Posted tagged ‘U.S. Conress’

Fact-free Israel-bashing comes to Capitol Hill

July 21, 2017

Fact-free Israel-bashing comes to Capitol Hill, Washington ExaminerMaurice Hirsch, July 21, 2017

Last month, Capitol Hill became the site of an Israel-bashing event masquerading as a forum for children’s rights. The anticipated content was problematic enough that the sponsoring congressman, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., attempted to keep his involvement hidden. After being outed by an investigative journalist, he did not attend the event.

One of the event organizers was the non-governmental organization (NGO) Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P). NGO Monitor, where I serve as a senior military justice consultant, has found that DCI-P has alleged ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is designated a terrorist organization by the USEUCanada, and Israel.

At the event, DCI-P’s International Advocacy Officer Brad Parker gave a presentation based on a number of blatant distortions and outright lies regarding the Israeli military justice system.

For example, Parker declared that 2016 was the deadliest year for Palestinian minors, and that these deaths were solely the result of a change in Israel’s rules of engagement. Aside from the fact that this is just wrong with respect to new rules of engagement, this allegation omits some vital context.

From October 2015 to mid-2016, Palestinian minors engaged in hundreds of violent terror attacks. At least 45 minors – some as young as 13 – took part in 35 attempted and actual murders that killed 4 and injured 25. So yes, more minors were killed, but it was not due to a change in the rules of engagement. It was due to an increase in terrorist attacks by minors. When faced with a knife, gun, or explosive-wielding minor, what does Parker suggest that bystanders or security forces do?

This context notwithstanding, Parker also ignored an April 2016 International Committee of the Red Cross statement that “there are no shoot-to-kill orders of suspects by [the Israeli Defense Force], as some political elements tried to convince us…Rules of engagement have not changed, and became even stricter.”

Parker also distorted how criminal law is applied to Palestinian minors. He argued, for instance, that the criminal offense of stone throwing was specifically designed to permit the arrest of more Palestinian children. But in reality, stone-throwing is a deadly crime. It has killed Americans. This law applies in all territories under Israeli control, and it is likewise reflected in Israeli domestic law.

Similarly, Parker complains that minors have been arrested and convicted for membership in certain organizations. In his effort to make it seem like legitimate political activity is being criminalized, he avoided saying which organizations — Hamas, PFLP, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Unfortunately, minors are recruited into these illegal terrorist organizations.

Another brazen Parker distortion is his claim that Palestinian minors are being subjected to solitary confinement more frequently. The allegation appears to stem from Israel’s abiding by international standards and Israeli law in not placing minor and adult offenders in the same cells. When Israel separates minors from adult detainees, it becomes an excuse to claim an increase in solitary confinement.

DCI-P’s representative showed further legal ignorance when he alleged that 96 percent of minors interrogated are denied access to an attorney and that evidence gathered in breach of the rights of the children is still admissible in court. As an attorney, Parker must know that the Military Court applies the same rules of evidence that are applied in Israeli Civilian Courts. If a suspect, whether Palestinian or Israeli, is denied the right to consult a lawyer or is the subject of threats of physical violence, then any confession he gives can be declared inadmissible in court.

As the Israeli military’s Director of Prosecution in Judea and Samaria, I attempted to respond to claims by groups such as DCI-P that minors were not able to consult with a lawyer prior to their interrogation. I requested contact details so that I could provide information about cases of child offenders who had supposedly gone unrepresented. The groups refused.

The real question, then, is whether Parker and his DCI-P colleagues are truly looking out for children’s welfare, or whether they are simply members of another NGO operating under the guise of human rights in order to promote a political agenda.

Parker’s half-truths and blatant lies say much more about his organization and its agenda than they do about the Israeli military justice system.

Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch is Senior Military Justice Consultant at NGO Monitor. He served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps, including as Director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria. Hirsch also led Israel’s talks with UNICEF on the subject of juvenile justice.

Sen. Grassley Investigates FBI Plan to Pay Former British Spy for Info on Trump

March 7, 2017

Sen. Grassley Investigates FBI Plan to Pay Former British Spy for Info on Trump, BreitbartJohn Hayward, March 6, 2017

(According to the linked February 28th WaPo article,

While Trump has derided the dossier as “fake news” compiled by his political opponents, the FBI’s arrangement with Steele shows that the bureau considered him credible and found his information, while unproved, to be worthy of further investigation.

Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

“congressional inquiries and presidential denials” ??

. . . .

Comey spent almost two hours this month briefing the Senate Intelligence Committee. Democrats in the House have informally reached out to Steele in recent weeks to ask about his willingness to testify or cooperate, according to people familiar with the requests. Steele has so far not responded, they said.

The entire article is worth reading.– DM)

On Monday, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey asking for details about a reported FBI plan to pay Christopher Steele for information on the Trump campaign.

Steele is the author of the infamous “Trump Dossier,” a collection of poorly-vetted and unsubstantiated rumors about President Trump that wound up being promoted by BuzzFeed.

Since the media is currently in very high dudgeon about unsubstantiated allegations, it will doubtless applaud Grassley for his inquiry.

As Grassley explains to Comey in his letter, the Washington Post reported last week that the FBI “reached an agreement a few weeks before the presidential election” to pay Steele for continuing investigations of President Trump:

The article claimed that the FBI was aware Mr. Steele was creating these memos as part of work for an opposition research firm connected to Hillary Clinton.  The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends.

It is additionally troubling that the FBI reportedly agreed to such an arrangement given that, in January of 2017, then-Director Clapper issued a statement stating that “the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions.”

According to the Washington Post, the FBI’s arrangement with Mr. Steele fell through when the media published his dossier and revealed his identity.

On second thought, maybe the media won’t applaud Grassley for digging into this after all. They’re currently very eager to promote the idea that the Obama administration was utterly incorruptible and completely above partisan politics. It won’t look good at all if the FBI was preparing to hire the creator of the slipshod, frequently ridiculous Trump Dossier until certain media outlets decided to attack Trump by leaking his work.

Grassley asked Comey to provide all of the FBI’s records concerning this arrangement with Steele, plus any meetings FBI officials may have held with him. He wants these records squared with FBI policy on funding “an investigator associated with a political opposition research firm connected to a political candidate, or with any outside entity.”

“Were any other government officials outside of the FBI involved in discussing or authorizing the agreement with Mr. Steele, including anyone from the Department of Justice or the Obama White House?” Grassley asked.

He also wants to know how the FBI obtained a copy of Steele’s documents, whether it has additional documents that were not published by Buzzfeed, and whether any FBI activity was influenced by the Steele memo.

Halfway down Grassley’s list of questions comes what could be the most devastating of his inquiries, considering President Trump’s accusation that the Obama administration wiretapped his 2016 presidential campaign:

Has the FBI relied on or otherwise referenced the memos or any information in the memos in seeking a FISA warrant, other search warrant, or any other judicial process? Did the FBI rely on or otherwise reference the memos in relation to any National Security Letters? If so, please include copies of all relevant applications and other documents.

National Security Letters” are one of the FBI’s most secretive instruments for obtaining information. They are frequently accompanied by powerful gag orders which forbid the recipient of the letter from discussing it.

Who Rules the United States?

February 17, 2017

Who Rules the United States? Washington Free Beacon, February 17, 2017

(Update re President Trump’s EPA nominee, Scott Pruitt: He was approved by the Senate 52-46. — DM)

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a news conference, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Donald Trump was elected president last November by winning 306 electoral votes. He pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C., to overturn the system of politics that had left the nation’s capital and major financial and tech centers flourishing but large swaths of the country mired in stagnation and decay. “What truly matters,” he said in his Inaugural Address, “is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.”

Is it? By any historical and constitutional standard, “the people” elected Donald Trump and endorsed his program of nation-state populist reform. Yet over the last few weeks America has been in the throes of an unprecedented revolt. Not of the people against the government—that happened last year—but of the government against the people. What this says about the state of American democracy, and what it portends for the future, is incredibly disturbing.

There is, of course, the case of Michael Flynn. He made a lot of enemies inside the government during his career, suffice it to say. And when he exposed himself as vulnerable those enemies pounced. But consider the means: anonymous and possibly illegal leaks of private conversations. Yes, the conversation in question was with a foreign national. And no one doubts we spy on ambassadors. But we aren’t supposed to spy on Americans without probable cause. And we most certainly are not supposed to disclose the results of our spying in the pages of the Washington Post because it suits a partisan or personal agenda.

Here was a case of current and former national security officials using their position, their sources, and their methods to crush a political enemy. And no one but supporters of the president seems to be disturbed. Why? Because we are meant to believe that the mysterious, elusive, nefarious, and to date unproven connection between Donald Trump and the Kremlin is more important than the norms of intelligence and the decisions of the voters.

But why should we believe that? And who elected these officials to make this judgment for us?

Nor is Flynn the only example of nameless bureaucrats working to undermine and ultimately overturn the results of last year’s election. According to the New York Times, civil servants at the EPA are lobbying Congress to reject Donald Trump’s nominee to run the agency. Is it because Scott Pruitt lacks qualifications? No. Is it because he is ethically compromised? Sorry. The reason for the opposition is that Pruitt is a critic of the way the EPA was run during the presidency of Barack Obama. He has a policy difference with the men and women who are soon to be his employees. Up until, oh, this month, the normal course of action was for civil servants to follow the direction of the political appointees who serve as proxies for the elected president.

How quaint. These days an architect of the overreaching and antidemocratic Waters of the U.S. regulation worries that her work will be overturned so she undertakes extraordinary means to defeat her potential boss. But a change in policy is a risk of democratic politics. Nowhere does it say in the Constitution that the decisions of government employees are to be unquestioned and preserved forever. Yet that is precisely the implication of this unprecedented protest. “I can’t think of any other time when people in the bureaucracy have done this,” a professor of government tells the paper. That sentence does not leave me feeling reassured.

Opposition to this president takes many forms. Senate Democrats have slowed confirmations to the most sluggish pace since George Washington. Much of the New York and Beltway media does really function as a sort of opposition party, to the degree that reporters celebrated the sacking of Flynn as a partisan victory for journalism. Discontent manifests itself in direct actions such as the Women’s March.

But here’s the difference. Legislative roadblocks, adversarial journalists, and public marches are typical of a constitutional democracy. They are spelled out in our founding documents: the Senate and its rules, and the rights to speech, a free press, and assembly. Where in those documents is it written that regulators have the right not to be questioned, opposed, overturned, or indeed fired, that intelligence analysts can just call up David Ignatius and spill the beans whenever they feel like it?

The last few weeks have confirmed that there are two systems of government in the United States. The first is the system of government outlined in the U.S. Constitution—its checks, its balances, its dispersion of power, its protection of individual rights. Donald Trump was elected to serve four years as the chief executive of this system. Whether you like it or not.

The second system is comprised of those elements not expressly addressed by the Founders. This is the permanent government, the so-called administrative state of bureaucracies, agencies, quasi-public organizations, and regulatory bodies and commissions, of rule-writers and the byzantine network of administrative law courts. This is the government of unelected judges with lifetime appointments who, far from comprising the “least dangerous branch,” now presume to think they know more about America’s national security interests than the man elected as commander in chief.

For some time, especially during Democratic presidencies, the second system of government was able to live with the first one. But that time has ended. The two systems are now in competition. And the contest is all the more vicious and frightening because more than offices are at stake. This fight is not about policy. It is about wealth, status, the privileges of an exclusive class.

“In our time, as in [Andrew] Jackson’s, the ruling classes claim a monopoly not just on the economy and society but also on the legitimate authority to regulate and restrain it, and even on the language in which such matters are discussed,” writes Christopher Caldwell in a brilliant essay in the Winter 2016/17 Claremont Review of Books.

Elites have full-spectrum dominance of a whole semiotic system. What has just happened in American politics is outside the system of meanings elites usually rely upon. Mike Pence’s neighbors on Tennyson street not only cannot accept their election loss; they cannot fathom it. They are reaching for their old prerogatives in much the way that recent amputees are said to feel an urge to scratch itches on limbs that are no longer there. Their instincts tell them to disbelieve what they rationally know. Their arguments have focused not on the new administration’s policies or its competence but on its very legitimacy.

Donald Trump did not cause the divergence between government of, by, and for the people and government, of, by, and for the residents of Cleveland Park and Arlington and Montgomery and Fairfax counties. But he did exacerbate it. He forced the winners of the global economy and the members of the D.C. establishment to reckon with the fact that they are resented, envied, opposed, and despised by about half the country. But this recognition did not humble the entrenched incumbents of the administrative state. It radicalized them to the point where they are readily accepting, even cheering on, the existence of a “deep state” beyond the control of the people and elected officials.

Who rules the United States? The simple and terrible answer is we do not know. But we are about to find out.

CAIR’s Awad: Anti-Terror JASTA Bill Part of “War on Islam”

September 26, 2016

CAIR’s Awad: Anti-Terror JASTA Bill Part of “War on Islam” Investigative Project on Terrorism,  September 26, 2016

It might be one of the few things on which Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree: President Obama was wrong Friday when he vetoed the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.”

The bill, which passed the U.S. House Sept. 9 after passing the Senate May 17, would allow Americans victimized by foreign terrorist attacks to sue countries responsible. Specifically, 9/11 victims could sue Saudi Arabia, which generated 15 of the 19 hijackers who struck the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Flight 93, which crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back.

But in an interview with the Arabic-language Al Sharq Al Awsat, Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad cast the legislation as an anti-Muslim attack.

The bill “is a continuation of the series of [actions] attaching terrorism to Islamic societies, the Islamic world and Islamic countries, as well as Islamic personalities, since it aims to demonize Islam,” an Investigative Project on Terrorism translation of Awad’s remarks said. “… so that things have reached the point of attaching the accusation of terrorism against Saudi Arabia, which is the heart of the Muslim world, and accusing it is an accusation of Muslims all over the world.”

He compared the bill to campaigns against mosque construction in the United States and said it is pushed by the same ideology that “supports the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying that those who voted for the resolution in the Congress are those waging war on Islam and they always vote for wars and conflicts, and are exploiting the families of the victims in this crisis.”

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., co-sponsored and advocated for the bill, which enjoyed bipartisan support. In a statement, he pledged to make this President Obama’s first veto to be over-ridden by Congress.

More importantly, Awad’s description that the bill’s supporters “are those waging war on Islam” is especially dangerous and reckless. That message, that the West is at war against Islam, is considered the most effective at radicalizing Muslims.

CAIR officials used to repeatedly invoke that message, but seemed to have backed away from it in recent years. Awad’s revival was directed at an Arabic-speaking audience.
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who served as co-chairman of a congressional 9/11 inquiry, has long advocated for the release of 28 pages of his committee’s report focusing on the hijackers’ connections to Saudi government officials. Those pages were released in July. In a New York Times oped earlier this month, Graham said they raise more questions and advocated for the release of more investigative material still deemed classified.

His motivation for this campaign, and for supporting JASTA, had nothing to do with Muslims, he explained.

“It can mean justice for the families that have suffered so grievously. It can also mean improving our national security, which has been compromised by the extreme form of Islam that has been promoted by Saudi Arabia,” Graham wrote.

President Obama claims he vetoed the bill out of concern for unintended consequences, that it might open the door to similar litigation against U.S. military and government officials in other countries and “would neither protect Americans from terrorist attacks nor improve the effectiveness of our response to such attacks.”

Both Trump and Clinton said they would sign the bill if elected president, CNN reported.