Tag Archives: transparency

Rand Paul Unveils Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Transparency Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, [presidential candidate] U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), U.S. Representatives Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and former U.S. Senator Bob Graham (D-Fl.) stood today with family members of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to announce new bipartisan legislation, S.1471, known as the Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act of 2015.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would require President Obama to declassify and make available to the public the redacted 28 pages from the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 2001, which have been obscured from the public for more than 13 years. Also participating in the press conference was Terry Strada, National Chair of the 9/11 Families and Survivors United For Justice Against Terrorism, her daughter Kaitlyn Strada, and Abraham Scott, husband of a victim of the 9/11 attacks.

I stand with my colleagues today to call for the release of the final 28 pages of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. I firmly believe the family members of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have the right to know the details surrounding the tragedies that occurred on that sad day. The American people deserve a government that instills trust and a restoration of their sense of security, and I believe that the Transparency for the Families of the 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act is a step in the right direction,” Senator Paul said.

I introduced H. Res. 14 to urge President Obama to declassify the 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry report into 9/11 because the 9/11 families deserve peace and the American people deserve the truth,” said Representative Jones.  “Releasing these pages will enhance our national security, not harm it. I am pleased that Senator Paul, Senator Wyden, and Senator Gillibrand have introduced companion legislation in the Senate. I look forward to the day when the 28 pages are declassified, and I will not stop fighting until that happens. The American people deserve to know what led to the tragic attacks on September 11, 2001.

The 9/11 report was meant to shed light on the circumstances that led to that horrific day, and a lack of transparency undermines that intent at the expense of victims, their families and Americans. The declassification of these pages is long-overdue, and I am hopeful my colleagues in both the Senate and House will join in our fight for the transparency Americans deserve,” said Senator Gillibrand.

If the FBI wants to say publicly that they have investigated all of the leads identified in this report, they are free to do so,” Senator Wyden said. “But that doesn’t justify blacking out an entire section of the report. Information should only be classified to protect national security, not simply because it is inconvenient or dated.

Our nation suffered a tremendous loss on September 11th, 2001. The victims of the terrorist attacks, their families and our country as a whole deserve a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding those attacks. After careful review of the 28 pages, I believe the full bicameral, bipartisan congressional report should be made public. This will be an important step toward answering some of the questions that remain,” said Representative Lynch. “It may have been a matter of national security to classify these pages in 2002, but it is a now a matter of justice and responsible governance to make them public in 2015.”

If avoiding another 9/11 is going to be the justification for involving us in more wars in the Middle East, then the American people need a complete picture of what enabled 9/11. The declassification of these 28 pages will reshape our foreign policy in the Middle East. Based on my reading of the documents, I am confident that making these 28 pages public would enhance, not harm, national security. I look forward to continue this effort with Senator Paul, Representative Jones, and Representative Lynch and urge my colleagues to read the pages and cosponsor H. Res. 14 in the House and S. 1471 in the Senate,” Representative Massie said.

Click HERE for the Transparency for the Families of 9/11 Victims and Survivors Act of 2015 in its entirety.

Breaking the Law? Hillary Clinton Used Private Email as Secretary of State

On Monday, the New York Times revealed that during her four years as U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton did not have a government email address, and used her private email account to conduct government business, possibly violating the Federal Records Act.

Vox reported that while Clinton’s use of her personal email looks bad now, it looked even worse in 2009, when she “initially refused to use a governmental account,” due to the fact that she was entering just as a Congressional oversight committee was investigating allegations that the Bush Administration fired several U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, and denied access to “millions of internal messages that might have incriminated the White House.”

The New York Times reported that it wasn’t until two months ago, when the State Department made a new effort to observe the Federal Records Act, that Clinton’s advisors “reviewed tens of thousands of pages of her personal emails and decided which ones to turn over to the State Department.”

On Tuesday, Clinton’s spokesperson Nick Merrill released a statement, claiming that Clinton’s behavior was not out of the ordinary, and that previous Secretaries of State had also used their personal emails:

Like Secretaries of State before her, she used her own email account when engaging with any Department officials. For government business, she emailed them on their Department accounts, with every expectation they would be retained. When the Department asked former Secretaries last year for help ensuring their emails were in fact retained, we immediately said yes.”

The statement went on to say that Clinton’s practice of using her personal email was a way of updating old policies:

Both the letter and spirit of the rules permitted State Department officials to use non-government email, as long as appropriate records were preserved. As a result of State’s request for our help to make sure they in fact were, that is what happened here. As the Department stated, it is in the process of updating its record preservation policies to bring them in line with its retention responsibilities.”

In a statement from Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, he defended Clinton and said that her use of private email has been public knowledge for several years.

“It has been public for several years that Secretary Clinton used her personal account, apparently following the pattern of previous Secretaries of States,” said Cummings. “Although Secretary Clinton has produced her emails to the State Department, it is unclear from press reports whether previous Secretaries have done the same.”

According to Vox, the fact that Clinton chose to use her private email for conducting government business shows a “stunning disregard for governmental transparency requirements.”

Jason Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath and former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration told the New York Times that Clinton’s use her private email is not a common practice and should not have been allowed.

It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario – short of nuclear winter – where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” Baron said.

March 5, 2015: UPDATE: Benghazi Committee Subpoenas Hillary Clinton’s Private Emails for Investigation

March 9, 2015: UPDATE: Hillary Clinton’s Chief of Staff Fired Ambassador for Using Private Email

March 10, 2015: UPDATE: Benghazi Chairman: There are “Huge Gaps” in Hillary Clinton’s Email Records

March 12, 2015: UPDATE: Fact Check: Holes in Hillary’s Email Story

News agency reports they have obtained ‘Spy Cables’

Al Jazeera, a news broadcasting agency owned by the government of Qatar, has reported they have obtained hundreds of confidential and hidden documents, which the agency are calling the “Spy Cables.”

The report from Al Jazeera announcing the cables says the documents offer “an unprecedented insight into operational dealings of the shadowy and highly politicised realm of global espionage.” Al Jazeera also says they will release the documents over the next couple of days alongside the newspaper the Guardian.

The leaked documents, according to the Business Insider, come from many government agencies around the world, including Russia’s FSB, South Africa’s SSA, Britain’s MI6, and others. Documents from any American intelligence agencies though seem to be absent from the Spy Cables.

Even though documents from American intelligence agencies are not included, some of the documents point to the CIA working in correspondence with South Africa’s SSA agency. The documents also allegedly say the CIA had attempted to contact the group HAMAS, even though the U.S. government has labeled the group a terrorist organization.

Other documents say MI6 had attempted to recruit a spy in North Korea with the help of the South African government. MI6 reportedly met with a North Korean man and offered him an “undisclosed amount of money” for the man’s cooperation in a “long term clandestine operation.”

Another document claims Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu had exaggerated Iran’s nuclear production levels in a 2012 declaration made in front of the UN. A secret Mossad document released in the leak, however, says Iran was not at the time “performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.”

Al Jazeera writes they will only publish documents which they believe serve the public interest. They also write, “We believe it is important to achieve greater transparency in the field of intelligence…. Publishing these documents, including operational and tradecraft details, is a necessary contribution to a greater public scrutiny of their activities.”

More leaked documents will be released in the next few days on Al Jazeera and the Guardian.

Exclusive Interview: OpenTheBooks.com Shines Light on Corruption

It’s our money, and we have the right to know how our taxes are being spent.

Don’t you agree?

Adam Andrzejewski, of OpenTheBooks.com, does. Government transparency is at the very core of his organization:

“The mission of OpenTheBooks.com is quite simply to take every dime that is taxed and spent at every unit of government, so that’s the federal, the state and local units all across the country, agregate it and post it online, so that all of us can use it to make activism easier and to hold our elected officials accountable for tax and spend decisions,” he explained in an interview with BenSwann.com’s Joshua Cook.

This idea was one of his campaign messages when Andrzejewski ran for governor of Illinois in 2010.

Illinois knows a thing or two about corruption. In Illinois, their governors make their license plates in jail, he joked.

“I ran on a robust transparency slogan: to put every dime online, in real time,” he explained.

Though he did not win, he did keep that campaign promise, first at a local level and now nationwide.

“We have no idea where our local tax dollars are going. Or our state tax dollars. Or our federal tax dollars,” he said.

OpenTheBooks.com gave Illinois a rude awakening.

“When we opened the books in Illinois on our local officials, we found that there were 5,000 six-figure pensions in the State of Illinois.,” he explain. On the site, those pensions were mapped so that residents could easily check up on things like this.

The site also shows the hyper localization of federal tax money. He said that you can input a zip code and see who is receiving federal money.

“In my zip code, we found that $3.64 million flowed to our local Rolex jeweler, $1.5 million flowed to our local Lamborghini auto dealer and a $1 million grant went to a community foundation where my daughter takes dance.” he said. “It’s just plain wrong.”

“We found a school district treasurer right next to where I live, and he went from $163,000 in one year up to $296,000 the next year,” he said.

That’s when people started asking questions and that person was indicted for stealing $1.5 million of taxpayer money over 20 years.

“And that’s what transparency gives you — the hard data. The bad apples can’t hide any longer,” he said.

OpenTheBooks.com gives activists the information they need without all of the Freedom of Information Act requests necessary to compile it. Like during the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal, the site became the de facto repository for salary information since the VA wasn’t answering, even to congress.

“More often than not there is waste, abuse, corruption and unnecessary spending that needs to be squeezed out of the system,” he said. “And the squeeze can only happen with citizen engagement.”

Click here to hear the entire interview.


Reporters claim the White House changes reports before they are released

The current White House administration has been lauded as the “most transparent administration in history,” but a number of journalists are coming out, saying they have been intimidated or coerced into altering their stories for the sake of making the White House look good.

Brain Carovillano is the managing editor for US news with the AP, and spoke during a panel discussion recently on the White House’s transparency claim.  “The White House push to limit access and reduce transparency has essentially served as the secrecy road map for all kinds of organizations — from local and state governments to universities and even sporting events,” said Carovillano.

Sally Buzbee, the AP’s Washington chief of bureau, has said the administration has extended its control of information to other government agencies in an indirect manner.  Buzbee has said sources from these other agencies which might be willing to share information, have been warned they could be fired for simply talking to a reporter.

Many people have also asked Buzbee to compare the level of transparency present within the Obama administration and the level present during the Bush administration.  “Bush was not fantastic… The (Obama) administration is significantly worse than previous administrations,” she said.

A recent Washington Post article has also said press-pool reports have been tampered with as White House aides have “demanded- and received- changes in press-pool reports before the reports have been disseminated to other journalists.”

It is important to note, press-pool reports are written by reporters for other reporters, and they are used by news outlets every day to aid in the coverage of the White House and the president.

The article from the Post does say most of the demands for changes in these press-pool reports have involved trivial matters, but what is disturbing is these demanded changes are happening in the first place.  Instead of allowing journalists to report on matters from the White House with as unbiased of an opinion as they can muster, the White House has deemed it appropriate to filter and make changes to reports which concern the administration.

White House reporter Tom DeFrank said, according to the Daily Signal, “My view is the White House has no right to touch a pool report… If they want to challenge something by putting out a statement of their own, that’s their right… But they have no right to alter a pool report unilaterally.”