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Saturday, December 10, 2016



(Mr. DEFAZIO asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute.)
From The House of Representatives Floor On December 8, 2014

"Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing legislation, the Drain the Swamp Act. My bill would make violations of President-elect Trump’s recently announced revolving door lobby ban punishable by law. He said that he will bar political appointees from lobbying for 5 years after they serve in his administration and permanently from lobbying for foreign governments.

Unfortunately, his proposal lacks any enforcement mechanism. I want this to be more than a press release. I want to help him in this effort.

Just look at the Office of Special Trade Representative. Why is our trade policy so bad? Because those people worked for industry and then come back to work for the government and go work for industry and promote their own interests. That goes on in many agencies.

This would be a good thing for America.

So I would extend the existing penalties which apply to very few people over a shorter period of time with penalties up to $50,000 and 1 year in jail to cover all of the 3,648 executive branch political appointees.

I am introducing it today knowing it is the end of the Congress, but I am going to provide it to the Trump transition team in the hope that they will endorse this bill, which I will introduce on the first day of the next Congress and hope to have President-elect Trump’s support to keep the law behind his promise.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

U.S. Government Spent Over $116 BILLION In Classifying Information: Congress Demands Answers As To Why




To examine overclassification of national security information and other government information, including controlled unclassified information and other designations.
To discuss the causes and unintended results of excessive restrictions, and to discuss potential solutions.


Congress established the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy in 1994, which stated “a tension has existed between the legitimate interest of the public being kept informed about the activities of its Government and the legitimate interest of the Government in certain circumstances in withholding information; in short, between openness and secrecy.”
The struggle to balance openness and secrecy persists nearly 20 years after this report was issued.
The Commission issued 16 recommendations, most of which have not yet been fully implemented.


Overclassification and excessive secrecy have negative effects on national security and government accountability.

Excessive classification prevents Congress from fully investigating and holding government agencies accountable.

The federal government spent more than $100 billion during the last 10 years on security classification activities, and yet, it is estimated 50 to 90 percent of classified material is not properly labeled.

Federal agencies often mark documents classified and withhold information for decades simply because they contain embarrassing material.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bill Introduced In the House Of Representatives To Protect FBI "Whistle Blowers"


2d Session
H. R. 5790
[Report No. 114–835]

To provide adequate protections for whistleblowers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

July 14, 2016

Mr. Chaffetz (for himself, Mr. Jeffries, Mr. Sensenbrenner, Mr. Conyers, Mr. Poe of Texas, Ms. Speier, Mr. Coffman, Mr. Blum, Mr. Rice of South Carolina, and Mr. Cummings) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

November 29, 2016
Additional sponsors: Mr. Lynch, Mr. Van Hollen, and Miss Rice of New York

November 29, 2016
Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union and ordered to be printed

To provide adequate protections for whistleblowers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the “Federal Bureau of Investigation Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2016”.


(a) In General.—Section 2303 of title 5, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:

Ҥ 2303. Prohibited personnel practices in the Federal Bureau of Investigation

“(a) Definitions.—In this section—

“(1) the term ‘administrative law judge’ means an administrative law judge appointed by the Attorney General under section 3105 or used by the Attorney General under section 3344;

“(2) the term ‘Inspector General’ means the Inspector General of the Department of Justice;

“(3) the term ‘personnel action’ means any action described in section 2302(a)(2)(A) with respect to an employee in, or applicant for, a position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (other than a position of a confidential, policy-determining, policymaking, or policy-advocating character);

“(4) the term ‘prohibited personnel practice’ means a prohibited personnel practice described in subsection (b); and

“(5) the term ‘protected disclosure’ means any disclosure of information by an employee in, or applicant for, a position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation—

“(A) made—

“(i) in the case of an employee, to a supervisor in the direct chain of command of the employee, up to and including the head of the employing agency;

“(ii) to the Inspector General;

“(iii) to the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Department of Justice;

“(iv) to the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation;

“(v) to the Inspection Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation;

“(vi) as described in section 7211;

“(vii) to the Office of Special Counsel; or

“(viii) to an employee designated by any officer, employee, office, or division described in clauses (i) through (vii) for the purpose of receiving such disclosures; and

“(B) which the employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences—

“(i) any violation of any law, rule, or regulation; or

“(ii) gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

“(b) Prohibited Practices.—Any employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or another component of the Department of Justice who has authority to take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any personnel action, shall not, with respect to such authority—

“(1) take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, a personnel action with respect to an employee in, or applicant for, a position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation because of a protected disclosure;

“(2) take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, any personnel action against an employee in, or applicant for, a position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation because of—

“(A) the exercise of any appeal, complaint, or grievance right granted by any law, rule, or regulation—

“(i) with regard to remedying a violation of paragraph (1); or

“(ii) other than with regard to remedying a violation of paragraph (1);

“(B) testifying for or otherwise lawfully assisting any individual in the exercise of any right referred to in clause (i) or (ii) of subparagraph (A);

“(C) cooperating with or disclosing information to the Inspector General of an agency, or the Special Counsel, in accordance with applicable provisions of law; or

“(D) refusing to obey an order that would require the individual to violate a law; or

“(3) implement or enforce any nondisclosure policy, form, or agreement, if such policy, form, or agreement does not contain the statement described in section 2302(b)(13).

“(c) Procedures.—

“(1) FILING OF A COMPLAINT.—An employee in, or applicant for, a position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation may seek review of a personnel action alleged to be in violation of subsection (b) by filing a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General.


“(A) IN GENERAL.—The Inspector General shall investigate any complaint alleging a personnel action in violation of subsection (b), consistent with the procedures and requirements described in section 1214.

“(B) DETERMINATION.—The Inspector General shall issue a decision containing the findings of the Inspector General supporting the determination of the Inspector General.


“(i) IN GENERAL.—If the Inspector General determines under subparagraph (B) that reasonable grounds exist to believe that a personnel action occurred, exists, or is to be taken, in violation of subsection (b)—

“(I) the Inspector General shall request from an administrative law judge a preliminary order providing relief from the personnel action; and

“(II) except as provided in clause (ii), the administrative law judge, without further proceedings, shall issue such an order.

“(ii) GOOD CAUSE.—Upon motion by the Government, after notice and an opportunity to be heard, and if the administrative law judge determines that there is a particularized showing of good cause that an order should not be issued returning an employee to the position the employee would have held had the personnel action not been taken, the administrative law judge shall issue an order directing that the employee be returned, as nearly as practicable and reasonable, to such position.


“(A) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 60 days after the Inspector General issues a decision under paragraph (2)(B), either party may file objections to the decision and request a hearing on the record.

“(B) NO EFFECT ON PRELIMINARY RELIEF.—The filing of objections under subparagraph (A) shall not affect an order issued under clause (i) or (ii) of paragraph (2)(C).

“(C) NO OBJECTIONS FILED.—If no party has filed objections as of the date that is 61 days after the date the Inspector General issues a decision—

“(i) the decision is final and not subject to further review; and

“(ii) if the Inspector General had determined that reasonable grounds exist to believe that a personnel action occurred, exists, or is to be taken, in violation of subsection (b)—

“(I) an administrative law judge, without further proceedings, shall issue an order providing permanent relief from the personnel action; and

“(II) upon motion by the employee or applicant, and after an opportunity for a hearing, an administrative law judge may issue an order that provides for corrective action as described under section 1221(g), which shall be accompanied by a written decision explaining the grounds for the order.


“(A) IN GENERAL.—If objections are filed under paragraph (3)(A), an administrative law judge shall review the decision by the Inspector General on the record after opportunity for agency hearing.

“(B) CORRECTIVE ACTION.—An administrative law judge may issue an order providing for corrective action as described under section 1221(g).

“(C) DETERMINATION.—An administrative law judge shall issue a written decision explaining the grounds for the determination by the administrative law judge under this paragraph.

“(D) EFFECT OF DETERMINATION.—The determination by an administrative law judge under this paragraph shall become the decision of the Department of Justice without further proceedings, unless there is an appeal to, or review on motion of, the Attorney General within such time as the Attorney General shall by rule establish.



“(i) IN GENERAL.—Upon an appeal to, or review on motion of, the Attorney General under paragraph (4)(D), the Attorney General, through reference to such categories of cases, or other means, as the Attorney General determines appropriate, shall establish and announce publicly the date by which the Attorney General intends to complete action on the matter, which shall ensure expeditious consideration of the appeal or review, consistent with the interests of fairness and other priorities of the Attorney General.

“(ii) FAILURE TO MEET DEADLINE.—If the Attorney General fails to complete action on an appeal or review by the announced date, and the expected delay will exceed 30 days, the Attorney General shall publicly announce the new date by which the Attorney General intends to complete action on the appeal or review.

“(B) DETERMINATION.—The Attorney General shall issue a written decision explaining the grounds for the determination by the Attorney General in an appeal or review under paragraph (4)(D).


“(A) PUBLIC AVAILABILITY.—Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the Attorney General shall make written decisions issued by administrative law judges under paragraph (3)(C) or (4)(C) and written decisions issued by the Attorney General under paragraph (5)(B) publicly available in a manner that is—

“(i) to the maximum extent practicable, consistent with the manner in which the Merit Systems Protection Board makes decisions of the Board available to the public; and

“(ii) in accordance with section 552.

“(B) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in subparagraph (A) shall be construed to limit the authority of an administrative law judge or the Attorney General to limit the public disclosure of information under law or regulations.

“(7) JUDICIAL REVIEW.—Any determination by an administrative law judge or the Attorney General under this subsection shall be subject to judicial review under chapter 7. A petition for judicial review of such a determination shall be filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit or any court of appeals of competent jurisdiction.

“(d) Regulations.—Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2016, the Attorney General shall prescribe regulations to carry out subsection (c) that—

“(1) ensure that prohibited personnel practices shall not be taken against an employee in, or applicant for, a position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation;

“(2) provide for the administration and enforcement of subsection (c) in a manner consistent with applicable provisions of sections 1214 and 1221 and in accordance with the procedures under subchapter II of chapter 5 and chapter 7;

“(3) ensure that employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are informed of the rights and remedies available to the employees under this section, including how to make a lawful disclosure of information that is specifically required by law or Executive order to be kept classified in the interest of national defense or the conduct of foreign affairs; and

“(4) provide for the protection of classified information and intelligence sources and methods.

“(e) Reporting.—Not later than March 1 of each year, the Attorney General shall make publicly available a report containing—

“(1) the number and nature of allegations of a prohibited personnel practice received during the previous year;

“(2) the disposition of each allegation of a prohibited personnel practice resolved during the previous year;

“(3) the number of unresolved allegations of a prohibited personnel practice pending as of the end of the previous year and, for each such unresolved allegation, how long the allegation had been pending as of the end of the previous year;

“(4) the number of disciplinary investigations and actions taken with respect to each allegation of a prohibited personnel practice during the previous year;

“(5) the number of instances during the previous year in which the Inspector General found reasonable grounds existed to believe that a prohibited personnel practice had occurred that were appealed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and

“(6) the number of allegations of a prohibited personnel practice resolved through settlement, including the number that were resolved as a result of mediation.

“(f) Rules Of Construction.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to—

“(1) limit the jurisdiction of any office under any other provision of law to conduct an investigation to determine whether a prohibited personnel practice has been or will be taken; or

“(2) alter or amend any law, regulation, or Executive order regarding the handling or disclosure of information, including classified information.”.

(b) GAO Report.—

(1) DEFINITION.—In this subsection, the term “prohibited personnel practice” means a prohibited personnel practice described in section 2303(b) of title 5, United States Code, as amended by subsection (a).

(2) REPORT.—Not later than 4 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a report on the protections for whistleblowers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the process of investigating and adjudicating complaints of reprisal by whistleblowers under the amendments made by this Act, which shall include—

(A) the number and nature of complaints—

(i) that were filed;

(ii) that were investigated;

(iii) that were adjudicated; and

(iv) that were appealed to a court of appeals of the United States;

(B) the number of decisions made publicly available under 2303(c)(6) of title 5, United States Code, as amended by this Act, and the nature of any limitations on public disclosure of the decisions;

(C) the nature of corrective action provided in instances of a prohibited personnel practice;

(D) the number and type of disciplinary actions taken in instances of a prohibited personnel practice;

(E) an evaluation of the timeliness of resolution of allegations of a prohibited personnel practice;

(F) an assessment of the mediation process of the Department of Justice;

(G) a discussion of how the use of administrative law judges and review under chapters 5 and 7 of title 5, United States Code, affected the process of investigating and resolving allegations of a prohibited personnel practice; and

(H) a discussion of the perspectives of key stakeholders on the effects of the amendments made by this Act on the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(c) Effective Date; Implementation.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), this Act and the amendments made by this Act shall—

(A) take effect on the date of enactment of this Act; and

(B) apply to any matter pending on, or commenced on or after, the date of enactment of this Act.


(A) DEFINITION.—In this paragraph, the term “covered complaint” means a complaint alleging a personnel action in violation of section 2303 of title 5, United States Code—

(i) made—

(I) before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act; and

(II) before the effective date of the regulations prescribed by the Attorney General under section 2303(d) of title 5, United States Code, as amended by this Act; and

(ii) for which an investigation or review is pending on or after the date of enactment of this Act.

(B) APPLICATION OF EXISTING PROCEDURES UNTIL RULES ISSUED.—Subject to subparagraph (C), for any covered complaint—

(i) the procedures under section 2303(c) of title 5, United States Code, as amended by this Act, shall not apply; and

(ii) the covered complaint shall be investigated and reviewed in accordance with the regulations and procedures prescribed under section 2303 of title 5, United States Code, as in effect on the day before the date of enactment of this Act.

(C) APPLICATION OF NEW REVIEW PROCEDURES TO PENDING INVESTIGATIONS.—For any covered complaint for which the investigation is pending on the effective date of the regulations prescribed by the Attorney General under section 2303(d) of title 5, United States Code, as amended by this Act—

(i) the procedures under paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of section 2303(c) of title 5, United States Code, as amended by this Act, shall not apply; and

(ii) if either party files objections and requests a hearing on the record not later than 60 days after the date on which the investigation is completed, the covered complaint shall be subject to review in accordance with paragraphs (4), (5), (6), and (7) of section 2303(c) of title 5, United States Code, as amended by this Act.

History of HR 5790

In January 2015 the U.S. Government 
Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report that examined DOJ's 
review of FBI whistleblower reprisal cases from 2009 through 
2013.\35\ Of 62 whistleblower reprisal claims in that period, 
48 were dismissed for failing to meet ``threshold regulatory 
requirements.''\36\ Of 54 reprisal complaints where DOJ 
(whether the OIG or DOJ OPR) case file documentation was 
sufficient to determine a specific reason a complaint was 
closed, 23 had at least one claim dismissed because the 
disclosure was not made to one of the nine categories of FBI or 
DOJ officials designated in the regulations.\37\ At least 17 of 
those disclosures were made to an individual in the employee's 
chain of command or management.\38\

    When DOJ's regulations were developed, DOJ officials 
maintained that due to the sensitive information to which FBI 
employees have access, Congress intended to limit who could 
receive disclosures.\39\ Yet all other executive branch 
employees--including intelligence community officials--have 
protections against retaliation for making disclosures to 
supervisors. On October 10, 2012, President Obama implemented 
some intelligence community whistleblower protections by 
issuing Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19), which 
established protections for disclosures made to those in an 
intelligence community employee's direct chain of command.\40\

    \40\The White House, Presidential Policy Directive/PPD-19 
(Washington, D.C.: October 10, 2012) [hereinafter PPD-19]. 
Additionally, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, 
Pub. L. No. 113-126, Sec. 602, 128 Stat. 1390, 1418, provided certain 
statutory protections for disclosures to supervisors. See 50 U.S.C. 
Sec. 3341(j)(3)(A)(i).

    PPD-19 also required the Attorney General to report within 
180 days on the efficacy of DOJ's regulations regarding FBI 
whistleblower protections.\41\ When the report was finalized 
over 600 days later, it recommended expanding the list of 
persons to whom an employee can make a protected disclosure--
but only to include the second highest ranking official in a 
field office.\42\ According to GAO's subsequent review of the 
DOJ report:

    \42\DOJ Report, supra note 7, at 13-14. In 2014, senior DOJ 
officials told GAO DOJ leadership approved the change and the agency 
would be beginning the public notice and comment process. GAO Report at 
17. However, as of November 2016, DOJ has not issued any notice of 
proposed rule-making.

          DOJ officials gave us several explanations about why 
        DOJ did not recommend expanding the list to include 
        supervisors and others in the employee's chain of 
        command. . . . First, in DOJ's April 2014 report, DOJ 
        officials state that ``the Department believes the set 
        of persons to whom a protected disclosure can be made 
        is extensive and diverse, and has seen no indication 
        that the list has impeded disclosures of wrongdoing.'' 
        However, when we asked officials how they arrived as 
        this conclusion--particularly in light of our and DOJ's 
        previous findings that numerous complainants had at 
        least one claim dismissed for making a disclosure to 
        someone in management or their chain of command--they 
        could not provide supporting evidence or analysis for 
        their conclusions.\43\

    GAO expressed concern that dismissing retaliation 
complaints against whistleblowers who had failed to make their 
disclosures to designated persons ``would permit retaliatory 
activity to go un-investigated, and may have a chilling effect 
on other potential whistleblowers.''\44\ GAO recommended 
Congress consider whether FBI employees should have a means to 
obtain corrective action for retaliation for disclosures of 
wrongdoing made to supervisors and others in the employee's 
chain of command who are not already designated officials.\45\

    GAO also noted other problems with DOJ's process for 
adjudicating reprisal claims. For example, GAO's review 
revealed lengthy delays in DOJ's adjudication of such claims. 
Of 22 whistleblower reprisal claims in the examined time period 
that met threshold regulatory requirements, only four were 
closed within one year--one because the complainant withdrew 
the complaint.\46\ Fifteen took between one and four years to 
close, with three of those withdrawing their complaint.\47\ 
Three other cases took between eight and 11 years each to 
close.\48\ In some cases, parties waited a year or more for a 
DOJ decision without information on when they might receive 

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    H.R. 5790, the Federal Bureau of Investigation 
Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2016, was 
introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on July 14, 
2016 and referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government 
Reform. The bill had nine original cosponsors. On September 15, 
2016, the Committee favorably reported the bill without 
amendment by unanimous consent.
    H.R. 5790 was introduced as a companion to S. 2390, the 
Federal Bureau of Investigation Whistleblower Protection 
Enhancement Act of 2015, which was introduced in the Senate on 
December 10, 2015 by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman 
Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-
VT). S. 2390 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. 
When the Committee considered the bill on April 14, 2016, 
Senators Grassley and Leahy offered an amendment in the nature 
of a substitute, which was accepted by voice vote.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Testimony Before the Senator Foreign Relations Committee on Regional Implications of Syria Conflict

Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken
Testimony before the Senator Foreign Relations Committee on
Regional Implications of Syria Conflict
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Washington, DC


Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, Members of the Committee—thank you for the opportunity to come before you today to discuss the civil war in Syria and its regional implications.

Now in its sixth year, the crisis has destroyed the fabric of life in Syria, killed at least 400,000 people, triggered the worst human displacement crisis since the end of World War II, put neighboring countries of first asylum under enormous pressure, exacerbated regional tensions, and helped swell the ranks of violent extremist organizations, most notably Daesh and al-Qaeda.

The conflict continues to be fueled by patrons and proxies with divergent interests and priorities at a time of unprecedented upheaval across the wider Middle East, as governments pursue new models of political rule and vie for new positions of regional influence. In short, the Syrian conflict presents one of the most complex challenges we have faced.

There is no way to look at what is happening on the ground in Syria and not feel profound grief and horror. In the midst of such tragedy, it is tempting to want a neat answer that ends the civil war and eases suffering overnight. But the challenges before us defy silver bullet solutions.
The United States is clear-eyed about our role and responsibility. The civil war in Syria is not about us, nor can it be solved solely by us. But it challenges our security and strategic interests—and moral values.

So we are leveraging our country’s unique capacity to mobilize others to end the civil war and contend with its consequences, even as we lead the international coalition to counter and ultimately defeat Daesh. We are also harnessing the power of diplomacy to facilitate aid to millions of Syrian civilians and reduce human suffering in any way that we can.


Our primary task is to defeat Daesh, which poses the most immediate threat to our citizens, our country, and our allies. We built an international coalition with 67 partners. We devised a comprehensive strategy to attack Daesh at its core in Iraq and Syria; dismantle its foreign fighter, financing and recruitment networks; stop its external operations and confront its affiliates. We are aggressively implementing that strategy. And we are succeeding.

Two years ago, Daesh was expanding its territory, building its status online as an irresistible magnet for budding violent extremists, and threatening to overrun even Baghdad and Erbil.
Today, momentum in the fight to defeat Daesh has shifted dramatically.

Our comprehensive campaign is systematically liberating territory from Daesh and denying its
sanctuaries, cutting off its financing, stemming the flow of foreign fighters, combatting its narrative on social media, allowing citizens to return home, and gutting the twisted foundation on which Daesh’s global ambitions rest. Daesh has not had a major battlefield victory in well over a year. We’ve eliminated tens of thousands of fighters and more than one hundred mid-to-senior level leaders. We’ve destroyed thousands of pieces of equipment and weapons. We’ve deprived Daesh of about 25 percent of the territory it once controlled in Syria and more than 50 percent of the territory in Iraq.

Now, we face a moment of strategic opportunity and urgency. The opportunity is to effectively eliminate Daesh’s geographic caliphate by taking back the last big pieces it holds: Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa and Dabiq in Syria. With support from the coalition, local forces are preparing to launch these operations in the period ahead. It will not be easy. The enemy is dug in and desperate, but the consequences for Daesh will be devastating –practically and psychologically. It will lose critical havens from which to organize, plot and prosecute attacks. It will be deprived of critical resources that finance its activities. It will be denied key destinations for foreign fighter recruits. And it will lose the entire foundation of its narrative— the building of a physical caliphate.

This opportunity is matched by urgency. As the noose around Daesh closes, we’ve seen them try to adapt by plotting or encouraging indiscriminate attacks in as many places as possible: a market in Baghdad, a nightclub in Orlando, a promenade in Nice, a cafe in Dhaka, a bustling airport in Istanbul. Potential recruits are being told to stay home and attack there. Surviving foreign fighters are being pushed out of Iraq and Syria and back to where they came from. This puts a premium on destroying Daesh’s external operations network—especially in Raqqa, where many of these operations are plotted, planned, and directed.

In Iraq two weeks ago and in Turkey this week, I held discussions with our partners on the campaign plan to liberate Mosul, Dabiq, and Raqqa. It requires extraordinary coordination not only militarily, but also to ensure that we meet the humanitarian, stabilization and governance needs of newly liberated territory.

Moreover, the fight to hold ground, rebuild cities, restore services, clear schools and clinics of IEDs, care for displaced children, help families return home, hold Daesh accountable, provide genuine security, reestablish the rule of law—in other words, the fight to provide for the basic needs of a nation and prevent the emergence of Daesh 2.0 is only just beginning. The way we’re doing this—working not only with a broad international coalition but also with local partners on the ground who know the territory and have a stake in stabilizing and governing it—helps ensure that Daesh’s defeat will be sustainable and lasting.

As Iraqi forces and humanitarian workers prepare for the liberation of Mosul, this task must be matched by steps towards inclusive political and economic progress. We strongly support Prime Minister Abadi’s leadership on reform and reconciliation. He has begun critical outreach to Sunnis, announced “zero tolerance” for human rights abuses, and reached an agreement with the Kurds to restart oil exports from Kirkuk. All Iraqis—be they Sunni, Shia, Christian, Arab, or Kurd, or any other—have to be convinced that the state that they’ve been asked to fight for will stand up for their rights and their equities, that they can advance their interests more effectively as citizens of a united Iraq than as supplicants of other regional  powers or members of isolated competitive blocs in a fractured and weakened state. It will be this effort that ensures that Daesh once defeated stays defeated.


Ultimately, we will not succeed in fully destroying Daesh until we resolve the civil war in Syria, which remains a powerful magnet for foreign terrorist organizations that thrive in the war’s ungoverned spaces and draw strength from Asad’s brutal destruction of his own nation.
We know from history and experience that civil wars end in one of three ways. First, one side wins. That is unlikely in Syria because as soon as one side gets the advantage, the outside patrons of the other side intensify their engagement to right the balance.

Second, the parties exhaust themselves. Typically, that takes a decade—or longer when a multiplicity of actors are involved. The civil war in Syria is entering year six, and it features a broad array of internal and external actors with different priorities. Third and finally, civil wars end when external powers intervene either militarily or politically. But military intervention typically adds fuel to the fire, extending before ending the conflict and suffering. In
the case of Syria, short of a wholesale invasion that no outside power has the interest to undertake, military intervention is not likely to be decisive. That leaves a political intervention, with key outside powers and patrons shaping, supporting and imposing a resolution. That is the effort we have been engaged in with Russia and other members of the International Syria Support Group, building on the foundation of the Geneva communiques and U.N. Security Council resolutions. 

The objectives and the processes we agreed to earlier this month were and are the right ones: a renewal of the cessation of hostilities, the immediate resumption of unhindered aid deliveries, the degradation of and focus on Daesh and Al-Qaeda in Syria, which is also known as Nusra, the grounding of the Syrian air force over civilian populations and the beginning of a Syrian-led negotiating track that can provide a pathway out of the conflict and make possible the restoration of a united and peaceful Syria. The United States, as Secretary Kerry has said, will make absolutely no apology for going the extra mile to try to stop the violence and ease the suffering of the Syrian people. It would be diplomatic malpractice to close the door on our larger goal of keeping alive the prospect of a political accommodation.

Tragically, the actions of the Asad regime and Russia, aided and abetted by jihadist spoilers, now risk fatally undermining this initiative—destroying the best prospect for ending the civil war. The September19 attack on a UN humanitarian aid convoy in Big Orem near Aleppo was unconscionable. It has been followed by the regime and Russia renewing a horrific offensive in Aleppo that includes the killing of hundreds of innocent civilians and apparently intentional attacks on hospitals, the water supply network, and other civilian infrastructure.

Yesterday, Secretary Kerry informed the Foreign Minister of Russia that unless Russia takes immediate steps to end the assault on Aleppo and restore the cessation of hostilities, the United States will suspend U.S.-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria – including the establishment of the Joint Implementation Center. At President Obama’s direction, we also are actively considering other options to advance our goal of ending the civil war and starting a political transition in Syria. We continue to maintain close links to the moderate opposition to support their viability. 


The humanitarian catastrophe is a direct outgrowth of Asad’s vengeance against his own people, and the human and financial cost of the conflict rises every day—for the region, for Europe, but most of all, for Syrians. Eighty-one percent of Syria’s population requires humanitarian assistance. 6.5 million Syrians are displaced in their own country. And 4.8 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries—straining the capacity of generous host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

Across the region, more than three million children are out of school, and many of their parents do not have access to legal employment. As a result, refugees are putting themselves at risk and traveling farther and farther afield in pursuit of a hope shared by parents the world over: a better future for their children.

The United States—as the world’s leading humanitarian donor—has worked with heroic partners on the ground, including UN agencies and NGOs, to help strengthen the resilience of refugees as well as the communities that host them. Since the start of the crisis, we have provided over $5.9 billion in humanitarian aid to the response inside Syria and across the region, in addition to development assistance to Jordan and Lebanon, and we have worked with the World Bank to develop new types of affordable loans for middle-income countries grappling with protracted crises. We have provided nearly $1.1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Iraq
since 2014—including a recent tranche of funding to preposition food supplies and basic relief items ahead of Mosul’s liberation.

Last week, President Obama convened 52 countries and international organizations for a summit during the UN General Assembly, where the nations made measurable commitments to increase humanitarian contributions by $4.5 billion; double the number of refugees who are offered resettlement or other legal forms of admissions; and increase the number of refugee children in school globally and refugee adults working by one million each. Galvanizing these resources is vital to helping shore up an international response system that, for all its extraordinary efforts, is overstretched, overburdened, and overwhelmed.


It is important, as always, to remember how the crisis in Syria began—not with barrel bombs and chlorine, but with peaceful protests of citizens calling for change. When nations squeeze out moderate voices, they create a vacuum filled by extremists. When people feel shut out, their sense of alienation and marginalization sharpens divisions that extremists love to exploit. That is why the United States is working for a settlement in Syria that will give people viable choices other than supporting Asad for fear of terrorists or terrorists for fear of Asad.

That is why we support a peace process for Yemen that reunites the country rather than deepening sectarian divisions that have already left the nation vulnerable to exploitation by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Daesh. It is why we are supporting Prime Minister al Sarraj’s efforts to achieve national reconciliation and build a unity government that represents all Libyan people and unites them against Daesh. Under Prime Minister al-Sarraj’s leadership, Libyan ground forces have made significant progress against Daesh in recent months. The United States responded to the Prime Minister’s request for help in this effort, conducting over 170 counter-Daesh airstrikes under Operation Odyssey Lightning. Daesh now holds less than one square kilometer of Sirte’s city center.
It is why we have urged greater space for peaceful dissent in Egypt, as we offer assistance to increase Egypt’s capabilities to counter a Daesh-affiliated insurgency in Sinai. It can be hard to look back on the events in this region in the last few years and feel a great deal of optimism. But we must persist, and we intend to work with the coalition we’ve built to defeat Daesh, end

the civil war in Syria, and bring about the political transition that the Syrian people want.

Friday, December 2, 2016


Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today pressed Secretary Jeh Johnson on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) failure to ensure immigration benefits applicants have received full background checks prior to approval of their applications.

The House Judiciary Committee received from a confidential source an email that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Associate Director for the Field Operations Directorate sent to agency staff on November 29, 2016. In the email, he states that an issue had been identified with the key background system used to vet immigration benefits applicants and that proper background checks have not been run on certain applications. He further states that the agency is uncertain about the scope of the problem.

In his letter to Secretary Johnson, Chairman Goodlatte demands answers from USCIS and DHS about the problems with the background check system, potential security risks, and what is being done to immediately resolve the problem.

Below is Chairman Goodlatte’s letter:

December 2, 2016

Dear Secretary Johnson,

I write regarding background checks for foreign nationals seeking immigration benefits and the seeming lack of ability of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to ensure the completion of such background checks prior to approval of immigration benefits applications.

Specifically, on the morning of November 29, 2016, the Associate Director for the Field Operations Directorate at USCIS, sent an email to USCIS regional and district officials as well as USCIS leadership and senior officials, stating “Effective immediately offices are instructed not to approve or oath any naturalization cases in ELIS.  We have identified an issue with FBI Name Checks initiated through ELIS.  At this point we are not confident that proper FBI Name Checks have been run on certain ELIS cases.  At this point we are uncertain of the scope of the problem….”

The email went on to require that any scheduled naturalization ceremonies be cancelled and that no naturalization applications be approved.

As you know, the FBI Name Check process is an integral and absolutely necessary part of the immigration benefits adjudication process.  No applicant should be approved prior to such a check being completed in and with a result showing no concerns.  And no immigration benefit application should be approved without ensuring that the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) is working properly.

I am troubled by the fact that as the Chairman of the Committee of jurisdiction over USCIS, I was not informed about this epic USCIS failure to ensure that immigration benefits applicants were properly vetted as required by law.  Your agency made no effort to notify me of this problem.  Instead, I was only made aware of it by a confidential source.  As such, I request a briefing from USCIS and DHS officials as to the current and any prior concerns with ELIS regarding background checks.  In addition, please answer the following questions:

1.  Since ELIS’ implementation, how many times has it not run the requisite background checks?  For which immigration benefits categories did this occur?  How many applications were affected?  How was the situation resolved?  Were the checks ultimately run?

2.  How many naturalization cases were affected by the most recent failure of ELIS to run the requisite Name Checks, as discussed in the November 29, 2016, email?

3.  On what date and at what time did USCIS become aware of the ELIS failure to run FBI Name Checks on naturalization cases?

4.  How many naturalization applications were approved after USCIS became aware of the ELIS failure?  Of those cases, how many of the individuals for which the naturalization application was approved, have been naturalized?

5.  What action will USCIS take to ensure that individuals already naturalized have had the proper background checks run?

6.  What action will USCIS take to ensure the initiation of denaturalization proceedings for those  individuals who are found to have been improperly naturalized?

7.  How many individuals have been naturalized to date this fiscal year and how many were naturalized in each of the fiscal years since ELIS implementation?

8.  What is the total cost of ELIS implementation to date?

9.  What other problems have occurred with regard to ELIS implementation?

10.  What plan does USCIS have to fix ELIS?

Please respond to this request by December 9, 2016.  If you have any questions about this request, please contact Andrea Loving, Counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, at (202) 225-3926. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Bob Goodlatte


Culture of Sexual Assault Allowed Within National Fire Service

December 1, 2016
Scott Anthony

Washington, D.C. -Today, the House Oversight Committee (Full Committee) heard heartbreaking testimony from at least one female Fire Fighter (Denice Rice) within the Forest Service (part of the USDA) who has suffered an ongoing sexual assault from her direct supervisor.  This hearing however, was different from most others;  this time, both Republicans and Democrats worked in lock-step to hammer away at witnesses from the USDA who have had multiple complaints lodged against it.  The USDA operates the critical National Forest Service, who has the serious task of taming wildfires through some of the most dangerous territory in our Nation.

The details of this ongoing assault were actually shared with the Daily Caller reporting:

"Rice alleges that starting in 2009, a new male supervisor, Mike Beckett, began to stalk her at work, touch her inappropriately, constantly sext her on a government cell phone, and routinely made unwanted advances at her. She didn’t file a formal complaint until 2011.

Rice contends that not only did Villalvazo look the other way while the assaults and harassment occurred, but for the first six months following her report, he buried the investigation. Only after Rice reached out to Donnelly did the investigation move forward, she said.

Beckett retired from the USDA on March 29, 2012. According to an affidavit from Eldorado National Forest Supervisor Kathy Hardy, the retirement occurred before Beckett’s investigation was complete.

“On February 28, 2012 I received a copy of the administrative inquiry report,” Hardy wrote. “I did not take time to read the report (it was about 4-5 inches thick), but immediately turned it over to Mr. Rick Hopson, Amador District Ranger, so he could prepare the proposed action. He completed his Proposed Removal on March 15, and submitted it for review by the RO and Department. The proposal was never delivered to Mr. Beckett because Mr. Beckett retired from the FS on March 29, 2012 before the proposal was approved.”

Among others Rice has experienced what some are labelling a "Rape Culture" or "Culture of Sexual Assault" whereby women who are equally qualified for positions within the Forest Service / Fire Service are harassed, passed over or outright bullied out of promotions, or even merely enjoying the positions they love to do.  As such, there was a formal investigation initiated by the Office of Special Counsel, who, in her findings, found such appalling findings that the Special Counsel felt compelled to write a detailed account of those findings directly to President Barack Obama.

This is not a normal occurrence have have occur.  Normally, recommendations by Special Counsel are referred to other investigating agencies such as the Office of Inspector General, and only a handful of times in recent history has findings such as this been directly delivered to our Commander-In-Chief.  This should indicate to almost anyone, that the findings of a "Rape Culture" are not only present, but likely prevalent.  And the findings not only outlined sexual misconduct, but other areas of concern that needed immediate review by the USDA Office of Equal Employment Opportunity with recommendations for corrections.

This is an ongoing story, and will be followed up by FNN as this claim, and many like it, are likely just the tip of the iceberg (although we hope it's not).

Takeaway Points From November 1, 2016 Hearing:

  • Harassment and discrimination at USDA has gotten worse under the Obama Administration. Witnesses testified sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, and resulting retaliation has increased at the Agency since 2008.
  • Whistleblowers shared personal heartbreaking accounts of sexual harassment, hostile work environments, and discrimination.
  • Forest Service has shown a lack of accountability and a poor record of investigating allegations of sexual harassment with perpetrators often escaping discipline by retiring, moving, or seeking a promotion.
  • The Office of Special Counsel found that the USDA Office of Civil Rights (OASCR) is “seriously mismanaged, thereby compromising the civil rights of USDA employees.”
  • Forest Service requested Congressional assistance to simplify the process of firing federal employees.
  • To address misconduct, sexual harassment, and disparate treatment of women within Forest Service.
  • To examine the USDA’s management of its OASCR and handling of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaints.
  • Forest Service has faced criticism and media reports over egregious cases of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
  • Many women describe a work environment where there is a lack of accountability and a fear of retaliation for reporting such behavior.
  • USDA has been questioned over its management of OASCR and its handling of EEO complaints. Reports have found that OASCR was significantly late in processing EEO complaints, among other issues.
  • In March 2016, current FS employee Denise Rice courageously shared her heartbreaking experience of being sexually harassed at the Agency.