Report: top democrats expedited immigration applications for companies owned by top donors, cronies

Via the Washington Free Beacon:

A legal watchdog group on Thursday asked the Department of Justice to investigate allegations that two senior Democratic officeholders illegally pushed federal officials to reward investors in companies to which they had personal, financial, or political ties.

Investors in those companies eventually received U.S. visas through a federal program despite concerns that they were involved in illegal activities or had tried to hide sources of their income from U.S. immigration officials.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Gov.  Terry McAuliffe (D) of Virginia may have illegally facilitated that process at the expense of less politically connected applicants for the same program, according to Cause of Action, a conservative legal watchdog group.

In a letter to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, Cause of Action alleges that Reid and McAuliffe used their considerable political clout to expedite consideration of visas for investors in the SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino and GreenTech Automotive.

McAuliffe founded GreenTech; he resigned from the company before running for governor. The former’s parent company hired Reid’s son Rory in 2012 to help it obtain government incentives. Its executives donated thousands to Sen. Reid after its Chinese investors obtained U.S. visas.

Cause of Action’s letter comes on the heels of, and relies in large part on, a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general released on Tuesday.

That report revealed additional details about Reid’s and McAuliffe’s communications with Alejandro Mayorkas, then the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the EB-5 visa program, as it is known.

Cause of Action is asking DOJ to investigate potential criminal conduct by Mayorkas in addition to McAulfife and Reid.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Spokesmen for Reid and USCIS referred to their previous statements regarding the report when asked for comment.

Career USCIS officials described Mayorkas’ work on GreenTech’s behalf as “politically motivated,” according to the report. The IG found that Mayorkas “created an appearance of favoritism and special access” by pushing for USCIS to expedite its EB-5 applications.

The report also exposed previously unknown details of Reid’s advocacy on behalf of SLS’ EB-5 investor petitions. Reid requested and received regular updates from Mayorkas and other USCIS officials on those petitions and requests to expedite them.

The report suggests that Reid’s advocacy on SLS’ behalf was “substantially beyond what is legally compliant behavior,” according to Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director.

The IG report noted that other applicants for EB-5 visas complained to USCIS that SLS was receiving preferential treatment. One called the process “blatantly unfair” and asked USCIS officials to  “look into who is getting favorable treatment before it becomes an extreme political football.”

Epstein said that such complaints suggest that Reid and McAuliffe advantaged EB-5 applications from SLS and GreenTech at the expense of other applicants, who were forced to wait in line while those companies saw their applications expedited.

“Senator Reid and then-candidate McAuliffe may have sued their political power to … pressure USCIS employees in a way that impeded USCIS functioning as a neutral adjudicator of USCIS visas,” Epstein told reporters during a conference call on Thursday.

Cause of Action is asking the Justice Department to investigate whether there is probable cause to believe that criminal conduct took place.

“Given the individuals involved, the pattern of malfeasance and the importance of public oversight, it is incumbent your division immediately investigate these matters,” the group’s letter said.

If its Public Integrity Section finds reason to believe that legal violations took place, U.S. Attorneys in the relevant states will decide whether to request an indictment.

The U.S. Attorney for the state of Nevada, Daniel Bogden, owes his position to Reid’s advocacy, but Epstein said he hopes the process will be free from the type of meddling that Cause of Action has criticized at USCIS.

“We hope [DOJ officials] are pursuing things based off the facts … and that those kinds of political considerations will not taint the proceedings of a fair investigation.”

Obama Admin Leaks Israeli Nuclear Secrets in Revenge

Via Arutz Sheva:

In a development that has largely been missed by mainstream media, the Pentagon early last month quietly declassified a Department of Defense top-secret document detailing Israel’s nuclear program, a highly covert topic that Israel has never formally announced to avoid a regional nuclear arms race, and which the US until now has respected by remaining silent.

But by publishing the declassified document from 1987, the US reportedly breached the silent agreement to keep quiet on Israel’s nuclear powers for the first time ever, detailing the nuclear program in great depth.

The timing of the revelation is highly suspect, given that it came as tensions spiraled out of control between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama ahead of Netanyahu’s March 3 address in Congress, in which he warned against the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program and how the deal being formed on that program leaves the Islamic regime with nuclear breakout capabilities.

Another highly suspicious aspect of the document is that while the Pentagon saw fit to declassify sections on Israel’s sensitive nuclear program, it kept sections on Italy, France, West Germany and other NATO countries classified, with those sections blocked out in the document.

The 386-page report entitled “Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations” gives a detailed description of how Israel advanced its military technology and developed its nuclear infrastructure and research in the 1970s and 1980s.

Israel is “developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs. That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level,” reveals the report, stating that in the 1980s Israelis were reaching the ability to create bombs considered a thousand times more powerful than atom bombs.

The revelation marks a first in which the US published in a document a description of how Israel attained hydrogen bombs.

The report also notes research laboratories in Israel “are equivalent to our Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories,” the key labs in developing America’s nuclear arsenal.

Israel’s nuclear infrastructure is “an almost exact parallel of the capability currently existing at our National Laboratories,” it adds.

“As far as nuclear technology is concerned the Israelis are roughly where the U.S. was in the fission weapon field in about 1955 to 1960,” the report reveals, noting a time frame just after America tested its first hydrogen bomb.

Institute for Defense Analysis, a federally funded agency operating under the Pentagon, penned the report back in 1987.

Aside from nuclear capabilities, the report revealed Israel at the time had “a totally integrated effort in systems development throughout the nation,” with electronic combat all in one “integrated system, not separated systems for the Army, Navy and Air Force.” It even acknowledged that in some cases, Israeli military technology “is more advanced than in the U.S.”

Declassifying the report comes at a sensitive timing as noted above, and given that the process to have it published was started three years ago, that timing is seen as having been the choice of the American government.

US journalist Grant Smith petitioned to have the report published based on the Freedom of Information Act. Initially the Pentagon took its time answering, leading Smith to sue, and a District Court judge to order the Pentagon to respond to the request.

Smith, who heads the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, reportedly said he thinks this is the first time the US government has officially confirmed that Israel is a nuclear power, a status that Israel has long been widely known to have despite being undeclared.

‘exclusively for white people’ stickers was a hoax intended to perpetuate racial tension

Via Business Insider:

An activist lawyer in Austin admitted in a Facebook rant that he was behind the “exclusively for white people” stickers that appeared on store windows across the city last week, Mediaite reported.

Adam Reposa, who calls himself the ‘DWI Badass’ on his website, wrote on his Facebook page that he vandalized storefronts in an attempt to get people to care about gentrification.

“I never imagined it would be this easy,” he wrote on March 19. “Remember it is valuable to see just what giving a f*ck does to people as well as what not giving a f*ck does for people.”

Adam and his friends posted on his Facebook wall mocking Austin authorities, saying the prank’s cultural statement went “way over their heads.”

[…]

FEMA to deny funds to governors who question human-caused climate change

Via Philly.com:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is making it tougher for governors to deny man-made climate change. Starting next year, the agency will approve disaster-preparedness funds only for states whose governors approve hazard-mitigation plans that address climate change.

This may put several Republican governors who maintain that the Earth isn’t warming due to human activities, or prefer to take no action, in a political bind. Their position may block their states’ access to hundreds of millions of dollars in FEMA funds. In the last five years, the agency has awarded an average $1 billion a year in grants to states and territories for taking steps to mitigate the effects of disasters.

“If a state has a climate denier governor that doesn’t want to accept a plan, that would risk mitigation work not getting done because of politics,” said Becky Hammer, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program. “The governor would be increasing the risk to citizens in that state” because of his climate beliefs.

[…]

Obamacare has increased cost of health insurance by an average of 49%

Via Forbes:

There are hundreds of aspects of Obamacare that people argue over. But there’s one question that matters above all others: does the Affordable Care Act live up to its name? Does it make health insurance less expensive? Last November, our team at the Manhattan Institute published a study indicating that Obamacare had increased the underlying cost of individually-purchased health insurance in the average state by 41 percent in 2014, relative to 2013. We’ve now redone the study on a county-by-county basis, complete with a brand-new interactive map. Depending on where you live, the results may surprise you.

[…]

Continue Reading

 

Over 167,000 convicted criminal illegal aliens loose in US

Via CNS News:

CNSNews.com) – According to weekly detention and departure reports from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there were 167,527 non-detained convicted criminal aliens in the United States as of Jan. 26 of this year, a congressional hearing revealed Thursday.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah.) read the statistic aloud Thursday durin a hearing examining ICE’s priorities and procedures for removing criminal aliens currently living in the United States.

“In that report, it said that there are 167,527 non-detained, final-order convicted criminals on the loose in the United States,” Chaffetz pointed out while questioning ICE Director Sarah Saldana.

“These are people that are here illegally, get caught, convicted, and you release back out into the public,” he said, adding that some of the crimes committed by those who have been released include homicide, sex crimes, child pornography, drunk driving, robbery and kidnapping.

[…]

Continue Reading

 

 

Dozens of ‘Dreamers’ snagged in criminal drag net

Just here to commit the crimes Americans aren’t willing to, I guess…

Via the Washington Times:

Nearly two dozen of the illegal immigrants picked up in a nationwide sweep for criminal aliens earlier this month had previously been approved for President Obama’s deportation amnesty, the Homeland Security Department said Wednesday.

All 23 were part of Mr. Obama’s original program for so-called Dreamers, which began in 2012 and which had granted tentative legal legal status to nearly 640,000 as of the end of last year.

Of the 23, 15 were still actively part of the amnesty, while eight had been approved once but had not gotten their status renewed after the first two-year period expired.

[…]

Leaked nuke deal draft would give Iran capacity to enrich weapons-grade uranium, but would be inadequate for power

Via the AP:

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A draft nuclear accord now being negotiated between the United States and Iran would force Iran to cut hardware it could use to make an atomic bomb by about 40 percent for at least a decade, while offering the Iranians immediate relief from sanctions that have crippled their economy, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.

As an added enticement, elements of a U.N. arms embargo against Iran could be rolled back.

The very existence of a draft provided perhaps the clearest indication the sides were nearing a written agreement as they raced to meet a March 31 deadline for a framework pact. The deadline for a full agreement is the end of June.

Officials said the tentative deal imposes new limits on the number of centrifuges Iran can operate to enrich uranium, a process that can lead to nuclear weapons-grade material. The sides are zeroing in on a cap of 6,000 centrifuges, officials said, down from the 6,500 they spoke of in recent weeks.

That’s also less than the 10,000 such machines Tehran now runs, yet substantially more than the 500 to 1,500 that Washington originally wanted as a ceiling. Only a year ago, U.S. officials floated 4,000 as a possible compromise.

But U.S. officials insist the focus on centrifuge numbers alone misses the point. Combined with other restrictions on enrichment levels and the types of centrifuges Iran can use, Washington believes it can extend the time Tehran would need to produce a nuclear weapon to at least a year for the 10 years it is under the moratorium. Right now, Iran would require only two to three months to amass enough material if it covertly seeks to “break out” toward the bomb.

The one-year breakout time has become a point the Obama administration is reluctant to cross in the set of highly technical talks, and that bare minimum would be maintained for 10 years as part of the draft deal. After that, the restrictions would be slowly eased. The total length of the deal would be at least 15 years, possibly even 20.

Among U.S. allies, France is the most adamant about stretching out the duration of the deal. A European official familiar with the French position said it wants a 25-year time-span.

As part of the agreement, punitive U.S. economic sanctions would be phased out over time. President Barack Obama has the authority to eliminate some measures immediately, and others would be suspended as Iran confirms its compliance over time. Some sanctions would be held to the later years of the deal, while a last set would require a highly skeptical U.S. Congress to change laws.

Although time periods and sanctions schedules have previously been discussed, it is only in recent days that officials confirmed these understandings have been put down in a formal draft. The officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the confidential talks.

Iran insists its program is solely for peaceful energy, medical and research purposes, though many governments believe it has nuclear weapons ambitions.

It’s unclear how complete the draft agreement is. Iran’s deeply buried underground enrichment plant remains a problem, officials said, with Washington demanding the facility be repurposed and Tehran insisting it be able to run hundreds of centrifuges there. Iran says it wants to use the machines for scientific research; the Americans fear they could be quickly retooled for enrichment.

A planned heavy water reactor will be re-engineered to produce much less plutonium than originally envisioned, relieving concerns that it could be an alternative pathway to a bomb.

Iran’s atomic energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, told reporters this week almost all the technical work was done, but other officials said several obstacles still stood in the way of the framework.

Any March framework agreement is unlikely to constrain Iran’s missile program, which the United States believes may ultimately be aimed at creating delivery systems for nuclear warheads. Diplomats say that as the talks move to deadline, the Iranians continue to insist that missile curbs are not up for discussion.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met for the fourth straight day Thursday. Much of the nitty-gritty negotiating was being handled by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Salehi, both nuclear physicists.

“We are pushing some tough issues,” Kerry said after a morning meeting. “But we made progress.”

The talks formally remain between the Iran and six powers, but Kerry and Zarif have done most of the heavy lifting in recent months. If they make enough progress over the next days, foreign ministers representing the other nations at the negotiating table will be invited to put the finishing touches on the agreement. That may not happen until next week.

If a deal is reached, officials say various layers of U.N. sanctions on Iran will be eased. That will include parts of the U.N. arms embargo, with Russia and China, in particular, more forward-leaning on that front and talking about acting within weeks of a full accord. Some restrictions will stay in place, however, such as on the transfer of missile technology.

Any agreement faces fierce opposition from the U.S. Congress as well as close American allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, which believe the Obama administration has conceded too much.

Senate Republicans and even some Democrats are threatening to upend the diplomacy, demanding congressional approval and threatening further sanctions against Iran. If they can’t stop an accord, their interference can make it harder for Obama to live up to his side of the bargain.

After the deal expires, Iran could theoretically ramp up enrichment to whatever level or volume it wants.

Iran already can produce the equivalent of one weapon’s worth of enriched uranium with the centrifuges it now runs. However, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke of eventually operating enough centrifuges to produce what 190,000 of its current models churn out.

 

Obama Admin sets record for suppression of government data from public view

“Most transparent administration ever,” my ass

Via the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration set a new record again for more often than ever censoring government files or outright denying access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The government took longer to turn over files when it provided any, said more regularly that it couldn’t find documents, and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy.

It also acknowledged in nearly 1 in 3 cases that its initial decisions to withhold or censor records were improper under the law — but only when it was challenged.

Its backlog of unanswered requests at year’s end grew remarkably by 55 percent to more than 200,000. It also cut by 375, or about 9 percent, the number of full-time employees across government paid to look for records. That was the fewest number of employees working on the issue in five years.

The government’s new figures, published Tuesday, covered all requests to 100 federal agencies during fiscal 2014 under the Freedom of Information law, which is heralded globally as a model for transparent government. They showed that despite disappointments and failed promises by the White House to make meaningful improvements in the way it releases records, the law was more popular than ever. Citizens, journalists, businesses and others made a record 714,231 requests for information. The U.S. spent a record $434 million trying to keep up. It also spent about $28 million on lawyers’ fees to keep records secret.

The government responded to 647,142 requests, a 4 percent decrease over the previous year. It more than ever censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them, in 250,581 cases or 39 percent of all requests. Sometimes, the government censored only a few words or an employee’s phone number, but other times it completely marked out nearly every paragraph on pages.

On 215,584 other occasions, the government said it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper.

The White House touted its success under its own analysis. It routinely excludes from its assessment instances when it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies or the request was determined to be improper under the law, and said under this calculation it released all or parts of records in 91 percent of requests — still a record low since President Barack Obama took office using the White House’s own math.

“We actually do have a lot to brag about,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Separately, the Justice Department congratulated the Agriculture and State departments for finishing work on their oldest 10 requests, said the Pentagon responded to nearly all requests within three months and praised the Health and Human Services Department for disclosing information about the Ebola outbreak and immigrant children caught crossing U.S. borders illegally.

The government’s responsiveness under the open records law is an important measure of its transparency. Under the law, citizens and foreigners can compel the government to turn over copies of federal records for zero or little cost. Anyone who seeks information through the law is generally supposed to get it unless disclosure would hurt national security, violate personal privacy or expose business secrets or confidential decision-making in certain areas. It cited such exceptions a record 554,969 times last year.

Under the president’s instructions, the U.S. should not withhold or censor government files merely because they might be embarrassing, but federal employees last year regularly misapplied the law. In emails that AP obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration about who pays for Michelle Obama’s expensive dresses, the agency blacked-out a sentence under part of the law intended to shield personal, private information, such as Social Security numbers, phone numbers or home addresses. But it failed to censor the same passage on a subsequent page.

The sentence: “We live in constant fear of upsetting the WH (White House).”

In nearly 1 in 3 cases, when someone challenged under appeal the administration’s initial decision to censor or withhold files, the government reconsidered and acknowledged it was at least partly wrong. That was the highest reversal rate in at least five years.

The AP’s chief executive, Gary Pruitt, said the news organization filed hundreds of requests for government files. Records the AP obtained revealed police efforts to restrict airspace to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests in Ferguson, Missouri. In another case, the records showed Veterans Affairs doctors concluding that a gunman who later killed 12 people had no mental health issues despite serious problems and encounters with police during the same period. They also showed the FBI pressuring local police agencies to keep details secret about a telephone surveillance device called Stingray.

“What we discovered reaffirmed what we have seen all too frequently in recent years,” Pruitt wrote in a column published this week. “The systems created to give citizens information about their government are badly broken and getting worse all the time.”

The U.S. released its new figures during Sunshine Week, when news organizations promote open government and freedom of information.

The AP earlier this month sued the State Department under the law to force the release of email correspondence and government documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. The government had failed to turn over the files under repeated requests, including one made five years ago and others pending since the summer of 2013.

The government said the average time it took to answer each records request ranged from one day to more than 2.5 years. More than half of federal agencies took longer to answer requests last year than the previous year.

Journalists and others who need information quickly to report breaking news fared worse than ever.

Under the law, the U.S. is required to move urgent requests from journalists to the front of the line for a speedy answer if records will inform the public concerning an actual or alleged government activity. But the government now routinely denies such requests: Over six years, the number of requests granted speedy processing status fell from nearly half to fewer than 1 in 8. In January, the U.S. reminded agencies that it should carefully consider such “breaking news” requests.

The CIA, at the center of so many headlines, has denied every such request the last two years.