by Tom Fitton –
Tens of millions of people struggling to find their way through the bureaucratic mess that is Obamacare to find quality health care. Do not despair. Your government is there to help you!
The Obama administration has hired some 50,000 “navigators,” at a taxpayer cost of $67 million, to help guide Americans through the Obamacare labyrinths. There’s just one catch. You might be feeding your personal information to a convicted felon.
And that’s not a claim coming from any “right wing conspirators,” but rather, directly from the mouth of outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Check out this remarkable exchange between Sebelius and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) during a November 6, 2014, Senate Finance Committee hearing.
Cornyn: So I want to ask you about the navigators … Isn’t it true that there is no federal requirement for navigators to undergo a criminal background check, even though they will receive sensitive personal information from the individuals they help to sign-up up for the Affordable Care Act?”
Sebelius: That is true ….
Cornyn: So a convicted felon could be a navigator and could acquire sensitive personal information from an individual unbeknownst to them?
Sebelius: That is possible.
Criminals in control of your sensitive data? It’s not just “possible.” It could be happening right now under Obamacare.
Last August, 13 state attorneys general warned Sebelius that training and safeguards in place for the navigators appeared to be inadequate. In a letter to the HHS secretary, they wrote that the background check system “pales in comparison” to what is typically required for workers in programs receiving federal health dollars, adding, “It is not enough simply to adopt vague policies against fraud.”
In January 2014, National Review reported that as many as 43 convicted criminals were working as Obamacare navigators in California. (Offenses include forgery, burglary, child abuse, battery, petty theft, and evading a police officer.) And in March, Breitbart reported that Obamacare navigators were enrolling clients at Mexican Consulates nationwide, including Mexican nationals.
Add to this the enormous security holes in the Obamacare website Healthcare.gov – currently the subject of another Judicial Watch lawsuit – and it’s impossible to see how anyone would trust their personal data, indeed their very health and well-being, to this bureaucratic boondoggle.
Truly, when it comes to these navigators, the security concerns are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s also the corrupt deal-making between the Obama administration and the political organizations who employ these navigators.
According to a November 11, 2013, article in National Review Online, among the organizations providing Obamacare navigators is Local 100 United Labor Unions, a New Orleans group run by ACORN founder Wade Rathke. The article reports, “Local 100 is a ‘sub-grantee’ providing navigators for the Southern United Neighborhoods group, which received a $600,678 grant to promote Obamacare enrollment. It also received a $270,193 grant for similar work in Arkansas and a $486,123 grant for Louisiana.”
Other organizations include the National Urban League, which was paid $376,000 for its Obamacare outreach in Texas, as well as such leftwing groups as Planned Parenthood and the Virginia Poverty Law Center Inc.
So we have the Obama administration paying leftwing groups to hire untrained, unskilled operatives to recruit Obamacare customers and collect sensitive data. What could possible go wrong?
James O’Keefe, the conservative investigator and journalist who effectively helped shut down ACORN’s first incarnation with his incriminating undercover videos, has some answers. O’Keefe has new evidence, again on video, showing the nefarious activities of these navigators. Per The National Review:
“You lie because your premiums will be higher,” one navigator advises an investigator for O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, who tells the worker he sometimes smokes. “Don’t tell them that. Don’t tell ’em.”
The investigator then poses as a low-income worker at a university who has unreported cash income on the side, worrying about how that might affect his premium subsidies. That’s no problem for a navigator, who says, “Don’t get yourself in trouble by declaring it now.”
“Yeah, it didn’t happen,” another navigator says. One more chimes in: “Never report it.”
As I mentioned, there are more than enough flags to warrant Judicial Watch’s attention, and we are now in court to get to the truth in the matter.
On March 27, 2014, JW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against HHS to obtain records about controversial Obamacare navigators, including records about navigator qualifications and background checks. Here’s what we’re after according to our original FOIA request filed in November 2013:
• Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to contracts awarded to private entities to provide navigators to assist individuals obtaining health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and
• Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to federal requirements for the above-mentioned navigators, including but not limited to background checks and qualifications.
The Obamacare navigator program seems as corrupt as any Chicago patronage operation – and is a danger to the privacy of millions of Americans who are participating in Obamacare. The use of Obamacare navigators and the Healthcare.gov web site should come with consumer warnings. The Obama administration’s illegal secrecy about these Obamacare navigators should make Americans very nervous. As if we didn’t have enough reason for rattled nerves already. And on that front…
Is Obama Lying About Obamacare Numbers?
When does government incompetence turn to government corruption? When the incompetent government officials lie, stonewall, and refuse to obey transparency laws.
And that is exactly what is happening inside the Obama administration in an attempt to cover up an Obamacare blunder that places healthcare consumers in danger of having no coverage at all.
Judicial Watch initiated an investigation of the matter and ran right into an Obama administration stonewall. And on March 27, 2014, JW was forced to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Specifically, JW seeks records regarding the testing and oversight of the Obama administration’s error-filled Healthcare.gov “834” reporting forms.
Form 834 is an electronic file sent from HealthCare.gov to an insurance company after a consumer picks a health care coverage plan. The file is supposed to contain the person’s name, address, contact information, Social Security number, and information about the plan they have chosen. Insurance companies use the form to enroll people in insurance plans and bill consumers for their portion of the payment. An inaccurate 834 form may result in consumers either not having coverage, or being turned down for payment claims.
It has been estimated that as many as 33 percent of the 834 forms for enrollees in the federal health care website may have been inaccurate, incomplete, or missing altogether.
Of course, this problem threatens the Obama administration’s narrative that everything is hunky dory with the Obamacare rollout, and that the administration hit all of its goals for the number of Americans covered; hence the cover-up.
Here’s what we’re after:
• Any and all documents and communications generated on or after April 1, 2103, regarding the timing and procedures for testing the back end systems that are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of Form 834 transactions on Healthcare.gov;
• Any and all documents and communications generated on or after April 1, 2013, regarding reports of instances or potential instances of inaccuracies, discrepancies, and/or missing information in Form 834 transactions;
• Any and all documents and communications generated on or after April 1, 2013, regarding the establishment and operation of an official mechanism to report and/or remedy instances of inaccuracies, discrepancies, and/or missing information in Form 834 transactions.
In a December 2, 2013, article entitled “Health-care enrollment on Web plagued by bugs,” the Washington Post reported: “The enrollment records for a significant portion of the Americans who have chosen health plans through the online federal insurance marketplace contain errors – generated by the computer system – that mean they might not get the coverage they’re expecting next month.” Also, the Form 834 problems “have affected roughly one-third of the people who have signed up for health plans since Oct. 1.”
Though the administration has refused to reveal how many consumers have been affected by the Form 834 failures, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesperson Julie Bataille admitted in early December that it is a major problem, being worked on by “a team of experts from CMS, key outside contractors working closely with health plan representatives and overseen by CMS’s general contractor, Optum/QSSI.”
At a December 5 press briefing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described the costly Form 834 failures as “self-inflicted problems,” adding, “We know every person who has enrolled, or believes he or she has enrolled, we – the CMS and others, and every one of them is being contacted …”
None of this is reassuring.
The Obama administration has been playing games with the enrollment numbers from the very beginning. And it speaks volumes that the Obama administration doesn’t want to give us information about whether those who want insurance were actually able to get it through Healthcare.gov.
Given HHS’s unlawful cover up, it is fair to presume that President Obama’s touted figure of eight million Obamacare enrollments is a knowing fiction. With all its illegal stonewalling of basic information, we frankly can’t believe much of anything this administration has to say on what Obamacare is doing to the American people.
“USA is an Islamic Country” – Says FBI Award Winner under Investigation by Judicial Watch
The response of the FBI to the threat of Islamic terrorism too often has been nonsensical. In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the FBI implemented a “catch and release” program for terrorist criminals, purged its training curricula of material deemed “offensive” to radical Muslims, and, almost to the day of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, gave a prestigious award to a radical Muslim who once “tweeted” that the U.S. is an “Islamic country.” This radical, Mohammed Elibiary, also serves as a Homeland Security Advisor to the Obama administration and has been under Judicial Watch’s microscope for some time.
Can any of you make sense of this? We can’t, which is why we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on March 25, 2014. We’re seeking agency records related to the awarding of the Louis E. Peters Award in 2011 to Mohammed Elibiary, who is alleged to have close ties to radical Islamist organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
Our request, which has been ignored for nearly a year by the FBI, is simple:
Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the awarding of the Louis E. Peters Memorial Award to Mr. Mohamed Elibiary on September 8, 2011. This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all recommendations and other records of communications regarding, concerning, or related to the award.
Elibiary, who in his role as Homeland Security advisor has regular access to classified information, most recently came under fire in November 2013 for tweeting out the message that America is “an Islamic country with an Islamically compliant constitution.” In its December 2013 “Special Report: U.S. Government Purges of Law Enforcement Training Material Deemed ‘Offensive’ to Muslims” Judicial Watch identified Elibiary as one of nearly a half-dozen “Islamist influence operators” within the Obama administration “seeking to advance an ideological agenda completely at odds with our constitutional system.”
In October 2010, when DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that she had sworn in Elibiary as a member of the agency’s Advisory Council, Judicial Watch reported he was a backer of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian revolutionary whose teachings continue to govern Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.
In December 2004, Elibiary had participated in a Dallas, Texas, tribute to Khomeini called “A Tribute To The Great Islamic Visionary, Ayatollah Khomeini.” In 2012, Judicial Watch reported that Elibiary leaked classified documents to a media outlet that had declined to do a story supposedly exposing DHS’s promotion of “Islamophobia.” Records obtained by Judicial Watch included documents showing that Elibiary was given access to the Texas state terrorism database on October 18, 2011. The investigation of the allegation by the Texas Department of Public Safety found that Elibiary downloaded two documents from the system just days before he allegedly offered to leak documents to Newsweek/The Daily Beast.
In October 2013, the Center for Security Policy, a Washington, DC, think tank, published a revealing 33-page report based on a lengthy, five-part interview with Elibiary. In the interview, Elibiary admitted he was a longtime friend of self-described Islamist Shukri Abu Baker, who was convicted in 2008 of financing the terrorist organization Hamas through his U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity, the Holy Land Foundation. Elibiary disclosed that he donated to the Holy Land Foundation monthly until it was shut down by the U.S. government and he defended Baker, depicting his prosecution as a case of political persecution.
The document includes a number of alarming details of Elibiary’s close relationship with a wide array of U.S. Islamist groups, including the radical Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, which declares that the only legitimate law according to Islam is Sharia. The group also urges American Muslims to nurture hostility toward U.S. law, according to Arabic documents discovered and translated into English by the Center for Security Policy.
I’m sure none of this information found its way into Elibiary’s acceptance speech when receiving his Louis E. Peters Award, which is presented annually “to that person who best exemplifies the standards set by Peters in providing service to the FBI and the Nation.” In 1977, Peters informed the FBI of a shakedown attempt by mob boss Joe Bonanno. At the time, the California car dealer was recognized by then-FBI Director William Webster as having “set new standards of patriotism.”
We have no doubt why the FBI would be embarrassed about giving an award to someone with Elibiary’s extreme Islamist views. But embarrassment does not excuse the FBI’s cover-up of its relationship with this radical.
You would think the FBI, of all agencies, would follow the law. But it doesn’t. It is especially egregious that the government agencies that can arrest you for violations of law don’t bother to follow the law themselves.
Supreme Court Decision in Michigan Affirmative Action Ban
I will close this week with some good news. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-2 decision to uphold Michigan’s affirmative action ban, which prevents the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Justice Kennedy issued the Court’s opinion, joined by Justices Alito and Chief Justice Roberts. Justices Scalia, Thomas and Breyer while concurring with the decision wrote separate opinions, as did dissenters Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg. (Justice Kagan recused herself.)
Here’s the statement I offered to the press in response to the ruling:
Today’s decision is a green light for more states to take steps to end discriminatory racial preferences. The Court’s ruling was a strong statement in support of the people’s right to democratic self-governance, and against the detrimental spread of racial politics into all areas of American public life. Today’s ruling is also a signal that Obama administration’s dishonest use of the “race card” to advance its policy agendas may face significant skepticism in the Supreme Court.
The High Court decision overturned a November 15, 2012, ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The lower court had ruled 8-7 that the affirmative action ban, which Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed in a 2006 referendum, violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection laws.
This is a case in which Judicial Watch took legal action, having joined with the Allied Educational Foundation (AEF) to file an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in support of Proposition 2, Michigan’s seven-year-old ban on the use of racial preferences in college admissions.
Here’s a squib from the Judicial Watch-AEF amicus brief filed on July 1, 2013:
Among the harms caused by the Sixth Circuit’s decision are: a dangerous erosion of the people’s right to democratic self-governance; the needless further enshrinement of the intellectually impoverished concept of race into law; the perpetuation of a culture of racial and ethnic politics in American public life; and the perpetuation of racial and ethnic resentment and intolerance in American society.
Justice Scalia, in a stinging concurrence, argued that the courts must remove themselves altogether from the “dirty business of dividing the nation into racial blocs,” through an affirmative action theory that “promotes the noxious fiction that, knowing only a person’s color or ethnicity, we can be sure that he has a predetermined set of policy ‘interests,’ thus reinforcing the perception that members of the same racial group-regardless of their age, education, economic status, or the community in which they live-think alike, and share the same political interests.”
I rather like what Chief Justice Roberts wrote in a previous lawsuit involving the issue of race based preferences: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Let us hope this judicial wisdom continues to prevail.
Tom Fitton – President