Commentary Magazine


Topic: FBI

FBI Feeds Cynicism About IRS Scandal

After several months of virtual radio silence in the mainstream press about the IRS scandal, the over-the-top coverage afforded Chris Christie’s Bridgegate fiasco reminded conservatives of the way many in the media downplayed the outrageous accounts of the government’s bias against conservative political groups. But the IRS affair got back into the news in its own right today as the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI is unlikely to prosecute anyone for the practice in which organizations affiliated with the Tea Party and other conservatives causes were specifically targeted for discriminatory treatment.

This is bound to fuel further complaints from Republicans who have been frustrated with the administration’s low-key response to a scandal based in a policy they think may have been inspired by the president’s personal biases against conservative groups as well as the liberal belief that Tea Party-affiliated organizations don’t deserve non-profit status. After initially adopting a defensive tone and agreeing that any discrimination was wrong, the party line from the White House has been that the problems were the result of the mistakes made by rogue low-level officials working in Cincinnati and that any talk about a scandal is mere GOP propaganda. That position will be bolstered by the FBI decision. But, as the Journal’s report notes, there is a big problem with the investigation that was conducted: apparently nobody in the FBI has contacted any of the groups that were the object of the agency’s special attentions. This is likely to only deepen the cynicism felt by many on the right toward an administration that doesn’t seem particularly fired up about holding the tax collectors accountable for their misdeeds.

Read More

After several months of virtual radio silence in the mainstream press about the IRS scandal, the over-the-top coverage afforded Chris Christie’s Bridgegate fiasco reminded conservatives of the way many in the media downplayed the outrageous accounts of the government’s bias against conservative political groups. But the IRS affair got back into the news in its own right today as the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI is unlikely to prosecute anyone for the practice in which organizations affiliated with the Tea Party and other conservatives causes were specifically targeted for discriminatory treatment.

This is bound to fuel further complaints from Republicans who have been frustrated with the administration’s low-key response to a scandal based in a policy they think may have been inspired by the president’s personal biases against conservative groups as well as the liberal belief that Tea Party-affiliated organizations don’t deserve non-profit status. After initially adopting a defensive tone and agreeing that any discrimination was wrong, the party line from the White House has been that the problems were the result of the mistakes made by rogue low-level officials working in Cincinnati and that any talk about a scandal is mere GOP propaganda. That position will be bolstered by the FBI decision. But, as the Journal’s report notes, there is a big problem with the investigation that was conducted: apparently nobody in the FBI has contacted any of the groups that were the object of the agency’s special attentions. This is likely to only deepen the cynicism felt by many on the right toward an administration that doesn’t seem particularly fired up about holding the tax collectors accountable for their misdeeds.

The sensitivity of this case is the product of both the blatantly political nature of the BOLO (be on the lookout for) orders that were sent out about groups seeking non-profit status for their public education efforts and the immense power of the IRS. That the IRS seemed to be following the administration’s marching orders in treating conservative efforts to take advantage of the change in the law after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision raised serious suspicions. But the revelations last spring about the agency’s inquisitions directed at Tea Partiers and delays in making decisions prompted congressional investigations that were, at least in part, short-circuited by the lack of candid answers from IRS officials like Lois Lerner who went so far as to invoke the Fifth Amendment when questioned by Congress last May.

It should be acknowledged that prosecutions in a case involving interpretations of policy would not be simple. But there appeared to be grounds to think laws involving the misuse and improper disclosure of taxpayer information were violated by those involved. However, the FBI seems to have taken a “no harm, no foul” approach to the case in which the lack of a smoking gun about the agency “hunting” conservatives rather than merely applying discriminatory policies appears to be working to stifle any impulse to prosecute.

However, this merciful approach to IRS personnel and their political superiors seems at variance with that agency’s usual approach to taxpayers. It is well known that citizens who claim to have been confused by complicated tax regulations or that they acted on the advice of their lawyers are generally shown no mercy by implacable IRS agents who haul taxpayers into court for minor violations of confusing statutes.

Even worse, the fact that the FBI chose not even to interview groups that have claimed discrimination casts doubt on the seriousness of the investigation and whether the normally indictment-happy Justice Department lacked the will to pursue the case.

As I wrote in December, the administration is hoping to put a close to this controversy by altering the rules to make it difficult, if not impossible for groups that aim at promoting political change—be it from a right-wing or a left-wing point of view—to become non-profits. While technically neutral, this change will have a disproportionate impact on conservative groups since they are far more dependent on 501(c) status than their rivals on the left. This should concern all Americans no matter their politics since giving the IRS that much power to suppress the free speech of political activists poses a grave threat to democracy. The way the agency has been used to regulate political activity is perhaps the most serious scandal here, but combined with the failure of the government to ensure that those who ordered and carried out discriminatory policies are held accountable makes it even worse.

Read Less

The FBI and the War on the NYPD and Counter-Terrorism

This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly denounced as fiction allegations in an Associated Press article published today that the NYPD “labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations” in order to spy on imams and members without any prior proof of wrongdoing. Kelly said the piece’s purpose was to “hype a book” that the authors of the article have written. He went on to insist that the federal judiciary has specifically authorized the activities of the NYPD’s counter-terrorism unit. Moreover, Kelly hinted that the agenda the AP reporters and their book is furthering is not so much one of innocent Muslims or the ACLU but that of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is still angry that the NYPD had been allowed to poach on their territory and work on counter-terrorism rather than ordinary police work.

Indeed, even a quick reading of today’s AP piece, which is more or less a summary of many previous articles on the subject, indicates that although many of the official sources remain unidentified, the FBI’s fingerprints are all over what must be viewed as a hatchet job on the NYPD. But though this sort of federal-local rivalry is the stuff of numerous Law and Order episodes, the stakes in this dispute are bigger than even the egos of the personalities involved. At the heart of the tussle is the plain fact that after the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD felt that they could no longer play by the old rules of engagement that had led to the murder of thousands of New Yorkers at the hands of Islamist terrorists. Instead, they got to work investigating not only al-Qaeda imports but also the very real threat of homegrown Islamist terror.

The NYPD has come under a steady barrage of criticism for using its resources to seek out potential terror suspects in exactly the places where they are known to congregate: religious institutions led by people who encourage support for extreme Islamist views. While the FBI has chosen to avoid flack by treating Islamists with kid gloves, the NYPD did their job. The AP’s hit pieces should be viewed in the context of a long campaign by many in the liberal mainstream media to falsely assert that there has been a post-9/11 backlash of discrimination against American Muslims. But more than that, it is also part of an effort to demonize counter-terrorism work at a time when paranoia about government spying fed by the controversy over the National Security Agency is running high. But while many in Congress and the media are feeding the spirit of complacency about terror, Kelly has rightly tried to remind us that efforts such as those of the NYPD are all that stands between the nation and new atrocities.

Read More

This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly denounced as fiction allegations in an Associated Press article published today that the NYPD “labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations” in order to spy on imams and members without any prior proof of wrongdoing. Kelly said the piece’s purpose was to “hype a book” that the authors of the article have written. He went on to insist that the federal judiciary has specifically authorized the activities of the NYPD’s counter-terrorism unit. Moreover, Kelly hinted that the agenda the AP reporters and their book is furthering is not so much one of innocent Muslims or the ACLU but that of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is still angry that the NYPD had been allowed to poach on their territory and work on counter-terrorism rather than ordinary police work.

Indeed, even a quick reading of today’s AP piece, which is more or less a summary of many previous articles on the subject, indicates that although many of the official sources remain unidentified, the FBI’s fingerprints are all over what must be viewed as a hatchet job on the NYPD. But though this sort of federal-local rivalry is the stuff of numerous Law and Order episodes, the stakes in this dispute are bigger than even the egos of the personalities involved. At the heart of the tussle is the plain fact that after the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD felt that they could no longer play by the old rules of engagement that had led to the murder of thousands of New Yorkers at the hands of Islamist terrorists. Instead, they got to work investigating not only al-Qaeda imports but also the very real threat of homegrown Islamist terror.

The NYPD has come under a steady barrage of criticism for using its resources to seek out potential terror suspects in exactly the places where they are known to congregate: religious institutions led by people who encourage support for extreme Islamist views. While the FBI has chosen to avoid flack by treating Islamists with kid gloves, the NYPD did their job. The AP’s hit pieces should be viewed in the context of a long campaign by many in the liberal mainstream media to falsely assert that there has been a post-9/11 backlash of discrimination against American Muslims. But more than that, it is also part of an effort to demonize counter-terrorism work at a time when paranoia about government spying fed by the controversy over the National Security Agency is running high. But while many in Congress and the media are feeding the spirit of complacency about terror, Kelly has rightly tried to remind us that efforts such as those of the NYPD are all that stands between the nation and new atrocities.

As Kelly said:

“We have an agreement that has been authorized by a federal judge,” Kelly answered. “We follow that stipulation to the letter, and it authorizes us to do a whole series of things. Certainly investigations are part of it. We follow leads wherever they take us. We’re not intimidated as to where that lead takes us.”

Yet that is exactly what the NYPD and the anti-anti-terror lobby led by those who claim to speak for American Muslims and civil liberties extremists want.

The point of the AP piece is to portray the police investigations as a threat to the freedom of religion and the First Amendment protections that would theoretically protect sermons or other activities at mosques from any scrutiny. But the idea that the Constitution allows people to preach violence or to create places where potential terrorists are inspired or given guidance with impunity is absurd. If some religious institutions have come under such scrutiny it is because the NYPD has had a reasonable suspicion that such activities have taken place there. To treat any such investigations as inherently prejudicial not only ignores the duty of the police to follow criminals to their source but also ignores the reality that radical Islamists have found a foothold on our shores.

While I have little doubt that the actions of Kelly and the NYPD will be upheld in the courts against suits brought by critics of their policies, what their opponents are shooting for is just as important as a legal victory: the delegitimization of counter-terrorism work that is willing to address the problem of domestic Islamist terror. That is the agenda pursued by some Arab and Muslim groups that have even counseled their members not to cooperate with the authorities when they investigate terror cases.

But it is even more troubling to see that the FBI is willing to help this cause via leaks and prejudicial anonymous quotes whose purpose is to pursue their rivalry with the NYPD. It should be remembered that such turf wars was one of the principle causes of the failure of the FBI and other authorities in the 9/11 case. To see the FBI revert to this sort of lamentable behavior now in order to settle scores with the NYPD is nothing less than a tragedy.

The NYPD deserves the applause and the gratitude of the city as well as the people of the country as a whole for their sterling work that has served to ferret out potential and actual terror plots. Kelly is resolute in his determination that on his watch, those trusted with defending the safety of New Yorkers will not revert to the sort of September 10th mentality that has characterized many of those who wish to pretend there is no such thing as Islamist terror. We can only hope that the next mayor of New York will empower him and his successors to keep up the good fight to keep the city and the nation safe.

Read Less

John Kerry and the Spy

Scott Shane’s New York Times account of the prosecution of former CIA operative John Kiriakou begins:

Looking back, John C. Kiriakou admits he should have known better. But when the F.B.I. called him a year ago and invited him to stop by and “help us with a case,” he did not hesitate. In his years as a C.I.A. operative, after all, Mr. Kiriakou had worked closely with F.B.I. agents overseas. Just months earlier, he had reported to the bureau a recruiting attempt by someone he believed to be an Asian spy. “Anything for the F.B.I.,” Mr. Kiriakou replied.

Hence, under the pretense of that counterterrorism episode, Kiriakou agreed to speak to the FBI without a lawyer present. What Shane does not describe, however, is the backstory, an episode that reflects on how newly-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry has put his own personal ambition above national security.

Read More

Scott Shane’s New York Times account of the prosecution of former CIA operative John Kiriakou begins:

Looking back, John C. Kiriakou admits he should have known better. But when the F.B.I. called him a year ago and invited him to stop by and “help us with a case,” he did not hesitate. In his years as a C.I.A. operative, after all, Mr. Kiriakou had worked closely with F.B.I. agents overseas. Just months earlier, he had reported to the bureau a recruiting attempt by someone he believed to be an Asian spy. “Anything for the F.B.I.,” Mr. Kiriakou replied.

Hence, under the pretense of that counterterrorism episode, Kiriakou agreed to speak to the FBI without a lawyer present. What Shane does not describe, however, is the backstory, an episode that reflects on how newly-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry has put his own personal ambition above national security.

Kiriakou was serving on Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff when he was allegedly approached by an Asian national who apparently offered him money for information. Kiriakou is not a wealthy man and despite the leaking plea, he is a patriot; he not only refused, but he also apparently reported the contact to the FBI immediately, as all government officials in a similar situation should.

The FBI requested Kiriakou cooperate in an effort to gather evidence on the alleged spy—presumably wear a wire or some such thing—and Kiriakou agreed. Enter Senator Kerry: Fearing any controversy which could envelope him—and a foreign intelligence service seeking confidential information counted in his mind as controversy—Kerry and his Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff director Frank Lowenstein, now with the Podesta Group, forbade any cooperation with the FBI that would prolong an investigation and involve a Kerry staffer cooperating with the FBI.

Problem solved, if the problem is political imagery. But if the problem is defense of national security, then Kerry seems to have decided his own ambition was the greater concern. How unfortunate, then, that he has been rewarded for such a cynical calculation. And how typical it is that The New York Times would not report on the broader issue because it might reflect badly on a politician the paper supports.

Read Less

Justice for Benghazi? Still on Hold

In the wake of the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on 9/11/12, the administration made up for its deceptive accounts of the incident with bloodthirsty avowals that the persons responsible would be hunted to the ends of the earth. Nearly four months later, those promises remain unfulfilled. That stark reality was brought home today by the news that the only known suspect who had been arrested in connection with the terror attack that took the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is no longer in custody. The suspect, a Tunisian named Ali Harzi, was being held in Tunis but was let go even though he is reportedly still considered a suspect by the United States.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland attempted to deflect questions about the investigation today by saying that it was the FBI’s responsibility. But that lame response goes right to the heart of the government’s ongoing failure in this case. The administration has consistently failed to treat Benghazi the way we ought to expect the U.S. government to respond to what was a direct terror attack on a symbol of American sovereignty. Instead of a full-court press from security and intelligence services, it was handed off to an FBI that seems to still be lost in Libya. From the first days during which we were told a fairy tale about the murders being a case of film criticism run amok to the present when questions about an investigation that shows no sign of life are stonewalled, Benghazi remains a fiasco for which there has no been accountability.

Read More

In the wake of the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on 9/11/12, the administration made up for its deceptive accounts of the incident with bloodthirsty avowals that the persons responsible would be hunted to the ends of the earth. Nearly four months later, those promises remain unfulfilled. That stark reality was brought home today by the news that the only known suspect who had been arrested in connection with the terror attack that took the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans is no longer in custody. The suspect, a Tunisian named Ali Harzi, was being held in Tunis but was let go even though he is reportedly still considered a suspect by the United States.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland attempted to deflect questions about the investigation today by saying that it was the FBI’s responsibility. But that lame response goes right to the heart of the government’s ongoing failure in this case. The administration has consistently failed to treat Benghazi the way we ought to expect the U.S. government to respond to what was a direct terror attack on a symbol of American sovereignty. Instead of a full-court press from security and intelligence services, it was handed off to an FBI that seems to still be lost in Libya. From the first days during which we were told a fairy tale about the murders being a case of film criticism run amok to the present when questions about an investigation that shows no sign of life are stonewalled, Benghazi remains a fiasco for which there has no been accountability.

Though reports speak of at least 15 suspects that have been identified in one way or another, the FBI seems no closer to solving the case and bringing the killers to justice then it was months ago when it was not even able to operate on the ground in Benghazi. The Libyan government doesn’t control Benghazi and is unable or unwilling to help U.S. efforts to take down the al-Qaeda-linked network that helped bring off this daring crime. Under those circumstances, one can hardly blame the FBI for its inability to bring the terrorists to justice since it is obviously more of a military problem than an ordinary criminal case. But for all of the tough-guy talk from the president and his foreign policy team about Benghazi, the actual follow-up is beginning to seem more like the aftermath of a 9-1-1 call than a U.S. security priority.

We can hope that given enough time the FBI will eventually make some arrests, allowing the president to say that justice has been done. But something is going to have to change on the ground in Libya before that happens. As it stands, the only administration pledge on justice for Benghazi that has been kept was the one made by Hillary Clinton when she told the father of one of the murdered Americans that the person who made the film that Clinton, Susan Rice and others falsely claimed was responsible for the attack would be jailed. That man has been imprisoned, though reportedly for parole violations rather than for having offended Muslims.  That unfortunate fact is not only a reminder that justice delayed is justice denied but that Obama, Clinton and the rest of the administration involved in the string of bad decisions that led to this debacle have yet to be held accountable for it.

Read Less

“Shirtless FBI Agent” Photo Was a Joke

The Seattle Times got its hands on that much-hyped “Shirtless FBI Agent” photo, and it’s not at all what we were led to believe. Apparently the photo was a joke the agent sent out to multiple friends, including Jill Kelley and a Seattle Times reporter, back in 2010. It shows the agent outside of MacDill Air Force Base, posing in between two SWAT target dummies that look a lot like him. The caption reads: ”Which One’s Fred?”

The Seattle Times, which also interviewed the shirtless agent (real name: Frederick Humphries), reports:

Read More

The Seattle Times got its hands on that much-hyped “Shirtless FBI Agent” photo, and it’s not at all what we were led to believe. Apparently the photo was a joke the agent sent out to multiple friends, including Jill Kelley and a Seattle Times reporter, back in 2010. It shows the agent outside of MacDill Air Force Base, posing in between two SWAT target dummies that look a lot like him. The caption reads: ”Which One’s Fred?”

The Seattle Times, which also interviewed the shirtless agent (real name: Frederick Humphries), reports:

The picture, which was sent to a reporter at The Seattle Times in 2010, was taken following a “hard workout” with the SWAT team at MacDill Air Force Base. He’s posed between a pair of target dummies that have a remarkable likeness to the buff agent. The caption on the photo, which was sent from a personal email account, reads, “Which One’s Fred?” …

Humphries, 47, said he sent the photo to Kelley and others in the fall of 2010, shortly after he had transferred to the Tampa office from Guantánamo Bay, where Humphries had been an FBI liaison to the CIA at the detention facility there.

Indeed, among his friends and associates, Humphries was known to send dumb-joke emails in which the punch line was provided by opening an attached photo.

[Retired FBI agent Charlie] Mandigo confirmed he received a copy of the photo as well and described it as “joking.” The photo was sent from a joint personal email account shared by Humphries’ wife. Humphries said that, at one point, his supervisor posted the picture on an FBI bulletin board as a joke and that his wife, a teacher, has a framed copy.

Unless there’s more to this, the FBI has some explaining to do. Not only is Humphries being investigated for by the Office of Professional Responsibility for what now appears to be a non-issue, but anonymous FBI sources have also spent days dragging his name through the mud by implying the photo was inappropriate and a sign he was “obsessed” with Jill Kelley. Again, maybe there’s something we’re missing, but it’s starting to sound like his infraction was simply being a whistle-blower to Congress. Considering President Obama’s professed support for national security whistle-blower protection, it will be interesting to see what the White House has to say about this.

Read Less

What on Earth Is the FBI Doing?

It is hard to know what to make of FBI agents hauling a computer and crates of documents out of Paula Broadwell’s house as if she were a mafia don or a terrorist kingpin. That the bureau is devoting these kinds of resources to this case suggests that there must not be a lot of crime or terrorism to deal with anymore. What’s going on? My theory: The FBI is on a fishing expedition to justify what looks to be its increasingly untenable decision to treat a few annoying emails, sent by Paula Broadwell to Jill Kelley, as quite literally a federal case.

As the Washington Post notes: “The surprise move by the FBI follows assertions by U.S. officials that the investigation had turned up no evidence of a security breach — a factor that was cited as a reason the Justice Department did not notify the White House before last week that the CIA director had been ensnared in an e-mail inquiry.”

Read More

It is hard to know what to make of FBI agents hauling a computer and crates of documents out of Paula Broadwell’s house as if she were a mafia don or a terrorist kingpin. That the bureau is devoting these kinds of resources to this case suggests that there must not be a lot of crime or terrorism to deal with anymore. What’s going on? My theory: The FBI is on a fishing expedition to justify what looks to be its increasingly untenable decision to treat a few annoying emails, sent by Paula Broadwell to Jill Kelley, as quite literally a federal case.

As the Washington Post notes: “The surprise move by the FBI follows assertions by U.S. officials that the investigation had turned up no evidence of a security breach — a factor that was cited as a reason the Justice Department did not notify the White House before last week that the CIA director had been ensnared in an e-mail inquiry.”

If, in fact, there was no national security breach, then the FBI looks pretty suspect for outing the Petraeus-Broadwell affair, bringing down the CIA director, and causing great personal suffering to both families. So now, it seems, the FBI is intent on proving that there really was some national security justification for this whole investigation—that it wasn’t simply the work, as it appears to be, of one shirtless agent who was overly friendly with Kelley and happy to do her a favor by looking into emails that annoyed her. If press reports are accurate, the new focus of the FBI investigation is whether Broadwell has in her possession classified documents, and if so, whether they came from Petraeus.

Let us stipulate that it is quite possible that Broadwell (whom I don’t know) does have some classified information. If so, there is nothing particularly surprising or threatening about this. There are many different levels of classification and much of the routine paperwork that gets stamped “confidential” or “secret” or “nofor” (no foreign) should not be classified at all. The really sensitive stuff is protected by top secret and code-word clearances. But there is a vast amount of overclassification. To take one obvious example: the CIA has never publicly admitted that its training facility, known as The Farm, is located near Williamsburg, Virginia. If Petraeus were to casually mention its location to Broadwell, he would technically be in breach of the law—even though anyone who wants to know where The Farm is located can look on Wikipedia and find out.

I suspect that Broadwell may have access to such classified but non-sensitive information. So do countless other people who have any connection to the government or military. If the FBI is intent on nailing someone, it can do so by focusing on such trivial breaches. I hope that is not what is happening here.

For all of the investigation going on of Petraeus, Broadwell, Kelley and John Allen, I cannot help but conclude that what we desperately need is an investigation of the investigators. What on earth is the FBI up to? That is a question that Congress should address urgently.

Read Less

Why Is Benghazi Still Being Treated as a Law Enforcement Issue?

It’s been over 20 days since the attack in Libya, and while the Obama administration has finally acknowledged that it was an act of terrorism, it’s still being handled as a law enforcement issue. Reports indicate that the FBI still hasn’t been able to get into Benghazi to investigate, due to security concerns — concerns that are apparently very new, since the consulate was not heavily secured before the attack.

Sen. Bob Corker sent a letter to the administration yesterday, demanding to know when and why the security situation became so perilous in Benghazi that even the FBI could not get to the city:

As of this morning, reports indicate that our well-trained FBI agents still have not been able to get into Benghazi to investigate. Yet just 18 days ago the administration apparently judged that it was appropriate for our consulate to be lightly guarded and it was safe for our ambassador to come through the city with a small security detail. What has changed in Libya in such a short time that even FBI agents, our most elite investigative personnel, cannot safely enter the city?

What has led to such a precipitous decline?

Read More

It’s been over 20 days since the attack in Libya, and while the Obama administration has finally acknowledged that it was an act of terrorism, it’s still being handled as a law enforcement issue. Reports indicate that the FBI still hasn’t been able to get into Benghazi to investigate, due to security concerns — concerns that are apparently very new, since the consulate was not heavily secured before the attack.

Sen. Bob Corker sent a letter to the administration yesterday, demanding to know when and why the security situation became so perilous in Benghazi that even the FBI could not get to the city:

As of this morning, reports indicate that our well-trained FBI agents still have not been able to get into Benghazi to investigate. Yet just 18 days ago the administration apparently judged that it was appropriate for our consulate to be lightly guarded and it was safe for our ambassador to come through the city with a small security detail. What has changed in Libya in such a short time that even FBI agents, our most elite investigative personnel, cannot safely enter the city?

What has led to such a precipitous decline?

Good question. Nobody expected the FBI to be there the next day. But why is it taking weeks to set up a secure area for investigators to operate from?

The FBI has offices in war zones. For years agents have worked alongside combat troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Bureau has an International Fusion Cell, staffed with well-trained agents who have deployed multiple times. And yet Benghazi is too dangerous?

If that’s the case, why is the Obama administration still treating this as a law enforcement issue? Reports indicate the attack was carried out by an al Qaeda-affiliated group, which should give Obama the power to respond with military force under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Terrorists.

By the time the Bureau gets to Benghazi, what exactly will agents be able to do? By all accounts, the crime scene has already been picked over. CNN reporters made it to the consulate before the FBI. This is, frankly, an embarrassment.

The United States is the greatest superpower in the world. Twenty days after a terrorist attack, we’re still waiting for enough security so that the FBI — the best of the best — is safe enough to enter Benghazi and sift through the charred remains of our consulate. Four Americans were murdered, and the terrorists who killed them are still walking around as free men. Where is the urgency?

Read Less

Smearing Reagan Never Goes Out of Style

There is a longstanding tradition on the political left to attack contemporary conservatives by comparing them to the right’s leaders in the past. That means that Republicans who were reviled by liberals during their lifetimes are sometimes treated kindly in retrospect because it serves the political purpose of diminishing the reputations of their successors. But in some precincts of the left, bashing Ronald Reagan never goes out of style.

That’s the motivation for a thin hit piece published in the New York Times Sunday Review under the sensational headline, “Reagan’s Personal Spying Machine.” The conceit of this article is that Ronald Regan “spied” for the FBI against fellow actors in Hollywood and then used the FBI for personal spying on his family. The author’s intent is to shock a public that thinks well of the 40th president as well as to brand Reagan as a hypocrite since he was a proponent of limited government. But the problem here is that there is nothing especially shocking about any of it. Reagan’s principled anti-Communism is well known and is the foundation of his political reputation, not a skeleton in his closet. As for the FBI “spying” on Reagan’s family, this appears to be much ado about nothing and would not have attracted much criticism even if it had been aired when he was running for president.

Read More

There is a longstanding tradition on the political left to attack contemporary conservatives by comparing them to the right’s leaders in the past. That means that Republicans who were reviled by liberals during their lifetimes are sometimes treated kindly in retrospect because it serves the political purpose of diminishing the reputations of their successors. But in some precincts of the left, bashing Ronald Reagan never goes out of style.

That’s the motivation for a thin hit piece published in the New York Times Sunday Review under the sensational headline, “Reagan’s Personal Spying Machine.” The conceit of this article is that Ronald Regan “spied” for the FBI against fellow actors in Hollywood and then used the FBI for personal spying on his family. The author’s intent is to shock a public that thinks well of the 40th president as well as to brand Reagan as a hypocrite since he was a proponent of limited government. But the problem here is that there is nothing especially shocking about any of it. Reagan’s principled anti-Communism is well known and is the foundation of his political reputation, not a skeleton in his closet. As for the FBI “spying” on Reagan’s family, this appears to be much ado about nothing and would not have attracted much criticism even if it had been aired when he was running for president.

Reagan’s cooperation with FBI investigations of Communist cells in Hollywood is something we know about because he spoke about it himself. Though author Seth Rosenfeld claims that newly released government files “flesh out what Reagan only hinted at,” there’s nothing new here. As president of the Screen Actors Guild, Reagan thought it was his duty as a citizen to cooperate with the government. He was right. The Communist Party was not, as it has often been portrayed by the left, a club of well-meaning liberals but a group under the orders of a foreign, totalitarian power actively pursuing subversion. The Soviet Union was at that time not merely a rival of the United States but a tyrannical, anti-Semitic dictatorship intent on smothering freedom. Those who aided its efforts on these shores deserved to be exposed.

That charge may stick with some of the Times’s left-wing readership but not on the rest of the country. Yet Rosenfeld really thinks he’s got the goods on Reagan with his revelations about the future president’s family. It seems that his daughter Maureen moved to Washington at the age of 19 and moved in with a married policeman in 1960. That may not seem like such a big deal to some people today but it shocked both Reagan and his ex-wife, actress Jane Wyman. Through a friend, Reagan reached out to friends in the FBI to find out about the man who was living with his daughter.

The FBI granted the request and did some minimal investigation of a situation that was clearly not a government matter and then reported their findings to the Reagans. As it turns out, Reagan was right to be concerned. Maureen Reagan did marry the cop but eventually revealed that during the brief marriage her spouse beat her. This was an improper use of government personnel and shouldn’t have happened. But the fault here lies not with a worried father desperate for help but with a government agency eager to help a celebrity (this was several years before the start of Reagan’s political career).

The other supposedly shocking tale concerns the other child Reagan adopted with Jane Wyman, his son Michael. It appears that as a young man, Michael Reagan was a friend of Joseph Bonanno Jr., the son of a mafia boss. Joe Junior wasn’t in the family business and Michael doesn’t appear to have done anything criminal either. But Bonanno was subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney to testify about his father. In 1965, some in the FBI team investigating the mafia thought to interview Ronald Reagan about anything his son might have told him about his friend’s family. But, according to the files, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover told his agents not to try and gather any hearsay from the actor but merely tell him that his son was in bad company.

While this is an interesting tale, again there is no evidence of wrongdoing here on Reagan’s part or even on Hoover’s, though perhaps the mere mention of that liberal boogeyman is supposed to horrify readers.

Rosenfeld concludes by saying that Reagan’s cozy relationship with the FBI was confirmed when he asked the agency for a briefing about campus radicals once he became governor of California later in the decade. As Rosenfeld put it, Reagan then used the government to spy on “other people’s children” by seeking FBI help in coping with violent demonstrations at the University of California. Hoover complied and shared the bureau’s domestic surveillance files:

Here was Ronald Reagan, avowed opponent of overdependence on government, again taking personal and political help from Hoover.

Perhaps now and then we all need a little help from Big Brother.

This piece of snark will, no doubt, elicit a chuckle from the left. The FBI’s practice of compiling files on anyone that piqued Hoover’s interest was wrong but there were some people who deserved scrutiny. Violent campus radicals were a threat to public safety as the victims of Weathermen bombings and shooting attacks would learn in subsequent years. In both the 1940s and the 1960s, Reagan was right to align himself against those who sought to tear down American democracy. Neither those incidents nor any concern about his family damages his reputation in the least.

If this is the best the Times can do to trash a conservative icon of the past, they should stick to their lame attempts to besmirch the reputations of his successors, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

Read Less

Anarchist Bomb Plot Thwarted in Cleveland

Certainly this teachable moment will put an end to all the heated, class-warfare rhetoric we’ve been hearing lately:

The FBI arrested five men Monday evening, saying they had planted what were believed to be explosive devices under the Ohio 82 bridge over Cuyahoga Valley National Park as part of a May Day protest today.

The five men were “self-proclaimed anarchists,” who intended to detonate two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) under the bridge in Sagamore Hills, but had purchased the inert devices from undercover FBI agents, officials said.

Read More

Certainly this teachable moment will put an end to all the heated, class-warfare rhetoric we’ve been hearing lately:

The FBI arrested five men Monday evening, saying they had planted what were believed to be explosive devices under the Ohio 82 bridge over Cuyahoga Valley National Park as part of a May Day protest today.

The five men were “self-proclaimed anarchists,” who intended to detonate two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) under the bridge in Sagamore Hills, but had purchased the inert devices from undercover FBI agents, officials said.

The FBI press release identifies the five men arrested – according to Breitbart.com two of them may be Occupy organizers – and provides more details on the plot hatched by the anarchist group:

According to that complaint, [Douglas] Wright,[Brandon] Baxter, and [Anthony] Hayne are self-proclaimed anarchists who formed into a small group and considered a series of evolving plots over several months.

The initial plot involved the use of smoke grenades to distract law enforcement in order for the co-conspirators to topple financial institution signs atop high rise buildings in downtown Cleveland, according to the complaint.

The plot later developed to the utilization of explosive materials. The defendants conspired to obtain C-4 explosives contained in two improvised explosive devices to be placed and remotely detonated, according to the complaint.

How intent were these anarchists on actually carrying out the attack? According to the FBI, the suspects had actually planted the explosive devices (inert ones purchased from undercover agents) and attempted to detonate them before they were arrested.

The left wonders why Moveon.org has been trying so desperately to co-opt the Occupy movement before it fully emerges for the spring. This is why. Moveon.org realizes that the Occupy movement could be highly useful for energizing progressive voters to vote Democrat. But for that to happen, Occupy leadership can’t be cooking up bomb plots, ignoring widespread rape on campsites, and destroying public property.

It’s been said a million times in a million different stories, but imagine if this had been related to the Tea Party. The plot would be pinned on the entire conservative movement, Republican lawmakers would be asked by the media to publicly condemn the Tea Party, and President Obama would suddenly find time in his schedule for one of his rare press conferences. That’s not to say that Democrats, or the progressive movement as a whole, should be blamed for this incident. But an acknowledgement of the double standard from the media would be nice.

Read Less