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Higher Taxes for Spring Break

Obama Official Portrait SmileObama Lawyers to Judge: Don’t Watch bin Laden Film  The bin Laden raid film Zero Dark Thirty opens later this month in limited release.  It has received favorable “buzz” and reportedly focuses on characters that seem based upon the very individuals at the CIA and Pentagon to whom the Obama administration gave the filmmakers, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, access.  So why are Obama administration lawyers desperately trying to dissuade a federal judge from watching the film?

Why indeed.

By way of review, Judicial Watch is suing the Obama administration to gain access to records detailing the cooperation between the Obama CIA, the Department of Defense (DOD), and Hollywood filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal regarding their bin Laden epic. Records we’ve already uncovered demonstrate that the Obama administration gave Bigelow and Boal unprecedented access to information about the raid and those involved.

And Obama administration officials also admitted that if the information released to the filmmakers were to be publicly known, it would cause an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk.”

The government continues to stonewall the release of records that could shed more light on this “partnership,” and our investigation continues.

In our efforts to gain access to records related to Zero Dark Thirty, Judicial Watch made an argument in a recent court brief that we believe should be common sense. In determining what information should and should not be released, the court might actually want to review the film at the center of its lawsuit:

In light of the fact that much of the government’s argument hinges on the assertion that the individuals in question will have a continued privacy interest in their names after this film is released, a viewing of Zero Dark Thirty after its theatrical release on December 19, 2012 may ultimately be…illuminating.

Obama lawyers, however, are trying to dissuade the judge from actually watching the film. According to an Obama administration court filing filed earlier this week: “…the CIA and DOD disagree with [Judicial Watch's] implication that the Court needs to view the movie to decide this case…The CIA and DOD therefore would oppose any additional attempts by plaintiff to extend the briefing of this case until the movie’s release.”

I should point out that limited release for the film is set for December 19. Judicial Watch’s final brief is due on December 17. Any delay required for the court to review the film would be negligible. By the way, we first asked for these documents in August of last year and had to sue in January of this year after months of delay.  So the Obama administration’s new found concern about “delay” is laughable.

And the court might not need to wait until the public release of the film. Zero Dark Thirty has already been publicly screened, having recently won the New York Critics Circle Award for Best Picture.

There can really only be one reason why Obama administration lawyers would try to keep the judge from seeing the film – they believe it will weaken their case.

Here are a couple of other tidbits from the government’s response brief worth noting. The Department of Justice (DOJ) argues that “It is pure conjecture on [Judicial Watch's] part that characters in the movie will in fact be based on these individuals [interviewed], and in such a way that reveals their identities.” But DOJ lawyers never suggest Judicial Watch’s conjecture is incorrect. Where is the evidence to the contrary typical for a motion seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit?

Similarly, the DOJ argues that JW lacks “proof” that the CIA agents signed a release waiving defamation claims for the use of their likeness and characters in a film.  They do not say the CIA operatives failed to sign it. They simply argue that JW doesn’t have proof, which, I might point out, is very difficult to obtain so long as the Obama administration continues stonewalling the release of records.

As I say, JW previously obtained records from the DOD and the CIA regarding meetings and communications between government agencies and the filmmakers. According to the records, the Obama administration sought to have “high visibility” into bin Laden related projects, and granted Boal and Bigelow unusual access to agency information in preparation for their film. (The disclosures made to the filmmakers are now part of an investigation by the DOD Inspector General.)

They got their wish.

In return for this visibility, the DOD and the CIA shared the names of five CIA and military operatives involved in the bin Laden operation with the filmmakers, but have continued to withhold this information. Judicial Watch has identified the precise emails containing the information it wishes to obtain, and in sworn declarations Obama administration officials conceded that this information was provided to Bigelow and Boal.

According to sworn testimony from CIA Information Review Officer Martha Lutz, releasing of this type of information could provide an “unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk:”

Nonetheless, I can represent to the Court that the absolute protection for officers’ identities that Congress provided in the CIA Act is extremely important to the functioning of the Agency and the safety and security of its employees. This is true even for the identities of officers who are not undercover, and it is also true with respect to the first names of undercover officers. While such identifying information may not be classified in isolation, the widespread public release of this information creates an unnecessary security and counterintelligence risk for the Agency and its officers.

The key question is this: Why did the Obama administration share allegedly sensitive information with filmmakers that, if known, could harm national security!? The Obama administration can’t have it both ways. Either the information was too sensitive to share with the filmmakers, and the Obama administration was in error, or the information is not sensitive and should therefore be released.

Certainly the movie itself could provide some hints about what the Obama administration leaked to the filmmakers.  In my view, the fact that the Obama administration doesn’t want the court to consider the movie is a good indication that the court should do exactly the opposite.

JW Uncovers Taxpayer Cost for Malia Obama’s Spring Break Trip to Mexico

Spring Break is a common ritual for students across the country and First Daughter Malia Obama is no exception. But, of course, there is an important difference between the First Daughter and other students. When Malia Obama takes a trip, the American taxpayers get stuck with a hefty bill. How hefty? That’s what we’ve been trying to find out.

As you know, JW has kept close watch for the American people on the First Family’s extravagant personal trips since we’re the ones footing the bill. And this week we released records detailing the government funds expended on Malia’s March 2012 Spring Break vacation to Mexico. According to the records, obtained from the U.S. Secret Service as a result of a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed on September 20, 2012, the total cost of the trip amounted to $115,500.87.

The following is a breakdown of the costs as detailed in the documents, which are available in full here:

Ground transportation:$23,964.81
Lodging: $21,682.92
Airfare: $47,767.34
“Vouchers”: $21,636.14 (not itemized)
Support Charges: $449.66 (travel for one from Mexico City to Oaxaca, not itemized)

Now as I pointed out in this space when we filed our lawsuit, Malia Obama’s Spring Break trip evoked a significant amount controversy after the Obama White House reportedly ordered the removal of press reports detailing the trip.

On March 19, 2012, numerous online press outlets reported on Malia Obama’s Mexico trip, noting the fact that she was accompanied by 25 U.S. Secret Service Agents and as many as 12 of her friends. However, shortly after the press reports surfaced they were quickly removed from the Internet.

As reported by Politico: “The AFP, the Huffington Post and other websites have scrubbed a report about first daughter Malia Obama’s school trip. On Monday, the AFP reported that Obama’s daughter was on a school trip along with a number of friends and 25 Secret Service agents. The story was picked up by Yahoo, the Huffington Post, and the International Business Times, as well as UK publications like the Daily Mail and the Telegraph and other overseas publications like The Australian. But on Monday night, the story had been removed from those sites.”

In an update to this story, Politico published a statement issued by Kristina Schake, Communications Director to the First Lady, indicating that the removal of these news stories was “a White House effort:”

“From the beginning of the administration, the White House has asked news outlets not to report on or photograph the Obama children when they are not with their parents and there is no vital news interest. We have reminded outlets of this request in order to protect the privacy and security of these girls.”

The trip reportedly took place shortly after the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a statement advising students on Spring Break “to avoid Mexico.”

I think we can all agree that in these economic times, with huge public debt and high unemployment, spending $115,000 in taxpayer funds on a Spring Break trip to Mexico is inappropriate. Is this what Americans are being asked to pay higher taxes for?

Now this is far from the first time the Obamas have taken advantage of the American taxpayer to enjoy expensive vacations.

We previously obtained records from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing Michelle Obama’s February 2012 President’s Day weekend ski vacation to Aspen, Colorado, with her two daughters. The records indicate U.S. Secret Service costs, including accommodations at the Fasching Haus deluxe condominium and the Inn at Aspen, were $48,950.38.

Judicial Watch also obtained documents from the United States Air Force and the United States Secret Service detailing costs associated with Michelle Obama’s controversial August 2010 vacation to Spain. According to a Judicial Watch analysis, the records indicate a total combined cost of at least $467,585.

Judicial Watch also obtained documents detailing costs of a June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by Michelle Obama, her family and her staff to South Africa and Botswana. Judicial Watch received mission expense records and passenger manifests for the Africa trip that described costs of $424,142 for the flight and crew alone. Other expenses, such as off-flight food, transportation, security, etc. were not included.

That’s a total of four trips at a cost of almost $1 million. And these are the trips we know about.

Rest assured, JW will continue to monitor these First Family excursions in a second Obama term. I suspect they will continue.

Could Benghazi-Tainted Ambassador Rice be the Next Secretary of State?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly will leave the Obama administration as soon as a replacement is found. And who is reportedly topping the list of replacements? None other than Benghazi-tainted UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

According to The Washington Post:

The partisan political divide over the potential nomination of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to be secretary of state intensified Sunday with Republicans questioning her fitness for the job and Democrats defending her.

Republican senators said they remain deeply concerned over Rice’s statements about the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and suggested her motive was to help President Barack Obama’s re-election chances.

As you recall, Rice was out in front when the Benghazi scandal exploded into the press. In interview after interview, Rice said the attacks on the U.S. Consulate were in reaction to a low-grade anti-Muslim internet video blamed for widespread protests in Cairo.

For example, on ABC’s “This Week” program, Rice said that the murders of Ambassador Stevens and three others in Libya was “a spontaneous – not a premeditated - response to what had transpired in Cairo.” (Click over to The Daily Caller for more false statements from Susan Rice.)

This, we now know, was blatantly false, and the evidence is now overwhelming that the Obama administration knew it was false from the beginning. Former CIA director David Petraeus has said that he noted the al Qaeda link in his talking points. Someone inside the administration then scrubbed the al Qaeda link to the attacks out of the CIA’s talking points – the talking points Rice says she used for her interviews.

But as both Senators Lindsey Graham (R-NC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) pointed out on the Sunday talk shows this week, Rice went off script and beyond the talking points in uttering false statements.

Per thePost: “For one, [Sens. Graham and Ayotte] noted [Rice] had said that security at the Benghazi mission was ‘strong, substantial and significant.’” The multiple requests for security enhancements at the U.S. Consulate, which went unanswered, prove this statement false. Overall, Senator Graham stated that Rice’s statements represent “‘a treasure trove of misleading statements that have the effect of helping the president.’”

There are so many layers to Benghazi-Gate, and the more we learn, the more disturbing this all seems. There are the lies about the links to al Qaeda. There are the reports that the Obama administration denied multiple requests for enhanced security prior to the attack. There are reports of requests for support during the attacks denied by the Obama administration.

And now, there is even speculation regarding the weapons used by the Benghazi terrorists.

As Breitbart noted yesterday, “The New York Times is now reporting that US-approved arms that were supposed to go to Libya rebels went to Islamist terrorists. Even more importantly, the Obama administration knew about it before, during, and after the Benghazi attacks.”

The Times is quick to point out we do not yet have evidence U.S. weapons were used in the attacks, but reports that the CIA provided “little oversight” of the weapons, and that they no doubt ended up in the hands of Islamic radicals.

So many questions unanswered and the Obama administration isn’t helping.

This week a drone video of the attack confirms that the assault had nothing to do with any demonstration.  According to Bloomberg News, the classified video of the attack was shown to House members:

“People showed up at the gate very quickly, breached it, and poured inside,” said Representative Adam Smith, the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, who attended a closed-door briefing today with James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, on the Sept. 11 attack.

Now that everyone on the Hill has seen this damning video, perhaps the taxpayers might be given access?

In particular, Judicial Watch has a number of inquiries ongoing as we attempt to get to the bottom of a scandal that has become every bit as serious as Fast and Furious.  The mainstream media may not care about this story but I can tell you, especially on this December 7, that Judicial Watch won’t look the other way from this scandalous cover-up of this attack on America.

Until next week,

Tom Fitton

Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational  foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in  government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors,  Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our  nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial  officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American  people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through  litigation, investigations, and public outreach

 

 

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