Review Category : Poltics

DOJ Inspector General Finds Waste and Mismanagement in Government’s Use of Drones

DOJ(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Justice’s Inspector General on Wednesday released a report detailing “waste and mismanagement” in the federal government’s use of drones.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent approximately $600,000 on drones, the report says, but never flew them operationally. The ATF’s drone program was suspended in 2014, but a week after the suspension, a separate unit within the bureau purchased five small drones for about $15,000.

The ATF, though, is just one example of the problems the DOJ Inspector General found with the federal government’s drone programs. The FBI, for instance, has 17 drones, but only one pilot team adequately trained on all of the drone models.

The Inspector General also made a series of recommendations, urging the FBI to “implement a systematic process to reassess regularly [drone] capabilities, technological developments, and resource and training needs” to ensure that the bureau is able to use drones “efficiently and effectively.” The report also urges the ATF to “perform a thorough needs analysis” concerning its drone usage and capabilities.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

FBI Director James Comey on 9/11 Report, ISIS Propaganda

FBI(WASHINGTON) — FBI Director James Comey on Wednesday spoke with a trio of 9/11 Commissioners on the release of a report that looked at potential new evidence on the 2001 attacks, offering some insight into ISIS propaganda and the American effort to counter it as well.

The report, released on Wednesday, says that the FBI needs to improve its analysis and intelligence collecting, as well as do a better job of integrating information from local law enforcement agencies, in an effort to fight homegrown terrorism. Comey said Wednesday that the FBI had declassified as much of the report as possible. The message, Comey said, is that the agency has “done great…it’s not good enough.”

9/11 Commissioner Tim Roemer said at the release of the report that Middle Eastern countries need to aid in fighting ISIS propaganda online.

Comey was asked about ISIS propaganda, including a list of names and addresses of military-tied targets posted online over the weekend. “[ISIS]’s M.O. is simply to ask those who aspire to be part of their sick world, to act,” the FBI director said. “So there isn’t a clear line between aspiration and operation.” He added that the FBI takes the “so-called ‘target lists'” seriously, “because there could be a sick person out there who wants to [secure] their bona fides by acting.”

Still, when asked who in the U.S. government should be tasked with countering ISIS’ propaganda messages online, Comey said definitively that the responsibility should not fall to his bureau. “The FBI should not, does not and will not engage in counter-narrative. We don’t communicate the messages about what people should believe, think, act, especially with respect to a faith.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Would Biden Run Against Lindsey Graham in 2016? VP Says ‘Hell Yeah!’

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — When Vice President Joe Biden returns to his old stomping grounds in the Senate, you can always count on a moment of Biden being Biden.

Biden, who was on the Hill Wednesday for an address by Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, bro-ed out with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, an old friend and potential 2016 rival.

“President Graham. Do y’all know President Graham?” Biden hollered over at the reporters speaking to Graham.

“He just guaranteed me I’ll be secretary of state,” Biden joked.

“You can be U.N. ambassador,” Graham said. “You’ve got the skills, you really do.”

When asked by ABC News whether he will run for president against Graham, Biden said, “Hell yeah!”

“He’ll kick my butt,” Graham said.

“We’re going to travel together, debate all over the country,” Biden said before walking off.

“We’ll wear out every reporter,” Graham said with a laugh.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Why 2016 Presidential Candidates Are Waiting to Jump In

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — We know they’re running — so why don’t they say so?

The looming 2016 presidential campaign has no shortage of putative contestants, from the big-name players like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton to the relative unknowns like neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich. Most of them are talking and acting like candidates, making frequent trips to early primary states, raising money for their political organizations, lining up campaign staff, and courting support from local Republicans and key activist groups.

But so far, only one has announced he’s running for president: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, officially launched the 2016 presidential race when he announced his candidacy at Liberty University this week.

Some presidential races start earlier than others. In 2008, when the White House was similarly about to be vacated by a second-term president, Hillary Clinton announced her campaign in January 2007, while then-senator Barack Obama and Mitt Romney announced theirs in February. In 2012, things happened a bit later, with Newt Gingrich entering in May and Romney in June.

Things used to get underway much, much later. Sen. Eugene McCarthy didn’t announce his 1968 presidential campaign until November 1967. Nowadays, campaigns usually take up much more time, and candidates jump in early.

So what’s causing our current contestants to wait?

Big-Timers Don’t Need to Declare

For the likes of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, perceived frontrunners whose last names precede them, there’s less advantage to jumping in early. Primary voters already know who they are, so the media buzz of a campaign announcement isn’t as valuable as it is for someone like Cruz.

“There will always be relative unknowns like Ted Cruz who don’t register very high in the national polls but see a benefit in getting out ahead of the pack and establishing themselves early,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Romney on his presidential runs.

“As a first time candidate in 2008, Mitt Romney found himself in that position and he wanted to get out of the blocks early so he could introduce himself nationally and begin to raise his name ID,” Fehrnstrom said. “In 2012, he was in a different place — he was better known, with an existing support network — and he could delay an announcement.”

It’s About the Money

Candidates want to post the strongest fundraising totals they can, especially early in a campaign, in order to appear strong, impress donors and prove they’re viable.

For that reason, it makes sense to wait until the beginning of a quarter to start raising money.

“I’d expect a lot of them to announce in early April to give themselves three months to show they have some fundraising chops,” said David Keating, president of the conservative Center for Competitive Politics, which opposes current campaign-money restrictions.

Campaigns will report their fundraising totals quarterly in 2015, and the second quarter begins on April 1. According to Keating, it might be a good idea to wait until after the quarter begins to post the biggest-possible numbers in July.

Super PAC Action

Once you’re a candidate, you’re bound to federal campaign-money restrictions, and you can’t solicit donations over the $5,200 limit if that money will be used to support your candidacy.

But until then, you can get away with a little bit more.

Jeb Bush, for instance, reportedly raised money for the super PAC that will eventually back his candidacy, appearing at a $25,000-per-couple fundraiser this week. Once he becomes a presidential candidate, he must officially cut ties with the super PAC — and only ask for donations of $5,200 or less, according to the federal limit.

It’s not about message coordination, just fundraising, Keating said: “It would be very dangerous for someone who’s not a candidate to sit down with a super PAC and say, ‘If I become a candidate, this is what my plan is, and this is what I’d need you to do.’ I think that would be a pretty clear violation.”

He might not be able to plan his super PAC’s moves, but once Bush announces, his super-PAC fundraising days will be over. In the meantime, he can play a bit looser within the rules.

Senators Will Probably Get in Earlier

Here’s one reason Ted Cruz might have jumped in first: Unlike Bush and other governors and former governors who haven’t yet announced, Cruz and his fellow senators are already beholden to federal restrictions.

As federal officeholders, Cruz and Sens. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham can’t solicit donations over $5,200 — while Bush and the governors are either beholden to state laws or no laws at all.

So for Cruz and the senators, there’s less of an advantage to waiting.

For Everyone Else, the Waiting Game Is Real

For candidates who aren’t frontrunners and who don’t have established fundraising networks or relationships with national activist groups, there’s a lot more to think about: Is running for president worth it? Will anyone donate to my campaign if I run? Can I actually win?

For the lower-tier candidates, it’s worth watching and waiting to see how audiences and activist groups respond in Iowa and New Hampshire — and whether any bigger-name candidates make mistakes and drop in the polls, opening up some room for everyone else.

Avoiding the Microscope — For Now

Once a candidate announces, the media turns on the bright lights, turning heightened attention to a candidate’s policies and record. That’s one deterrent from getting in.

“Better-known candidates tend to wait as long as possible to avoid full-on media scrutiny and regulatory oversight,” Fehrnstrom said.

In other words: It’s not just the campaign-finance rules, but the added attention that constitutes the downside of officially jumping in.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

White House Continues to Back Yemen as Model for Successful Counterterrorism

Brent Stirton/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The White House continues to hail Yemen — a country that is descending into chaos — as a model for fighting extremism, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.

“The White House does continue to believe that a successful counter-terrorism strategy is one that will build up the capacity of the central government to have local fighters on the ground to take the fight to extremists in their own country,” Earnest told reporters at the White House. “That is a template that has succeeded in mitigating the threat that we face from extremists in places like Yemen.”

President Obama has long pointed to the counterterrorism campaign in Yemen as a model for the fight against ISIS.

“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” Obama said in September as he outlined his strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS.

But today, the U.S. strategy in Yemen has virtually collapsed amid the fall of the American-backed government. The U.S. embassy in Yemen has been shut down and U.S. military personnel have been evacuated.

“We have not seen that kind of progress in terms of strengthening the central government, I think you could make a pretty strong case that we’ve seen the opposite of that, but we do continue to enjoy the benefits of a sustained counterterrorism security relationship with the security infrastructure that remains,” Earnest said. “There are elements of the Yemeni government that we continue to be in touch with that continue to further our efforts to apply pressures to extremists that seek to operate in that country.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Park Service Turns to Dogs to Fix National Mall’s Ongoing Problem

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Spring in Washington, D.C. means cherry blossoms and hordes of tourists flocking to the National Mall. And with peak season right around the corner, the National Park Service is dealing with a “crappy” problem as well.

Large swaths of the National Mall are covered in feces, courtesy of the very large population of Canada Goose that make their home on the picturesque grounds.

The National Park Service says that just one goose produces as much as “2-3 pounds” of waste per day.

It’s not just disgusting for the folks who step in it. The geese waste may be causing major damage to the infrastructure on the National Mall, including the famous Reflecting Pool that runs between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.

“The presence of geese is leading to the degradation of the [Reflecting] pool water due to defecation in and on walkway near the [Reflecting] pool,” the Park Service said.

The Park Service announced it has launched a new program that it calls “goose harassment services” — and it could be a very clever solution to a really crappy situation. Cue the Collies — the Park Service wants to use border collies to fix the goose problem.

These dogs are bred to herd sheep so the Park Service’s goal is to have them do the same with the geese, forcing them into different areas to do their business and enabling park officials to clean up the mess and maintain some spots as “geese free.”

This is not a job for rookies. The Park Service says that dog handlers must have five years of experience with Canada Goose harassment with dogs in order to take part.

Wildlife on federal lands is not a new issue for the Park Service, which oversees 23 national parks just within the District of Columbia.

In 2012, it launched a project to cull the exploding population of white-tailed deer in the Washington’s Rock Creek Park. Sharpshooters were used to hunt the deer and the meat was later donated to local soup kitchens.

But don’t worry — the geese on the Mall will be kept safe.

The National Park Service specifically says in its contract: “No water fowl or other living creature shall be killed, harmed or injured in any way.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Jeb Bush Calls US Approach to Iran ‘Foolish’

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In an op-ed posted Wednesday in the National Review, Jeb Bush says that in the Middle East, Iran is “primary instagator” of the region’s conflict, and calls the United States “foolish” in its approach for handling that nation.

“Consider American policy towards Iran, a nation that has waged a relentless campaign of terror and war-by-proxy against U.S. troops and American allies for more than three decades. The administration believes Iran will become a responsible partner for peace once it signs up to a deal that largely leaves in place its nuclear infrastructure,” the 2016 presidential hopeful writes. “In a region that is in a near-constant state of conflict — with Iran as a primary instigator — this approach is foolish.”

Bush notes that he’s previously criticized President Obama’s foreign policy, most recently at the Chicago Global Forum, where he called Obama’s foreign policy “weak and uncertain.” With Iran, Bush writes, “Instead of projecting American determination and leadership, [Obama] has either withdrawn from the stage or chosen to trust our enemies.”

In recent days, Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the P5+1, a six-nation group of global powers, have achieved “substantial progress” on an agreement, which would allow Iran nuclear capability, providing they will not use it to make an atomic bomb.

Bush says, however, that the deal is too risky.

“It is clear that nothing — not public opinion, not opposition from his own party in Congress, and not even the facts — will deter President Obama from a potentially risky agreement that may well allow Iran to intimidate the entire Middle East, menace Israel, and, most of all, threaten America.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Congress May Further Probe Special Immigration Program for Wealthy

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Republicans in Congress voiced strong objections Tuesday in response to a scathing Homeland Security investigation that found a senior official appeared to give special treatment to politically-connected applicants when he ran a little-known federal program that offers visas to those who invest $500,000 in a job-creating business.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he viewed the findings of the Homeland Security Inspector General “extremely concerning” and said he will hold hearings Thursday to determine if further investigation is needed.

“These allegations appear to be at odds with [the immigration agency’s] expressed mission to ‘administer the nation’s immigration system fairly, honestly and correctly,'” McCaul said.

The Inspector General’s investigation focused on the leadership of Alejandro Mayorkas, who served as director of the immigration program known as EB-5, an obscure but increasingly popular method for obtaining highly-sought-after American Green Cards. The program caters to wealthy foreigners, requiring them to invest $500,000 or sometimes $1 million in a qualifying U.S. project that promises to create jobs.

In late 2013, Mayorkas was promoted by President Obama to deputy secretary of the department over objections from Republicans who had already begun to hear rumblings of problems with his handling of the immigration program.

The IG report came on the heels of an ABC News investigation that revealed that a number of visa recipients were approved despite objections from career officials, who found instances where foreign applicants accused of fraud, money laundering, even involvement in child pornography, had received permission to move to the U.S. The ABC News investigation also found evidence that spies and even possible terrorists had attempted to exploit the visa program to enter the country.

The Inspector General’s report focused on allegations that Mayorkas had exerted improper influence on behalf of politically connected EB-5 applicants.

“The juxtaposition of Mr. Mayorkas’ communication with external stakeholders on specific matters outside the normal procedures, coupled with favorable action that deviated from the regulatory scheme designed to ensure fairness and evenhandedness in adjudicating benefits, created an appearance of favoritism and special access,” the report found.

Mayorkas wrote a robust response to the report, saying his efforts were focused on improving a troubled program, and were always vetted by agency attorneys. On Tuesday, he issued a statement saying, “While I disagree with the Inspector General’s report, I will certainly learn from it and from this process.”

“The EB-5 program was badly broken when I arrived at USCIS [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services],” he said. “I could not and did not turn my back on my responsibility to address those grave problems. I made improving the program a priority and I did so in a hands-on manner, through cases, policies, and sweeping personnel and organizational changes.”

The Inspector General’s findings did not reach conclusions about Mayorjas’s motives.

“Regardless of Mr. Mayorkas’ motives, his intervention in these matters created significant resentment in USCIS. This resentment was not isolated to career staff adjudicating within the EB-5 program, but extended to senior managers and attorneys responsible for the broader USCIS mission and programs,” it said.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, an early critic of the EB-5 program, said the Inspector General’s findings validated his objections to the way Mayorkas had run the immigration office.

“Digging into the report and reading about specific cases, you can see just how questionable Mr. Mayorkas’ ethics and judgment were,” Grassley, R-Iowa, said. “And, just as bad, is the blind eye that the Obama administration turned when elevating this individual to the number two slot at the Department of Homeland Security.”

Both the ABC News investigation and the Inspector General’s report were based on numerous interviews with a group of insiders that included senior immigration officials and documents provided by agency whistleblowers. The inspector general said 15 different federal employees shared similar stories of Mayorkas intervening on behalf of influential applicants.

“The sheer number of whistleblowers who came forward is a darn good indication as to how bad things were at the agency,” Grassley said. “They are courageous people for reporting these very serious allegations despite fear of retaliation, especially given that Mr. Mayorkas was being elevated by the President to be Deputy Secretary.”

Reaction to the report fell largely along partisan lines, and the report may have lasting political reverberations. Among those who profited from the EB-5 program was Anthony Rodham, the brother of presumptive Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. The report specifically noted that Rodham attempted to contact Mayorkas. Messages left for Rodham by ABC News were not returned.

While Republicans voiced strong objections, Democrats rallied around Mayorkas, focusing on the fact that the Inspector General failed to find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, issued a statement saying the investigators and whistleblowers misunderstood Mayorkas’ actions.

“The Inspector General provided no definitive determination of wrongdoing and instead found that Deputy Secretary Mayorkas’ hands-on and reform-minded leadership style may have been misinterpreted,” Thompson said, adding that the report “paints a picture of an advocate and manager who demanded reform and responsiveness from his agency.”

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, had a similar reaction, praising Mayorkas as a “dedicated, thoughtful, and talented public servant” and a change agent.

“As many of us know, change at any kind of organization isn’t always easy and can meet resistance,” he said.

But even Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged in a statement that the report raised issues that should not be ignored or overlooked.

“I believe there are lessons to be learned from the Inspector General’s report — by Ali, and all of us who are leaders in public service,” Johnson wrote. “Each of us in leadership must be mindful that, when we become involved in individual matters that happen to reach our desk, we risk the appearance of preferential treatment and the suspicion of our subordinates. As public servants, we must maintain the trust and confidence of all those around us, and be above reproach. I have discussed this with Deputy Secretary Mayorkas and I am confident he understands this.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

President Obama Mistakenly Refers to Afghan President Ghani as ‘President Karzai’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — While announcing his plan to slow the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan on Tuesday, President Obama made a high-profile slip of the tongue, and somehow wound up complimenting the very leader he mean to criticize.

The U.S. will maintain 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the end of 2015 “in part so that President Karzai – who has taken on the mantle of commander-in-chief in a way that we have not seen in the past from an Afghan president – can do a serious review,” Obama said during a press conference in the East Room Tuesday, gesturing towards the new Afghan president.

Problem is, the current president of Afghanistan isn’t Karzai – it’s Ashraf Ghani.

Obama’s comment was presumably meant as a not-so-subtle jab at Ghani’s predecessor, President Hamid Karzai, whose icy relationship with Obama made headlines. Karzai, whose second term ended in 2014, repeatedly slammed the U.S. for its role in Afghan civilian casualties, claimed America had attempted to undermine the Afghan government, and even suggested the U.S.-led forces could “leave” the country.

Ghani, on the other hand, has routinely lauded the U.S./Afghanistan partnership and Tuesday thanked American troops – and even “the American taxpayer” – for their role in his nation’s security.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →

Secret Service Director Comes Under Fire by House Panel

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The head of the Secret Service faced another round of angry questions by a House Panel on Tuesday about agents’ questionable behavior and a potential bomb that sat outside the White House unchecked for more than an hour this month.

House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, questioned Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy over the possible bomb threat that was left unattended just outside the White House gates.

“For 17 minutes, 17 minutes, traffic continued through the intersection and several pedestrians walked within feet of the potential bomb,” Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz said he didn’t understand how the Secret Service did not immediately respond after a woman dropped what she said was a bomb outside the White House gates.

“These agents placed themselves, their colleagues, the president and his family in potential danger,” he said on Tuesday.

The potential bomb and the Secret Service agents who nearly drove over it were all caught on a Washington DC Police Department security camera.

Clancy told the panel on Tuesday that agents did not inform him until several days after the incident, and that an independent investigation is currently under way.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather Read More →