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Full text: Obama gives a speech about the Iran nuclear deal
President Obama is continuing his push for the Iran nuclear deal, giving a speech at American University. Here is a complete transcript of his remarks.
OBAMA: Thank you.
Thank you so much. Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Thank you very much.
I apologize for the slight delay; even presidents have a problem with toner.
It is a great honor to be back at American University, which has prepared generations of young people for service and public life.
I want to thank President Kerwin and the American University family for hosting us here today.
Fifty-two years ago, President Kennedy, at the height of the Cold War, addressed this same university on the subject of peace. The Berlin Wall had just been built. The Soviet Union had tested the most powerful weapons ever developed. China was on the verge of acquiring the nuclear bomb. Less than 20 years after the end of World War II, the prospect of nuclear war was all too real.
With all of the threats that we face today, it is hard to appreciate how much more dangerous the world was at that time. In light of these mounting threats, a number of strategists here in the United States argued we had to take military action against the Soviets, to hasten what they saw as inevitable confrontation. But the young president offered a different vision.
OBAMA: Strength, in his view, included powerful armed forces and a willingness to stand up for our values around the world. But he rejected the prevailing attitude among some foreign-policy circles that equated security with a perpetual war footing.
Instead, he promised strong, principled American leadership on behalf of what he called a practical and attainable peace, a peace based not on a sudden revolution in human nature, but on a gradual evolution in human institutions, on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements.
Such wisdom would help guide our ship of state through some of the most perilous moments in human history. With Kennedy at the helm, the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved peacefully.
Under Democratic and Republican presidents, new agreements were forged: A nonproliferation treaty that prohibited nations from acquiring nuclear weapons, while allowing them to access peaceful nuclear energy, the SALT and START treaties, which bound the United States and the Soviet Union to cooperation on arms control.
Not every conflict was averted, but the world avoided nuclear catastrophe, and we created the time and the space to win the Cold War without firing a shot at the Soviets.
The agreement now reached between the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong, principled policy diplomacy.
After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb. It contains the most comprehensive inspection and verification regime ever negotiated to monitor a nuclear program.
As was true in previous treaties, it does not resolve all problems. It certainly doesn’t resolve all our problems with Iran. It does not ensure a warming between our two countries. But it achieves one of our most critical security objectives. As such, it is a very good deal.
Today, I want to speak to you about this deal and the most consequential foreign-policy debate that our country has had since the invasion of Iraq, as Congress decides whether to support this historic diplomatic breakthrough or instead blocks it over the objection of the vast majority of the world. Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.
Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war. We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place.
It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported.
Leaders did not level with the American people about the costs of war, insisting that we could easily impose our will on a part of the world with a profoundly different culture and history.
OBAMA: And, of course, those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive while dismissing those who disagreed as weak, even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.
More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq. Our troops achieved every mission they were given, but thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands wounded. That doesn’t count the lives lost among Iraqis. Nearly a trillion dollars was spent.
Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al-Qaida in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL. And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein.
I raise this recent history because now more than ever, we need clear thinking in our foreign policy, and I raise this history because it bears directly on how we respond to the Iranian nuclear program. That program has been around for decades, dating back to the Shah’s efforts, with U.S. support, in the 1960s and ’70s to develop nuclear power. The theocracy that overthrew the Shah accelerated the program after the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, a war in which Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons to brutal effect, and Iran’s nuclear program advanced steadily through the 1990s despite unilateral U.S. sanctions.
When the Bush administration took office, Iran had no centrifuges, the machines necessary to produce material for a bomb, that were spinning to enrich uranium. But despite repeated warnings from the United States government, by the time I took office, Iran had installed several thousand centrifuges and showed no inclination to slow, much less halt, its program.
Among U.S. policymakers, there’s never been disagreement on the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear bomb. Democrats and Republicans alike have recognized that it would spark an arms race in the world’s most unstable region and turn every crisis into a potential nuclear showdown. It would embolden terrorist groups like Hezbollah and pose an unacceptable risk to Israel, which Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to destroy. More broadly, it could unravel the global commitment to nonproliferation that the world has done so much to defend.
The question then is not whether to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but how. Even before taking office, I made clear that Iran would not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon on my watch, and it’s been my policy throughout my presidency to keep all options, including possible military options, on the table to achieve that objective.
But I have also made clear my preference for a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the issue, not just because of the costs of war, but also because a negotiated agreement offered a more effective, verifiable and durable resolution. And so in 2009, we let the Iranians know that a diplomatic path was available. Iran failed to take that path, and our intelligence community exposed the existence of a covert nuclear facility at Fordo.
Now some have argued that Iran’s intransigence showed the futility of negotiations. In fact, it was our very willingness to negotiate that helped America rally the world to our cause and secured international participation in an unprecedented framework of commercial and financial sanctions.
OBAMA: Keep in mind, unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran had been in place for decades, but had failed to pressure Iran to the negotiating table. What made our new approach more effective was our ability to draw upon new U.N. Security Council resolutions, combining strong enforcement with voluntary agreements for nations like China and India, Japan and South Korea, to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil, as well as the imposition by our European allies of a total oil embargo.
Winning this global buy-in was not easy. I know; I was there. In some cases, our partners lost billions of dollars in trade because of their decision to cooperate. But we were able to convince them that, absent a diplomatic resolution, the result could be war with major disruptions to the global economy, and even greater instability in the Middle East.
In other words, it was diplomacy, hard, painstaking diplomacy, not saber rattling, not tough talk, that ratcheted up the pressure on Iran. With the world now unified beside us, Iran’s economy contracted severely, and remains about 20 percent smaller today than it would have otherwise been. No doubt this hardship played a role in Iran’s 2013 elections, when the Iranian people elected a new government, that promised to improve the economy through engagement to the world.
A window had cracked open. Iran came back to the nuclear talks. And after a series of negotiations, Iran agreed with the international community to an interim deal, a deal that rolled back Iran’s stockpile of near 20 percent enriched uranium, and froze the progress of its program so that the P5+1 — the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the European Union, could negotiate a comprehensive deal without the fear that Iran might be stalling for time.
Now, let me pause here just to remind everybody that, when the interim deal was announced, critics, the same critics we are hearing from now, called it a historic mistake. They insisted Iran would ignore its obligations, they warned that the sanctions would unravel. They warned that Iran would receive a windfall to support terrorism.
The critics were wrong. The progress of Iran’s nuclear program was halted for the first time in a decade, its stockpile of dangerous materials was reduced, the deployment of its advanced centrifuges was stopped, inspections did increase. There was no flood of money into Iran. And the architecture of the international sanctions remained in place. In fact, the interim deal worked so well that the same people who criticized it so fiercely now cite it as an excuse not to support the broader accord. Think about that. What was once proclaimed as an historic mistake is now held up as a success and a reason to not sign the comprehensive of deal.
So keep that in mind when you assess the credibility of the arguments being made against diplomacy today. Despite the criticism, we moved ahead to negotiate a more lasting, comprehensive deal. Our diplomats, led by Secretary of State John Kerry kept our coalition united, our nuclear experts, including one of the best in the world, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, work tirelessly on a technical details.
In July, we reached a comprehensive of plan of action that meets our objectives. Under its terms, Iran is never allowed to build a nuclear weapon. And while Iran, like any party to the nuclear non- proliferation treaty, is allowed to access peaceful nuclear energy, the agreement strictly defines the manner in which its nuclear program can proceed, ensuring that all pathways to a bomb are cut off.
OBAMA: Here is how.
Under this deal, Iran cannot acquire the plutonium needed for a bomb. The core of its heavy reactor at Arak will be pulled out, filled with concrete, replaced with one that will not produce plutonium for a weapon. The spent fuel from that reactor will be shipped out of the country, and Iran will not build any new heavy water reactors for at least 15 years.
Iran will also not be able to acquire the enriched uranium that could be used for a bomb. As soon as this deal is implemented, Iran will remove two-thirds of its centrifuges. For the next decade, Iran will not enrich uranium with its more advanced centrifuges. Iran will not enrich uranium at the previously undisclosed Fordo facility, which is very deep underground, for at least 15 years.
Iran will get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is currently enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs for the next 15 years. Even after those 15 years have passed, Iran will never have the right to use a peaceful program as cover to pursue a weapon, and in fact this deal shuts off the type of covert path Iran pursued in the past.
There will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities. For decades, inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, from the uranium mines and mills where they get raw materials to the centrifuge production facilities where they make machines to enrich it. And understand why this is so important.
For Iran to cheat, it has to build a lot more than just one building or covert facility like Fordo. It would need a secret source for every single aspect of its program. No nation in history has been able to pull of such subterfuge when subjected to such rigorous inspections. And under the terms of the deal, inspectors will have the permanent ability to inspect any suspicious sites in Iran.
And finally, Iran has powerful incentives to keep its commitments. Before getting sanctions relief, Iran has to take significant concrete steps, like removing centrifuges and getting rid of its stock piles. If Iran violates the agreement over the next decade, all of the sanctions can snap back into place. We won’t need the support of other members of the U.N. Security Council, America can trigger snap back on our own.
On the other hand, if Iran abides by the deal, and its economy beings to reintegrate with the world, the incentive to avoid snap back will only grow.
So this deal is not just the best choice among alternatives, this is the strongest nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated, and because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support. The United Nations Security Council has unanimously supported it. The majority of arms control and nonproliferation experts support it. Over 100 former ambassadors who served under Republican and Democratic presidents support it.
I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls as president, but whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls, it’s not even close. Unfortunately, we’re living through a time in American politics where every foreign policy decision is viewed through a partisan prison, evaluated by headline-grabbing soundbites, and so before the ink was even dry on this deal, before Congress even read it, a majority of Republicans declared their virulent opposition. Lobbyists and pundits were suddenly transformed into armchair nuclear scientists…
… disputing the assessments of experts like Secretary Moniz, challenging his findings, offering multiple and sometimes contradictory arguments about why Congress should reject this deal.
OBAMA: But if you repeat these arguments long enough, they can get some traction. So, let me address just a few of the arguments that have been made so far in opposition to this deal.
First, there’re those who say the inspections are not strong enough, because inspectors can’t go anywhere in Iran at any time with no notice.
Well, here’s the truth. Inspectors will be allowed daily access to Iran’s key nuclear sites.
If there is a reason for inspecting a suspicious undeclared site anywhere in Iran, inspectors will get that access even if Iran objects. This access can be with as little as 24 hours notice.
And while the process for resolving a dispute about access can take up to 24 days, once we’ve identified a site that raises suspicion, we will be watching it continuously until inspectors get in.
And — and by the way, nuclear material isn’t something you hide in the closet.
It can leave a trace for years.
The bottom line is, if Iran cheats, we can catch them, and we will.
Second, there are those who argue that the deal isn’t strong enough, because some of the limitations on Iran’s civilian nuclear program expire in 15 years.
Let me repeat. The prohibition on Iran having a nuclear weapon is permanent. The ban on weapons-related research is permanent. Inspections are permanent.
It is true that some of the limitations regarding Iran’s peaceful program last only 15 years. But that’s how arms control agreements work. The first SALT treaty with the Soviet Union lasted five years. The first START treaty lasted 15 years.
And in our current situation, if 15 or 20 years from now, Iran tries to build a bomb, this deal ensures that the United States will have better tools to detect it, a stronger basis under international law to respond and the same options available to stop our weapons program as we have today, including, if necessary, military options.
On the other hand, without this deal, the scenarios that critics warn about happening in 15 years could happen six months from now. By killing this deal, Congress would not merely Iran’s pathway to a bomb, it would accelerate it.
Third, a number of critics say the deal isn’t worth it, because Iran will get billions of dollars in sanctions relief.
Now, let’s be clear. The international sanctions were put in place precisely to get Iran to agree to constraints on its program. That’s the point of sanctions. Any negotiated agreement with Iran would involve sanctions relief.
So an argument against sanctions relief is effectively an argument against any diplomatic resolution of this issue. It is true that if Iran lives up to its commitments, it will gain access to roughly $56 billion of its own money, revenue frozen overseas by other countries.
But the notion that this will be a game-changer with all this money funneled into Iran’s pernicious activities misses the reality of Iran’s current situation.
Partly because of our sanctions, the Iranian government has over half a trillion dollars in urgent requirements, from funding pensions and salaries to paying for crumbling infrastructure.
Iran’s leaders have raised expectations of their people, that sanctions relief will improve their lives. Even a repressive regime like Iran’s cannot completely ignore those expectations, and that’s why our best analysts expect the bulk of this revenue to go into spending that improves the economy and benefits the lives of the Iranian people.
Now, this is not to say that sanctions relief will provide no benefit to Iran’s military. Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to.
OBAMA: We have no illusions about the Iranian government or the significance of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force. Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies, including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq.
They tried to destabilize our Gulf partners. But Iran has been engaged in these activities for decades. They engaged in them before sanctions and while sanctions were in place. In fact, Iran even engaged in these sanctions in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war, a war that cost them nearly a million lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. The truth is that Iran has always found a way to fund these efforts, and whatever benefit Iran may claim from sanctions relief pales in comparison to the danger it could pose with a nuclear weapon.
Moreover, there is no scenario where sanctions relief turns Iran into the region’s dominant power. Iran’s defense budget is eight times smaller than the combined budget of our Gulf allies. Their conventional capabilities will never compare to Israel’s, and our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge helps guarantee that.
Over the last several years, Iran has had to spend billions of dollars to support its only ally in the Arab world, Bashar al-Assad, even as he’s lost control of huge chunks of his country. And Hezbollah suffered significant blows on this same battlefield. And Iran, like the rest of the region, is being forced to respond to the threat of ISIL in Iraq.
So, contrary to the alarmists who claim Iran is on the brink of taking over the Middle East, or even the world, Iran will remain a regional power with its own set of challenges. The ruling regime is dangerous and it is repressive. We will continue to have sanctions in place on Iran’s support for terrorism and violation of human rights. We will continue to insist upon the release of Americans detained unjustly. We will have a lot of differences with the Iranian regime.
But if we are serious about confronting Iran’s destabilizing activities, it is hard to imagine a worse approach than blocking this deal. Instead, we need to check the behavior that we are concerned about directly, by helping our allies in the region strengthen their own capabilities to counter a cyber attack or a ballistic missile, by improving the interdiction of weapons’ shipments that go to groups like Hezbollah, by training our allies’ special forces so they can more effectively respond to situations like Yemen.
All these capabilities will make a difference. We will be in a stronger position to implement them with this deal.
And by the way, such a strategy also helps us effectively confront the immediate and lethal threat posed by ISIL.
Now, the final criticism, this is sort of catchall that you may hear, is the notion that there is a better deal to be had. We should get a better deal. That is repeated over and over again. It’s a bad deal — we need a better deal.
One that relies on vague promises of toughness and, more recently, the argument that we can apply a broader and indefinite set of sanctions to squeeze the Iranian regime harder. Those making this argument are either ignorant of Iranian society, or they are not being straight with the American people. Sanctions alone are not going to force Iran to completely dismantle all vestiges of its nuclear infrastructure, even aspects that are consistent with peaceful programs. That, is oftentimes, is what the critics are calling a better deal.
OBAMA: Neither the Iranian government, or the Iranian opposition, or the Iranian people would agree to what they would view as a total surrender of their sovereignty.
Moreover, our closest allies in Europe or in Asia, much less China or Russia, certainly are not going to enforce existing sanctions for another five, 10, 15 years according to the dictates of the U.S. Congress because their willingness to support sanctions in the first place was based on Iran ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. It was not based on the belief that Iran cannot have peaceful nuclear power, and it certainly wasn’t based on a desire for regime change in Iran.
As a result, those who say we can just walk away from this deal and maintain sanctions are selling a fantasy. Instead of strengthening our position, as some have suggested, Congress’ rejection would almost certainly result in multi-lateral sanctions unraveling.
If, as has also been suggested, we tried to maintain unilateral sanctions, beefen them up, we would be standing alone. We cannot dictate the foreign, economic and energy policies of every major power in the world. In order to even try to do that, we would have to sanction, for example, some of the world’s largest banks. We’d have to cut off countries like China from the American financial system. And since they happen to be major purchasers of our debt, such actions could trigger severe disruptions in our own economy, and, by way, raise questions internationally about the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. That’s part of the reason why many of the previous unilateral sanctions were waived.
What’s more likely to happen should Congress reject this deal is that Iran would end up with some form of sanctions relief without having to accept any of the constraints or inspections required by this deal. So in that sense, the critics are right. Walk away from this agreement, and you will get a better deal — for Iran.
Now because more sanctions won’t produce the results that the critics want, we have to be honest. Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option, another war in the Middle East. I say this not to be provocative, I am stating a fact. Without this deal, Iran will be in a position, however tough our rhetoric may be, to steadily advance its capabilities. Its breakout time, which is already fairly small, could shrink to near zero. Does anyone really doubt that the same voices now raised against this deal will be demanding that whoever is president bomb those nuclear facilities? And as someone who does firmly believe that Iran must not get a nuclear weapon and who has wrestled with this issue since the beginning of my presidency, I can tell you that alternatives to military actions will have been exhausted once we reject a hard-won diplomatic solution that the world almost unanimously supports.
So let’s not mince words. The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon.
OBAMA: And here’s the irony. As I said before, military action would be far less effective than this deal in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That’s not just my supposition. Every estimate, including those from Israeli analysts, suggest military action would only set back Iran’s program by a few years at best, which is a fraction of the limitations imposed by this deal.
It would likely guarantee that inspectors are kicked out of Iran. It is probable that it would drive Iran’s program deeper underground. It would certainly destroy the international unity that we have spent so many years building.
Now, there are some of opponents — I have to give them credit. They’re opponents of this deal who accept the choice of war. In fact, they argue that surgical strikes against Iran’s facilities will be quick and painless.
But if we’ve learned anything from the last decade, it’s that wars in general and wars in the Middle East in particular are anything but simple.
The only certainty in war is human suffering, uncertain costs, unintended consequences.
We can also be sure that the Americans who bear the heaviest burden are the less-than-1 percent of us, the outstanding men and women who serve in uniform, and not those of us who send them to war.
As commander-in-chief, I have not shied away from using force when necessary. I have ordered tens of thousands of young Americans into combat. I have sat by their bedside sometimes when they come home.
I’ve ordered military action in seven countries. There are times when force is necessary, and if Iran does not abide by this deal, it’s possible that we don’t have an alternative.
But how can we, in good conscience, justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives, that has been agreed to by Iran, that is supported by the rest of the world and that preserves our option if the deal falls short? How could we justify that to our troops? How could we justify that to the world or to future generations? In the end, that should be a lesson that we’ve learned from over a decade of war. On the front end, ask tough questions, subject our own assumptions to evidence and analysis, resist the conventional wisdom and the drumbeat of war, worry less about being labeled weak, worry more about getting it right.
I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran. It is offensive. It is incendiary. We do take it seriously.
But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts or even provocations that can be addressed short of war. Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those…
In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus.
The majority of the Iranian people have powerful incentives to urge their government to move in a different, less provocative direction, incentives that are strengthened by this deal. We should offer them that chance. We should give them the opportunity.
OBAMA: It’s not guaranteed to succeed. But if they take it, that would be good for Iran. It would be good for the United States. It would be good for a region that has known too much conflict. It would be good for the world.
And if Iran does not move in that direction, if Iran violates this deal, we will have ample ability to respond. You know, the agreements pursued by Kennedy and Reagan with the Soviet Union. Those agreements and treaties involved America accepting significant constraints on our arsenal. As such, they were riskier.
This agreement involves no such constraints. The defense budget of the United States is more than $600 billion. To repeat, Iran’s is about $15 billion. Our military remains the ultimate backstop to any security agreement that we make. I have stated that Iran will never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon, and have done what is necessary to make sure our military options are real. And I have no doubt that any president who follows me will take the same position.
So, let me sum up here. When we carefully examine the arguments against this deal, none stand up to scrutiny. That may be why the rhetoric on the other side is so strident. I suppose some of it can be ascribed to knee-jerk partisanship that has become all too familiar, rhetoric that renders every decision made to be a disaster, a surrender. You’re aiding terrorists; you’re endangering freedom.
On the other hand, I do think it is important to a knowledge another more understandable motivation behind the opposition to this deal, or at least skepticism to this deal. And that is a sincere affinity for our friend and ally Israel. An affinity that, as someone who has been a stalwart friend to Israel throughout my career, I deeply share.
When the Israeli government is opposed to something, people in the United States take notice; and they should. No one can blame Israelis for having a deep skepticism about any dealings with the government like Iran’s, which includes leaders who deny the Holocaust, embrace an ideology of anti-Semitism, facilitate the flow of rockets that are arrayed on Israel’s borders. Are pointed at Tel Aviv.
In such a dangerous neighbor Israel has to be vigilant, and it rightly insists it cannot depend on any other country, even it’s great friend the United States, for its own security.
So, we have to take seriously concerns in Israel. But the fact is, partly due to American military and intelligence assistance, which my administration has provided at unprecedented levels, Israel can defend itself against any conventional danger, whether from Iran directly or from its proxies. On the other hand, a nuclear-armed Iran changes that equation.
And that’s why this deal must be judged by what it achieves on the central goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This deal does exactly that. I say this as someone who is done more than any other president to strengthen Israel’s security. And I have made clear to the Israeli government that we are prepared to discuss how we can deepen that cooperation even further. Already, we have held talks with Israel on concluding another 10-year plan for U.S. security assistance to Israel.
OBAMA: We can enhance support for areas like missile defense, information sharing, interdiction, all to help meet Israel’s pressing security needs. And to provide a hedge against any additional activities that Iran may engage in as a consequence of sanctions relief.
But I have also listened to the Israeli security establishment, which warned of the danger posed by a nuclear armed Iran for decades. In fact, they helped develop many of the ideas that ultimately led to this deal. So to friends of Israel and the Israeli people, I say this. A nuclear armed Iran is far more dangerous to Israel, to America, and to the world than an Iran that benefits from sanctions relief.
I recognize that prime minister Netanyahu disagrees, disagrees strongly. I do not doubt his sincerity, but I believe he is wrong. I believe the facts support this deal. I believe they are in America’s interests and Israel’s interests, and as president of the United States it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.
I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States, I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel.
For the last couple of weeks, I have repeatedly challenged anyone opposed to this deal to put forward a better, plausible alternative. I have yet to hear one. What I’ve heard instead are the same types of arguments that we heard in the run up to the Iraq war. “Iran cannot be dealt with diplomatically.” “We can take military strikes without significant consequences.” “We shouldn’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks, because once we act, everyone will fall in line.” “Tougher talk, more military threats will force Iran into submission.” “We can get a better deal.”
I know it’s easy to play in people’s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich, but none of these arguments hold up. They didn’t back in 2002, in 2003, they shouldn’t now.
That same mind set in many cases offered by the same people, who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong…
… lead to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since. It’s a mind set out of step with the traditions of American foreign policy where we exhaust diplomacy before war and debate matters of war and peace in the cold light of truth.
“Peace is not the absence of conflict,” President Reagan once said. It is the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means. President Kennedy warned Americans not to see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than the exchange of threats. It is time to apply such wisdom. The deal before us doesn’t bet on Iran changing, it doesn’t require trust, it verifies and requires Iran to forsake a nuclear weapon.
OBAMA: Just as we struck agreements with the Soviet Union at a time when they were threatening our allies, arming proxies against us, proclaiming their commitment to destroy our way of life, and had nuclear weapons pointed at all of our major cities, a genuine existential threat.
You know, we live in a complicated world, a world in which the forces unleashed by human innovation are creating for our children that were unimaginable for most of human history.
It is also a world of persistent threats, a world in which mass violence and cruelty is all too common and human innovation risks the destruction of all that we hold dear.
In this world, the United States of America remains the most powerful nation on Earth, and I believe that we will remain such for decades to come.
But we are one nation among many, and what separates us from the empires of old, what has made us exceptional, is not the mere fact of our military might.
Since World War II, the deadliest war in human history, we have used our power to try and bind nations together in a system of international law. We have led an evolution of those human institutions President Kennedy spoke about to prevent the spread of deadly weapons, to uphold peace and security and promote human progress.
We now have the opportunity to build on that progress. We built a coalition and held together through sanctions and negotiations, and now we have before us a solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon without resorting to war.
As Americans, we should be proud of this achievement. And as members of Congress reflect on their pending decision, I urge them to set aside political concerns, shut out the noise, consider the stakes involved with the vote that you will cast.
If Congress kills this deal, we will lose more than just constraints on Iran’s nuclear deal or the sanctions we have painstakingly built. We will have lost something more precious: America’s credibility as a leader of diplomacy. America’s credibility is the anchor of the international system.
John F. Kennedy cautioned here more than 50 years ago at this university that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war. But it’s so very important. It is surely the pursuit of peace that is most needed in this world so full of strife.
My fellow Americans, contact your representatives in Congress, remind them of who we are, remind them of what is best in us and what we stand for so that we can leave behind a world that is more secure and more peaceful for our children.
Story 1: Billionaires For Bush and Clinton — American People For Anyone Else — Nurse Ratchet Is Back — Money Cannot Buy You Love — It’s My Turn — Videos
Be it or be it not true that Man is shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin, it is unquestionably true that Government is begotten of aggression, and by aggression.
~Herbert Spencer, 1850
This is the gravest danger that today threatens civilization: State intervention, the absorption of all spontaneous social effort by the State; that is to say, of spontaneous historical action, which in the long-run sustains, nourishes and impels human destinies.
~Jose Ortega y Gasset, 1922
It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men.
For more than 70 years, with few exceptions, more Americans have identified as Democrats than Republicans. But the share of independents, which surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans several years ago, continues to increase. Currently, 39% Americans identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling. Report:A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation
Note: 1939-1989 yearly averages from the Gallup Organization interactive website. 1990-2014 yearly totals from Pew Research Center aggregate files. Based on the general public. Data unavailable for 1941. Independent data unavailable for 1951-1956.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Randal back in action scene
i want my cigarettes
The Beatles – Can’t Buy Me Love (Live)
Hillary Clinton Announces Her Bid For President. Again.
This Aug. 24, 2012 photo provided by FDR Four Freedoms Park LLC, shows the New York City memorial park, honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that has been completed 40 years after the original design was created. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of 2-mile-long Roosevelt Island – between Manhattan and Queens – is being dedicated Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in a ceremony to be attended by dignitaries including former President Bill Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (AP Photo/FDR Four Freedoms Park LLC, Paul Warchol)
Clinton touts shared prosperity in campaign kick-off speech
Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Candidacy Announcement Expected on Sunday
Malzberg | Raffi Williams discusses Hillary Clinton’s Saturday “Re-Launch” of her Campaign
Hillary Clinton Launches Presidential Campaign In Nyc FULL SPEECH
Hillary the Scandals
Exposed: Hillary Clinton’s Sex Scandals
THE CLINTON CONSPIRACY – MUST WATCH
Google “Bill Clinton rape”
The Alex Jones Show (1st HOUR-VIDEO Commercial Free) Sunday June 14 2015: News
CNN Poll Shows Hillary Clinton “Shine Has Tarnished” And She Is Losing Support Of Independents
FNC: Hillary Clinton’s Favorability Down 11 Among Independents
Jeb LET’S-JUST-LEAVE-LAST-NAMES-OUT-OF-THIS Bush 2016 Presidential Campaign Announcement
Immigration Protesters Disrupt Jeb Bush Campaign Announcement – June 15, 2015
Conservative Heads Explode Over Jeb Bush Immigration Comments
Mark Levin comments on Jeb Bush’s statements about legal and illegal immigration
PJTV: No Jeb Bush and No Third Parties
Glenn Beck – “Jeb Bush is Hillary Clinton LITE”
Immigration by the Numbers — Off the Charts
America’s Immigration History
Top 10 Immigrant Countries
Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs – Updated 2010
How Many Illegal Aliens Are in the US? – Walsh – 1
How Many Illegal Aliens Are in the United States? Presentation by James H. Walsh, Associate General Counsel of the former INS – part 1.
Census Bureau estimates of the number of illegals in the U.S. are suspect and may represent significant undercounts. The studies presented by these authors show that the numbers of illegal aliens in the U.S. could range from 20 to 38 million.
On October 3, 2007, a press conference and panel discussion was hosted by Californians for Population Stabilization (http://www.CAPSweb.org) and The Social Contract (http://www.TheSocialContract.com) to discuss alternative methodologies for estimating the true numbers of illegal aliens residing in the United States.
This is a presentation of five panelists presenting at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C. on October 3, 2007. The presentations are broken into a series of video segments:
How Many Illegal Aliens Are in the US? – Walsh – 2
Jeb Bush Urges ‘Earned Legal Status’ For 11 Million Illegal Aliens
Did Ann Coulter Save USA with funny & brilliant Immigration CPAC Speech?
Laura Ingraham slams Jeb Bush at CPAC
Jeb Bush to officially announce 2016 presidential run
Jeb Bush Finally Announces He Will Run for President
Jeb Bush – Just Another W?
Raw video: Jeb Bush speaks at Politics and Eggs
Diana Ross – Do You Know Where You’re Going To ( Theme From Soundtrack Mahogany )
Diana Ross It’s My Turn
JEB BUSH HAS OPTIMISTIC MESSAGE, FACES CHALLENGES IN ’16 BID
BY STEVE PEOPLES AND BRENDAN FARRINGTON
Jeb Bush is launching a Republican presidential bid months in the making Monday with a vow to get Washington “out of the business of causing problems” and to stay true to his beliefs – easier said than done in a bristling primary contest where his conservative credentials will be sharply challenged.
“I will campaign as I would serve, going everywhere, speaking to everyone, keeping my word, facing the issues without flinching,” Bush said in excerpts of a speech released by his campaign before his afternoon announcement. Bush was opening his campaign at a rally near his south Florida home at Miami Dade College, where the institution’s large and diverse student body symbolizes the nation he seeks to lead.
In an unusual twist for a political speech aimed at a national audience, Bush, who is bilingual, planned to speak partly in Spanish. The former Florida governor has made minority outreach a priority.
“In any language,” his speech said, “my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead in America the greatest time ever to be alive in this world.”
In a video for the event, showing women, minorities and a disabled child, Bush says “the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line and not the back.” This calls for “new leadership that takes conservative principles and applies them so that people can rise up.”
Neither his father, former President George H.W. Bush, nor his brother, former President George W. Bush, was expected to attend. The family was to be represented instead by Jeb Bush’s mother and former first lady, Barbara Bush, who once said that the country didn’t need yet another Bush as president, and by his son George P. Bush, recently elected Texas land commissioner.
Before the event, the Bush campaign came out with a new logo – Jeb! – that conspicuously leaves out the Bush surname.
Bush joins the race in progress in some ways in a commanding position. Bush has probably raised a record amount of money to support his candidacy and conceived of a new approach on how to structure his campaign, both aimed at allowing him to make a deep run into the GOP primaries.
But on other measures, early public opinion polls among them, he has yet to break out. While unquestionably one of the top-tier candidates in the GOP race, he is also only one of several in a large and capable Republican field that does not have a true front-runner.
In the past six months, Bush has made clear he will remain committed to his core beliefs in the campaign to come – even if his positions on immigration and education standards are deeply unpopular among the conservative base of the party that plays an outsized role in the GOP primaries.
Tea party leader Mark Meckler on Monday said Bush’s positions on education and immigration are “a nonstarter with many conservatives.”
“There are two political dynasties eyeing 2016,” said Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the movement’s largest organizations, and now leader of Citizens for Self-Governance. “And before conservatives try to beat Hillary, they first need to beat Bush.”
Yet a defiant Bush has showed little willingness to placate his party’s right wing.
“I’m not going to change who I am,” Bush said as he wrapped up a European trip on the weekend. “I respect people who may not agree with me, but I’m not going to change my views because today someone has a view that’s different.”
Bush is one of 11 major Republicans in the hunt for the nomination. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are among those still deciding whether to join a field that could end up just shy of 20.
After touring four early-voting states, Bush quickly launches a private fundraising tour with stops in at least 11 cities before the end of the month. Two events alone – a reception at Union Station in Washington on Friday and a breakfast the following week on Seventh Avenue in New York – will account for almost $2 million in new campaign cash, according to invitations that list more than 75 already committed donors.
Jeb Bush Announces GOP Presidential Campaign
Enters crowded Republican field with the party faithful divided over the GOP’s direction
By BYRON TAU
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday, flipping the switch on an expansive campaign operation he has quietly been building for months.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination on Monday, June 15, 2015 in Miami.PHOTO:REUTERS
“Here’s what it comes down to. Our country is on a very bad course. And the question is: What are we going to do about it? The question for me is: What am I going to do about it?” he said. “And I have decided. I am a candidate for president of the United States.”
Mr. Bush, who becomes the third member of his family to seek the nation’s highest office, spoke while delivering his official campaign speech at Miami-Dade College.
Earlier, he officially kicked off his candidacy by filing paperwork to run for president with the Federal Election Commission.
The son and brother of two U.S. presidents, Mr. Bush enters a presidential field crowded with young up-and-coming Republican talent and an electorate deeply divided about the future direction of both the Republican Party and the nation.
In laying out the case for his candidacy, Mr. Bush promised an uplifting message about the direction and future of the country.
“In any language, my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead in America the greatest time ever to be alive in this world,” Mr. Bush said.
And the former Florida governor boasted about job and economic growth and tax cuts in the state over his tenure.
Jeb Bush is not that far off politically from brother George W., but the two have very different personalities and backgrounds. Photo: AP
Though Mr. Bush has built a sizable campaign war chest and attracted veteran operatives for both his campaign and his independent super PAC—polls show him barely registering above 10% in a crowded primary field.
He’ll also face a Republican primary electorate that has grown more conservative since his brother George W. Bush ran for election in 2000 on a platform of what he called compassionate conservatism.
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On two issues in particular—immigration andeducation—Mr. Bush finds himself on the opposite side from many grassroots activists in the Republican Party. Mr. Bush has long supported changes to the nation’s immigration system that would allow illegal immigrants a path to legal status. He also has expressed support for national education standards opposed by many conservative activists.
Mr. Bush also faces the challenge of distancing himself in the voters’ eyes from his family name and legacy. His brother, George W. Bush, left office with sagging approval ratings due in part to his role as the architect of a divisive and unpopular war in Iraq.
Jeb Bush has spent months planning his entrance into the 2016 presidential campaign and he will enter with the most name recognition and money of his GOP field. WSJ’s Jerry Seib explains. Photo: AP
Mr. Bush unveiled a campaign logo on Monday that downplays his family’s last name. The stylized red logo contains only Mr. Bush’s first name with an exclamation point. His father, George H.W. Bush, and brother, George W. Bush, aren’t expected to attend his campaign kickoff.
Mr. Bush has been traveling the country in the past few months banking campaign cash for an independent group that is expected to support his efforts. With his deep ties to the Republican donor class and the business community, Mr. Bush has built a formidable operation and a major war chest.
Once he becomes an official candidate, he won’t be able to coordinate with the super PAC, which will be run out of Los Angeles. Mr. Bush’s official campaign is based in Florida.
Jeb Bush: I cry, I’m introverted, but I want to be president
Third member of the Bush dynasty finally to announce candidacy for Republican nomination
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, in Tallinn, Estonia, on SaturdayPhoto: Bloomberg
By Joanna Walters, New York and Raf Sanchez, Miami
Jeb Bush will finally end months of speculation and announce he is running for the American presidency on Monday, in a campaign carefully calibrated to portray himself as a natural heir to the family dynasty and at the same time distance himself from his brother George W.
In a key-note interview, he described his father, the first President George Bush, as the “greatest man alive” and said the mere thought of him might make him cry.
But by contrast he was careful to differentiate himself from his brother. “Jeb is different from George,” he told CNN. “Jeb is who he is and his life story is different.”
Mr Bush plans to announce he is running for the White House in Miami on Monday, after months of unofficial campaigning.
He unveiled his campaign logo via social media site Twitter on Sunday, and immediately ran into teasing from the public that it is almost identical to the logo he used when he ran, successfully, for the governorship of Florida in 1998.
The logo is simply his first name in bright red with an exclamation mark and 2016 underneath. His governor’s campaign logo was also ‘Jeb!’
“It’s something that’s been lacking in the presidency, to have someone who’s been tempered by life, and along the way I will get to share that,” said Mr Bush, who at 62 is eighteen years older than Mr Rubio and eight years older even than the departing president.
Polls show the two men, along with Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, as the current front-runners for the Republican nomination.
Mr Bush will make his campaign announcement in his hometown of Miami and will be joined by his wife Columba, a Mexican-born woman who has largely shied away from the public spotlight.
The story of how they met as teenagers featured prominently in a video Mr Bush released shortly before the announcement.
“I need to share my heart to show a little bit about my life experience,” Mr Bush said in the video.
While it has been clear for months that Mr Bush intended to run he has used the time ahead of his formal announcement to raise funds for a superPAC, a nominally independent group that will support his candidacy.
Mr Bush is said to have already amassed a campaign war chest of more than $100 million, according to the website Politico.
But he is among the most moderate of the Republican contenders when it comes to domestic policy. Unlike others in his party he has not lashed out at national education standards and has taken a more measured tone on immigration.
Mr Bush, who speaks fluent Spanish, may be able to attract the votes of Hispanic voters who are an increasingly crucial voting group in US elections.
However, the conservative activists who play a major role in determining the Republican nominee may pressure Mr Bush to take a harsher line on immigration.
He has already backed away from his previous support for a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants who have lived and worked in the US for a long time. Mrs Clinton supports such a path, as does President Barack Obama.
Mr Bush has denied he was trying to cut himself off from his famous name, but admitted he had a difficult task to show the man beneath the family.
“I don’t have to dissociate myself from my family, you know, I love them but I know that for me to be successful I’m going to have to share my heart, tell my story,” he added.
“It’s important. It’s something that took a little bit of getting used to for me, personally, to be able to show my heart, because I’m kind of introverted, but it’s important to do,” he said.
He was asked about his father, who turned 91 on June 12 and whether he would be on his mind when he announces his own candidacy to follow in the family footsteps.
“I’m not going to think about that because Bushes are known to cry once in a while. It’s very emotional for me,” he said. “I love my dad. He’s just the greatest man alive,” he said.
Mr Bush said he was looking forward to telling a life story that was “full of warts and full of successes”, where he had had to make “tough decisions”.Most startling is that it completely leaves out the famous family name that has given him a head start in the 2016 presidential race.
Clinton formally launches 2016 campaign with focus on economic equality
Hillary Clinton on Saturday officially launched her 2016 presidential campaign, calling for a return to shared prosperity and asking American workers, students and others to trust her to fight for them.
Clinton made the announcement at an outdoor rally on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, two months after announcing her campaign with an online video.
“You have to wonder: When do I get ahead? I say now,” Clinton told the crowd in a roughly 46-minute speech. “You brought the country back. Now it’s your time to enjoy the prosperity. That is why I’m running for president of the United States.”
The former first lady, U.S. senator from New York and secretary of state is the Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 White House race.
Also in the race are Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffe.
She lost her 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to then-Sen. Obama.
Clinton, wearing her signature blue pantsuit, walked through the crowd en route to the stage for her speech.
She remarked that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms are a “testament to our nation’s unmatched aspirations and a reminder of our unfinished work at home and abroad.”
Clinton also drew into focus what will likely be the key themes of her campaign including support for same-sex marriage, wage equality for women and all Americans, affordable college tuition and free child-care and pre-kindergarten.
“The top-25 hedge fund managers make more than all kindergarten teachers combined,” she said. “And they’re paying lower taxes.”
Clinton attempted to portray herself as a fierce advocate for those left behind in the post-recession economy, detailing a lifetime of work on behalf of struggling families. She said her mother’s difficult childhood inspired what she considers a calling.
“I have been called many things by many people,” Clinton said.” Quitter is not one of them.”
She said that attribute came from her late mother, Dorothy Rodham, in whom she would confide after hard days in the Senate and at the State Department.
“I wish my mother could have been with us longer,” Clinton said. “I wish she could have seen the America we are going to build together … where we don’t leave any one out or any one behind.”
Clinton was joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and their daughter, Chelsea.
She also was critical in her speech of Republicans, suggesting they have reserved economic prosperity for the wealthy, in large part by cutting taxes for the country’s highest wage-earners.
She also accused them of trying to “wipe out tough rules on Wall Street,” take away health insurance from more than 16 million Americans without offering any “credible alternative” and turning their backs on “gay people who love each other.”
The Republican National Committee said in response that Clinton’s campaign was full of hypocritical attacks, partisan rhetoric and ideas from the past.
“Next year, Americans will reject the failed policies of the past and elect a Republican president,” RNC Press Secretary Allison Moore said.
Republicans also argued Clinton devoted only about five minutes of her speech to foreign policy.
Clinton now heads to four early-primary states, starting Saturday night in Iowa where she will talk with volunteers and others about grassroots-campaign efforts for the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
The organizational meeting will be simulcast to Clinton camps across the country and serve as a blueprint for them all 435 congressional districts.
She then travels to New Hampshire on June 15, South Carolina on June 17 and in Nevada on June 18.
Clinton vowed Saturday to roll out specific policy proposals in the coming weeks, including ones on rewriting the tax code and sustainable energy.
In what was her first major speech of her campaign, she also cited President Obama, Roosevelt and her husband, saying they embraced the idea that “real and lasting prosperity must be built by all and shared by all.”
Holding the event on an island between Queens and Manhattan raised some criticism about its accessibility by vehicle and public transportation.
The campaign estimated the event crowd, whose members needed a ticket, at 5,500. However, the number appeared smaller, and the overflow section was empty.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a speech that was at times sweeping and at times policy laden, delivered on Saturday a pointed repudiation of Republican economic policies and a populist promise to reverse the gaping gulf between the rich and poor at her biggest campaign event to date.
Under sunny skies and surrounded by flag-waving supporters on Roosevelt Island in New York, Mrs. Clinton pledged to run an inclusive campaign and to create a more inclusive economy, saying that even the new voices in the Republican Party continued to push “the top-down economic policies that failed us before.”
“These Republicans trip over themselves promising lower taxes for the wealthy and fewer rules for the biggest corporations without any regard on how that will make income inequality worse,” she said before a crowd estimated at 5,500, according to the campaign.
“I’m not running for some Americans, but for all Americans,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I’m running for all Americans.”
Offering her case for the presidency, she rested heavily on her biography. Her candidacy, she said, was in the name of “everyone who has ever been knocked down but refused to be knocked out.”
Mrs. Clinton portrayed herself as a fighter, sounding a theme her campaign had emphasized in recent days. “I’ve been called many things by many people, quitter is not one of them,” she said.
Standing on a platform set in the middle of a grassy memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt on the East River island named after him, Mrs. Clinton invoked his legacy. She also praised President Obama and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, but declared that “we face new challenges” in the aftermath of the economic crisis.
While some Republican detractors have tried to make an issue of Mrs. Clinton’s age (if she won she would be 69 when she took office in January 2017), she sought to embrace it and to rebut the notion that she cannot stand for change or modernity. Offering her campaign contact information, she spoke about the lives of gay people, saying Republicans “turn their backs on gay people who love each other.”
In one of the biggest applause lines, she said: “I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I will be the youngest woman president in the history of the United States.”
Underscoring the point with a riff on an old Beatles song, Mrs. Clinton said: “There may be some new voices in the presidential Republican choir. But they’re all singing the same old song.”
“It’s a song called ‘Yesterday,’ ” she continued. “They believe in yesterday.”
Allison Moore, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, called the speech “chock-full of hypocritical attacks, partisan rhetoric and ideas from the past that led to a sluggish economy.”
Who Is Running for President (and Who’s Not)?
Mrs. Clinton specified policies she would push for, including universal prekindergarten, paid family leave, equal pay for women, college affordability and incentives for companies that provide profit-sharing to employees. She also spoke of rewriting the tax code “so it rewards hard work at home” rather than corporations “stashing profits overseas.” She did not detail how she would achieve those policies or address their costs.
Mrs. Clinton spoke to the criticism that her wealth makes her out of touch with middle-class Americans, saying her candidacy is for “factory workers and food servers who stand on their feet all day, for the nurses who work the night shift, for the truckers who drive for hours.”
Uncomfortable with the fiery rhetoric of Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, Mrs. Clinton offered some stark statistics to address the concerns of the Democratic Party’s restless left. “The top 25 hedge fund managers make more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined, often paying a lower tax rate,” she said.
Mrs. Clinton said many Americans must be asking, “When does my family get ahead?” She added: “When? I say now.”
In a campaign in which Republicans have emphasized the growing threat of Islamic terrorism and an unstable Middle East, Mrs. Clinton hardly mentioned foreign policy. She did speak of her experience as a senator from New York after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“As your president, I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe,” she said, weaving the skyline and a view of the newly built One World Trade Center into her remarks.
For as much as the content of the speech mattered, the theater of it was equally important. For a campaign criticized for lacking passion, the event gave Mrs. Clinton the ability to create a camera-ready tableau of excitement.
The Brooklyn Express Drumline revved up the crowd assembled on a narrow stretch at the southern tip of the island. And Marlon Marshall, the campaign’s director of political engagement, rattled off statistics about the number of volunteers who have signed up and house parties held in the early nominating states. A section with giant screens set up for an overflow crowd stood nearly empty.
But a crowd of supporters and volunteers from the staunchly Democratic New York area does not exactly represent the electorate writ large. The real test for Mrs. Clinton and how the speech was perceived will be in Iowa, where she was to travel on Saturday evening for several events. Iowa, the first nominating state, shunned her the last time she sought the presidency, in 2008.
“I was disappointed she didn’t challenge Obama four years ago,” said Dominique Pettinato, a 24-year-old parole officer who lives in Brooklyn.
For some members of the skeptical liberal wing of the Democratic Party still concerned that Mrs. Clinton will embrace her husband’s centrist approach, the speech went only so far in convincing them otherwise.
“This was mostly a typical Democratic speech — much better than the direction Republicans offer America,” said Adam Green, a co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal advocacy group. But he said the speech had not offered “the bold economic vision that most Americans want and need.”
Mrs. Clinton did not broach one issue that liberals are increasingly frustrated by: trade. On Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders, a socialist from Vermont who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, pointedly criticized Mrs. Clinton for not taking a position on a controversial trade bill Mr. Obama is pushing, as well as other contentious issues like the proposedKeystone XL oil pipeline and the renewal of the Patriot Act. “What is the secretary’s point of view on that?” Mr. Sanders asked of the act, which he voted against.
Mrs. Clinton had hardly stopped speaking Saturday when Bill Hyers, a senior strategist for Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, who is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, criticized her as vague on trade and other issues. Mr. O’Malley, he said, “has been fearless and specific in the progressive agenda we need.”
If there is one demographic Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is hoping to excite it is young women. It is an obvious connection that her 2008 campaign played down as it tried to present the former first lady as a strong commander in chief.
But on Saturday it was clear that Mrs. Clinton will make gender more central to her campaign this time. In her closing remarks, she called for a country “where a father can tell his daughter yes, you can be anything you want to be, even president of the United States.”
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REVEALED: THE SECRET IMMIGRATION CHAPTER IN OBAMA’S TRADE AGREEMENT
Discovered inside the huge tranche of secretive Obamatrade documents released by Wikileaks are key details on how technically any Republican voting for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would technically also be voting to massively expand President Obama’s executive authority when it comes to immigration matters.
The mainstream media covered the Wikileaks document dump extensively, but did not mention the immigration chapter contained within it, so Breitbart News took the documents to immigration experts to get their take on it. Nobody has figured how big a deal the documents uncovered by Wikileaks are until now. (See below)
The president’s Trade in Services Act (TiSA) documents, which is one of the three different close-to-completely-negotiated deals that would be fast-tracked making up the president’s trade agreement, show Obamatrade in fact unilaterally alters current U.S. immigration law. TiSA, like TPP or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) deals, are international trade agreements that President Obama is trying to force through to final approval. The way he can do so is by getting Congress to give him fast-track authority through TPA.
TiSA is even more secretive than TPP. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill can review the text of TPP in a secret, secured room inside the Capitol—and in some cases can bring staffers who have high enough security clearances—but with TiSA, no such draft text is available.
Voting for TPA, of course, would essentially ensure the final passage of each TPP, T-TIP, and TiSA by Congress, since in the history of fast-track any deal that’s ever started on fast-track has been approved.
Roughly 10 pages of this TiSA agreement document leak are specifically about immigration.
“The existence of these ten pages on immigration in the Trade and Services Agreement make it absolutely clear in my mind that the administration is negotiating immigration – and for them to say they are not – they have a lot of explaining to do based on the actual text in this agreement,” Rosemary Jenks, the Director of Government Relations at Numbers USA, told Breitbart News following her review of these documents.
Obama will be able to finalize all three of the Obamatrade deals, without any Congressional input, if Congress grants him fast-track authority by passing TPA. Fast-track lowers the vote thresholds in the Senate and blocks Congress from amending any trade deals—and also, since each of these three deals are pretty much entirely negotiated already, it wouldn’t lead to any more congressional involvement or transparency with each.
The Senate passed the TPA last month, so it is up to the House to put the brakes on Obama’s unilateral power. The House could vote as early as Friday on fast-track, but may head into next week. By all counts, it’s going to be a very tight vote—and may not pass. It remains to be seen what will happen in light of leaks about things like the immigration provisions of TiSA—which deals with 24 separate parties, mostly different nations but also the European Union. It is focused on increasing the free flow of services worldwide—and with that, comes labor. Labor means immigration and guestworkers.
“This Trade and Services Agreement is specifically mentioned in TPA as being covered by fast-track authority, so why would Congress be passing a Trade Promotion Authority Act that covers this agreement, if the U.S. weren’t intended to be a party to this agreement – so at the very least, there should be specific places where the U.S. exempts itself from these provisions and there are not,” explained Jenks.
She emphasized that this is a draft, but at this point “certainly the implication is that the U.S. intends to be a party to all or some of the provisions of this agreement. There is nothing in there that says otherwise, and there is no question in my mind that some of the provisions in this Trade and Services Agreement would require the United States to change its immigration laws.”
In 2003, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that said no immigration provision should be in trade agreements – and in fact, former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) voted for this resolution.
The existence of these 10 pages is in clear violation of that earlier unanimous decision, and also in violation of the statements made by the U.S. Trade Representative.
“He has told members of Congress very specifically the U.S. is not negotiating immigration – or at least is not negotiating any immigration provisions that would require us to change our laws. So, unless major changes are made to the Trade and Services Agreement – that is not true,” said Jenks.
There are three examples within the 10 pages of areas where the U.S. would have to alter current immigration law.
First, on page 4 and 5 of the agreement, roughly 40 industries are listed where potentially the U.S. visa processes would have to change to accommodate the requirements within the agreement.
Jenks explained that under the agreement, the terms don’t have an economic needs based test, which currently U.S. law requires for some types of visa applications in order to show there aren’t American workers available to fill positions.
Secondly, on page 7 of the agreement, it suggests, “The period of processing applications may not exceed 30 days.”
Jenks said this is a massive problem for the U.S. because so many visa applications take longer than 30 days.
“We will not be able to meet those requirements without essentially our government becoming a rubber stamp because it very often takes more than 30 days to process a temporary worker visa,” she said.
Jenks also spotted another issue with the application process.
“The fact that there’s a footnote in this agreement that says that face to face interviews are too burdensome … we’re supposed to be doing face to face interviews with applicants for temporary visas,” she added.
“According to the State Department Consular Officer, it’s the in person interviews that really gives the Consular Officer an opportunity to determine – is this person is a criminal, is this person a terrorist … all of those things are more easily determined when you’re sitting face to face with someone and asking those questions.”
The third issue is present on page 4 of the agreement. It only provides an “[X]” where the number of years would be filled in for the entry or temporary stay.
Jenks explained that for example, with L visas under current U.S. immigration law, the time limit is seven years – so if the agreement were to go beyond seven years, it would change current U.S. law.
This wouldn’t be unconstitutional if Obama has fast-track authority under TPA, as Congress would essentially have given him the power to finalize all aspects of the negotiations, including altering immigration law.
“I think this whole thing makes it very clear that this administration is negotiating immigration – intends to make immigration changes if they can get away with it, and I think it’s that much more critical that Congress ensure that the administration does not have the authority to negotiate immigration,” Jenks said.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has stated in an interrogatory with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and via letter that nothing is being negotiated in the TPP that “would require any modification to U.S. immigration law or policy or any changes to the U.S. visa system.”
For many years, Congress has made it abundantly clear that international trade agreements should not change, nor require any change, to U.S. immigration law and practice…
The Committee continues to believe that it is not appropriate to negotiate in a trade agreement any provision that would (1) require changes to U.S. immigration law, regulations, policy, or practice; (2) accord immigration-related benefits to parties to trade agreements; (3) commit the United States to keep unchanged, with respect to nationals of parties to trade agreements, one or more existing provisions of U.S. immigration law, policy, or practice; or (4) expand to additional countries immigration-related commitments already made by the United States in earlier trade agreements.
Congress’ intent could not be any clearer, but there’s strong evidence to doubt that these assurances will be upheld. If you read these statements closely, you’ll see that most of them concern only the TPP and its lack of impact on immigration policy. But the Trade in Services Agreement, or “TiSA”—another trade deal being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration—is another story; there is little doubt that it will constrain the future ability of the United States Congress to regulate U.S. immigration policy. In fact, deregulating the U.S. work visa system, and therefore opening it up to foreign corporations that provide services (as opposed to goods) is the explicit purpose of an entire annex (section) in TiSA, entitled “Movement of Natural Persons.” The text was heretofore secret until Wikileaks published it on its website last week.
It should be noted that much of the text is a proposed draft for negotiation, and within the text, numerous parts of specific provisions are bracketed to denote which countries support or oppose particular sections or language within sections. But the thrust of the text in the annex is clear. For example, Article 4 is about the schedules (i.e., lists) of commitments that countries will have to put together regarding the “Entry and Temporary Stay of Natural Persons,” and a proposed version of Article 4, Section 2 would prohibit member states from “maintain[ing] or adopt[ing] Economic Needs Tests, including labor market tests, as a requirement for a visa or work permit” in the sectors where commitments are made. (In other words, U.S. laws or regulations limiting guestworkers only to jobs where no U.S. workers were available would violate the terms of the treaty.)
Proposed draft Article 5, Section 1 then requires that “Each Party shall take market access and national treatment commitments for intra-corporate transferees, business visitors and categories delinked from commercial presence: contractual service suppliers and independent professionals.” Section 3 gets more specific about the sectors of the economy where member states will have to allow access to intra-corporate transferees, business visitors, contractual service suppliers, and independent professionals:
3. Subject to any terms, limitations, conditions and qualifications that the Party sets out in its Schedule, Parties shall allow entry and temporary stay of [contractual service suppliers and independent professionals3] for a minimum of [X%] of the following sectors/sub-sectors:
Accounting, auditing and bookkeeping services (CPC 862)
Architectural services (CPC 8671)
Engineering services (CPC 8672)
Integrated engineering services (CPC 8673)
Urban planning and landscape architectural services (CPC 8674)
Medical & dental services (CPC 9312)
Veterinary services (CPC 932)
Services provided by midwives, nurses, physiotherapists and paramedical personnel (CPC 93191)
Computer and related services:
Consultancy services related to the installation of computer hardware (CPC 841)
Software implementation services (CPC 842)
Data processing services (CPC 843)
Data base services (CPC 844)
Other (CPC 845+849)
Research and Development services:
R&D services on natural sciences (CPC 851)
R&D services on social sciences and humanities (CPC 852)
Interdisciplinary R&D services (CPC 853)
Other business services
Advertising services (CPC 871)
Market research and public opinion polling services (CPC 864)
Management consulting services (CPC 865)
Services related to management consulting (CPC 866)
Technical testing & analysis services (CPC 8676)
[CH propose: Services incidental to manufacturing]
Related scientific and technical consulting services (CPC 8675)
Maintenance and repair of equipment (not including maritime vessels, aircraft or other transport equipment) (CPC 633 + 8861-8866)
Specialty design services (CPC 87907)
Construction and related engineering services:
General construction work for buildings (CPC 512)
General construction work for civil engineering (CPC 513)
Installation and assembly work (CPC514+516)
Building completion and finishing work (CPC 517)
Other (CPC 511+515+518)
Sewage services (CPC 9401)
Refuse disposal services (CPC 9402)
Sanitation and similar services (CPC 9403)
[CH propose: Financial Services]
[CH propose: Financial advisors]
Tourism and travel related services:
Hotels and Restaurants (CPC Ex. 641)
Travel Agencies and Tour Operators services (CPC 7471)
Tourist Guides services (CPC 7472)
[CH propose: Transport services
[CH propose: Other services auxiliary to all modes of transport CPC]
Recreational, cultural and sporting services:
38. Sporting and other recreational services (CPC 964)
In the United States, this means the L-1 intra-company transferee, B-1 business visitor visa programs, and any other applicable visa programs could be used to permit temporary employees from abroad to work in the United States, and no economic needs tests (i.e., testing the labor market) could ever be imposed by Congress. To translate, that means that foreign firms would not be required to advertise jobs to U.S. workers, or to hire U.S. workers if they were equally or better qualified for job openings in their own country. (It should be noted that the L-1 is already restricted in this way, as a result of the United States’ commitments under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATS).) These visa programs are already under-regulated and abused by employers, but since neither the L-1 nor the B-1 visa program is numerically limited by law, this means that potentially hundreds of thousands of workers could enter the United States every year to work in these 38 sectors.
This is worrying and problematic, not because there shouldn’t be any foreign competition from service-providing companies in the United States, but because the competitive advantage foreign companies will get from TiSA is the ability to provide cheaper services by importing much cheaper labor to supplant American workers. They’ll do this by paying their workers the much lower salaries they would earn in their home countries (as they often already do in the L-1 and B-1 visa programs), and the United States might even be prohibited in future from imposing minimum or prevailing wage standards (at present, neither the L-1 or B-1 visa program has a minimum or prevailing wage rule).
There is clear precedent for this. The multilateral GATS agreement, to which the United States is a party, includes limits on the U.S. government’s ability to change the rules on H-1B and L-1 guestworker visas. That’s why when Congress wants to raise visa fees, as they did in 2010, the Indian government cries foul and threatens to formally complain to the World Trade Organization. The U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore trade deals also included new guestworker programs similar to the H-1B and constraints on the U.S. government’s ability to set rules on L-1 intracompany transfers.
The TiSA draft annex on Movement of Natural Persons would also likely restrict the ability of the current and future administrations to continue some of the basic immigration procedures it currently follows, such as requiring an in-person interview with L-1 applicants. The draft treaty might even prohibit common sense legislative proposals that Congress has considered over the past few years, including minimum wage rules for companies seeking to hire guestworkers in the L-1 visa program. This is particularly disturbing since the L-1 visa program has been a primary vehicle to facilitate the offshoring of high wage jobs and for replacing American workers with cheaper guestworkers.
TiSA has been written in secret by and for major corporations that will benefit greatly if it becomes law. If the House of Representatives grants the Obama administration the fast-track trade promotion authority it seeks, the authority will be valid for six years, which means TiSA (like TPP) would also get an up-or-down vote in Congress without any amendments—making it very likely to pass and become law without the necessary democratic deliberations on immigration that such major changes should have. The leaked TiSA text makes it clear that contrary to the claims by proponents of fast-track trade promotion authority, the reality is that those voting for fast track are ceding key powers to make immigration law and policy to an unelected group of corporations and foreign governments.
REVEALED: THE SECRET IMMIGRATION CHAPTER IN OBAMA’S TRADE AGREEMENT
Roughly 10 pages of this TiSA agreement document leak are specifically about immigration
Revealed: The Secret Immigration Chapter in Obama’s Trade Agreement
Image Credits: Backbone Campaign / Flickr.
by ALEX SWOYER | BREITBART | JUNE 10, 2015
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Discovered inside the huge tranche of secretive Obamatrade documents released by Wikileaks are key details on how technically any Republican voting for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would technically also be voting to massively expand President Obama’s executive authority when it comes to immigration matters.
The mainstream media covered the Wikileaks document dump extensively, but did not mention the immigration chapter contained within it, so Breitbart News took the documents to immigration experts to get their take on it. Nobody has figured how big a deal the documents uncovered by Wikileaks are until now. (See below)
The president’s Trade in Services Act (TiSA) documents, which is one of the three different close-to-completely-negotiated deals that would be fast-tracked making up the president’s trade agreement, show Obamatrade in fact unilaterally alters current U.S. immigration law. TiSA, like TPP or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) deals, are international trade agreements that President Obama is trying to force through to final approval. The way he can do so is by getting Congress to give him fast-track authority through TPA.
TiSA is even more secretive than TPP. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill can review the text of TPP in a secret, secured room inside the Capitol—and in some cases can bring staffers who have high enough security clearances—but with TiSA, no such draft text is available.
Voting for TPA, of course, would essentially ensure the final passage of each TPP, T-TIP, and TiSA by Congress, since in the history of fast-track any deal that’s ever started on fast-track has been approved.
Roughly 10 pages of this TiSA agreement document leak are specifically about immigration.
The congressional trade debate, explained in 6 factions
By Amber Phillips
Few issues shuffle Washington around into weird alliances like trade policy. President Obama’s two ambitious, legacy-defining trade deals with Pacific Rim countries and Europe are no different.
Obama is trying to get Congress to let him negotiate the deals without lawmakers’ input until the very end, when Congress would get a yes-or-no vote on each deal. It’s known as “fast-track authority.” The Senate approved the president’s power to do that in last month, but the bigger challenge is in the House of Representatives.
It’s a tough sell, but not for the reasons you might think. Broadly speaking, House Republicans are on board; Democrats, not so much.
A major reason for the division is labor unions, which fear trade deals can take manufacturing jobs away from American workers and ship them overseas. Labor unions are also huge supporters of Democrats. So Obama and Republicans are in the odd situation of trying to convince Democrats to reluctantly give the president what he wants.
As they scramble to find the votes ahead of a potential vote on Friday, here are the six factions Congress falls into on trade.
1. The Labor Democrats
Sen.Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is not a fan of Obama’s trade deals. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
Who they are: Pretty much all House and Senate Democrats who don’t want labor unions spending big money against them in their next campaigns. In the House, that’s about two-thirds of the party’s 180 Democrats. Labor unions have become the most vocal group on either side of the trade debate, and they appear to be putting their money where their mouth is. Politico reports labor activists say they’ll run $84,000 in TV ads against a California Democrat who supports the fast-track bill.
On Capitol Hill, Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts lead the charge for this group. On the campaign trail, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley also oppose the trade deals.
What they believe: That opening up U.S. markets to foreign countries will also open up American workers to lower wages and job losses, particularly while U.S. manufacturing companies take advantage of open borders to move plants overseas for cheaper labor.
There’s some truth to that, economists say. By allowing goods and services to flow more freely across borders, trade deals helps countries specialize in just a few goods and services they’re really good at. That makes economies more efficient but means some workers will inevitably lose out.
But the size of which industries like manufacturing will lose out in these trade deals is debatable, as many such low-wage jobs have already moved overseas.
Key talking point: Warren: The deals are “going to help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind.”
2. Silicon Valley Democrats
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is among those who support Obama’s trade deals. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Who they are: A relatively small group of about 40 pro-business, moderate Democrats who are allied with Silicon Valley executives. The Washington Post’s David Nakamura notes those executives include the influential Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which represents 390 companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, and is aligned with tech CEOs from Cisco Systems, Oracle and AT&T in lobbying for fast track.
What they believe: That the trade deals — and particularly Obama’s massive 12-nation deal with Pacific Rim countries — protects one of America’s top money-makers: intellectual property. The deals as drafted strengthen patents and extend copyright protections for the things Americans are good at inventing, like pharmaceuticals, movies and technology start-ups.
This argument offers Democrats an alternative to labor unions’ message: Perhaps some manufacturing jobs will indeed ship overseas, but low-wage manufacturing isn’t where America’s economy is headed anyways.
Key talking point: Obama made the best argument for this group recently: “If we are going to capture the future, then we’ve got to open up markets to the kinds of things that we’re really good at, that can’t be duplicated overseas.”
3. On-the-fence Democrats
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks to the press about the potential for a U.S. government shutdown, alongside House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), are torn on trade. (REUTERS/Jason Reed )
Who’s in this camp: A handful of Democrats who are torn between supporting their president and the labor unions’ strong pull. These Democrats include House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland. This group is small but significant; Obama and Republicans need about 25 Democrats to support the fast-track legislation when it comes to a vote, so the president is lobbying these people hard.
What they think: Two competing thoughts here: Let’s give our president what he wants … but I don’t know if that’s worth risking a primary challenge supported by labor unions.
With the vote count coming down to the wire, the AP’s Josh Lederman reports Obama has promised to help campaign in 2016 for anyone in this group who crosses the line and votes yes for fast-track legislation.
Key talking point: “There’s a difference between growing the economy and helping American companies grow the bottom line and creating jobs.” Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) told The Hill.
4. Gung-ho trade supporters
House Speaker John A. Boehner, left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are Obama’s biggest advocates on trade. (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Mark Pynes )
Who’s in this camp: Establishment Republicans, including leaders like House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have Obama’s back on fast-track legislation and the two trade bills. In the House, they have the support of about 110 Republicans, according to The Hill’s whip count.
What they believe: Trade deals are job creators, because they allow the United States to require other countries to the same labor and environmental standards that our businesses must follow. That makes a more even global playing field for Americans. And fast-tracking the deals is the only way to get them negotiated; imagine if every country involved allowed its legislative bodies to chime in. Nothing would get done!
Key talking point: “We have a chance here to write the rules on our terms,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who is central to crafting the fast-track legislation. “We have a chance here to write the rules on our terms, to raise other countries to our standards, to create more opportunity for our people.”
5. The anti-Obama Republicans
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has warned about the dangers of giving Obama fast track trade authority. (AP Photo/CBS News, Chris Usher)
Who’s in this camp: Republicans who might support fast-track legislation and the trade deals but who are wary of giving the president so much authority to negotiate them without Congress’s input. This camp encompasses about 50 of Republicans’ Southern and tea party-leaning lawmakers.
What they believe: By voting for fast-track legislation, they’re essentially blocking themselves from the discussion about what should be put in the trade deals.
Key talking point: Here’s one from Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne’s (R) office: “Congressman Byrne is a strong supporter of free trade, which supports almost 3,000 jobs in the 1st district alone. That said, he believes Congress must have a seat at the table as the trade negotiations continue.”
6. The swing-state Republicans
Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) is among a small group of swing state House Republicans who are worried about a vote on trade. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Who’s in this camp: About 12-20 recently elected House Republicans who came into power during midterm Republican waves and now represent swing districts with decisive moderate constituents who might not like Obama’s trade deals. They include Midwestern lawmakers like Ohio’s David Joyce and Long Island’s Rep. Lee Zeldin.
The environmentalist group Sierra Club recently held a rally in Zeldin’s district to convince him to oppose the fast-track legislation.
What they believe: This group usually aligns with the Republican establishment on most issues. But on trade, these lawmakers carry the same concerns as Labor Democrats: A vote for fast track could mean a vote for them out of office.
Key talking point: “I support trade,” Zeldin told Facebook supporters in March. But on the trade deals and fast-track authority, “I will read it and decide at that time whether to vote for it or against it.”
Obama makes last-ditch plea to Dems ahead of showdown vote on trade
President Obama went to Capitol Hill Friday morning to make a final plea to congressional Democrats for his trade agenda, ahead of a showdown vote in the House.
The president met with House Democratic leaders ahead of a caucus meeting. While it is extremely rare for a president to make a visit like this before a big vote, the last-minute lobbying comes after the president also made a surprise appearance at the annual congressional baseball game between Democrats and Republicans the night before. His personal involvement underscores how fragile the effort is — Fox News is told the effort is still short on the votes — and how important he sees it to his second-term legacy.
The night before, a bizarre scene unfolded as the crowd crammed inside Nationals Park lurched into a chant about the legislation.
“TPA! TPA! TPA!” chanted Republican congressional aides seated near the first base dugout when Obama stepped onto the field at the top of the fourth inning.
This wasn’t quite the drunken, Bronx throng at Yankee Stadium cantillating “Reg-GIE! Reg-GIE! Reg-GIE!” after Reggie Jackson swatted three consecutive home runs in Game Six of the 1977 World Series. This was gamesmanship, Washington-style. A game in which most congressional Republicans find themselves backing the Democratic president’s efforts to pass Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), a framework for a big trade deal the administration hopes to advance later this year.
TPA, which would give the president the ability to “fast-track” future trade deals, is one of two bills due up in the House on Friday. And it’s anybody’s guess if the bills will pass. Members of Congress may have been mixing it up on the diamond. But there is just as much gamesmanship underway on Capitol Hill as lawmakers try to leverage passage or defeat of the trade legislation.
More on this…
Stage set for vote to give Obama fast-track trade authority
First, the basics.
Most House Republicans want to approve TPA. But they don’t quite have the votes to do it on their own. They need Democratic support. Yet the irony is that even though Obama is pushing the deal, only about 20-plus House Democrats support their own chief executive on this issue.
So various political gambits kick in.
Republicans find it absurd that Obama can’t persuade more than two-dozen Democratic members to support the trade plan. Conversely, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is stunned that House Republicans, boasting a 246-188 majority, can’t excavate at least 200 GOPers to approve the package.
So Pelosi and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, cut a deal. Neither side promised a certain number of votes to the other. But both House leaders forged a plan which could conceivably reward both sides with a political victory and concurrently test their respective abilities to gin up votes.
Pelosi and Boehner engineered a deal to advance the trade framework to the floor – so long as Democrats scored a vote on something called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).
TAA is a program near and dear to the hearts of many Democrats. It’s a method to cushion the blow for various workers and industries damaged by business reallocations in trade agreements. So House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., teed up two votes for Friday: One for TAA and one on TPA. But a TPA vote was contingent on the House first adopting TAA. The procedural maneuver would require Republicans to carry most of the freight to adopt TPA. But to get there, Democrats would be expected to provide the lion’s share of votes for TAA. If the House doesn’t approve TAA, everything comes to a screeching halt and there’s no vote on TPA.
Further complicating matters, Pelosi has spoken openly against the trade accord but has yet to definitively say how she’ll vote.
Capitol Hill is weird. Weird enough to have Republicans serving as Obama’s TPA cheerleaders – both at the ballpark and in the House chamber. It’s even weirder to have House Democrats working against Obama on this. And then there’s Pelosi – stuck in the middle.
On trade, Pelosi is a switch-pitcher. She’s trying to keep the Democratic caucus from embarrassing Obama with a paltry vote total for TPA. Yet she’s working to make sure most of her caucus gets what it wants: a defeat of TPA. At the same time, Pelosi secured a deal for the TAA vote – which could help pass TPA … or blow it up.
Major League Baseball has a rule for ambidextrous pitchers, few as there may be. Such cross-hurlers must first declare whether they intend to pitch left-handed or right-handed to each batter. There’s no such rule on Capitol Hill. That’s why when it comes to trade, Pelosi is chucking political curveballs from both sides of the mound.
But Democrats are working against Pelosi. A senior House GOP leadership source says Republicans can only provide 50 to 70 votes for TAA. Democrats must make up the difference. However, many Democrats now see a means to an end. Some intend to vote no on TAA simply to detonate the entire process and never get the TPA bill to the floor — which they so despise.
The House nearly voted to truncate the entire process before the first pitch, coming close to voting down a procedural vote just to get the measures to the floor.
Some observers interpreted the uneven procedural vote as a harbinger of things to come Friday on the trade bills. Some lawmakers wondered if Obama – fresh off his dugout diplomatic mission — might ring up lawmakers and implore them to vote aye.
One longtime Democratic member doubted that would happen, noting that Obama had already done all of the calling he could do.
There are games here, too. The same lawmaker signaled that some colleagues might not even take the call if the president phones. In fact, they might even keep their phones switched off.
President Obama suffered a major defeat to his Pacific Rim free trade initiative Friday as House Democrats helped derail a key presidential priority despite his last-minute, personal plea on Capitol Hill.
The House voted 302 to 126 to sink a measure to grant financial aid to displaced workers, fracturing hopes at the White House that Congress would grant Obama fast-track trade authority to complete an accord with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
“I will be voting to slow down fast-track,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the floor moments before the vote, after keeping her intentions private for months. “Today we have an opportunity to slow down. Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for American workers.”
The dramatic defeat could sink the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping free trade and regulatory pact that Obama has called central to his economic agenda at home and his foreign policy strategy in Asia. Obama’s loss came after a months-long lobbying blitz in which the president invested significant personal credibility and political capital.
Republican leaders, who had backed the president’s trade initiative, pleaded with their colleagues to support the deal or risk watching the United States lose economic ground in Asia.
“The world is watching us right now,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said before the vote.
Obama had rushed to Capitol Hill on Friday morning to make a last-ditch plea to an emergency meeting of the Democratic caucus. The president urged members to vote with their conscience and “play it straight,” urging them to support the financial package for displaced workers, which Democrats have long supported.
“I don’t think you ever nail anything down around here,” Obama told reporters on his way out of the Capitol. “It’s always moving.”
But anti-trade Democrats pushed hard to block the financial aid plan, knowing that its defeat would also torpedo a companion measure to grant Obama fast-track authority to complete the TPP. That bill was later approved with overwhelming Republican support in what amounted to a symbolic vote because it could not move forward into law without the related worker assistance package.
The legislation is now paralyzed in the House — “stuck in the station,” as Pelosi described in her speech. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has decided to give Obama the weekend to try to coax enough Democrats into supporting the worker assistance package by bringing it up for reconsideration next Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insisted that the president’s trade agenda was still alive and vowed that Obama would continue to urge passage of the package in the coming days. He noted that the Senate approved the fast track legislation last month after initially voting to block it.
“To the surprise of very few, another procedural snafu has emerged,” Earnest said in an attempt to play down the outcome.
In a message on Twitter, AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, one of the most vehement opponents of the trade deal, hailed Pelosi as “a champion for workers.”
Obama made an impassioned plea during his visit to Capitol Hill. But he appeared not to have changed many minds among fellow Democrats. After the president departed, two anti-trade Democrats, Louise Slaughter of New York and Gene Green of Texas, came out of the meeting determined to oppose Obama.
“I don’t want this trade bill to go through,” Slaughter, who represents the economically depressed area of Rochester, said of the fast-track bill.
Several members said Obama took no questions and received applause on several occasions when discussing his previous efforts to deliver on Democratic priorities.
Lawmakers said the White House had pushed harder on trade than any legislative issue since the health-care reform effort during his first year. After keeping trade on the back burner, Obama joined forces with business-friendly Republicans after the midterm elections in pursuit of a rare bipartisan deal and launched a fierce effort to win support from his usual Democratic allies over the intense opposition of labor unions.
“The president and his counselors understand that this is a legacy vote for his second term,” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who supported the fast-track bill, said Thursday. “It’s a philosophical battle, a political battle and an economic battle. The president finds himself in the crossfire with the base.”
The debate among Democrats has at times been raw and personal, and it has exposed old divisions on trade as the party attempts to coalesce around a common agenda ahead of the 2016 campaign to select Obama’s successor. Other Democratic leaders, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have questioned Obama’s commitment to workers and the middle class, while union officials accused the president of marginalizing them.
“I would ask that you not mischaracterize our positions and views — even in the heat of a legislative battle,” Trumka wrote this week in a letter to the president. “You have repeatedly isolated and marginalized labor and unions.”
White House officials had cast the dispute with labor as a difference of opinion that does not reflect a deeper divide within a party focused on stemming the nation’s growing wealth divide. Obama has framed the 12-nation TPP as a way to lock in rules to ensure U.S. economic primacy in the fast-growing Asian-Pacific region against increasing competition from China. In the president’s view, that would benefit American workers as the world’s economy shifts toward high-tech industries in which the United States maintains an advantage.
A failure on fast-track could lend weight to Chinese claims that the United States does not have staying power in Asia.
The president’s pitch was met with widespread skepticism among Democrats who blame past trade deals for killing jobs and depressing wages for Americans in traditional manufacturing work.
“The president is personally engaged on this,” Wyden said Thursday. “He’s all in.”
Despite the intensive campaign, however, Obama struggled to convince more than a sliver of House Democrats to back his push for the fast-track authority. The legislation would have allowed him to submit the trade pact to Congress for a vote in a specified timetable without lawmakers being able to amend it.
The White House has called such powers crucial to persuading the other 11 nations involved in the TPP negotiations to put their best offers on the table in the final round of talks this summer.
But opponents said they feared that approving the fast-track measure would be akin to ratifying a pact that is still being negotiated and whose terms have been kept largely hidden from public view. (Lawmakers are permitted to read draft sections of the agreement in a classified setting and are prevented from talking about specifics in public.)
On Thursday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other Obama aides huddled with House Democrats in a bid to alleviate objections.
But at each turn, the administration was met by a determined coalition of opponents, made up of labor unions, environmental groups and progressive Democrats. Led by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), the coalition has been meeting for two years with individual Democrats, and with small groups, to pressure them to oppose a fast-track bill.
Trumka met with the same House Democrats on Thursday soon after the White House officials had departed.
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The fast track negotiating authority for trade agreements is the authority of the President of the United States to negotiate international agreements that Congress can approve or disapprove but cannot amend or filibuster. Also called trade promotion authority (TPA) since 2002, fast track negotiating authority is a temporary and controversial power granted to the President by Congress. The authority was in effect from 1975 to 1994, pursuant to the Trade Act of 1974, and from 2002 to 2007 by the Trade Act of 2002. Although it expired for new agreements on July 1, 2007, it continued to apply to agreements already under negotiation until they were eventually passed into law in 2011. In 2012, the Obama administration began seeking renewal of the authority.
Enactment and history
Congress started the fast track authority in the Trade Act of 1974, § 151–154 (19 U.S.C. § 2191–2194). This authority was set to expire in 1980, but was extended for eight years in 1979. It was renewed in 1988 for five years to accommodate negotiation of the Uruguay Round, conducted within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It was then extended to 16 April 1994, which is one day after the Uruguay Round concluded in the Marrakech Agreement, transforming the GATT into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Pursuant to that grant of authority, Congress then enacted implementing legislation for the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area, the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Uruguay Round Agreements Act.
In the second half of the 1990s, fast track authority languished due to opposition from House Republicans.
Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush made fast track part of his campaign platform in 2000. In May 2001, as president he made a speech about the importance of free trade at the annual Council of the Americas in New York, founded by David Rockefeller and other senior U.S. businessmen in 1965. Subsequently, the Council played a role in the implementation and securing of TPA through Congress.
At 3:30 a.m. on July 27, 2002, the House passed the Trade Act of 2002 narrowly by a 215 to 212 vote with 190 Republicans and 27 Democrats making up the majority. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 64 to 34 on August 1, 2002. The Trade Act of 2002, § 2103–2105 (19 U.S.C. § 3803–3805), extended and conditioned the application of the original procedures.
Under the second period of fast track authority, Congress enacted implementing legislation for the U.S.–Chile Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.–Singapore Free Trade Agreement, the Australia–U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.–Morocco Free Trade Agreement, the Dominican Republic–Central America Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.–Bahrain Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.–Oman Free Trade Agreement, and the Peru–U.S. Trade Promotion Agreement. The authority expired on July 1, 2007.
In October 2011, the Congress and President Obama enacted into law the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, the South Korea–U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and the Panama–U.S. Trade Promotion Agreement using fast track rules, all of which the George W. Bush administration signed before the deadline.
In early 2012, the Obama administration indicated that renewal of the authority is a requirement for the conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which have been undertaken as if the authority were still in effect. In July 2013, Michael Froman, the newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative, renewed efforts to obtain Congressional reinstatement of “fast track” authority. At nearly the same time, Senator Elizabeth Warren questioned Froman about the prospect of a secretly negotiated, binding international agreement such as TPP that might turn out to supersede U.S. wage, safety, and environmental laws. Other legislators expressed concerns about foreign currency manipulation, food safety laws, state-owned businesses, market access for small businesses, access to pharmaceutical products, and online commerce.
In early 2014, Senator Max Baucus and Congressman Dave Camp introduced the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities Act of 2014, which sought to reauthorize trade promotion authority and establish a number of priorities and requirements for trade agreements. Its sponsors called it a “vital tool” in connection with negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and trade negotiations with the EU. Critics said the bill could detract from “transparency and accountability”. Sander Levin, who is the ranking Democratic member on the House Ways and Means committee, said he would make an alternative proposal.
If the President transmits a fast track trade agreement to Congress, then the majority leaders of the House and Senate or their designees must introduce the implementing bill submitted by the President on the first day on which their House is in session. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(c)(1).) Senators and Representatives may not amend the President’s bill, either in committee or in the Senate or House. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(d).) The committees to which the bill has been referred have 45 days after its introduction to report the bill, or be automatically discharged, and each House must vote within 15 days after the bill is reported or discharged. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(e)(1).)
In the likely case that the bill is a revenue bill (as tariffs are revenues), the bill must originate in the House (see U.S. Const., art I, sec. 7), and after the Senate received the House-passed bill, the Finance Committee would have another 15 days to report the bill or be discharged, and then the Senate would have another 15 days to pass the bill. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(e)(2).) On the House and Senate floors, each Body can debate the bill for no more than 20 hours, and thus Senators cannot filibuster the bill and it will pass with a simple majority vote. (19 U.S.C. § 2191(f)-(g).) Thus the entire Congressional consideration could take no longer than 90 days.
According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress categorizes trade negotiating objectives in three ways: overall objectives, principal objectives, and other priorities. The broader goals encapsulate the overall direction trade negotiations take, such as enhancing the United States’ and other countries’ economies. Principal objectives are detailed goals that Congress expects to be integrated into trade agreements, such as “reducing barriers and distortions to trade (e.g., goods, services, agriculture); protecting foreign investment and intellectual property rights; encouraging transparency; establishing fair regulatory practices; combating corruption; ensuring that countries enforce their environmental and labor laws; providing for an effective dispute settlement process; and protecting the U.S. right to enforce its trade remedy laws”. Consulting Congress is also an important objective.
Principal objectives include:
Market access: These negotiating objectives seek to reduce or eliminate barriers that limit market access for U.S. products. “It also calls for the use of sectoral tariff and non-tariff barrier elimination agreements to achieve greater market access.”
Services: Services objectives “require that U.S. negotiator strive to reduce or eliminate barriers to trade in services, including regulations that deny nondiscriminatory treatment to U.S. services and inhibit the right of establishment (through foreign investment) to U.S. service providers.”
Agriculture: There are three negotiating objectives regarding agriculture. One lays out in greater detail what U.S. negotiators should achieve in negotiating robust trade rules on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. The second calls for trade negotiators to ensure transparency in how tariff-rate quotas are administered that may impede market access opportunities. The third seeks to eliminate and prevent the improper use of a country’s system to protect or recognize geographical indications (GI). These are trademark-like terms used to protect the quality and reputation of distinctive agricultural products, wines and spirits produced in a particular region of a country. This new objective is intended to counter in large part the European Union’s efforts to include GI protection in its bilateral trade agreements for the names of its products that U.S. and other country exporters argue are generic in nature or commonly used across borders, such as parma ham or Parmesan cheese.”
Investment/Investor rights: “The overall negotiating objectives on foreign investment are designed “to reduce or eliminate artificial or trade distorting barriers to foreign investment, while ensuring that foreign investors in the United States are not accorded greater substantive rights with respect to investment protections than domestic investors in the United States, and to secure for investors important rights comparable to those that would be available under the United States legal principles and practices.”
Fast track agreements were enacted as “congressional-executive agreements” (CEAs), which must be approved by a simple majority in both chambers of Congress.
Although Congress cannot explicitly transfer its powers to the executive branch, the 1974 trade promotion authority had the effect of delegating power to the executive, minimizing consideration of the public interest, and limiting the legislature’s influence over the bill to an up or down vote:
It allowed the executive branch to select countries for, set the substance of, negotiate and then sign trade agreements without prior congressional approval.
It allowed the executive branch to negotiate trade agreements covering more than just tariffs and quotas.
It established a committee system, comprising 700 industry representatives appointed by the president, to serve as advisors to the negotiations. Throughout trade talks, these individuals had access to confidential negotiating documents. Most members of Congress and the public had no such access, and there were no committees for consumer, health, environmental or other public interests.
It empowered the executive branch to author an agreement’s implementing legislation without Congressional input.
It required the executive branch to notify Congress 90 days before signing and entering into an agreement, but allowed unlimited time for the implementing legislation to be submitted.
It forced a floor vote on the agreement and its implementing legislation in both chambers of Congress; the matters could not “die in committee.”
It eliminated several floor procedures, including Senate unanimous consent, normal debate and cloture rules, and the ability to amend the legislation.
It prevented filibuster by limiting debate to 20 hours in each chamber.
It elevated the Special Trade Representative (STR) to the cabinet level, and required the Executive Office to house the agency.
The 1979 version of the authority changed the name of the STR to the U.S. Trade Representative.
The 2002 version of the authority created an additional requirement for 90-day notice to Congress before negotiations could begin.
Arguments in favor
Helps pass trade agreements: According to AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall L. Stephenson, Trade Promotion Authority is “critical to completing new trade agreements that have the potential to unleash U.S. economic growth and investment”. Jason Furman, chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, also said “the United States might become less competitive globally if it disengaged from seeking further trade openings: ‘If you’re not in an agreement—that trade will be diverted from us to someone else—we will lose out to another country'”.
Congress is allowed more say and members are shielded: According to I.M. Destler of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, fast track “has effectively bridged the division of power between the two branches. It gives executive branch (USTR) negotiators needed credibility to conclude trade agreements by assuring other nations’ representatives that Congress won’t rework them; it guarantees a major Congressional role in trade policy while reducing members’ vulnerability to special interests”.
Assurance for foreign governments: According to President Reagan’s Attorney General Edwin Meese III, “it is extremely difficult for any U.S. President to negotiate significant trade deals if he cannot assure other nations that Congress will refrain from adding numerous amendments and conditions that must then be taken back to the negotiating table”. The very nature of Trade Promotion Authority requires Congress to vote on the agreements before they can take effect, meaning that without TPA, “those agreements might never even be negotiated”.
Unconstitutional: Groups opposed to Trade Promotion Authority claim that it places too much power in the executive branch, “allowing the president to unilaterally select partner countries for ‘trade’ pacts, decide the agreements’ contents, and then negotiate and sign the agreements—all before Congress has a vote on the matter. Normal congressional committee processes are forbidden, meaning that the executive branch is empowered to write lengthy legislation on its own with no review or amendments.”
Lack of transparency: Democratic members of Congress and general right-to-know internet groups are among those opposed to trade fast track on grounds of a lack of transparency. Such Congressmen have complained that fast track forces “members to jump over hurdles to see negotiation texts and blocks staffer involvement. In 2012, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) complained that corporate lobbyists were given easy access while his office was being stymied, and even introduced protest legislation requiring more congressional input.”
As recently as May 21, 2015, the United States Senate has utilized the fast-track process to move a trade bill between the U.S. as well as Japan and 10 other countries. Although the bill has yet to move to the House, the renewed interest in this tract is intriguing given the 2016 election cycle beginning to pick up. 
Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is a federal program of the United States government to act as a way to reduce the damaging impact of imports felt by certain sectors of the U.S. economy. The current structure features four components of Trade Adjustment Assistance: for Workers, Firms, Farmers, and Communities. Each Cabinet level Department was tasked with a different sector of the overall Trade Adjustment Assistance program. The program for workers is the largest, and administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program for Farmers is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Firms and Communities programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Trade Adjustment Assistance consists of four programs authorized under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 and defined further under the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. § 2341 et seq) (Trade Act). The original idea for a trade compensation program goes back to 1939. Later, it was proposed by President John F. Kennedyas part of the total package to open up free trade. President Kennedy said: “When considerations of national policy make it desirable to avoid higher tariffs, those injured by that competition should not be required to bear the full brunt of the impact. Rather, the burden of economic adjustment should be borne in part by the Federal Government.”
TAA for workers
Supporters argue that free trade offers widespread benefits among consumers, workers and firms in the U.S. in terms of lower prices, higher efficiency and quality, and more jobs. They claim that gains from negotiated trade deals are large and widely distributed across sectors. For example, in 2011 there were 9.7 million jobs supported by exports, nearly 15% more than in 2010. Benefits from free trade agreements (FTA) with Chile, Singapore, Australia, Morocco, and South Korea for the U.S. economy are estimated in $4 billion, $17 billion, $19 billion, $6 billion and $30 billion, respectively.
In order to achieve trade benefits, however, the U.S. economy must reallocate production factors between sectors. Thus, free trade also leads to costs associated with workers displaced by import competition and offshore outsourcing. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), displaced workers are defined as “persons 20 years of age and older who lost or left jobs because their plant or company closed or moved, there was insufficient work for them to do, or their position or shift was abolished”. The International Labour Organization (ILO) states that workers bore high adjustment costs such as unemployment, lower wage during transition, obsolescence of skills, training costs, and personal costs (e.g. mental suffering). These trade costs, albeit relatively smaller than the benefits, are highly concentrated by region, industry and worker demographics. For instance, some occupations, like teacher, have not experienced import competition while for shoe manufacturing occupations import competition has increased by 40 percentage points.
In general, manufacturing workers are most affected by import competition compare to workers in other sectors. Furthermore, while gains from trade require a long time to take full effect, costs are felt rapidly, particularly in less competitive sectors.
There is a strong correlation between import penetration and unemployment. Ebenstein et al. (2009) find that a 1 percentage point increase in import penetration leads to a 0.6 percentage point decrease in manufacturing employment in the U.S. resulting in a reduction of manufacturing jobs of almost 5%. According to a report by the Progressive Policy Institute, between 2007 and 2011, 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs were lost to increasing imports of goods and services.Similarly, Kletzer (2005) estimations suggest that industries facing high import competition account for 40% of manufacturing job losses. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that by 2015 the overall U.S. trade deficit will correspond to the loss of additional 214,000 jobs.
Although trade-dislocated workers are not significantly different from workers displaced by other reasons, they present some slight differences. They tend to be older, less educated, more tenured and production-oriented, have higher earnings on the lost job and fewer transferable skills, and the prevalence on women is higher than for other displaced workers. These characteristics are associated with limited labor mobility and reemployment difficulties, especially for workers with obsolete skills who do not receive additional training, no matter the reason of displacement. Furthermore, asymmetric information in absence of good job-search skills and geographic mismatch lead to prolong unemployment. Hence, trade-displaced workers face longer periods to find a new job and have low reemployment rates (63% during the last two decades according to Kletzer, 2005). Reemployment is particularly challenging for older workers. The DOL (2012) reports that in 2012 reemployment rates for workers ages 55 to 64 and 65 years and over were 47 and 24% respectively while the rate for those ages 20 to 54 was about 62%.
Once dislocated workers obtain a new job, they suffer significant wage reductions. About two thirds of dislocated workers have lower wages in the new job and one quarter of displaced workers from manufacturing who find a new full-time job suffer earning losses of 30% or more. The reason is that many workers find jobs in services sector where salaries are lower. Ebenstein et al. (2009) find that displaced workers from manufacturing who find a job in the services sector suffer a wage decline of between 6 and 22%. They conclude that a 1 percentage point increase in occupation-specific import competition is associated with a 0.25 percentage point decline in real wages.
Import competition impacts negatively not only dislocated workers but also their families and communities. Displaced workers fall behind in their mortgage payments and in providing health care to their families. Families must spend down assets to smooth consumption. There is evidence that displaced workers are in worse health after losing a job. According to a Report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), more than 46% of the jobless lack health insurance and 31% of workers without insurance do not see a doctor although sick. If the worker is able to be relocated in other job in other region the whole family is displaced and children are uprooted from their schools, increasing domestic tensions. The phenomenon of displaced workers has a broader impact because it also affects aggregate demand for goods and services and tax collections.
In brief, trade leads to an unequal redistribution of costs and benefits. The adjustment process impacts not only displaced workers but also the whole society and economy. Furthermore, labor reallocation from inefficient to competitive sectors aimed at realizing the benefits of trade can be impeded by several obstacles described above, prolonging the transition period and increasing the adjustment costs. In this framework, several scholars and policy-makers have argued that trade-related adjustment costs merit a policy response. The TAA has persisted for more than five decades showing ample political support. Having an assistance program targeted exclusively at trade-displaced workers enjoyed wide political support among Congressional representatives in the past because the program served to decrease political resistance to and workers’ lobbying efforts against FTAs. As a 2012 Report by the Joint Economic Committee states: “TAA needs to remain an integral part of trade policy because it compensates those harmed by import competition without sacrificing the larger demonstrable benefits of trade.”
Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers
The Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration program, Trade Adjustment Assistance for Workers, provides a variety of reemployment services including training and job-searching assistance and benefits to displaced workers who have lost their jobs or suffered a reduction of hours and wages as a result of increased imports or shifts in production outside the United States. The TAA program aims to help program participants obtain new jobs faster, ensuring they retain employment and earn wages comparable to their prior employment. Among the main benefits are: trade readjustment allowances (TRA) in addition to regular unemployment insurance (UI) up to 117 weeks of cash payments for all workers concurrently enrolled only in full-time training (workers must be enrolled in training 8 weeks after certification or 16 weeks after layoff, whichever is later, to receive TRA), and Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance (RTAA) or supplementary wages for workers age 50 and over, and earning less than $50,000 per year in reemployment. It provides a wage supplement equal to 50% of the difference between a worker’s reemployment wage and wage at the worker’s certified job with a maximum benefit of $10,000 over a period of up to two years (workers must be reemployed within 26 weeks). The TAA used to include a Health Coverage Tax Credit Program which will definitively expire at the end of 2013 and other tax credits related to health coverage will become available (e.g. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). The program promotes retraining since workers receive the TRAs only if they participate in a full-time TAA training (or are under a waiver). The program is administered by the Department of Labor (DOL) in cooperation with the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
The Secretary of Labor was authorized to implement Trade Readjustment Assistance (TRA) and relocation allowances through cooperating state agencies. TRA are income support payments that were, at that time, paid in addition to an individual’s regular unemployment compensation. The original program had no training or reemployment component. The program was rarely used until 1974, when it was expanded as part of the Trade Act of 1974. The Trade Act of 1974 established the training component of the program. In 1981, the program was sharply curtailed by the Congress at the request of the Reagan Administration. In 2002, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Reform Act (TAARA) expanded the program and it was combined with the trade adjustment program provided under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The TAA has recently suffered several amendments. In 2009, the TAA program was expanded by the Trade and Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act (TGAAA) of 2009, which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These benefits were extended through February 2011 by the Omnibus Trade Act of 2010. After that, the program reverted to the pre-expansion provisions under the TAARA of 2002. In October 2011, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act (TAAEA) of 2011 was signed into law, reinstating most of the benefits included in the TGAAA of 2009. The TAA is authorized through December 31, 2014 but with some modifications. The TAA will operate under its current provisions through December 31, 2013. For the additional year until its expiration on December 31, 2014, the TAA is set to operate under the eligibility and benefit levels established by the TAARA of 2002.
Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms
The Department of Commerce program, Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms, provides financial assistance to manufacturers and service firms affected by import competition. Sponsored by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), this cost-sharing federal assistance program helps pay for projects that improve firms’ competitiveness. EDA, through a national network of 11 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers (TAACs), provides technical assistance on a cost-shared basis to U.S. manufacturing, production, and service firms in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms provides import impacted companies with professional guidance, business recovery plan development, and cost-sharing for outside consulting services. Eligibility is established along similar lines, with companies showing that there has been a recent decrease in sales and employment, in part due to customers shifting purchases away from the applicant and to imported goods. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 expanded eligibility to service firms as well as the traditional manufacturing companies that had been the sole focus of the program. This expansion for service firms and workers was scheduled to expire on December 31, 2010, and the program would revert to the pre-ARRA structure without a vote to extend the authorization.
Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers
Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers, created in 2002 by wide-ranging trade legislation (P.L. 107-210, Sec. 141), authorizes the expenditure of up to $90 million per year through FY2007. Under the program, certain agricultural producers can each receive payments of up to $10,000 per year if price declines for their commodity were at least partly caused by imports. To be eligible for such assistance, such producers must be members of certified groups and meet a number of criteria specified by the law. The program is administered by the Department of Agriculture.
TAA for workers
Workers must be directly impacted by imports or by a shift in production of their firm to any country with a free trade agreement with the United States or to beneficiary countries under the Andean Trade Preference, the African Growth and Opportunity, or by certain other shifts in production. Employees of upstream suppliers are eligible if the product supplied to the primary firm consists 20% of the production or sales of the secondary workers’ firm, or their employer’s loss of business with the primary firm contributed significantly to the secondary workers’ separation from work.
Employees of downstream producers are eligible if they perform additional, value-added production processes for articles produced by primary firms, and the primary certification was based on an increase in imports or a shift in production to Canada or Mexico.
In order to receive the benefits displaced workers must fill a petition as a group to initiate the investigation to address the reasons of their layoff. Once the DOL finds that trade has contributed notably to the layoff, the group is certified but the individual worker must still apply for benefits at a local One-Stop Career Center.
Under the current law, as modified in 2009, workers in most service jobs (call center operators, for example) are eligible for trade adjustment assistance. In 2004, a group of computer experts displaced by overseas labor tried to apply for trade adjustment assistance but were rejected because computer software was not considered an “article” by the DOL. After a series of scathing decisions by the United States Court of International Trade criticizing the DOL’s approach, the DOL revised its policies in April 2006 to extend trade adjustment assistance to more workers producing digital products such as software code. Nevertheless, the program under the TAARA of 2002 starting on January 1, 2014 does not include trade-displaced workers in services sectors.
TAA for farmers
Farmers and ranchers adversely impacted by trade will be eligible to participate in a new program operated by the Department of Agriculture and are potentially eligible to receive training under TAA. They are not eligible for the Trade Readjustment Allowance.
TAA for workers
There are several components of the overall cost of the program. The principal spending of the program is in reemployment services which are set to the annual funding levels of the Trade Act of 2002: $220 million for state grants (plus administrative allotments equal to 15% of each state’s grant). The TRA income support and RTAA wage insurance program are uncapped entitlements. In FY 2011, the cost of TRA was $234,126,500 and the cost of RTAA was $43,227,212, based on the number of participants of each program in this year (25,689 and 1,133 participants respectively).
TAA for workers
The TAA for workers have demonstrated overall low effectiveness so far which is reflected in the controversy to reauthorize the program before the 112th Congress and the fact that the TAA will be discontinued in 2015.
First, the program is not very effective providing support during the transition because a significant portion of workers does not receive TRA. In FY2011 there were over 196,000 TAA participants and only around 46,000 received TRA. One reason is that the training enrollment deadline of 8/16 weeks seriously limits the ability of workers to enroll in training programs and receive the benefit. Moreover, even for those workers receiving TRA and UI, only a portion of the lost income is replaced. The program provides health insurance coverage but in the past it has not been very effective since participation in TAA was associated with decreased coverage in the period following job loss like a joint report by Mathematica Policy Research and Social Policy Research (SPR) prepared for the DOL evaluating the TAA program under the Trade Act of 2002 shows.
The effectiveness of the program in terms of fostering reemployment is very low too. Data on post-TAA outcomes for program exiters based on DOL estimations shows that the entered employment rate was 66% in 2011. The Mathematica Policy Research and SPR report finds that the TAA is not effective in terms of increasing employability. There is positive effect on the reemployment rate for participants but it is not statistically different from that for non-participants.
The effectiveness of the program in terms of mitigating earning losses in the new job is very low too as several studies report. Reynolds and Palatucci (2008) estimate that “participating in the TAA program causes a wage loss approximately 10 percentage points greater than if the displaced worker had chosen not to participate in the program.” The report by Mathematica Policy Research and SPR states that TAA was estimated to have no effect on earnings and compared to a sample of UI claimants, TAA participants worked about the same number of weeks but had lower earnings.
Moreover, a 2007 GAO report shows that in FY 2006 only 5% or less of TAA participants received wage insurance. The program is ineffective closing the earning gap because in order to be eligible for wage insurance workers must find a job within 26 weeks after being laid off, which proved to be a very short period.Additionally, the program only replaces half of the losses.
Finally, the implementation of this program overlaps extensively with others such as Workforce Investment Act generating extra costs and duplicating administrative efforts. The process to allocate training funds is also problematic. States receive funds at the beginning of the fiscal year but it does not properly reflect the state´s demand for training services. In addition, states do not receive funds for case management and lack flexibility to use the funds for training. Thus, states face challenges in providing services to workers properly.
TAA for workers
Over last years, the TAA program has been subject to diverse critics due to its flawed performance and extremely high cost. The TAA was only extended to the end of 2014 and the last reauthorization process before the 112th Congress exposed a lack of consensus about the program. Several scholars from different institutions have proposed policy alternatives.
Integrated Adjustment Assistance Program
The Financial Services Forum, through its 2008 white paper “Succeeding in the Global Economy: An Adjustment Assistance Program for American Workers,” proposes to combine the UI and TAA programs into a single integrated program for all displaced workers who qualify for UI no matter the reason of displacementThe program includes: wage insurance, portability of health insurance (under the current program COBRA), and reemployment services such as assistance with geographic relocation and retraining. The wage insurance would cushion the cost of lower wages in the new job for workers age 45 and older. The program replaces 50% of workers’ lost wages for up to two years, for up to $10,000 per year, for workers that hold the previous job for at least two years. Regarding retraining, workers would be able to deduct from their gross income, for tax purposes, the full cost of education and training expenses, and there will be no limitations in terms of area of training.
The estimated annual cost of the program is $22 billion. The Financial Services Forum proposes to replace the current tax system with a flat 1.2% tax on all earning at the state level, and a flat rate of 0.12% on all earnings at the federal level to pay for the program.
Wage Insurance and Subsidies for Medical Insurance Program
Scholars at the Brookings Institution and the Institute for International Economics proposed a twofold program including a wage insurance and subsidy for medical insurance in addition to the UI program for eligible workers. On the one hand, the program covers workers displaced by any reason, not just trade, who suffer an earning loss after reemployment. Displaced workers defined as “workers displaced due to plant closing or relocation, elimination of position or shift, and insufficient work”.
It would replace a portion between 30% and 70% of the difference between earnings on the old and new job. In order to be eligible, workers must have been employed full-time at their previous job for at least two years, and suffered a wage decrease that can be documented. The insurance would be paid only after workers found a new job and they will receive it for up to two years from the original date of job loss. Annual payments would be capped at $10,000 or $20,000 per year. The payments would be administered through state UI.
In addition, the program would also offer a health insurance subsidy for all full-time displaced workers, for up to 6 months, or until they found a new job (whichever is earlier). Workers would be limited to receiving the subsidy no more frequently than once during a certain period, probably 3 or 4 years, in order to prevent job churning.
Kletzer and Litan (2001) estimate that about 20% of displaced workers reemployed full-time would have had at least 2 years’ tenure on their previous job and suffered a wage loss in the new one. The program would cost from $2 to $5 billion per year. This cost is estimated with a national unemployment rate between 4.2% and 4.9%. In 2012, the average national unemployment rate was 8.9%. Consequently, the projected cost would be higher if the program would be implemented today.
Trans-Pacific Partnership: Summary of U.S. Objectives
The United States is participating in negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement with 11 other Asia-Pacific countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) – a trade agreement that will open markets, set high-standard trade rules, and address 21st-century issues in the global economy. By doing so, TPP will promote jobs and growth in the United States and across the Asia-Pacific region.
The Obama Administration is pursuing TPP to unlock opportunities for American manufacturers, workers, service providers, farmers, and ranchers – to support job creation and wage growth. We are working hard to ensure that TPP will be a comprehensive deal, providing new and meaningful market access for goods and services; strong and enforceable labor standards and environmental commitments; groundbreaking new rules designed to ensure fair competition between state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private companies; commitments that will improve the transparency and consistency of the regulatory environment to make it easier for small- and medium-sized businesses to operate across the region; a robust intellectual property (IP) rights framework to promote innovation, while supporting access to innovative and generic medicines and an open Internet; and obligations that will promote a thriving digital economy, including new rules to ensure the free flow of data.
This document describes the Administration’s goals and objectives for TPP, and presents the main elements of each chapter from the United States’ perspective. Negotiations toward a TPP Agreement are ongoing, and many of the elements detailed below are not settled. These are our objectives; there is still work to be done to achieve them. This document lays out the Administration’s vision, which the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is advancing, of harnessing trade as a tool for economic growth and supporting jobs, and building opportunity for Americans in the context of an agreement that will benefit all TPP countries.
We are committed to providing the public information on what we are working to achieve through trade negotiations, and we will continue to share this information through the press, social media, and at www.ustr.gov as we move forward in the TPP negotiations.
TRADE IN GOODS
The United States ships more than $1.9 billion in goods to TPP countries every day. In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, even small increases in a product’s cost due to tariffs or non-tariff barriers can mean the difference between success and failure for a business. That is why the United States is working to negotiate in TPP comprehensive and preferential access across an expansive duty-free trading region for the industrial goods, food and agriculture products, and textiles, which will allow our exporters to develop and expand their participation in the value chains of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
The United States exported more than $622.5 billion of manufactured products to TPP countries in 2013. With the elimination of TPP countries’ tariffs on manufactured products, including innovative and high technology products, such as industrial and electrical machinery, precision and scientific instruments, and chemicals and plastics, U.S. products will compete on a more level playing field with goods from TPP countries’ other free trade agreement (FTA) partners – including China, India, and the EU. As just one example, certain U.S. auto parts currently face a 27-percent tariff entering Vietnam. Other countries that have an FTA with Vietnam, such as China, Thailand, and Indonesia, export their auto parts to Vietnam duty free. By eliminating duties U.S. auto parts companies face, TPP would help boost their competitiveness in the Vietnamese market.
Twenty percent of U.S. farm income comes from agricultural exports and those exports support rural communities. In fact, U.S. food and agricultural exports to the world reached an all-time high in 2013 of over $148 billion. Of that total, we exported more than $58 billion to TPP countries – a figure that would increase as a result of tariff elimination under TPP. As just one example: U.S. poultry currently faces a 40-percent tariff in Malaysia. U.S. poultry would become more affordable in Malaysia under a TPP agreement that reduces these duties to zero.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Elimination of tariffs and commercially-meaningful market access for U.S. products exported to TPP countries; and
Provisions that address longstanding non-tariff barriers, including import licensing requirements and other restrictions.
U.S. textile and apparel manufacturers sold more than $10 billion worth of products to TPP countries in 2013, an increase of 5.4 percent from the previous year. Many U.S. yarns, fabrics, and apparel currently face tariffs as high as 20 percent upon entering some TPP countries. Our goal in the TPP negotiations is to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers to textile and apparel exports to enhance the competitiveness of our producers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Elimination of tariffs on textile and apparel exports to TPP countries;
A “yarn forward” rule of origin, which requires that textile and apparel products be made using U.S. or other TPP country yarns and fabrics to qualify for the benefits of the agreement, so as to ensure that non-qualifying textiles and apparel from non-TPP countries do not enjoy the benefits reserved for TPP countries;
A carefully crafted “short supply” list, which would allow fabrics, yarns, and fibers that are not commercially available in the United States or other TPP countries to be sourced from non-TPP countries and used in the production of apparel in the TPP region without losing duty preference;
Strict enforcement provisions and customs cooperation commitments that will provide for verification of claims of origin or preferential treatment, and denial of preferential treatment or entry for suspect goods if claims cannot be verified; and
A textile specific safeguard mechanism that will allow the United States and other TPP countries to re-impose tariffs on certain goods if a surge in imports causes or threatens to cause serious damage to domestic producers.
Services industries account for four out of five U.S. jobs and also represent a significant and growing share of jobs in other TPP countries. Securing liberalized and fair access to foreign services markets will help U.S. service suppliers, both small and large, seeking to do business in TPP markets, thereby, supporting jobs at home.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Liberalizing access for services companies so they receive better or equal treatment to service suppliers from TPP countries’ other FTA partners and face a more level playing field in TPP markets;
Provisions that would enable service suppliers to supply services without establishing an office in every TPP country;
New or enhanced obligations in specific sectors important to promoting trade (e.g., enhanced disciplines for express delivery services will promote regional supply chains and aid small businesses, which often are highly dependent on express delivery services for integration into supply chains and distribution networks); and
Commitments to liberalize foreign financial services and insurance markets while protecting a government’s broad flexibility to regulate, including in the financial sector, and to take the actions necessary to ensure the stability and integrity of a financial system.
With trade following investment, we are working to ensure that U.S. investors abroad are provided the same kind of opportunities in other markets that we provide in the United States to foreign investors doing business within our borders. That is why we are seeking to include in TPP many of the investment obligations that have historically proven to support jobs and economic growth, as well as new provisions to take on emerging investment issues.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Liberalized access for investment in TPP markets, non-discrimination and the reduction or elimination of other barriers to the establishment and operation of investments in TPP countries, including prohibitions against unlawful expropriation and specified performance requirements;
Provisions that will address measures that require TPP investors to favor another country’s domestic technology in order to benefit SOEs, national champions, or other competitors in that country; and
Procedures for arbitration that will provide basic rule of law protections for U.S. investors operating in foreign markets similar to those the U.S. already provides to foreign investors operating in the U.S. These procedures would provide strong protections to ensure that all TPP governments can appropriately regulate in the public interest, including on health, safety, and environmental protection. This includes an array of safeguards designed to raise the standards around investor-state dispute settlement, such as by discouraging and dismissing frivolous suits, allowing governments to direct the outcome of arbitral tribunals in certain areas, making proceedings more open and transparent, and providing for the participation of civil society organizations and other non-parties.
Ensuring respect for worker rights is a core value. That is why in TPP the United States is seeking to build on the strong labor provisions in the most recent U.S. trade agreements by seeking enforceable rules that protect the rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining; discourage trade in goods produced by forced labor, including forced child labor; and establish mechanisms to monitor and address labor concerns.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Requirements to adhere to fundamental labor rights as recognized by the International Labor Organization, as well as acceptable conditions of work, subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism as other obligations in TPP;
Rules that will ensure that TPP countries do not waive or derogate from labor laws in a manner that affects trade or investment, including in free trade zones, and that they take initiatives to discourage trade in goods produced by forced labor;
Formation of a consultative mechanism to develop specific steps to address labor concerns when they arise; and
Establishment of a means for the public to raise concerns directly with TPP governments if they believe a TPP country is not meeting its labor commitments, and requirements that governments consider and respond to those concerns.
Environmental stewardship is a core value and advancing environmental protection and conservation efforts across the Asia-Pacific region is a key priority for the United States in TPP. In addition to core environment obligations, we are seeking trailblazing, first-ever conservation proposals to address some of the region’s most urgent environmental challenges.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Strong and enforceable environment obligations, subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism as other obligations in TPP;
Commitments to effectively enforce domestic environmental laws, including laws that implement multilateral environmental agreements, and commitments not to waive or derogate from the protections afforded in environmental laws for the purpose of encouraging trade or investment;
New provisions that will address wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and illegal fishing practices; and
Establishment of a means for the public to raise concerns directly with TPP governments if they believe a TPP member is not meeting its environment commitments, and requirements that governments consider and respond to those concerns.
E-COMMERCE AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS
In the past five years, the number of Internet users worldwide has ballooned from 2 to 3 billion and will continue to grow. The increase in Internet use creates significant economic potential, particularly for small businesses. The Obama Administration is working through TPP to unlock the promise of e-commerce, keep the Internet free and open, promote competitive access for telecommunications suppliers, and set digital trade rules-of-the-road.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Commitments not to impose customs duties on digital products (e.g., software, music, video, e-books);
Non-discriminatory treatment of digital products transmitted electronically and guarantees that these products will not face government-sanctioned discrimination based on the nationality or territory in which the product is produced;
Requirements that support a single, global Internet, including ensuring cross-border data flows, consistent with governments’ legitimate interest in regulating for purposes of privacy protection;
Rules against localization requirements that force businesses to place computer infrastructure in each market in which they seek to operate, rather than allowing them to offer services from network centers that make business sense;
Commitments to provide reasonable network access for telecommunications suppliers through interconnection and access to physical facilities; and
Provisions promoting choice of technology and competitive alternatives to address the high cost of international mobile roaming.
COMPETITION POLICY AND STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES
U.S. goals on competition policy and SOEs are grounded in long-standing principles of fair competition, consumer protection, and transparency. The United States is seeking rules to prohibit anticompetitive business conduct, as well as fraudulent and deceptive commercial activities that harm consumers. We are also pursuing pioneering rules to ensure that private sector businesses and workers are able to compete on fair terms with SOEs, especially when such SOEs receive significant government backing to engage in commercial activity.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Basic rules for procedural fairness on competition law enforcement;
Commitments ensuring SOEs act in accordance with commercial considerations and compete fairly, without undue advantages from the governments that own them, while allowing governments to provide support to SOEs that provide public services domestically; and
Rules that will provide transparency with respect to the nature of government control over and support for SOEs.
SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the U.S. economy and are key contributors to economic growth in other TPP economies as well. The United States’ 28 million SMEs account for nearly two-thirds of net new private sector jobs in recent decades. SMEs that export tend to grow even faster, create more jobs, and pay higher wages than similar businesses that do not trade internationally. We are seeking through this agreement to provide SMEs the tools they need to compete across TPP markets. TPP will benefit SMEs by eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers, streamlining customs procedures, strengthening intellectual property protection, promoting e-commerce, and developing more efficient and transparent regulatory regimes. In addition, TPP will include a first-ever chapter focusing on issues that create particular challenges for SMEs.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Commitments to provide access to information on utilizing FTAs – a problem that SMEs have identified as a disproportionate challenge for them; and
Establishment of a regular review of how TPP is working for SMEs.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
As the world’s most innovative economy, strong and effective protection and enforcement of IP rights is critical to U.S. economic growth and American jobs. Nearly 40 million American jobs are directly or indirectly attributable to “IP-intensive” industries. These jobs pay higher wages to their workers, and these industries drive approximately 60 percent of U.S. merchandise exports and a large share of services exports. In TPP, we are working to advance strong, state-of-the-art, and balanced rules that will protect and promote U.S. exports of IP-intensive products and services throughout the Asia-Pacific region for the benefit of producers and consumers of those goods and services in all TPP countries. The provisions that the United States is seeking – guided by the careful balance achieved in existing U.S. law – will promote an open, innovative, and technologically-advanced Asia-Pacific region, accelerating invention and creation of new products and industries across TPP countries, while at the same time ensuring outcomes that enable all TPP countries to draw on the full benefits of scientific, technological, and medical innovation, and take part in development and enjoyment of new media, and the arts.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Strong protections for patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets, including safeguards against cyber theft of trade secrets;
Commitments that obligate countries to seek to achieve balance in their copyright systems by means of, among other approaches, limitations or exceptions that allow for the use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research;
Pharmaceutical IP provisions that promote innovation and the development of new, lifesaving medicines, create opportunities for robust generic drug competition, and ensure affordable access to medicines, taking into account levels of development among the TPP countries and their existing laws and international commitments;
New rules that promote transparency and due process with respect to trademarks and geographical indications;
Strong and fair enforcement rules to protect against trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy, including rules allowing increased penalties in cases where counterfeit or pirated goods threaten consumer health or safety; and
Internet service provider “safe harbor” provisions, as well as strong and balanced provisions regarding technological protection measures to foster new business models and legitimate commerce in the digital environment.
TECHNICAL BARRIERS TO TRADE AND SANITARY AND PHYTOSANITARY MEASURES
Non-tariff trade barriers, such as duplicative testing and unscientific regulations imposed on food and agricultural goods, are among the biggest challenges facing exporters across the Asia-Pacific region. An effective regulatory program should protect the public interest – for example in health, safety, and environmental protection – and do so in a manner that is no more trade restrictive than necessary to achieve the policy goal. The United States is therefore seeking in TPP to strengthen rules intended to eliminate unwarranted technical barriers to trade (TBT) and build upon WTO commitments in this area, and to ensure that sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) are developed and implemented in a transparent, science-based manner.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Commitments to enhance transparency, reduce unnecessary testing and certification costs, and promote greater openness in standards development;
Commitments aimed at adopting common approaches to regulatory matters related to trade in products in key sectors such as wine and distilled spirits, medical devices, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, information and communication technology, and food formulas
New and enforceable rules to ensure that science-based SPS measures are developed and implemented in a transparent, predictable, and non-discriminatory manner, while at the same time preserving the ability of U.S. and other TPP regulatory agencies to do what they deem necessary to protect food safety, and plant and animal health; an
Establishment of an on-going mechanism for improved dialogue and cooperation on addressing SPS and TBT issues.
TRANSPARENCY, ANTICORRUPTION AND REGULATORY COHERENCE
Through TPP, we are seeking to make trade across the TPP region more seamless, including by improving the coherence of TPP regulatory systems, enhancing transparency in policy-making processes, and combatting corruption. These “good government” reforms also play an important role in ensuring fairness for American firms and workers
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Commitments to promote greater transparency, participation, and accountability in the development of regulations and other government decisions, including by promptly publishing laws, regulations, administrative rulings of general application, and other procedures that affect trade and investment, and providing opportunities for stakeholder comment on measures before they are adopted and finalized;
For the first time in a U.S. trade agreement, a chapter on regulatory coherence, including commitments on good regulatory practices; and
Commitments discouraging corruption and establishing codes of conduct to promote high ethical standards among public officials.
CUSTOMS, TRADE FACILITATION AND RULES OF ORIGIN
Cutting the red-tape of trade, including by reducing costs and increasing customs efficiencies, will make it cheaper, easier, and faster for businesses to get their products to market. In TPP, we are looking to facilitate trade across the TPP region; support the deep integration of U.S. logistics, manufacturing, and other industries in regional supply chains; and reduce costs for U.S. business by removing onerous and opaque customs barriers.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Commitments that will ensure the quick release of goods through customs, expedited procedures for express shipments, advance rulings, and transparent and predictable customs regulations;
Strong customs cooperation commitments in order to ensure that TPP countries work together to prevent smuggling, illegal transshipment, and duty evasion, and to guarantee compliance with trade laws and regulations; and
Strong and common rules of origin to ensure that the benefits of TPP go to the United States and other TPP countries, and also that TPP promotes the development of supply chains in the region that include companies based in the United States.
Increasing access to government procurement markets in TPP countries, which represent an estimated 5-10 percent of a country’s economy, will unlock significant opportunities for U.S. and other TPP businesses and workers.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Creation of fair, transparent, predictable, and non-discriminatory rules to govern government procurement in TPP countries; and
Commitments to liberalize TPP countries’ government procurement markets, with comparable levels of coverage by all TPP countries, taking into account the particular sensitivities of specific countries.
DEVELOPMENT AND TRADE CAPACITY-BUILDING
The United States views development as a way to further strengthen the region and lay the groundwork for future economic opportunities by improving access to economic opportunity for women and low income individuals; incentivizing private-public partnerships in development activities; and designing sustainable models for economic growth. In addition, the United States sees trade capacity-building as critical to assist TPP developing countries in implementing the agreement and ensuring they can benefit from it. In TPP, we plan to include a chapter on cooperation and capacity building and, for the first time in any U.S. trade agreement, a chapter dedicated specifically to development.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Agreement on cooperative development activities TPP countries could conduct to promote broad-based economic growth and sustainable development, including public-private partnerships, science and technology cooperation, and other joint development activities; and
Mechanisms for collaboration and facilitation of capacity-building activities by both TPP government and non-government representatives, as well as the private sector, in order to help TPP workers and businesses, including SMEs and micro- enterprises participate in global trade and take advantage of the agreement.
When the United States negotiates a trade agreement, we expect our trading partners to abide by the rules and obligations to which they agree. Under the TPP, countries will first seek to address an issue cooperatively. If they are unable to do so, the Parties have recourse to an independent tribunal to determine whether a Party has failed to meet its obligations, and ultimately to allow suspension of benefits if a Party fails to come into compliance. Through the TPP dispute settlement mechanism, we are seeking to give the American public the confidence that the United States has the means to enforce the strong, high-standard obligations we are negotiating in this agreement.
Specifically, in the TPP we are seeking:
Establishment of a fair and transparent dispute settlement mechanism that applies across the agreement; and
Procedures to allow us to settle disputes on matters arising under TPP in a timely and effective manner.
U.S.-JAPAN BILATERAL NEGOTIATIONS ON MOTOR VEHICLE TRADE AND NON-TARIFF MEASURES
With the participation of Japan, TPP countries account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP and about one-third of all world trade. Japan is currently the fourth-largest goods trading partners of the United States. The United States exported $65 billion in goods and an estimated $48 billion in services to Japan in 2013.
Nevertheless, U.S. exporters have faced a broad range of formidable non-tariff measures in Japan’s automotive and other markets. As a result, prior to Japan joining the TPP negotiations, the United States reached a series of agreements with Japan to address a range of issues in conjunction with Japan’s participation in TPP. This includes an agreement that U.S. tariffs on motor vehicles will be phased out in accordance with the longest staging period in the TPP negotiations and will be back-loaded to the maximum extent.
The United States and Japan also agreed to address non-tariff measures through parallel negotiations to TPP, which were launched in August 2013.
Specifically, in these negotiations with Japan we are seeking:
Enforceable commitments related to the automotive sector that will address a broad range of non-tariff measures – including those related to regulatory transparency, standards, certification, financial incentives, and distribution;
Establishment of an accelerated dispute settlement procedure that would apply to the automotive sector that includes a mechanism to “snap back” tariffs as a remedy, as well as a special motor vehicle safeguard; and
Meaningful outcomes that address cross-cutting and sectoral non-tariff measures, including in the areas of insurance, transparency, investment, IP rights, standards, government procurement, competition policy, express delivery, and SPS.
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H). It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the U.S.
The regulations define a “specialty occupation” as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor including but not limited to biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum (with the exception of fashion models, who must be “of distinguished merit and ability”). Likewise, the foreign worker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and state licensure, if required to practice in that field. H-1B work-authorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer.
Structure of the program
Duration of stay
The duration of stay is three years, extendable to six years. An exception to maximum length of stay applies in certain circumstances
If a visa holder has submitted an I-140 immigrant petition or a labor certification prior to their fifth year anniversary of having the H-1B visa, they are entitled to renew their H-1B visa in one-year or three-year increments until a decision has been rendered on their application for permanent residence.
If the visa holder has an approved I-140 immigrant petition, but is unable to initiate the final step of the green card process due to their priority date not being current, they may be entitled to a three-year extension of their H-1B visa. This exception originated with the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000.
H-1B holders who want to continue to work in the U.S. after six years, but who have not obtained permanent residency status, must remain outside of the U.S. for one year before reapplying for another H-1B visa. Despite a limit on length of stay, no requirement exists that the individual remain for any period in the job the visa was originally issued for. This is known as H-1B portability or transfer, provided the new employer sponsors another H-1B visa, which may or may not be subjected to the quota. Under current law, H-1B visa has no stipulated grace period in the event the employer-employee relationship ceases to exist.
Congressional yearly numerical cap and exemptions
The current law limits to 65,000 the number of foreign nationals who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status each fiscal year (FY). Laws exempt up to 20,000 foreign nationals holding a master’s or higher degree from U.S. universities from the cap on H-1B visas. In addition, excluded from the ceiling are all H-1B non-immigrants who work at (but not necessarily for) universities, non-profit research facilities associated with universities, and government research facilities.Universities can employ an unlimited number of foreign workers as cap-exempt. This also means that contractors working at but not directly employed by the institutions may be exempt from the cap as well. Free Trade Agreements carve out 1,400 H-1B1 visas for Chilean nationals and 5,400 H-1B1 visas for Singapore nationals. However, if these reserved visas are not used, then they are made available in the next fiscal year to applicants from other countries. Due to these unlimited exemptions and roll-overs, the number of H-1B visas issued each year is significantly more than the 65,000 cap, with 117,828 having been issued in FY2010, 129,552 in FY2011, and 135,991 in FY2012.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services starts accepting applications on the first business day of April for visas that count against the fiscal year starting in October. For instance, H-1B visa applications that count against the FY 2013 cap could be submitted starting from Monday, 2012 April 2. USCIS accepts H-1B visa applications no more than 6 months in advance of the requested start date. Beneficiaries not subject to the annual cap are those who currently holdcap-subject H-1B status or have held cap-subject H-1B status at some point in the past six years.
Tax status of H-1B workers
The taxation of income for H-1B employees depends on whether they are categorized as either non-resident aliens or resident aliens for tax purposes. A non-resident alien for tax purposes is only taxed on income from the United States, while a resident alien for tax purposes is taxed on all income, including income from outside the US.
The classification is determined based on the “substantial presence test“: If the substantial presence test indicates that the H-1B visa holder is a resident, then income taxation is like any other U.S. person and may be filed using Form 1040 and the necessary schedules; otherwise, the visa-holder must file as a non-resident alien using tax form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ; he or she may claim benefit from tax treaties if they exist between the United States and the visa holder’s country of citizenship.
Persons in their first year in the U.S. may choose to be considered a resident for taxation purposes for the entire year, and must pay taxes on their worldwide income for that year. This “First Year Choice” is described in IRS Publication 519 and can only be made once in a person’s lifetime. A spouse, regardless of visa status, must include a valid Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or Social Security number (SSN) on a joint tax return with the H-1B holder.
Tax filing rules for H-1B holders may be complex, depending on the individual situation. Besides consulting a professional tax preparer knowledgeable about the rules for foreigners, the IRS Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens, may be consulted. Apart from state and federal taxes, H-1B visa holders pay Medicareand Social Security taxes, and are eligible for Social Security benefits.
H-1B and legal immigration
Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning an H-1B holder can have legal immigration intent (apply for and obtain the green card) while still a holder of the visa. In the past the employment-based green card process used to take only a few years, less than the duration of the H-1B visa itself. However, in recent times the legal employment-based immigration process has backlogged and retrogressed to the extent that it now takes many years for guest-work visa holders from certain countries to obtain green cards. Since the duration of the H-1B visa hasn’t changed, this has meant that many more H-1B visa holders must renew their visas in one or three-year increments for continued legal status while their green card application is in process.
Dependents of H-1B visa holders
H-1B visa holders can bring immediate family members (spouse and children under 21) to the U.S. under the H4 Visa category as dependents. An H4 Visa holder may remain in the U.S. as long as the H-1B visa holder retains legal status. An H4 visa holder is not eligible to work or get a Social Security number (SSN).However, a DHS ruling made on Feb 24, 2015 provides certain H4 visa holders with eligibility to work, starting May 26, 2015. An H4 Visa holder may attend school, get a driver’s license, and open a bank account in the U.S. To claim a dependent on a tax return or file a joint tax return, the dependent must obtain an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), which is only used for tax filing purposes.
When an H-1B worker goes outside of U.S. for vacation, he or she has to get the visa stamped on his passport unless he has already done so for re-entry in the United States. The interview is taken in U.S. Embassy by a visa officer. In some cases, H-1B workers can be required to undergo “administrative processing“, involving extra, lengthy background checks. Under current rules, these checks are supposed to take ten days or less, but in some cases, have lasted years.
The process of getting a H-1B visa has three stages:
The employer files with the United States Department of Labor a Labor Condition Application (LCA) for the employee, making relevant attestations, including attestations about wages (showing that the wage is at least equal to the prevailing wage and wages paid to others in the company in similar positions) and working conditions.
With an approved LCA, the employer files a Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) requesting H-1B classification for the worker. This must be accompanied by necessary supporting documents and fees.
Once the Form I-129 is approved, the worker may begin working with the H-1B classification on or after the indicated start date of the job, if already physically present in the United States in valid status at the time. If the employee is outside the United States, he/she may use the approved Form I-129 and supporting documents to apply for the H-1B visa. With a H-1B visa, the worker may present himself or herself at a United States port of entry seeking admission to the United States, and get an Form I-94 to enter the United States. Employees who started a job on H-1B status without a H-1B visa because they were already in the United States still need to get a H-1B visa if they ever leave and wish to reenter the United States while on H-1B status.
On April 2, 2008, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff announced a 17-month extension to the OPT for students in qualifying STEM fields. Also known as the cap-gap, the rule change allows foreign STEM students opportunities unavailable to foreign students of other disciplines. The 17 month work-authorization extension allows the foreign STEM student to work up to 29 months under the student visa, allowing the STEM student multiple years to obtain an H-1B visa. To be eligible for the 12-month permit, any degree in any field of studies is valid. For the 17-month OPT extension, a student must have received a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics degree in one of the following approved majors listed on the USCIS website.
In 2014, a Federal Court denied the government’s motion to dismiss the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (Washtech) and three other plaintiff’s case against the OPT extension. Judge Huvelle noted that the plaintiffs had standing due to increased competition in their field, that the OPT participation had ballooned from 28,500 in 2008, to 123,000 and that while the students are working under OPT on student visas, employers are not required to pay Social Security and Medicare contributions, nor prevailing wage.
Evolution of the program
Changes to legal and administrative rules
Effect on fees
Effect on cap
Effect on LCA attestations and DOL investigative authority
Added a $500 fee that would be used to retrain U.S. workers and close the skill gap, in the hope of reducing subsequent need for H-1B visas.
Temporary increase in caps to 115,000 for 1999 and 2000
Introduced the concept of “H-1B-dependent employer” and required additional attestations about non-displacement of U.S. workers from employers who were H-1B-dependent or had committed a willful misrepresentation in an application in the recent past. Also gave investigative authority to the United States Department of Labor.
Increased $500 fee for retraining US workers to $1000.
Increase in caps to 195,000 for Fiscal Years 2001, 2002, and 2003.
Creation of an uncapped category for non-profit research institutions.
Exemption from the cap for people who had already been cap-subject. This included people on cap-subject H-1Bs who were switching jobs, as well as people applying for a 3-year extension of their current 3-year H-1B.
Increased fee for retraining US workers to $1500 for companies with 26 or more employees, reduced to $750 for small companies.
Added anti-fraud fee of $500
Bachelor’s degree cap returns to 65,000 with added 20,000 visas for applicants with U.S. postgraduate degrees. Additional exemptions for Non-profit research and governmental entities.
Expanded the Department of Labor’s investigative authority, but also provided two standard lines of defense to employers (the Good Faith Compliance Defense and the Recognized Industry Standards Defense).
All recipients of Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) or Federal Reserve Act Section 13 were required to file the additional attestations required of H-1B-dependent employers, for any employee who had not yet started on a H-1B visa.
Changes in the cap, number of applications received, and numbers of applications approved vs. visas issued
During the early 1990s, the cap was rarely reached. By the mid-1990s, however, the allocation tended fill each year on a first come, first served basis, resulting in frequent denials or delays of H-1Bs because the annual cap had been reached. In 1998, the cap increased to 115,000.
For FY2007, with applications accepted from 2006 April 1, the entire quota of visas for the year was exhausted within a span of 2 months on May 26, well before the beginning of the financial year concerned. The additional 20,000 Advanced Degree H-1B visas were exhausted on July 26.
For FY2008, the entire quota was exhausted before the end of the first day that applications were accepted, April 2. Under USCIS rules, the 123,480 petitions received on April 2 and April 3 that were subject to the cap were pooled, and then 65,000 of these were selected at random for further processing. The additional 20,000 Advanced Degree H-1B visas for FY2008 was exhausted on April 30.
For FY2009, USCIS announced on 2008 April 8, that the entire quota for visas for the year had been reached, for both 20,000 Advanced and the 65,000 quota. USCIS would complete initial data entry for all filing received during 2008 April 1 to April 7, before running the lottery, while 86,300 new visas were approved.
For FY2010, USCIS announced on 2009 December 21, that enough petitions were received to reach that year’s cap.
For FY2011, USCIS announced on 2011 January 27, that enough petitions were received to reach that year’s cap on January 26.
For FY2015, USCIS announced on 2014 April 10 that received about 172,500 H-1B petitions during the filing period which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption.
For FY2016, USCIS announced on 2015 April 7 that enough petitions were received to reach that year’s cap. On 2015 April 13, USCIS announced completion of the H1B cap lottery selection processes. The USCIS reported receipt of almost 233,000 H1B petitions, well in excess of the limits of 65,000 for the regular cap and 20,000 advanced-degree exemptions (or, “master’s cap”).
Numbers of applications approved
The applications received are evaluated by USCIS, and some subset are approved each year. It is possible for an individual to file multiple applications, for multiple job opportunities with a single employer/sponsor or with multiple employer/sponsors. It is possible for an individual applicant to have multiple applications approved and to be able to choose which one to take.
In its annual report on H-1B visas, released in 2006 November, USCIS stated that it approved 130,497 H-1B visa applications in FY2004 (while 138,965 new visas were issued through consular offices) and 116,927 in FY2005 (while 124,099 new visas were issued via consular offices).
In FY2008, a total of 276,252 visa applications (109,335 initial, 166,917 renewals and extensions) were approved, and 130,183 new initial visas were issued through consular offices.
In FY2009, 214,271 visas were approved, with 86,300 being for initial employment, and 127,971 being for continued employment) and 110,988 initial H-1B visas were issued from consular offices.
In FY2010, 192,990 new visas were approved, with 76,627 being for initial employment and 116,363 being for continuing employment. 117,828 new visas were issued through consular offices
In FY2011, 269,653 new visas were approved, with 106,445 being for initial employment and 163,208 being for continued employment. 129,552 new visas were issued through consular offices.
The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s PERM system for labor certification erased most of the earlier claimed arguments for H-1Bs as indentured servants during the green card process. With PERM, labor certification processing time is now approximately 9 months (as of Mar 2010).
Because of AC21, the H-1B employee is free to change jobs if they have an I-485 application pending for six months and an approved I-140, and if the position they move to is substantially comparable to their current position. In some cases, if those labor certifications are withdrawn and replaced with PERM applications, processing times improve, but the person also loses their favorable priority date. In those cases, employers’ incentive to attempt to lock in H-1B employees to a job by offering a green card is reduced, because the employer bears the high legal costs and fees associated with labor certification and I-140 processing, but the H-1B employee is still free to change jobs.
However, many people are ineligible to file I-485 at the current time due to the widespread retrogression in priority dates. Thus, they may well still be stuck with their sponsoring employer for many years. There are also many old labor certification cases pending under pre-PERM rules.
Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008
The Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which, among other issues, federalizes immigration in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, stipulates that during a transition period, numerical limitations do not apply to otherwise qualified workers in the H visa category in the CNMI and Guam.
On Feb. 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“stimulus bill”), Public Law 111-5. Section 1661 of the ARRA incorporates the Employ American Workers Act (EAWA) by Senators Sanders (I-Vt.) and Grassley (R-Iowa) to limit certain banks and other financial institutions from hiring H-1B workers unless they had offered positions to equally or better-qualified U.S. workers, and to prevent banks from hiring H-1B workers in occupations they had laid off U.S. workers from. These restrictions include:
The employer must, prior to filing the H-1B petition, take good-faith steps to recruit U.S. workers for the position for which the H-1B worker is sought, offering a wage at least as high as what the law requires for the H-1B worker. The employer must also attest that, in connection with this recruitment, it has offered the job to any U.S. worker who applies who is equally or better qualified for the position.
The employer must not have laid off, and will not lay off, any U.S. worker in a job essentially equivalent to the H-1B position in the area of intended employment of the H-1B worker within the period beginning 90 days prior to the filing of the H-1B petition and ending 90 days after its filing.
Changes in USCIS policy
After completing a policy review, the USCIS clarified that individuals who spent more than one year outside of U.S. and did not exhaust their entire six-year term can choose to be re-admitted for the “remainder” of initial six-year period without being subject to the H-1B cap.
After completing a policy review, the USCIS clarified that, “Any time spent in H-4 status will not count against the six-year maximum period of admission applicable to H-1B aliens.”
USCIS recently issued a memorandum dated 8 Jan 2010. The memorandum effectively states that there must be a clear “employee employer relationship” between the petitioner (employer) and the beneficiary (prospective visa holder). It simply outlines what the employer must do to be considered in compliance as well as putting forth the documentation requirements to back up the employer’s assertion that a valid relationship exists.
The memorandum gives three clear examples of what is considered a valid “employee employer relationship”:
a fashion model
a computer software engineer working off-site/on-site
a company or a contractor which is working on a co-production product in collaboration with DOD
In the case of the software engineer, the petitioner (employer) must agree to do (some of) the following among others:
Supervise the beneficiary on and off-site
Maintain such supervision through calls, reports, or visits
Have a “right” to control the work on a day-to-day basis if such control is required
Provide tools for the job
Hire, pay, and have the ability to fire the beneficiary
Evaluate work products and perform progress/performance reviews
Claim them for tax purposes
Provide (some type of) employee benefits
Use “proprietary information” to perform work
Produce an end product related to the business
Have an “ability to” control the manner and means in which the worker accomplishes tasks
It further states that “common law is flexible” in how to weigh these factors. Though this memorandum cites legal cases and provides examples, such a memorandum in itself is not law and future memoranda could change this.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for ensuring that foreign workers do not displace or adversely affect wages or working conditions of U.S. workers. For every H-1B petition filed with the USCIS, there must be included a Labor Condition Application (LCA) (not to be confused with the labor certification), certified by the U.S. Department of Labor. The LCA is designed to ensure that the wage offered to the non-immigrant worker meets or exceeds the “prevailing wage” in the area of employment. (“Immigration law has a number of highly technical terms that may not mean the same thing to the average reader.” last updated 2011 March 31, visited 2012 November 5) The LCA also contains an attestation section designed to prevent the program from being used to import foreign workers to break a strike or replace U.S. citizen workers.
While an employer is not required to advertise the position before hiring an H-1B non-immigrant pursuant to the H-1B visa approval, the employer must notify the employee representative about the Labor Condition Application (LCA)—or if there is no such representation, the employer must publish the LCA at the workplace and the employer’s office. Under the regulations, LCAs are a matter of public record. Corporations hiring H-1B workers are required to make these records available to any member of the public who requests to look at them. Copies of the relevant records are also available from various web sites, including the Department of Labor.
History of the Labor Condition Application form
The LCA must be filed electronically using Form ETA 9035E. Over the years, the complexity of the form increased from one page in 1997 to three pages in 2008, to five pages as of August 2012.
By signing the LCA, the employer attests that:
The employer pays H-1B non-immigrants the same wage level paid to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications for that specific employment, or the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of employment, whichever is higher.
The employment of H-1B non-immigrants does not adversely affect working conditions of workers similarly employed.
On the date the application is signed and submitted, there is not a strike, lockout, or work stoppage in the course of a labor dispute in the occupation in which H-1B non-immigrants will be employed at the place of employment. If such a strike or lockout occurs after this application is submitted, the employer must notify ETA within three days, and the application is not used to support petition filings with INS for H-1B non-immigrants to work in the same occupation at the place of employment until ETA determines the strike or lockout is over.
A copy of this application has been, or will be, provided to each H-1B non-immigrant employed pursuant to this application, and, as of the application date, notice of this application has been provided to workers employed in the occupation in which H-1B non-immigrants will be employed:
Notice of this filing has been provided to bargaining representative of workers in the occupation in which H-1B non-immigrants will be employed; or
There is no such bargaining representative; therefore, a notice of this filing has been posted and was, or will remain, posted for 10 days in at least two conspicuous locations where H-1B non-immigrants will be employed.
The law requires H-1B workers to be paid the higher of the prevailing wage for the same occupation and geographic location, or the same as the employer pays to similarly situated employees. Other factors, such as age and skill were not permitted to be taken into account for the prevailing wage. Congress changed the program in 2004 to require the Department of Labor to provide four skill-based prevailing wage levels for employers to use. This is the only prevailing wage mechanism the law permits that incorporates factors other than occupation and location.
The approval process for these applications are based on employer attestations and documentary evidence submitted. The employer is advised of their liability if they are replacing a U.S. worker.
Limits on employment
According to the USCIS, “H-1B nonimmigrants may only work for the petitioning U.S. employer and only in the H-1B activities described in the petition. The petitioning U.S. employer may place the H-1B worker on the worksite of another employer if all applicable rules (e.g., Department of Labor rules) are followed. Generally, a nonimmigrant employee may work for more than one employer at the same time. However, each employer must follow the process for initially applying for a nonimmigrant employee.”
H-1B fees earmarked for U.S. worker education and training
In 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), reported on two programs, the High Growth Training Initiative and Workforce Innovation Regional Economic Development (WIRED), which have received or will receive $284 million and $260 million, respectively, from H-1B training fees to educate and train U.S. workers. According to the Seattle Times $1 billion from H1-B fees have been distributed by the Labor Department to further train the U.S. workforce since 2001.
The program was intended to serve employers who could not find the skilled workers they needed in the United States. Most people believe that employers are supposed to recruit Americans before they petition for an H-1B worker. Yet, under the law, most employers are not required to prove to the Department of Labor that they tried to find an American to fill the job first. And, if there is an equally or even better qualified U.S. worker available, the company does not have to offer him or her the job. Over the years the program has become a government-assisted way for employers to bring in cheaper foreign labor, and now it appears these foreign workers take over – rather than complement – the U.S. workforce.
Use for outsourcing
In large part, rather than being used to hire talented workers not available in the American labor market, the program is being used for outsourcing. SenatorsDick Durbin and Charles Grassley of Iowa began introducing “The H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud & Prevention Act” in 2007. According to Durbin, speaking in 2009, “The H-1B visa program should complement the U.S. workforce, not replace it;” “The…program is plagued with fraud and abuse and is now a vehicle for outsourcing that deprives qualified American workers of their jobs.” The proposed legislation has been opposed by Compete America, a tech industry lobbying group, Outsourcing firms, many based in India, are major users of H-1B visas. The out-sourcing firm contracts with an employer, such as Disney, to perform technical services. Disney then closes down its in-house department and lays off its employees. The outsourcing firm then performs the work.
Paul Donnelly, in a 2002 article in Computerworld, cited Milton Friedman as stating that the H-1B program acts as a subsidy for corporations. Others holding this view include Dr. Norman Matloff, who testified to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Immigration on the H-1B subject. Matloff’s paper for theUniversity of Michigan Journal of Law Reform claims that there has been no shortage of qualified American citizens to fill American computer-related jobs, and that the data offered as evidence of American corporations needing H-1B visas to address labor shortages was erroneous. The United States General Accounting Office found in a report in 2000 that controls on the H-1B program lacked effectiveness. The GAO report’s recommendations were subsequently implemented.
High-tech companies often cite a tech-worker shortage when asking Congress to raise the annual cap on H-1B visas, and have succeeded in getting various exemptions passed. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), described the situation as a crisis, and the situation was reported on by the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and Washington Post. Employers applied pressure on Congress. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates testified in 2007 on behalf of the expanded visa program on Capitol Hill, “warning of dangers to the U.S. economy if employers can’t import skilled workers to fill job gaps”. Congress considered a bill to address the claims of shortfall but in the end did not revise the program.
According to a study conducted by John Miano and the Center for Immigration Studies, there is no empirical data to support a claim of employee worker shortage. Citing studies from Duke, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Georgetown University and others, critics have also argued that in some years, the number of foreign programmers and engineers imported outnumbered the number of jobs created by the industry. Organizations have also posted hundreds of first hand accounts of H-1B Visa Harm reports directly from individuals negatively impacted by the program, many of whom are willing to speak with the media.
Studies carried out from the 1990s through 2011 by researchers from Columbia U, Computing Research Association (CRA), Duke U, Georgetown U, Harvard U, National Research Council of the NAS, RAND Corporation, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers U, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Stanford U, SUNY Buffalo, UC Davis, UPenn Wharton School, Urban Institute, and U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Education Research & Improvement have reported that the U.S. has been producing sufficient numbers of able and willing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) workers, while several studies from Hal Salzman, B. Lindsay Lowell, Daniel Kuehn, Michael Teitelbaum and others have concluded that the U.S. has been employing only 30% to 50% of its newly degreed able and willing STEM workers to work in STEM fields. A 2012 IEEE announcement of a conference on STEM education funding and job markets stated “only about half of those with under-graduate STEM degrees actually work in the STEM-related fields after college, and after 10 years, only some 8% still do”.
Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at Howard University and a longtime critic of the H-1B visa program, recently called the IT talent shortage “imaginary,” a front for companies that want to hire relatively inexpensive foreign guest workers.
Wage depression is a chronic complaint critics have about the H-1B program: some studies have found that H-1B workers are paid significantly less than U.S. workers. It is claimed that the H-1B program is primarily used as a source of cheap labor. A paper by George J. Borjas for the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “a 10 percent immigration-induced increase in the supply of doctorates lowers the wage of competing workers by about 3 to 4 percent.”
The Labor Condition Application (LCA) included in the H-1B petition is supposed to ensure that H-1B workers are paid the prevailing wage in the labor market, or the employer’s actual average wage (whichever is higher), but evidence exists that some employers do not abide by these provisions and avoid paying the actual prevailing wage despite stiff penalties for abusers.
Theoretically, the LCA process appears to offer protection to both U.S. and H-1B workers. However, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office, enforcement limitations and procedural problems render these protections ineffective. Ultimately, the employer, not the Department of Labor, determines what sources determine the prevailing wage for an offered position, and it may choose among a variety of competing surveys, including its own wage surveys, provided that such surveys follow certain defined rules and regulations.
The law specifically restricts the Department of Labor’s approval process of LCAs to checking for “completeness and obvious inaccuracies”. In FY 2005, only about 800 LCAs were rejected out of over 300,000 submitted. Hire Americans First has posted several hundred first hand accounts of individuals negatively impacted by the program, many of whom are willing to speak with the media.
DOL has split the prevailing wage into four levels, with Level One representing about the 17th percentile of wage average Americans earn. About 80 percent of LCAs are filed at this 17th percentile level. This four-level prevailing wage can be obtained from the DOL website, and is generally far lower than average wages.
The “prevailing wage” stipulation is allegedly vague and thus easy to manipulate, resulting in employers underpaying visa workers. According to Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the median wage in 2005 for new H-1B information technology (IT) was just $50,000, which is even lower than starting wages for IT graduates with a B.S. degree. The U.S. government OES office’s data indicates that 90 percent of H-1B IT wages were below the median U.S. wage for the same occupation.
In 2002, the U.S. government began an investigation into Sun Microsystems’ hiring practices after an ex-employee, Guy Santiglia, filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Labor alleging that the Santa Clara firm discriminates against American citizens in favor of foreign workers on H-1B visas. Santiglia accused the company of bias against U.S. citizens when it laid off 3,900 workers in late 2001 and at the same time applied for thousands of visas. In 2002, about 5 percent of Sun’s 39,000 employees had temporary work visas, he said. In 2005, it was decided that Sun violated only minor requirements and that neither of these violations was substantial or willful. Thus, the judge only ordered Sun to change its posting practices.
Risks for employees
Historically, H-1B holders have sometimes been described as indentured servants, and while the comparison is no longer as compelling, it had more validity prior to the passage of American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000. Although immigration generally requires short- and long-term visitors to disavow any ambition to seek the green card (permanent residency), H-1B visa holders are an important exception, in that the H-1B is legally acknowledged as a possible step towards a green card under what is called the doctrine of dual intent.
H-1B visa holders may be sponsored for their green cards by their employers through an Application for Alien Labor Certification, filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. In the past, the sponsorship process has taken several years, and for much of that time the H-1B visa holder was unable to change jobs without losing their place in line for the green card. This created an element of enforced loyalty to an employer by an H-1B visa holder. Critics[who?] alleged that employers benefit from this enforced loyalty because it reduced the risk that the H-1B employee might leave the job and go work for a competitor, and that it put citizen workers at a disadvantage in the job market, since the employer has less assurance that the citizen will stay at the job for an extended period of time, especially if the work conditions are tough, wages are lower or the work is difficult or complex. It has been argued that this makes the H-1B program extremely attractive to employers, and that labor legislation in this regard has been influenced by corporations seeking and benefiting from such advantages.
Some recent news reports suggest that the recession that started in 2008 will exacerbate the H-1B visa situation, both for supporters of the program and for those who oppose it. The process to obtain the green card has become so long that during these recession years it has not been unusual that sponsoring companies fail and disappear, thus forcing the H-1B employee to find another sponsor, and lose their place in line for the green card. An H-1B employee could be just one month from obtaining their green card, but if the employee is laid off, he or she may have to leave the country, or go to the end of the line and start over the process to get the green card, and wait as much as 10 more years, depending on the nationality and visa category.
The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 provides some relief for people waiting for a long time for a green card, by allowing H-1B extensions past the normal 6 years, as well as by making it easier to change the sponsoring employer.
In his floor statement on H-1B Visa Reform, Senator Dick Durbin stated “The H-1B job visa lasts for 3 years and can be renewed for 3 years. What happens to those workers after that? Well, they could stay. It is possible. But these new companies have a much better idea for making money. They send the engineers to America to fill spots–and get money to do it—and then after the 3 to 6 years, they bring them back to work for the companies that are competing with American companies. They call it their outsourcing visa. They are sending their talented engineers to learn how Americans do business and then bring them back and compete with those American companies.” Critics of H-1B use for outsourcing have also noted that more H-1B visas are granted to companies headquartered in India than companies headquartered in the United States.
In FY 2009, due to the worldwide recession, applications for H-1B visas by off-shore out-sourcing firms were significantly lower than in previous years, yet 110,367 H-1B visas were issued, and 117,409 were issued in FY2010.
Social Security and Medicare taxes
H-1B employees have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes as part of their payroll. Like U.S. citizens, they are eligible to receive Social Security benefits even if they leave the United States, provided they have paid Social Security payroll taxes for at least 10 years. Further, the U.S. has bilateral agreements with several countries to ensure that the time paid into the U.S. Social Security system, even if it is less than 10 years, is taken into account in the foreign country’s comparable system and vice versa.
Departure Requirement on Job Loss
If an employer lays off an H-1B worker, the employer is required to pay for the laid-off worker’s transportation outside the United States.
If an H-1B worker is laid off for any reason, the H-1B program technically does not specify a time allowance or grace period to round up one’s affairs irrespective of how long the H-1B worker might have lived in the United States. To round up one’s affairs, filing an application to change to another non-immigrant status may therefore become a necessity.
If an H-1B worker is laid off and attempts to find a new H-1B employer to file a petition for him, the individual is considered out of status if there is even a one-day gap between the last day of employment and the date that the new H-1B petition is filed. While some attorneys claim that there is a grace period of 30 days, 60 days, or sometimes 10 days, that is not true according to the law. In practice, USCIS has accepted H-1B transfer applications even with a gap in employment up to 60 days, but that is by no means guaranteed.
Some of the confusion regarding the alleged grace period arose because there is a 10-day grace period for an H-1B worker to depart the United States at the end of his authorized period of stay (does not apply for laid-off workers). This grace period only applies if the worker works until the H-1B expiration date listed on his I-797 approval notice, or I-94 card. 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(i)(A).
American workers are ordered to train their foreign replacements
There have been cases where employers used the program to replace their American employees with H-1B employees, and in some of those cases, the American employees were even ordered to train their replacements.
Age discrimination in the program results in older workers being replaced by H-1B applicants. In FY 2014, 72% of H-1B holders were between the ages of 25 and 34, according to the USCIS “Characteristics of Specialty Occupation Workers (H-1B): Fiscal Year 2014” report for that year, the most recent it has published on its public website. In Table 5 of the same report, only 3,592 of the 315,857 H-1B visas were approved for workers over the age of 50.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services “H-1B Benefit Fraud & Compliance Assessment” of September 2008 concluded 21% of H-1B visas granted originate from fraudulent applications or applications with technical violations. Fraud was defined as a willful misrepresentation, falsification, or omission of a material fact. Technical violations, errors, omissions, and failures to comply that are not within the fraud definition were included in the 21% rate. Subsequently, USCIS has made procedural changes to reduce the number of fraud and technical violations on H-1B applications.
In 2009, federal authorities busted a nationwide H-1B Visa Scam.
Fraud has included acquisition of a fake university degree for the prospective H-B1 worker, coaching the worker on lying to consul officials, hiring a worker for which there is no U.S. job, charging the worker money to be hired, benching the worker with no pay, and taking a cut of the worker’s U.S. salary. The workers, although they have little choice in the matter, are also engaged in fraud, and may be charged, fined, and deported.
In addition to H-1B visas, there are a variety of other visa categories that allow foreign workers to come into the U.S. to work for some period of time.
L-1 visas are issued to foreign employees of a corporation. Under recent rules, the foreign worker must have worked for the corporation for at least one year in the preceding three years prior to getting the visa. An L-1B visa is appropriate for non-immigrant workers who are being temporarily transferred to the United States based on their specialized knowledge of the company’s techniques and methodologies. An L-1A visa is for managers or executives who either manage people or an essential function of the company. There is no requirement to pay prevailing wages for the L-1 visa holders. For Canadian residents, a special L visa category is available.
H-1B1 visas are a sub-set of H-1B issued to residents of Chile and Singapore under the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement of 2003; PL108-77 § 402(a)(2)(B), 117 Stat. 909, 940; S1416, HR2738; passed in House 2003-07-24 and the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement of 2003; PL108-78 § 402(2), 117 Stat. 948, 970-971; S1417, HR2739; passed in House 2003-07-24, passed in senate 2003-07-31, signed by executive (GWBush) 2003-05-06. According to USCIS, unused H-1B1 visas are added into the next year’s H-1B base quota of 58,200.
One recent trend in work visas is that various countries attempt to get special preference for their nationals as part of treaty negotiations. Another trend is for changes in immigration law to be embedded in large Authorization or Omnibus bills to avoid the controversy that might accompany a separate vote.
H-2B visa: The H-2B non-immigrant program permits employers to hire foreign workers to come to the U.S. and perform temporary nonagricultural work, which may be one-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent. There is a 66,000 per year limit on the number of foreign workers who may receive H-2B status.
Story 1: Obama Asserts Executive Privilege Claim Over Holder’s Wife Emails Pertaining To Fast and Furious — Cover up Of Crimes — Article 1 of Impeachment Bill — What are They Hiding? — Aiding and Abetting Homicides –Videos
President Obama Evokes Executive Privilege for Eric Holder – 2007 v. 2012
Obama announces Eric Holder’s resignation
Is Obama involved in Fast and Furious, obstructing a congressional investigation or both?
Congress Votes to Hold Eric Holder in Contempt Perjury Lied to House Congress Vote Passes
Jon Stewart Slams Obama Executive Privilege, Fast & Furious, and Eric Holder
Remember Brian Terry, the murdered Border Patrol Agent
Judge Napolitano: Executive Privilege Only Applies If Obama Involved
Mark Levin Explains How GOP Should Handle Holder Contempt Charge & Executive Privilege Claim
Issa on Fast and Furious, Holder Contempt, Obama Executive Privilege on Fox News Sunday
Obama Perpetuates The ’90 Percent Of Mexico’s Weapons Come From The U.S.’ Lie — In Mexico!
Eric Holder – We Must “Brainwash” People Against Guns! – (1995)
Holder on 2nd Amendment
Eric Holder Attacking The Second Amendment To Help Mexico?
“Operation Fast & Furious: The Other Side of the Border” Part 1
“Operation Fast & Furious: The Other Side of the Border” Part 2
“Operation Fast & Furious: The Other Side of the Border” Part 3
Fast and Furious: Management Failures at the Department of Justice – Part 1
Eric Holder Choking on his Testimony
Michael Savage offers concise summary of “Fast and Furious”, describes his own love of guns
Congress: Eric Holder Should Be In Jail!
Obama Asserts Fast and Furious Executive Privilege Claim for Holder’s Wife
OCTOBER 23, 2014
Judicial Watch announced today that it received from the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) a “Vaughn index” detailing records about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal. The index was forced out of the Obama administration thanks to JW’s June 2012 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent September 2012 FOIA lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No. 1:12-cv-01510)). A federal court had ordered the production over the objections of the Obama Justice Department.
The document details the Attorney General Holder’s personal involvement in managing the Justice Department’s strategy on media and Congressional investigations into the Fast and Furious scandal. Notably, the document discloses that emails between Attorney General Holder and his wife Sharon Malone – as well as his mother – are being withheld under an extraordinary claim of executive privilege as well as a dubious claim of deliberative process privilege under the Freedom of Information Act. The “First Lady of the Justice Department” is a physician and not a government employee.
This is the first time that the Obama administration has provided a detailed listing of all records being withheld from Congress and the American people about the deadly Fast and Furious gun running scandal. The 1307-page “draft” Vaughn index was emailed to Judicial Watch at 8:34 p.m. last night, a few hours before a federal court-ordered deadline. In its cover letter, the Department of Justice asserts that all of the responsive records described in the index are “subject to the assertion of executive privilege.”
The Vaughn index explains 15,662 documents. Typically, a Vaughn index must: (1) identify each record withheld; (2) state the statutory exemption claimed; and (3) explain how disclosure would damage the interests protected by the claimed exemption. The Vaughn index arguably fails to provide all of this required information but does provide plenty of interesting information for a public kept in the dark for years about the Fast and Furious scandal.
Based on a preliminary review of the massive document, Judicial Watch can disclose that the Vaughn index reveals:
Numerous emails that detail Attorney General Holder’s direct involvement in crafting talking points, the timing of public disclosures, and handling Congressional inquiries in the Fast and Furious matter.
President Obama has asserted executive privilege over nearly 20 email communications between Holder and his spouse Sharon Malone. The administration also claims that the records are also subject to withholding under the “deliberative process” exemption. This exemption ordinarily exempts from public disclosure records that could chill internal government deliberations.
Numerous entries detail DOJ’s communications (including those of Eric Holder) concerning the White House about Fast and Furious.
The scandal required the attention of virtually every top official of the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Communications to and from the United States Ambassador to Mexico about the Fast and Furious matter are also described.
Many of the records are already publicly available such as letters from Congress, press clips, and typical agency communications. Ordinarily, these records would, in whole or part, be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Few of the records seem to even implicate presidential decision-making and advice that might be subject to President Obama’s broad and unprecedented executive privilege claim.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton criticized President Obama and his disgraced Attorney General in a statement today:
This document provides key information about the cover-up of Fast and Furious by Attorney General Eric Holder and other high-level officials of the Obama administration. Obama’s executive privilege claims over these records are a fraud and an abuse of his office. There is no precedent for President Obama’s Nixonian assertion of executive privilege over these ordinary government agency records. Americans will be astonished that Obama asserted executive privilege over Eric Holder’s emails to his wife about Fast and Furious.
Once again, Judicial Watch has proven itself more effective than Congress and the establishment media in providing basic oversight of this out-of-control Administration. This Fast and Furious document provides dozens of leads for further congressional, media, and even criminal investigations.
On June 28, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives over his refusal to turn over records explaining why the Obama administration may have lied to Congress and refused for months to disclose the truth about the gun running operation. It marked the first time in U.S. history that a sitting Attorney General was held in contempt of Congress.
A week before the contempt finding, to protect Holder from criminal prosecution and stave off the contempt vote, President Obama asserted executive privilege over the Fast and Furious records the House Oversight Committee had subpoenaed eight months earlier. Judicial Watch filed its FOIA request two days later. Holder’s Justice Department wouldn’t budge (or follow the law), so JW filed a FOIA lawsuit on September 12, 2012.
But then the Justice Department convinced U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates to stay our lawsuit, in part to allow ongoing settlement discussions between the Holder’s government lawyers and the House Committee to continue. Unsurprisingly, the “negotiations” between politicians running the House and the Justice Department went nowhere.
Fed up with the interminable delay caused Holder’s gamesmanship and stonewalling, JW renewed its request to the Court to allow our transparency lawsuit to continue. Thankfully, this past July, Judge John D. Bates ended the 16-month delay and ordered the Obama administration to produce a Vaughn index of the alleged “executive privilege” records by October 1. Judge Bates noted that no court has ever “expressly recognized” President Obama’s unprecedented executive privilege claims in the Fast and Furious matter.
Unhappy with having to produce the records prior to the elections, Justice lawyers asked the judge to give them one extra month, until November 3 (the day before Election Day!) to produce the info. Judge Bates rejected this gambit, suggested that the Holder’s agency did not take court order seriously. Rather than a month, Judge Bates gave Justice until yesterday to cough up the Vaughn index. Judge Bates issued his smack down on September 23.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation two days later.
Many share our opinion it was “no coincidence” that Holder’s resignation came “on the heels of another court ruling that the Justice Department must finally cough up information about how Holder’s Justice Department lied to Congress and the American people about the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, for which Eric Holder was held in contempt by the House of Representatives.”
The House had been separately litigating to obtain the records but had gotten nowhere until after Judge Bates ruled that the DOJ finally had to disclose information to Judicial Watch.
On September 9, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, citing Judicial Watch’s success, ordered the Justice Department to produce information to Congress by November 3.
Fast and Furious was a DOJ/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) “gun running” operation in which the Obama administration reportedly allowed guns to go to Mexican drug cartels hoping they would end up at crime scenes, advancing gun-control policies. Fast and Furious weapons have been implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and hundreds of other innocents in Mexico. Guns from the Fast and Furious scandal are expected to be used in criminal activity on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border for years to come.
Guns from the Fast and Furious scandal continue to be used in crimes. Just last week, Judicial Watch disclosed that a Fast and Furious gun was used in gang -style assault on a Phoenix apartment building that left two people wounded. We figured this out from information we uncovered through another public records lawsuit against the City of Phoenix.
Congress officially confirmed the AK-47 was used in the assault that terrorized residents in Phoenix. In an October 16 letter sent from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) to Deputy Attorney General James Cole discloses that “we have learned of another crime gun connected to Fast and Furious. The [Justice] Department did not provide any notice to the Congress or the public about this gun….This lack of transparency about the consequences of Fast and Furious undermines public confidence in law enforcement and gives the impression that the Department is seeking to suppress information and limit its exposure to public scrutiny.”
We have many other active lawsuits over the Fast and Furious scandal:
On October 11, 2011, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ and the ATF to obtain all Fast and Furious records submitted to the House Committee on Oversight.
On June 6, 2012, Judicial Watch sued the ATF seeking access to records detailing communications between ATF officials and Kevin O’Reilly, former Obama White House Director of North American Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.
On September 5, 2013, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ seeking access to all records of communications between DOJ and the Oversight Committee relating to settlement discussions in the Committee’s 2012 contempt of Congress lawsuit against Holder. The contempt citation stemmed from Holder’s refusal to turn over documents to Congress related to the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal.
On May 28, 2014, Judicial Watch sued the DOJ on behalf of ATF Special Agent John Dodson, who blew the whistle on Operation Fast and Furious and was then subjected to an alleged smear campaign designed to destroy his reputation.
Obama used executive privilege to shield Holder emails
BY SUSAN FERRECHIO
President Obama used executive privilege to withhold the contents of more than 20 emails sent between Attorney General Eric Holder, his wife and his mother that a conservative watchdog group sought in connection with the federal government’s botched “Fast and Furious” gun-running operation.
The document, according to the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, “details the Attorney General Holder’s personal involvement in managing the Justice Department’s strategy on media and Congressional investigations into the Fast and Furious scandal.”
Judicial Watch said the White House is withholding the contents of the Holder emails between his wife and mother citing not only the executive privilege, but the “deliberative process” exemption, which is normally used to exclude from public disclosure any information “that could chill internal government deliberations.”
Holder’s wife, Sharon Malone, is a Washington, D.C., gynecologist.
The Republican-led House has been dueling with Holder for years in an effort to get documents and emails related to Fast and Furious.
In 2012, the House voted to find Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to the operation and has sued to obtain them. Democrats have accused the GOP of a politically motivated witch hunt against Holder, who recently announced plans to step down.
The Fast and Furious program ran from 2006 to 2011 out of an Arizona division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It involved U.S. agents selling guns to Mexican drug traffickers in an effort to trace the weapons to the drug cartels. But agents lost track of the weapons and some of them were used to kill people, including U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
“Obama’s executive privilege claims over these records are a fraud and an abuse of his office,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “There is no precedent for President Obama’s Nixonian assertion of executive privilege over these ordinary government agency records. Americans will be astonished that Obama asserted executive privilege over Eric Holder’s emails to his wife about Fast and Furious.”
“This list of documents was provided in order to fulfill a procedural step in this case,” Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon told theExaminer. “We will make a further submission, related to these same materials, on Nov. 3 in connection to the case brought by the House Oversight Committee.”
Here’s some background information about Operation Fast and Furious. From 2009 – 2011, under Operation Fast and Furious, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Phoenix Field Division, along with other partners, allowed illegal gun sales believed to be destined for Mexican drug cartels in order to track the sellers and purchasers.
An estimated 1,400 weapons were lost by the ATF in Mexico. Two of the missing weapons linked to the operation turned up at the Arizona murder scene of United States Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
Whistle-blowing leads to a Congressional investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Attorney General Eric Holder is cited for contempt.
Operation Fast and Furious was one of the operations under Project Gunrunner, part of the Department of Justice’s broader Southwest Border Initiative, an “inter-agency effort to combat Mexico-based trafficking groups.” (DOJ)
“Straw purchasers (also called straw buyers) buy firearms on behalf of others without disclosing that fact on the forms required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.” (DOJ)
The operation lasted approximately 15 months, resulting in grand jury indictments of 34 suspects in drug and firearms trafficking organizations.
Operation Fast and Furious was not the first “gun walking” investigation by ATF; it was preceded by Operation Wide Receiver, which began in 2006.
Timeline: April 2006 – Official launch of Project Gunrunner.
October 2009 – Operation Fast and Furious begins, based on a review of Project Gunrunner by the ATF Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
January 2010 – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms agents tell the staff of Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that the ATF allowed straw buyer Jaime Avila to make repeated purchases of guns after his name had been entered into a “suspect person database” on January 13, 2009.
December 14, 2011 – Border patrol agent Brian Terry is killed in the Arizona desert, and two weapons the ATF allowed to be purchased earlier in 2010 by purported “straw buyer” Jaime Avila are found near the shooting scene. It is unknown whether any of the guns were used as the murder weapon.
January 25, 2011 – The Department of Justice announces the end of Operation Fast and Furious, with the indictments of 34 drug and firearm trafficking suspects.
March 3, 2011 – ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson announces the formation of a panel to “review the bureau’s current firearms trafficking strategies employed by field division managers and special agents.”
April 1, 2011 – Acting Director Melson is issued a subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
May 3, 2011 – Attorney General Eric Holder testifies for the first time before the House Judiciary Committee that he had first heard of Operation Fast and Furious only over the past few weeks.
June 2011 – Whistleblowers testify before the House Oversight committee. ATF agent John Dodson tells lawmakers, “I cannot begin to think how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest.”
July 26, 2011 – The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a second hearing.
August 30, 2011 – Melson is reassigned to the Justice Department, and is replaced by B. Todd Jones.
October 12, 2011 – Congressional investigators issue a subpoena for communications from Attorney General Holder relating to the federal gunrunning operation.
October 2011 – Investigators uncover memos indicating Attorney General Holder had known about Operation Fast and Furious for close to a year, not a few weeks as he had stated in May 2011.
November 7, 2011 – A federal grand jury in the District of Arizona hands up an 11-count indictment. It alleges that on December 14, 2010, five of the defendants (Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza) were involved in a firefight with Border Patrol agents during which Terry was fatally shot. The men are charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, attempted interference with commerce by robbery, carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence, assault on a federal officer and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. The indictment is unsealed on July 9th, 2012.
November 8, 2011 – Attorney General Holder testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee that, “this operation was flawed in concept, as well as in execution.”
February 1, 2012 – The family of ATF agent Brian Terry files a $25 million wrongful death claim against the United States.
February 2, 2012 – Attorney General Holder testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that firings and charges against Justice Department officials who oversaw Fast and Furious are likely to come in the next six months. He also denies any cover-up.
June 12, 2012 – Attorney General Holder testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and rejects calls for his resignation.
June 20, 2012 – The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recommends that Attorney General Holder be cited for contempt of Congress for failing to turn over documents relating to the Fast and Furious operation.
June 20, 2012 – President Barack Obama asserts executive privilege over the documents sought by the investigating committee. This prevents future prosecution of Holder.
July 31, 2012 – The first of a three-part joint staff Congressional report is released, Fast and Furious: Anatomy of a Failed Operation, which lays blame for the failed gun-running probe on Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson and Deputy Director William Hoover.
July 31, 2012 – ATF Deputy Director William Hoover resigns.
August 13, 2012 – The House Oversight Committee files a civil lawsuit against Holder over Operation Fast and Furious documents.
September 6, 2012 – Mexican authorities arrest Leonel Sanchez Jesus Meza, wanted in the killing of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.
September 19, 2012 – Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz releases a report on the operation. The report finds 14 employees of the ATF and the Justice Department responsible for management failures. After the release, former acting ATF head Kenneth Melson retires and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein resigns.
December 13, 2012 – Jaime Avila is sentenced to 57 months in prison for his role in buying weapons that were found at the site of the killing of patrol agent Brian A. Terry.
Weapons recovered by Mexican military in Naco, Sonora, Mexico on November 20, 2009. They include weapons bought two weeks earlier by Operation Fast and Furious suspect Uriel Patino, who bought 723 guns during the operation.
“Gunwalking“, or “letting guns walk“, was a tactic of the Arizona Field Office of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which ran a series of sting operations between 2006and 2011 in the Tucson and Phoenix area where the ATF “purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers, hoping to track the guns to Mexican drug cartel leaders and arrest them.” These operations were done under the umbrella of Project Gunrunner, a project intended to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico by interdicting straw purchasers and gun traffickers within the United States. The Chambers case[who?] began in October 2009, and eventually became known in February 2010 as “Operation Fast and Furious” after agents discovered some of the suspects under investigation belonged to a car club.
The stated goal of allowing these purchases was to continue to track the firearms as they were transferred to higher-level traffickers and key figures in Mexican cartels, with the expectation that this would lead to their arrests and the dismantling of the cartels. The tactic was questioned during the operations by a number of people, including ATF field agents and cooperating licensed gun dealers. During Operation Fast and Furious, the largest “gunwalking” probe, the ATF monitored the sale of about 2,000:203 firearms, of which only 710 were recovered as of February 2012.:203 A number of straw purchasers have been arrested and indicted; however, as of October 2011, none of the targeted high-level cartel figures had been arrested.
Guns tracked by the ATF have been found at crime scenes on both sides of the Mexico–United States border, and the scene where United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed December 2010. The “gunwalking” operations became public in the aftermath of Terry’s murder. Dissenting ATF agents came forward to Congress in response. According to Humberto Benítez Treviño, former Mexican Attorney General and chair of the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, related firearms have been found at numerous crime scenes in Mexico where at least 150 Mexican civilians were maimed or killed. Revelations of “gunwalking” led to controversy in both countries, and diplomatic relations were damaged.
One 20-year veteran of ATF’s Tucson office told us that before Operation Wide Receiver, all of ATF’s trafficking cases were very similar in their simplicity: ATF would get a tip from an FFL[Federal Firearms Licensee] about a buyer who wanted a large number of firearms and information about when the transaction was scheduled to take place, and would set up surveillance and arrest the buyer when he headed southbound or at the border. Sometimes the initial buyer would cooperate with ATF, and agents would arrest the actual buyer when he showed up to take possession of the guns. If the guns went to a stash house, agents would speak with subjects at the stash house or conduct a search of the stash house. This agent told us that ATF interdicted guns as a matter of course and had been “content to make the little cases,” but that Wide Receiver represented a “different direction” from ATF’s typical practice.
—Report by the Office of the Inspector General on the Review of ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious and Related Matters, September 2012
ATF “gunwalking” operations were, in part, a response to longstanding criticism of the bureau for focusing on relatively minor gun violations while failing to target high-level gun smuggling figures. U.S. firearms laws currently govern the possession and transfer of firearms and provide penalties for the violation of such laws. “Gun trafficking”, although not defined by statute, essentially includes the movement or diversion of firearms from legal to illegal markets.:Summary A 2009 GAO report on efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico notes that straw purchasing is not in itself illegal, although it is illegal to provide false information in connection with a purchase.
Four federal statutes govern U.S. commerce of firearms domestically and internationally. Many states supplement these federal statutes and have firearms laws of their own that are stricter. For example, some states require permits to obtain firearms and impose a waiting period for firearm transfers. Domestic commerce and importations into the United States are generally regulated under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA) and the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA). The exportation of firearms from the United States is regulated by the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 and, to a lesser extent, the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).:3
Defendants are often prosecuted and convicted under provisions of statutes such as the GCA that make it unlawful for certain persons to be in possession of firearms, govern the transaction process of obtaining firearms (e.g., straw purchases), and contain penalties for the use of a firearm in a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime, or penalties for knowingly or fraudulently smuggling goods that would be contrary to U.S. law and regulation.:18
In a 2012 case in San Juan, Texas, under existing 1968 Gun Control Act provisions on straw purchasing (Title 18United States Code, Section 924(a)(1)(A)), straw purchaser Taisa Garcia received 33 months and buyer Marco Villalobos received 46 months, plus two years supervision after release. In another Texas gun trafficking case, Oscar Bravo Hernandez received a sentence of 84 months for buying and sending to Mexico at least 55 firearms from a ring of nine straw purchasers who received sentences from 51 months for the most involved down to three years probation for the least involved.
According to twenty-year ATF veteran Jay Wachtel, letting guns “walk” has been a practice done in a controlled manner that involved surveillance and eventual seizure of the weapons. “The idea was that you would follow it long enough until you were sure you had enough probable cause” to initiate an arrest, Wachtel said.According to ATF field agents involved in Operation Fast and Furious, a part of Project Gunrunner, “ATF agents were trained to interdict guns and prevent criminals from obtaining them” and not to allow guns to walk and then disappear. ATF agents assigned to Phoenix from other districts to work on Fast and Furious were critical of the operation.
There have been allegations of “gunwalking” in at least 10 cities in five states. The most widely known and controversial operations took place in Arizona under the ATF’s Phoenix, Arizona field division.
2006–2008: Operation Wide Receiver and other probes
The suspicious sale of AR-15s led to Operation Wide Receiver.
The first known ATF “gunwalking” operation to Mexican drug cartels, named Operation Wide Receiver, began in early 2006 and ran into late 2007. Licensed dealer Mike Detty of Mad Dawg Global informed the ATF of a suspicious gun purchase that took place in February 2006 in Tucson, Arizona. In March he was hired as a confidential informant working with the ATF’s Tucson office, part of their Phoenix, Arizona field division.
With the use of surveillance equipment, ATF agents monitored additional sales by Detty to straw purchasers. With assurance from ATF “that Mexican officials would be conducting surveillance or interdictions when guns got to the other side of the border”, Detty would sell a total of about 450 guns during the operation. These included AR-15s, semi-automatic AK-pattern rifles, and Colt .38s. The majority of the guns were eventually lost as they moved into Mexico.
As the later DOJ OIG Report documented, under Wide Receiver coordination of ATF Tucson with the ATF Mexico City Office (MCO) and with Mexican law enforcement had been haphazard. Discussions of getting tracking devices from Raytheon were not followed up. ATF field agents and the cooperating gun dealer had been told by ATF supervisors that the guns were being interdicted before they could reach Mexico, but only 64 of the 474 guns had actually been seized. The kingpin sought by walking the guns, Israel Egurrola-Leon, turned out to be the target of a larger drug case Operation Iron River run by OCDETF. After Operation Wide Receiver was ended, several attorneys at the Phoenix USAO who reviewed the Wide Receiver cases for prosecution found the cases had been so poorly managed that they were reluctant to bring any of them to trial.
At the time, under the Bush administrationDepartment of Justice (DOJ), no arrests or indictments were made. After President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the DOJ reviewed Wide Receiver and found that guns had been allowed into the hands of suspected gun traffickers. Indictments began in 2010, over three years after Wide Receiver concluded. As of October 4, 2011, nine people had been charged with making false statements in acquisition of firearms and illicit transfer, shipment or delivery of firearms. As of November, charges against one defendant had been dropped; five of them had pled guilty, and one had been sentenced to one year and one day in prison. Two of them remained fugitives.
The Hernandez case
Another, smaller probe occurred in 2007 under the same ATF Phoenix field division. The Fidel Hernandez case began when the ATF identified Mexican suspects who bought weapons from a Phoenix gun shop over a span of several months. The probe ultimately involved over 200 guns, a dozen of which were lost in Mexico. On September 27, 2007, ATF agents saw the original suspects buying weapons at the same store and followed them toward the Mexican border. The ATF informed the Mexican government when the suspects successfully crossed the border, but Mexican law enforcement were unable to track them.
Less than two weeks later, on October 6, William Newell, then ATF’s Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Phoenix field division, shut down the operation at the behest of William Hoover, ATF’s assistant director for the office of field operations. No charges were filed. Newell, who was Phoenix ATF SAC from June 2006 to May 2011, would later play a major role in Operation Fast and Furious.
The Hernandez case was referenced in a briefing paper prepared for Attorney General Michael Mukasey prior to his meeting with the Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora on November 16, 2007. The paper stated, “ATF has recently worked jointly with Mexico on the first-ever attempt to have a controlled delivery of weapons being smuggled into Mexico by a major arms trafficker” and that “the first attempts at this controlled delivery have not been successful.” The paper also stated, “ATF would like to expand the possibility of such joint investigations and controlled deliveries — since only then will it be possible to investigate an entire smuggling network, rather than arresting simply a single smuggler.”
Investigators regarded the Hernandez Case as an example of “controlled delivery” with surveillance and involvement of Mexican authorities rather than “gunwalking” or failure to attempt interdiction.
The Medrano case[
The 2008 Alejandro Medrano case involved both ATF SAC William Newell and cooperating Tucson gun dealer Mike Detty of Operation Wide Receiver. ATF Phoenix allowed about 100 guns to be taken into Mexico over the objections of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel who became aware of the case. Phoenix ATF SAC Newell acknowledged to ICE “that letting guns cross the border was part of ATF’s plan”. In August 2010, Medrano was sentenced to 46 months, his associate Hernan Ramos received 50 months and their fellow conspirators received prison terms from 14 to 30 months, but the target, a Sinaloa Cartel kingpin, Javier Elenes Ruiz, nicknamed “Rambo,” remained untouched inside Mexico.
The strategy of targeting high-level individuals, which was already ATF policy, would be implemented by Bill Newell, special agent in charge of ATF’s Phoenix field division. In order to accomplish it, the office decided to monitor suspicious firearms purchases which federal prosecutors had determined lacked sufficient evidence for prosecution, as laid out in a January 2010 briefing paper. This was said to be allowed under ATF regulations and given legal backing by U.S. Attorney for the District of ArizonaDennis K. Burke. It was additionally approved and funded by a Justice Department task force. However, long-standing DOJ and ATF policy has required suspected illegal arms shipments to be intercepted.
The operation began on October 31, 2009, when a local gun store reported to the Phoenix ATF that four individuals had purchased multiple AK47 style rifles. In November 2009, the Phoenix office’s Group VII, which would be the lead investigative group in Fast and Furious, began to follow a prolific gun trafficker. He had bought 34 firearms in 24 days, and he and his associates bought 212 more in the next month. The case soon grew to over two dozen straw purchasers, the most prolific of which would ultimately buy more than 600 weapons. The effort would come to be called Operation Fast and Furious for the successful film franchise, because some of the suspects under investigation operated out of an auto repair store and street raced.
Under the previous Operation Wide Receiver, there had been a formal ATF contract with the cooperating gun dealer and efforts were made to involve the ATF Mexico City Office (MCO) and Mexican law enforcement. Under Operation Fast and Furious, at Newell’s insistence the cooperating gun dealers did not have contracts with ATF, and MCO and Mexican police were left in the dark.
According to internal ATF documents, the operation was initially run in conjunction with the Phoenix DEA Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force(OCDETF). On January 26, 2010, ATF formally applied to the Justice Department in Washington for funding through the OCDETF program. When it won approval and received additional funding, Operation Fast and Furious was reorganized as a Strike Force that included agents from ATF, FBI, DEA, and the ICE component of the Department of Homeland Security, which would be run through the U.S. Attorney’s office rather than the ATF. This new Strike Force designation allowed the operation to take advantage of sophisticated surveillance techniques such as federal wiretaps, which would require court orders and interaction from Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C. since federal law requires certain individuals to review evidence and certify the necessity of such techniques.
The dealers involved became concerned as months went by and the same individuals they reported to ATF as suspected straw purchasers returned and repeatedly bought identical weapons. As they later told the DOJ OIG, their previous experience was that after they reported a suspected straw to ATF, they did not see the straw again unless subpoenaed to testify against the straw at trial. One cooperating dealer expressed his concerns in a series of emails in April and June 2010 to GS David Voth, who assured the dealer that ATF was monitoring the suspects using a variety of techniques that he could not discuss in detail.
The tactic of letting guns walk, rather than interdicting them and arresting the buyers, led to controversy within the ATF. As the case continued, several members of Group VII, including John Dodson and Olindo Casa, became increasingly upset at the tactic of allowing guns to walk. Their standard Project Gunrunner training was to follow the straw purchasers to the hand-off to the cartel buyers, then arrest both parties and seize the guns. But according to Dodson, they watched guns being bought illegally and stashed on a daily basis, while their supervisors, including David Voth and Hope MacAllister, prevented the agents from intervening.
However, other accounts of the operation insist that ATF agents were prevented from intervening not by ATF officials, but rather by federal prosecutors with the Attorney General’s office, who were unsure of whether the agents had sufficient evidence to arrest suspected straw-buyers. According to some reports, many agents insisted they were prevented from making arrests because prosecutors were unwilling to engage in what could become a potentially contentious political battle over Second Amendment rights during an election year, particularly given the difficult nature of prosecuting straw buyers, and the weak penalties associated with it, even if successful. Instead, prosecutors instructed ATF agents not to make arrests, but rather continue collecting evidence in order to build a stronger case. One tactic proposed for doing so was a wiretap of suspected straw-buyers, in an attempt to link the suspects to criminal activities taking place on the Mexican side of the border. Between March 20 and July 30, 2010, nine wiretaps were sought and approved by Justice Department officials, resulting in a significant delay in concluding the case.:247,274
One of the central targeted individuals was Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta. By December 2009, Celis-Acosta was being investigated by the ATF, which had placed a secret pole camera outside his Phoenix home to track his movements. Around this time, apparently by chance, ATF agents discovered Celis-Acosta was also a potential criminal target of the DEA, which was operating a wire room to monitor live wiretaps in order to track him. On April 2, 2010, Celis-Acosta was arrested on possession of cocaine and found in possession of a weapon purchased by Uriel Patino, who had already purchased at least 434 guns from cooperating gun dealers in the Phoenix area. By this time about a dozen ATF agents regularly surveilled Celis-Acosta as he recruited 20 friends and family to buy guns for him and regularly traveled to Texas to obtain funds from cartel associates to purchase firearms. On May 29, 2010, Celis-Acosta was detained in Lukeville, Arizona with 74 rounds of ammunition and 9 cell phones. He was then released by the chief ATF investigator on Fast and Furious, Hope MacAllister, after he promised to cooperate with her to find two specific Sinaloa cartel associates. After the redetention and arrest of Celis-Acosta in February 2011, the ATF learned that the associates they were after were FBI/DEA paid informants, and one of them was Celis-Acosta’s financier. Since they were informants, they were unindictable under Operation Fast and Furious.
Later, the DOJ inspector General concluded: “We did not find persuasive evidence that agents sought to seize firearms or make arrests during the investigative stage of the case and were rebuffed by the prosecutor. … We found that the lack of seizures and arrests was primarily attributable to the pursuit of a strategic goal shared by both the [Phoenix] ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office—to eliminate a trafficking organization—and the belief that confronting subjects and seizing firearms could compromise that goal.”
Weapons bought by Fast and Furious suspect Uriel Patino, seized by Border Patrol and Tucson ATF agents on the Tohono O’odham Reservation from a vehicle headed toward the Mexican border, February 20, 2010.
By June 2010, suspects had purchased 1,608 firearms at a cost of over US$1 million at Phoenix-area gun shops. At that time, the ATF was also aware of 179 of those weapons being found at crime scenes in Mexico, and 130 in the United States. As guns traced to Fast and Furious began turning up at violent crime scenes in Mexico, ATF agents stationed there also voiced opposition.
On the evening of December 14, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry and others were patrolling Peck Canyon,Santa Cruz County, Arizona, 11 miles from the Mexican border. The group came across five suspected illegal immigrants. When they fired non-lethal beanbag guns, the suspects responded with their own weapons, leading to a firefight. Terry was shot and killed; four of the suspects were arrested and two AK-pattern rifles were found nearby. The Attorney General’s office was immediately notified of the shooting incident by email. The rifles were traced within hours of the shooting to a Phoenix store involved in the Fast and Furious operation, but the bullet that killed Terry was too badly damaged to be conclusively linked to either gun. Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson were informed about the guns, but they didn’t believe the information was sufficiently important to alert the Attorney General about it or to make any further inquiry regarding the development.:297
On January 25, 2011, Burke announced the first details of the case to become officially public, marking the end of Operation Fast and Furious. At a news conference in Phoenix, he reported a 53-count indictment of 20 suspects for buying hundreds of guns intended for illegal export between September 2009 and December 2010. Newell, who was at the conference, called Fast and Furious a “phenomenal case,” while denying that guns had been deliberately allowed to walk into Mexico.
Altogether, about 2,000 firearms were bought by straw purchasers during Fast and Furious.:203 These included AK-47 variants, Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifles, .38 caliber revolvers, and FN Five-sevens. As of October 20, 2011, 389 had been recovered in the US and 276 had been recovered in Mexico. The rest remained on the streets, unaccounted for. As of February 2012, the total number of recovered firearms was 710.:203 Most of the guns went to the Sinaloa Cartel, while others made their way to El Teo and La Familia.
Although most weapons were purchased by suspects under investigation by the program, there have been reports of at least one instance of ATF agents being directly involved in the transfer of weapons. On April 13, 2010, ATF Agent John Dodson, with assistance from Agents Casa and Alt, directed a cooperating straw purchaser to give three guns to Isaiah Fernandez, a suspected gun trafficker, and had taped the conversations without prosecutor approval.
After being instructed by his superiors to obtain approval from prosecutors (albeit retroactively), Dodson’s proposal was later rejected by his immediate superior David Voth, although he later received permission from Voth’s supervisor after submitting a written proposal for the program. On June 1, 2010, Dodson used $2,500 of ATF funds to purchase six AK Draco pistols from local gun dealers, which he then gave to Mr. Fernandez, who reimbursed him for the expense of the guns, plus $700 for his assistance. Two days later, Agent Dodson went on a scheduled vacation without interdicting the weapons. As a result, the weapons were never recovered, no arrests were ever made, and the case was closed without charges being filed.
According to the DOJ OIG report, Agent Dodson, as the undercover posing as a straw buyer, was not expected to surveil the weapons after hand-off to Fernandez. Other ATF agents followed the weapons to a storage facility; then surveillance was terminated without interdiction. The Fernandez case was dropped from Fast and Furious after it was determined that Fernandez was not connected to Mexican cartels and had ceased buying guns for resale.
Aftermath and reaction
Fate of walked guns
Since the end of Operation Fast and Furious, related firearms have continued to be discovered in criminal hands. As reported in September 2011, the Mexican government stated that an undisclosed number of guns found at about 170 crime scenes were linked to Fast and Furious. U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R–Calif.–49) estimated that more than 200 Mexicans were killed by guns linked to the operation. Reflecting on the operation, Attorney General Eric Holder said that theUnited States government is “…losing the battle to stop the flow of illegal guns to Mexico,” and that the effects of Operation Fast and Furious will most likely continue to be felt for years, as more walked guns appear at Mexican crime scenes.
In April 2011, a large cache of weapons, 40 traced to Fast and Furious but also including military-grade weapons difficult to obtain legally in the US such as an anti-aircraft machine gun and grenade launcher, was found in the home of Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, a prominent Sinaloa Cartel member, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Torres Marrufo was indicted, but evaded law enforcement for a brief time. Finally, on February 4, 2012, Marrufo was arrested by the Mexican Police.
There have been questions raised over a possible connection between Fast and Furious and the death of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata on February 15, 2011. The gun used to kill Zapata was purchased by Otilio Osorio in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Texas (outside the area of responsibility for the ATF Phoenix field division which conducted Fast and Furious), and then smuggled into Mexico. Congressional investigators have stated that Osorio was known by the ATF to be a straw purchaser months before he purchased the gun used to kill Zapata, leading them to question ATF surveillance tacticsand to suspect a Texas-based operation similar to Fast and Furious.
In addition to Otilio Osorio, a Texas-based drug and gun trafficker, Manuel Barba, was involved trafficking another of the guns recovered in the Zapata shooting. The timeline of this case, called “Baytown Crew”, shows guns were allowed to walk during surveillance that began June 7, 2010. On August 20, 2010, Barba received a rifle later recovered in the Zapata ambush and sent it with nine others to Mexico. The warrant for Barba’s arrest was issued February 14, 2011, the day before Zapata was shot. On January 30, 2012, Barba, who claimed to be working with Los Zetas in illegally exporting at least 44 weapons purchased through straw buyers, was sentenced to 100 months in prison.
On November 23, 2012, two firearms linked to the ATF were found at the scene of a shootout between Sinaloa cartel members and the Mexican military. One of the weapons was an AK-47 type rifle trafficked by Fast and Furious suspect Uriel Patino, and the other was an FN Herstal pistol originally purchased by an ATF agent. Mexican beauty queen Maria Susana Flores Gamez and four others were killed.
On January 27, 2011, Grassley wrote a letter to ATF Acting Director Kenneth E. Melson requesting information about the ATF-sanctioned sale of hundreds of firearms to straw purchasers. The letter mentioned a number of allegations that walked guns were used in the fight that killed Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. A second letter from Grassley on January 31 accused the ATF of targeting whistleblowers.
On February 4, after review and comment from dozens of officials in the Justice Department Criminal Division, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, and ATF Headquarters,:332Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich sent a response to Grassley regarding his two letters. Weich said claims “…that (the) ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them to Mexico [are] false. ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.” On February 28, Attorney GeneralEric Holder requested that the Department of Justice‘s Inspector General begin an investigation of Fast and Furious.
On March 23, President Barack Obama appeared on Univision and spoke about the “gunwalking” controversy. He said that neither he nor Attorney General Holder authorized Fast and Furious. He also stated, “There may be a situation here in which a serious mistake was made, and if that’s the case then we’ll find out and we’ll hold somebody accountable.”
On May 3, Attorney General Holder testified to the House Judiciary Committee that he did not know who approved Fast and Furious, but that it was being investigated. He also stated that he “probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks,” a claim which would later be questioned as explained below.
In June, ATF Agent Vince Cefalu, who helped to publicize Fast and Furious, was served with termination papers, in a move by the agency he described as politically motivated retaliation. He had been at odds with ATF management since he filed a complaint over tactics in an unrelated case in 2005. The ATF denied that the firing was retaliation, and Cefalu’s termination letter noted that he leaked documents to the Internet and showed a “lack of candor” in other operations.
On June 14, 2011, a preliminary joint staff report was released by Representative Issa and Senator Grassley. Among the findings: agents were told to stand down rather than interdict weapons, they complained about the strategy and were ignored, and Fast and Furious led to increased violence and death in Mexico. Agents were panicked, certain that “someone was going to die.”
Representative Issa continued to hold hearings in June and July where ATF officials based in Phoenix and Mexico, and at headquarters in Washington, testified before the committee. ATF agent John Dodson stated that he and other agents were ordered to observe the activities of gun smugglers but not to intervene. He testified:
Over the course of the next 10 months that I was involved in this operation, we monitored as they purchased hand guns, AK-47 variants, and .50 caliberrifles almost daily. Rather than conduct any enforcement actions, we took notes, we recorded observations, we tracked movements of these individuals for a short time after their purchases, but nothing more. Knowing all the while, just days after these purchases, the guns that we saw these individuals buy would begin turning up at crime scenes in the United States and Mexico, we still did nothing. …
I cannot begin to think of how the risk of letting guns fall into the hands of known criminals could possibly advance any legitimate law enforcement interest.
A second joint staff report was released by the Republicans on July 26.
In August, three important Fast and Furious supervisors were transferred to new management positions at ATF headquarters in Washington: William Newell and David Voth, field supervisors who oversaw the program from Phoenix, and William McMahon, an ATF deputy director of operations. The transfers were initially reported as promotions by the Los Angeles Times, but the ATF stated that they did not receive raises or take on greater responsibilities. In late August, it was announced that Acting ATF Director Melson had been reassigned to the Justice Department, and U.S. Attorney Burke announced his resignation after being questioned by Congressional investigators earlier that month.
In October, documents showing that Attorney General Holder’s office had been sent briefings on Fast and Furious as early as July 2010, prompted questions about his May statement that he wasn’t sure of the exact date, but had known about it for only a few weeks. The briefings were from the National Drug Intelligence Center andAssistant Attorney GeneralLanny Breuer. The Justice Department said that those briefings were about a different case started before Holder became Attorney General, and that while he had known about Fast and Furious, he didn’t know the details of the tactics being used.
On October 31, 2011, after the release of subpoenaed documents, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer stated he found out about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver in April 2010, and that he wished he had alerted the deputy or the attorney general at the time. The following day, in testimony before the Senate Judicial Committee in a hearing on International Organized Crime, when asked if he had reviewed the letter before it was sent to Senator Charles Grassley on February 4, 2011 denying gunwalking, Breuer replied, “I cannot say for sure whether I saw a draft of the letter that was sent to you. What I can tell you, Senator, is that at that time I was in Mexico dealing with the very real issues that we’re all so committed to.”
On November 8, Holder stated for the first time in Congressional testimony that “gunwalking” was used in Fast and Furious. He remarked that the tactic is unacceptable, and that the operation was “flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution.” He further stated that his office had inaccurately described the program in previous letters sent to Congress, but that this was unintentional. Reiterating previous testimony, he said that he and other top officials had been unaware that the “gunwalking” tactic was being used. Holder stated that his staff had not showed him memos about the program, noting, “There is nothing in any of those memos that indicates any of those inappropriate tactics that are of concern. Those things were not brought to my attention, and my staff, I think, made the correct decision in that regard.”
That same month, ex-US Attorney Burke admitted to leaking sensitive documents about ATF agent and whistleblower Dodson. Senator Grassley expressed concern that the Justice Department was using Burke as a scapegoat to protect higher officials and vowed to continue his probe.
On December 2, 2011, the Justice Department formally withdrew its statement from February 4, 2011 denying gunwalking due to inaccuracies.
Later that month, documents showed that some ATF agents discussed using Fast and Furious to provide anecdotal cases to support controversial new rules about gun sales. The regulation, called Demand Letter 3, would require 8,500 firearms dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas that “have a significant number of crime guns traced back to them from Mexico” to report multiple rifle sales.
Investigations by Congress and the DOJ Inspector General continued into 2012. In January, Patrick Cunningham, who was the criminal division chief at the Phoenix office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and has since resigned, asserted his innocence and his constitutional right against self-incrimination to avoid testifying. Cunningham worked directly under Burke during Fast and Furious. He was subpoenaed because of the role he might have played in the operation, and in the letter sent from the DOJ to Senator Grassley in February 2011 that claimed the ATF did not allow weapons to be trafficked to Mexico.
On January 31, 2012, Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report titled, “Fatally Flawed: Five Years of Gunwalking in Arizona”. The report concluded that there was no evidence of involvement by high-ranking appointees at the Justice Department in “gunwalking.” Rather, Operation Fast and Furious was just one of four such operations conducted over five years during the Bush and Obama administrations, and was only “the latest in a series of fatally flawed operations run by ATF agents in Phoenix and the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
On May 3, 2012, Congressman Issa released a letter to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that included a draft of a resolution to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt. In the letter, Issa described the connection between Operation Fast and Furious and the OCDETF program since at least January 2009, which would involve multiple executive agencies including the ATF, DOJ, DEA, FBI, ICE, and DHS. He questioned how, why, or if oversight by high level Justice Department did not occur in such an important case. He further described the tragic death of Brian Terry, the whistleblowers and their mistreatment, and the damage the operation had to US-Mexico relations.
On June 7, 2012, under the threat of being held in contempt of Congress for not turning over additional requested documents, Attorney General Holder appeared at his seventh Congressional hearing, where he continued to deny knowledge of “gunwalking” by high-level officials. By then, the Justice Department had turned over more than 7,000 pages of documents.
During the June 12, 2012, Senate hearing, Eric Holder stated, “If you want to talk about Fast and Furious, I’m the Attorney General that put an end to the misguided tactics that were used in Fast and Furious. An Attorney General who I suppose you would hold in higher regard was briefed on these kinds of tactics in an operation called Wide Receiver and did nothing to stop them—nothing. Three hundred guns, at least, walked in that instance.” Holder cited a briefing paper on “Wide Receiver”; the DOJ Office of Legislative Affairs later clarified that the briefing paper was about the Fidel Hernandez case, prepared for Holder’s predecessor, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey before his meeting with Mexican Attorney General Mora on November 16, 2007. The Hernandez Case had ended October 6, 2007,before Mukasey entered office November 9, 2007. The office further explained, “As Attorney General Holder also noted in his testimony, and as we have set forth in prior correspondence and testimony, he took measures and instituted a series of important reforms designed to ensure that the inappropriate tactics used in Fast and Furious, Wide Receiver, Hernandez, and other matters about which the Department has informed Congress are not repeated.” The later DOJ OIG investigation concluded “Attorney General Mukasey was not briefed about Operation Wide Receiver or gun “walking,” but on a different and traditional law enforcement tactic that was employed in a different case.”
On June 20, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted along party lines to recommend that Holder be held in contempt. At issue were 1,300 pages of documents that had not been turned over to Congress by the DOJ. Earlier that day, President Obama had invoked executive privilege over those documents, marking the first time the privilege has been asserted during his presidency. Issa contends that the Obama executive privilege claim is a cover-up or an obstruction to the congressional probe. Issa said the department has identified “140,000 pages of documents and communications responsive to the committee’s subpoena.”
On Thursday, June 28, 2012, Holder became the first sitting member of the Cabinet of the United States to be held in criminal contempt of Congress by the House of Representatives for refusing to disclose internal Justice Department documents in response to a subpoena. The vote was 255–67 in favor, with 17 Democrats voting yes and a large number of Democrats walking off the floor in protest and refusing to vote. A civil contempt measure was also voted on and passed, 258–95. The civil contempt vote allows the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to go to court with a civil lawsuit to look into the US Justice Department’s refusal to turn over some of the subpoenaed documents and to test Obama’s assertion of executive privilege. Holder dismissed the votes as “the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided—and politically motivated—investigation during an election year,” and the White House called it “political theater rather than legitimate congressional oversight.” The National Rifle Association controversially lobbied for Holder to be held in contempt.
In June 2012, a six-month long investigation by Fortune magazine stated that the ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, in contrast to most other reports. Agents interviewed during the investigation repeatedly asserted that only one isolated incident of “gunwalking” ever occurred, and was performed independently by ATF Agent John Dodson (who later appeared on CBS News as a whistleblower to denounce the gunwalking scandal) as part of an unauthorized solo action outside the larger Fast and Furious operation.
On July 31, the first part of a new three-part report, Fast and Furious: The Anatomy of a Failed Operation, was released by Republican lawmakers. The report singled out five ATF supervisors for responsibility in Fast and Furious, all of whom had been previously reassigned. The report also said that Fast and Furious resulted from a change in strategy by the Obama Administration. The Justice Department was dismissive of the report, saying that it contained “distortions” and “debunked conspiracy theories,” and that “gunwalking” tactics dated back to 2006. DOJ spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler, while critical of the report, did credit it for acknowledging that the idea for “gun walking”—allowing illegal sales of weapons on the border—originated under the Republican administration before Eric Holder took office in 2009. Schmaler noted that Holder moved swiftly to replace the ATF’s management and instill reforms. On the same day, ATF Deputy Director William Hoover, who was one of the five blamed in the Congressional report, officially retired. The report included an appendix disputing claims in the Fortune article.Following its publication, Dodson’s lawyer wrote the managing editor of Fortune stating the article was “demonstrably false” and that a retraction was in order. AfterFortune did not retract the article, Dodson sued for libel on October 12, 2012.
On September 19, the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz publicly released a 471-page report detailing the results of the Justice Department’s own internal investigations. The Inspector General’s report, which had access to evidence and interviews with witnesses not permitted in previous Congressional reports, recommended 14 federal officials for disciplinary action, ranging from ATF agents to federal prosecutors involved in the Fast and Furious operation. It found “no evidence” that Attorney General Holder knew about Fast and Furious before early 2011. It found no evidence that previous Attorneys General had been advised about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver.
While the OIG report found no evidence that higher officials at the Justice Department in Washington had authorized or approved of the tactics used in the Fast and Furious investigations, it did fault 14 lower officials for related failures, including failures to take note of “red flags” uncovered by the investigation, as well as failures to follow up on information produced through Operation Fast and Furious and its predecessor, Operation Wide Receiver. The report also noted ATF agents’ apparent frustrations over legal obstacles from the Phoenix Attorney’s Office to prosecuting suspected “straw-buyers,” while also criticizing the agents’ failure to quickly intervene and interdict weapons obtained by low-level suspects in the case. The 14 Justice Department employees were referred for possible internal discipline. The Justice Department’s Criminal Division head Lanny Breuer, an Obama administration presidential appointee, was cited for not alerting his bosses in 2010 to the flaws of Operation Wide Receiver. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, who was responsible for authorizing a portion of the wiretap applications in Operation Fast and Furious and faulted in the report for not identifying the gunwalking tactics, resigned on the day of the report.
On December 4, 2012, the ATF Professional Review Board delivered its recommendations to high-level ATF managers, who will decide whether to accept them. The recommendations included firing William McMahon, ATF Deputy Assistant Director; Mark Chait, ATF Assistant Director for Field Operations; William Newell, Phoenix ATF Special Agent in Charge; and George Gillett, Newell’s second in command. Two additional ATF employees, Phoenix supervisor David Voth and lead agent Hope McAllister, received recommendations for demotion and disciplinary transfer to another ATF post, respectively. It was reported the next day that McMahon had been fired. It was also announced that Gary Grindler, Eric Holder’s chief of staff who was faulted in the OIG report, would be leaving the Justice Department. Later that month, the family of Brian Terry sued seven government officials and a gun shop involved in Operation Fast and Furious for negligence and wrongful death.
Agent John Dodson’s book on his experiences in Operation Fast and Furious was released by Simon and Schuster on December 3, 2013.
Related criminal prosecutions
On July 9, 2012, an indictment charging five men in the death of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was unsealed. The FBI offered a reward of $250,000 per fugitive for information leading to their arrests. The indictment, originally handed up on November 7, 2011, charges Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, Jesus Rosario Favela-Astorga, Ivan Soto-Barraza, Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes and Lionel Portillo-Meza with first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and other crimes. Manuel Osorio-Arellanes pled guilty to avoid the death penalty and is expected to be sentenced in March 2013. As of December 12, 2012, another of the suspects is in custody, and three remain fugitives.
On October 15, 2012, Danny Cruz Morones, one of the twenty individuals indicted as a result of Fast and Furious, was sentenced to 57 months in prison. He was the first of the twenty to be sentenced. He pled guilty to straw purchasing and recruiting others to buy guns. According to prosecutors, he bought 27 AK-47s, and his recruits bought dozens more.
On December 12, Jaime Avila, Jr. received the maximum penalty of 57 months in prison for gun dealing and conspiracy. He pled guilty after two AK-47 type rifles purchased by him were found at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death. Federal prosecutors stated that, in addition to gun trafficking, he had recruited others to do the same. He was under ATF surveillance at the time.
As more information on Operations Fast and Furious and Wide Receiver was revealed in 2011, Mexican officials, political commentators and media reacted with anger. Mexican officials stated in September that the U.S. government still had not briefed them on what went wrong nor had they apologized.
Due to several failed attempts at coordinating with Mexican law enforcement in the apprehension of suspected arms traffickers in the Wide Receiver and Hernandez cases, and concerns about widespread corruption, details of Operation Fast and Furious were not shared with Mexican government officials, and they were deliberately kept out of the loop after related firearms began turning up at crime scenes and in criminal arsenals in 2010. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico and the ATF Mexico City Office (MCO) were also kept in the dark. According to Attorney General of MexicoMarisela Morales, the Mexican government was told about the undercover program in January 2011, but they were not provided details at the time.
Morales stated, “At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted. In no way would we have allowed it, because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans.” In addition, she expressed that allowing weapons to “walk” would represent a “betrayal” of Mexico. Morales said that her office would search “to the end” in order to clarify what happened in Fast and Furious. In November 2011, it was reported that the Mexican Attorney General’s office was seeking the extradition of six citizens of the United States implicated with smuggling weapons.
Mexican Senator Arturo Escobar stated after hearing about Operation Wide Receiver, “We can no longer tolerate what is occurring. There must be condemnation from the state,” and that the Mexican Senate condemned the actions of the ATF.
Chihuahua state prosecutor Patricia Gonzalez, who had worked closely with the US for years, said, “The basic ineptitude of these officials [who ordered the Fast and Furious operation] caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims.” Her brother, Mario, had been kidnapped, tortured and killed by cartel hit men in fall 2010. Later, two AK-47 rifles found among the several weapons recovered after a gunfight between police and cartel members were traced to the Fast and Furious program.
Like many politicians, Mexican pundits across the political spectrum expressed anger at news of both operations. La Jornada, a left-leaning newspaper, asked “US: ally or enemy?” The paper also argued that after news about Wide Receiver, the Mérida Initiative should be immediately suspended. A right-leaning paper accused the US of violating Mexican sovereignty. Manuel J. Jauregui of the Reforma newspaper wrote, “In sum, the gringo (American) government has been sending weapons to Mexico in a premeditated and systematic manner, knowing that their destinations were Mexican criminal organizations.”
Historically, the uses of executive privilege underscore the untested nature of the doctrine, since Presidents have generally sidestepped open confrontations with the United States Congress and the courts over the issue by first asserting the privilege, then producing some of the documents requested on an assertedly voluntary basis.
Executive privilege is a specific instance of the more general common-law principle of deliberative process privilege and is believed to trace its roots to the English Crown Privilege.
In the context of privilege assertions by US Presidents, “In 1796, President George Washington refused to comply with a request by the House of Representatives for documents related to the negotiation of the then-recently adopted Jay Treaty with the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Senate alone plays a role in the ratification of treaties, Washington reasoned, and therefore the House had no legitimate claim to the material. Therefore, Washington provided the documents to the Senate but not the House.”
President Thomas Jefferson continued the precedent for this in the trial of Aaron Burr for treason in 1807. Burr asked the court to issue a subpoena duces tecum to compel Jefferson to provide his private letters concerning Burr. Chief Justice John Marshall, a strong proponent of the powers of the federal government but also a political opponent of Jefferson, ruled that the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which allows for these sorts of court orders for criminal defendants, did not provide any exception for the president. As for Jefferson’s claim that disclosure of the document would imperil public safety, Marshall held that the court, not the president, would be the judge of that. Jefferson complied with Marshall’s order.
During the period of 1947-49, several major security cases became known to Congress. There followed a series of investigations, culminating in the famous Hiss–Chambers case of 1948. At that point, the Truman Administration issued a sweeping secrecy order blocking congressional efforts from FBI and other executive data on security problems. Security files were moved to the White House and Administration officials were banned from testifying before Congress on security related matters. Investigation of the State Department and other cases was stymied and the matter left unresolved.
During the Army–McCarthy hearings in 1954, Eisenhower used the claim of executive privilege to forbid the “provision of any data about internal conversations, meetings, or written communication among staffers, with no exception to topics or people.” Department of Defense employees were also instructed not to testify on any such conversations or produce any such documents or reproductions. This was done to refuse the McCarthy Committee subpoenas of transcripts of monitored telephone calls from Army officials, as well as information on meetings between Eisenhower officials relating to the hearings. This was done in the form of a letter from Eisenhower to the Department of Defense and an accompanying memo from Eisenhower Justice. The reasoning behind the order was that there was a need for “candid” exchanges among executive employees in giving “advice” to one another. In the end, Eisenhower would invoke the claim 44 times between 1955 and 1960.
The Supreme Court did not reject the claim of privilege out of hand; it noted, in fact, “the valid need for protection of communications between high Government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their manifold duties” and that “[h]uman experience teaches that those who expect public dissemination of their remarks may well temper candor with a concern for appearances and for their own interests to the detriment of the decisionmaking process.” This is very similar to the logic that the Court had used in establishing an “executive immunity” defense for high office-holders charged with violating citizens’ constitutional rights in the course of performing their duties. The Supreme Court stated: “To read the Article II powers of the President as providing an absolute privilege as against a subpoena essential to enforcement of criminal statutes on no more than a generalized claim of the public interest in confidentiality of nonmilitary and nondiplomatic discussions would upset the constitutional balance of ‘a workable government’ and gravely impair the role of the courts under Article III.” Because Nixon had asserted only a generalized need for confidentiality, the Court held that the larger public interest in obtaining the truth in the context of a criminal prosecution took precedence.
“Once executive privilege is asserted, coequal branches of the Government are set on a collision course. The Judiciary is forced into the difficult task of balancing the need for information in a judicial proceeding and the Executive’s Article II prerogatives. This inquiry places courts in the awkward position of evaluating the Executive’s claims of confidentiality and autonomy, and pushes to the fore difficult questions of separation of powers and checks and balances. These ‘occasion[s] for constitutional confrontation between the two branches’ are likely to be avoided whenever possible. United States v. Nixon, supra, at 692.”
The Clinton administration invoked executive privilege on fourteen occasions.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton became the first President since Nixon to assert executive privilege and lose in court, when a Federal judge ruled that Clinton aides could be called to testify in the Lewinsky scandal.
Later, Clinton exercised a form of negotiated executive privilege when he agreed to testify before the grand jury called by Independent CounselKenneth Starr only after negotiating the terms under which he would appear. Declaring that “absolutely no one is above the law”, Starr said such a privilege “must give way” and evidence “must be turned over” to prosecutors if it is relevant to an investigation.
George W. Bush administration
The Bush administration invoked executive privilege on six occasions.
Bush invoked executive privilege “in substance” in refusing to disclose the details of Vice PresidentDick Cheney‘s meetings with energy executives, which was not appealed by the GAO. In a separate Supreme Court decision in 2004, however, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted “Executive privilege is an extraordinary assertion of power ‘not to be lightly invoked.’ United States v. Reynolds, 345 U.S. 1, 7 (1953).
Further, on June 28, 2007, Bush invoked executive privilege in response to congressional subpoenas requesting documents from former presidential counsel Harriet Miers and former political director Sara Taylor, citing that:
The reason for these distinctions rests upon a bedrock presidential prerogative: for the President to perform his constitutional duties, it is imperative that he receive candid and unfettered advice and that free and open discussions and deliberations occur among his advisors and between those advisors and others within and outside the Executive Branch.
On July 9, 2007, Bush again invoked executive privilege to block a congressional subpoena requiring the testimonies of Taylor and Miers. Furthermore, White House CounselFred F. Fielding refused to comply with a deadline set by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to explain its privilege claim, prove that the president personally invoked it, and provide logs of which documents were being withheld. On July 25, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee voted to cite Miers andWhite House Chief of StaffJoshua Bolten for contempt of Congress.
On July 13, less than a week after claiming executive privilege for Miers and Taylor, Counsel Fielding effectively claimed the privilege once again, this time in relation to documents related to the 2004 death of Army RangerPat Tillman. In a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Fielding claimed certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting “implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests” and would therefore not be turned over to the committee.
On August 1, 2007, Bush invoked the privilege for the fourth time in little over a month, this time rejecting a subpoena for Karl Rove. The subpoena would have required the President’s Senior Advisor to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a probe over fired federal prosecutors. In a letter to Senate Judiciary ChairmanPatrick Leahy, Fielding claimed that “Mr. Rove, as an immediate presidential advisor, is immune from compelled congressional testimony about matters that arose during his tenure and that relate to his official duties in that capacity….”
Leahy claimed that President Bush was not involved with the employment terminations of U.S. attorneys. Furthermore, he asserted that the president’s executive privilege claims protecting Josh Bolten, and Karl Rove are illegal. The Senator demanded that Bolten, Rove, Sara Taylor, and J. Scott Jennings comply “immediately” with their subpoenas, presumably to await a further review of these matters. This development paved the way for a Senate panel vote on whether to advance the citations to the full Senate. “It is obvious that the reasons given for these firings were contrived as part of a cover up and that the stonewalling by the White House is part and parcel of that same effort”, Leahy concluded about these incidents.
As of July 17, 2008, Rove still claimed executive privilege to avoid a congressional subpoena. Rove’s lawyer wrote that his client is “constitutionally immune from compelled congressional testimony.”
House Investigation of the SEC
Leaders of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission testified on February 4, 2009 before the United States House Committee on Financial Servicessubcommittee including Linda Chatman Thomsen S.E.C. enforcement director, acting General CounselAndy Vollmer, Andrew Donohue, Erik Sirri, and Lori Richards and Stephen Luparello of FINRA. The subject of the hearings were on why the SEC had failed to act when Harry Markopolos, a private fraud investigator from Boston alerted the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing his persistent and unsuccessful efforts to get the SEC to investigate Bernard Madoff, beginning in 1999.Vollmer claimed executive privilege in declining to answer some questions. Subcommittee chairman Paul E. Kanjorski asked Mr. Vollmer if he had obtained executive privilege from the U.S. attorney general. “No … this is the position of the agency,” said Vollmer. “Did the SEC instruct him not to respond to questions?” Mr. Kanjorski asked. Vollmer replied that it was the position of the Commission and that “the answer is no.” The SEC announced Vollmer would “leave the Commission and return to the private sector,” just 14 days after making the claim.
Jump up^Chief Justice Burger, writing for the majority in US v. Nixon noted: “Whatever the nature of the privilege of confidentiality of Presidential communications in the exercise of Art. II powers, the privilege can be said to derive from the supremacy of each branch within its own assigned area of constitutional duties. Certain powers and privileges flow from the nature of enumerated powers; the protection of the confidentiality of Presidential communications has similar constitutional underpinnings.United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974) (Supreme Court opinion at FindLaw)
‘Bob Grant has died. Born March 14, 1929 he was an American radio host whose real name was Robert Ciro Gigante. Grant, who lived in Tom’s River, N.J., died on New Year’s Eve.He was a veteran of radio broadcasting in New York City, and Grant is considered to be a pioneer of the “conservative” and “confrontational” talk radio format who influenced many people after him.He began working in radio in the 1940s at WBBM in Chicago as a radio personality and television talk show host at KNX in Los Angeles, and as an actor. During the Korean War he served in the Naval Reserve. He became sports director at KABC in Los Angeles, where after some substitute appearances he inherited the talk show of Joe Pyne in 1964 and began to build a huge following. Grant hosted three shows on KABC in 1964 titled, “Open Line,” “Night Line,” and “Sunday Line.” Many people were avid listeners of his show and it helped the popularity of the format.He was the father of conservative talkradio.He was known to say: “Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to another hour of the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions in the belief that as American citizens you have the right to hear, and to be heard.”
Bob Grant on “Hannity & Colmes” discusses retiring 1.16.2006 (Sean Hannity)
Bob Grant Celebrates 40 Years on New York Radio
Bob Grant Interview: Media Coverage of Obama “Absolutely Sca
Bob Grant’s Emotional Monologue 9.23.2012
Bob Grant 40th Anniversary in New York City Show on WABC 9.20.2010
Howard Stern calls into Bob Grant’s last WOR show 1.13.2006
Bob Grant in “the History of Talk Radio” documentary 1996
Rush Limbaugh Roasts Bob Grant – September 15, 1991
Bob Grant makes fun of Michael Savage hyping his books
Bob Grant on filling in for Michael Savage
The Best of Bob Grant-2000’s Pt 1
The Best of Bob Grant 2007-2012 Pt 2
Bob Grant on CBS News discussing Rush Limbaugh’s prescription drug addiction 10.11.2003
Bob Grant Show-Day after September 11, 2001 (9.12.2001)
Bob Grant attacks ‘the Tea Party’ 1.6.2013
Bob Grant on taking over Joe Pyne’s Show the night of the Kennedy Assassination
WABC 77 New York – Bob Grant GAG (Get At Grant) Hour- Dec 1988
Bob Grant, Father of Conservative Talk Radio, Dead at 84
Veteran New York radio personality Bob Grant — widely credited with inventing the conservative talk-radio format — has died at the age of 84.
Grant began his career as a controversial talk show host in 1970, when he joined WMCA in New York and quickly bucked the liberal slant of many of the other hosts.
The gravel-voiced talker’s in-your-face opinions and regular telling off of callers often got him in hot water.
He opened his show stating: “Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to another hour of the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions in the belief that as American citizens you have the right to hear, and to be heard.”
He slammed uncouth politicians as “craven bootlickers.” He once said of the Second Coming of Jesus: “He’s not coming back. Look, I don’t believe he’s coming back. I think that’s a myth and I say it.”
Grant routinely signed off with the chant “Get Gaddafi,” in a taunt at Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi.
In 1973, he called Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal of New York a coward for cancelling an appearance on his show, leading Rosenthal to complain to the Federal Communications Commission.
The case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals and was ultimately thrown out after a judge decided Grant had offered Rosenthal equal time.
Grant left WMCA in 1977 to work for WOR, but was fired for controversial remarks he made in 1979.
“A caller phoned in to the show saying he was upset with a woman who was blaming the police for what happened to her sons. [This woman] was the public relations director or community relations director of WCBS newsradio,” he said.
“I stupidly asked the caller if he knew how she got that job. The caller said he didn’t know and I promptly and arrogantly said, “I will tell you how. She passed the gynecological and pigmentation test — that’s how! … WOR was forced to fire me even though I had given the radio giant the biggest overnight ratings they ever had.”
Grant returned to WMCA in 1980, where his producer was Steve Malzberg, now host of “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.
“I had grown up listening to Bob Grant so this was a dream come true,” Malzberg said.
“He was an extremely nice guy, a wonderful and funny pioneer who overcame many attempts to turn him into a villain. He persevered and did what he love until the very end.”
In 1984, Grant was hired by WABC, which had switched formats from Top 40 music to all-talk. With its strong signal, Grant was heard by millions of listener in the Northeastern United States.
The station began billing him as “America’s most listened to talk radio personality.”
But Grant got in trouble with WABC in 1996 when he made a mean-spirited crack about Commerce Secretary Ron Brown whose plane had crashed in Croatia.
“My hunch is that [Brown] is the one survivor. I just have that hunch. Maybe it’s because, at heart, I’m a pessimist,” Grant said. Brown, along with 34 others on board, had been killed.
Grant then moved back to WOR and his show became nationally syndicated. His WOR run ended in 2006.
In 2007, he returned to WABC where he stayed for a year and a half, before leaving to host an Internet radio show titled “Straight Ahead!” He again returned to WABC in Sept. 2009, to host a Sunday talk show, retiring last summer because of poor health.
Grant’s family asks that memorial contributions may be made in his memory can be made to the Young America’s Foundation, 110 Elden Street, Herndon, VA 20170 or the New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Childrens’ Benefit Fund, Inc., 767 Fifth Ave., 2614C, New York, NY 10153.
Bob Grant (March 14, 1929 – December 31, 2013) was an American radio host whose real name was Robert Ciro Gigante. A veteran of broadcasting in New York City, Grant is considered a pioneer of the “conservative” and “confrontational” talk radio format.
Grant graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in journalism. He began working in radio in the 1940s at the news department at WBBM (AM) in Chicago, as a radio personality and television talk show host at KNX (AM) in Los Angeles, and as an actor. During the Korean War, he served in the Naval Reserve.  He later became sports director at KABC (AM) in Los Angeles, where after some substitute appearances he inherited the talk show of early controversialist Joe Pyne in 1964 and began to build a following. Grant hosted three shows on KABC (AM) in 1964 titled, “Open Line,” “Night Line,” and “Sunday Line.”
Move to New York City (WMCA: 1970–1977)
Grant came to New York in 1970, where he hosted a talk show on WMCA as the “house conservative”, distinctively out of fashion with both the times and with some countercultural WMCA personalities, including Alex Bennett. His offbeat but combative style (along with Fairness Doctrine requirements of the era) won him seven years on WMCA, with a growing and loyal audience. His sign-off for many years was “Get Gaddafi”, which meant remove Muammar al-Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya, whose anti-Israeli stance was in opposition to Grant’s pro-Israeli feelings.
On March 8, 1973, Grant had scheduled New York Rep. Benjamin S. Rosenthal, who was leading a boycott of meat. Grant later learned that Rosenthal would not appear on his show, and in a discussion with a caller, Grant referred to Rosenthal as a “coward.” Rosenthal then filed a complaint with the F.C.C., and the issue went all the way up to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Straus Communications v. Federal Communications Commission, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, January 16, 1976, Wright, J. The appeals court ultimately ruled in favor of WMCA and Grant, due to the fact that Grant offered the congressman an invitation to appear on his show, granting Rosenthal equal time.
One of Grant’s most memorable regular callers was Ms. Trivia, who aired her “Beef of the Week”, a series of seemingly trivial complaints. Ms. Trivia was Grant’s guest at a Halloween Festival dinner held at Lauritano’s Restaurant in theBronx, where a young Ms. Trivia, not long out of her teens, revealed herself for the first time to a startled radio audience, many who had expected and assumed, based upon her articulation and intonation, that she would be an elderly, prudish woman. Instead, a statuesque and fashionable Ms. Trivia, wearing an elaborate Victorian costume, was the surprise guest seated next to Grant at the dais table along with several political figures from New York. The following day the majority of calls to the show were for the purpose of obtaining information about the mysterious Mm. Trivia, with Grant in his typical manner finally in exasperation hanging up on the callers, shouting, “THIS IS NOT Mm. TRIVIA’S SHOW!”
A linguistic “hoax” trivia question originated on Grant’s WMCA show in 1975, “There are three words in the English language that end in -gry. Two of them are angry and hungry. What is the third?” While at WMCA, Grant attracted attention in 1975 from a commentary he recorded titled, “How Long Will You Stand Aside.” Grant also released an LP record in 1977 titled, “Let’s Be Heard,” which was a recording of a speech Grant gave before a synagogue in New York. Grant left WMCA in 1977.
WOR AND WWDB
In 1979, radio host Barry Farber, fought with WMCA station manager Ellen Straus to rehire Grant. Farber broadcast during the 4-7 P.M. weekday timeslot on WMCA. When asked by Straus at a meeting if Farber was willing to give up his airtime for Grant, Farber replied, “Yes he can have my time. I’d rather he have my time than no time at all.” While away from WMCA, Grant went up the dial to New York’s WOR (AM) for a time, where he was fired for controversial remarks. Grant describes the remarks that got him fired from WOR:
I had done my nightly show on WOR and a caller phoned in to the show saying he was upset with a woman who was blaming the police for what happened to her sons. I had read the story the man was referring to and noted that the woman, who was very angry with the police, was the public relations director or community relations director of WCBS newsradio. I stupidly asked the caller if he knew how she got that job. The caller said he didn’t know and I promptly and arrogantly said, “I will tell you how. She passed the gynecological and pigmentation test — that’s how!” Not only did that turn off Roger Ailes, but WOR was forced to fire me even though I had given the radio giant the biggest overnight ratings they ever had.
After being fired from WOR, Grant worked at WWDB in Philadelphia. Grant had gone back to WMCA after working at WWDB in Philadelphia. It was reported upon Grant’s departure that his ratings had slipped to number 23 out of 39 shows during the 4-7 P.M. weekday timeslot.
In 1984, WABC (AM) in New York City hired Grant to join their new talk station. He first hosted a show from 9-11pm, before moving to the 3-6pm afternoon time slot. The Bob Grant Show consistently dominated the ratings in the highly competitive afternoon drive time slot in New York City and at one point the radio station aired recorded promos announcing him as “America’s most listened to talk radio personality.” The gravel-voiced Grant reminded listeners during the daily introduction that the “program was unscripted and unrehearsed”.
Grant’s long stay at WABC ended when he was fired for a remark about the April 3, 1996 airplane crash involving Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Grant remarked to caller named, Carl of Oyster Bay (Carl Limbacher, later of NewsMaxfame), “My hunch is that [Brown] is the one survivor. I just have that hunch. Maybe it’s because, at heart, I’m a pessimist.” When Brown was found dead, Grant’s comments were widely criticized, and several weeks later, after a media campaign, his contract was terminated.
Return to WOR (1996–2006)
After being fired, Grant moved down the dial to WOR to host his show in the same afternoon drive-time slot. Grant’s age began to show while broadcasting at WOR. He was less engaging with the callers, and not as energetic during his broadcasts. For a time, the Bob Grant show went into national syndication, but has been a local only show since 2001. Grant and his WABC replacement Sean Hannity would sometimes throw jabs at each other. Hannity defeated Grant in the ratings from 2001–2006.
Grant’s WOR run ended on January 13, 2006. Grant’s ratings were not to blame for his departure, according to the New York Post, which mentioned that the decision was reached because the station’s other shows had niche audiences to garner more advertising dollars. On January 16, 2006, shortly after Grant’s last WOR show, Grant appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio show and TV program Hannity & Colmes, where his former competitor paid tribute to him. Having left his options open for “an offer he cannot refuse,” Grant returned to WOR in February 2006, doing one minute “Straight Ahead” commentaries which aired twice daily after news broadcasts until September 2006. On September 8, 2006 Grant again appeared on Hannity’s show to provide a post-retirement update, which led to premature rumors that Grant was returning to WABC. Grant then made various isolated radio appearances. He appeared as a guest host on WFNY (now WXRK) on December 7, 2006, and was interviewed by attorney Anthony Macri for Macri’s WOR show on February 24, 2007.
Post-Retirement: Return to WABC and Internet broadcasting
His guest appearances became more frequent beginning in July 2007. On July 7, 2007, he guest hosted for John R. Gambling, and appeared on Mark Levin’s show (which is networked from WABC) on July 10. Grant, guest hosted for Jerry Agar on July 9, 10, 11 and re-appeared as a fill-in host again for John Gambling on August 20 and 21. Then, on August 22, while appearing on Hannity’s show, he announced that he was returning as a regular host to WABC, in the 8–10 PM slot that at the time was filled by Agar. It would later be revealed, on what was Agar’s final show a few hours later, that he would be starting effective immediately, as Grant took over the final segments of the show. His first full show on ABC since 1996 was on August 23. The story of Grant’s return, as reported by the New York Daily News, had been discovered only a couple of hours before Grant’s official announcement.
Grant’s stint lasted less than a year and a half, until his regular nightly show was pulled by WABC in late November 2008 as part of a programming shuffle stemming from the debut of Curtis Sliwa’s national show, and later Mark Levin’s show expanding to three hours, leaving no room for Grant. Grant did his most recent AM radio work as guest host filling in for Michael Savage on January 21, 2009, Mark Levin on March 23, 2009, and Sean Hannity on July 31, 2009.
During the week of July 6, 2009 Grant began hosting an Internet radio show titled Straight Ahead! which originally ran Monday through Friday from 8 to 9 a.m. Eastern time on UBATV.com. As a webcast, the show differed from Grant’s radio shows, in that the viewer watched Grant as he did his broadcast. The first two months of Straight Ahead! were from inside Grant’s home, and were run with technical assistance from independent filmmaker Ryan O’Leary.New York radio personalities Richard Bey and Jay Diamond were also brought on board to broadcast their own one hour shows. Grant mentioned that he did not get paid to do the UBATV show, but believes that Internet broadcasting is the future.
Beginning in September 2009, Grant reduced Straight Ahead! from five days a week down to two (Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 to 11 a.m Eastern time). Grant also moved the show from his home to a professional studio. Due to a low number of callers to the show, Grant usually interviewed only guests for the hour. On January 13, 2010, Grant did his last UBATV show. Grant’s last UBATV show and his last WOR show both fell on the date of January 13.
On September 13, 2009, Grant returned to WABC for a third stint at the station, doing a weekly Sunday talk show from 12pm to 2pm. Grant’s return to AM broadcasting has allowed him to continue interacting with his fan base through greater listenership and participation than his previous internet radio show provided. At the close of his first show, he expressly thanked the management of the station for “inviting him back” and said he looked forward to continuing this joint venture every week for the foreseeable future. Grant issued a statement in October 2012 that his October 7 broadcast would be his last, but then rescinded that message after the show, labeling it a “mistake” and an attempt to grab attention. He then took off a short time for medical work, and when he returned to the air, it was for a shortened 1pm to 2pm Sunday show (current as of November 2012). Bob Grant’s last show on WABC was July 28, 2013 when he retired due to ill health.
Grant also prepares weekly columns for his website, www.BobGrantOnline.com. The site was originally sponsored by NewsMax. As of February 19, 2013, Grant has discontinued his editorials.
Characteristics of Grant’s radio shows
This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living people that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately. (January 2010)
Grant’s political philosophy generally followed American conservatism, but with some lurches into populism, libertarianism, conspiracy theory, and unorthodoxy (such as being pro-choice and anti-Flag Desecration Amendment). Grant was known for using a number of catchphrases on his show, such as “You’re a fake, a phony, and a fraud!”, “Straight ahead”, “Get off my phone!”, “Anything and everything is grist for our ever-grinding mill”, and his closing line, “Your influence counts. Use it.” His opening line was used as the title of his 1996 book, Let’s Be Heard, a title representing an abbreviated version of his original opener, “And let’s be heard! Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, and welcome to another hour of the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions in the belief that as American citizens you have the right to hear, and to be heard.” Before his daily monologue, Grant would ask the rhetorical question, “And what’s on your mind today, hmmm?”, and would sometimes call women “chickie-poos”. He occasionally referred to women as “broads” and when certain undesirable, lacklustre or contentious women were combative he referenced them as “several miles of bad road”. One of his favorite put-downs was to refer to someone as a “cacazote”. During the 1988 presidential bid of Michael Dukakis, this term took on a natural segue as Grant often referred to him as “Dukacazote”. He also referred to feckless politicians as “craven bootlickers,” especially when elected officials would cave in to political pressures, and Grant accused them of “folding like a cheap camera”. Due to his Italian heritage, Grant frequently used Italian slang words to describe callers or other individuals calling them gavones (crude or uncultured persons), stunads (stupid, thick, dense) or chiacchorones (persons who talk excessively). During his second stint at WOR, Grant often closed his show with the phrase, “Somebody’s got to say these things, it has to be me!” As a resident of Manalapan, New Jersey in the late-1990s, he considered running for statewide office, but eventually decided against it.
Grant occasionally made on-air reference to an always unheard, ethereal Beatrice-like presence à la Dante’s Paradiso section in The Divine Comedy, “The Lady Josephine”, to whom he constantly paid obeisance. His son, Jeff Grant, a traffic reporter with a different station, would call in occasionally. Grant made frequent references to the REO Diner in Woodbridge, New Jersey, his regular haunt.
For many years Grant closed each show with the exclamation, “Get Khadafy!” This was apparently an allusion to the practice of Roman statesman Cato the Elder ending his speeches with a call for the destruction of Carthage even if he had not been discussing Carthage in the speech. When Khadafy was finally killed in the 2012 Libyan civil war, Grant praised the decision.
When once asked by the caller George the Atheist whether he believed in God, Grant replied, “What if I tell you, George, that sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t?” On his July 21, 2005 broadcast, Grant, a baptized and raised Roman Catholic, unequivocally stated to the same caller his opinion on the Second Coming of Jesus: “He’s not coming back. Look, I don’t believe he’s coming back. I think that’s a myth and I say it. I don’t trumpet it but if a person asks — and you know one thing for sure, I’ve been deadly honest, dead-on honest all the time I’ve been on the air talking to people and they ask me questions or they make a comment that elicits a response, they are going to get an honest response. It may always not be ‘correct’ but it’s honest.” Grant has since stated that he is not an atheist.
Like many hosts in the talk radio format, Grant had his battery of usual callers that added interest to the show. John from Staten Island, Jimmy from Brooklyn, Al from Chappaqua, Greg from Chatham, David from Irvington, Dorothy from Montclair, Hal from North Bergen (at the time an undercover FBI agent provocateur posing as a white supremacist, he later went rogue), patients rights activist Eddie Carbone, and the popular Frank from Queens were some of the frequent callers. A few quasi-fictitious characters (played by Grant) were also employed during the show such as, ‘Julian P. Farquar, Dexter Pogue, Rantz Greeb, Paul “needlenose” Monage, and Lucy Shagnasty.
Over the years, Grant has made a number of statements on his shows that critics have described as racist. For example, he was quoted in the Newsday of June 2, 1992, as saying “Minorities are the Big Apple’s majority, you don’t need the papers to tell you that, walk around and you know it. To me, that’s a bad thing. I’m a white person.” In his book, Grant defended this statement by writing that he did not intend to put down other races, but only intended to express that “no one likes to be in the minority,” and that America can only survive by retaining its “humane, west European culture.” Thus, he supports ending bilingualism and multiculturalism, two policies of which he has been highly critical.
On October 15, 2008, Grant said “Did you notice Obama is not content with just having several American flags, plain old American flags with the 50 states represented by 50 stars? He has the ‘O’ flag. […] He had the flag painted over, and the ‘O’ for Obama. Now,…these things are symptomatic of a person who would like to be a potentate — a dictator.” The “O” flag to which Grant referred was, in fact, the state flag of Ohio.
Grant distinguished himself from other conservative talk show hosts by calling for Obama to release his long form birth certificate, prior to Obama releasing it.
Although Grant is generally known as being a conservative, he has been a critic of hard-lined conservative advocates in primary races, including the Tea Party movement’s candidates. This has been a frequent debate topic between Grant and his callers over the past few years. During the fall election of 2010, Grant criticized candidates, such as Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul, and Sharron Angle. Grant endorsed Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio on a July 10, 2010 broadcast for the Florida senate primary. On a May 8, 2011 broadcast, Grant informed his audience that he supported the moderate Jon Huntsman, Jr. for the Republican nomination for president, although he would later go on to supportMitt Romney.
Influences and legacy
Being largely the innovator of his own particular talk radio style, Grant previously worked with the likes of Barry Gray and Joe Pyne. Pyne would often end each broadcast with “Straight Ahead” which is something Grant picked up, leading many to believe that Grant was the first host to frequently use that line.
Over the years, national radio talk personality Howard Stern has made differing remarks on his admiration for Grant as an early influence. Upon Stern’s arrival in New York, he cited Grant as an influence, but as Stern’s stardom rose, Grant became the subject of ridicule on Stern’s show. During Stern’s prime, he denied being influenced by Grant or having respect for him. Stern has also frequently criticized Grant for changing his act to appease management.Grant told Paul D. Colford, author of the 1996 Stern bio, Howard Stern: King of All Media, about being approached at a public appearance by Ben Stern, Howard’s father, with a teenage Howard in tow. Father introduced son to Grant and told him of Howard’s desire to go into radio. “I looked at this big, gawky kid and I said to him, ‘Just be yourself,'” Grant recalled. Stern has denied Grant’s version of the story. Soon after Grant’s firing from WABC, and before his first WOR show, Grant appeared as a call-in guest on Stern’s radio show. In more recent years, Stern began to praise Grant’s legacy, and called in on his last WOR show in 2006.
Glenn Beck now uses the catchphrase “Get off my phone!” as a spinoff of Grant’s earlier call-in talk show style, as do Tom Scharpling and Mark Levin; similarly, Sean Hannity often uses Grant’s phrase “Straight ahead.”
In 2002, industry magazine Talkers ranked Grant as the 16th greatest radio talk show host of all time.
On March 28, 2007 Bob Grant was nominated for induction into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
Radio & Records had planned to issue a Lifetime Achievement Award to Grant during its annual convention in March 2008; however, the award was revoked in January 2008 for “past comments by him that contradict our values and the respect we have for all members of our community.” Several talk radio hosts have spoken out against the decision; Neal Boortz has stated:
I usually try not to miss the Radio & Records talk radio convention… Not this year. Maybe never again. R&R has succumbed to political correctness… I don’t call for boycotts. But I do think it would be wonderful to see talk show hosts refuse to appear at this convention… What we have seen here in this revocation of the award to Bob Grant is simple pandering to political correctness. Nothing more, nothing less.
Sean Hannity, Opie and Anthony, Comedian Jim Norton, Lars Larson, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Lionel and Howard Stern opposed the move as well, with Levin stating “I am disgusted with the mistreatment of Bob Grant. I am fed up with the censors, intimidators, and cowards in this business.”[this quote needs a citation] Don Imus deemed the award unimportant, offered to return awards he had received after treating them to his sledgehammer and block of wood, and called Grant’s comments “stupid”, although he also referred to Grant as a “legendary broadcaster.”
VETERANS REMOVE BARRICADES FROM MEMORIALS AND BRING THEM TO WH
On Sunday, protesting the barricades placed at memorials around Washington D.C. by the vindictive Obama administration, veterans removed the barricades and proceeded to take them to the White House. Multiple people tweeted photos of the barricades being removed and taken for presidential inspection:
Former Marine Thomas Sowell
Veterans remove barricades from World War II Memorial and carry them to the White House, October 13, 2013. Set to the music of “The Home of the Brave,” by Gregory Sidak.
Million Vet March Sunday! – Military Rallies Against Memorial Shutdowns – Wake Up America!
Protesters Reopen World War II Memorial VIDEO Crowd Of Veterans, Supporters Storm WWII Memorial
‘Million Vet March’ On The Memorials Draws Crowds Across The Nation
MILLION VET MARCH: WHITE HOUSE RIOT POLICE DEFEATED IN LESS THAN 5 MINUTES
Protest in Washington D.C today 10/13/2013
Protest DC clash with the cops in DC 10/13/2013
USA: Protesters break through barriers, take them to White House
DC crowd pushes through barriers to WWII memorial
Veterans Take Barriers from WWII Memorial and dump them at White House gates! #T4VETS #T2SDA\
Support the Million Veteran March on Memorials #T4VETS #1MVetMa
Members of the so-called “Million Vet March” descended on Washington, D.C., Sunday to protest the Obama administration’s decision to close the city’s public memorials.
Thousands of demonstrators arrived early in the morning and tore down barricades that had been set up to block people from visiting the popular attractions, WTOP reports.
The group said military personnel and veterans are “being used a political pawns in the ongoing government shutdown and budget crisis,” according to a statement on its website.
The group also said it has no political leaning, but believes that the closing of memorials is “a despicable act of cowardice.”
Mark Levin To Obama: “We’ll March on Washington” if “You Lay One Hand” on those WWII Vets
FBI’s Patriot Act Abuse of National Security Letters and illegal NSA spying
Mark Levin – Government Surveillance – June 6, 2013 – Full Show
Full Show 6/10/13: The Rise of the Security State
Nova: The Spy Factory Full Video
Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords
Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.
The U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users’ stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represent an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.
If the government is able to determine a person’s password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.
“I’ve certainly seen them ask for passwords,” said one Internet industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We push back.”
A second person who has worked at a large Silicon Valley company confirmed that it received legal requests from the federal government for stored passwords. Companies “really heavily scrutinize” these requests, the person said. “There’s a lot of ‘over my dead body.'”
Some of the government orders demand not only a user’s password but also the encryption algorithm and the so-called salt, according to a person familiar with the requests. A salt is a random string of letters or numbers used to make it more difficult to reverse the encryption process and determine the original password. Other orders demand the secret question codes often associated with user accounts.
“This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?” –Jennifer Granick, Stanford University
A Microsoft spokesperson would not say whether the company has received such requests from the government. But when asked whether Microsoft would divulge passwords, salts, or algorithms, the spokesperson replied: “No, we don’t, and we can’t see a circumstance in which we would provide it.”
Google also declined to disclose whether it had received requests for those types of data. But a spokesperson said the company has “never” turned over a user’s encrypted password, and that it has a legal team that frequently pushes back against requests that are fishing expeditions or are otherwise problematic. “We take the privacy and security of our users very seriously,” the spokesperson said.
Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast did not respond to queries about whether they have received requests for users’ passwords and how they would respond to them.
Richard Lovejoy, a director of the Opera Software subsidiary that operates FastMail, said he doesn’t recall receiving any such requests but that the company still has a relatively small number of users compared with its larger rivals. Because of that, he said, “we don’t get a high volume” of U.S. government demands.
The FBI declined to comment.
Some details remain unclear, including when the requests began and whether the government demands are always targeted at individuals or seek entire password database dumps. The Patriot Act has been used to demand entire database dumps of phone call logs, and critics have suggested its use is broader. “The authority of the government is essentially limitless” under that law, Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who serves on the Senate Intelligence committee, said at a Washington event this week.
Large Internet companies have resisted the government’s requests by arguing that “you don’t have the right to operate the account as a person,” according to a person familiar with the issue. “I don’t know what happens when the government goes to smaller providers and demands user passwords,” the person said.
An attorney who represents Internet companies said he has not fielded government password requests, but “we’ve certainly had reset requests — if you have the device in your possession, than a password reset is the easier way.”
Cracking the codes Even if the National Security Agency or the FBI successfully obtains an encrypted password, salt, and details about the algorithm used, unearthing a user’s original password is hardly guaranteed. The odds of success depend in large part on two factors: the type of algorithm and the complexity of the password.
Algorithms, known as hash functions, that are viewed as suitable for scrambling stored passwords are designed to be difficult to reverse. One popular hash function called MD5, for instance, transforms the phrase “National Security Agency” into this string of seemingly random characters: 84bd1c27b26f7be85b2742817bb8d43b. Computer scientists believe that, if a hash function is well-designed, the original phrase cannot be derived from the output.
But modern computers, especially ones equipped with high-performance video cards, can test passwords scrambled with MD5 and other well-known hash algorithms at the rate of billions a second. One system using 25 Radeon-powered GPUs that was demonstrated at a conference last December tested 348 billion hashes per second, meaning it would crack a 14-character Windows XP password in six minutes.
The best practice among Silicon Valley companies is to adopt far slower hash algorithms — designed to take a large fraction of a second to scramble a password — that have been intentionally crafted to make it more difficult and expensive for the NSA and other attackers to test every possible combination.
One popular algorithm, used by Twitter and LinkedIn, is called bcrypt. A 2009 paper (PDF) by computer scientist Colin Percival estimated that it would cost a mere $4 to crack, in an average of one year, an 8-character bcrypt password composed only of letters. To do it in an average of one day, the hardware cost would jump to approximately $1,500.
But if a password of the same length included numbers, asterisks, punctuation marks, and other special characters, the cost-per-year leaps to $130,000. Increasing the length to any 10 characters, Percival estimated in 2009, brings the estimated cracking cost to a staggering $1.2 billion.
As computers have become more powerful, the cost of cracking bcrypt passwords has decreased. “I’d say as a rough ballpark, the current cost would be around 1/20th of the numbers I have in my paper,” said Percival, who founded a company called Tarsnap Backup, which offers “online backups for the truly paranoid.” Percival added that a government agency would likely use ASICs — application-specific integrated circuits — for password cracking because it’s “the most cost-efficient — at large scale — approach.”
While developing Tarsnap, Percival devised an algorithm called scrypt, which he estimates can make the “cost of a hardware brute-force attack” against a hashed password as much as 4,000 times greater than bcrypt.
Bcrypt was introduced (PDF) at a 1999 Usenix conference by Niels Provos, currently a distinguished engineer in Google’s infrastructure group, and David Mazières, an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University.
With the computers available today, “bcrypt won’t pipeline very well in hardware,” Mazières said, so it would “still be very expensive to do widespread cracking.”
Even if “the NSA is asking for access to hashed bcrypt passwords,” Mazières said, “that doesn’t necessarily mean they are cracking them.” Easier approaches, he said, include an order to extract them from the server or network when the user logs in — which has been done before — or installing a keylogger at the client.
Questions of law Whether the National Security Agency or FBI has the legal authority to demand that an Internet company divulge a hashed password, salt, and algorithm remains murky.
“This is one of those unanswered legal questions: Is there any circumstance under which they could get password information?” said Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society. “I don’t know.”
Granick said she’s not aware of any precedent for an Internet company “to provide passwords, encrypted or otherwise, or password algorithms to the government — for the government to crack passwords and use them unsupervised.” If the password will be used to log in to the account, she said, that’s “prospective surveillance,” which would require a wiretap order or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order.
If the government can subsequently determine the password, “there’s a concern that the provider is enabling unauthorized access to the user’s account if they do that,” Granick said. That could, she said, raise legal issues under the Stored Communications Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
The Justice Department has argued in court proceedings before that it has broad legal authority to obtain passwords. In 2011, for instance, federal prosecutors sent a grand jury subpoena demanding the password that would unlock files encrypted with the TrueCrypt utility.
The Florida man who received the subpoena claimed the Fifth Amendment, which protects his right to avoid self-incrimination, allowed him to refuse the prosecutors’ demand. In February 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit agreed, saying that because prosecutors could bring a criminal prosecution against him based on the contents of the decrypted files, the man “could not be compelled to decrypt the drives.”
In January 2012, a federal district judge in Colorado reached the opposite conclusion, ruling that a criminal defendant could be compelled under the All Writs Act to type in the password that would unlock a Toshiba Satellite laptop.
Both of those cases, however, deal with criminal proceedings when the password holder is the target of an investigation — and don’t address when a hashed password is stored on the servers of a company that’s an innocent third party.
“If you can figure out someone’s password, you have the ability to reuse the account,” which raises significant privacy concerns, said Seth Schoen, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
1) Raise the standard for what records are considered “relevant”
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has reportedly adopted a broad interpretation of the Patriot Act , ruling that all the records in a company’s database could be considered “relevant to an authorized investigation.” The leaked court order compelling a Verizon subsidiary to turn over all its phone records is just one example of how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has interpreted the statute.
Both Rep. John Conyers , D-Mich., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. , have introduced bills requiring the government to show “specific and articulable facts” demonstrating how records are relevant. Similarly, legislation introduced by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., would require any applications to include an explanation  of how any records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.
2) Require NSA analysts to obtain court approval before searching metadata
A bill from Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., would require the government to petition the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every time an analyst wants to search telephone metadata . From there, a surveillance court judge would need to find “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the search is “specifically relevant to an authorized investigation” before approving the application. The legislation would also require the FBI to report monthly to congressional intelligence committees all the searches the analysts made.
Right now, court opinions authorizing the NSA surveillance programs remain secret. Advocacy groups have brought several Freedom of Information Act suits  seeking the release of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court documents, but the Justice Department continues to fight them.
Several bills would compel the secret court to release some opinions. The Ending Secret Law Act — both the House  and Senate  versions — would require the court to declassify all its opinions that include “significant construction or interpretation” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under current law, the court already submits these “significant” opinions to congressional intelligence committees, so the bill would just require the court to share those documents with the public.
The bills do include an exception if the attorney general decides that declassifying an opinion would threaten national security. In that case, the court would release an unclassified summary of the opinion, or — if even offering a summary of the opinion would pose a national security threat — at least give a report on the declassification process with an “estimate” of how many opinions must remain classified.
4) Change the way Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges are appointed
Current law does not give Congress any power to confirm Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges. Instead, the chief justice of the United States appoints the judges, who all already serve on the federal bench. The judges serve seven-year terms. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed all 11 judges  currently serving on the court – ten of whom were nominated  to federal courts by Republican presidents.
Alternatively, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., has offered a bill  that would let the chief justice appoint three judges and let the House Speaker, the House minority leader, the Senate majority leader, and the Senate minority leader each appoint two judges.
5) Appoint a public advocate to argue before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
Currently, the government officials petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court do not face an adversarial process. Surveillance targets do not have representation before the court, and they are not notified if a court order is issued for their data.
Two former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges – Judge James Robertson  and Judge James Carr  – have argued that Congress should appoint a public advocate to counter the government’s arguments. Carr wrote in the New York Times, “During my six years on the court, there were several occasions when I and other judges faced issues none of us had encountered before. […]Having lawyers challenge novel legal assertions in these secret proceedings would result in better judicial outcomes.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has promised to introduce a bill  that would provide a “special advocate” to argue on behalf of privacy rights and give “civil society organizations” a chance to respond before the surveillance court issues significant rulings.
The surveillance court can actually invite advocates to argue before the court, as the Supreme Court did when the Obama administration refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
“There’s nothing in law that would prevent the FISA court from hiring an advocate as an additional advisor to the court, except the need to obtain security clearances for that advocate, which would have to be granted by the executive branch,” explained Steven Bradbury, who served as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice from 2005 to 2009.
Bradbury has argued that the surveillance court may not need a permanent public advocate because its legal advisers  already fulfill that role.
6) End phone metadata collection on constitutional grounds
The Justice Department has maintained that mass phone metadata collection is “fully consistent with the Fourth Amendment .” That reasoning is based on the 1979 Supreme Court decision Smith v. Maryland , where the Court found that the government does not need a warrant based on probable cause to collect phone records. The Court reasoned that whenever you dial a phone number, you voluntarily share that phone number with a telecom, and you can’t reasonably expect a right to privacy for information shared with third parties. As a result, the Court ruled that the collection of phone records is not a “search” and does not merit protection under the Fourth Amendment.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has introduced a bill  declaring that the Fourth Amendment “shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States Government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause” — effectively shutting down the NSA’s phone metadata collection program.
The NSA’s New Spy Facilities are 7 Times Bigger Than the Pentagon
He works at one of the three-letter intelligence agencies and oversees construction of a $1.2 billion surveillance data center in Utah that is 15 times the size of MetLife Stadium, home to the New York Giants and Jets. Long Island native Harvey Davis, a top National Security Agency official, needs that commanding presence. His role is to supervise infrastructure construction worldwide for NSA, which is part of the Defense Department. That involves tending to logistics, military installations, as well as power, space and cooling for all NSA data centers.
In May, crews broke ground on a $792 million computing center at the agency’s headquarters near Baltimore that will complement the Utah site. Together the Utah center and Maryland’s 28-acre computer farm span 228 acres—more than seven times the size of the Pentagon.
During an interview with Government Executive in June, amid the uproar over leaked details of NSA’s domestic espionage activities, Davis describes the 200-acre Utah facility as very transparent: “Only brick and mortar.” A data center just provides energy and chills machines, he says.
About 6,500 contractors, along with more than 150 Army Corps of Engineers and NSA workers, including some with special needs, are assigned to the project. Davis perks up when he talks about the hundreds of individuals with disabilities he has steered into NSA.
But ask him why the facility is so big and what’s inside, and he is less forthcoming. “I think we’re crossing into content. It’s big because it’s required to be big,” says Davis, a 30-year veteran of the spy agency.
At NSA, secrecy is not exclusive to intelligence analysts. Every civil servant in the Installations and Logistics Directorate Davis leads has a security clearance. He earned his in the early 1980s, entering the agency with a master’s degree in business administration, experience managing inventory for a women’s apparel chain, and a yearning for a higher calling than retail.
For security reasons, some of the contractors erecting the data center don’t even know its purpose, other than the equipment needed—nothing about snooping. The 2010 public work solicitation called for a 65-megawatt center with a chiller plant, fire suppression systems, electrical generators and an uninterruptible power supply backup capacity.
Davis lets out that inside there will be supercomputers, or what NSA labels “high performance computers.” These need “different cooling and different power distributions as opposed to something you bought from Best Buy,” he says. The machines, along with whatever other technology is tucked in the facility, are slated to power on by Oct. 1.
Four years ago, the stated purpose of the megaplex near Salt Lake City was to amass foreign intelligence and warnings about hackers. Officials described it as an extension of President George W. Bush’s 2008 Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, a largely classified, cross-agency program to protect U.S. computer networks against adversaries. Today, it is evident the data plantation will not be linked to any one program. Instead, the systems inside will warehouse counterterrorism information collected in aggregate, including millions of Americans’ phone logs for five years and certain foreigners’ online messages, NSA officials confirm. Spies at other locations will decipher what’s accumulated to thwart terrorist attacks, cyber assaults, and weapons of mass destruction.
The Utah effort is the largest ongoing Defense construction project in the United States. Still, it is only three-quarters the size of the department’s largest in the world—the Medical Center Replacement Project at Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Germany.
Harvey Davis, Director of Logistics, NSA, at the agency’s Fort Meade construction site. Photo by Melissa Golden
Davis is reluctant to discuss the ratio of contractors to civil service employees in Utah—a week after The Guardian and The Washington Post have reported an NSA contractor leaked Top Secret documents. Prosecutors are pursuing former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden for exposing files about PRISM, the agency’s foreign Internet surveillance program, and domestic call data-monitoring while he was administering NSA data systems in Hawaii.
Compared with the 6,500 contract employees, “there is a smaller number of people on my core project management team,” Davis says. An agency official in the room adds: “We can talk in total numbers here . . . We can’t get into how many are ours, how many are theirs.”
A few days after the interview, when asked why NSA’s reliance on contractors is hush-hush, agency officials released some figures. Ten people are on Davis’ core team. About 150 employees from the Army Corps of Engineers, along with an undisclosed number of employees from the 1,000-member Installations and Logistics Directorate, are involved with the Utah project. NSA considers the total sum of agency personnel staffed to certain construction projects operational details and would not provide that statistic. A small workforce of up to 200 government and contract employees—building engineers, systems administrators and maintenance workers—will stay permanently to keep the facility running.
Davis is more eager to discuss the quality than quantity of his employees. Roughly 10 years ago, while working as an NSA human resources director, he encountered an untapped talent pool that he now draws from regularly. “The disabled population is just so thankful to have a job. They would just come in here and you’d have to actually force them to go home,” Davis says. “I have engineers that are hard of hearing, and our workforce all took sign language so they could actually communicate with one another.”
Nobody waters down security clearance exercises to facilitate special needs applicants, he adds. “Somebody who was deaf, we would do polygraph in sign language,” Davis says. “What we look for is qualifications first. We have someone developing software—working on the computers—that is blind. There is really no limitation that we have found as long we can find the skill match.” At least a dozen engineers who have disabilities work in his directorate. Grounds maintenance and snow removal contractors in Utah will be hired through SourceAmerica (formerly NISH), a nonprofit organization that fits agency needs with the skills of job seekers with disabilities.
“He has integrated this into the fabric of the company,” says Joyce A. Bender, past chair of the board of the American Association of People with Disabilities, who met Davis when he decided NSA needed more diversity. “What makes this work at any company is a passionate leader, someone in leadership, whether it’s in the private sector or a federal agency,” says Bender, a Pittsburgh-based consultant who recruits people with disabilities for work in government and industry.
Her firm refers to NSA about 200 individuals annually for positions in finance, linguistics, math and other specialties. Since 2010, about 550 candidates have been hired. “If he says, ‘I’m going to do something,’ you can count on it that he is going to do it,” Bender says of Davis. “He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He’s very direct and to the point.”
A Leak During Construction
No matter their background or how they came to NSA, civil servants and contract employees alike all serve in silence. “That’s really the culture of this agency, and we’re really not looking for big accolades,” Davis says. “What really makes the people satisfied here is that they did the job and they did it right and they’re doing things within the appropriate manner.” The mentality is that NSA operates in the dark for the safety of Americans. Some citizens, however, argue it should operate in the sunshine a little more for the safety of democracy.
The secrecy dispute is “a distraction and a weakness that has been presented by this guy,” Snowden, who should not have seen such sensitive information in the first place, says one former NSA official. “They’ve got to do some internal homework about how to keep that data separate,” the ex-official says, adding that technical controls are not very difficult to configure. “How the heck did this guy in Hawaii gain access to all that?”
Some human rights advocates are grateful for the exposure of the agency’s surveillance methods. “Communications about millions of innocent Americans are being stored for five years in a government database—whether or not there is any reason to search our call records, and I don’t think our Constitution allows that,” says Alex Abdo, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.
Even some former Pentagon officials say citizens should know NSA’s intentions for the Utah data center. “When you have this much centralization of capabilities, which in government terms can translate into real power—that and resources—it’s important that the public be able to look at these things and figure out what they are doing,” says a cyber official who recently left Defense and now works as a private contractor. The official is not involved in the project and was not authorized to speak on behalf of the department.
A 2012 article in Wired reported that NSA needs the megaplex partially because the Pentagon wants to expand the military global communications network to manage yottabytes of data. “A yottabyte is a septillion bytes—so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude,” the article said. “Should the agency ever fill the Utah center with a yottabyte of information, it would be equal to about 500 quintillion (500,000,000,000,000,000,000) pages of text.” NSA officials told Government Executive, however, they do not discuss such operational details.
An Open House
The contents of the NSA computer fortress might be a mystery to the public, but Davis says his project has been open to congressional and industry scrutiny.
“The military construction process by design is a very, very transparent process. We work through the Corps of Engineers,” he says. “It’s a public discourse. When we give out our request for proposal, that’s through FedBizOpps.gov.” But on the website, many of the work descriptions for that project are locked behind a firewall. NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines says the documents are restricted because “they must be accounted for and are only for cleared defense contractors.”
Davis acknowledges the controversy over his project has taken an emotional toll. “We’ve been pressured to disclose what’s been going in the Utah Data Center for quite a while independent of the current events,” he says. “My workforce and the workforce that I work with here [in Utah] take our jobs and our responsibility very, very seriously, and for somebody to say that we’re doing something untoward is a pretty big hit on the morale here.”
No matter the outcome of the debate, the Utah computers are expected to go online within two months. This is where the MBA comes in. From choosing a site, to convincing Congress to agree with blueprints to surmounting a late-in-the-game budget chop, balancing the books is key. “Utah is a wonderful place with abundant and inexpensive power,” Davis says. “Plenty of sources of water for cooling.” NSA applied a mathematical model to select the location. The surrounding environment simplified construction. “Utah, because of the facility and the utilities, just came out far and ahead of everywhere else,” he says. “Lots of good roads. We could get the steel in. We could get the concrete in. We have lots of sand pits nearby,” he says. “We built our own cement slabs in that area. It’s pretty well offset from the road for the security that we need for the data center.”
The price tag for the project is in line with industry standards, according to NSA. “It’s actually relatively cheap and I came in under cost,” Davis says, referring to $100 million in savings gained partly by refusing to let contractors adjust the plan. Penny-pinching became mandatory when governmentwide spending cuts, known as sequestration, kicked in this year.
“One of the biggest cost drivers on a project this size is something called an engineering change proposal. They really number in the tens to hundreds in a project of this size,” but one could “count on a couple of hands the numbers of change orders that we allowed to happen,” he says. “We spent a lot of time honing the requirements tightly up front, making sure we knew what we were building, building it, and not going back and changing it later.” That’s the New York strong arm talking.
Trayvon Martin Hit George Zimmerman Repeatedly — Deadly Force was justified — that is why the jury acquitted Zimmerman of all charges
Alan Dershowitz Slams Special Prosecutor Angela Corey
Zimmerman Post-Trial – Harvard Law Big Shot: Angela Corey Should Be Prosecuted; Fired; Disbarred
Zimmerman / Martin – Alan Dershowitz On NewsMax: Angela Corey, Other Legal Insights
Zimmerman / Martin – Alan Dershowitz “Prosecutor Better Get A Lawyer” – Fox News Interview
Zimmerman / Martin – Alan Dershowitz Commenting MSNBC News About Angela Corey-Nifong
Fox Analyst Blasts Media’s Race Obsession: ‘Wants To Pretend U.S. Is Still Mississippi In 1950s’
Watch Prosecutor Corey Announce Charges Against Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin Death
Obama’s Influences – Frank Marshall Davis
Michael Savage on Obama’s REAL Father; Dreams From My Real Father DVD; Savage Nation
Obama’s Mentor: Frank Marshall Davis—The Communist—Book: Mark Levin
Frank Marshall Davis Interview
Dreams from My Real Father: Director Joel Gilbert at National Press Club, Washington DC
Paul Kengor & Glenn Beck “The Communist” on GBTV Frank Marshall Davis Barack Obama’s Mentor
The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor
Paul Kengor on Frank Marshall Davis
Jurors to learn about Martin’s alleged drug use
Truth: Why Little Wayne Has Seizures (May 2013)
sippin on that lean
Preliminary 2012 Crime Statistics
Violent Crime Up, Property Crime Down
The new preliminary Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics for 2012 indicate that when compared to data for 2011, the number of violent crimes reported by law enforcement agencies around the country increased 1.2 percent during 2012, while the number of property crimes decreased 0.8 percent.
The final UCR statistics—submitted by approximately 18,000 local, state, campus, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies from around the nation—will be released later this year in the Crime in the United States, 2012 report.
Among the highlights of the preliminary report:
Overall, when compared to 2011 figures, the West experienced the largest increase in reported violent crime (up 3.3 percent), and the Northeast experienced the only decrease (down 0.6 percent).
The Northeast was the only part of the country where the four violent crime categories saw decreases across the board—murder (down 4.4 percent), forcible rapes (down 0.2 percent), robberies (down 1.4 percent), and aggravated assaults (down 0.1 percent).
The largest rise in reported violent crime (up 3.7 percent) was in cities with populations of 500,000-999,999.
The West experienced the only increase in reported property crime (up 5.2 percent), while the number of property crimes dropped 1.6 percent in the Northeast, 2.1 percent in the Midwest, and 3.5 percent in the South.
The number of reported motor vehicle thefts grew by 10.6 percent in the West while showing declines in the Northeast (down 7.9 percent), the Midwest (down 3.1 percent), and the South (down 2.9 percent).
The number of arson incidents—tallied separately from other property crimes because of various levels of participation by reporting agencies—fell 1.2 percent.
Crime in the United States
The FBI compiles the volume and rate of violent and property crime offenses for the nation and by state in an annual report. Below are stories and final reports from previous years.
The UCR Program is a nationwide cooperative statistical effort of law enforcement agencies voluntarily reporting data on crimes brought to their attention.
The idea for the program began in the 1920s, when the International Association of Chiefs of Police—recognizing a need for national crime statistics—formed the Committee on Uniform Crime Records to develop a system. After studying state criminal codes and evaluating the recordkeeping practices in use, the committee completed a plan for crime reporting that became the foundation of the UCR Program in 1929. In January 1930, 400 cities in 43 states began participating in the program. That same year, Congress authorized the attorney general to gather crime data; the FBI was designated to serve as the national clearinghouse for the collected information.
The UCR Program’s primary objective is to generate reliable statistics for use in law enforcement administration, operation, and management. Over the years, however, these statistics have become one of the country’s leading social indicators and are used by criminologists, sociologists, legislators, municipal planners, the media, and other students of criminal justice for research and planning purposes.
A word of warning, though—don’t draw conclusions from the data by making direct comparisons between cities or individual agencies. Valid assessments are only possible with careful study and analysis of the unique conditions that affect each law enforcement jurisdiction.
Once again, the final Crime in the United States, 2012 report will be available later this year.
George Zimmerman is innocent. The evidence clearly shows this. Yet the liberal media have already convicted him in the court of public opinion. The result is not only that a man’s life — regardless of the verdict — has been shattered. Race relations have been poisoned, paving the way for possible deadly riots if Mr. Zimmerman is acquitted.
From the outset, liberal media outlets — CNN, MSNBC, NPR, CBS, ABC, NBC, the Huffington Post, The New York Times and The Washington Post — put forth one seminal narrative: The shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was a flagrant example of white racism against blacks. Modern-day Sanford, Fla., was transformed into 1960s Selma, Ala. Mr. Zimmerman has been turned into the poster child of a more subtle and polished, but revived Ku Klux Klan. For example, the audiotape of Mr. Zimmerman’s call to a 911 dispatcher on the night of the shooting was deliberately edited by NBC in a pathetic attempt to portray him as a vile racist bent on violence.
The entire mainstream media narrative, however, is based on lies. Trayvon was not killed because he was black. He was shot in self-defense because he repeatedly punched and smashed Mr. Zimmerman’s head on the pavement. The neighborhood-watch captain was trained by police to notice nonresidents, especially those who looked out of place and behaved suspiciously. The Sanford community had suffered a rash of burglaries and other crimes. According to residents (both white and black), the town-house complex has become increasingly unsafe. Hence, the reason — and need — for a neighborhood-watch team.
After spotting Trayvon, who did not live in the neighborhood, Mr. Zimmerman did what any good citizen should do: He called the police. The dispatcher asked for the location of Trayvon’s whereabouts. Mr. Zimmerman followed the teenager, gave the approximate address and street, and attempted to return to his car — until confronted by Trayvon. He then began to savagely beat Mr. Zimmerman, who suffered two black eyes, a broken nose and lacerations in the back of his head. If he had not used his gun, Mr. Zimmerman would likely be dead today.
All of these facts have been corroborated during the trial. A key witness, John Hood, saw Trayvon on top of Mr. Zimmerman hitting him “mixed martial arts-style.” Also, toxicology reports prove that Trayvon had marijuana in his blood and urine that night. Mr. Zimmerman told the dispatcher that the suspect acted like he was “on drugs.” Mr. Zimmerman’s wounds — and the grass stains on his back — were consistent with his story of being on the ground and repeatedly punched by Trayvon.
In other words, rather than the constant media image and picture of an angelic 12-year-old baby-faced boy, Trayvon was the opposite. He was a 6-foot-3 man-child with a history of drug use, who had been suspended several times from school. He even had images of himself on his cellphone smoking marijuana and wielding a gun. He was a wannabe thug, who triggered a deadly altercation. Had Trayvon gone straight back to the home of his father’s girlfriend, he’d be alive today. Instead, he chose to confront and attack Mr. Zimmerman. Ultimately, Trayvon — not Mr. Zimmerman — is to blame for the fatal shooting.
Yet, for the left, none of this matters. Liberals have turned Trayvon into a saint and celebrity cause. He is the alleged victim of racist white America. Here is another gross lie: Mr. Zimmerman is not even white. He is clearly a Hispanic — his skin is brown. He comes from a multiracial — including part-black — family. Hence, to twist reality to conform to their whites-are-racist narrative, the mainstream media manufactured a new racial category: white Hispanic. Only the twisted liberal mind could blame whites for a brown guy fatally shooting a black teen.
Ironically, it is Mr. Zimmerman who is the victim of a racist witch hunt. He never would have been charged with a crime had it not been for vile race-baiters, such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Aided and abetted by President Obama, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and the Congressional Black Caucus, these race-arsonists have fueled the flames of racial hatred. Encouraged by media coverage that has played to the most primitive racial sensibilities, many blacks have become passionately convinced Mr. Zimmerman is guilty — not only of murder, but of hating young black men. Law enforcement authorities in Sanford are preparing for bloody race riots should he be acquitted. Pro-Trayvon supporters on social media have already called for mass civil unrest in the wake of a not-guilty verdict.
If — and I stress if — there are race riots following the Zimmerman trial, then Mr. Obama and his media allies will have blood on their hands. They have smeared an innocent man, fanned the dangerous fires of racial division and hijacked a police investigation in order to pursue a political agenda of black victimology. This represents the ominous corruption of our justice system. Trayvon is dead, but his ghost may haunt us for years to come.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio commentator on WRKO AM-680 in Boston
Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person.According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.The magnitude of this tragic mayhem can be viewed in another light. According to a Tuskegee Institute study, between the years 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites. Black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (8,197) come to 18,515, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home.It’s a tragic commentary to be able to say that young black males have a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities.A much larger issue is how might we interpret the deafening silence about the day-to-day murder in black communities compared with the national uproar over the killing of Trayvon Martin. Such a response by politicians, civil rights organizations and the mainstream news media could easily be interpreted as “blacks killing other blacks is of little concern, but it’s unacceptable for a white to kill a black person.”There are a few civil rights leaders with a different vision. When President Barack Obama commented about the Trayvon Martin case, T. Willard Fair, president of the Urban League of Greater Miami, told The Daily Caller that “the outrage should be about us killing each other, about black-on-black crime.” He asked rhetorically, “Wouldn’t you think to have 41 people shot (in Chicago) between Friday morning and Monday morning would be much more newsworthy and deserve much more outrage?”
Former NAACP leader Pastor C.L. Bryant said the rallies organized by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson suggest there is an epidemic of “white men killing black young men,” adding: “The epidemic is truly black-on-black crime. The greatest danger to the lives of young black men are young black men.”
Not only is there silence about black-on-black crime; there’s silence and concealment about black racist attacks on whites — for example, the recent attacks on two Virginian-Pilot newspaper reporters set upon and beaten by a mob of young blacks. The story wasn’t even covered by their own newspaper.
In March, a black mob assaulted, knocked unconscious, disrobed and robbed a white tourist in downtown Baltimore. Black mobs have roamed the streets of Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, Washington, Los Angeles and other cities, making unprovoked attacks on whites and running off with their belongings.
Racist attacks have been against not only whites but also Asians. Such attacks include the San Francisco beating death of an 83-year-old Chinese man, the pushing of a 57-year-old woman off a train platform and the knocking of a 59-year-old Chinese man to the ground, which killed him.
For years, Asian school students in New York and Philadelphia have been beaten up by their black classmates and called racist epithets — for example, “Hey, Chinese!” and “Yo, dragon ball!” But that kind of bullying, unlike the bullying of homosexuals, goes unreported and unpunished.
Racial demagoguery from the president on down is not in our nation’s best interests, plus it’s dangerous. As my colleague Thomas Sowell recently put it, “if there is anything worse than a one-sided race war, it is a two-sided race war, especially when one of the races outnumbers the other several times over.” – See more at:
Unnerved by an unspoken mix of political bias and racial queasiness, the major media have chosen to know as little about Trayvon Martin as they know about Barack Obama.
As a case in point, consider this boy vs. man fable spun by the New York Times‘ Charles Blow:
A boy’s blood had been spilled on a rain-soaked patch of grass behind a row of mustard-colored condominiums by a man who had pursued him against the advice of 911 dispatchers. That man carried a 9-millimeter handgun. The boy carried a bag of candy.
Blow was writing seven weeks after Trayvon’s death. He had no excuse for missing the actual story. Worse, since he is a writer for the Times, his reporting has helped set the media tone worldwide
The media’s willful ignorance was on display again this past week. In reporting this news of George Zimmerman’s return to jail, more than a few media outlets showed the dangerously deceptive image of Trayvon as 11-year-old cherub. They did so in the assumption that the narrative was still theirs to control. It is not. The blogs, which have been doing the real detective work on this case, have long since taken control away from them.
The sites I have found most useful are the Daily Caller and theconservativetreehouse.com. What follows is largely culled from those sites and their independent contributors. By probing Trayon’s background and parsing his social media chatter, they have put together a picture of a disturbed young man that begins to makes sense of the events that unfolded on that fateful rainy night of February 26.
Trayvon Martin is seen on the security video through the 7-11 window approaching the store from the direction of the Retreat at Twin Lakes. He had been staying there at the townhouse of his father’s girlfriend, Brandy Green. In major media accounts, the helpful Trayvon ventured out in the rain in a mile-plus round trip to buy Brandy’s 14-year-old son, Chad, some Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. Not likely.
Trayvon, with his hoodie up, grabs two items from the shelves of 7-11. One is the Skittles. The other is Arizona Watermelon Fruit Juice Cocktail. The media avoid the name of the real drink — possibly because of the racial implications of the word “watermelon,” but possibly to avoid probing the real reason for Trayon’s trip.
Trayvon, in fact, had become a devotee of the druggy concoction known as “Lean,” also known in southern hip-hop culture as “Sizzurp” and “Purple Drank.” Lean consists of three basic ingredients — codeine, a soft drink, and candy. If his Facebook postings are to be believed, Trayvon had been using Lean since at least June 2011.
On June 27, 2011, Trayvon asks a friend online, “unow a connect for codien?” He tells the friend that “robitussin nd soda” could make “some fire ass lean.” He says, “I had it before” and that he wants “to make some more.” On the night of February 26, if Brandy had some Robitussin at home, Trayvon had just bought the mixings for one “fire ass lean” cocktail.
Trayvon pays for his purchases. He then appears to point to an item behind the counter, but the clerk seems to reject that option. Trayvon turns from the counter with a couple of dollar bills still in his hand.
Trayvon leaves the 7-11, but we do not see him walk in front of the store window back towards Brandy’s home.