by Tom Fitton –
After seven months, the House Benghazi Select Committee held only its second hearing this week. We monitor its proceedings closely the Select Committee’s very existence is because of our uncovering of a key White House Benghazi scandal cover-up email. Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) got to the heart of the matter in his opening statement:
On September 11, 2012, at 9:45 p.m., twenty or more armed men assembled outside the U.S. Mission in Benghazi and breached the Mission gate. Several Ansar Al Sharia members have been identified among this group. The initial attackers were armed with AK-47-type rifles, handguns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. During this initial attack, buildings within the Mission were set on fire.
The fires set during the attack led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith. The remaining State Department personnel escaped to a nearby U.S. facility, known as the Annex. It also came under attack, which continued throughout the early morning hours of September 12th, culminating in a mortar attack that killed Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
What I just read is the now official position of our government, filed in US District Court by the Department of Justice in a motion to detain the one defendant who has been captured and will stand trial.
20 or more men. The weapons of war. Arson. Sustained attacks. Precision mortars. Terrorist groups.
It is interesting to note the word – “terrorist” – so rarely used by those in positions of responsibility in the days and weeks after Benghazi is now the very word used in the very statute charging the very defendant accused of killing our four fellow Americans.
“Conspiracy to Provide Material Support and Resources to Terrorists Resulting in Death”-that is the charge now. But in the days after the attack in Benghazi the word “terrorist” was edited out and changed. Now, the administration uses the word “attack”.
But in the days after the attack in Benghazi the administration edited out and changed the word “attack”. Its one thing to get it wrong and then eventually get it right. It was right initially. It was right the first time. Then it was edited and changed to be wrong.
The Select Committee asked about the security lapses at Benghazi and received no answers. Hearings are nice, but Judicial Watch wants answers and results. We delivered those this week. Just as Judicial Watch exposed the White House involvement in the cover-up to which Trey Gowdy refers, we exposed this week yet another Benghazi cover-up and yet another set of lying talking points about the very issue the Committee was being stonewalled about – the failure of security at the Benghazi facility.
State Department documents obtained by Judicial Watch show the scandal surrounding the security lapses in Benghazi, Libya, will continue to grow and fester in the months ahead. What we have just released for public consumption is eye-popping. The documents acquired through a court order in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit highlight the State Department’s $783,284.79 contract with U.K.-based Blue Mountain Group (BMG) and show that BMG did not have a license to operate in Libya at the time of the attack.
As it turns out, BMG did not have a license because of a business dispute with XPAND Corporation, which was its local partner in Libya. The documents also quote a State Department official describing the Benghazi security issue as “an emergency situation.” Even so, it is now apparent that there was no sense of urgency on the part of those in charge.
Here’s what we know: BMG informed State Department Contract Officer Jan Visintainer of the dispute on June 5, 2012. Visintainer advised the company that the department “is not required to mediate any disagreements between the two parties of the Blue Mountain Libya Partnership.” The letter goes on to say that “it is in the best interests of both of the 50/50 partners to resolve their differences and successfully complete this contract.”
Despite all the alarm bells and warnings, the State Department documents include details about an agreement dated August 20, 2012, between Blue Mountain Group and XPAND Corporation to dissolve their partnership. On September 9, 2012 – just two days before the terrorist attack – an unidentified partner at Nabulsi & Associates (the law firm representing XPAND) wrote to Visintainer advising the department that XPAND, which owned the security license under which BMG was operating, that it would “hereby bar and prohibit BMUK [Blue Mountain U.K.] from utilizing such license.”
The response to the XPAND letter is very telling. An unidentified BMG official wrote the following to Visintainer on September 11, 2012:
I have never experienced anything like this in business before. The agreement was signed and we were to operate under the [Blue Mountain Libya] license and confirmation of this was due through from [sic] the partners. However, they have had a change of mind and now this. I will call you very shortly.
The documents show that the State Department had planned to terminate the contract with BMG in response to the dispute over licensing.
On the morning of September 11, 2012, David Sparrowgrove, a State Department regional security officer, wrote to Visintainer and others, “The dissolution of the partnership leaves BMG without a security license to operate in Libya and the Libyan partner has no capacity to manage the guards or the contract. As a result, we feel the best course of action is to terminate the contract in short order…” Sparrowgrove also writes, again, just hours before the attack, “I’ve CC’d OPO Branch Chief Ricki Travers who has had the unfortunate pleasure of dealing with these types of emergency situations in the past.”
The fact that the dispute between BMG and XPAND meant the company was operating without a license is completely glossed over in an email from Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Mark Toner dated October 17, 2012. The email contains talking points to share with Congress that are fundamentally misleading. For instance, the talking points leave out any specific references to the key September 9 and September 11, 2012, security emergency dates at the Benghazi facility.
Our records also reveal that Blue Mountain Group was not the only security contractor to bid on the Benghazi contract. A February 1, 2012, email from State Department contractor Neil Kern identifies two other bidders, including Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions. According to federal contracting records, Torres, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business based in Virginia, has won nearly $70 million in contracts with the department (including those to provide guard services in Pakistan, Iraq, and Jordan).
So why was the Benghazi contract awarded to BMG when it had never previously provided security for U.S. government agencies?
There’s another issue we uncovered that deserves further scrutiny and exposure. That would be the “Benghazi Group supporting the Secretary,” which was managing responses to press and Congressional inquiries. What was this “Benghazi Group”? Who participated? Is it part of the alleged cover-up operation that was witnessed to have scooped up documents to protect Hillary Clinton?
As we have previously reported, Judicial Watch has obtained records revealing significant and ongoing problems with BMG’s security operations in Benghazi. These included several guards walking off the job out of fear for their safety and an altercation between the BMG guard force commander and a member of the 17th February Martyrs Brigade that led to the commander’s dismissal.
The role BMG played in protecting the security of the Benghazi Special Mission Compound first came to light shortly after the September 2012 terrorist attack when State Department spokesperson VictoriaNuland emphatically denied on September 18, 2012, that State had hired any private firm to provide security at the American mission in Benghazi. The department later was forced to retract that false claim.
These documents show the Obama administration withheld vital information from the public and from Congress. It appears to us that it is more than an odd coincidence the Middle East firm providing security for the Benghazi facility desperately wanted out two days before the terrorist attack.
The full production of documents can be found here, here and here. This document find was first reported on Fox News by Catherine Herridge.
So, as the House Select Committee reportedly is figuring out how to narrow its inquiry, Judicial Watch is doing the hard work of ferreting out the truth about the Benghazi cover-up that even a historic Select Committee can’t manage to find or disclose.
Court Victory to Hold Media/Government to Account
So what’s the truth about the rule of law scandal of David Gregory (then-host of NBC’s Meet the Press) and his non-arrest in connection with a gun law violation? It has been almost a year since Washington, D.C., Attorney General Irvin Nathan announced that he would not press charges against Gregory or any other employee of the broadcast network for violating the city’s gun laws. If convicted, Gregory and others could have been fined up to $1,000 and would have faced one jail time. Nathan supposedly determined that prosecution in this case would not benefit the public safety.
The incident dates back to a December 23, 2012, when Gregory held up a 30-round rifle magazine, in possession of which is illegal in the District of Columbia, in his D.C. studio during an interview with the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre. We are pleased to report that the District of Columbia has been ordered to make public the affidavit in support of Gregory’s arrest.
Here’s a little background:
In January 2013, our client, William A. Jacobson, who runs the Legal Insurrection blog, submitted a District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) seeking access to the following records:
1. The January 9, 2013 letter from Lee Levine on behalf of David Gregory, referenced in the letter dated January 11, 2013, from Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan to Mr. Levine which was publicly disclosed on that date.
2. All communications between the District of Columbia Office of Attorney General and/or Metropolitan Police Department, on the one hand, and legal counsel for David Gregory and/or NBC News, on the other hand, with regard to the incident involving the display on television by Mr. Gregory of an alleged high-capacity ammunition clip (the “Gregory incident”).
3. All documents in the possession of the MPD and OAG regarding the Gregory incident, to the extent not exempted from disclosure under applicable law, including but not limited to witness statements, evidence review and possession records, interview notes, and forensic testing.
As The Washington Times previously reported, Nathan wrote a three-page letter to an attorney representing Gregory and NBC News at the time explaining his decision.
We filed a FOIA lawsuit on behalf of Legal Insurrection in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia concerning this decision to not prosecute. We believe that making the arrest record public will help shed light on what the District of Columbia police thought of Gregory’s violation of law. The attorney general’s actions, however, remain exempt from discovery. “In 2012, the police arrested over 100 people for charges that included possession of a magazine that can hold more than 10 rounds. The OAG charged 15 of those people in cases that included a “high-capacity feeding device or extended clip” according to the Washington Times. So why the double-standard?
Gregory displayed the ammunition magazine on the air despite the fact that, according to the D.C. OAG, “NBC was clearly and timely advised by an MPD employee that its plans to exhibit on the broadcast a high capacity magazine would violate D.C. law, and there was no contrary advice from any other federal official.” In early January, the MPD announced that it had completed its investigation and presented the case to the OAG “for a determination of the prosecutorial merit of the case.”
Legal Insurrection reported on its court victory:
We are represented by Judicial Watch, which has done a wonderful job. It’s a real credit to them that they work hard to dig out the truth not only on big issues like IRS targeting, but also smaller issues like how draconian D.C. gun laws are not enforced against the famous and connected D.C. elites.
Legal Insurrection was one of the first to note the violation of law, and we pursued the story in a long series of posts.
Despite the clear violation of law, the D.C. Attorney General, Irvin Nathan, decided not to prosecute Gregory or any NBC News personnel.
That’s not how the average person is treated in D.C., where the technicalities of the gun laws are enforced with obsessive prosecutorial vigor.
And that’s the point. We never wanted David Gregory prosecuted for violating the ridiculous gun law provision, we wanted public officials to be held accountable for the unequal application of the law.
Our lawyers worked diligently on this case. As you might imagine, it can be frustrating to litigate against a local government as corrupt as the District’s. You can review the court ruling here.
So this is a nice victory for government transparency and equal treatment under the law. We’ll let you know about the police document once it is released.
Obama IRS Scandal Widens to Justice Department
Judicial Watch, once again, is doing the work of a compromised media (see the David Gregory story) and Congress, which is busy blindly spending your money in unbelievably corrupt ways. This week, we released new information through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit showing that former IRS official Lois Lerner had been in contact with Department of Justice (DOJ) officials about the possible criminal prosecution of tax-exempt entities two full years before what the IRS conceded was its “absolutely inappropriate” 2012 targeting of these organizations. In fact, these documents show that Lerner met with top Obama DOJ Election Crimes Branch officials as early as October 2010.
In our FOIA request we asked for:
Any and all records concerning meetings and/or communications between the Department of Justice Criminal Division Public Integrity Section and the Internal Revenue Service Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, the White House, Members of Congress and/or congressional staff, and any non-government entity, regarding 501(c)(4) or other tax-exempt organizations.
As result of a court order, the DOJ produced two pages of heavily redacted emails (832 pages were withheld in entirety) that show the Obama Justice Department initiated an October 8, 2010, meeting between the IRS and top criminal prosecutors at the DOJ Public Integrity Section and Election Crimes Division “concerning 501(c)(4) issues.” On September 29, 2010, a DOJ official (whose name is blacked out) emailed a staff assistant at the IRS (whose name is also redacted):
As we discussed this afternoon, we would like to invite Ms. Ingram [apparent reference to Sarah Hall Ingram former commissioner, IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities] to meet with us concerning 501(c)(4) issues, and propose next Friday at 10:00 a.m. We are located in the Bond Building, 12th Floor, New York Avenue, NW, Thank you for your assistance.
Even though we have just two pages and a lot of the material is blacked out, what we do have is highly revealing.
The documents show that the unknown DOJ official setting up the meeting is with the Election Crimes Division of the Public Integrity Section of the DOJ’s Criminal Division. We have good reason to believe the redacted name of the DOJ official is Richard Pilger, Director of the Election Crimes Division.
The DOJ email setting up the IRS meeting is CCd to the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section Chief, Jack Smith, and Principal Deputy Chief Raymond Hulser. The documents show that Ingram was not available but arranged for her deputy, Lois Lerner, then-Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations branch, to meet with the DOJ senior officials.
The documents indicate that the DOJ was only too pleased to meet up with Lerner.
On September 30, 2010, the Election Crimes prosecutor emails Lerner:
Hi Lois-It’s been a long time, and you might not remember me, I’ve taken on [REDACTED] duties. I’m looking forward to meeting you, Can we chat in advance? I’m a [REDACTED]
She responds on October 2, 2010:
Sure-that’s a good Idea [sic]. I have a meeting out of the office Monday morning, but will try you when I get back sometime early afternoon. You can try me at 202 283-8848.
While we are pleased to make this information available to our readers and the public at large, it’s important to note that the DOJ has withheld in full at least 832 additional pages of documents, citing various “taxpayer privacy,” “deliberative privilege,” and other exemptions to keep the records secret.
We are not late to the dance where the IRS scandal is concerned. Just a few months ago on April 16, 2014, we forced the IRS to release documents revealing that Lerner communicated with the DOJ in May 2013 about whether it was possible to criminally prosecute targeted tax-exempt entities. The documents were obtained through a court order in a separate October 2013 Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit filed against the IRS. (I’m sure you’ll agree the IRS deserves more than one lawsuit over this scandal!)
We have demonstrated, through the use of both IRS and Justice documents, how the DOJ is up to its neck in the IRS scandal, and can’t be trusted to investigate crimes associated with the IRS abuses that targeted Obama’s critics. We are particularly concerned that the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, which would ordinarily investigate the IRS abuses, is now implicated in the IRS crimes. So, it does not come as a surprise that Attorney General Eric Holder has done no serious investigation of the Obama IRS scandal. This is why our investigations are so important. It is shameful how Establishment Washington has ignored Obama’s abuse of the IRS and the Justice Department.
Only as a result of Judicial Watch’s independent investigations did the American people learn about the IRS-DOJ prosecution discussions of Obama’s political enemies and how the IRS sent, in violation of law, confidential taxpayer information to the FBI and DOJ in 2010. Richard Nixon was impeached for less.
Oprah Targeted in Foiled Terror Bomb Plot
I’m going a little long in this Update to share with you an important Judicial Watch report on the ties between border security and the terrorist threat. This issue is evidently lost on a Congress that is supine and complicit in the face of Obama’s evisceration of our border and immigration law.
The story, which I reprint below, first appeared in our Corruption Chronicles blog:
The Chicago studios of talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey and the iconic “Sears Tower” (renamed Willis Tower) were the targets of a terrorist truck-bomb plot in 2009. But initially unbeknownst to federal authorities, two of the conspirators recently were arrested for unrelated state crimes in different parts of the country. The alleged bombers targeted Ms. Winfrey’s Harpo Studios because they resented her popularity and power, while the tower was selected because of its obvious landmark status. The bomb plot itself, planned in 2009, was inspired by militant Islamist hatred of American military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to law enforcement and other sources interviewed by Judicial Watch.
Sources requested anonymity for fear of reprisal by terrorist bomb-plotter associates, as well as retaliation from embarrassed federal law enforcement agents who apparently mismanaged the subsequent counterterrorism case.
The alleged bomb plotters were based in El Paso, Texas and included two longtime friends and associates currently jailed for recent state crimes.
• Emad Karakrah, currently held in Cook County, Illinois Jail on charges of making a false car bomb threat after leading police on a high-speed chase through Chicago with an ISIS flag waving from his car on August 28, 2014. Karakrah’s last appearance in Cook County criminal court was on December 3, 2014 before Judge Evelyn Clay. The prosecutor said she was waiting on a report to tender discovery and the case got continued to January 7, 2015. In a previous court hearing in mid-November the prosecutor disclosed that she was “looking for an FBI report.” It is not clear why Karakrah is not in federal custody pending terrorism charges.
• Hector Pedroza Huerta is an illegal alien currently held in the El Paso County Jail. On August 13, Huerta was arrested in El Paso for driving intoxicated, a crime he has been twice convicted of (in 2009 and 2011). The feds quickly took over, charging him for the third time in five years with “reentry of a deported alien,” court records show. A federal magistrate judge granted the government’s order to hold Huerta without bond on August 19 and a few weeks later Huerta pleaded not guilty to the immigration charges, according to court records obtained by JW. But on October 7 Huerta was granted a “rearraignment” that ended up getting reset to October 9. At that “rearraignment” the illegal alien changed his plea to guilty, court records show. He is scheduled for sentencing on December 16 at 9 a.m. in Courtroom 422 at the U.S. District Courthouse in El Paso. Like his friend, Karakrah, it is unclear why Huerta is not facing federal conspiracy charges associated with the Chicago bomb plot. U.S. District Court Judge Frank Montalvo, handling Huerta’s sentencing, had previously presided over one of Huerta’s prior immigration cases (in 2009);
Judicial Watch sources detail that the other conspirators in the 2009 Chicago truck bomb plot are:
• “Omar,” a male in his late-50s to early-60s, of Arabic ethnicity, who drove a taxi and had an ownership interest in a used car dealership and a gas station in suburban El Paso;
• Two of the FBI’s “most wanted” terrorists: Jaber A. Elbaneh and Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah (a/k/a: “Javier Robles”); and,
• Other, unidentified conspirators.
The plot called for the use of a U-Haul-style trailer, as well as a delivery-style “step van,” that was purchased at auction in El Paso, Texas. Sources say the bombs were constructed with the plastic explosive C-4 and Tannerite, a binary explosive of ammonium nitrate and aluminum designed for detonation by means of a high-velocity firearms cartridge. Officials believe the C-4 explosives were obtained from Fort Bliss, the sprawling US Army base in El Paso, and the Tannerite was brought into the United States from Mexico.Federal law enforcement officials and Illinois police reportedly interdicted the bombers before they arrived in Chicago, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. It is not clear if federal law enforcement officials were entirely successful in exploiting intelligence opportunities presented by the foiled bomb plot.
Subsequently, two foiled bomb plots in Chicago were orchestrated by undercover FBI agents posing as terrorist co-conspirators: The 2010 Wrigley Field backpack bombing attempted by Sami SamirHassoun; and a 2012 Jeep-bomb attempt by Adel Daoud.
On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, a 27-year-old Florida man, Sami Osmakac, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison after being convicted of taking part in a foiled bomb plot that targeted a popular Tampa bar and a hotel-casino. During Osmakac’s trial, federal prosecutors presented evidence that in 2012 Osmakac, a U.S. citizen born in Kosovo, arranged to buy weapons such as a car bomb, machine gun and grenades to target crowded locations in Tampa.
While the FBI elected to publicize and take credit for the two, foiled Chicago and Tampa bomb plots, the Bureau has never released information on the 2009 targeting of Oprah, or explained why it has allowed conspirators to languish in county jails on lesser charges.
Judicial Watch contacted the FBI and Department of Justice several times seeking comment on the alleged 2009 bomb plot targeting Ms. Winfrey, her studios and the Willis Tower – as well as the prosecutions of Mr. Karakrah and Mr. Pedroza-Huerta. The FBI and Department of Justice failed to return our calls for comment.
Interestingly, shortly after our report appeared, one of the terrorists implicated in this plot was killed in Pakistan. Again, as exclusively reported by Judicial Watch:
An Al Qaeda terrorist on the FBI’s most wanted list for years crossed back and forth into the United States from Mexico to meet fellow militant Islamists in Texas and piloted an aircraft into the Cielo Dorado airfield in Anthony, New Mexico, law enforcement sources tell Judicial Watch.
The same Al Qaeda operative helped plan the 2009 bombing of talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey’s Chicago studios and the iconic Sears Tower (renamed Willis Tower), a story that Judicial Watch broke just last week. His name is Adnan G. El Shukrijumah (also known as “Javier Robles”) and over the weekend he was killed in Pakistan, according to military officials in the Islamic republic.
You can see that JW is at the center of truth and justice in this city, and I am proud to be associated with a team that produces material through investigation and litigation that would garner a Pulitzer Prize if uncovered by a mainstream media outlet. Our work saves lives and tries to protect our nation from dire threats. I encourage you to spread the word about these issues and our cause.
Tom Fitton – President