The Republican politicization of the Benghazi attack may have endangered the lives of several Libyan nationals. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform, released 166 pages of documents [PDF] on Friday as part of his investigation into the Obama administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack.
That evening, Foreign Policy reported that the documents contained unredacted names of several Libyans working closely with the United States government. In an interview with Rogin, an Obama administration decried Issa’s action as endangering the lives of those named:
“Much like WikiLeaks, when you dump a bunch of documents into the ether, there are a lot of unintended consequences,” an administration official told The Cable Friday afternoon. “This does damage to the individuals because they are named, danger to security cooperation because these are militias and groups that we work with and that is now well known, and danger to the investigation, because these people could help us down the road.”
One of the cables released by Issa names a woman human rights activist who was leading a campaign against violence and was detained in Benghazi. She expressed fear for her safety to U.S. officials and criticized the Libyan government.
“This woman is trying to raise an anti-violence campaign on her own and came to the United States for help. She isn’t publicly associated with the U.S. in any other way but she’s now named in this cable. It’s a danger to her life,” the administration official said.
Among others named in the document were a port manager working with the U.S. to improve infrastructure, as well as various militia members and commanders who share information on other armed groups within Libya. Top Democrats, including Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Dick Durbin (D-IL), have slammed Issa for the document dump.
Rep. Gerry Connoly (D-VA), who also sits on the Oversight Committee, likewise issued a statement saying, “The irony is that while Chairman Issa purports to be sincere in his desire to investigate the recent attack so that we can learn how best to protect our diplomats in the future, his own actions have now compromised the safety of U.S. personnel and Libyans working together to forge a better Libya.”
This is not the first time that the Oversight Committee’s Republican majority has possibly exposed sensitive information in the course of their investigation into Benghazi. During the Oct. 10 hearing, Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) may have revealed the classified location of a CIA safehouse while viewing an unclassified map.
Issa defended himself and his committee’s actions in a statement last night:
“President Obama should be ashamed of yet another example where his administration has been caught trying to mislead the American people about what happened in Libya,” Issa said in a statement Sunday night. “Obama administration officials and their surrogates are clearly reeling from revelations about how the situation in Benghazi was mishandled and are falsely politicizing the issue in a last ditch effort to save President Obama’s reelection effort.”
“I applaud the bravery of this activist and other Libyans who are willing to speak publicly and work in positions that puts them in regular contact with diplomatic officials,” Issa added. “They deserve better than to have the Obama administration parade them out as part of their election campaign strategy to distract Americans from legitimate questions about the handling of security and the response to a terrorist attack.”
As a spokesman for the Oversight Committee pointed out on Friday, the documents were not classified. However, the Executive Branch has a multitude of designations related to security. The best known are documents that are ‘classified’, be they SECRET or TOP SECRET, with various other interlocking levels of compartmentalization past that. These levels indicate the amount of potential damage to the United States’ national security their release would have and ensure that they remain closely guarded.
Unclassified documents also can receive labels that advise their level of ability for distribution. For example, the documents released by the Government and Oversight Committee were labeled “unclassified, but sensitive,” meaning that while their contents would not harm the United States directly, they are not intended for wide release.
Rep. Issa has been quoted, according a partial transcript released by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), as referring these unclassified designations as “crap.” Those whose names were published would likely argue otherwise.
By: Hayes Brown, Think Progress, October 22, 2012
“A Disservice To The Electorate”: Chuck Todd Thinks Voting Machine Concerns Are “Conspiracy Garbage”
This morning, NBC News’ top election expert, Chuck Todd, tweeted the following…
@ChuckTodd: The voting machine conspiracies belong in same category as the Trump birther garbage.
Todd was responding, no doubt, to the many folks who have been justifiably concerned of late, since it was discovered that a bunch of Bain Capital investors, led by Mitt Romney’s son Tagg, via a company called H.I.G. Capital (believed to stand for Hart Intercivic Group) took over control of Hart Intercivic, the nation’s third largest voting machine company, in 2011.
The Austin-based Hart company, according to VerifiedVoting.org’s database, supplies electronic voting machines and paper ballot tabulators that will be used to tally votes in the presidential election this year in all or parts of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
I offered my point of view about those concerns earlier this month, explaining that it was not just the private ownership of Hart’s machines by Romney backers which voters should be concerned about, but the private ownership of the similar systems in all 50 states that will once again be used to tabulate the results of this year’s presidential election with little — and very often zero — possibility of oversight by the public or even by election officials.
Todd does an extraordinary disservice to the electorate with such tweets, and I’d be happy to go on his daily MSNBC show any time to explain why, as I have told him via Twitter in response to the above.
As Todd has not responded, and to expand upon my response to him, I’d like to ask him these few respectful questions…
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when paper ballot optical-scan tabulators made by Sequoia Voting Systems in Palm Beach County declared incorrect results of three different races last March, including declaring two losing candidates to be the “winners”?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when the Canadian firm Dominion Voting, which now owns Sequoia Voting Systems admitted the failure in Palm Beach was caused by a bug in all versions of its central tabulation software which will be used to tabulate the presidential election (and many others) on November 6th this year in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when, despite using Dominion/Sequoia’s recommended “fix,” the same problem occurred yet again in Palm Beach County’s August primary elections, as their Supervisor of Elections recently explained to me on air?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when 16,632 votes were found unaccounted for when those same machines were first used in Palm Beach County back in 2008?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when eight (8) top election officials—including the County Clerk, a Circuit Court Judge and the School Superintendent—in Clay County, KY were sentenced last year to 156 years in federal prison for gaming elections, including changing the votes of voters on ES&S electronic touchscreen voting machines?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when the president of Diebold Election Systems, Inc. (by then renamed Premier Election Systems, which is now owned by the Canadian firm Dominion Voting) admitted in 2008 that the company’s GEMS central tabulation software, used in some 34 states, does not tabulate votes correctly and routinely drops thousands of them when they are uploaded to the central server?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when Diebold/Premier’s spokesman admitted to the CA Secretary of State during a 2009 hearing that the supposedly permanent “audit logs” in all versions of its GEMS central tabulation system fail to record the deletion of ballots, after it was discovered that their electronic tabulator had failed to tabulate hundreds of paper ballots in a Humboldt County election (or to even notify system administrators that it had deleted those ballots)?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when the CA Secretary of State decertified federally-certified electronic voting and tabulation systems made by Diebold, Sequoia and Hart Intercivic in 2007 after a state-commissioned team of computer science and security experts from the University of California, Livermore National Laboratories and elsewhere “demonstrated that the physical and technological security mechanisms” for all of the state’s electronic voting systems (also used across the rest of the country) “were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the elections results and of the systems that provide those results” and that their “independent teams of analysts were able to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested“?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when the 2007 landmark study commissioned by OH’s then-Democratic Secretary of State, found “Ohio’s electronic voting systems have ‘critical security failures’ which could impact the integrity of elections in the Buckeye State” and when she (unsuccessfully) recommended, along with the then-Republican Speaker of the Senate, who is now the state’s Republican Secretary of State, that all touchscreen systems in the state be decertified due to concerns of, as she told The BRAD BLOG, “viruses that can be inserted into [Ohio's e-voting and tabulation] system through something as simple as a PDA [Personal Digital Assistant] and a magnet and then the cards are passed from machine to machine almost like Typhoid Mary” so that “If there is malicious software, like a virus put into the system, it can not only affect the machines at the polling places, it can affect the tabulation that occurs at the server and it can also affect future elections if it’s not detected”?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when the New York Daily News discovered in 2012 that hundreds of paper ballots at just one precinct in the Bronx went uncounted in 2010 during the September primary (failure rate of 70%) and the November general election (failure rate of 54%) on their brand new ES&S DS200 paper ballot optical scanners, which are also used in OH, AZ, MI and elsewhere?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released a warning in 2011 from a “Formal Investigation Report” that those same systems failed to count paper ballots correctly, on the heels of Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), OH’s previous finding that 10% of those machines failed during pre-election testing in 2010?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when Oakland County, MI wrote a letter of concern to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), seeking advice in 2008 after finding their ES&S M-100 optical scanners “yielded different results each time” the “same ballots were run through the same machines” during pre-election testing?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when Princeton University discovered in 2006 that they could, in mere seconds, implant a virus into Diebold touchscreen systems used in dozens of states which could then spread itself from machine to machine and result in an entire county’s election being flipped with little chance of detection?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when a computer security expert hacked a memory card on a Diebold paper ballot optical-scan system and flipped the results of a mock election (see the hack and its results as captured in HBO’s Emmy-nominated 2006 documentary Hacking Democracy here) in such a way that only a hand-count of the paper ballots in the election could reveal the true results?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when a CIA cybersecurity expert testified to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in 2009 that e-voting was not secure, “that computerized electoral systems can be manipulated at five stages, from altering voter registration lists to posting results” and that “wherever the vote becomes an electron and touches a computer, that’s an opportunity for a malicious actor potentially to… make bad things happen”?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” that the Vulnerability Assessment Team (which also monitors nuclear facilities) at Argonne National Laboratory (the non-profit research lab operated by the University of Chicago for the Dept. of Energy) released a report earlier this year finding that Diebold’s touchscreen systems and, according to the team’s lead scientist, “pretty much every electronic voting machine” can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, or just $26 if you want to do it remotely?
—Was it “conspiracy garbage” when, in Volusia County, FL’s 2000 presidential election, a paper-based optical-scan tabulator made by Global Elections Management Systems (GEMS, thereafter purchased by Diebold to become Diebold Election Systems, Inc.) tallied negative 16,022 votes for Al Gore thanks to a supposed “software flaw” which has never been explained by anyone, and which Leon County (Tallahassee), FL’s Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho—the man so well respected by both major parties that he was placed in charge of the aborted 2000 Presidential Election recount in Florida—believes was a deliberate hack of the electronic tabulation system which is now used in hundreds of counties in dozens of states?
I could go on and on, obviously, but I won’t. You’re welcome. There are some 10 years worth of articles at The BRAD BLOG that folks can peruse to determine the facts underscoring my concerns and those of the others who have legitimately expressed them to you, Chuck Todd, about private, unaccountable corporations—owned by associates of Mitt Romney or by anybody else—having so much unoverseeable control of our once-public electoral system.
But, to misinform your 272,035 Twitter followers, not to mention your millions of viewers on television, that concerns about oft-failed, easily-manipulated electronic voting and tabulation systems are little more than “conspiracies” which “belong in the same category as the Trump birther garbage” is an extraordinary disservice to your readers, your viewers and the U.S. electorate as a whole.
They deserve a much better understanding of our electoral system from someone such as yourself, who is relied upon by so many as an expert in these matters.
Again, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these concerns with you on your Daily Rundown show on MSNBC any time.
If, in fact, you are correct, that these concerns are little more than “conspiracy garbage,” you will do the electorate a great service by having me on, and putting me in my place once and for all by explaining why.
If these concerns are not “conspiracy garbage,” as I would argue, you would instead do the electorate a great service by helping the electorate understand why they are not, and what voters may be able to do at this point to help minimize the possibility of their votes not being counted accurately or transparently, or even at all, this November 6th.
Either way, the electorate will end up being much better informed before this year’s presidential election, which after all is, as I’m sure we can both agree, the most important core function of your job—and mine—as journalists.
By: Brad Friedman, The National Memo, October 22, 2012
“The Secret Of Our Non-Success”: Mitt Romney Will Make Policy Based On Fantasies Rather Than Grappling With Reality.
The U.S. economy finally seems to be recovering in earnest, with housing on the rebound and job creation outpacing growth in the working-age population. But the news is good, not great — it will still take years to restore full employment — and it has been a very long time coming. Why has the slump been so protracted?
The answer — backed by overwhelming evidence — is that this is what normally happens after a severe financial crisis. But Mitt Romney’s economic team rejects that evidence. And this denialism bodes ill for policy if Mr. Romney wins next month.
About the evidence: The most famous study is by Harvard’s Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, who looked at past financial crises and found that such crises are typically followed by years of high unemployment and weak growth. Later work by economists at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere confirmed this analysis: crises that followed a sharp run-up in private-sector debt, from the U.S. Panic of 1893 to the Swedish banking crisis of the early 1990s, cast long shadows over the economy’s future. There was no reason to believe that this time would be different.
This isn’t an after-the-fact rationalization. The Reinhart-Rogoff “aftermath” paper was released almost four years ago. And a number of other economists, including, well, me, issued similar warnings. In early 2008 I was already pointing out the distinction between recessions like 1973-5 or 1981-2, brought on by high interest rates, and “postmodern” recessions brought on by private-sector overreach. And I suggested that the recession we were then entering would be followed by a prolonged “jobless recovery” that would feel like a continuing recession.
Why is recovery from a financial crisis slow? Financial crises are preceded by credit bubbles; when those bubbles burst, many families and/or companies are left with high levels of debt, which force them to slash their spending. This slashed spending, in turn, depresses the economy as a whole.
And the usual response to recession, cutting interest rates to encourage spending, isn’t adequate. Many families simply can’t spend more, and interest rates can be cut only so far — namely, to zero but not below.
Does this mean that nothing can be done to avoid a protracted slump after a financial crisis? No, it just means that you have to do more than just cut interest rates. In particular, what the economy really needs after a financial crisis is a temporary increase in government spending, to sustain employment while the private sector repairs its balance sheet. And the Obama administration did some of that, blunting the severity of the financial crisis. Unfortunately, the stimulus was both too small and too short-lived, partly because of administration errors but mainly because of scorched-earth Republican obstruction.
Which brings us to the politics.
Over the past few months advisers to the Romney campaign have mounted a furious assault on the notion that financial-crisis recessions are different. For example, in July former Senator Phil Gramm and Columbia’s R. Glenn Hubbard published an op-ed article claiming that we should be having a recovery comparable to the bounceback from the 1981-2 recession, while a white paper from Romney advisers argues that the only thing preventing a rip-roaring boom is the uncertainty created by President Obama.
Obviously, Republicans like claiming that it’s all Mr. Obama’s fault, and that electing Mr. Romney would magically make everything better. But nobody should believe them.
For one thing, these people have a track record: back in 2008, when serious students of history were already predicting a prolonged slump, Mr. Gramm was dismissing America as a “nation of whiners” experiencing a mere “mental recession.” For another, if Mr. Obama is the problem, why is the United States actually doing better than most other advanced countries?
The main point, however, is that the Romney team is willfully, nakedly, distorting the record, leading Ms. Reinhart and Mr. Rogoff — who aren’t affiliated with either campaign — to protest against “gross misinterpretations of the facts.” And this should worry you.
Look, economics isn’t as much of a science as we’d like. But when there’s overwhelming evidence for an economic proposition — as there is for the proposition that financial-crisis recessions are different — we have the right to expect politicians and their advisers to respect that evidence. Otherwise, they’ll end up making policy based on fantasies rather than grappling with reality.
And once politicians start refusing to acknowledge inconvenient facts, where does it stop? Why, the next thing you know Republicans will start rejecting the overwhelming evidence for man-made climate change. Oh, wait.
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 21, 2012