Category Archives: Congress

The Case for Stripping ex-intelligence officials of their Security Clearances | July 27 2018

Why Former US Intelligence Officials Should Be Stripped of Their Security Clearances

|| Consortium News

“How is it that former officials who now have no role in government are able to keep their active security clearances? This has abuse written all over it. “

 

| J

COMMENTARY: Former CIA agent John Kiriakou argues that no former intelligence official should be allowed to keep their security clearances when they leave government, especially if they work in the media.

“(CN Op-ed) — Libertarian senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said on Monday that in a personal meeting with President Donald Trump, he urged the president to revoke the security clearances of a half dozen former Obama-era intelligence officials, including former CIA director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I couldn’t agree more with Paul’s position, not specifically regarding these three people, but for any former intelligence official. No former intelligence official should keep a security clearance, especially if he or she transitions to the media or to a corporate board.

The controversy specifically over Brennan’s clearance has been bubbling along for more than a year. He has been one of Trump’s most vocal and harshest critics. Last week he went so far as to accuse Trump of having committed “treason” during his meeting in Helsinki, Finland with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Brennan said in a tweet, “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican patriots: Where are you???” The outburst was in response to Trump’s unwillingness to accept the Intelligence Community position that Putin and the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Other intelligence professionals weighed in negatively on Trump’s Helsinki performance, including Republicans like former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former CIA director Mike Hayden.

Why are these people saying anything at all? And why do they have active Top Secret security clearances if they have no governmental positions? The first question is easier to answer than the second. Before answering, though, I want to say that I don’t think this issue is specific to Donald Trump. Former officials of every administration criticize those who have replaced them. That’s the way Washington works. It’s a way for those former officials to remain relevant. Donald Trump happens to be an easy target. His actions are so wildly unpredictable—and frequently so disingenuous on the surface of things—that he proves wrong the oft-quoted observation by the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser: “The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves. You only make complicated stupid moves, which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.”

Cashing In

I’ve known John Brennan for 30 years. He was my boss in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence decades ago. John was hard to get along with. His superiors generally didn’t like him. He was once fired from a job at the CIA. He’s not particularly bright. And then he found a patron in former CIA director George Tenet, who saved his career. Brennan has had his run. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He’s been CIA Director, deputy National Security Advisor, director of the Transnational Terrorism Information Center, and deputy Executive Director of the CIA. That’s pretty heady stuff for a kid from Bergen, New Jersey.

He also has very low self-esteem from those early days at the CIA. Almost everybody else had more degrees, spoke more languages, and went to better schools. Until Tenet, Brennan never had a political rabbi and was stuck at the GS-15 (journeyman) level for years. Now, all these years later, he again doesn’t have anyone to help his career. Barack Obama isn’t president anymore. And Brennan desperately wants to be Secretary of Defense. He says it to anybody willing to listen. That is what’s supposed to be his legacy, at least in his mind.

Besides legacy, Brennan and the others have cashed in on their government service. They’ve all become rich by sitting on corporate boards. Brennan is on the board of directors of a company called SecureAuth + CORE Security. He also serves on the board of The Analysis Corporation, which he helped found before joining the Obama Administration. Finally, and most importantly, Brennan is now the official talking head and “Intelligence Consultant” for NBC News and MSNBC.

To me, this is the point that is the most obviously wrong. How is it that former officials who now have no role in government are able to keep their active security clearances? This has abuse written all over it. First, these officials run the risk of exposing classified information in a television interview, either inadvertently or not. Second, and more cynically, what is to keep them from propagandizing the American people by simply spouting the CIA line or allowing the CIA to use them to put out disinformation? What’s to keep them from propagandizing the American people by selectively leaking information known only to the intelligence agencies and Congress? Or to release information passed to them by the FBI?

No former intelligence officials should have a security clearance. There’s no purpose for it other than propaganda and personal enrichment. And if Brennan or Hayden or Clapper or any other former intelligence official becomes an employee of a media company, he or she should not have a security clearance. Period. Donald Trump ought to act right now.”

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

…Read more @ TheAntiMedia.com

|| American Spectator

Gotta hand it to Special Counsel Robert Mueller: He knows how to set off a stick of dynamite. I refer, of course, to his office’s recent indictment of thirteen Russians in Russia, which we are now to chase after, yelling “Pearl Harbor!” on the Left and “No collusion!” on the Right, forgetting all about the coalescing revelations of corruption and conspiracy and, yes, Russian influence, to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016, and, failing that, to destroy the Trump presidency.

The key is still in the “dossier” spying scandal.

Nellie Ohr is the “dossier” spying scandal’s woman in the middle.

To one side of Ohr, there is the Fusion GPS team, including fellow contractor Christopher Steele. To the other, there is husband Bruce Ohr, who, until his “dossier”-related demotion, was No. 4 man at the Department of Justice, and a key contact there for Steele.

As central as Nellie Ohr’s placement is, her role in the creation of the “dossier” remains undefined. For example, the House Intelligence Committee memo on related matters vaguely tells us that Nellie Ohr was “employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump”; the memo adds that Bruce Ohr “later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research.” Senator Lindsey Graham more sensationally told Fox News that Nellie Ohr “did the research for Mr. Steele,” but details remain scarce.

Still, relevant facts have emerged. These include Nellie Ohr’s study in the USSR in 1989; her fluency in Russian and Ph.D. in Russian history in 1990; a 2010 CIA affiliation, which practically makes her former MI6 agent Steele’s “opposite number”; and the extremely curious detail, harkening back to earlier eras of spycraft, that on May 23, 2016, around the time she came on board Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr applied for a ham radio operator’s license.

Notably, the “dossier” men in her life have tried to shield Ohr from public scrutiny, even at professional risk. Her husband, as the Daily Caller News Foundation reports, failed to disclose his wife’s employment with Fusion GPS and seek the appropriate conflict-of-interest waiver, which may have been an important factor in his demotion from associate deputy attorney general late last year.

Under Senate and House questioning, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson consistently failed to disclose Nellie Ohr’s existence as one of his firm’s paid Russian experts, let alone that he hired her for the red-hot DNC/Clinton campaign Trump-Russia project.

Even Christopher Steele may have tried to keep Nellie Ohr “under cover.” Steele, put forth as the “dossier” author ever since its January 2017 publication in BuzzFeed, does not appear to have let on to his many media and political contacts that he had “dossier”-assistance from at least two fellow Fusion GPS Russian experts, Nellie Ohr and Edward Baumgartner. Baumgartner, interestingly, was a Russian history major at Vassar in the 1990s when Nellie Ohr taught Russian history there.”

….Read more @ https://Spectator.org

FBI Agent Strzok Admits to Conspiracy | July 13 2018

Peter Strzok Admits Junk Russia Dossier Came from Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS

|| TGP

“On Thursday disgraced FBI investigator Peter Strzok admitted during his congressional hearing that the phony Russia dossier was funneled through the FBI by Nellier and Bruce Ohr.

The junk dossier went from Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson–> to Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS–> to her husband Bruce Ohr at the DOJ –> walked over and fed to Peter Strzok at the FBI –> and this was the impetus for the entire Trump-Russia investigation!

And it was all paid for by the Clinton Campaign and DNC!

This was the basis for the Trump-Russia collusion investigation.
It was all a Democrat Party operation.

It all make sense now.”

…Continue reading more at: TGP

Diamond & Silk Take it to Congress | Apr 27 2018

Diamond and Silk Testify Before Congress on Social Media Censorship Against Conservatives

|| Breitbart

“Diamond and Silk testified before Congress over social media censorship against conservatives, Thursday, with Diamond declaring during their testimony that “censorship is no hoax.”

“We would like to thank the judiciary committee for allowing us the opportunity to voice our concerns about conservatives being targeted and censored on social media platforms,” opened Lynette Hardaway, who is better known as Diamond. “Facebook along with other social media sites have taken aggressive actions to silence conservative voices such as ourselves by deliberately restricting and weaponizing our page with algorithms that censored and suppress our free speech. These bias algorithms are tactics designed to pick up on keywords, thus telling the pages how to behave in ways that repress and stifle expressed ideas including shadow-banning, which blocked our content from being seen by our followers while depriving our brand through the demonetization of our videos.”

“Followers stop receiving notifications when we posted videos & content. Followers were also mysteriously unliked from our page. Subtle and slowly Facebook used one mechanism at a time to diminish our reach by restricting our page so that our 1.2 million followers would not see our content thus silencing our conservative voices,” she continued. “When we reached out to Facebook for an explanation, they gave us the runaround. Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress and stated that the most important thing he cared about was making sure no one interferes in the 2018 elections. But after doing our research we wondered if Mark Zuckerberg was using Facebook to interfere in the 2018 elections by labeling users accounts as either Liberal, Very Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, or Very Conservative.”

“This is one of the main underhanded ways to censor conservatives. So if I’m labeled as Very Liberal without the option to edit it, update and correct this setting, then algorithms are already put into place which allows advertisers that have Liberal views, services & causes to target me,” Hardaway explained, before adding that, “Diamond and Silk’s personal Facebook page has been labeled by Facebook as Very Liberal.”

Hardaway then declared that, “Even though we are not Very Liberal, Facebook does not give us the option to change this label to Conservative, making it less likely for us to see advertisement, news stories and services from a conservative point of view,” before asking, “If Facebook labeled our user account as very liberal and got it wrong, how many more other users account have they gotten wrong?”

Pointing to a screenshot of a Facebook notification which informed Diamond and Silk that restrictions had been placed on their Facebook page, and then to screenshots of their followers complaining that they can’t see their videos, Hardaway proclaimed, “They’re not receiving notification… They can’t watch our videos.”

Hardaway also showed screenshots comparing the number of views they used to get on videos compared to now, noting that anti-Trump pages with half the amount of followers were able to rack up hundreds of thousands of views, while Diamond and Silk’s views had dropped to just thousands.

“In 2016 with less than one million followers, our page reach would garner between 5 to 8 million people reached within a week. All of that changed when algorithms were placed on our page to suppress our reach,” she expressed, claiming that “YouTube also demonetized 95 percent of our videos in August of 2017 and categorized our videos as ‘hate speech,’ even though our account was in good standing.”

….Continue reading more @ Breitbart

Image of the Day |

 

 

Pentagon Kills LifeLog Project

| Wired – Feb 04 2004

The Pentagon canceled its so-called LifeLog project, an ambitious effort to build a database tracking a person’s entire existence.

Run by Darpa, the Defense Department’s research arm, LifeLog aimed to gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees or does: the phone calls made, the TV shows watched, the magazines read, the plane tickets bought, the e-mail sent and received. Out of this seemingly endless ocean of information, computer scientists would plot distinctive routes in the data, mapping relationships, memories, events and experiences.

LifeLog’s backers said the all-encompassing diary could have turned into a near-perfect digital memory, giving its users computerized assistants with an almost flawless recall of what they had done in the past. But civil libertarians immediately pounced on the project when it debuted last spring, arguing that LifeLog could become the ultimate tool for profiling potential enemies of the state.

Researchers close to the project say they’re not sure why it was dropped late last month. Darpa hasn’t provided an explanation for LifeLog’s quiet cancellation. “A change in priorities” is the only rationale agency spokeswoman Jan Walker gave to Wired News.

However, related Darpa efforts concerning software secretaries and mechanical brains are still moving ahead as planned.”

….Continue reading more @ Wired
“Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service company based in Menlo Park, California. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes.”
 – wiki

Zuckerberg Gets Grilled in Front of Congress | Apr 11 2018

IF CONGRESS DOESN’T UNDERSTAND FACEBOOK, WHAT HOPE DO ITS USERS HAVE?

|| Wired

“What many young people feel about Facebook is they’ve kind of turned on us,” said Emmanuel Sessegnon, as he waited to enter the hearing room. “Whereas before we had this expectation when I signed up when I was 13, that when you’re on Facebook what you want to be public will be public, but what you want to be private will be private. What we see here is all this information that was leaked out by Facebook to these third-party companies…”

 

FACEBOOK CEO MARK Zuckerberg received a less than warm welcome in Washington, DC, where he testified before a joint hearing of two Senate committees Tuesday. Among the crowds of spectators lining up to watch Zuckerberg get grilled were members of the activist group CodePink, wearing oversized sunglasses with the words, “Stop Spying,” written across them. Another group wore t-shirts with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook scrawled on them in red Sharpie.

“What many young people feel about Facebook is they’ve kind of turned on us,” said Emmanuel Sessegnon, as he waited to enter the hearing room. “Whereas before we had this expectation when I signed up when I was 13, that when you’re on Facebook what you want to be public will be public, but what you want to be private will be private. What we see here is all this information that was leaked out by Facebook to these third-party companies, we just feel its inappropriate.”

Zuckerberg came to Congress to answer for a series of scandals that have plagued the company since at least the 2016 election. The first, of course, was the news that a Russian propaganda group called the Internet Research Agency used Facebook ads, fake accounts, and pages to influence voters in the run-up to the 2016 US election. The most recent was Facebook’s admission that a data firm named Cambridge Analytica received unauthorized accessto up to 87 million users’ private data without their consent beginning in 2014.

Anyone expecting Tuesday’s hearing to be a bloodbath, however, likely came away disappointed. The five-hour marathon felt more like Social Media 101, as Zuckerberg spent the bulk of his time in the hot seat walking through Facebook’s terms of service, the way advertisers target users, the way app developers access people’s information, and how and when and why Facebook collects and stores data. For close observers of both the company and the online ad ecosystem in general, the questions were largely rudimentary. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

FACEBOOK CEO MARK Zuckerberg received a less than warm welcome in Washington, DC, where he testified before a joint hearing of two Senate committees Tuesday. Among the crowds of spectators lining up to watch Zuckerberg get grilled were members of the activist group CodePink, wearing oversized sunglasses with the words, “Stop Spying,” written across them. Another group wore t-shirts with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook scrawled on them in red Sharpie.

“What many young people feel about Facebook is they’ve kind of turned on us,” said Emmanuel Sessegnon, as he waited to enter the hearing room. “Whereas before we had this expectation when I signed up when I was 13, that when you’re on Facebook what you want to be public will be public, but what you want to be private will be private. What we see here is all this information that was leaked out by Facebook to these third-party companies, we just feel its inappropriate.”

Zuckerberg came to Congress to answer for a series of scandals that have plagued the company since at least the 2016 election. The first, of course, was the news that a Russian propaganda group called the Internet Research Agency used Facebook ads, fake accounts, and pages to influence voters in the run-up to the 2016 US election. The most recent was Facebook’s admission that a data firm named Cambridge Analytica received unauthorized access to up to 87 million users’ private data without their consent beginning in 2014.

Anyone expecting Tuesday’s hearing to be a bloodbath, however, likely came away disappointed. The five-hour marathon felt more like Social Media 101, as Zuckerberg spent the bulk of his time in the hot seat walking through Facebook’s terms of service, the way advertisers target users, the way app developers access people’s information, and how and when and why Facebook collects and stores data. For close observers of both the company and the online ad ecosystem in general, the questions were largely rudimentary. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

….Continue reading @ Wired.com

 

FOUR QUESTIONS CONGRESS SHOULD ACTUALLY ASK MARK ZUCKERBERG

|| Wired

 

“Mark Zuckerberg testified for almost five hours Tuesday in a televised Senate hearing about Facebook’s privacy practices and data abuse. More than 40 Senators had five minutes each to ask questions. Zuckerberg’s most frequent response? “My team will follow up with you.” House members will have their own chance to coax answers from the evasive Facebook CEO on Wednesday when he testifies before that chamber’s Energy and Commerce Committee.

It’s a rare opportunity. Zuckerberg has been heavily coached for the DC leg of his apology tour, but for the controlling CEO, with a cautiously curated personal brand, these hearings provide a forum to pin him down with facts and get his statements on the record.

The impetus for the hearing was the scandal over Cambridge Analytica, which collected data on 87 million Facebook users without their consent. But some of the most telling lines of inquiry on Tuesday focused on the longstanding tradeoffs from Facebook’s business model and the mechanics of data collection that Zuckerberg would prefer to obscure: How Facebook tracks you online and offline; what personal data you inadvertent reveal; how a $477 billion company that makes money from advertisers might still respect privacy.

There were few revelations, and a longer list of not-quite-answered questions. Some lawmakers had clearly been briefed by tech-savvy Facebook critics, but still couldn’t quite hit it home.

Toward the end of the hearing, Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) attempted to list the questions where she thought Zuckerberg had been less than candid. “During the course of this hearing these last four hours you’ve been asked several critical questions for which you don’t have answers,” Harris said.

With that in mind, we offer these suggested queries for House members:

1. How does Facebook track users when they’re not on Facebook?

Users are now accustomed to the notion that Facebook harvests every post, like, comment, and share to build profiles that inform the ads it displays to a user. But senators sounded a lot like ordinary Facebook users when they asked about whether, or how, Facebook tracks them when they are not on the social network. Consider this exchange with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

Wicker: There have been reports that Facebook can track a user’s internet browsing activity even after that user has logged off of the Facebook platform. Can you confirm whether or not this is true?

Zuckerberg: Senator, I want to make sure I get this accurate, so it would probably be better to have my team follow up afterwards.

Wicker: You don’t know?

Zuckerberg: I know that people use cookies on the internet and that you can probably correlate activity between sessions. We do that for a number of reasons including security and including measuring ads to make sure the experience is the most effective, which of course people can opt-out of but I want to make sure that I’m precise.

Zuckerberg also got a lot of mileage from the line that Facebook doesn’t sell your data, until Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) shut him down by responding, “You clearly rent it!” Why not delve more into this rental agreement? The Wall Street Journal’s recent breakdown of all the data shared just to organize a pizza party is a good start.

Committee members could also ask about Facebook Pixel, its Like button, or other Facebook plugins that track consumers around around the web, even when they’re not logged in to Facebook. They could also probe more deeply about how data from Facebook gets combined with other sources, including shopping histories and public records.

2. Does Facebook behave like a monopoly?

Quite a few legislators asked tried to get Zuckerberg to admit that Facebook is a monopoly. Zuckerberg was asked to name Facebook’s competitors and identify a viable alternative for users who want to leave Facebook and go elsewhere. Zuckerberg responded that the typical American uses eight different communication apps, neglecting to mention that Facebook owns a few of those other apps too, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

A straighter route might be to ask Facebook about specific instances where it has allegedly engaged in anticompetitive behavior, such as brazenly copying Snapchat’s features or acquiring Onavo, a tool that help Facebook identify the next Snapchat it needs to buy or crush.

3. Pull out a laptop and ask Zuckerberg to walk us through the process of changing the privacy settings on a Facebook account.

This would be mostly for dramatic effect, but in keeping with this week’s corporate theater. But it would also prove a point. Zuckerberg repeatedly insisted that users own their own data, can remove it at any time, and can control who has access to it while they are on Facebook.

Exercising that control is not that simple, however. Start with Facebook’s 3,200-word user agreement. “I say this gently: Your user agreement sucks,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) told Zuckerberg. “The purpose of the user agreement is to cover Facebook’s rear end. It is not to inform your users about their rights. You know that and I know that.”

Then there are Facebook’s privacy controls, which are famously difficult to find and opaque. Warning: this question could go well over your five minute allotment.”

….Continue reading more @ Wired.com

44 Democrats & Pakistani Awan Bros in Congress IT Scandal Heats Up | Apr 3 2018

‘The Biggest Story You Never Hear About’: Reporter Sounds The Alarm On Awan Brothers Scandal

|| TGP

New Congressional documents reveal all 44 House Democrats who hired IT staffer Imran Awan waived the background check on the shady Pakistani national. 

“The Daily Caller reports:

‘Every one of the 44 House Democrats who hired Pakistan-born IT aides who later allegedly made “unauthorized access” to congressional data appears to have chosen to exempt them from background checks, according to congressional documents.

All of them appear to have waived background checks on Imran Awan and his family members, even though the family of server administrators could collectively read all the emails and files of 1 in 5 House Democrats, and despite background checks being recommended for such positions, according to an inspector general’s report. The House security policy requires offices to fill out a form attesting that they’ve initiated background checks, but it also includes a loophole allowing them to simply say that another member vouched for them.

The reporter behind the new Awan report, the Daily Caller’s Luke Rosiak, joined Fox Business Network Monday to discuss his story.

“If they would have run this background check it would have found out not only multiple criminal convictions, but $1 million bankruptcy, a dozen lawsuits… it would have found a whole host of major red flags and the Democrats didn’t do any of those checks,” Rosiak told host Maria Bartiromo.

“As a result they gave these guys access to everything and IG determined that they were funneling data off the House network.”

“This is the biggest story that you never hear about,” Rosiak added.

 “It’s a hack on the Congress by foreigners and the Democrats didn’t care about it, they didn’t stop it. These are the same people who were talking constantly about cyber breaches and Russia. And if you care about one, you’ve got to care about the other.”

“So why haven’t they addressed it?”

“It basically destroys that Russian narrative just because it shows that they didn’t actually care about cyber-security and they haven’t responded to this. And thirdly, it could just be a question of, do these guys have something on members of Congress?” the Daily Caller reporter said.

IT specialist Imran Awan worked for Debbie Wasserman Schultz for thirteen years since she was first elected to national office in 2004 as a Florida representative. She only fired him after he was arrested and would have kept paying her “IT expert” even after he fled to Pakistan. The Awan brothers IT ring had access to emails and computer data from an estimated 800 lawmakers and staffers.

Three Pakistani brothers who managed the IT affairs for several Democratic government officials were relieved of their duties in February on suspicion that they accessed specific computer networks without permission, also known as hacking Imran Awan, who started working for Wasserman Schultz in 2005, received $164,600 in 2016, with close to $20,000 of that coming from Wasserman Schultz.

His brother Jamal, who started working as a staffer in 2014, was paid $157,350.12 in 2016. Abid, who started working in 2005, was paid $160,943 in 2016. Imran’s wife, Hina Alvi, who was employed as a staffer since February 2007, was paid 168,300 in 2016. Rao Abbas was paid $85,049 in 2016. Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan were barred from computer networks at the House of Representatives in February.”

…Continue reading more @ The Gateway Pundit

Mitch McConnell and the Communist China Connection | Mar 18 2018

How McConnell and Chao used political power to make their family rich

|| New York Post

Peter Schweizer, who delved into the Clinton Foundation’s dealings in 2016’s “Clinton Cash,” has turned his sights to the money-making machinations of DC’s political elite.

His new book, “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends,” — due out Tuesday from Harper Collins — exposes how politicians engage in “corruption by proxy” by exploiting family and business ties to enrich themselves and their relatives.

Here, The Post’s Larry Getlen details the book’s revelations on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, ex-Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and others:

In 2004, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, current US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, had an average net worth of $3.1 million. Ten years later, that number had increased to somewhere between $9.2 million and $36.5 million.

One source of the windfall, according to a new book from Peter Schweizer, was a 2008 gift from Chao’s father, James Chao, for somewhere between $5 million and $25 million. But this gift could be seen as more than just a gift. It may have been acquired, according to Schweizer, thanks to the couple’s fealty to China, the source of the Chao family fortune. And that fealty may have occurred at the expense of the nation they had pledged to serve.

“Secret Empires,” the new book from the “Clinton Cash” and “Throw Them All Out” author, details myriad examples of corruption from members of both major political parties. Rather than focusing on direct forms of corruption, such as bribes, Schweizer hones in on the more indirect graft of the modern era.

Rather than risk their careers taking bribes for potentially minuscule rewards, Schweizer points out how today’s politicians are savvier, engaging in what he calls “corruption by proxy.”

While politicians and their spouses are often subject to rigid regulations on what gifts they can accept and what sort of business they can conduct, others around them — like their friends or children have no such obstacles. So while a politician could theoretically wind up in prison for accepting $10,000 for doling out favors, establishing overseas connections that could land your children multi-million-dollar deals is harder to detect, and often legal.

“Foreign governments and oligarchs like this form of corruption because it gives them private and unfettered gateways to the corridors of Washington power,” Schweizer writes. “Foreign entities cannot legally make campaign contributions, so using this approach creates an alternative way to curry favor and influence America’s political leaders. Simply camouflaging these transactions as business agreements provides another shield of plausible deniability.”

As Schweizer tells it, the Chao family fortune derives from the Foremost Group, a shipping company that Chinese native James Chao, a classmate of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin at Jiao Tong University, founded in New York in 1964. Chao remains Foremost’s chairman today, and his daughters Angela and Christine are the company’s deputy chairwoman and general counsel, respectively. Elaine Chao worked there in the 1970s, and has been quoted as saying, “Shipping is our family tradition.”

The success of Foremost is largely due to its close ties to the Chinese government, in particular the China State Shipbuilding Corp. (CSSC), a corporation with which Foremost has done “large volumes of business.”

The CSSC, Schweizer writes, is “a state-owned defense conglomerate … at the heart of the Chinese government’s military-industrial complex.” The main goal of the CSSC is to strengthen the Chinese military. James and Angela Chao have both sat on the board of a CSSC offshoot.

While Foremost is an American company, “their ships have been constructed by Chinese government shipyards, and some of their construction financed by the Chinese government.” In addition, writes Schweizer, “their crews are largely Chinese,” despite US Transportation Secretary and company founder’s daughter Elaine Chao having once said that “ships crewed by Americans are ‘a vital part of our national security.’”

Given all this, it’s worth noting how both McConnell and Chao, in their roles as high-ranking US officials, have personally interacted with, and then gone considerably soft on, China since their 1993 wedding.

When Senator McConnell — who took hardline positions against China prior to his marriage — met with high-ranking Chinese officials in 1994, it was not in his capacity as senator, but via a personal invitation from the CSSC arranged by James Chao. McConnell met with Zemin, then the country’s president, and vice-premiere Li Lanqing. After this meeting, McConnell “would increasingly avoid public criticism of China.” More meetings like it would follow in the years to come.

“As the Chaos and the Chinese government went into business together, the Chaos-McConnells tied their economic fate to the good fortunes of Beijing,” Schweizer writes. “Were McConnell to critique Beijing aggressively or support policies damaging to Chinese interests, Beijing could severely damage the family’s economic fortunes.”

In the ensuing years, McConnell has loudly defended China in its actions against Hong Kong and Taiwan, even claiming that “the United States needed to be ‘ambiguous’ as to whether we would come to the defense of Taiwan if attacked by China.” When Sen. Jesse Helms introduced the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, pledging support for Taiwanese independence, in 1999, it had “twenty-one co-sponsors and heavy Republican support. But McConnell was not on the list.”

When Congress required China to document annual progress on human rights in order to maintain its trade status in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre, ditching the requirement became a priority for the country. In 2000, “McConnell cosponsored S.2277, which would do just that.”

McConnell also fought attempts to punish China for vigorously undervaluing its currency, a tactic that led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the nuclear option, changing Senate rules on voting. The bill passed, 63-35, with McConnell voting against.

Chao has also done her part to support her ancestral home.

When she served as Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, her department resisted efforts to “call out the Chinese government over its workers rights practices.” When a petition was filed against China on the subject of worker’s rights based on the US Trade Act of 1974, Chao opposed it.

After a bipartisan congressional report citing Chinese espionage against the US circulated in 2000, Chao “was critical of the report,” making clear she “in no way” agreed with its findings, and, Schweizer writes, “dismiss[ing] the idea that China could pose any threat to the United States.”

…..Continue reading more @ NY Post