The Pronk Pops Show Podcasts
Story 1: White House Throws Toga Party For Emperor Obama At Caesar’s Palace Only Democrats Invited– Emperor Obama Has No Clothes — Congress Throws Parade Thanks Obama — Twist and Shout Republicans Dance In The Streets — Videos
toga! toga! toga! Animal House
Ferris Bueller’s Twist And Shout
President Obama’s speech on immigration
Ted Cruz: We Are Witnessing A Constitutional Crisis • Kelly File
Krauthammer on Obama’s ‘flagrant assault’ on Constitution Fox News Video
Kurtz: Why broadcast networks are skipping Obama’s speech
O’Reilly to Jose Antonio Vargas: ‘You Don’t Have an Entitlement to Be Here’
Metro Detroit residents react to President Obama’s immigration plans
Locals, Governor Walker react to President Obama’s immigration address
USA: White House asked if Obama thinks he’s ‘emperor’ of the US
A Message Before the President’s Immigration Speech
‘Decimating Law Enforcement': Sessions Slams Obama
Obama: I Am Not A Dictator – 3/1/2013
Obama: The Problem Is … I’m Not the Emperor of the United States
President Obama’s Tea Party ‘Cousin’ Dr.Milton Wolf Wants to Stop Him From ‘Destroying America’
EXPLAINED: Why Obama is Authorizing up to 5 Million Illegals
Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration Is Unlikely to Include Health Benefits
BREAKING TODAY: Obama to Give 5 MILLION “Undocumented Immigrants” Amnesty!
Oath of office of the President of the United States
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The Constitution of the United States
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.
GOP senator warns of violence after immigration order
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama’s executive order on immigration Thursday.
“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”
Coburn, 66, is a conservative Republican but one who has a personal relationship with Obama. They entered the Senate in the same class, elected in 2004, and the new senators from opposite ends of the political spectrum and their spouses immediately hit it off at an orientation dinner. Last year, the president wrote a tribute in Time magazine to Coburn as “someone who speaks his mind (and) sticks to his principles.”
“I really like the guy,” Coburn, 66, told USA TODAY’s weekly video newsmaker series Wednesday. “I thought he’s neat, and I think Michelle’s a neat lady.”
That history gives Coburn’s stark assessment a special sting. On immigration, he accuses Obama of acting like “an autocratic leader that’s going to disregard what the Constitution says and make law anyway.” He says changes in immigration policy require passage by Congress, not just the president’s signature — a charge the White House disputes and on which legal experts disagree.
“Instead of having the rule of law handling in our country today, now we’re starting to have the rule of rulers, and that’s the total antithesis of what this country was founded on,” Coburn says. “Here’s how people think: Well, if the law doesn’t apply to the president … then why should it apply to me?”
Coburn, who also served three terms in the House of Representatives, is retiring two years before his second Senate term is up as he battles a recurrence of cancer. He has been a leading deficit hawk, nicknamed “Dr. No” for his steadfast opposition to spending and his blunt-spoken manner.
Though he says both parties deserve some of the blame for Washington’s dysfunction, he argues that the president has the ability to chart a different path. Solid Republican control of Congress in the wake of this month’s midterm elections could make it easier to deal with an issue such as the structural problems associated with the deficit. Making the compromises necessary for that “requires divided government,” he says.
“If I were in his office, I’d say, if you want to have a successful second term, dig down, swallow your pride, get what you can get, compromise on everything you can for the best interests of the country,” he says. “Bring us back together.”
Obama’s immigration speech Thursday night
Nov 20, 12:51 PM (ET)
By JIM KUHNHENN and ERICA WERNER
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is poised to claim broad authority to grant work permits to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States and to protect them from deportation. But Republicans are vowing an all-out fight against it.
“Congress will act,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned on the Senate floor Thursday, hours before Obama’s 8 p.m. EST address.
Obama “will come to regret” his action, McConnell said. “We’re considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”
Obama’s measures could make as many as 5 million people eligible for work permits, with the broadest action likely aimed at extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as long as those parents have been in the country for at least five years.
Other potential winners under Obama’s actions would be young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children but do not now qualify under a 2012 directive from the president that’s expected to be expanded. Changes also are expected to law enforcement programs and business visas.However, the plan would leave the fate of millions more unresolved. With more than 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally, Obama’s actions would not offer specific protections to more than half.
Still, Obama was expected to ensure that many of those not covered — immigrants who have lived illegally in the U.S. for 10 years or more or parents of citizens or permanent residents who have been in the country fewer than five years — would be given a lower priority for deportation, essentially sanctioning what is already current practice.
“What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem,” Obama said in a video posted Wednesday on Facebook.
On Thursday, Obama discussed the need for an overhaul of the immigration system in the context of science and technology, saying the U.S. benefits from innovations and discoveries by scientists and researchers who come here to pursue their work.
“Part of staying competitive in a global economy is making sure we have an immigration
system that doesn’t send away talent but attracts it,” Obama said at a White House ceremony recognizing achievements in science, technology and innovation. “So that’s what I’ll be talking about a little bit tonight.”But the vehement reactions of Republicans, who will have control of Congress come January, made clear that Obama was courting a serious partisan confrontation.
Some on the right pushed for using must-pass spending legislation to try to stop Obama’s effort. One lawmaker — Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama — raised the specter of impeachment.
Party leaders warned against such talk and sought to avoid spending-bill tactics that could lead to a government shutdown. They said such moves could backfire, alienating Hispanic voters and others.
In a closed-door meeting with other Senate Republicans, McConnell urged restraint. Still, there were concerns among some Republicans that the potential 2016 presidential candidates in the Senate would use the announcement to elevate their standing, challenging Obama directly.
And as far-reaching as Obama’s steps would be, they fall far short of what a comprehensive immigration overhaul passed by the Senate last year would have accomplished. The House never voted on that legislation. It would have set tougher border security standards, increased caps for visas for foreign high-skilled workers and allowed the 11 million immigrants illegally in the country to obtain work permits and begin a 10-year path toward green cards and, ultimately, citizenship.
“This is not the way we want to proceed. It will not solve the problem permanently,” White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri said Thursday on MSNBC.
None of those affected by Obama’s actions would have a direct path to citizenship, and his actions could be reversed by a new president after he leaves office. Moreover, officials said the eligible immigrants would not be entitled to federal benefits — including health care tax credits — under Obama’s plan.
Some immigrant advocates worried that even though Obama’s actions would make millions eligible for work permits, not all would participate out of fear that Republicans or a new president would reverse the executive orders.
“If the reaction to this is that the Republicans are going to do everything they can to tear this apart, to make it unworkable, the big interesting question will be, will our folks sign up knowing that there is this cloud hanging over it,” said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza.
Still, Democrats battered by election losses two weeks ago welcomed Obama’s steps.
“The last two weeks haven’t been great weeks for us,” said Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, one of 18 congressional Democrats who had dinner Wednesday night with Obama. “The president is about to change that.”
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Story 1: Republican Lincoln On Democrat Obama Trust Deficit — You can fool some people, but you can’t fool Mom — Deport All 20-50 Million Illegal Aliens in The United States — Keep Families Together In Their Country of Origin Not The United States — Videos
You can fool all the people some of the time,
and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character,
give him power.
Oath of office of the President of the United States
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The Constitution of the United States
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence.
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
Address Delivered at the Dedication of the Cemetery at Gettysburg
November 19, 1863
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln Quotes
Abraham Lincoln Bot – fool the people
You can fool some people, but you can’t fool Mom.
Obama to announce immigration executive action
Obama to Announce Immigration Plans
Obama Reminds Himself That He Violated The Constitution
65 Outrageous Lies by President Obama
Obama’s 10-point plan to violate the Constitution on illegal immigration
Illegal Immigration Sparks Constitutional Crisis in America – Megan Kelly, Charles Krauthammer
‘Against the Law': Sen. Sessions Slams ‘Executive Amnesty’
Senator Jeff Sessions on Immigration Enforcement
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) 7.28.2014 Obama’s Executive Amnesty
US Senate 7.24.2014 Jeff Sessions & Ted Cruz enter a collique on Obama’s executive amnesty
Barack Obama Constitution quote IN CONTEXT!
Napolitano: Obama is “Shredding the Constitution”
“The Obama Administration vs. The Constitution”
Next U.S. Senate Budget Chief Wants Short-term Spending Extension
Senator Jeff Sessions, expected to chair the Senate Budget Committee next year, called on his fellow Republicans to press for a short-term spending extension that would give them leverage over President Barack Obama’s immigration actions. He said Wednesday that he and a number of conservative lawmakers prefer a short-term government funding extension into early next year, when a Republican majority takes over in the Senate. Referring to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, Sessions said, “Senator Reid shouldn’t be entitled to bind the country next year when we’ve got a new Congress.”
Senator Jeff Sessions calls Barack Obama an “Emperor of the United States” now that the president is going ahead with executive amnesty.
“President Obama previously said he could not issue an executive amnesty because ‘I’m the President of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.’ Well, apparently we now have an ‘Emperor of the United States,’” Sessions writes in a statement.
“President Obama’s immigration order would provide illegal immigrants with the exact benefits Congress has repeatedly rejected: Social Security numbers, photo IDs and work permits—which will allow them to now take jobs directly from struggling Americans in every occupation. Congress must not allow this unconstitutional action. That means Congress should fund the government while ensuring that no funds can be spent on this unlawful purpose.”
Obama to act unilaterally on immigration, irking Republicans
By Steve Holland and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will outline a plan on Thursday to relax U.S. immigration policy for as many as 5 million people, bypassing Congress and angering Republicans.
U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, the leading Republican voice on fiscal policy and a potential 2016 presidential candidate, called the plan a “partisan bomb” while a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner branded the president “Emperor Obama” for acting unilaterally.
The White House said Obama will deliver a televised speech at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday (0100 GMT Friday) laying out the plan followed by a trip to Las Vegas on Friday. Nevada is home to the highest proportion of undocumented immigrants.
Frustrated by years of congressional inaction on what most in Washington agree is a broken immigration system, Obama said he is now prepared to use his executive authority.
Obama’s directives are expected to remove the threat of deportation for as many as 5 million of the estimated 11 million people living illegally in the United States.
The decision will cement his legacy as having aided Hispanics who helped elect him in 2008 and who have become increasingly vocal in their frustration that he has failed to live up to his promise to enact immigration reform.
The unilateral overhaul will likely have a ripple effect on the campaign to find a successor to the president in 2016. While Hispanics will no doubt be pleased, Democrats could face a backlash from voters.
Reaction was swift from Republicans who took control of the Senate in Nov. 4 elections and strengthened their grip on the House of Representatives.
While liberal Democrats were thrilled at Obama’s decision to move ahead, some moderate voices in Obama’s party were uneasy.
“I wish he wouldn’t do it,” said Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. “I just wish he wouldn’t do it.”
Obama will host 18 congressional Democrats at the White House to consolidate support for his immigration plans among his closest allies on Capitol Hill.
Some conservative Republicans have threatened to fight the immigration move by imposing funding restrictions in a must-pass spending bill, which could conceivably lead to a government shutdown.
Republican leaders, however, have stressed they will not allow a shutdown after facing heavy criticism for the last one a year ago.
House Republicans are weighing a range of responses to register their disapproval.
“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for congressional action on this issue and many others,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner.
For a president known for having deported thousands of illegal migrants, the actions he will take mark a dramatic shift in course, although advocacy groups will argue that he should go even further in protecting more people who work low-paying jobs that many American citizens prefer not to do.
Sources close to the administration said Obama is planning to issue a reprieve from deportation that will cover some parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.
That initiative would expand on a 2012 executive order by the president that gave relief from deportation and work permits to undocumented children brought to the United States by their parents.
There is also expected to be a border security element and Obama will act to help companies hire and retain high-skilled workers from abroad, the sources said.
Obama’s move is his most defiant step yet in reaction to the elections handing control of the Senate to Republicans. The new political order in Washington will test Obama’s ability to make compromises with his opponents.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 48 percent would prefer Obama not act on his own, while 38 percent support it and 14 percent had no opinion or were unsure.
The last major immigration overhaul that expanded the number of legal migrants was in 1986 through legislation signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan. An attempt by President George W. Bush in 2007 for immigration reform failed.
It is not out of the question that Obama early next year could offer to approve the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline from Canada in exchange for a deal on immigration legislation.
Despite claims that Obama may overstep his executive powers, Stephen Legomsky, a former U.S. immigration official who is now a professor at Washington University law school, said the president’s planned action appeared to fit well within the bounds of established law and prosecutorial discretion.
22 Times President Obama Said He Couldn’t Ignore or Create His Own Immigration Law
With the White House poised to grant executive amnesty any day now despite the American people’s staunch opposition, on Sunday President Obama was asked about the many, many statements he made in the past about his inability to unilaterally change or ignore immigration law. His response was astonishingly brazen: “Actually, my position hasn’t changed. When I was talking to the advocates, their interest was in me, through executive action, duplicating the legislation that was stalled in Congress.”
This is a flagrant untruth: “In fact, most of the questions that were posed to the president over the past several years were about the very thing that he is expected to announce within a matter of days,” reported The New York Times. “[T]he questions actually specifically addressed the sorts of actions that he is contemplating now,” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker agreed, awarding President Obama the rare “Upside-Down Pinocchio,” which signifies “a major-league flip-flop.” Even FactCheck.org piled on.
President Obama is once again trying to mislead Americans, but he can’t run from what he’s said over and over (and over) again. Not only are Americans not stupid – they can read:
- “I take the Constitution very seriously. The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with [the president] trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m President of the United States of America.” (3/31/08)
- “We’ve got a government designed by the Founders so that there’d be checks and balances. You don’t want a president who’s too powerful or a Congress that’s too powerful or a court that’s too powerful. Everybody’s got their own role. Congress’s job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it or he can sign it. … I believe in the Constitution and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end-run around Congress.” (5/19/08)
- “Comprehensive reform, that’s how we’re going to solve this problem. … Anybody who tells you it’s going to be easy or that I can wave a magic wand and make it happen hasn’t been paying attention to how this town works.” (5/5/10)
- “[T]here are those in the immigrants’ rights community who have argued passionately that we should simply provide those who are [here] illegally with legal status, or at least ignore the laws on the books and put an end to deportation until we have better laws. … I believe such an indiscriminate approach would be both unwise and unfair. It would suggest to those thinking about coming here illegally that there will be no repercussions for such a decision. And this could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration. And it would also ignore the millions of people around the world who are waiting in line to come here legally. Ultimately, our nation, like all nations, has the right and obligation to control its borders and set laws for residency and citizenship. And no matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable.” (7/1/10)
- “I do have an obligation to make sure that I am following some of the rules. I can’t simply ignore laws that are out there. I’ve got to work to make sure that they are changed.” (10/14/10)
- “I am president, I am not king. I can’t do these things just by myself. We have a system of government that requires the Congress to work with the Executive Branch to make it happen. I’m committed to making it happen, but I’ve got to have some partners to do it. … The main thing we have to do to stop deportations is to change the laws. … [T]he most important thing that we can do is to change the law because the way the system works – again, I just want to repeat, I’m president, I’m not king. If Congress has laws on the books that says that people who are here who are not documented have to be deported, then I can exercise some flexibility in terms of where we deploy our resources, to focus on people who are really causing problems as a opposed to families who are just trying to work and support themselves. But there’s a limit to the discretion that I can show because I am obliged to execute the law. That’s what the Executive Branch means. I can’t just make the laws up by myself. So the most important thing that we can do is focus on changing the underlying laws.” (10/25/10)
- “America is a nation of laws, which means I, as the President, am obligated to enforce the law. I don’t have a choice about that. That’s part of my job. But I can advocate for changes in the law so that we have a country that is both respectful of the law but also continues to be a great nation of immigrants. … With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed …. [W]e’ve got three branches of government. Congress passes the law. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws. There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President.” (3/28/11)
- “I can’t solve this problem by myself. … [W]e’re going to have to have bipartisan support in order to make it happen. … I can’t do it by myself. We’re going to have to change the laws in Congress, but I’m confident we can make it happen.” (4/20/11)
- “I know some here wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how democracy works. See, democracy is hard. But it’s right. Changing our laws means doing the hard work of changing minds and changing votes, one by one.” (4/29/11)
- “Sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how a democracy works. What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine, comprehensive reform. That is the ultimate solution to this problem. That’s what I’m committed to doing.” (5/10/11)
- “I swore an oath to uphold the laws on the books …. Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting. I promise you. Not just on immigration reform. But that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions. That’s not how our Constitution is written.” (7/25/11)
- “So what we’ve tried to do is within the constraints of the laws on the books, we’ve tried to be as fair, humane, just as we can, recognizing, though, that the laws themselves need to be changed. … The most important thing for your viewers and listeners and readers to understand is that in order to change our laws, we’ve got to get it through the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by Republicans, and we’ve got to get 60 votes in the Senate. … Administratively, we can’t ignore the law. … I just have to continue to say this notion that somehow I can just change the laws unilaterally is just not true. We are doing everything we can administratively. But the fact of the matter is there are laws on the books that I have to enforce. And I think there’s been a great disservice done to the cause of getting the DREAM Act passed and getting comprehensive immigration passed by perpetrating the notion that somehow, by myself, I can go and do these things. It’s just not true. … We live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it. And if all the attention is focused away from the legislative process, then that is going to lead to a constant dead-end. We have to recognize how the system works, and then apply pressure to those places where votes can be gotten and, ultimately, we can get this thing solved.” (9/28/11)
In June 2012, President Obama unilaterally granted deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), allowing “eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety … to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.” He then argued that he had already done everything he could legally do on his own:
- “Now, what I’ve always said is, as the head of the executive branch, there’s a limit to what I can do. Part of the reason that deportations went up was Congress put a whole lot of money into it, and when you have a lot of resources and a lot more agents involved, then there are going to be higher numbers. What we’ve said is, let’s make sure that you’re not misdirecting those resources. But we’re still going to, ultimately, have to change the laws in order to avoid some of the heartbreaking stories that you see coming up occasionally. And that’s why this continues to be a top priority of mine. … And we will continue to make sure that how we enforce is done as fairly and justly as possible. But until we have a law in place that provides a pathway for legalization and/or citizenship for the folks in question, we’re going to continue to be bound by the law. … And so part of the challenge as President is constantly saying, ‘what authorities do I have?’” (9/20/12)
- “We are a nation of immigrants. … But we’re also a nation of laws. So what I’ve said is, we need to fix a broken immigration system. And I’ve done everything that I can on my own[.]” (10/16/12)
- “I’m not a king. I am the head of the executive branch of government. I’m required to follow the law. And that’s what we’ve done. But what I’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we’re applying the law in a way that takes into account people’s humanity. That’s the reason that we moved forward on deferred action. Within the confines of the law we said, we have some discretion in terms of how we apply this law.” (1/30/13)
- “I’m not a king. You know, my job as the head of the executive branch ultimately is to carry out the law. And, you know, when it comes to enforcement of our immigration laws, we’ve got some discretion. We can prioritize what we do. But we can’t simply ignore the law. When it comes to the dreamers, we were able to identify that group and say, ‘These folks are generally not a risk. They’re not involved in crime. … And so let’s prioritize our enforcement resources.’ But to sort through all the possible cases of everybody who might have a sympathetic story to tell is very difficult to do. This is why we need comprehensive immigration reform. To make sure that once and for all, in a way that is, you know, ratified by Congress, we can say that there is a pathway to citizenship for people who are staying out of trouble, who are trying to do the right thing, who’ve put down roots here. … My job is to carry out the law. And so Congress gives us a whole bunch of resources. They give us an order that we’ve got to go out there and enforce the laws that are on the books. … If this was an issue that I could do unilaterally I would have done it a long time ago. … The way our system works is Congress has to pass legislation. I then get an opportunity to sign it and implement it.” (1/30/13)
- “This is something I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency. The problem is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed. And Congress right now has not changed what I consider to be a broken immigration system. And what that means is that we have certain obligations to enforce the laws that are in place even if we think that in many cases the results may be tragic.” (2/14/13)
- “I think that it is very important for us to recognize that the way to solve this problem has to be legislative. I can do some things and have done some things that make a difference in the lives of people by determining how our enforcement should focus. … And we’ve been able to provide help through deferred action for young people …. But this is a problem that needs to be fixed legislatively.” (7/16/13)
- “My job in the executive branch is supposed to be to carry out the laws that are passed. Congress has said ‘here is the law’ when it comes to those who are undocumented, and they’ve allocated a whole bunch of money for enforcement. And, what I have been able to do is to make a legal argument that I think is absolutely right, which is that given the resources that we have, we can’t do everything that Congress has asked us to do. What we can do is then carve out the DREAM Act folks, saying young people who have basically grown up here are Americans that we should welcome. … But if we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option. … What I’ve said is there is a there’s a path to get this done, and that’s through Congress.” (9/17/13)
- “[I]f, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws. That’s part of our tradition. And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend like I can do something by violating our laws. And what I’m proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic processes to achieve the same goal that you want to achieve. … It is not simply a matter of us just saying we’re going to violate the law. That’s not our tradition. The great thing about this country is we have this wonderful process of democracy, and sometimes it is messy, and sometimes it is hard, but ultimately, justice and truth win out.” (11/25/13)
- “I am the Champion-in-Chief of comprehensive immigration reform. But what I’ve said in the past remains true, which is until Congress passes a new law, then I am constrained in terms of what I am able to do. What I’ve done is to use my prosecutorial discretion, because you can’t enforce the laws across the board for 11 or 12 million people, there aren’t the resources there. What we’ve said is focus on folks who are engaged in criminal activity, focus on people who are engaged in gang activity. Do not focus on young people, who we’re calling DREAMers …. That already stretched my administrative capacity very far. But I was confident that that was the right thing to do. But at a certain point the reason that these deportations are taking place is, Congress said, ‘you have to enforce these laws.’ They fund the hiring of officials at the department that’s charged with enforcing. And I cannot ignore those laws any more than I could ignore, you know, any of the other laws that are on the books. That’s why it’s so important for us to get comprehensive immigration reform done this year.” (3/6/14)
- “I think that I never have a green light [to push the limits of executive power]. I’m bound by the Constitution; I’m bound by separation of powers. There are some things we can’t do. Congress has the power of the purse, for example. … Congress has to pass a budget and authorize spending. So I don’t have a green light. … My preference in all these instances is to work with Congress, because not only can Congress do more, but it’s going to be longer-lasting.” (8/6/14)
President Obama should listen to President Obama, drop his plan to “expand the authority of the executive branch into murky, uncharted territory,” and work with Congress rather than insisting on his stubborn, “my way or the highway” approach.
President Obama to make a statement on immigration Thursday night
President Barack Obama will make a statement on immigration on Thursday night, followed by a rally at a Las Vegas high school with Senator Harry Reid on Friday, two sources familiar with the situation told NBC News.
Results from a NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday found that the president is entering risky political territory with his planned action on immigration but that Americans broadly share his goals for policy reform.
In response, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said that the president’s “unilateral action, which is unconstitutional and illegal, will deeply harm our prospects for immigration reform.”
The White House made the official announcement of Obama’s planned action on immigration with a video on Facebook.
ndiana Governor Mike Pence told NBC News on Wednesday that Congress should use “the power of the purse” to prevent the president from taking executive action on immigration.
The governor did not rule out a government shutdown, which one Republican leader had held open on Sunday as a possible means of stopping such presidential action.
Pence is one of more than half-a-dozen potential presidential candidates gathering in Florida to celebrate Republican victories in governor’s races this fall.
“But I will say this, as the president has said many times, legislative action is always preferable, but we’ve waited now for years for the Congress to act. And the Congress has not acted,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a National Press Club event in the morning.
Johnson went on to list the various efforts in the Senate to pass immigration reform only to not make it through the House.
Earlier on Wednesday, CNBC confirmed that the president planned to announce an executive order in Las Vegas on Friday to address immigration.
Another source familiar with the situation told CNBC that Obama could yet give a broader outline on an immigration order on Thursday and add detail on Friday.
The president has been long expected to make an announcement that would protect up to five million unauthorized immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide work permits.
Partisan fighting erupted in the summer over how to address the increased flow of unaccompanied minors from Central America at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Read MoreObama draws line: Won’t sign repeal of Obamacare
Obama has asked for $3.7 billion to address the border crisis. In the summer, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, however, passed a measure that only gave Obama a fraction of what he sought and made it easier to deport the young migrants arriving at the border, a provision opposed by Democrats and immigration advocates. In the end, Congress adjourned without a final bill.
The Democratic-led Senate last year passed a broad overhaul of immigration with support from some Republicans that boosted border security, increased visas for legal immigrants and a provided a path to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the country.
Read MoreGOP, Obama immigration battle’s big risk: A shutdown
But the Republican-controlled House balked at acting on any broad measure and House Speaker John Boehner informed Obama earlier this year that the House would not act in 2014. That led Obama to declare he would act on his own by issuing executive orders.
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Story 1: The Select Committee on Benghazi Will Never Answer The Most Important Questions — Why Was The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) In Benghazi, Libya and What Were They Doing? — Shipping Arms Through Turkey To The Syrian Rebels — Free Syrian Army, Al Nustra, Islamic State — Al Qaeda Arms Deal Gone Bad — Congress and Obama Arms Our Enemies To Kill Christians — The War on Christians! — Videos
The Tyrant’s Liars Club
Benghazi Select Committee Holds First Public Hearing Trey Gowdy On The Record
Watch Live: Select Committee on Benghazi Holds First Hearing
President Obama announces bipartisan House and Senate support of his plan to arm rebels in Syria
Islamic State: Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels approved
Rand Paul Lambasts White House, Congress for Arming Syrian Rebels
General: Benghazi ‘Botched Arms Deal’ To Muslim Brotherhood And Al Qaeda
Chairman Gowdy’s Questioning in First Benghazi Select Committee Hearing
Trey Gowdy Demands Answers On Benghazi
Rand Paul Destroys Hillary Clinton Over Benghazi-Gate During Capitol Hill Press Conference
Chaffetz: Clinton’s Top Aides Involved In Benghazi Documents Scrub
Hillary allies secretly removed Benghazi documents damaging to her ahead of ARB probe
Obama Admin Lied To Us! They Knew Who Attack Us In Benghazi, Libya On 9-11!!
RUSH: Benghazi Cover-Up Blown Wide Open And Nobody’s Talking About It
CIA Arming Syrian Rebels With Missiles, Taxpayer Dollars
Congress Passes War Funding To Support Obama’s ISIS Fight
The Benghazi Select Committee: Many Questions Remain Unanswered
Patrick Cockburn on the rise of the Islamic State
The Rise of ISIS: US Invasion of Iraq, Foreign Backing of Syrian Rebels Helped Fuel Jihadis’ Advance
Patrick Cockburn: U.S. Turns Blind Eye As Saudis Fund Jihadists in Syrian Conflict (2 of 2)
Syria – Who are Jabhat al-Nusra? – Truthloader
Who are ISIS? – Truthloader
Thousands of Surface To Air Missiles Are Missing In Libya
Libya rebels discover Gaddafi’s huge tank store in Tripoli ready for battle
The largest arms depot in Africa ( Alqaha)been taking over by Libyan freedom fighters
Benghazi, Arms for Rebels & Obama Lies About Syrian Chemical Weapons
FSA rebels shoot down SAA aircraft with 9K38 “Igla” MANPADS
Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra Front): Reports on Terror Group from CNN & Al-Jazeera… Purpose Explained!
13 Hours – Full Interview of the Three Benghazi Survivors – Fox News
Benghazi – The Truth Behind The Smokescreen – Bret Baier Reporting
Glenn Beck Why Obama Hid the Truth of Benghazi
Rep. Trey Gowdy blasts Jay Carney and Ambassador Susan Rice: I want to know why we were lied to!
Susan Rice Caught Lying About Benghazi – Rep. Trey Gowdy Whistleblower Questioning
Treason Exposed! Obama Used Benghazi Attack to Cover Up Arms Shipments to Muslim Brotherhood
CIA Pressuring Agents With Knowledge Of Benghazi To Keep Silent
SYRIA CNBC: Benghazi Is Not About Libya But An Operation To Put Arms & Men In Syria
Retired Lt Gen Jerry Boykin suspects US Was Running Guns To Syrian Rebels Via Benghazi
SYRIA Rand Paul “Maybe We Were Facilitating Arms Leaving Libya Going Through Turkey Into Syria”
Rand Paul Blasts Stupid Senate for Wanting to Arm Syrian al-Qaeda Fighters
Sen. Rand Paul: ‘Worldwide War on Christianity’ Ignored by Obama, Media
House Votes to Arm Syrian Rebels; CR Passes (Updated) (Video)
After voting to give President Barack Obama the authority to arm and train Syrian rebels, the House passed legislation Wednesday to fund the government until Dec. 11, moving the bill to avoid a government shutdown and address Islamic State organizations to the Senate.
House lawmakers voted 319-108 to pass the continuing resolution, with 143 Democrats joining 176 Republicans in support of the measure. 55 Democrats and 53 Republicans voted against the bill.
A vote on the spending bill, which will continue government spending through Dec. 11 at a $1.012 trillion level, was delayed last week so lawmakers could attach a request from the president to give him Title 10 authority to fight the Islamic State group.
That authority would allow the Obama administration to equip Syrian rebels for the intended purpose of fighting ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also referred to as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Obama praised the House and urged the Senate to follow suit on the legislation, which he reiterated is not an authorization for the use of U.S. troops in Syria.
“Today’s vote is another step closer to having the authorization to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition so they can defend themselves against, and ultimately push back on, ISIL forces,” he said in a statement
Just before the CR vote, lawmakers voted 273-156 to adopt the Syrian rebel amendment. 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats voted for the proposal, while 85 Republicans and 71 Democrats voted against it.
As voting on the amendment took place, members stared at the board in the House chamber showing who was voting for the amendment and who was voting against it. Despite a tally that was never really close, it was a dramatic vote.
Much of the debate on the CR turned into a debate on the proposal to arm Syrian rebels, and, more broadly, the specter of another war in the Middle East. In fact, the CR has become such a proxy for the Syria amendment that the Club for Growth, a conservative group opposed to the spending bill, withdrew its key vote on the legislation, explaining that the vote was now largely driven by foreign policy.
But if it were true that foreign policy was driving decisions on the CR, then it was the memories of past foreign policy decisions largely driving this current debate.
Liberal Democrats and some conservative Republicans worried on the House floor that this initial authorization was the first step of a larger military entanglement.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a staunch opponent of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said the six-hour debate on the amendment reminded her of “the failure to have a thorough and robust debate in the wake of 9/11,” which, she said resulted in an overly broad authorization that was a “blank check for perpetual war.”
Other members voted against the amendment because they worried of an opposite effect. Louisiana Republican John Fleming expressed concern that the authorization was “little more than an incremental strategy, not unlike the one used in Vietnam.”
“History warns of the dangers of such approaches,” Fleming said. “By moving hesitantly in piecemeal fashion, the enemy has more time to learn, adapt and get stronger. This is a recipe for a stalemate and failure.”
Many other lawmakers expressed concern over the stated strategy of arming the Free Syrian Army. They said there was no guarantee those rebels would always be allies of the United States, or that they wouldn’t simply use their U.S.-supplied weapons to take down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad instead of ISIL.
The Obama administration says there will be a thorough vetting process before any Syrian rebel is handed a weapon, but, by Wednesday, many lawmakers remained less than convinced. California Republican Dana Rohrabacher called the administration’s plan “wishful thinking, not realistic planning.”
But congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle insisted the authority was needed.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said earlier Wednesday that Obama deserved the support of Democrats in what she acknowledged was a “war vote,” but a proposal that was “discrete” and “short-term.”
“It is not pleasant, it’s not easy,” Pelosi later said on the House floor. “It’s hard. But it really is necessary for the House to approve this.”
Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., said ISIL was already threatening U.S. allies in the Middle East and in Europe. ”And if left unchecked,” he said, “it will surely threaten us here at home.”
The ranking Democrat on the Armed Services panel, Adam Smith of Washington, argued that arming Syrian rebels would deny ISIL a “safe-haven,” and Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, who sponsored the amendment, said there was “no doubt” that any strategy to defeat ISIL would need to include a Syria component.
The plan to arm Syrian rebels is a middle-of-the-road response to the rise of ISIL. It isn’t an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, as the amendment explicitly indicates, and it won’t, by itself, dismantle terrorists in the region. But it’s not nothing.
Speaker John A. Boehner appealed to his conference by arguing this was a first step toward defeating ISIL, saying Congress had a responsibility to give the president this authority. While hetold reporters Tuesday there’s “a lot more” the U.S. needed to be doing to address ISIL, the Ohio Republican said there was “no reason not to do what the president asked us to do.”
Already, GOP leaders seem to be indicating that the House may soon consider a new authorization for use of military force for the Middle East, with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthytelling reporters on Monday that, “after November,” there may be an “opportunity” to debate a larger military authorization.
As for the CR itself, the 10-week extension, if it is — as expected — agreed to by the Senate and signed by the president, will force lawmakers to return after the midterm elections and begin work on a more permanent spending solution. Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said he was hopeful the House and Senate could work out an omnibus package similar to the one lawmakers worked out in January 2014.
“It is my sincere hope that if this CR is enacted, we can use the coming months wisely to craft agreement on all 12 bills by Dec. 11,” said the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Nita M. Lowey of New York. “There is absolutely no reason to punt our responsibilities into the new year and new Congress.”
Conservatives had pushed for a longer CR — one that would fund the government until, say, March 1, 2015 — so that a new Congress, perhaps one with a Senate under Republican control, could set the spending levels. Conservatives also voiced concern over extending the Export-Import Bank until June 30, 2015. They wanted to simply let the credit agency expire.
But the reauthorization until June 30 seemed to scare Democrats more than Republicans. Democrats are showing unease that they won’t have a must-pass bill in June to which they can attach another extension of the Ex-Im Bank, and they worry that decoupling the agency from a spending bill will ultimately kill it.
Democrats seemed to understand, however, that holding up the CR over the length of extension on such an inside-the-Beltway issue would not be politically advantageous just before an election.
Passing the CR allows both Republicans and Democrats to get back to their districts early and campaign for about six weeks before the midterms. While the House is scheduled to be in session next week, most aides expect McCarthy to cancel the remaining legislative days before November and send everyone to the campaign trail early.
Clinton insiders screened Benghazi documents before ARB probe, official says
BY ED MORRISSEY
Just how unfettered was that “unfettered access” promised by the State Department to the Accountability Review Board in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack two years ago? According to one of the four officials punished and then cleared by State for the failures that led to the death of four men, a weekend housecleaning operation kept the ARB from seeing some of the most explosive documentation related to the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens. Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell told Sharyl Attkisson that the operation was supervised by advisers within Hillary Clinton’s inner circle, in this Daily Signal exclusive:
As the House Select Committee on Benghazi prepares for its first hearing this week, a former State Department diplomat is coming forward with a startling allegation: Hillary Clinton confidants were part of an operation to “separate” damaging documents before they were turned over to the Accountability Review Board investigating security lapses surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.
According to former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, the after-hours session took place over a weekend in a basement operations-type center at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. This is the first time Maxwell has publicly come forward with the story. …
When he arrived, Maxwell says he observed boxes and stacks of documents. He says a State Department office director, whom Maxwell described as close to Clinton’s top advisers, was there. Though the office director technically worked for him, Maxwell says he wasn’t consulted about her weekend assignment.
“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisors.
“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”
Not long afterward, two people high up the State Department chain arrived to check on the operation. Attkisson describes them as “close confidants” of Hillary Clinton, probably from Maxwell’s own description, although neither are named in Attkisson’s report. Maxwell says that both of them accompanied him into another office with a fourth person, where they personally vetted more documents:
Maxwell says after those two officials arrived, he, the office director and an intern moved into a small office where they looked through some papers. Maxwell says his stack included pre-attack telegrams and cables between the U.S. embassy in Tripoli and State Department headquarters. After a short time, Maxwell says he decided to leave.
“I didn’t feel good about it,” he said.
Don’t expect that this will disappear as quietly. Maxwell says that members of the select House committee on Benghazi have already deposed him on this weekend filing session, including both chair Trey Gowdy and Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz told Attkisson that he is “100% confident the Benghazi Select Committee is going to dive deep on that issue.”
The ARB has insisted all along that they conducted a thorough and independent probe, a claim at which Maxwell scoffs on both counts in Attkisson’s report. This could let them off the hook, though. If State conspired to hide evidence from them, it will give the ARB an opening to withdraw their report — which would be a PR move entirely, since the ARB had no authoritative status otherwise — and give Congress even more validation for pursuing this in select-committee form. If Maxwell testifies to this in open session and the BSC finds one or more corroborating witnesses, it will put this right back front and center. And we may still yet hear from the unnamed advisers, too, as to what their orders were, and who gave them.
Benghazi Post-Attack Satellite Revelations
Benghazi, Libya showing the locations of the U. S. Consulate and CIA Annex on the outskirts of town
Perplexing questions yet remain surrounding the attacks in Benghazi that killed U.S. Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
Satellite images taken before and AFTER the attacks, which anyone can view on Google Earth, show evidence of the attacks at both the Consulate and CIA Annex. They help clarify conditions on the ground at the time.
Google Earth (GE) is an incredibly useful online tool. With it, armchair sleuths at home can uncover important details about news events that get overlooked by the big shot mainstream media.
Such is the case with the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.
Geography and News Events
Google Earth provides two unique capabilities to the armchair sleuth:
- A scalable geographic look at any place on Earth and its surroundings
- A history of images of that place to investigate its background and history
Most important for investigating the Benghazi attacks is that the most current GE satellite image of both the Consulate and CIA Annex were taken on 9/17/2012, just 6 days after the attack.
GE’s image history is used to go back and forth between before and after images to identify evidence of the attacks visible from space.
For the attack on the CIA Annex this is particularly important because Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed when hit by mortar fire while defending the Annex from a rooftop position.
The U.S. Consulate
Plainly visible on the satellite image of the Consulate complex are the burned out remains of two vehicles, the charred remains of burnt furniture next to one of the vehicles and the couch and other things tossed into the swimming pool by either the terrorists or looters.
GE shows us that the U.S. Consulate is located on the outskirts of Benghazi in a very open area surrounded by an orchard and soccer field. Contrary to news reports, GE tells us it is in a narrow rectangular shaped property about 300 feet wide and 800 feet long.
The property is surrounded by trees with no visible wall. It was built as a residence. It has two gates.
The back gate has no defenses whatsoever.
The consulate has three main buildings and a guardhouse at the front gate. The front gate has been fortified with barriers since October of 2011. Those barriers are the only visible signs of increased security at the Consulate. The unprotected back gate opens onto Fourth Ring Road, one of the main streets circling Benghazi.
Its three main structures are the consulate building, a detached Ambassador’s residence with saferoom where Ambassador Stephens was found; and a nearby guard barracks near the front gate.
GE history reveals the main consulate building, detached residence and swimming pool were a lonely patch of dirt in August of 2007 and that they were under construction in June of 2009. Little has changed since then.
During the consulate attack Navy SEAL Woods and others came from the CIA Annex, fought their way to consulate, rescued staff and recovered the body of Sean Smith. They took them back to the CIA Annex from the consulate.
The CIA Annex
CIA Annex showing where mortar rounds struck building tops and grounds
Line of sight, the CIA Annex complex is located about a mile from the consulate next to what appears to be a large warehouse with many buildings.
The annex is within a thick wall surrounding a 300 X 400 foot rectangle. It is better fortified and much more defensible than the consulate. It is also closer to civilian targets.
The annex took mortar fire. Mortar strikes show up as distinct smudges on the satellite image near the red dots. Navy SEALs Doherty and Woods were killed by one of the rooftop mortar strikes.
GE history reveals the annex was built some time after June 28th, 2009.
From satellite images it is easy to see why Ambassador Stephens would be seriously concerned about consulate security, especially given all the al Qaeda activity in area and previous attacks.
The consulate, originally built as someone’s house, was barely modified after it was acquired by the U.S. government. It is not even clear from satellite imagery that it had a surrounding wall. Its unguarded back gate opens onto a main Benghazi street and is easily penetrable.
The Annex is better protected and was successfully defended against a physical breach, albeit at the cost of Doherty and Woods who gave their lives defending the annex from a rooftop position.
Woods and Doherty probably deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor for their heroic efforts.
Armchair sleuthing reveals this immutable fact… the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, one of the most dangerous places in the world, was woefully under-protected at the time of the attacks. The warning signs of another inevitable attack were all present. Those up the chain of command had been told.
Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith and the others didn’t stand a chance.
Someone MUST be held accountable!
Intrigue Surrounding The Secret CIA Operation In Benghazi Is Not Going Away
In May CNN’s Jake Tapper argued that the CIA’s presence in Benghazi, where four Americans were killed in an attack on September 11, 2012, should be scrutinized.
Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Va.) agreed, saying: “There are questions that must be asked of the CIA and this must be done in a public way.”
The Agency, for its part, doesn’t want anyone knowing what it was doing in the Libyan port city.
On Thursday Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston of CNN reported that the CIA “is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.”
Sources told CNN that 35 Americans were in Benghazi that night — 21 of whom were working out of the annex — and that several were wounded, some seriously.
One source said: “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”
Among the questions are whether CIA missteps contributed to the security failure in Benghazi and, more importantly, whether the Agency’s Benghazi operation had anything to do with reported heavy weapons shipments from the local port to Syrian rebels.
In short, the CIA operation is the most intriguing thing about Benghazi.
Here’s what we know:
At about 9:40 p.m. local time on Sept. 11, a mob of Libyans attacked a building housing U.S. State Department personnel. At 10:20 p.m. Americans arrived from a CIA annex located 1.2 miles away, to help the besieged Americans. At 11:15 p.m. they fled with survivors back to the secret outpost.
Armed Libyans followed them and attacked the annex with rockets and small arms from around midnight to 1:00 a.m., when there was a lull in the fighting.
Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL and CIA security contractor, was with a team of Joint Special Operations Command military operators and CIA agents in Tripoli at the time of the attack. When they received word of the assault on the mission, Doherty and six others bribed the pilots of small jet with $30,000 cash for a ride to Benghazi.
At about 5:15 a.m., right after Doherty’s group arrived, the attackers began shooting mortars at the annex, leading to the death of Doherty and fellow former Navy SEAL and CIA contractor Tyrone Woods.
At 6 a.m. Libyan forces from the military intelligence service arrived and subsequently took more than 30 Americans — only seven of whom were from the State Department — to the Benghazi airport.
So the CIA’s response to go to the mission where Ambassador Christopher Stevens was located, after being held back for 20 minutes, saved American lives but also ended up exposing the annex.
And according to Paula Broadwell, the mistress of David Petraeus when he was CIA director, the CIA may have provided an impetus for the attack by holding prisoners: “Now I don’t know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back.”‘
At its heart a CIA operation’
The top-secret presence and location of the CIA outpost was first acknowledged by Charlene Lamb, a top official in the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, during Congressional testimony in October.
Representatives Jason Chaffetz and Darrell Issa immediately called a point of order when Lamb exposed the location of the annex, and asked for the revelation to be stricken from the record.
“I totally object to the use of that photo,” Chaffetz. said. “I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not ever talk about what you’re showing here today.”
In November The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. mission in Benghazi “was at its heart a CIA operation.”
In January, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that the CIA was leading a “concerted effort to try to track down and find and recover … MANPADS [man-portable air defense systems]” looted from the stockpiles of toppled Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
The State Department “consulate” served as diplomatic cover for the previously-hidden annex.
Weapons from Benghazi to Syria
Also in October we reported the connection between Ambassador Stevens, who died in the attack, and a reported September shipment of SA-7 surface-to-air anti-craft missiles (i.e. MANPADS) and rocket-propelled grenades from Benghazi to Syria through southern Turkey.
That 400-ton shipment — “the largest consignment of weapons” yet for Syrian rebels — was organized by Abdelhakim Belhadj, who was the newly-appointed head of the Tripoli Military Council.
In March 2011 Stevens, the official U.S. liaison to the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan rebels, worked directly with Belhadj while he headed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
Stevens’ last meeting on Sept. 11 was with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, and a source told Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi “to negotiate a weapons transfer in an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.”
Syrian rebels subsequently began shooting down Syrian helicopters and fighter jets with SA-7s akin to those in Qaddafi’s looted stock. (The interim Libyan government also sent money and fighters to Syria.)
What did the CIA know?
Collectively these details raise the question of what the CIA knew, given that Agency operatives in Libya were rounding up SA-7s, ostensibly to destroy them, while operatives in southern Turkey were funneling weapons to the rebels.
The State Department told CNN that it was not involved in any transfer of weapons to other countries, but it “can’t speak for any other agencies.”
Ambassador Stevens certainly would have known if the new Libyan government was sending 400 tons of heavy weapons to Turkey from Benghazi’s port.
Just like the CIA would know if those the weapons arrived in Turkey and began showing up in Syria.
Journalist Damien Spleeters created this sourced map, drawing info shared on social media such as YouTube, that gives an idea of the MANPADS presence in Syria.
We’ve added red tag noting the Turkish port, Iskenderun, where the massive SA-7 shipment docked.
And this map of nearby Turkish highways shows that the heavy weapons could have been transported from the port to the Syrian city of Aleppo in three hours.
Other intriguing details
This week Nancy Youssef of McClatchy reported that Ambassador Stevens twice turned down offers for additional security, despite specifically asking for more men in cables to the State Department.
Right after the attack American Matthew VanDyke, who fought with Libyan rebels during their revolution, told us he suspected that extremist groups in the nearby mountains — who felt marginalized by the new Libyan government — “saw their opportunity to pounce.”
In May Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.) told CNN: “I’ve actually always suspected that, although I have no evidence, that maybe we were facilitating arms leaving Libya going through Turkey into Syria. … Were they trying to obscure that there was an arms operation going on at the CIA annex? I’m not sure exactly what was going on, but I think questions ought to be asked and answered.”
So now that the White House has released more than 100 pages of Benghazi emails, and the State Department’s role during and after the attack have been probed ad nauseam, the only thing to explore is “whatever [the CIA] was doing.”
UN has testimony showing Syrian rebels used sarin gas
WW3 UPDATE – U.S. Intelligence: Rebels Used Sarin Gas
U.N. Strong Suspicions That Syrian Rebels Used Sarin Gas
Syria Gas Attack – ‘Eyes Twitching, Noses Foaming’ (CNN, 30Aug13)
Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Caught with Sarin Gas inside Turkey
Seymour Hersh: Obama “Cherry Picked” Intel on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike (1 of 2)
Seymour Hersh: Obama “Cherry Picked” Intel on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike (2 of 2)
Sy Hersh Reveals Potential Turkish Role in Syria Chemical Strike That Almost Sparked U.S. Bombing
U.S. Ship Finishes Neutralizing Syria’s Worst Chemical Arms: Pentagon
Syrian Sarin gas chemicals destroyed.
The Red Line and the Rat Line
Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels
In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.＊ Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.
Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.
For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’
The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)
Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.
The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had ‘self-identified’ as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the ‘ANF emir for military manufacturing’. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided ‘price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors’. Abd-al-Ghani’s plan was for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria’. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the ‘Baghdad chemical market’, which ‘has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004’.
A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’
In the months before the attacks began, a former senior Defense Department official told me, the DIA was circulating a daily classified report known as SYRUP on all intelligence related to the Syrian conflict, including material on chemical weapons. But in the spring, distribution of the part of the report concerning chemical weapons was severely curtailed on the orders of Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. ‘Something was in there that triggered a shit fit by McDonough,’ the former Defense Department official said. ‘One day it was a huge deal, and then, after the March and April sarin attacks’ – he snapped his fingers – ‘it’s no longer there.’ The decision to restrict distribution was made as the joint chiefs ordered intensive contingency planning for a possible ground invasion of Syria whose primary objective would be the elimination of chemical weapons.
The former intelligence official said that many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president’s red line: ‘The joint chiefs asked the White House, “What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?” They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president’s reasoning.’
In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.
Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron’s bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force – a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya – was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; François Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria.
By the last days of August the president had given the Joint Chiefs a fixed deadline for the launch. ‘H hour was to begin no later than Monday morning [2 September], a massive assault to neutralise Assad,’ the former intelligence official said. So it was a surprise to many when during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on 31 August Obama said that the attack would be put on hold, and he would turn to Congress and put it to a vote.
At this stage, Obama’s premise – that only the Syrian army was capable of deploying sarin – was unravelling. Within a few days of the 21 August attack, the former intelligence official told me, Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence; this was the material sent to Porton Down. (A spokesperson for Porton Down said: ‘Many of the samples analysed in the UK tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.’ MI6 said that it doesn’t comment on intelligence matters.)
The former intelligence official said the Russian who delivered the sample to the UK was ‘a good source – someone with access, knowledge and a record of being trustworthy’. After the first reported uses of chemical weapons in Syria last year, American and allied intelligence agencies ‘made an effort to find the answer as to what if anything, was used – and its source’, the former intelligence official said. ‘We use data exchanged as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The DIA’s baseline consisted of knowing the composition of each batch of Soviet-manufactured chemical weapons. But we didn’t know which batches the Assad government currently had in its arsenal. Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.’
The process hadn’t worked as smoothly in the spring, the former intelligence official said, because the studies done by Western intelligence ‘were inconclusive as to the type of gas it was. The word “sarin” didn’t come up. There was a great deal of discussion about this, but since no one could conclude what gas it was, you could not say that Assad had crossed the president’s red line.’ By 21 August, the former intelligence official went on, ‘the Syrian opposition clearly had learned from this and announced that “sarin” from the Syrian army had been used, before any analysis could be made, and the press and White House jumped at it. Since it now was sarin, “It had to be Assad.”’
The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’ (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.’) By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready.
The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. ‘There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,’ the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘there’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.’
Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack – would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout – the story the press corps told – was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he’d been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘that the Middle East would go up in smoke’ if it was carried out.
The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.
Obama’s move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. ‘Congress was not going to let this go by,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Congress made it known that, unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.’ At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. ‘And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.’ At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: ‘The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.’ But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: ‘Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week … But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.’ As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,’ the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’ (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.’)
The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)
In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)
The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.
The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’
Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.
By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’
There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.
An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.
The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)
But Erdoğan did not leave empty handed. Obama was still permitting Turkey to continue to exploit a loophole in a presidential executive order prohibiting the export of gold to Iran, part of the US sanctions regime against the country. In March 2012, responding to sanctions of Iranian banks by the EU, the SWIFT electronic payment system, which facilitates cross-border payments, expelled dozens of Iranian financial institutions, severely restricting the country’s ability to conduct international trade. The US followed with the executive order in July, but left what came to be known as a ‘golden loophole’: gold shipments to private Iranian entities could continue. Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and it took advantage of the loophole by depositing its energy payments in Turkish lira in an Iranian account in Turkey; these funds were then used to purchase Turkish gold for export to confederates in Iran. Gold to the value of $13 billion reportedly entered Iran in this way between March 2012 and July 2013.
The programme quickly became a cash cow for corrupt politicians and traders in Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. ‘The middlemen did what they always do,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Take 15 per cent. The CIA had estimated that there was as much as two billion dollars in skim. Gold and Turkish lira were sticking to fingers.’ The illicit skimming flared into a public ‘gas for gold’ scandal in Turkey in December, and resulted in charges against two dozen people, including prominent businessmen and relatives of government officials, as well as the resignations of three ministers, one of whom called for Erdoğan to resign. The chief executive of a Turkish state-controlled bank that was in the middle of the scandal insisted that more than $4.5 million in cash found by police in shoeboxes during a search of his home was for charitable donations.
Late last year Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz reported in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration closed the golden loophole in January 2013, but ‘lobbied to make sure the legislation … did not take effect for six months’. They speculated that the administration wanted to use the delay as an incentive to bring Iran to the bargaining table over its nuclear programme, or to placate its Turkish ally in the Syrian civil war. The delay permitted Iran to ‘accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime’.
The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘It can’t come through Jordan because the terrain in the south is wide open and the Syrians are all over it. And it can’t come through the valleys and hills of Lebanon – you can’t be sure who you’d meet on the other side.’ Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’
A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described ‘the acute anxiety’ of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels’ dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed ‘the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response’. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’
As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’
The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’
Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of a government national security meeting, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan’s spoke of creating a provocation: ‘Now look, my commander, if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.’ The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.
Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’
Seymour M. Hersh
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
In his nationally televised speech about Syria on 10 September, Obama laid the blame for the nerve gas attack on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta firmly on Assad’s government, and made it clear he was prepared to back up his earlier public warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’: ‘Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people,’ he said. ‘We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.’ Obama was going to war to back up a public threat, but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August.
He cited a list of what appeared to be hard-won evidence of Assad’s culpability: ‘In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.’ Obama’s certainty was echoed at the time by Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, who told the New York Times: ‘No one with whom I’ve spoken doubts the intelligence’ directly linking Assad and his regime to the sarin attacks.
But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’
The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack. The military intelligence community has for years produced a highly classified early morning intelligence summary, known as the Morning Report, for the secretary of defence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a copy also goes to the national security adviser and the director of national intelligence. The Morning Report includes no political or economic information, but provides a summary of important military events around the world, with all available intelligence about them. A senior intelligence consultant told me that some time after the attack he reviewed the reports for 20 August through 23 August. For two days – 20 and 21 August – there was no mention of Syria. On 22 August the lead item in the Morning Report dealt with Egypt; a subsequent item discussed an internal change in the command structure of one of the rebel groups in Syria. Nothing was noted about the use of nerve gas in Damascus that day. It was not until 23 August that the use of sarin became a dominant issue, although hundreds of photographs and videos of the massacre had gone viral within hours on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites. At this point, the administration knew no more than the public.
Obama left Washington early on 21 August for a hectic two-day speaking tour in New York and Pennsylvania; according to the White House press office, he was briefed later that day on the attack, and the growing public and media furore. The lack of any immediate inside intelligence was made clear on 22 August, when Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the State Department, told reporters: ‘We are unable to conclusively determine [chemical weapons] use. But we are focused every minute of every day since these events happened … on doing everything possible within our power to nail down the facts.’ The administration’s tone had hardened by 27 August, when Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, told reporters – without providing any specific information – that any suggestions that the Syrian government was not responsible ‘are as preposterous as suggestions that the attack itself didn’t occur’.
The absence of immediate alarm inside the American intelligence community demonstrates that there was no intelligence about Syrian intentions in the days before the attack. And there are at least two ways the US could have known about it in advance: both were touched on in one of the top secret American intelligence documents that have been made public in recent months by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.
On 29 August, the Washington Post published excerpts from the annual budget for all national intelligence programmes, agency by agency, provided by Snowden. In consultation with the Obama administration, the newspaper chose to publish only a slim portion of the 178-page document, which has a classification higher than top secret, but it summarised and published a section dealing with problem areas. One problem area was the gap in coverage targeting Assad’s office. The document said that the NSA’s worldwide electronic eavesdropping facilities had been ‘able to monitor unencrypted communications among senior military officials at the outset of the civil war there’. But it was ‘a vulnerability that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces apparently later recognised’. In other words, the NSA no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack. (In its public statements since 21 August, the Obama administration has never claimed to have specific information connecting Assad himself to the attack.)
The Post report also provided the first indication of a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal. The sensors are monitored by the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that controls all US intelligence satellites in orbit. According to the Postsummary, the NRO is also assigned ‘to extract data from sensors placed on the ground’ inside Syria. The former senior intelligence official, who had direct knowledge of the programme, told me that NRO sensors have been implanted near all known chemical warfare sites in Syria. They are designed to provide constant monitoring of the movement of chemical warheads stored by the military. But far more important, in terms of early warning, is the sensors’ ability to alert US and Israeli intelligence when warheads are being loaded with sarin. (As a neighbouring country, Israel has always been on the alert for changes in the Syrian chemical arsenal, and works closely with American intelligence on early warnings.) A chemical warhead, once loaded with sarin, has a shelf life of a few days or less – the nerve agent begins eroding the rocket almost immediately: it’s a use-it-or-lose-it mass killer. ‘The Syrian army doesn’t have three days to prepare for a chemical attack,’ the former senior intelligence official told me. ‘We created the sensor system for immediate reaction, like an air raid warning or a fire alarm. You can’t have a warning over three days because everyone involved would be dead. It is either right now or you’re history. You do not spend three days getting ready to fire nerve gas.’ The sensors detected no movement in the months and days before 21 August, the former official said. It is of course possible that sarin had been supplied to the Syrian army by other means, but the lack of warning meant that Washington was unable to monitor the events in Eastern Ghouta as they unfolded.
The sensors had worked in the past, as the Syrian leadership knew all too well. Last December the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army was simulating sarin production as part of an exercise (all militaries constantly carry out such exercises) or actually preparing an attack. At the time, Obama publicly warned Syria that using sarin was ‘totally unacceptable’; a similar message was also passed by diplomatic means. The event was later determined to be part of a series of exercises, according to the former senior intelligence official: ‘If what the sensors saw last December was so important that the president had to call and say, “Knock it off,” why didn’t the president issue the same warning three days before the gas attack in August?’
The NSA would of course monitor Assad’s office around the clock if it could, the former official said. Other communications – from various army units in combat throughout Syria – would be far less important, and not analysed in real time. ‘There are literally thousands of tactical radio frequencies used by field units in Syria for mundane routine communications,’ he said, ‘and it would take a huge number of NSA cryptological technicians to listen in – and the useful return would be zilch.’ But the ‘chatter’ is routinely stored on computers. Once the scale of events on 21 August was understood, the NSA mounted a comprehensive effort to search for any links to the attack, sorting through the full archive of stored communications. A keyword or two would be selected and a filter would be employed to find relevant conversations. ‘What happened here is that the NSA intelligence weenies started with an event – the use of sarin – and reached to find chatter that might relate,’ the former official said. ‘This does not lead to a high confidence assessment, unless you start with high confidence that Bashar Assad ordered it, and began looking for anything that supports that belief.’ The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war.
*The White House needed nine days to assemble its case against the Syrian government. On 30 August it invited a select group of Washington journalists (at least one often critical reporter, Jonathan Landay, the national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, was not invited), and handed them a document carefully labelled as a ‘government assessment’, rather than as an assessment by the intelligence community. The document laid out what was essentially a political argument to bolster the administration’s case against the Assad government. It was, however, more specific than Obama would be later, in his speech on 10 September: American intelligence, it stated, knew that Syria had begun ‘preparing chemical munitions’ three days before the attack. In an aggressive speech later that day, John Kerry provided more details. He said that Syria’s ‘chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations’ by 18 August. ‘We know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.’ The government assessment and Kerry’s comments made it seem as if the administration had been tracking the sarin attack as it happened. It is this version of events, untrue but unchallenged, that was widely reported at the time.
An unforeseen reaction came in the form of complaints from the Free Syrian Army’s leadership and others about the lack of warning. ‘It’s unbelievable they did nothing to warn people or try to stop the regime before the crime,’ Razan Zaitouneh, an opposition member who lived in one of the towns struck by sarin, told Foreign Policy. The Daily Mail was more blunt: ‘Intelligence report says US officials knew about nerve-gas attack in Syria three days before it killed over 1400 people – including more than 400 children.’ (The number of deaths attributable to the attack varied widely, from at least 1429, as initially claimed by the Obama administration, to many fewer. A Syrian human rights group reported 502 deaths; Médicins sans Frontières put it at 355; and a French report listed 281 known fatalities. The strikingly precise US total was later reported by the Wall Street Journal to have been based not on an actual body count, but on an extrapolation by CIA analysts, who scanned more than a hundred YouTube videos from Eastern Ghouta into a computer system and looked for images of the dead. In other words, it was little more than a guess.)
Five days later, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence responded to the complaints. A statement to the Associated Press said that the intelligence behind the earlier administration assertions was not known at the time of the attack, but recovered only subsequently: ‘Let’s be clear, the United States did not watch, in real time, as this horrible attack took place. The intelligence community was able to gather and analyse information after the fact and determine that elements of the Assad regime had in fact taken steps to prepare prior to using chemical weapons.’ But since the American press corps had their story, the retraction received scant attention. On 31 August the Washington Post, relying on the government assessment, had vividly reported on its front page that American intelligence was able to record ‘each step’ of the Syrian army attack in real time, ‘from the extensive preparations to the launching of rockets to the after-action assessments by Syrian officials’. It did not publish the AP corrective, and the White House maintained control of the narrative.
So when Obama said on 10 September that his administration knew Assad’s chemical weapons personnel had prepared the attack in advance, he was basing the statement not on an intercept caught as it happened, but on communications analysed days after 21 August. The former senior intelligence official explained that the hunt for relevant chatter went back to the exercise detected the previous December, in which, as Obama later said to the public, the Syrian army mobilised chemical weapons personnel and distributed gas masks to its troops. The White House’s government assessment and Obama’s speech were not descriptions of the specific events leading up to the 21 August attack, but an account of the sequence the Syrian military would have followed for any chemical attack. ‘They put together a back story,’ the former official said, ‘and there are lots of different pieces and parts. The template they used was the template that goes back to December.’ It is possible, of course, that Obama was unaware that this account was obtained from an analysis of Syrian army protocol for conducting a gas attack, rather than from direct evidence. Either way he had come to a hasty judgment.
The press would follow suit. The UN report on 16 September confirming the use of sarin was careful to note that its investigators’ access to the attack sites, which came five days after the gassing, had been controlled by rebel forces. ‘As with other sites,’ the report warned, ‘the locations have been well travelled by other individuals prior to the arrival of the mission … During the time spent at these locations, individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated.’ Still, the New York Times seized on the report, as did American and British officials, and claimed that it provided crucial evidence backing up the administration’s assertions. An annex to the UN report reproduced YouTube photographs of some recovered munitions, including a rocket that ‘indicatively matches’ the specifics of a 330mm calibre artillery rocket. The New York Times wrote that the existence of the rockets essentially proved that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack ‘because the weapons in question had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency’.
Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the UN photos with a group of his colleagues and concluded that the large calibre rocket was an improvised munition that was very likely manufactured locally. He told me that it was ‘something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop’. The rocket in the photos, he added, fails to match the specifications of a similar but smaller rocket known to be in the Syrian arsenal. The New York Times, again relying on data in the UN report, also analysed the flight path of two of the spent rockets that were believed to have carried sarin, and concluded that the angle of descent ‘pointed directly’ to their being fired from a Syrian army base more than nine kilometres from the landing zone. Postol, who has served as the scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations in the Pentagon, said that the assertions in the Times and elsewhere ‘were not based on actual observations’. He concluded that the flight path analyses in particular were, as he put it in an email, ‘totally nuts’ because a thorough study demonstrated that the range of the improvised rockets was ‘unlikely’ to be more than two kilometres. Postol and a colleague, Richard M. Lloyd, published an analysis two weeks after 21 August in which they correctly assessed that the rockets involved carried a far greater payload of sarin than previously estimated. The Times reported on that analysis at length, describing Postol and Lloyd as ‘leading weapons experts’. The pair’s later study about the rockets’ flight paths and range, which contradicted previous Times reporting, was emailed to the newspaper last week; it has so far gone unreported.
The White House’s misrepresentation of what it knew about the attack, and when, was matched by its readiness to ignore intelligence that could undermine the narrative. That information concerned al-Nusra, the Islamist rebel group designated by the US and the UN as a terrorist organisation. Al-Nusra is known to have carried out scores of suicide bombings against Christians and other non-Sunni Muslim sects inside Syria, and to have attacked its nominal ally in the civil war, the secular Free Syrian Army (FSA). Its stated goal is to overthrow the Assad regime and establish sharia law. (On 25 September al-Nusra joined several other Islamist rebel groups in repudiating the FSA and another secular faction, the Syrian National Coalition.)
The flurry of American interest in al-Nusra and sarin stemmed from a series of small-scale chemical weapons attacks in March and April; at the time, the Syrian government and the rebels each insisted the other was responsible. The UN eventually concluded that four chemical attacks had been carried out, but did not assign responsibility. A White House official told the press in late April that the intelligence community had assessed ‘with varying degrees of confidence’ that the Syrian government was responsible for the attacks. Assad had crossed Obama’s ‘red line’. The April assessment made headlines, but some significant caveats were lost in translation. The unnamed official conducting the briefing acknowledged that intelligence community assessments ‘are not alone sufficient’. ‘We want,’ he said, ‘to investigate above and beyond those intelligence assessments to gather facts so that we can establish a credible and corroborated set of information that can then inform our decision-making.’ In other words, the White House had no direct evidence of Syrian army or government involvement, a fact that was only occasionally noted in the press coverage. Obama’s tough talk played well with the public and Congress, who view Assad as a ruthless murderer.
Two months later, a White House statement announced a change in the assessment of Syrian culpability and declared that the intelligence community now had ‘high confidence’ that the Assad government was responsible for as many as 150 deaths from attacks with sarin. More headlines were generated and the press was told that Obama, in response to the new intelligence, had ordered an increase in non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. But once again there were significant caveats. The new intelligence included a report that Syrian officials had planned and executed the attacks. No specifics were provided, nor were those who provided the reports identified. The White House statement said that laboratory analysis had confirmed the use of sarin, but also that a positive finding of the nerve agent ‘does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination’. The White House further declared: ‘We have no reliable corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.’ The statement contradicted evidence that at the time was streaming into US intelligence agencies.
Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta. An intelligence document issued in mid-summer dealt extensively with Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta. The consultant told me that Tariq had been identified ‘as an al-Nusra guy with a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and someone who is implicated in making and using sarin’. He is regarded as a high-profile target by the American military.
On 20 June a four-page top secret cable summarising what had been learned about al-Nusra’s nerve gas capabilities was forwarded to David R. Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. ‘What Shedd was briefed on was extensive and comprehensive,’ the consultant said. ‘It was not a bunch of “we believes”.’ He told me that the cable made no assessment as to whether the rebels or the Syrian army had initiated the attacks in March and April, but it did confirm previous reports that al-Nusra had the ability to acquire and use sarin. A sample of the sarin that had been used was also recovered – with the help of an Israeli agent – but, according to the consultant, no further reporting about the sample showed up in cable traffic.
Independently of these assessments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assuming that US troops might be ordered into Syria to seize the government’s stockpile of chemical agents, called for an all-source analysis of the potential threat. ‘The Op Order provides the basis of execution of a military mission, if so ordered,’ the former senior intelligence official explained. ‘This includes the possible need to send American soldiers to a Syrian chemical site to defend it against rebel seizure. If the jihadist rebels were going to overrun the site, the assumption is that Assad would not fight us because we were protecting the chemical from the rebels. All Op Orders contain an intelligence threat component. We had technical analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, weapons people, and I & W [indications and warnings] people working on the problem … They concluded that the rebel forces were capable of attacking an American force with sarin because they were able to produce the lethal gas. The examination relied on signals and human intelligence, as well as the expressed intention and technical capability of the rebels.’
There is evidence that during the summer some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were troubled by the prospect of a ground invasion of Syria as well as by Obama’s professed desire to give rebel factions non-lethal support. In July, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, provided a gloomy assessment, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee in public testimony that ‘thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces’ would be needed to seize Syria’s widely dispersed chemical warfare arsenal, along with ‘hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers’. Pentagon estimates put the number of troops at seventy thousand, in part because US forces would also have to guard the Syrian rocket fleet: accessing large volumes of the chemicals that create sarin without the means to deliver it would be of little value to a rebel force. In a letter to Senator Carl Levin, Dempsey cautioned that a decision to grab the Syrian arsenal could have unintended consequences: ‘We have learned from the past ten years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state … Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.’
The CIA declined to comment for this article. Spokesmen for the DIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said they were not aware of the report to Shedd and, when provided with specific cable markings for the document, said they were unable to find it. Shawn Turner, head of public affairs for the ODNI, said that no American intelligence agency, including the DIA, ‘assesses that the al-Nusra Front has succeeded in developing a capacity to manufacture sarin’.
The administration’s public affairs officials are not as concerned about al-Nusra’s military potential as Shedd has been in his public statements. In late July, he gave an alarming account of al-Nusra’s strength at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. ‘I count no less than 1200 disparate groups in the opposition,’ Shedd said, according to a recording of his presentation. ‘And within the opposition, the al-Nusra Front is … most effective and is gaining in strength.’ This, he said, ‘is of serious concern to us. If left unchecked, I am very concerned that the most radical elements’ – he also cited al-Qaida in Iraq – ‘will take over.’ The civil war, he went on, ‘will only grow worse over time … Unfathomable violence is yet to come.’ Shedd made no mention of chemical weapons in his talk, but he was not allowed to: the reports his office received were highly classified.
A series of secret dispatches from Syria over the summer reported that members of the FSA were complaining to American intelligence operatives about repeated attacks on their forces by al-Nusra and al-Qaida fighters. The reports, according to the senior intelligence consultant who read them, provided evidence that the FSA is ‘more worried about the crazies than it is about Assad’. The FSA is largely composed of defectors from the Syrian army. The Obama administration, committed to the end of the Assad regime and continued support for the rebels, has sought in its public statements since the attack to downplay the influence of Salafist and Wahhabist factions. In early September, John Kerry dumbfounded a Congressional hearing with a sudden claim that al-Nusra and other Islamist groups were minority players in the Syrian opposition. He later withdrew the claim.
In both its public and private briefings after 21 August, the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons. This was the message conveyed in the various secret briefings that members of Congress received in the days after the attack, when Obama was seeking support for his planned missile offensive against Syrian military installations. One legislator with more than two decades of experience in military affairs told me that he came away from one such briefing persuaded that ‘only the Assad government had sarin and the rebels did not.’ Similarly, following the release of the UN report on 16 September confirming that sarin was used on 21 August, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’
It is not known whether the highly classified reporting on al-Nusra was made available to Power’s office, but her comment was a reflection of the attitude that swept through the administration. ‘The immediate assumption was that Assad had done it,’ the former senior intelligence official told me. ‘The new director of the CIA, [John] Brennan, jumped to that conclusion … drives to the White House and says: “Look at what I’ve got!” It was all verbal; they just waved the bloody shirt. There was a lot of political pressure to bring Obama to the table to help the rebels, and there was wishful thinking that this [tying Assad to the sarin attack] would force Obama’s hand: “This is the Zimmermann telegram of the Syrian rebellion and now Obama can react.” Wishful thinking by the Samantha Power wing within the administration. Unfortunately, some members of the Joint Chiefs who were alerted that he was going to attack weren’t so sure it was a good thing.’
The proposed American missile attack on Syria never won public support and Obama turned quickly to the UN and the Russian proposal for dismantling the Syrian chemical warfare complex. Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal. Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)
The administration’s distortion of the facts surrounding the sarin attack raises an unavoidable question: do we have the whole story of Obama’s willingness to walk away from his ‘red line’ threat to bomb Syria? He had claimed to have an iron-clad case but suddenly agreed to take the issue to Congress, and later to accept Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical weapons. It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans.
The UN resolution, which was adopted on 27 September by the Security Council, dealt indirectly with the notion that rebel forces such as al-Nusra would also be obliged to disarm: ‘no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [chemical] weapons.’ The resolution also calls for the immediate notification of the Security Council in the event that any ‘non-state actors’ acquire chemical weapons. No group was cited by name. While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.
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Story 1: Will Governor Jerry Brown Challenge Hillary Clinton for Democratic Party Nomination For President?- Videos
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Brown rules out presidential bid
By Seema Mehta
Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he will not run for president in 2016, dashing political speculation that he might make a fourth bid for the White House.
“No, that’s not in the cards. Unfortunately,” he told reporters at a news conference before brightening about his current job: “Actually, California is a lot more governable.”
Brown, who ran for president in 1976, 1980 and 1992, was the subject of some speculation recently when his office did not categorically rule out another run, the governor was touting his work in California as a template for the nation and some activists named him as an alternative to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is weighing a bid.
Brown was in Riverside to discuss prisons, education and water policy with local officials, part of a two-day, three-city trip to inland portions of the state. He visited Bakersfield on Tuesday morning and Fresno on Monday. Last week, he unveiled his budget in Sacramento, San Diego and Los Angeles.
Brown is up for reelection this year and has raised millions for a bid. But he has been coy about his intentions.
Asked about the purpose of his travel schedule, Brown declared Bakersfield a “wonderful place,” said politics did not interest him and continued to demur about his intentions.
“We have time,” he said. “I’m not running yet.”
Jerry Brown breaks some hearts: won’t run for president in 2016
California Gov. Jerry Brown will not run for president in 2016, he said Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Governor Moonbeam put to rest speculation that he might launch his fourth bid for president, 40 years after he first sought the Democratic nomination in 1976.
“No, that’s not in the cards. Unfortunately,” he said.
Brown raised eyebrows last month when he declined to outright deny interest in a bid. He has touted his efforts to deal with California’s economic woes as a model for the whole country, which some took as an indication that he was seeking a national stage.
“Things happen in California that are not happening in Washington,” Brown in October, the Los Angeles Times reported. “We can do a lot of things in California to shift the [political] climate throughout the whole country.”
But Brown quashed any hopes that he might wade into the mire of politics in Washington, D.C.
“Actually,” he told reporters, “California is a lot more governable.”
This would have been Brown’s fourth try for the Democratic presidential nomination. In 1992 he mounted a strong but ultimately unsuccessful run against Bill Clinton, winning support from The New York Times and other major publications for his flat tax proposal. Brown lost the nomination to Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980, during his first tenure as governor of the Golden State. His 1980 campaign prompted the Dead Kennedys to warn that Brown would create a “Zen Fascist” dictatorship in which kids would be forced to “meditate in school,” in their punk classic “California Über Alles.”
Jerry Brown, urged to run for president, won’t rule out 2016 bid
|By Mark Z. Barabak
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If he weren’t the nation’s oldest governor, a ripe 75, Jerry Brown would automatically be counted among serious Democratic candidates for president in 2016.
He boasts a household name, an impressive list of accomplishments in the country’s most populous state — a state some once deemed ungovernable — glowing national media coverage and a deep familiarity with the pitfalls and rigors of a White House bid, having run three times before.
Now, some are pushing Brown to consider another try for the White House, even if it means taking on Hillary Rodham Clinton, the prohibitive, if still undeclared, Democratic favorite.
“I think Jerry is precisely what America needs,” said Rose Ann DeMoro, the leader of a national nurses union and a strong political ally of Brown. “He has the courage of his convictions, which we haven’t seen in a very long while.”
Brown, who is up for reelection in 2014, has not yet stated his intention to seek another term, though he has raised millions of dollars for what would appear to be an easy campaign.
Asked if Brown would categorically rule out another presidential bid in 2016, a spokesman, Jim Evans, referred to a statement Brown made in May at a California Chamber of Commerce breakfast. Citing his past primary victories, Brown said “time is kind of running out on that.”
“I guess I’ll just have to stay and do the work of being the governor, which I actually enjoy because I have some perspective that I didn’t used to have,” Brown said.
The famously Delphic governor often leaves people guessing about his motivation and intentions, which leaves plenty of leeway ahead of 2016. Absent a clear-cut statement of disinterest from Brown — who sought the White House in 1976, 1980 and 1992 — some see familiar signs of a presidential-candidate-in-waiting.
The governor has widely touted California’s comeback and his record as a model for the rest of the country and, especially, a dysfunctional Washington, D.C. With support from an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature — and a combination of spending cuts and voter-approved tax hikes — Brown has brought the state’s deficit-ridden budget under control, overhauled the education finance system to benefit poorer students, pushed through major environmental initiatives and reaped the benefits — job growth, an improved housing market — of a slow but steady economic recovery.
“Things happen in California that are not happening in Washington,” Brown said during an October appearance at an electric-vehicle expo in San Francisco. “We can do a lot of things in California to shift the [political] climate throughout the whole country.”
In a victory lap a few weeks later, he traveled to the nation’s capital and ticked off the bills he had signed, including immigration-friendly legislation and laws promoting green energy. “We didn’t wait for the federal government,” he crowed.
At the same time, Brown has established himself as a moderating force in Sacramento, pushing back against liberals on issues such as gun control and business regulation, which, to some, suggests an effort to shed the kooky Left Coast image of his first time as governor, more than 20 years ago, and craft a more centrist profile ahead of 2016.
Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown, Jr. (born April 7, 1938) is an American politician who currently serves as the 39th Governor of California since 2011; he previously served as California’s 34th Governor from 1975 to 1983. Both before and after his original two terms as Governor, Brown served in numerous state, local, and party positions. He was a member of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees (1969–1971), Secretary of State of California (1971–1975), chairman of the California Democratic Party (1989–1991), Mayor of Oakland (1999–2007) and Attorney General of California (2007–2011).
Brown sought the Democratic nominations for President of the United States in 1976, 1980, and 1992, and was the Democratic candidate for the United States Senate in California in 1982, but was unsuccessful in those attempts. He is the son of Pat Brown, the 32nd Governor of California. On October 7, 2013, he became the longest-serving governor in California history measured by cumulative service.
As a consequence of the 28-year gap between his second and third terms, Brown has been both the sixth-youngest California governor(and the youngest since the 1860s) and the oldest California governor in history.
Early life, education, and career
Brown was born in San Francisco, California, as the only son of four siblings born to Bernice Layne Brown, and District Attorney of San Francisco and later Governor of California, Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown, Sr. His father was of half Irish and half German descent.He was a member of the California Cadet Corps at St. Ignatius High School, where he graduated in 1955.
In 1955, Brown entered Santa Clara University for a year, and left to attend Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary, intent on becoming a Catholic priest. Brown left the seminary after three years, enrolling at the University of California, Berkeley in 1960, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1961. Brown went on to Yale Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1964. After law school, Brown worked as a law clerk for California Supreme Court Justice Mathew Tobriner.
Returning to California, Brown took the state bar exam and passed on his second attempt. Brown then settled in Los Angeles and joined the law firm of Tuttle & Taylor. In 1969, Brown ran for the newly created Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees, which oversaw community colleges in the city, and placed first in a field of 124.
Secretary of State (1971–1975)
In 1970, Brown was elected California Secretary of State. Brown argued before the California Supreme Court and won cases againstStandard Oil of California, International Telephone and Telegraph, Gulf Oil, and Mobil for election law violations. In addition, he forced legislators to comply with campaign disclosure laws. While holding this office, he discovered the use of falsely notarized documents to earn a tax deduction by then-President Richard Nixon. Brown also drafted and helped to pass the California Political Reform Act of 1974, Proposition 9, passed by 70% of California’s voters in June, 1974. Among other provisions, it established the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
Governor of California (1975–1983)
In 1974, Brown ran in a highly contested Democratic primary for Governor of California against Speaker of the California Assembly Bob Moretti, San Francisco Mayor Joseph L. Alioto, Representative Jerome R. Waldie, and others. Brown won the primary with the name recognition of his father, Pat Brown, whom many people admired for his progressive administration. In the General Election on November 5, 1974, Brown was elected Governor of California over California State Controller Houston I. Flournoy; Republicans ascribed the loss to anti-Republican feelings from Watergate, the election being held only ninety days after President Richard Nixon resigned from office. Brown succeeded Republican Governor Ronald Reagan, who had planned on retiring from office after serving two terms.
After taking office, Brown gained a reputation as a fiscal conservative. The American Conservative later noted he was “much more of a fiscal conservative than Governor Reagan.” His fiscal restraint resulted in one of the biggest budget surpluses in state history, roughly $5 billion. For his personal life, Brown refused many of the privileges and perks of the office, forgoing the newly constructed governor’s residence and instead renting a modest apartment at the corner of 14th and N Streets, adjacent to Capitol Park in downtown Sacramento. Instead of riding as a passenger in a chauffeured limousine as previous governors had done, Brown walked to work and drove in a Plymouth Satellite sedan.
As governor, Brown held a strong interest in environmental issues. He appointed J. Baldwin to work in the newly created California Office of Appropriate Technology, Sim Van der Ryn as State Architect, Stewart Brand as Special Advisor, John Bryson as chairman of the California State Water Board. Brown also reorganized the California Arts Council, boosting its funding by 1300 percent and appointing artists to the council and appointed more women and minorities to office than any other previous California Governor. In 1977, he sponsored the “first-ever tax incentive for rooftop solar” among many environmental initiatives. In 1975, Brown obtained the repeal of the “depletion allowance“, a tax break for the state’s oil industry, despite the efforts of lobbyist Joe Shell, a former intraparty rival to Richard M. Nixon.
Like his father, Brown strongly opposed the death penalty and vetoed it as Governor, which the legislature overrode in 1977. He also appointed judges who opposed capital punishment. One of these appointments, Rose Bird as the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, was recalled by voters after a strong campaign financed by business interests upset by her “pro-labor” and “pro-free speech” rulings. The death penalty was only “a trumped-up excuse” to use against her, even though the Bird Court consistently upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty. In 1960, he lobbied his father, then Governor, to spare the life of Caryl Chessman and reportedly won a 60-day stay for him.
Brown was both in favor of a Balanced Budget Amendment and opposed to Proposition 13, the latter of which would decrease property taxes and greatly reduce revenue to cities and counties. When Proposition 13 passed in June 1978, he heavily cut state spending, and along with the Legislature, spent much of the $5 billion surplus to meet the proposition’s requirements and help offset the revenue losses which made cities, counties, and schools more dependent on the state. His actions in response to the proposition earned him praise from Proposition 13 author Howard Jarvis who went as far to make a television commercial for Brown just before his successful reelection bid in 1978. The controversial proposition immediately cut tax revenues and required a two-thirds supermajority to raise taxes. Proposition 13 “effectively destroyed the funding base of local governments and school districts, which thereafter depended largely on Sacramento for their revenue”. Max Neiman, a professor at the Institute of Government Studies at University of California, Berkeley, credited Brown for “bailing out local government and school districts” but felt it was harmful “because it made it easier for people to believe that Proposition 13 wasn’t harmful.”
Brown won re-election in 1978 against Republican state Attorney General Evelle J. Younger. Brown appointed the first openly gay judge in the United States when he namedStephen Lachs to serve on the Los Angeles County Superior Court in 1979. In 1981, he also appointed the first openly lesbian judge in the United States, Mary C. Morgan to the San Francisco Municipal Court. Brown completed his second term having appointed a total of five gay judges, including Rand Schrader and Jerold Krieger. Through his first term as Governor, Brown had not appointed any openly gay people to any position, but he cited the failed 1978 Briggs Initiative, which sought to ban homosexuals from working in California’s public schools, for his increased support of gay rights.
In 1981, California Governor Jerry Brown, who had established a reputation as a strong environmentalist, was confronted with a serious medfly infestation in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was advised by the state’s agricultural industry, and the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection service (APHIS), to authorize airborne spraying of the region. Initially, in accordance with his environmental protection stance, he chose to authorize ground-level spraying only. Unfortunately, the infestation spread as the medfly reproductive cycle out-paced the spraying. After more than a month, millions of dollars of crops had been destroyed and billions of dollars more were threatened. Governor Brown then authorized a massive response to the infestation. Fleets of helicopters sprayed malathion at night, and the California National Guard set up highway checkpoints and collected many tons of local fruit; in the final stage of the campaign, entomologists released millions of sterile male medflies in an attempt to disrupt the insects’ reproductive cycle.
Ultimately the infestation was eradicated, but both the Governor’s delay and the scale of the action has remained controversial ever since. Some people claimed that malathion was toxic to humans, as well as insects. In response to such concerns, Brown’s chief of staff, B. T. Collins, staged a news conference during which he publicly drank a glass of malathion. Many people complained that, while the malathion may not have been very toxic to humans, the aerosol spray containing it was corrosive to car paint.
Brown proposed the establishment of a state space academy and the purchasing of a satellite that would be launched into orbit to provide emergency communications for the state—a proposal similar to one that was indeed eventually adopted. In 1979, an out-of-state columnist, Mike Royko, at the Chicago Sun-Times, picked up on the nickname from Brown’s girlfriend at the time, Linda Ronstadt, who was quoted in a 1978 Rolling Stone magazine interview humorously calling him “Moonbeam”. A year later Royko expressed his regret for publicizing the nickname, and in 1991 Royko disavowed it entirely, proclaiming Brown to be just as serious as any other politician.
Brown chose not to run for a third term in 1982, and instead ran for the United States Senate, but lost to San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson. He was succeeded as Governor by George Deukmejian, then state Attorney General, on January 3, 1983.
Senate defeat and public life
In 1982, Brown chose not to seek a third term as governor, instead, Brown ran for the United States Senate for the seat being vacated by Republican S.I. Hayakawa. He was defeated by Republican San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson by a margin of 52% to 45%. After his Senate defeat, Brown was left with few political options. Republican George Deukmejian, a Brown critic, narrowly won the governorship in 1982, succeeding Brown, and was reelected overwhelmingly in 1986. After his Senate defeat in 1982, many considered Brown’s political career to be over.
Brown traveled to Japan to study Buddhism, studying with Christian/Zen practitioner Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle under Yamada Koun-roshi. In an interview he explained, “Since politics is based on illusions, zazen definitely provides new insights for a politician. I then come back into the world of California and politics, with critical distance from some of my more comfortable assumptions.” He also visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta, India, where he ministered to the sick in one of her hospices. He explained, “Politics is a power struggle to get to the top of the heap. Calcutta and Mother Teresa are about working with those who are at the bottom of the heap. And to see them as no different than yourself, and their needs as important as your needs. And you’re there to serve them, and doing that you are attaining as great a state of being as you can.”
Upon his return from abroad in 1988, Brown announced that he would stand as a candidate to become chairman of the California Democratic Party, and won against investment banker Steve Westly. Although Brown greatly expanded the party’s donor base and enlarged its coffers, with a focus on grassroots organizing and get out the vote drives, he was criticized for not spending enough money on TV ads, which was felt to have contributed to Democratic losses in several close races in 1990. In early 1991, Brown abruptly resigned his post and announced that he would run for the Senate seat held by the retiring Alan Cranston. Although Brown consistently led in the polls for both the nomination and the general election, he abandoned the campaign, deciding instead to run for the presidency for a third time.
In 1995, with Brown’s political career at a low point, in the motion picture Jade, the fictional Governor of California tells an assistant district attorney to drop a case, “unless you want as much of a future in this state as Jerry Brown.” The assistant DA responds “Who’s Jerry Brown?”
Brown first ran for the Democratic nomination for President in March 1976, after the primary season had begun, and over a year after some candidates had started campaigning. Brown declared, “The country is rich, but not so rich as we have been led to believe. The choice to do one thing may preclude another. In short, we are entering an era of limits.”
Brown’s name began appearing on primary ballots in May and he won in Maryland, Nevada, and his home state of California. He missed the deadline inOregon, but he ran as a write-in candidate and finished in third behind Jimmy Carter and Senator Frank Church of Idaho. Brown is often credited with winning the New Jersey and Rhode Island primaries, but in reality, uncommitted slates of delegates that Brown advocated in those states finished first. With support from Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, Brown won a majority of delegates at the Louisiana delegate selection convention; thus Louisiana was the only southern state to not support Southerners Carter or Alabama Governor George Wallace. Despite this success, he was unable to stall Carter’s momentum, and his rival was nominated on the first ballot at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. Brown finished third with roughly 300 delegate votes, narrowly behind Congressman Morris Udall and Carter.
In 1980, Brown challenged Carter for renomination. His candidacy had been anticipated by the press ever since he won re-election as governor in 1978 over the Republican Evelle Younger by the largest margin in California history, 1.3 million votes. But Brown had trouble gaining traction in both fundraising and polling for the presidential nomination. This was widely believed to be the result of the more prominent candidate Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. Brown’s 1980 platform, which he declared to be the natural result of combining Buckminster Fuller‘s visions of the future and E. F. Schumacher‘s theory of “Buddhist economics“, was much expanded from 1976. His “era of limits” slogan was replaced by a promise to, in his words, “Protect the Earth, serve the people, and explore the universe.”
Three main planks of his platform were a call for a constitutional convention to ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment, a promise to increase funds for the space program as a “first step in bringing us toward a solar-powered space satellite to provide solar energy for this planet,” and, in the wake of the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, opposition to nuclear power. On the subject of the 1979 energy crisis, Brown decried the “Faustian bargain” that he claimed Carter had entered into with the oil industry, and declared that he would greatly increase federal funding of research into solar power. He endorsed the idea of mandatory non-military national service for the nation’s youth, and suggested that the Defense Department cut back on support troops while beefing up the number of combat troops.
Brown opposed Kennedy’s call for universal national health insurance and opposed Carter’s call for an employer mandate to provide catastrophic private health insurance. As an alternative, he suggested a program of tax credits for those who do not smoke or otherwise damage their health, saying: “Those who abuse their bodies should not abuse the rest of us by taking our tax dollars.” Brown also called for expanding the use of acupuncture and midwifery.
As his campaign began to attract more members of what some more conservative commentators described as “the fringe”, including activists like Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, andJesse Jackson, however his polling numbers began to suffer. Brown received only 10 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, and he was soon forced to announce that his decision to remain in the race would depend on a good showing in the Wisconsin primary. Although he had polled well there throughout the primary season, an attempt to film a live speech in Madison, the state’s capital, into a special effects-filled, 30-minute commercial (produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola) was disastrous.
When Brown announced his intention to run for president against President George H.W. Bush, many in the media and his own party dismissed his campaign as having little chance of gaining significant support. Ignoring them, Brown embarked on a grassroots campaign to, in his own words, “take back America from the confederacy of corruption,careerism, and campaign consulting in Washington”. In his stump speech, first used while officially announcing his candidacy on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Brown told listeners that he would only be accepting campaign contributions from individuals and that he would not accept over $100. Continuing with his populistreform theme, he assailed what he dubbed “the bipartisan Incumbent Party in Washington” and called for term limits for members of Congress. Citing various recent scandals onCapitol Hill, particularly the recent House banking scandal and the large congressional pay-raises from 1990, he promised to put an end to Congress being a “Stop-and-Shop for the moneyed special interests“.
As Brown campaigned in various primary states, he would eventually expand his platform beyond a policy of strict campaign finance reform. Although he focused on a variety of issues throughout the campaign, he highlighted his endorsement of living wage laws and opposition to free trade agreements such as NAFTA; he mostly concentrated on his tax policy, which had been created specifically for him by Arthur Laffer, the famous supporter of supply-side economics who created the Laffer curve. This plan, which called for the replacement of the progressive income tax with a flat tax and a value added tax, both at a fixed 13 percent rate, was decried by his opponents as regressive. Nevertheless, it was endorsed by The New York Times, The New Republic, and Forbes, and its raising of taxes on corporations and elimination of various loopholes which tended to favor the very wealthy, proved to be popular with voters. This was, perhaps, not surprising, as various opinion polls taken at the time found that as many as three-quarters of all Americans believed the current tax code to be unfairly biased toward the wealthy. He “seemed to be the most left-wing and right-wing man in the field… [calling] for term limits, a flat tax, and the abolition of the Department of Education.” Brown scored surprising wins in Connecticut and Colorado and seemed poised to overtake Clinton.
Due to his limited budget, Brown began to use a mixture of alternative media and unusual fund raising techniques. Unable to pay for actual commercials, he used frequent cable television and talk radio interviews as a form of free media to get his message to voters. In order to raise funds, he purchased a toll-free telephone number, which adorned all of his campaign stances. During the campaign, Brown’s repetition of this number combined with the moralistic language used, led some to describe him as a “political televangelist” with an “anti-politics gospel”.
Despite poor showings in the Iowa caucus (1.6%) and the New Hampshire primary (8%), Brown soon managed to win narrow victories in Maine, Colorado, Nevada, Alaska, andVermont, but he continued to be considered a small threat for much of the campaign. It was not until shortly after Super Tuesday, when the field had been narrowed to Brown, former Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, and frontrunner Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas, that Brown began to emerge as a major contender in the eyes of the press. On March 17, Brown forced Tsongas from the race when he received a strong third-place showing in the Illinois primary and then defeated the senator for second place in the Michigan primary by a wide margin. Exactly one week later, he cemented his position as a major threat to Clinton when he eked out a narrow win in the bitterly-fought Connecticut primary. As the press focused on the primaries in New York and Wisconsin, which were both to be held on the same day, Brown, who had taken the lead in polls in both states, made a gaffe: he announced to an audience of various leaders of New York City’s Jewish community that, if nominated, he would consider the Reverend Jesse Jackson as a vice-presidential candidate. Jackson, who had made a pair of anti-semitic comments about Jews in general and New York City’s Jews in particular while running for president in 1984, was still despised in Jewish communities. Jackson also had ties to Louis Farrakhan, who said Judaism was a “gutter religion,” and with Yasir Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Brown’s polling numbers suffered. On April 7, he lost narrowly to Bill Clinton in Wisconsin (37%–34%), and dramatically in New York (41%–26%).
Although Brown continued to campaign in a number of states, he won no further primaries. Although overwhelmingly outspent, Brown won upset victories in seven states and his votes won to money raised ratio was by far the best of any candidate in the race. He still had a sizable number of delegates, and a big win in his home state of California would deprive Clinton of sufficient support to win the Democratic nomination, possibly bringing about a brokered convention. After nearly a month of intense campaigning and multiple debates between the two candidates, Clinton managed to defeat Brown in this final primary by a margin of 48% to 41%. Although Brown did not win the nomination, he was able to boast of one accomplishment: At the following month’s Democratic National Convention, he received the votes of 596 delegates on the first ballot, more than any other candidate but Clinton. He spoke at the convention, and to the national viewing audience, yet without endorsing Clinton, through the device of seconding his own nomination. There was animosity between the Brown and Clinton campaigns, and Brown was the first political figure to criticize Bill Clinton over what became the Whitewater controversy.
Mayor of Oakland (1999–2007)
What would become Brown’s re-emergence into politics after six years was in Oakland, California, an “overwhelmingly minority city of 400,000.” Brown ran as an independent “having left the Democratic Party, blasting what he called the ‘deeply corrupted’ two-party system.” Prior to taking office, Brown campaigned to get the approval of the electorate to convert Oakland’s weak mayor political structure, which structured the mayor as chairman of the city council and official greeter, to a strong mayor structure, where the mayor would act as chief executive over the nonpolitical city manager and thus the various city departments, and break tie votes on the Oakland City Council. He won with 59% of the vote in a field of ten candidates. The political left had hoped for some of the more progressive politics from Brown’s earlier governorship, but found Brown “more pragmatic than progressive, more interested in downtown redevelopment and economic growth than political ideology”.
The city was rapidly losing residents and businesses, and Brown is credited with starting the revitalization of the city using his connections and experience to lessen the economic downturn, while attracting $1 billion of investments, including refurbishing the Fox Theatre, the Port of Oakland, and Jack London Square. The downtown district was losing retailers, restaurateurs and residential developers, and Brown sought to attract thousands of new residents with disposable income to revitalize the area. Brown continued his predecessor Elihu Harris‘s public policy of supporting downtown housing development in the area defined as the Central Business District in Oakland’s 1998 General Plan. Since Brown worked toward the stated goal of bringing an additional 10,000 residents to Downtown Oakland, his plan was known as “10K.” It has resulted in redevelopment projects in the Jack London District, where Brown purchased and later sold an industrial warehouse which he used as a personal residence, and in the Lakeside Apartments District near Lake Merritt. The 10k plan has touched the historic Old Oakland district, the Chinatown district, the Uptown district, andDowntown. Brown surpassed the stated goal of attracting 10,000 residents according to city records, and built more affordable housing than previous mayoral administrations.
Brown had campaigned on fixing Oakland’s schools, but “bureaucratic battles” dampened his efforts. He concedes he never had control of the schools, and his reform efforts were “largely a bust”. He focused instead on the creation of two charter schools, the Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute. Another area of disappointment was overall crime. Brown sponsored nearly two dozen crime initiatives to reduce the crime rate, although crime decreased by 13 percent overall, the city still suffered a “57 percent spike in homicides his final year in office, to 148 overall”.
Attorney General of California (2007–2011)
In 2004, Brown expressed interest to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General of California in the 2006 election, and in May 2004, he formally filed to run. He defeated his Democratic primary opponent Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo 63% to 37%. In the general election, Brown defeated Republican State Senator Charles Poochigian 56.3% to 38.2%, one of the largest margins of victory in any statewide California race. In the final weeks leading up to Election Day, Brown’s eligibility to run for Attorney General was challenged in what Brown called a “political stunt by a Republican office seeker” (Contra Costa County Republican Central Committee chairman and state GOP vice-chair candidateTom Del Beccaro). Plaintiffs claimed Brown did not meet eligibility according to California Government Code §12503, “No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.” Legal analysts called the lawsuit frivolous because Brown was admitted to practice law in the State of California on June 14, 1965, and had been so admitted to practice ever since. Although ineligible to practice law because of his voluntary inactive status in the State Bar of California from January 1, 1997 to May 1, 2003, he was nevertheless still admitted to practice. Because of this difference the case was eventually thrown out.
As Attorney General, Brown represented the state in fighting death penalty appeals and stated that he would follow the law, regardless of his personal beliefs against capital punishment. Capital punishment by lethal injection was halted in California by federal judge Jeremy D. Fogel until new facilities and procedures were put into place. Brown moved to resume capital punishment in 2010 with the execution of Albert Greenwood Brown after the lifting of a statewide moratoriumby a California court. Brown’s Democratic campaign, which pledged to “enforce the laws” of California, denied any connection between the case and the gubernatorial election. Prosecutor Rod Pacheco, who supported Republican opponent Meg Whitman, said that it would be unfair to accuse Jerry Brown of using the execution for political gain as they never discussed the case.
In June 2008, Brown filed a fraud lawsuit claiming mortgage lender Countrywide Financial engaged in “unfair and deceptive” practices to get homeowners to apply for risky mortgages far beyond their means.” Brown accused the lender of breaking the state’s laws against false advertising and unfair business practices, the lawsuit also claimed the defendant misled many consumers by misinforming them about the workings of certain mortgages such adjustable-rate mortgages, interest-only loans, low-documentation loans and home-equity loans while telling borrowers they would be able to refinance before the interest rate on their loans adjusted. The suit was settled in October 2008 after Bank of America acquired Countrywide. The settlement involved the modifying of troubled ‘predatory loans’ up to $8.4 billion.
Proposition 8, a contentious voter-approved amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage was upheld in May 2009 by the California Supreme Court. In August 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Proposition 8 violated the Due Process and the Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Brown and then Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger both declined to appeal the ruling. The state appeals court declined to order the men to defend the proposition and scheduled a hearing in early December to see if there is “legal standing to appeal Walker’s ruling.”
Governor of California (2011–present)
Brown at an campaign rally in Sacramento two days before the election
Brown announced his candidacy for governor on March 2, 2010. First indicating his interest in early 2008, Brown formed an exploratory committee in order to seek a third term as governor in 2010, following the expiration of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s term.
Brown’s Republican opponent in the election was former eBay president Meg Whitman. Brown was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, The Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, and theService Employees International Union. Brown won the race 53.8% to Whitman’s 40.9%.
Brown was sworn in for his third term as governor on January 3, 2011, succeeding Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. He will be up for re-election in 2014. Brown is working on a budget that would shift many government programs from the state to the local level, a reversal of trends from his first tenure as governor.
On June 28, 2012, Governor Brown signed a budget that made deep cuts to social services with the assumption that voters would pass $8 billion in tax hikes in November 2012 to close California’s $15.7-billion budget deficit. “This budget reflects tough choices that will help get California back on track,” Governor Brown said in a statement.
When asked by writer Marc Collins, in an article from Pacific Standard magazine on August 12, 2012, what the state needs to get back on track even if his initiative passes, Governor Brown remarked: “We need budget cuts. We need the continued growth of the economy for a long period of time. We’re suffering from the mortgage meltdown that killed 600,000 jobs in the construction industry. … We’re recovering from a national recession slowly—over 300,000 jobs [gained] since the recession. We’ve got a million to go. That needs to continue, but that depends not only on Barack Obama and the Congress and the Federal Reserve, but also on [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel, China, the European Union, and the self-organizing quality of the world economy. We need all that, which we don’t have control over. What we do have control over is managing affairs to win public regard and confidence, and technically we need to make these hard cuts that Democrats don’t want to make, but a gimmicky sort of budget won’t lend itself to voters passing new taxes.”
In September 2012, Brown signed legislation sponsored by California State Senator Ted Lieu that prohibits protesters at funerals within 300 feet, with convicted violators punishable with fines and jail time; the legislation was in response to protests conducted by the Westboro Baptist Church.
In the November 2012 general elections, voters approved Brown’s proposed tax increases in the form of Proposition 30. Prop 30 raised the state personal income tax increase over seven years for California residents with an annual income over US$250,000 and increased in the state sales tax by 0.25 percent over four years. It allowed the state to avoid nearly $6 billion in cuts to public education.
A bachelor as governor and mayor, Brown attracted attention for dating high-profile women, the most notable of whom was singer Linda Ronstadt. In March 2005, Brown announced his engagement to his girlfriend since 1990, Anne Gust, former chief administrative officer for The Gap. They were married on June 18 in a ceremony officiated by Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland. They had a second, religious ceremony later in the day in the Roman Catholic church in San Francisco where Brown’s parents had been married. Brown and Gust live in the Oakland Hills in a home purchased for $1.8 million, as reported by The Huffington Post.
Beginning in 1995, Brown hosted a daily call-in talk show on the local Pacifica Radio station, KPFA-FM, in Berkeley broadcast to major US markets. Both the radio program and Brown’s political action organization, based in Oakland, were called We the People. His programs, usually featuring invited guests, generally explored alternative views on a wide range of social and political issues, from education and health care to spirituality and the death penalty.
The official gubernatorial portrait of Jerry Brown, commemorating his first period as Governor of California was painted by Don Bachardyand unveiled in 1984. The painting has long been controversial due to its departure from the traditional norms of portraiture.
Brown has a long-term friendship with Jacques Barzaghi, his aide-de-camp, whom he met in the early 1970s and put on his payroll. Author Roger Rapaport wrote in his 1982 Brown biography California Dreaming: The Political Odyssey of Pat & Jerry Brown, “this combination clerk, chauffeur, fashion consultant, decorator and trusted friend had no discernible powers. Yet late at night, after everyone had gone home to their families and TV consoles, it was Jacques who lingered in the Secretary (of state’s) office.” Barzaghi and his sixth wife Aisha lived with Brown in the warehouse in Jack London Square; Barzaghi was brought into Oakland city government upon Brown’s election as mayor, where Barzaghi first acted as the mayor’s armed bodyguard. Brown later rewarded Barzaghi with high-paying city jobs, including Arts Director. Brown dismissed Barzaghi in July 2004.
In April 2011 Brown had surgery to remove a basal-cell carcinoma from the right side of his nose. It was announced in December 2012 that Brown was being treated for early stage (the precise stage and grade was not stated) localized prostate cancer with a very good prognosis.
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