Sunday, July 28, 2013

Report on Congress


Dona:  We are back with another "Report on Congress."  We have a great deal to catch up on.  Let's start with the week of  July 15th when a variety of reports went up on two hearings:  C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" and Ruth's "'Fired' State Department staff still drawing paychecks" went up and reported on the Senate Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight which is Chaired by Senator Claire McCaskill and the witnesses were the Defense Department's Richard Ginman, the State Department's Patrick Kennedy and US AID's Aman Djahanbani.  I know this will be a very short answer, C.I., but what was the conclusion from the hearing?

C.I.:  Short answer: Oversight is hard and not being provided currently.

Dona: That's what I got from the snapshot.  Ruth, you covered it in terms of Benghazi.  What was the news there?

Ruth:  The US mission in Benghazi was attacked September 11, 2012 leading to many Americans being wounded and four being killed:  Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, US Ambassador Chris Stevens and Tyrone Woods.  The answers are still murky as to what happened and how it happened.  At the time of the attack, Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.  Today, John Kerry holds that position.  While Ms. Clinton was Secretary of State, she insisted that there was accountability.  We were led to believe that attack had resulted in some accountability and that Eric Boswell, Scott Bultrowicz, Charlene Lamb and Raymond Maxwell had been fired.  In the hearing, Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, Senator Ron Johnson, asked about their status?  They remain on administrative leave -- paid administrative leave.  There has been no accountability.

Dona: The answers are still murky, you note.  Ruth, your best guess on the attack?

Ruth: We are less than six weeks away from the anniversary of the attack so I will go ahead and guess.  My best guess is that the CIA was running arms from Libya to the so-called rebels in Syria and that the attack was blowback for that.  I think the State Department failed to provide proper security and that the administration failed in multiple ways including the refusal to publicly address the terrorist attack. When Ronald Reagan secretly armed the contras it was considered a crime -- and not just as a result of the Boland Amendment.  I think the White House intentionally lied about the incident for a number of reasons.  That would be my best guess.

Dona: Alright, thank you for that, Ruth.   The same week saw the House Judiciary Committee hold a hearing on the spying on the American people.  The first panel was DoJ's James Cole, the National Security Agency's John C. Inglis, Office of Director of National Intelligence's Robert S. Litt and the FBI's Stephanie Douglas.  The second panel was Steptoe & Johnson, LLP's Stewart Baker, the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer and CNSS' Kate Martin.  And the community reporting on it is C.I.'s  "Iraq snapshot,"  Ava's  "Officials disrespect House Judiciary Committeem,"  C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot," Kat's "FISA rulings,"  Wally's "Proof that we should be thanking Ed Snowden (Wally)" and  C.I.'s  "House Judiciary Committee hearing."  Wally, what's the proof? That we should be thanking Ed Snowden?

Wally: The fact that a hearing on the issue was even held.  You won't hear it in the Senate, more than likely, but you did get it in the House.   Which is also where you got the vote last week on the Amash - Conyers Amednment. It would have put a stop to the meta data spying on all Americans that whistle-blower Ed Snowden.  The vote was 205 for the amendment and 217 against.  That vote wouldn't have happened without Snowden either.  And the Conyers on that amendment is US House Rep. John Conyers who is the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee.  Amash is US House Rep. Justin Amash.

Dona: This was important, this hearing.  We'll come back to the amendment.  But the hearing is important.  C.I. how did the coverage go?

C.I.: The left outlets ignored the hearing.  That's the ones that are anti-Ed Snowden like MSNBC and The Nation and In These Times and, sadly, even the ones who are pro-Ed Snowden like The Progressive.  This was a major hearing.  And it was pretty much ignored by the left press.  If they'd focused on it, the mainstream press might have upped their coverage.  Instead, the MSM treated it as a fleeting moment with most ignoring it.

Dona:  Wally mentioned an important vote.  Ruth, do you want to comment on that vote?

Ruth: Sure.  Cynthia McKinney was a proud defender of American's civil liberties.  Were she in the House, she would have been a vote to end spying. Because she was a strong voice for liberty, Ms. McKinney was run out of Congress by her own party not once but twice.  Her seat today is held by Hank Johnson who voted for the spying to continue.  Nancy Pelosi is the former Speaker of the House.  She used her power -- misused  it to keep Ms. McKinney from getting her seniority restored when Cynthia returned to Congress.  Ms. Pelosi voted to continue the spying.  US House Representative Corinne Brown was strongly against spying on the American people but only when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.  So Ms. Brown voted last week to continue the spying.  Other Democrats betraying were Sheila Jackson Lee, Marcy Kaptur, Jan Schakowsky, Susan Davis, Tammy Duckworth,  Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Gregory Meeks.

Dona: Thank you, Ruth.  12 members of the House did not vote and of the ones voting to end spying, 111 Democrats voted to end it and 94 Republicans voted to end it.  Ava, you noted the disrespect the government witnesses on the first panel showed the Committtee.

Ava: Correct.  At the House Judiciary Committee hearing, the witnesses on the first panel treated the Committee members as though they were nothing and certainly not elected officials who could hold the government accountable.  C.I. includes an exchange, for example, in one of her reports.  John Conyers is not just the Ranking Member of the Committee.  He is a member of Congress who has served in the House since winning his first election in 1964.  So Conyers is asking a question of Stephanie Douglas and she replies.  And then John Inglis tries to seize control of the hearing -- he wasn't pleased with Douglas' answer -- and he starts chatting with no one calling on him or recognizing him.  And he tries to railroad his way through a response even when Conyers tells him that's not necessary.  At which point, Chair Bob Goodlatte  offers Conyers another minute if he wants it and Conyers makes it very clear that he does not want or need another minute, that Douglas has answered his question and that he had not inquired of Inglis. That was a dramatic example; however, it was not the only example.

Dona: Right, he, Conyers, ended his comments with, "I'm satisfied exactly with what I've gotten from the witness I asked the question to."  July 11th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the hearing on the nominations of Douglas Edward Lute, Daniel Brooks Baer and Victoria Nuland.  The Nuland nomination being controversial because she was the State Department spokesperson during the attack on Benghazi and she insisted that the talking points released to Congress and the public be changed because she did not want to face uncomfortable questions at the podium from journalists.  She also did not want to face questions from Congress.  This is her e-mail:

I just had a convo with [deleted] and now I understand that these are being prepared to give to Members of Congress to use with the media. 
On that basis, I have serious concerns about all the parts highlighted below, and arming members of Congress to start making assertions to the media that we ourselves are not mking because we don't want to prejudice the investigation.
In the same vein, why do we want Hill to be fingering Ansar al Sharia, when we aren't doing that ourselves until we have investigation results... and the penultimate point could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either?  Concerned.

Dona (Con't):  C.I. covered the hearing in "Iraq snapshot" and Ruth covered it in "Nuland and Benghazi" and "Victoria Nuland indirectly confirms CIA arming 'rebels' out of Benghazi."  Ruth, the big takeaway?

Ruth: That the CIA was arming the rebels.  In the hearing, Senator Rand Paul asked her specifically about that.  Her answer?  She would not answer.  She stated that she would if they went into a closed hearing.  She apparently did not realize what her answer was confirming.  So now we know.

Dona: Thank you.  Now we're going back to June 26th House Oversight Committee hearing that was covered by C.I. in  "Iraq snapshot," Ava in "Elijah Cummings -- bald face embarrassment," Wally in "Managing the IRS' real estate portfolio? (Wally)" and Kat in  "Was the witness able to understand."  Wally, what was the most significant moment of the hearing?

Wally: Okay, that probably took place at the start of the hearing.   IRS official Gregory Roseman invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying.  He became the second IRS official since the end of May to invoke the Fifth Amendment.  Earlier, Lois Lerner invoked the Fifth Amendment.  That hearing where she invoked the Fifth was covered in C.I.'s  "Iraq snapshot," Ava's"Sir, I gave you the wrong information (Ava)," my "Time for a special prosecutor (Wally)," Kat's "It was like Steel Magnolias at one point during the hearing" your "Report on Congress" and Cedric and I spoofed it in the joint-posts "Future employment opportunities for Lois Lerner" and  "THIS JUST IN! A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR LOIS LERNER!
Unlike Lerner, Roseman didn't offer statements before invoking the Fifth.

Dona: Which is a no-no.

Wally: Right.  If you invoke the Fifth, that is what you say.  You don't, as Lerner did, offer a lengthy statement about how wonderful you are.

Dona:  Kat,  when someone invokes the Fifth, there is -- right or wrong -- the notion that they are hiding something.  You take the Fifth to avoid self-incrimination.  Your thoughts on that?

Kat: I would say, yes, the two officials are guilty.  If they weren't guilty, they wouldn't be invoking the Fifth.  Some are wrongly trying to compare it to the height of McCarthyism when people might invoke the Fifth in reply to the question of whether or not they were a member of the Communist Party.  The thing is, that was about people's lives.  This isn't.  What they are being asked about is their official duties at the IRS.  What did they do in their jobs.  That you have to invoke the Fifth for that would indicate guilt.

Dona: Kat, you also offered coverage of that hearing and it's infamous for US House Rep. Tammy Duckworth dressing down, humiliating, shaming, take your pick, contractor Braulio Castillo for apparently equating a football injury to sacrifice for the country.  Your thoughts on that?

Kat: I wasn't amused.  It became a media moment.  I'm not sure it was.  I really do not believe that Castillo understood what Duckworth was asking and saying during a large portion of the questioning.  That was my approach to the piece.  He seemed genuinely and repeatedly confused.  I'm not calling out Duckworth for the exchange but I do think the media should have done some follow up and shouldn't have edited the footage in the way they did which made it appear to move quicker and seamlessly when, in fact, it wasn't like that at all, not from my seat in the hearing.

Dona: Alright, thank you.  I'm going to stop here.  I'd talked to C.I. ahead of time and she said don't worry about her needing to speak.  We wanted to cover -- quickly -- a series of hearings.  Hopefully, we did just that. This is a rush transcript.

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