Patrick Cagle has been named the new president of the Alabama Coal Association, succeeding George Barber, who has elected to retire after seven years of service to the coal group which was first formed in 1972.
Cagle, who has worked with the association on legislative matters in the past, has more than 10 years of experience in navigating Alabama’s political landscape. As executive director of JobKeeper Alliance, a 501c(4) nonprofit whose mission is to protect and create quality jobs, he previously worked hand-in-hand with the coal industry to oppose onerous, job-killing regulations.
Cagle and his wife, Molly, have a 15-month-old son, Bankston. They are active members at Church of the Highlands. Cagle is an avid outdoorsman and a member of the Conservation Advisory Board, which assists the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with the formation of hunting and fishing regulations.
Prosecutors: Alabama man made plan to kidnap woman, daughter
Prosecutors say an Alabama man who planned to hire someone to kidnap a woman and her 14-year-old daughter has pleaded guilty to child sex-trafficking charges.
A U.S. Department of Justice statement says 48-year-old Brian David “Blaze” Boersma was arrested in October by undercover FBI agents. The Decatur man believed they would kidnap the mother and child and had given them more than $3,000. Boersma entered his guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor on Monday.
The statement says Boersma boasted to his co-worker that he would sell the girl to a pimp he knew in Memphis, Tennessee, who offered $8,000.
A sentencing date has not been set. U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town says Boersma will spend most, if not all, of the remainder of his life in prison.
(Image: Decatur Police Department)
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)
Did the FBI conspire to stop Trump?
The original question the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign was to answer was a simple one: Did he do it?
Did Trump, or officials with his knowledge, collude with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to hack the emails of John Podesta and the DNC, and leak the contents to damage Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump?
A year and a half into the investigation, and, still, no “collusion” has been found. Yet the investigation goes on, at the demand of the never-Trump media and Beltway establishment.
Hence, and understandably, suspicions have arisen.
Are the investigators after the truth, or are they after Trump?
Set aside the Trump-Putin conspiracy theory momentarily, and consider a rival explanation for what is going down here:
That, from the outset, Director James Comey and an FBI camarilla were determined to stop Trump and elect Hillary Clinton. Having failed, they conspired to break Trump’s presidency, overturn his mandate and bring him down.
Essential to any such project was first to block any indictment of Hillary for transmitting national security secrets over her private email server. That first objective was achieved 18 months ago.
On July 5, 2016, Comey stepped before a stunned press corps to declare that, given the evidence gathered by the FBI, “no reasonable prosecutor” would indict Clinton. Therefore, that was the course he, Comey, was recommending.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, compromised by her infamous 35-minute tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton — to discuss golf and grandkids — seconded Comey’s decision.
And so Hillary walked. Why is this suspicious?
First, whether or not to indict was a decision that belonged to the Department of Justice, not Jim Comey or the FBI. His preemption of Justice Department authority was astonishing.
Second, while Comey said in his statement that Hillary had been “extremely careless” with security secrets, in his first draft, Clinton was declared guilty of “gross negligence” — the precise language in the statute to justify indictment.
Who talked Comey into softening the language to look less than criminal? One man was FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whose wife, Jill, a Virginia state senate candidate, received a munificent PAC contribution of $474,000 from Clinton family friend and big bundler Terry McAuliffe.
Also urging Comey to soften the fatal phrase “gross negligence” was key FBI agent Peter Strzok. In text messages to his FBI lover Lisa Page, Strzok repeatedly vented his detestation of the “idiot” Trump.
After one meeting with “Andy” (McCabe), Strzok told Page an “insurance policy” was needed to keep Trump out of the White House.
Also, it appears Comey began drafting his exoneration statement of Hillary before the FBI had even interviewed her. And when the FBI did, Hillary was permitted to have her lawyers present.
One need not be a conspiracy nut to conclude the fix was in, and a pass for Hillary wired from the get-go. Comey, McCabe, Strzok were not going to recommend an indictment that would blow Hillary out of the water and let the Trump Tower crowd waltz into the White House.
Yet, if Special Counsel Robert Mueller cannot find any Trump collusion with the Kremlin to tilt the outcome of the 2016 election, his investigators might have another look at the Clinton campaign.
For there a Russian connection has been established.
Kremlin agents fabricated, faked, forged, or found the dirt on Trump that was passed to ex-British MI6 spy Christopher Steele, and wound up in his “dirty dossier” that was distributed to the mainstream media and the FBI to torpedo Trump.
And who hired Steele to tie Trump to Russia?
Fusion GPS, the oppo research outfit into which the DNC and Clinton campaign pumped millions through law firm Perkins Coie.
Let’s review the bidding.
The “dirty dossier,” a mixture of fabrications, falsehoods and half-truths, created to destroy Trump and make Hillary president, was the product of a British spy’s collusion with Kremlin agents.
In Dec. 26’s Washington Times, Rowan Scarborough writes that the FBI relied on this Kremlin-Steele dossier of allegations and lies to base their decision “to open a counterintelligence investigation (of Trump).” And press reports “cite the document’s disinformation in requests for court-approved wiretaps.”
If this is true, a critical question arises:
Has the Mueller probe been so contaminated by anti-Trump bias and reliance on Kremlin fabrications that any indictment it brings will be suspect in the eyes of the American people?
Director Comey has been fired. FBI No. 2 McCabe is now being retired under a cloud. Mueller’s top FBI investigator, Peter Strzok, and lover Lisa, have been discharged. And Mueller is left to rely upon a passel of prosecutors whose common denominator appears to be that they loathe Trump and made contributions to Hillary.
Attorney General Bobby Kennedy had his “Get Hoffa Squad” to take down Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. J. Edgar Hoover had his vendetta against Dr. Martin Luther King.
Is history repeating itself — with the designated target of an elite FBI cabal being the President of the United States?
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.”
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM
Alleged Drug Supplier Of Conecuh County Commissioner Arrested
Yesterday Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office announced that Jack Lamar Jordan had been arrested as part of an ongoing joint federal-state investigation revolving around the distribution of marijuana.
What makes this arrest of particular consequence is Jordan’s alleged connection with the earlier arrest of Conecuh County Commissioner John William Andrews Jr.
Earlier this year, Commissioner Andrews was arrested and charged with six counts of distribution of marijuana. Prosecutors are now saying that Andrews might have been getting his supply of drugs from Jordan.
Jordan’s arrest was based on a collective effort between the Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Mobile Field Division.
Should Jordan or Andrew’s be convicted, they will face a maximum penalty of 2-10 years of imprisonment for each of the counts, which are class B Felonies. And subject to §36-9-3 of the Alabama Code, a felony conviction for Andrew’s would mean an immediate vacancy in his office.
FBI Agent Posed as Lecturer at Alabama Military Base to Capture Alleged ISIS Supporter
FORT RUCKER, Ala. — An undercover operation at Alabama’s Fort Rucker that began back in 2016 led to the Saturday arrest of a man believed to support ISIS. The 34-year-old soldier, Ikaika Erik Kang, was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawai but spent six weeks at Fort Rucker where authorities believe he engaged in radicalizing activity.
Kang has been formally charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
The FBI obtained warrants to search Kang’s quarters and technology at Fort Rucker last year. They found more than 2,000 ISIS-related videos, documents, and graphics, most of which were violent in nature.
After the search, the FBI planted an undercover agent in the base to interact with Kang. The two discussed traveling to Turkey to go to the ISIS consulate.
“Kang discussed the possibility of joining ISIS and fighting for ISIS. He told [the undercover agent at Fort Rucker] ‘people still say it’s illegal to join them but the way I look at it they are just fighting the people who are committing genocide there. I’m just going to go there…and fight these guys who are committing genocide,'” the FBI documents state.
The undercover agent noted that Kang knew that authorities could be on his trail, so he tried to stay off the grid. “Kang further indicated he had not purchased an airline ticket because he believed he would be arrested,” FBI reports state. “Kang said that he didn’t want to do anything on the internet because he was afraid the FBI ‘will show up at my door.'”
According to FBI reports, Kang wanted to help provide combat training to members of ISIS. Prosecutors even assert that he took an oath of loyalty to ISIS because he wanted to “kill a bunch of people.”
Additional searches of his technology and property have revealed more ISIS material as well as classified U.S. military information. His preliminary hearing is set for July 24.
Alabama Doctor Arrested Today for Medicaid Fraud and Long List of Other Crimes
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced today that a Daphne, Alabama doctor has been arrested and charged with “Medicaid fraud and first-degree theft of property” under Alabama law as well as a long list of federal charges.
Dr. Rassan M. Tarabein is a 58-year old neurologist who operates Eastern Shore Neurology and Pain Center (ESNPC) in Daphne. The services listed on his website include:
- Pain management (invasive and conservative) for all types of pain, (chronic neck and lower back pain, failed back/neck surgery, chronic intractable headaches…etc).
- Spinal minor surgical interventions, Spinal Stimulator Implants.
- Narcotics addiction/detox treatments
- Stroke service (prevention & treatment).
- Sleep disorders, snoring, Apnea, Narcolepsey [sic], drowsiness & day time sleepiness.
- Auto / Work injuries and Worker’s comp.
- BOTOX intervention for face and neck spasms, as well as for the treatment of myofacial painfull [sic] spasms, with or without headaches
The Eastern Shore Neurology and Pain Center (ESNPC) website says “We are grateful for the opportunity to be of service to you. Our goal is to provide you with the highest quality of medical care in a compassionate and understanding environment. We will uphold the confidence and trust that you have placed in us.”
The AG’s press release said Tarabein is in federal custody because, in addition to the state charges cited above, he’s also charged in a federal indictment with “numerous related crimes,” according to Acting U.S. Attorney Steve Butler. This 27-count federal indictment includes charges of illegally distributing schedule II controlled substances, money laundering, and making unlawful transactions.
If proven guilty of the alleged crimes and convicted, Tarabein could face jail time up to 10 years on the Medicaid fraud charges and up to 20 years on the theft charges, which are only the state crimes. The arrest was the result of a collaborative investigation between Attorney General Marshall’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the FBI, DEA and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Attorney General Marshall said, “I am pleased to partner with our federal law enforcement colleagues to protect precious state Medicaid resources. I hope that this case will serve as a warning to others who might be tempted to steal taxpayer money allocated to protect our most vulnerable citizens.”
According to the Attorney General’s press release:
The federal indictment alleges that from around 2004 to late June 2017, Tarabein ran a money mill at the clinic, where he induced patients to continue to return to ESNPC so that he could bill health care benefit programs for medically unnecessary tests and procedures. According to the federal indictment, the purpose of Tarabein’s scheme was to maximize personal financial gain by fraudulently seeking payments from health care benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and other private insurers. As part of his scheme, Tarabein violated the traditional standards of care in his medical practice by, for example, failing to provide informed consent to patients about procedures, discriminating against Alabama Medicaid patients in services rendered, fraudulently documenting patient records and submitting false claims to insurance companies.
Acting United States Attorney Butler stated, “As alleged, this defendant was a neurologist who ran a medical practice that for years stole millions of dollars from public health care programs and private insurance companies. Federal and state investigators have worked diligently to expose the fraud, and now this physician must face the consequences of his actions.”
Medicaid serves medically indigent citizens who were apparently Tarabein’s patients in these alleged crimes.
Update: No Threat Remains of Active Shooter at Redstone in Huntsville (Updated 1:05 pm CT)
Update 1:05 pm: David Kumbroch with WHNT is reporting that Redstone Arsenal officials say they the threat is over after reports of a “possible active shooter” and that the gates are now back open, but the situation remains under investigation. A statement on Redstone’s official Facebook page says this:
This morning, a potential active shooter incident occurred at Redstone Arsenal, in the Sparkman Center. The installation was in lock-down mode with all gates closed, and employees sheltered in place at their respective buildings.
As of 12:30 p.m., employees can move about the post in an orderly fashion,
but are asked to keep movements limited, as needed.
restricted in the area near the intersections and roads around the Sparkman Center.
The gates to the Arsenal are open and operational.
This incident is under investigation. The safety and security of our
workforce remains our top priority.
UPDATE: 12:45 pm: A private citizen, Amy Jay, tweeted at 13:32 that her husband (who presumably works at Redstone) received the “all clear” although some places may still be on lock down. Moments later she tweeted “All Gates Are Now Open.” Again, this is an unconfirmed source from a personal Twitter account, but it does appear to be a very promising update to the story below. As reported earlier, Redstone is scheduled to update the media at the top of the hour.
Original Report 11:04 am: Redstone Arsenal tweeted this morning that there’s a “possible active shooter” and the installation is on lockdown. At this point, that’s all we know.
David Kumbroch with WHNT tweeted Huntsville Hospital was on heightened alert because of this report, but they’ve not received any patients. Only seconds ago, he tweeted “CONFIRMED: FBI on scene of possible active shooter at Redstone Arsenal. More headed this way from Birmingham” only to follow that a few seconds later with another Tweet that reads “Worth nothing FBI has large, permanent presence on Redstone Arsenal.”
Redstone is telling employees this is not an exercise and at the City of Madison tweeted “ACTIVE SHOOTER on Redstone Arsenal near the Sparkman Center. Please watch the news to stay updated.”
Governor Ivey tweeted, “My office is being updated about the situation…and I will continue to closely monitor and pray for a peaceful and quick resolution.”
Once again, nothing has been confirmed at this moment, but Redstone Arsenal is on lockdown in a locked, safe location, and we are monitoring the situation and will provide updates as they’re available.
Twitter is active under the hashtag #RedstoneArsenal and Redstone is scheduled to update the media at 1:00 p.m.
Feds Relent on Extending Alabama’s Red Snapper Season
After intensive appeals from the state of Alabama over its hyper-brief red snapper season, the U.S. Department of Commerce relented last week, announcing an extension to the season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced earlier that Alabama would only have a three-day red snapper season this year, understandably frustrating those who look forward to and rely on a longer season.
Under this new extension, the season for recreational fishermen has been reopened on weekends (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) up until Labor Day, adding a whopping 39 days of fishing for Alabama anglers.
Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne was among those advocating for the longer season—calls that got the attention of President Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross. In his press release, Congressman Byrne expressed his appreciation for Alabama officials who provided.
Many people helped make this extension possible, and they deserve to be acknowledged. I appreciate President Donald Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for paying attention to our concerns and working to address this issue. The staff at the Department of Commerce was easy to work with as we put this extension together. I also cannot say enough about the help from Chris Blankenship, the acting commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Chris has always been a joy to work with on Red Snapper issues, and he played a critical role in helping get the other Gulf states on board with this agreement. I also want to thank the local and state officials, as well as the grassroots supporters and fishermen, who helped bring attention to this issue. I firmly believe your efforts made a difference. Ultimately, it was a total team effort to make this emergency extension a reality. This is a real victory for all our recreational fishermen as well as our coastal communities.
Senator Richard Shelby agreed:
I am pleased the Department of Commerce is listening to states and local anglers to provide immediate relief to this problem. Adding 39 days to the recreational fishing season for red snapper is great news. Ultimately, a long-term solution is needed that benefits all Gulf fishermen. I will continue to work with Secretary Ross and my Gulf State colleagues to allow further access to this abundant resource.
It’s important to note that this extension is not permanent; it only applies to the 2017 season. As Congressman Byrne noted, “We must continue our efforts to find a permanent legislative solution that gives more authority over setting Red Snapper seasons to the five Gulf states,” adding that he’s currently pursuing such measures.
FBI Statistics Show Handgun Murders Fell in States that Removed Carry Requirements
After Alabama’s legislature failed to pass a bill that would have removed permit requirements for concealed carry handguns, new evidence from the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows that handgun murders dropped in states that did pass such laws.
The states of Alaska, Arizona, and Wyoming have all seen a significant decrease in handgun murders over the past several years. FBI data reveals that Alaska’s handgun murder rate declined since its law lifted concealed carry restrictions passed in 2003. Similarly, Arizona’s murder rate has dropped since its law lifted restrictions in 2010, and Wyoming’s has fallen since it did the same in 2011.
On top of those three, nine other states have removed the permit requirement on American’s wishing to exercise their Second Amendment right. Those states are Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia. In addition, Arkansas and Montana recognize permitless carry from other states.
The Alabama Senate approved a bill to eliminate the permit requirement for concealed carry of a handgun in a straight party-line vote, but the measure failed in the House of Representatives. The failure of the 2017 bill is nothing new, as several previous measures aimed at loosening Alabama’s conceal carry permit rules have failed to become law. Law enforcement associations, primarily county sheriffs’ offices, have lobbied against most of these changes because they are the chief recipient of the fees gun owners must pay to obtain a conceal carry permit.
Currently, to receive a permit, a gun-owner must undergo a background check from the Sheriff’s Office and pay a fee that varies from county to county. In 2015, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor (D) said that local sheriffs “know” things about their constituents that gives them “a pretty good feel for their constituents and their county and who should and should not have a permit.”
“We know things that the computer can’t tell us,” he said. “We know things about our citizens. We know who’s going through a divorce. We know who’s in a bad time, who may be drinking too much, who may be abusive but hasn’t necessarily crossed the line of a crime. But in our opinion, they don’t need a pistol permit.”
Story broken by former Alabama player ultimately led James Comey to hold the Hillary Clinton press conference
Christopher Sign is a former Alabama football player. He is also an award-winning journalist for ABC 15 in Arizona, and a story he broke last June was a major piece of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s questioning of former FBI director James Comey Thursday morning.
Sign was a backup left guard and center for two Alabama teams that ultimately won the SEC West championship in the 1990s. As Yellowhammer readers may recall, he broke the story about former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch meeting with former President Bill Clinton on an aircraft while in Phoenix, Ariz. This meeting caused a significant backlash because of the ongoing (at the time) investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the handling of classified information.
Last July, Sign explained to Football Matters how the story and his reporting on it materialized. “Sources tipped me off about the meeting taking place and from that moment on, my goal was to report the facts,” he said. “I didn’t mention anything about Republicans or Democrats. I kept things as simple as possible and reported that there was a secret meeting going on that we were able to expose. There was a tremendous amount of stress because of the possible ramifications of the story. I wanted to make sure that I had every ‘I’ dotted and ‘T’ crossed. I visualized going on air for the story like I would before games. I knew once it was on tape, there was no going back. I had to make sure things went exactly as planned. I got hyper focused, just like I used to do on the football field.”
The story did have a significant impact not only on the investigation into Clinton’s email use, but also the 2016 presidential election, in which Hillary Clinton was the Democratic nominee. A Washington Post editorial said the meeting created a “terrible moment for (Hillary Clinton) and the Democrats, and for President Obama and perceptions of the integrity of his administration.”
In testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday, Comey made it clear that the details of the story broken by Sign were a key factor in his decision to make a public announcement on July 5th of last year regarding the Clinton investigation. He indicated that he felt the meeting between Lynch and Clinton had the potential to damage the credibility of the bureau and the investigation.
“In an ultimately conclusive way, that was the thing that capped it for me that I had to do something separately to protect the credibility of the investigation, which meant both the FBI and the Justice Department,” Comey told Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) during the hearing.
Sign started with ABC 15 in 2005 and now is an anchor on ABC 15 Mornings. He received an Emmy Award for Breaking News in 2014 for his extended live coverage when two Phoenix police officers were shot during a shootout. He also earned an Edward R. Murrow Award for spot news in 2006.
He summed up this experience by saying, “ABC 15 in Phoenix hired me to do a job, and that’s what I’m doing. Just like I did on the football field. I’ve always said that playing team sports sets you up to do well in life, and this is proof.”
Alabama Congressmen react to Comey testimony
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a much-anticipated hearing, former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday regarding his firing and the investigation of President Donald Trump.
“The administration chose to defame me and, more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly run,” Comey said. “Those were lies, plain and simple.”
Although Comey strongly criticized his former boss, he did testify to many facts that counter narratives forwarded by the political left. Under oath, he said that Trump did not ask him to stop the Russia investigation and said that he did not find contact between members of Trump’s campaign and Russian officials to be unusual.
Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, Comey refused to answer numerous questions with answers that could upset the efforts of special counsel.
Being the landmark event of the week on Capitol Hill, many members of the Alabama Congressional Delegation weighed on the Comey Spectacle.
Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) has been impressed by the style of the investigation so far, but he does not buy the liberal narrative that Russians or the actions of the FBI put Donald Trump in office
“Since day one, the Senate Intelligence Committee, along with the Justice Department, has been handling the allegations about Director Comey with transparency and professionalism, and today’s hearing shows they’re continuing to do so,” Strange said. “The American people elected Donald Trump as President. Not because of what the FBI director said or did last year, but because he understood their concerns and had a plan to make America great again. I’m working with his administration to do just that.”
On the other hand, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) is sick and tired of the media’s absurdity in its coverage of the Russia story. “Today’s testimony by James Comey was more of a media circus than any sort of productive hearing,” Byrne said. As I have said before, we should allow the investigatory process to play out and stop trying to litigate this issue in the national news media. We should follow the facts and the law and nothing but the facts and the law.”
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL3) agrees with Byrne and even went as far as to call the allegations against the administration false. “In November, the American people rejected the liberal media elite and the politics of personal destruction to elect Donald Trump president. Despite this, the Democrats and liberal media elite are relentless in attacking the president with false allegations in an attempt to stop his agenda,” Rogers said. “To date, there is no evidence of collusion between President Trump and the Russian government during the November election.”
Robert Aderholt (R-AL4) was most struck by what Comey did not say in his testimony. “[Comey] did not reveal how the Russians and/or the Trump campaign convinced Mrs. Clinton’s campaign to completely ignore the mathematically critical states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin during the last months of the 2016 campaign,” Aderholt said. “Simply put, anyone would be concerned about the Russians or any foreign country trying to involve themselves in American elections. But I think it is equally important to note that they did not affect the outcome. That belongs to the candidates.”
This article will be updated as more statements are released.
The Ultimate Red Herring: Making Sense of the Hysteria Following Comey’s Removal from the FBI (opinion)
Sometimes the substance of a position is so flimsy the only path forward is to divert attention from it—in other words, create a red herring.
That’s precisely what the Democrats have done in the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s termination two days ago. In short, they’ve seized the moment, launching a well-coordinated campaign to resurrect the cry that Russia gave Trump the Presidency.
More specifically, the idea they’re now peddling is that President Trump fired Comey simply to avoid scrutiny over alleged collusion with Russia to throw the election last fall. This, despite the fact that former President Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in sworn testimony Monday that there’s no evidence to support such claims.
Nevertheless, with Comey gone, if Democrats can create enough of a fuss to get a special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s influence on the campaign, the nation’s attention may once again shift to the White House and away from their party’s colossal political and policy failures.
Ironically, for this to happen the problem the Democrats must overcome is the same one that led to James Comey’s firing and Hillary Clinton’s defeat: a credibility problem.
Let’s start with the Democrats. As recently as last week, they were the ones demanding Comey’s head, but now that he’s gone, they’re declaring his termination the greatest miscarriage of justice since Watergate.
As Rush Limbaugh pointed out yesterday:
• Business Insider ran an article entitled “‘Comey Acted in an Outrageous Way During the Campaign, Bernie Sanders Suggests FBI Director Should Resign”
• The liberal website ThinkProgress published a piece entitled “The Case for Firing Comey”
• Democrat operative John Podesta said the American people “are getting nauseous at the sound of Comey’s voice”
The list goes on, yet despite these contradictions and their obvious hypocrisy, the central question remains: did the President have grounds to fire Comey? Once again, the answer to this question is centered around his loss of credibility.
While Comey’s credulity problems started long before 2016, his clumsy actions during last fall’s presidential campaign are too questionable to ignore. After his boss at the time, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a clandestine meeting with Bill Clinton on a private tarmac, Comey concluded that Hillary Clinton never intended to do anything wrong. Not only was his rationale highly suspect, this determination wasn’t his to make—the FBI’s job is to investigate, not prosecute. Reeling from the backlash of this now infamous July declaration, Comey pivoted in October and reopened the investigation, citing new emails not previously seen.
Continuing to give the nation little reason to trust him, FBI officials also acknowledged that, in his recent Senate testimony, Comey inaccurately stated the number of Hillary Clinton’s emails to her aide Huma Abedin, which were forwarded to her ex-husband Anthony Weiner’s computer. Whether an honest mistake or not, the FBI Director simply cannot make this kind of error.
It’s hard to tell how this whole mess will turn out, but in the wake of Comey’s firing, one thing is clear: as much as Democrats want to make this about Russia’s influence on the campaign, credibility is the currency of relationships and James Comey squandered his.
Who are some other recent U.S. governors who had to resign in disgrace?
With the resignation of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley now official, we decided to take a look at some other recent United States governors who were forced to resign amid scandals and the last governor to be impeached.
The last governor to resign amidst a scandal was Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. He remains the longest-serving governor in the history of the state. He resigned in February of 2015 after controversy continued to build over his fiancé’s work for the state. After pressure built from state lawmakers and one of the leading newspapers in the state, Kitzhaber stepped down.
The last state governor to be impeached was Illinois’ Rod Blagojevich. He was removed from office in January of 2009 and declared ineligible to hold public office in that state. In August of 2010, he was convicted on one of 24 federal charges against him. The charge that brought him down was lying to the FBI.
While Bentley is a Republican, Blagojevich and Kitzhaber are both Democrats.
There are other recent examples of governors having to leave office early due to scandals. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) resigned in 2008 after he was caught setting up a meeting with a prostitute, and former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevy (D) had to resign due to sexual harassment claims against him.
As this Governing.com article points out, while scandals involving governors were all over the place in the 2000s (roughly from 2002 to 2010), the current decade has seen a drop off in gubernatorial scandals. Now we have Robert Bentley to add to the list of disgraced governors ousted from office.
Sessions lauds arrest of teen who threatened Jewish Community Centers
On Thursday, a teen with Israeli-American citizenship was arrested in connection with a dozens of bomb threats made to Jewish Community Centers across the nation, which included several against the Levite Jewish Community Center Birmingham. Upon announcing the arrest, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised law enforcement and intelligence officials.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs,” Sessions said in a statement. “I commend the FBI and Israeli National Police for their outstanding work on this case.”
Sessions added that the arrest was the “culmination of a large-scale investigation spanning multiple continents for hate crimes against Jewish communities across our country.”
The teen has been described as a 19 year-old “hacker” who used advanced technology to hide his digital footprint. He was arrested in South Israel.
In Birmingham, the Levite Jewish Community Center has been threatened four separate times, receiving its most recent bomb threat in early March. The LJCC also received bomb threats on Jan. 18, Feb. 20, and Feb. 27. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating the incidents.
President Donald J. Trump came out late last month to condemn such threats against the Jewish community. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said. “I certainly hope they catch the people.”
Shelby slams FBI director in scathing new letter about Clinton investigation
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an stunning and unexpected move, the FBI announced that it is assessing new emails “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby (R) immediately weighed in and ripped into FBI Director James Comey for his previous decision to not press charges.
Comey let Clinton off the hook earlier this year because he stated his agency failed to accumulate enough evidence to prove that Clinton acted with criminal intent. According to The Hill, the new emails were uncovered as a result of a separate investigation into Anthony Weiner, who allegedly sent sexually explicit messages to an underage girl. Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is a long time aide to Clinton.
You can view the text of Shelby’s scathing letter below.
Dear Director Comey:
I am writing in response to the letter you sent me regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) intention to re-open the investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Due to the serious nature of this matter, I request that the FBI expeditiously and thoroughly conduct its review.
In July, you held a press conference where you explained to the American people that Secretary Clinton was “extremely careless” with classified information while using a private e-mail server. Unfortunately, it has now become apparent that the FBI, with all its extensive resources and highly-trained personnel, closed an incomplete investigation that resulted in only partial findings. I firmly believe that the American people deserve to know the facts – all of them.
There is much at stake in how this investigation is conducted. Not only is the Bureau’s examination a reflection on the current Administration and Secretary Clinton, but it is also critical to the integrity of the FBI and the American people’s ability to place their trust in government. I believe that your recommendation and the Department of Justice’s decision not to prosecute Secretary Clinton set a dangerous precedent for the way we hold our public officials accountable.
While I am pleased that the FBI is re-opening this case in light of new information, it is imperative that the Bureau immediately evaluate the material to complete this investigation. The American people are electing their next Commander-in-Chief only days from now, and they deserve to know the conclusion of your review prior to Election Day. Let me be clear: This should be your utmost priority.
Richard C. Shelby
Alabama moves to protect election systems after FBI discovers hacks in other states
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama elections officials are moving to ensure the state’s voting systems are secure in the wake of revelations that the voter databases in at least two other states have been breached in recent months.
According to a Reuters report, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has found breaches in Illinois and Arizona’s voter registration databases and is urging states to increase computer security ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.”
The database breaches do not “necessarily suggest an effort to manipulate the votes themselves,” but raise concerns at a time when cyber security is already playing a significant role in the presidential election. The Democratic National Committee was hacked last month, with embarrassing emails showing coordination between the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign being released publicly. The hack, which intelligence officials have pinned on Russian operatives, led to the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
David Kennedy, the CEO of TrustedSec, a firm specializing in information security, told Reuters the latest attacks on voter databases were “largely exploratory and not especially sophisticated.” He added, however, that “it could be a precursor to a larger attack.”
The Alabama Secretary of State’s office told Yellowhammer they are working with federal authorities and the state’s election system vendor to ensure security.
“Secretary [John] Merrill participated in a conference call with several other secretaries of state regarding this issue,” said John Bennett, Secretary Merrill’s communications director. “During the call the Department of Homeland Security advised that they would be willing to have members of their team deployed to states to help set-up significant protections against hacking. Secretary Merrill was a part of bipartisan support requesting that the power to secure and properly maintain elections should remain in the hands of the states. This was followed by similar support for the complex systems that states have in place to protect our elections systems.
“We did, however, [complete] an internal review of our systems and have verified that no breaches have taken place at this time. We are also currently working with Election Systems & Software, our election systems vendor, to ensure that no breaches have occurred to their system.”
Statewide elections are scheduled to take place Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Shelby unleashes fury on Dept. of Justice: ‘Hillary Clinton is not above the law!’
WASHINGTON – In response to FBI Director James Comey’s press conference regarding Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) sent a letter to the U.S. Dept. of Justice warning that following the FBI’s recommendation to not prosecute Clinton “could set a dangerous precedent for not holding a public official accountable for reckless actions.” Attorney General Loretta Lynch had previously said the DoJ would follow the recommendation of the FBI.
“Many in Alabama and America believe that some powerful public officials act as if rules and laws do not apply to them,” Shelby wrote. “As John Adams said, ours is a ‘government of laws, and not of men.’ The nation is counting on your application of this principle.”
FBI Director Comey conceded during his press conference that “110 e-mails in 53 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information… Separate from those, about 2,000 additional e-mails were ‘up-classified’ to make them Confidential.”
Shelby wrote to the DoJ that “these statement confirm Secretary Clinton mislead the American people and was extremely reckless in her handling of classified information both sent and received on her private e-mail.
“If a lower-level government employee with access to classified information had behaved in this manner, including at the Top Secret level, they would loser their security clearance immediately and would almost certainly lose their job,” he continued. “If that same employee had previously established their own personal unsecured email server in their home for the purpose of evading government oversight, they would rightly be charged with a crime.”
After sending the letter, which can be read in full here, Sen. Shelby released the following statement titled “Hillary Clinton is not above the law:”
Today the FBI confirmed that Hillary Clinton misled the American people and was ‘extremely careless’ with classified information both sent and received on her private e-mail server. While I appreciate and respect the hard work of the FBI, I have serious concerns with their recommendation after uncovering that Hillary Clinton grossly mishandled matters relating to national security. If the DOJ follows the FBI’s recommendation, it could set a dangerous precedent for not holding a public official accountable for reckless actions.
I strongly believe that all Americans should be held to the same standards and that the Department should take a hard look at the FBI’s strong rebuke of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail practices. From former President Bill Clinton visiting Attorney General Lynch’s aircraft for a secret meeting to Hillary Clinton’s attorneys deleting e-mails, it is clear that the Clintons believe that they do not have to play by the same rules. It is now up to DOJ to ensure that Hillary Clinton is not treated as though she is above the law.
A staffer for Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, dismissed the concerns of Shelby and others and said the matter has now been put to rest.
“We are pleased that the career officials handling this case have determined that no further action by the Department is appropriate,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. “As the Secretary has long said, it was a mistake to use her personal email and she would not do it again. We are glad that this matter is now resolved.”
40 years ago Alabama’s AG sent a legendary, three-word response to KKK threats
Exactly 40 years ago this week, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) dubbed Alabama’s then-attorney general an “honorary nigger” and basically threatened to kill him. 29-year-old AG Billy Baxley promptly issued his response on official State of Alabama letterhead: “kiss my ass.”
So what led to this exchange?
On Sunday, September 15, 1963, members of the KKK planted over a dozen sticks of dynamite below the steps of Birmingham, Alabama’s 16th Street Baptist Church. In what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity,” the dynamite exploded and killed four young black girls and injured 22 other churchgoers.
In 1965, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover identified five men as suspects in the bombing. However, the investigation was closed in 1968 without any charges being filed.
It later came to light that Hoover had blocked some of the evidence in the case from being made public and subsequently shut down the investigation.
Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley chose to reopen the case in 1971. In spite of the FBI’s lack of cooperation and limited evidence, Baxley successfully prosecuted Robert Edward Chambliss, one of the initial suspects named by the FBI. Chambliss was convicted and sentenced to multiple life terms in prison.
“I wanted to try to solve that case and do something about the people who killed the little girls,” Baxley later told PBS. “It took us a couple of years to really get on the trail of the right people… (Chambliss) was the ringleader. He was responsible for 30 or 40 bombings over a two or three-decade period in Birmingham. His nickname was dynamite Bob and he was very proud of it.”
The KKK was furious the Baxley chose to reopen the case. Infamous white supremacist leader Edward R. Fields, the Grand Dragon of the New Order Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, made their displeasure known in a scathing letter.
We would like to congratulate you, you are now and honorary nigger. We hope that you are proud of yourself now, you WHITE NIGGER. We hope you are soon blessed with the same condition that the nigger lover Kennedy contracted, which is dead……. a long time dead…
“I took it as a threat,” recalls Baxley. “He called me a traitor to my race and how dare I prosecute or investigate these white Christian patriots and blah, blah, blah, blah. And so they demanded a response. So I sat down and wrote them a response.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
STATE OF ALABAMA
February 20, 1976
“Dr.” Edward R. Fields
National States Rights Party
P. O. Box 1211
Marietta, Georgia 30061
Dear “Dr.” Fields:
My response to your letter of February 19, 1976, is – kiss my ass.
“Well, that’s the way I felt — then and now,” says Baxley, now a private attorney. “I think the ironic thing about the letter, the way it got public was the Klan released it. I never would’ve released it. I would’ve been afraid that my mother would’ve thought it was terrible of me using bad language, so I didn’t tell anybody that I wrote it – just a couple of people in the office knew. But they went nuts when they got it. And they published it in their hate publication that came out every week or so.”
Four decades later, Baxley’s letter lives on as another fascinating moment in Alabama’s long and complex civil rights history.
Alabama native, Apple CEO Tim Cook defies U.S. government, defends iPhone privacy
Alabama native and Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a clear message to the federal government Wednesday morning, warning his customers of the danger lurking in their iPhones’ “backdoor.”
The Auburn graduate stated in an open letter that Apple will fight a federal court order that compels the manufacturer to build a “master key” for the data held on its mobile devices.
The case before the court involves the iPhone 5C that belonged to San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwaan Farook. The FBI can’t guess Farook’s PIN code, and if they try too many incorrect codes, the phone may wipe itself. Each time they make a guess, the iOS operating system also adds a delay before they can try another one.
As a result, a federal judge in California ordered Apple to aid the FBI by creating a special version of the iPhone software that investigators could load onto the handset, allowing them to bypass the phone’s security mechanisms. This special software would bypass or disable the auto-erase function, remove the artificial delays between guess attempts, and make it possible to automatically make those guesses via Wi-Fi or some other means that avoids someone having to physically type each one.
While this may seem like a harmless request in furtherance of national security, Cook argues that the court’s demands put Apple customers at risk and sets a dangerous precedent for the invasion of privacy.
Apple, like many other companies, has used encryption to protect customers’ data from nefarious sources.
For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.
But the tech giant is not merely being obstructionist. In fact, the company has complied with every step of the investigation that proceeded through proper Fourth Amendment channels.
We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.
This “backdoor”, Cook fears, would inevitably fall into the wrong hands and put every single iPhone user in danger of being hacked.
The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.
While the Federal government may mean to use this backdoor to do good in this instance, many skilled hackers and terrorists would not use the power so benevolently. To quote the late Milton Friedman, government policies must be judged by their results and not by their intentions. Cook understands that while the government means well, this policy would do great harm and violate individual’s civil liberties.
While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.
To find justification, the FBI is reaching back to the All the Writs Act of 1789, which authorizes United States federal courts to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” Here, the court is not acting in a way “agreeable to the usages and principles of law”; it is running afoul the very principles on which this nation was founded.
Cook rightly describes the actions of the feds as “chilling” and postulates that the government, with this power, could “extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”
Yes, this sounds like a slippery slope. Yes, this logic goes beyond the reasoning for the program’s use in the case at hand. But just look at history. When the government is given an inch, it takes a mile.
The Fourth Amendment was enshrined in the Bill of Rights because of colonial experience with tyrannical government. The British issued writs of assistance that functioned as general warrants, allowing officials to search anywhere without having to obtain a specific warrant. John Adams wrote that colonials were “ready to take Arms against Writs of Assistants,” and said that the British violated their sacred rights as Englishmen.
“Opposing this order is not something we take lightly,” Cook wrote. “We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.”
“While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products,” Cook concludes. “And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”
In the privacy versus security battle, the federal government, and the rest of the world, now knows where the largest tech company stands.
‘We’re at war’ — Alabama mosque reports jihadist messages to FBI
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A local Muslim leader has informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that members of his mosque have received “suspicious messages” on their social media accounts, including at least one message that mentioned “war,” according to an Associated Press report.
Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, told the AP that an unknown individual sent friend requests to members of his mosque, followed by messages. One of the messages said, “We are at war and we must stick together.”
Taufique says he informed the FBI out of fear that his mosque would be incorrectly associated with extremists.
“(I reported the messages) because of the special time we are in we didn’t want to take a chance,” he said.
One of the Birmingham Islamic Society’s former members left the United States to join ISIS last year, although the mosque’s leaders say she had withdrawn from the community long before radicalizing.
The girl, Hoda Muthana, a 20-year-old former college student from Hoover, was radicalized through social media and ultimately abandoned her family to move to ISIS-controlled Syria.
A recent study by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism identified Muthana as one of ISIS’s most active recruiters online.
Here’s how the group operates on the Internet, according to the study:
ISIS Activists and sympathizers are active on a variety of platforms — open forums, private messaging apps, and the dark web — but Twitter is by far the platform of choice. The Program on Extremism identified and monitored approximately 300 American supporters of ISIS on Twitter, including some individuals now in Syria and Iraq. These accounts can be divided into three categories: noes, amplifiers and shout-outs.
Nodes are the leading voices in the ISIS Twittersphere. They enjoy a prominent status and are the primary content creators for the network. A group of two or three clustered users will often swap comedic memes, news articles and official ISIS tweets, allowing them to pool followers and more easily spread content both to new audiences and throughout their network.
Amplifiers largely do not generate new content but rather retweet and “favorite” material from popular users. Ultimately, because they post little, if any, original content, it is often unclear whether these accounts correspond to real-life ISIS sympathizers or are programmed to post automatically.
Shout-out accounts primarily introduce new, pro-ISIS accounts to the community and promote newly created accounts of previously suspended users, allowing them to quickly regain their pre-suspension status. A unique innovation of the online ISIS scene, they tend to have the largest followings in the Twitter landscape and play a pivotal role in the community’s resilience, despite frequent account suspensions.
— Nearly 1/3 of the tracked accounts are purportedly operated by women.
— Most American ISIS supporters online communicate in English.
— Many accounts use avatars of black flags, lions and green birds (a symbol of martyrs).
— Increasingly avatars feature Americans arrested on terrorism charges, killed waging jihad abroad, or committing attacks in the U.S.
Muthana is reportedly one of the Islamic State’s “nodes.”
Her father, Mohammed, and his wife moved to the United States from Yemen in 1992. All of his children were born here and are American citizens. He told Buzzfeed in an in-depth report that he “controls his kids” like “every family,” but that ISIS “found somehow, some way to (get) through” to his daughter.
More details on their story can be found here.
‘We’re at war’ — Alabama mosque reports jihadist messages to FBI https://t.co/MZ5mMwTgvg
— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) December 9, 2015
Illegal aliens arrested in Alabama for running ‘sex trade operation’
ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — Two illegal aliens were arrested in Alabama over the weekend for their participation in what authorities are describing as an “ongoing sex trade operation.”
Ricardo Castaneda, 33, and Humberto Erazo-Medrano, 42, were taken into custody after Albertville police, Marshall County Sheriff’s deputies, the FBI and the Dept. of Homeland Security executed a search warrant on a residence in Albertville.
“Officers and agents located multiple items which supported suspicions of an ongoing sex trade operation at the residence,” a spokesperson for the Albertville Police Department said in a press release. Law enforcement officials did not provide any further details in announcing the arrests, but they are believed to have been made in conjunction with the takedown of a multi-state prostitution ring.
Authorities were not immediately able to verify Mr. Erazo-Medrano’s and Mr. Castaneda’s country of origin.
Their arrests come on the heels of months of national headlines detailing the illicit activities of illegal aliens in various parts of the United States.
According to police, Ramiro Ajualip, a 27-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant living in Alabama, confessed to raping a ten-year-old Alabama girl in March of 2015. But while the story received some local coverage at the time, the national media only recently brought renewed attention to the attack as a result of controversial comments made by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.
According to police, Ajualip raped and sodomized the young girl, then threatened her life in an attempt to keep her quiet. She later broke down and revealed the vicious attack to her parents.
“You know, (it was) a 10-year-old child that probably has no idea what`s really going on,” said Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett. “It`s sad because now that child is going to be scarred for the rest of her life.”
The murder of Kate Steinle, a young San Francisco girl who was shot by an illegal alien who had been convicted of seven felonies but never deported, also sparked a national conversation about so called sanctuary cities. Sanctuary cities do not enforce federal immigration laws, often allowing criminal illegal aliens to be released back onto the streets, rather than working with federal law enforcement to have them deported.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions has frequently lambasted the Obama Administration for not cracking down on sanctuary cities, choosing instead to allow widespread de facto “amnesty.”
“What the American people know and what the families of victims of violent crime know is that this Administration has consistently and steadfastly placed the goal of amnesty above the goal of public safety,” Sen. Sessions said earlier this year. “If this Administration spent one-tenth of the effort on enforcement and protecting people from crimes and punishing people who are criminals who violate our immigration laws, rather than on amnesty, we’d be a lot safer today. Many of the people who have been injured, robbed, or killed by illegal aliens would be alive today. That’s just fact and everybody knows it.”
Sen. Sessions also sponsored a bill to “end the mass release of criminal aliens, return law and order to devastated communities, and ensure the consistent and uniform application of federal law. The proposal, which builds on legislation introduced by House Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy, is named after Detective Michael Davis and Deputy Danny Oliver, two local law enforcement officers who were murdered by an illegal alien with an extensive criminal history.”
In the last two years, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released back onto the streets 76,000 convicted criminal aliens. There are currently 169,000 criminal aliens at large in the United States who have criminal convictions and were formally and lawfully ordered deported.
The Obama Administration’s tolerance of sanctuary cities has also resulted in another 10,000 potentially deportable arrested aliens being released by local law agencies since January of 2014. 121 of the criminal aliens who’ve been ordered deported in the last few years and were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement have now been charged with additional homicide offenses.
Illegal aliens arrested in Alabama for running ‘sex trade operation’ https://t.co/zxU4XVVBfp
— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) November 4, 2015
Byrne: National security should be top priority when considering Syrian refugees (Opinion)
When considering whether to vote in favor of legislation, I often ask myself a simple question: Is this in the best interest of the American people? I believe that should be a guiding principle for all our elected officials when they are faced with a major decision.
Recently, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry announced a plan to increase the number of refugees allowed into the United States. Under their plan, the Obama Administration plans to accept at least 10,000 refugees from Syria.
As soon as I heard this news, I had major concerns about the impact this decision would have on the American people and the national security of our country. Let me explain why.
Currently, Syria is home to a major conflict between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, fighters with the Islamic State, and many different factions of rebels who wish to overrun the government. This brutal fighting has resulted in a mass exodus of Syrian people looking to escape their war torn country.
That’s where President Obama’s decision comes into play. As defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act, a refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution.” The federal government has a process for screening and accepting these individuals before allowing their admission into the US, and the Syrian people can certainly make a strong case to be admitted.
However, I have serious concerns about the threat of terrorists infiltrating the refugee system and entering the United States. Groups like the Islamic State have made clear that they would attempt to disguise terrorist operatives as refugees.
I am not the only one who has these concerns. In fact, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently called the migrant issue a “huge concern” and said that “we don’t put it past the likes of [the Islamic State] to infiltrate operatives among these refugees.”
At a recent House Homeland Security Committee hearing, officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implied that bringing in a large number of Syrian refugees would represent a threat to our national security. DHS officials have even admitted that Syria does not have a computer database to check the criminal and terrorist records of these refugees.
The issue is especially of interest to those of us in Southwest Alabama because Mobile is home to one of the 190 State Department refugee affiliates. This means Syrian refugees could be placed in our local community.
That is why I sent a letter to the Department of State asking for information about the screening process the refugees would be required to go through. In response to my letter, I was invited to attend a classified briefing to learn more about the screening process. Unfortunately, I left the briefing with many of the same concerns.
So after listening to the concerns of my constituents and getting more information from the State Department, I decided to support H.R. 3573, the Refugee Resettlement Oversight and Security Act. This bill would require approval from both the House and the Senate before refugees could be admitted to the United States. The bill would also give Congress the authority to block any inadequate refugee resettlement plan.
There is simply no way to know for sure that terrorist groups, like the Islamic State, are not going to infiltrate the refugee process, and the Refugee Resettlement Oversight and Security Act will ensure that Congress, and in turn the American people, have the final say when it comes to increasing the number of refugees.
On this issue, like many others, I can’t help but ask myself: Is this in the best interest of the American people? At this point, it seems clear the answer is no.
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st District.
Roby: Hillary Clinton’s emails threatened national security (Opinion)
By now you’ve heard the news that the U.S. Department of Justice is taking possession of the personal, secret server former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton used to conduct official email correspondence. Clinton’s decision to finally surrender the server to authorities comes in the wake of revelations that classified, “Top Secret” materials were indeed contained in emails on her private account, counter to her previous claims.
But, what makes this development so significant? Why does it matter to the FBI whether Clinton used her own private system to conduct email correspondence?
First of all, federal law prohibits storing classified information in unauthorized places, with penalties ranging from a fine to one year in prison. We have stringent security protocols for those who deal with sensitive, classified information because that information could be used to threaten our national security and put those in military or clandestine service at risk. And, in a world with growing cyber security threats, the risk is even greater for digitally stored information.
For example, NBC News recently reported that Chinese hackers had penetrated the private email accounts of many top Executive Branch officials since 2010. The officials’ government accounts were not penetrated, though, because they have a much higher level of security. It is unclear whether Secretary Clinton was among those top officials to have their private emails hacked though an in-house email system like hers is believed to be particularly vulnerable to hackers.
The bottom line is Secretary Clinton deliberately flouted our nation’s protocols with her personal email arrangement and, in doing so, threatened the security of classified, Top Secret information. Her apparent obsession with retaining absolute control of her email came at the expense of national security, and that should concern all Americans.
Secretary Clinton says she already deleted more than 30,000 emails and “wiped” the server housing them, so it’s unclear just how much can be gleaned from what was turned over. But I am hopeful the FBI, Inspectors General and the Select Committee on Benghazi can get to the bottom of it.
It’s worth noting that none of this would have been brought to light without the formation of the Select Committee, the determination of our Chairman, Trey Gowdy, or the diligent work of our investigators.
My colleagues and I are preparing for Secretary Clinton’s appearance before the Select Committee in October. Given these revelations and her previous statements, she will certainly have some explaining to do.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is currently serving her third term.
Potential terrorist attack in Alabama on July 4? FBI opens command centers to monitor plots
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The FBI has established “command centers” at its field offices in Birmingham and Mobile in response to the heightened terrorist threat level going into Independence Day weekend. The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland security have also issued a joint intelligence bulletin urging law enforcement agencies around the country to be on alert.
A federal law enforcement official told Fox News there are currently no specific threats of attack, but added that ISIS or other terrorist groups could target the holiday weekend in an attempt to generate greater attention.
“Authorities are particularly concerned about soft targets like shopping malls and other areas where there are large gatherings of people and rather light security,” the source said.
The rapid-response command centers being established in Alabama are part of a national network of FBI field offices working together to monitor potential threats and thwart or respond to attacks, if necessary.
“These kind of warnings go out routinely,” explained former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, “but there’s nothing routine about this particular one to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here next week talking about an attack that took place over the weekend in the United States. That’s how serious this is.”
When asked if Morell’s assessment was hyperbolic, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Tx.) said, “I don’t think so. We’re in one of the highest threat environments that I’ve seen in quite some time.
“The chatter, the volume is very high,” he continued. “The recent arrests we’ve had… We’ve rolled up, it seems like every week, a new ISIS follower… The ISIS spokesman called for jihad during Ramadan. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the caliphate. And we know they’re possibly targeting Fourth of July parades… All of these things converging together create a scenario that’s almost a perfect storm that greatly concerns me.”
McCaul said the command centers opening in Alabama and other areas of the country are the FBI’s response to the heightened threat level.
“We’ve had the joint terrorism task forces that normally deal with this issue. Command centers are sort of taking it up another step… because of the seriousness of the threat that they see.”
However, not everyone agrees the holiday weekend is cause for an increased level of concern. Terror expert Michael O’Hanlon told Yahoo News he believes officials are just being overly cautious.
“I would just remind people of the tendency of officials that, if there is any doubt or reason for concern, they tend to prefer to sound a little more worried,” he said. “It just makes you seem more prudent. It makes you seem smarter. You don’t have to worry that you forgot to tell people to keep up their guard. But it has the effect of sometimes overstating the threat.”
But Chairman McCaul’s specific mention of parades will likely remind many Alabamians about the story of Hoda Muthana, a 2013 graduate of Hoover High School and UAB student who abandoned her family to join ISIS in Syria. Muthana took to Twitter to urge muslims she left behind in Alabama to attack their “greatest enemy,” and specifically mentioned targeting parades.
“Americans wake up!” she tweeted on March 19. “Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriot, Memorial etc Day parades..go on drive by’s + spill all of their blood or rent a big truck n drive all over them. Kill them.”
In spite of the warnings in the intelligence bulletin sent out from the Department of Homeland Security, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said there’s no reason for individuals to curtail their Independence Day celebrations.
“We continue to encourage all Americans to attend public events and celebrate this country during this summer season,” he said, “but always remain vigilant.”
Like this article? Hate it? Follow me on Twitter and let me know what you think.
— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) June 9, 2015
Shelby pushes for Department of Justice to investigate Veterans Affairs scandal
U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) are coming together to push for the United States Department of Justice to address recent revelations that veterans have died after being placed on secret waiting lists at VA hospitals.
A recent report by The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general’s office confirmed that VA hospitals concealed treatment delays for veterans and “boosted performance measures that help determine whether bonuses are deserved.” In total, the report found that 1,700 veterans using the VA hospital in Phoenix were placed on secret wait lists.
The Obama Administration is also looking into the matter and earlier this week announced that veterans will be allowed to seek care at private hospitals in an effort to relieve some of the pressure on backlogged VA facilities.
But Sen. Shelby believes the issues at the VA are serious enough and of such magnitude that the Department of Justice and FBI need to get involved and launch criminal and civil investigations into the allegations.
Sens. Shelby and Mikulski, who are Vice Chair and Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, plan to insert language into a bill funding the departments of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies that will make it clear that ample resources are available to the DoJ and FBI to conduct a serious investigation into the VA.
“These allegations are deeply troubling,” Sen. Shelby told Yellowhammer today. “The victims, their families, and the American people deserve answers and accountability. I’m pleased to work with Chairman Mikulski to ensure that the Department of Justice has the full resources to do just that.”
During an Appropriations Committee hearing last week to mark up a bill funding all programs under the Dept. of Veterans Affairs’ jurisdiction, Shelby slammed the Obama Administration for ignoring multiple signs of veterans abuse. The committee appropriated $5 million in additional funding for the VA’s Inspector General to investigate what happened with veterans being denied benefits. But Shelby was already working behind the scenes to escalate the investigation to include the Department of Justice.
“While I commend the Committee’s support for an additional $5 million in funding to the Office of the Inspector General to investigate the VA’s scheduling practices, I also recognize that this is just a starting point,” Shelby said at the time.
Today’s move by Shelby and Mikulski is the next step.
Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims