Defense Secretary Nominee Commited War Crimes in Iraq

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for defense secretary, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, faces his Senate confirmation hearing today. This comes as House Democrats are threatening to revolt over the waiver needed for Mattis to serve as defense secretary, after the Trump transition team blocked him from testifying before the House Armed Services Committee. Mattis only retired from the military in 2013, meaning he needs Congress to waive rules requiring defense secretaries to be civilians for seven or more years after leaving the military. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has said she’ll vote against the waiver for General Mattis, saying, “Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and I will not vote for an exception to this rule.”

James Mattis reportedly received his nickname “Mad Dog” Mattis after leading U.S. troops during the 2004 battle of Fallujah in Iraq. He enlisted in the Marines at 19, fought in the Persian Gulf War, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, where he served as major general. In May 2004, Mattis ordered an airstrike in a small Iraqi village that hit a wedding, killing about 42 people who were attending the wedding ceremony. Mattis went on to lead the U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, but the Obama administration cut short his tour over concerns General Mattis was too hawkish on Iran, reportedly calling for a series of covert actions there. Mattis has drawn criticism over his apparent celebration of killing, including saying in 2005 about the Taliban, “It’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them”.

Aaron Glantz talking:

James Mattis got the nickname “Mad Dog” for his command responsibility as a general during the April 2004 siege of Fallujah. This was a battle that I covered as an unembedded journalist, where the U.S. Marine Corps killed so many people, so many civilians, that the municipal soccer stadium of that city had to be turned into a graveyard. U.S. Marines there shot at ambulances. They shot at aid workers. They cordoned off the city and prevented civilians from fleeing. Some marines posed for trophy photos with the people that they killed.

And what we say in the story is that all of these events that occurred in Fallujah when James Mattis was the commanding general are the same sort of events that other commanders in other countries have been convicted of war crimes for, including General Yamashita, who was a general in World War II for the Japanese, who was tried and executed by a U.S. military tribunal, and his execution was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. We found that James Mattis likely committed similar war crimes.

He, when that assault happened—and, importantly, he argued against the attack beforehand. And he said, very presciently, that so many civilians would be killed, that it would be ultimately damaging to the U.S. military’s overall occupation effort. But once that attack was launched, that’s exactly what happened. There was massive outcry across the Arab world, including in Iraq, a rise of insurgency across the country and a complete devastation of the city. I remember walking through the city shortly after the Marines pulled out, and there were rotting bodies all over the streets, because during the actual siege, U.S. Marine snipers would shoot at anyone who was outside, so people were afraid to go and bury the dead. Shopping centers were destroyed. And this gets to an important issue of disproportionality.

This whole assault was launched because of the killing of four Blackwater security contractors. And, you know, in response, James Mattis leveled the city.

The very important legal doctrine in the United States of America and around the world is the doctrine of command responsibility. If you have a large-scale atrocity that takes place, the commanding general of the operation is held responsible. We held General Yamashita, who was the commanding general in the Japanese Army of a number of operations in the Philippines, under this standard back in World War II, and we executed him. And his execution was upheld by the Supreme Court. Legal scholars that I’ve talked to said the same standard applies to General Mattis. And so we have to look very closely at his command of the U.S. Marine Corps in Fallujah, which is an event that I covered in 2004 as an unembedded journalist. And in that battle, U.S. marines, under his command, killed so many people—one U.N. estimate says 90 percent of them were civilians—that the municipal football stadium of the city had to be turned into a graveyard. Marines shot at ambulances. Marines shot at aid workers. Marines posed with trophy photos with the dead that they had killed. All of these are things that Mattis could be tried for, potentially, for war crimes. And he is Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense.

In addition, we also spoke about his role as the convening authority of trials for marines in other cases—the Haditha massacre, the Hamdania massacre—where he wiped away or granted clemency to people who were already convicted, freeing them from prison, for atrocities. And if a person in his kind of command responsibility allows others to get off the hook for war crimes, that’s also something that he could be held culpable for, held accountable for. And, you know, it would be my hope that in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and perhaps in follow-on hearings in the House, if they occur, regarding the waiver that he’s going to need to get to become secretary of defense, that James Mattis be asked to explain himself regarding the actions that we’ve been discussing.

He has been very vocal in saying that he supports the Geneva Convention. He has been an advocate against torture. Donald Trump emerged from a meeting with him and began to back off his support for the practice of waterboarding, after listening to General Mattis. But you also have to look at what happens when General Mattis is in the field. And what we saw in Fallujah and in other instances in Iraq is that when General Mattis is in the field, often he allows his marines to go well beyond what is normally permitted in the law of war.

In Fallujah. a wedding party that was bombed on his call in western Iraq not long after that, where he later told a Marine historian, Bing West, that he deliberated less than 30 seconds over whether to carry it out, simply because it was in the middle of the desert. And then, you know, the Associated Press later obtained footage that showed that there was indeed a wedding party, where dozens of civilians were killed. Later, as James Mattis moved up the chain of command, was no longer a field commander in Iraq, he became a convening authority in a number of tribunals involving war crimes committed by marines in the country, including the most famous massacre that occurred during the Iraq War, the Haditha massacre, where a number of marines went on a killing spree in the town of Haditha after one of their comrades was killed. They killed dozens of people in a number of houses, and charges were brought. And as the general overseeing the entire court-martial process, General Mattis dismissed charges against three of the perpetrators, and ultimately no one charged with that massacre of dozens of Iraqis was—spent a single day in prison.

when that massacre happened in 2005, nobody on the ground reported it. And it wasn’t until the story was broken sometime later by Time magazine that the Marine Corps even investigated what happened. Then, following the investigation, charges were brought against the Marine squad that committed the crimes that were described in the video. She mentioned that charges were dismissed against six of the accused. Mattis himself was responsible for three of those dismissals. Ultimately, only one person was convicted, who was the supposed ringleader of the operation, and he did not serve one day behind bars, although he did tell the court that he regretted telling the other marines to shoot first and ask questions later.

Mattis should be asked about what his marines did in Fallujah. I think that he should be asked if he was aware of the scale of civilian casualties—over 600 people killed, and, you know, official Marine Corps estimate is 220 civilians in just the first two weeks of the fighting, there was a U.N. official at the time who estimated that 90 percent of the people killed were civilians—if he’s aware of those deaths, if he thinks they’re proportional, if he thinks the destruction of the city was proportional to the killing of the four Blackwater security contractors. I think he should be asked about the other activities that I described—the shooting at ambulances, the shooting at aid workers, if he was aware of it. If he was aware of it, you know, how does he justify it? If he wasn’t aware of it as the military commander in the field with command responsibility, does he think he should have been?

And in these other cases—we talked about the wedding party, we talked about the Haditha massacre—there’s another massacre where he was also the convening authority, the Hamdania massacre, which was broken by The Washington Post, where a group of marines pulled a disabled Iraqi out of his house, shot him four times in the face and then framed him by planting a shovel and a machine gun next to him to make him look like an insurgent. In that case, General Mattis intervened to free some of the marines from prison, granting them clemency. I think he should be asked to explain himself for his actions and how all of the actions that we’ve been discussing comport with his well-known advocacy for the Geneva Conventions and international law.

James Mattis needs to be confirmed by the Senate, right? In our system of government, presidential appointees need to be confirmed by the Senate. But because he has not been out of the military for seven years, he needs Congress to change a law—and, you know, which is something that hasn’t been done since the Korean War—and allow a recently retired general to become head of the Defense Department, make an exception to our long-held belief in civilian control of the military, for him. The Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee were expecting that he would testify before the House Armed Services Committee on a hearing over whether Congress should grant that waiver. The Trump administration pulled him back, and now the members of the House on the Democratic side are very upset and saying that they may try to hold up his waiver, which would also hold up his confirmation.

If you look at somebody like General Mattis, he’s incredibly well respected within the military community. He’s a marine’s marine. They call him a warrior monk. I’ve received a lot of backlash for my article from members of the military who revere him. There is an idea, though, that we have in our government, that somebody like General Mattis, who, you know, as we’ve been talking about, in Fallujah, is a good soldier and will do anything possible to get the job done, no matter how many people end up dead, that there should be a civilian check on that in a democracy. We have made exceptions to this before. General Marshall was appointed by Harry Truman during the Korean War, and Congress granted that waiver. But it has not happened since then. And it is a big deal for Congress to consider. And the Democrats in the House said, “Look, before we approve this waiver for General Mattis, we would at least like to hear from him and be able to ask him questions.”

And there are some other questions that Democrats want to ask General Mattis, and may be asked in the Senate confirmation hearing today, that have nothing to do with the issues that we’ve been discussing around war crimes. He has expressed an opposition to allowing women in combat roles. He expressed opposition to allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military at one point.

the book that he co-edited came out very recently. The comments about women in combat also happened very recently, were given in a speech in the Marines’ Memorial in San Francisco. So, these are not statements that he made in the 1980s. You know, these are statements that he made during the Obama administration. And also, you know, we have to remember that President Obama removed him early, as you mentioned at the outset, as the commanding general of Central Command because of his very hawkish position on Iran. And it’s rare, you know, for a president to remove a general from a command before his term is up in that way. So, I would imagine that we might hear members of the Senate today, and perhaps, if he does appear before the House, members of the House also, asking him about, you know, some of his hawkish beliefs.

Of course, all of this is mollified by the fact that some of the same Democrats who are very concerned about him are even more concerned about General Michael Flynn, who is Donald Trump’s national security adviser designee, who doesn’t have to be confirmed at all and has said that, you know, ISIS wants to drink our blood and that we’re already involved in a Third World War. So, Mattis looks pretty conservative by comparison to Flynn. And that’s just the world that we live in.

Iran nuclear deal is been a little bit unclear. You know, he was—he’s critical of it in general. The more important question, I think, for us now is, going forward—and it’s the same question that we have for the Trump administration in general—you know, Donald Trump, as with many agreements signed by President Obama, has criticized it mightily. But now, you know, we’re hearing that General Mattis might be of the opinion that we might want to just hold them to it very, very aggressively, rather than throwing it out. And perhaps we’ll get some clarity on that during his confirmation hearing.

I think the veterans’ community breathed a huge sigh of relief with the appointment of Mr. Shulkin as VA secretary. This is a man who was appointed to the position of undersecretary of VA for healthcare by President Obama. He is a well-respected doctor. He’s well respected in the veterans’ community. As you mentioned, he’s not a veteran. But veterans’ groups were extremely concerned about the possibility, given Trump’s campaign rhetoric, of a wholesale privatization of the VA. And they were concerned, many of them, about the floating of the name of Pete Hegseth, who founded a group funded by the Koch brothers called Concerned Veterans of America, which was advocating towards privatization. And, you know, by and large, the opinion of veterans’ groups is, while some private care is welcome, especially when you can’t get into the VA, that a privatization of the VA system would be a disaster for veterans. And so, with the appointment of Shulkin, it seems like Trump—you know, it’s likely private care will be expanded, but possibly not at the expense of the core mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
____

Aaron Glantz
senior reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

— source democracynow.org

Wealthiest Cabinet in U.S. History

A barrage of Senate confirmation hearings is set to begin Tuesday for what could be the wealthiest Cabinet in modern American history. This comes despite concerns that ethics clearances and background checks are incomplete for several of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks. Senator Jeff Sessions faces questions Tuesday for his nomination as attorney general, along with Trump’s pick to head Homeland Security, retired Marine General John Kelly. On Wednesday, hearings are set for former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, along with education secretary [nominee] Betsy DeVos, Transportation Secretary nominee Elaine Chao and CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo.

Tillerson’s net worth is at least $300 million, and several other nominees hold assets of more than a billion dollars, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose confirmation hearing is on Thursday. As Cabinet appointees, the nominees are required to submit a financial disclosure report that’s used by the agencies they’re to take over, along with the Office of Government Ethics. The New York Times reports some of the nominees have so many assets, there are not enough boxes on the standard form for them.

The head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, wrote in a letter to Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts that, quote, “This schedule has created undue pressure on [the Office of Government Ethics’] staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews.” Senator Warren later tweeted, quote, “Cabinet officials must put our country’s interests before their own. No conference hearings should be held until we’re certain that’s the case,” she tweeted. Trump’s transition team responded with a statement: quote, “In the midst of a historic election where Americans voted to drain the swamp, it is disappointing some have chosen to politicize the process,” unquote. This comes as NBC reports it requested emails between the Office of Government Ethics and Trump’s transition team and found Shaub had emailed Trump aides in November to say, quote, “We seem to have lost contact with the Trump-Pence transition since the election.”

Richard Painter talking:

we have historic elections for the office of president of the United States every four years and a transition from one president to another at least every eight years. So we’ve all been through this process before, and so has the Office of Government Ethics. The Office of Government Ethics has been spending at least a year preparing for the transition that is taking place right now. But it’s critically important for the nominees to have finished their Form 278, which is the financial disclosure form that lays out what their assets are and what their sources of income are, and then also to have entered into an ethics agreement with the agency that they’re going to go into that specifies what assets are going to be sold in order to avoid conflicts of interest and what matters, government matters, they are going to have to recuse from in order to avoid financial conflicts of interest with respect to the remaining assets.

This is critically important because there is a criminal conflict of interest statute that prohibits any executive branch official from participating in a matter in which that person has a financial interest. So they either need to sell assets or recuse. We cannot have people who are going to be having leadership positions, with respect to national security, with substantial investments or any investments in Turkey, Russia, Indonesia—countries that are strategically very sensitive for the United States. We can’t have a secretary of education who’s invested in the for-profit education business. These are investments that are going to have to be divested in order for the person to do their job.

And the job of the Office of Government Ethics is to make absolutely sure that happens and to work with the nominees and their lawyers before the Senate confirmation hearings begin, so the senators see exactly what the assets are, what the sources of income are and what the plan is with respect to addressing conflicts of interest. And that’s what they’ve done with Rex Tillerson, and I believe they have a plan ready to go. The assets are fully disclosed. So I think the Senate can have that hearing.

But I understand that with respect to some of the others, that they do not have a complete Form 278. They do not have an ethics agreement in place. And those hearings will have to wait. This is exactly the point that Senator Mitch McConnell made in 2009 when he wrote a letter to Senator Harry Reid about it. We can’t have the hearings until we have the financial disclosure forms and the ethics agreement. And Senator McConnell was exactly right on that. So that’s what they need to do now, is make sure they have those agreements and those financial disclosure forms in place before they have the hearings.

Robert Weissman talking:

I think what we’re seeing with the failure to comply with these ethics rules is a reiteration of what we knew early on after the election, which is we’re going to see the most corrupt administration in the history of the United States. And we’re going to see now two kinds of corruption, one that is extremely likely because of the failure to take ethics rules seriously, which is scandals and violation of the law. I mean, the reason you do this stuff in advance is to avoid breaking the criminal statutes that Professor Painter is referring to. It’s actually to help the Cabinet officials themselves. And it’s also to give the Senate its only opportunity to actually enforce these rules.

The second kind of corruption, which is guaranteed—100 percent guaranteed—is the revolving door kind of corruption. So we have all kinds of people coming in from corporate America—billionaires, huge contributors—and they’re going to rule on matters that directly relate to corporate interests, their own personal interests, whether or not they have—are going to be transgressing the conflict of interest rules. So we have the amazing spectacle of the former CEO of Exxon nominated to be secretary of state. You know, Exxon runs its own foreign policy; now Exxon is effectively taking over the foreign policy of the United States.

At the Department of Labor, not up this week, I think, we have Andy Puzder, fast-food chain mogul, about the worst possible place to look for someone to enforce labor laws, now proposed to enforce national labor laws. At the Environmental Protection Agency, we have Scott Pruitt, the attorney general from Oklahoma, who has sued the agency, who has written letters on behalf of oil companies, drafted by oil companies, attacking EPA regulations, now proposed to run the agency. And you go on down the list, and it’s kind of endless. Each one of these people, by themselves, would be an outrage in any other administration. But the totality of what we’re seeing from the Trump administration has no precedent in American history.

Tom Price is a member of Congress. He has been nominated to run the Department of Health and Human Services. It turns out he’s been an active trader in pharmaceutical stocks. Thanks to a recently passed law, members of Congress are required to disclose what they trade and when. And we’ve seen that his stock trades seem to correlate very closely with another member of Congress, Representative Collins. Representative Collins sits on the board and owns a one-sixth share in a small Australian biotech company called Innate Immuno. And Representative Price has also traded in this penny stock from Australia, that very few people ever would have heard of, at moments that correlate closely with the trades by Representative Price—by Representative Collins.

So we don’t know for sure that something is wrong here, but it doesn’t look good, and it certainly merits an investigation. We’ve actually—Public Citizen has called on the Office of Congressional Ethics, the thing that was being attacked last week, to undertake that investigation. And we think that investigation ought to take place before Mr. Price is confirmed for the Department of Health and Human Services. You just don’t want people who are transgressing ethics rules as a matter of course in charge of these vitally important agencies.

I think there’s a few things happening, but I think the biggest one is that President Trump—President-elect Trump has shown his utter disregard and lack of concern for ethics rules as regards himself. And, you know, just like Meryl Streep was saying in those remarks last night, what the president-elect does and the president-to-be does, that filters down. So members of Congress figure, “Ethics rules don’t matter for him. Why should they matter for—why should we be bothered with them? Let’s get rid of this pesky agency that actually enforces them.” And the Senate Republicans figure, “Why should we bother with having these tough ethics reviews from the Office of Government Ethics, if this kind of standard doesn’t apply to the president-elect and maybe he’s able to get away with it?” Now, I think, actually, that’s a miscalculation. They’re not going to be able to get away with it, as we saw last week. And even if they do momentarily, it’s going to come back to bite them, because we’re guaranteed to see multiple scandals because of their casual disregard for ethics standards.

Richard Painter talking:

This is critical to the integrity of our government and avoiding violation of a criminal conflict of interest statute that prohibits a government official from participating in any matter that has a direct or predictable effect on that government official’s financial position. And so, Senator McConnell was absolutely right in 2009 when he wrote that letter to Senator Reid. This is not just some procedural posturing. This is all about conflicts of interest. And we need to make absolutely sure that we don’t have them in this administration, just like we did in the last administration and in the Bush administration. There needs to be proper vetting of the nominees for financial conflicts of interest before they go in.

And that’s happened with some of them. Rex Tillerson has disclosed his assets, and he has disclosed that he’s going to sell the oil company stock. And so far as I’m concerned, from the financial conflicts of interest perspective, that clears him to go into the hearing and then discuss his views on such critically important issues as global warming, which I understand he actually believes in the fact that there is global warming, which anybody but an idiot, of course, would believe by 2017. But that may put him in the top half of the class at the Trump University there. So, let’s give him a chance, now that he’s made his disclosures and divestment decisions.

But every one of these nominees has to do the same. And the president of the United States himself should set the right example by divesting himself of his own assets that create conflicts of interest. We’re looking forward to an announcement on that this week. And I will give President Trump—President-elect Trump credit for last week having blasted the United States House of Representatives for that absurd plan to abolish the Office of Congressional Ethics. They didn’t get that idea from him. They’ve been planning that for a long time, because they don’t like being investigated. And I think the voters ought to find out whether their congressmen voted for that. I know my congressman voted for getting rid of the Office of Congressional Ethics, and we’re going to hold them accountable in 2018, because that’s unacceptable.

Carl Icahn—the position the transition is taking right now with respect to Carl Icahn is that he is not going to be a government employee. Well, that’s just wrong. If he is going to be advising the president and be given a title and advising the president as to who the next chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission is going to be, who the top regulators are going to be, he needs to disclose his assets and divest from the assets that create conflicts of interest. And you can’t just get around a criminal statute by saying, “Well, he’s not a government employee, because he doesn’t want to get paid.” He’d rather go in there and influence government policy with respect to his billions of dollars’ worth of assets. That doesn’t get around the criminal conflict of interest statute. So Carl Icahn needs to either be a government employee, subject to the same rules as everyone else, or he needs to butt out.

And I would ask every single person who is put up for a position, who has had communications with Carl Icahn, including the new nominee for the Securities and Exchange Commission—the senators need to ask specifically what conversations took place with Carl Icahn. He has no business helping choose these nominees and performing United States government functions, when he’s not going to be a United States government employee. And the senators need to know exactly what’s going on and should refuse to confirm those nominees.

he’s a well-known corporate raider and skirts very close to the edge of rules with respect to the securities laws that are enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission. I don’t understand why a president would put Carl Icahn in charge of choosing who the next SEC chair is going to be. And I want to know exactly what was said between the nominee, Mr. Clayton, and Mr. Icahn, before I even think about a confirmation vote on that one. Same with the energy sector and everything else. He owns a lot of energy companies that would like to see everything get deregulated over there, so he can make more money. Well, that may or may not be in the public interest.

Once again, if he is going to get involved in the United States government decision-making and advising the White House, he needs to be a United States government employee. He needs to file a financial disclosure form like everybody else and divest of the conflict-creating assets, or he’s going to end up violating criminal statute. And they’re not going to get around that simply by saying he’s not a United States government employee. They can say that all they want, but if he’s functioning as a U.S. government employee, he has to follow the rules.

Robert Weissman talking:

it’s going to be a test for the Republicans to see if they’re willing to say, “Look, they’re not following the rules. We’re not going to let this thing proceed.” And so far, it looks pretty bad.

it’s during the committee process that you have a chance to really hold them accountable. And, you know, this Carl Icahn example shows why the rules are so important and why Mitch McConnell is so wrong. These are not just procedural technicalities. Carl Icahn is not just making—giving advice on matters that relate to enriching him personally, although he is doing that, because he’s got huge stakes in the oil and gas industry, and he wants to get that regulated. And as Richard Painter was saying, he plays fast and loose with the SEC rules, and he wants to make sure those aren’t too toughly enforced either. But he is giving advice on broad matters of policy that will materially affect all Americans, including by worsening the prospect of climate change. So these are not just technical matters, that, you know—picayune rules that are kind of a pain to follow. They go to broad policy questions. And that’s why it’s so important that they be enforced. That’s why it’s so important that the traditions be respected. It’s why it’s so important that the committees have a chance to delve into these matters before they take votes. And it’s why we’re on course for the most scandal-prone and corrupt administration in American history.

folks can go to CorporpateCabinet.org and get a quick look at some of these worst nominees and their conflicts. Of course, we’re trying, with many others, to mobilize opposition across the board, including to many of the worst, most conflicted and corrupt picks.
____

Richard Painter
professor of corporate law at the University of Minnesota. He was the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from February 2005 to July 2007.

Robert Weissman
president of Public Citizen, which has just launched the CorporateCabinet.org website, tracking the corporate connections and conflicts of interest of Trump Cabinet appointees.

— source democracynow.org

Trump Fires Acting Attorney General After She Defies Muslim Ban Order

President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday night, just hours after she announced the Justice Department would not defend Trump’s executive order banning temporarily all refugees, as well as all citizens, from the seven Muslim-majority nations Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Yates had written a memo saying, “I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.” Yates had served in the Justice Department for 27 years. Trump had asked her to serve as acting attorney general until the Senate confirmed Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is a close ally of Trump.

— source democracynow.org

70% of ministry’s budget released, claims tribal affairs minister

Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram has said that 70 per cent of his ministry’s budget for 2016-17 has been released. In a press conference, he also claimed that the ministry has paid special attention to implement the Forest Rights Act—about 16.78 lakh individual titles have been granted over an area of 55.43 lakh acres of forest land. Oram added that 48,192 community titles have been distributed over an area of about 47 lakh acres of forest land.

— source downtoearth.org.in

DOJ official gave Clinton camp ‘heads up’ about email filing

A senior Department of Justice official gave Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman a “heads up” about new developments related to Clinton’s email use as secretary of state, according to hacked emails published Wednesday by WikiLeaks.

In May of 2015, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik emailed Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta to tell him about potential developments at an impending congressional hearing, as well as about a new development in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for the emails Clinton turned over to the State Department from her private account.

In an email from Kadzik’s personal account titled “Heads up,” he wrote: “There is a [House Judiciary Committee] oversight hearing today where the head of our Civil Division will testify. Likely to get questions on State Department emails. Another filing in the FOIA case went in last night or will go in this am that indicates it will be awhile (2016) before the State Department posts the emails.”

Podesta forwarded the email to a cadre of top Clinton aides, adding: “Additional chances for mischief.”

It appears Kadzik was referencing a subcommittee hearing on “Ongoing Oversight: Monitoring the Activities of the Justice Department’s Civil, Tax and Environment and Natural Resources Divisions and the U.S. Trustee Program.” Four DOJ officials testified at the hearing, which was publicly announced.

The WikiLeaks revelation comes as Kadzik is in the middle of another flare-up over Clinton’s email, after FBI Director James Comey Friday informed Congress of possible new developments in the case.

“We assure you that the Department will continue to work closely with the FBI and together, dedicate all necessary resource and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible,” Kadzik wrote in letters to Congress on Monday.

Podesta and Kadzik have a longstanding relationship. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, Kadzik provided legal representation to Podesta during the probe that ultimately led to revelations of Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinski. In a separate hacked email published by WikiLeaks, Podesta said Kadzik “kept me out of jail.”

Previous WikiLeaks emails have shown an ongoing friendship between Kadzik and Podesta. They, along with other friends, had dinner together the day after Clinton testified before a House panel about the 2012 attacks on a U.S. facility in Benghazi.

Trump seized on the hacked email at a rally in Miami Wednesday.

“In a newly released email, through WikiLeaks again, we learned that Kadzik was feeding information about the investigation into the Clinton campaign,” Trump said. “And that Kadzik said, ‘It will be awhile before the State Department posts the emails.’”

“These are the people that want to run our country, folks,” Trump added. “The spread of political agendas into the Justice Department — there’s never been a thing like this that has happened in our country’s history — is one of the saddest things that has happened to our country.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Clinton’s campaign has declined to comment on the veracity of the WikiLeaks emails, accusing the site of working to aid Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

— source politico.com By Matthew Nussbaum

When CIA and NSA Workers Blow the Whistle, Congress Plays Deaf

Do the committees that oversee the vast U.S. spying apparatus take intelligence community whistleblowers seriously? Do they earnestly investigate reports of waste, fraud, abuse, professional negligence, or crimes against the Constitution reported by employees or contractors working for agencies like the CIA or NSA? For the last 20 years, the answer has been a resounding “no.”

My own experience in 1995-96 is illustrative. Over a two-year period working with my wife, Robin (who was a CIA detailee to a Senate committee at the time), we discovered that, contrary to the public statements by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell and other senior George H. W. Bush administration officials (including CIA Director John Deutch), American troops had in fact been exposed to chemical agents during and after the 1991 war with Saddam Hussein. While the Senate Banking Committee under then-Chairman Don Riegle, D-Mich., was trying to uncover the truth of this, officials at the Pentagon and CIA were working to bury it.

At the CIA, I objected internally — and was immediately placed under investigation by the CIA’s Office of Security. That became clear just days after we delivered the first of our several internal briefings to increasingly senior officials at the CIA and other intelligence agencies. In February 1995, I received a phone call from CIA Security asking whether I’d had any contacts with the media. I had not, but I had mentioned to CIA officials we’d met with that I knew that the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” was working on a piece about the Gulf War chemical cover-up. This call would not be the last I’d receive from CIA Security about the matter, nor the only action the agency would take against us.

In the spring of 1995, a former manager of Robin’s discreetly pulled her aside and said that CIA Security agents were asking questions about us, talking to every single person with or for whom either of us had worked. I seemed to be the special focus of their attention, and the last question they asked our friends, colleagues, and former managers was, “Do you believe Pat Eddington would allow his conscience to override the secrecy agreement he signed?”

The agency didn’t care about helping to find out why hundreds of thousands of American Desert Storm veterans were ill. All it cared about was whether I’d keep my mouth shut about what the secret documents and reports in its databases had to say about the potential or actual chemical exposures to our troops.

Seeing the writing on the wall, I began working on what would become a book about our experience: “Gassed in the Gulf.” The agency tried to block publication of the book and attempted to reclassify hundreds of previously declassified Department of Defense and CIA intelligence reports that helped us make our case. After I filed a lawsuit, the agency yielded. We left and became whistleblowers, our story a front-page sensation just days before the 1996 presidential election. Within six months, the CIA was forced to admit that it had indeed been withholding data on such chemical exposures, which were a possible cause of the post-war illnesses that would ultimately affect about one-third of the nearly 700,000 U.S. troops who served in Kuwait and Iraq. None of the CIA or Pentagon officials who perpetrated the cover-up were fired or prosecuted.

Around this time, a small, dedicated group of NSA employees was trying to solve another national security problem: how to make it possible for the government to eavesdrop successfully in the age of the internet.

Led by NSA crypto-mathematician Bill Binney, the team developed an ingenious technical program called ThinThread, which allowed the NSA to process incoming surveillance information but segregate and discard the communications of innocent Americans. The program was innovative, cheap, and badly needed. But just months before the 9/11 attacks, then-NSA Director Michael Hayden rejected ThinThread in favor of an untested, expensive alternative called Trailblazer, offered by a Washington, D.C.-based defense contractor. It became a pricey boondoggle that never produced a single piece of intelligence.

Enraged that a program they believed could have prevented the 9/11 attacks had been jettisoned, Binney and his colleagues privately approached the House Intelligence Committee. When that failed to produce results, they issued a formal complaint to the Defense Department’s inspector general.

The subsequent investigation validated the allegations of the NSA ThinThread team. But in spite of this vindication, all who had filed the complaint were subsequently investigated by the FBI on bogus charges of leaking classified information. The episode is now the subject of an Office of Special Counsel whistleblower reprisal investigation, involving former NSA senior manager and ThinThread proponent Tom Drake. I have read the Defense Department inspector general report, which is still almost completely classified, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking its declassification. The Pentagon has stonewalled my request for more than a year and a half.

Congress has made no effort to investigate any of this.

Within the small, tight-knit circle of ex-intelligence community whistleblowers and the nonprofit organizations that work on their behalf, the ThinThread/Trailblazer case became infamous. By early 2013, it had come to the attention of a young NSA contractor named Edward Snowden, who had surreptitiously collected damaging proof that the NSA had taken the very technology that Binney and his team had developed and turned it inward, on the American public.

After blowing the whistle to multiple news organizations, Snowden made clear that the terrible experience of the NSA ThinThread team had led him to believe that taking his concerns to Congress would be pointless. Given the subsequent revelations by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., that they privately objected to the George W. Bush administration’s domestic spying program but did nothing to stop it, Snowden’s decision was entirely rational.

In September 2016, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., released a three-page summary of a classified 36-page “damage assessment” on Snowden’s revelations. Although it claimed that Snowden’s disclosures had “caused tremendous damage to national security,” the committee produced no evidence that the leaks had led to the death of a single American. The committee did imply that Snowden had given American secrets to the Russians — an allegation no prosecutor involved in the case has made and not contained in the Justice Department’s indictment against him.

Most outrageously, the committee claimed that laws at the time provided protection for Snowden to blow the whistle through official channels. That’s false. Legal safeguards for contractors working for the NSA and other spy agencies existed in pilot form between 2008 and 2012. When they were up for renewal in the annual Defense Department policy bill in 2013, they were rejected — by the House Intelligence Committee.

We now live in a country where the committees charged with reining in excessive domestic spying instead too often act as apologists and attack dogs for the agencies they are charged with regulating. As a result, it’s pretty clear that those intelligence agencies — and not the elected representatives of the American people — are really running the show in Washington.

— source theintercept.com By Patrick Eddington