security audit of the Obamacare official website,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “In the meantime, Americans should be warned that their private health data is at risk on the Obamacare website.”

In September 2014, Judicial Watch released 94 pages of documents obtained from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) including Security Controls Assessment Test Plans sent by CMS to Mitre Corporation.  CMS advised Mitre that the highest “Risk Rating” should be given to flaws that could cause “political” damage to CMS.  Moderate and low “Risk Ratings” were to include those resulting in potential “public embarrassment” to the agency.

In March 2015, Judicial Watch released  documents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) worked with HHS on security for healthcare.gov.

In January 2016, Judicial Watch released documents showing federal health care officials’ concerns with the Obamacare website in two productions of records:  a 143-page production and an 886-page production.  The emails showed that CMS Security Officer Teresa Fryer’s refused to approve the “ATO” (Authorization to Operate).

Recently, Judicial Watch released 944 pages of Department of Health and Human Services records showing that the Obamacare website was launched despite serious concerns by its security testing contractor, Mitre Corporation, as well as internal executive-level apprehension about security.

Posted on

Judicial Watch: Abedin Emails Show Clinton Donors Receiving Special Treatment

huma+abedin+weiner+presser

July 15,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Washington DC , Judicial Watch continues their investigation on the “Clinton Email” scandal . In a statement released yesterday the group Judicial Watch said ,”Our understanding of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton’s State Department continues to expand as more of her illicit server’s emails are revealed.”

They went on with the following release

This week we released 448 pages of documents from the U.S. Department of State revealing new incidents of Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, providing special State Department treatment to major donors to the Clinton Foundation and political campaigns.

The heavily redacted documents from Abedin’s non-government account include an email from Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, to Abedin revealing that he acted as a go between for a Clinton Foundation donor, Richard Park. And they reveal Clinton Foundation executive Doug Band instructing Abedin to “show love” to Clinton donor Andrew Liveris.

The documents included six Clinton email exchanges not previously turned over to the State Department, bringing the known total to date to at least 439 emails that were not part of the 55,000 pages of emails that Clinton turned over to the State Department, and further contradicting a statement by Clinton that, “as far as she knew,” all of her government emails had been turned over to the State Department.

The documents are in response to a court order from a May 5, 2015, lawsuit filed against the State Department (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:15-cv-00684)) for: “All emails of official State Department business received or sent by former Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin from January 1, 2009 through February 1, 2013 using a non-‘state.gov’ email address.”

A number of emails show the free flow of information and requests for favors between Clinton’s State Department and the Clinton Foundation.

In July 2009, in reference to the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Clinton Global Initiative head Doug Band told Abedin that she “Need[s] to show love” to Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow Chemical. Band also asked for Liveris to be introduced to Hillary, “and have her mention both me and wjc”.  Dow gave between  $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative.  Band also pushes for Clinton to do a favor for Karlheinz Koegel, a major Clinton Foundation contributor, who wanted Hillary Clinton to give the “honor speech” for his media prize to “Merkel.”

The emails reveal that on June 19, 2009, Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, passed a long a letter for Hillary Clinton for Clinton donor Richard Park.  Park donated $100,000 to Bill Clinton as far back as 1993 and is listed by the Clinton Foundation as a $100,000 to $250,000 donor.

The Washington Examiner reported:

In March 2012, Bill Clinton received an invitation to speak at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea…. Richard Park’s friendship with Tony Rodham earned him a direct line to Hillary Clinton while she served as secretary of state. In January 2013, the Korean businessman sent Rodham an email and asked him to “forward this to your sister.”

On November 14, 2009, Clinton donor Ben Ringel, who has appeared in numerous prior emails asking for favors, emailed Abedin to get help in getting an Iranian woman a visa to come to the United States. He writes: “We need to get her clearance even only temporary to be with her granddaughter.” Abedin forwarded the request to Lauren Jiloty, asking her “Can U help Monday with consular affairs?” Jiloty replies, “Sure. Will look into it.”  Ringel donated between $10,000 and $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation.  In May, Band, working through Abedin, attempts to help Canadian concert promoter and Foundation donor Michael Cohl with the processing of a visa. Abedin passes the request to Monica Hanley, Clinton’s “confidential assistant.”

The emails show that the Clinton Foundation operative Band was involved in personnel matters at the Clinton State Department.  In a May 2009 email exchange between Band and Abedin, a “career post” to East Timor for someone is discussed. Abedin explains to Band that Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s then-chief of staff, was working on the situation “under the radar.”

In August 2009, Band tells Abedin of someone who wants to be the ambassador to Barbados. Abedin replies: “I know, he’s emailed a few times. But she wants to give to someone else.”

The emails also show that Abedin received advice from her mother, Saleha Abedin (a controversial Islamistactivist), on whom the Obama administration should appoint as the US Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.   She notes that she has obtained a recommendation from “Hassan” (NFI), and that she’d reached out to “Ishanoglu”. This is presumably Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a Turkish academic and the former Secretary-General of the OIC. Ihsanoglu famously called on the West to enact anti-Islamic blasphemy laws.

On Monday, June 8, Clinton emails her aide Lona Valmoro and Abedin asking to attend a cabinet meeting: “I heard on the radio that there is a Cabinet mtg this am. Is there? Can I go? If not, who are you sending?” Valmoro answers: “It is actually not a full cabinet meeting today – those agencies that received recovery money were invited to attend/participate. We were welcome to send a representative though, not sure if we have anyone going.”

Other emails found in Abedin’s unsecure email account appear to show additional instances of the Clinton State Department’s lax approach to protecting national security.

On July 4, 2009, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Jonathan “Scott” Gration sent Abedin an email that the State Department has classified in part and redacted because the information deals with “foreign governments” and “national defense or foreign policy.” Abedin forwarded Gration’s email to her personal, unsecure email account.  In his email, Gration related his meeting with Libyan president Muammar Qadafi, saying: “I conveyed our appreciation for Libya’s role to improve relations between Chad and Sudan … Leader al-Qadafi promised to continue his nation’s close collaboration with the United States … and is eager to meet you and President Obama.…” Gration would later be fired for, among other things, using personal email accounts to send government information.

A document titled “HRC PRIVATE LINE BLOCK” gives the planned whereabouts for President Obama for Thursday, June 4, 2009: “Attend POTUS Foreign Policy Speech at Cairo University.” In another example of lax concern for security, Valmoro forwarded Clinton’s detailed daily schedule for July 15, 2009, to officers of the Clinton Foundation, including Doug Band and Justin Cooper. Again, on July 26 Valmoro forwarded Hillary’s detailed, sensitive daily schedule to numerous Clinton Foundation officials.

In other examples of lax concern for security, on June 11, there is a reference to testing the “Federal preparedness and response for an international terrorist threat to the United States. [Principal-Level Exercise] will be a scenario-driven discussion for Cabinet Secretaries, agency Directors and Administrators, senior officials in the Executive Office of the President, or their approved representatives.” A document in Abedin’s unsecure email account dated May 2009 is titled “The Secretary’s Phone Call with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang” is marked sensitive but unclassified and fully redacted, as is a document titled “The Secretary’s Phone Call with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.”

I’m not sure how much more evidence of pay for play, classified information mishandling, and influence peddling from Clinton’s email server one would need to show for a serious criminal investigation is required.

Posted on

Judicial Watch Investigates if Gov. Christie’s Effort to Extort $300 Mil from Insurance Co. for Addiction Program is Part of Backdoor Deal with Former Chief of Staff

New Jersey Governor Christie gives news conference in Trenton

JUNE 27, 2017
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Trenton NJ, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to force the state’s largest health insurance company to dole out $300 million for a drug addiction treatment program for the poor, an egregious cash grab that media outlets call a “shake down” and “extortion.” Judicial Watch has launched an investigation into the Republican governor’s outrageous targeting of a nonprofit healthcare provider, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, that functions as a tax-paying health services corporation with nearly 4 million policyholders.

Here’s some background before getting into the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request filed by Judicial Watch last week; months ago, Christie launched a peculiar campaign to dig into Horizon’s multi-billion-dollar surplus to fund addiction programs as part of an effort to crack down on the state’s opioid epidemic. The unusual plan has encountered fierce opposition from a multitude of sources, including Democrats and Republicans, not to mention Horizon and the insurance industry in general. Christie has kept pushing, insisting that legislation be introduced to force Horizon to fund his dubious addiction experiment. A local newspaper reported that New Jersey Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto refuses to support such a measure, calling it a “bad bill”

The same newspaper article said that “Christie’s push to get some money from Horizon included a news conference on Wednesday to spotlight $15.5 million in citations against Horizon over its Medicaid contract compliance with the state, which the governor says predates his effort to use their surplus. He said the citations show that his proposal, which also includes adding board members and requiring the insurer to post information online, is needed.” However, Christie refused to reveal the citations and when the media tried to obtain them through the Open Public Records Act, the governor’s office asserted that “contractual obligations” prevented the release of the documents. Information involving the mysterious multi-million-dollar fine levied against Horizon is among the records Judicial Watch has requested from the Office of the Governor.

When disclosing the citations didn’t work, Christie threatened to withhold school funding unless state lawmakers pushed through legislation giving him $300 million from Horizon and power to add four political appointees to its board of directors. A local news report said Christie threw “an 11th-hour grenade” into state budget negotiations and called his Horizon cash grab a “raid.” This week a state Senate committee voted to allow the governor to control how much surplus Horizon may keep. “The state could require this extraordinary amount of control because Horizon’s charter would be changed to say it “shall have a charitable mission … to fulfill its obligation as an insurer of last resort in this state,” a local newspaper article states. The Assembly would still have to approve the measure and that seems unlikely according to the speaker’s public comments.

Many wonder what is really driving this issue for Christie. Why is the governor hitting a nonprofit healthcare provider with an excellent rating and modest reserves? Sources with firsthand knowledge of the situation tell Judicial Watch that the real story involves New Jersey insurance magnate George E. Norcross, who is chairman of the board of Cooper University Hospital in Camden and owns a piece of AmeriHealth, a small money-losing New Jersey insurer. Norcross is also Executive Chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew, one of the nation’s premier insurance, risk management and employee benefits brokerage and consulting firms. He’s been trying to force Horizon to buy the ailing AmeriHealth firm, sources tell Judicial Watch, but Horizon has refused. Christie’s former chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, works for Norcross at Cooper University Hospital. His official title is senior executive vice president and chief administrative officer. Judicial Watch’s public-records request asks for all communications between Christie, his current chief of staff, Amy Cradic, Norcross and O’Dowd concerning Horizon from June 2016 to date. This includes records regarding, concerning, or related to the following: The activities, operations, and/or management of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Inc; The activities, operations, and/or management of AmeriHealth Insurance Company of New Jersey, Inc; The activities, operations, and/or management of Cooper University Hospital and/or Cooper University Health Care; The activities, operations, and/or management of Conner Strong & Buckelew; The $15.5 million fine recently levied against Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Inc; Any proposed legislative or regulatory changes that would significantly impact Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, Inc.’s operations. This includes, but is not limited to, the proposals to alter the composition of the company’s board of directors and to reallocate a portion of the company’s financial reserves for public use.