Archive for December, 2012


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John Boehner (R., Ohio): “The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass.  Now it is up to the president to work with Senator Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff.  The House has already passed legislation to stop all of the January 1 tax rate increases and replace the sequester with responsible spending cuts that will begin to address our nation’s crippling debt.  The Senate must now act.”

Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club for Growth: “We are pleased that the Republicans did not vote to raise taxes. We need to get real about our problems and stop playing political games. Only in Washington can a bill that increases taxes be considered a tax cut.”

Ezra Klein (Washington Post): “It’s not entirely clear whether Boehner will be the speaker of the House a month from today. The vote to elect the next speaker is on Jan. 3. To win, you need an absolute majority of the House, not a plurality. Even a hopeless conservative challenge that attracts only a handful of Republican votes could deny Boehner the speakership until a consensus candidate emerged. Tonight’s vote makes that challenge more likely.

A significant number of Boehner’s members clearly don’t trust his strategic instincts, they don’t feel personally bound to support him, they clearly disagree with his belief that tax rates must rise as part of a deal, and they, along with many other Republicans, must be humiliated after the shenanigans on the House floor this evening.

Worse, they know that Boehner knows he’ll need Democratic support to get a budget deal done. That means “a cave,” at least from the perspective of the conservative bloc, is certain. That, too, will make a change of leadership appealing.”

If a conservative spoiler runs, he or she could very possibly deny Boehner the 218 votes he needs to become speaker, clearing the way for a more moderate candidate like Eric Cantor to unite the party. It’s hard to say exactly how likely that is. But it’s likelier than it was, say, this morning.

U.S. Debt on Track to Fuel Economic Crisis

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Boehner Led Prayer, Pledge and Then Broke News

WSJ – By Michael R. Crittenden

Rep. Scott Rigell, a first-term GOP congressman from Virginia who sits on the House armed services committee, said Speaker John Boehner opened the Republicans’ Thursday evening meeting by saying it would be a quick conference and then took the unusual step of leading both a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Boehner said the “Serenity Prayer,” Mr. Rigell said, but made no attempt to garner further support for his Plan B proposal.

Mr. Boehner had pushed the proposal, which would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the first $1 million of income, as an alternative to reaching a broader deal with President Barack Obama.

“I knew they were having some trouble with the vote, but I had just assumed they’d say ‘Hey look, rally, let’s go.’ That did not happen,” Mr. Rigell said. “He said ‘We do not have the votes and we are not going to have any further votes and I’ll go before the press tomorrow and explain we don’t have the votes.’ ”

He added that a few members clapped, but that many were trying to process the sudden change of plans.

“I’m not sure the people who have been up here 20 or 30 years really understand what the next iteration of this process is,” Mr. Rigell said.

In a statement, Mr. Boehner said: “The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass.  Now it is up to the president to work with Senator [Majority Leader Harry] Reid on legislation to avert the fiscal cliff. ”

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About the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

The position of Speaker of the House of Representatives is created in Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states, “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; …”

How the Speaker is chosen
As the highest-ranking member of the House, the Speaker is elected by a vote of the members of the House. While it is not required, the Speaker usually belongs to the majority political party. The Constitution does not require that the Speaker be an elected Member of Congress. No non-member has ever been elected Speaker.

The Speaker is elected following each mid-term election held every-other year, and serves a two year term. Along with the title and duties, the Speaker of the House continues to serve as the elected representative from his or her congressional district, and takes part in debate and votes like all other representatives.

Powers duties and privileges of the Speaker

Typically the head of the majority party in the House, the speaker outranks the Majority Leader. The salary of the Speaker is also higher than that of the Majority and Minority Leaders in both the House and Senate.

The Speaker rarely presides over regular meetings of the full House, instead delegating the role to another representative. The Speaker does, however, typically presides over special joint sessions of Congress in which the House hosts the Senate. The Speaker exerts power over the legislative process by setting the House legislative calendar determining when bills will be debated and voted on.

The Speaker often utilizes this power to help fulfill his or her responsibility of making sure bills supported by the majority party are passed by the House. The Speaker also serves as chair of the majority party’s House steering committee.

Perhaps most clearly indicating the importance of the position, the Speaker of the House stands second only to the Vice President of the United States in the line of presidential succession.

The first Speaker of the House was Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, elected during the first session of Congress in 1789.

Social Security Deficits are Permanent and Growing

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What Is the ‘Fiscal Cliff’?

CNBC – By:

The ‘fiscal cliff’ may sound like the name of an exercise retreat on a mountain top in Southern California, but the reality is not so pretty.

What ‘fiscal cliff’ actually refers to is the potentially dire economic situation the U.S. faces at the end of 2012.

The now infamous phrase was coined by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in February 2012, during one of his required appearances before Congress on the state of the U.S. economy. He described … “a massive fiscal cliff of large spending cuts and tax increases” on Jan. 1, 2013.

Since then, ‘fiscal cliff’ has taken on legendary status as a harbinger of economic gloom and doom.

So what does the ‘fiscal cliff’ trigger for the economy and how bad can it be? Here’s a look.

How does the fiscal cliff come about?

At midnight on Dec. 31, 2012, a major provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) is scheduled to go into effect. This was the deal signed by President Obama in August 2011 to end the Congressional battle over raising the government debt ceiling.

The Act was a compromise between Democrats and Republicans on economic policies while temporarily increasing the debt ceiling — the amount of money the government could borrow from itself to pay its bills.

The crucial part of the Act provided for a Joint Select Committee of Congressional Democrats and Republicans — the so called ‘Supercommittee ‘— to produce bipartisan legislation by late November 2012 that would decrease the U.S. deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.

To do so, the committee agreed to implement by law — if no other deal was reached before Dec. 31 — massive government spending cuts as well as tax increases or a return to tax levels from previous years. These are the elements that make up the ‘fiscal cliff.’

What laws from the Budget Control Act will go into place?

Among them are the end of 2011’s temporary payroll tax cuts — the result of which will be a 2 percent tax increase for most workers.

There will also be an end to several tax breaks for businesses, and changes in the alternative minimum tax (AMT) that could result in more people having to pay — the income range is currently between $45,000 and $200,000 — and higher tax payments for those who do.

Several of these existing tax breaks came from the George W. Bush tax cut bill of 2001, which were extended under President Obama until the end of 2012.

There will also be tax increases for higher income individuals to help pay for the ffordable Health Care Act (so-called ObamaCare).

At the same time, spending cuts will take place in more than 1,000 government programs, including cuts in the defense budget as well as social programs like Medicare, through 2022.

But some programs are exempt from the BCA. Those are Social Security, federal pensions and veterans’ benefits.

What is the impact of the tax increases and budget cuts?

While higher taxes and spending cuts would reduce the U.S. budget deficit by an estimated $560 billion, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that the policies from the BCA would cut gross domestic product by four percentage points in 2013. Many analysts say that would likely send the still-struggling U.S. economy into a recession, if not a depression, as the financial markets would likely go into a tailspin while businesses and consumers both cut back on spending.

As a result of the economic slowdown from the stilted GDP growth, the CBO also predicts unemployment would rise by almost a full percentage point, with a loss of about two million jobs.

Can anything be done to prevent the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ from happening?

The major problem has been getting Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House to agree on budgetary policy for the future. epublicans say they want cuts in government spending to reduce the country’s deficit without raising taxes. For their part, Democrats say they want spending cuts with certain taxes raised.

There have been calls to extend some or all of the tax cuts and to replace the massive cutbacks in government spending with more targeted reductions. Some proposals include repealing the BCA altogether and just keeping what exists now until another agreement can be reached.

But so far, there is no consensus on what to do, and some analysts say nothing might happen to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff’ until the last week in December.

There is one ace in the hole, so to speak. Even if the BCA deadline comes and nothing is done, Congress can still act to change laws retroactively if it chooses.

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“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,”

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Linebacker II Remembrance Ceremony

By Senior Airman Benjamin Wiseman
36th Wing Public Affairs

12/15/2012 – ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) — The annual Linebacker II Remembrance Ceremony was held at the Arc Light Memorial Park here Dec. 14 to honor the heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice in support of Operation Linebacker II.

Operation Linebacker II, also referred to as the “11-Day War,” was conducted from Dec. 18, 1972 to Dec. 29, 1972. After peace talks between the U.S. and North Vietnam failed, U.S. President Richard Nixon ordered the bombing of North Vietnam to bring the North Vietnamese government back to the negotiating table.

“During Operation Linebacker II, more than 700 sorties were flown and 15,000 tons of ordnances were dropped on targets in North Vietnam,” said Col. Randy Kaufman, 36th Operations Group commander. “For 11 days, Andersen became a very busy base.”

Throughout the operation, Andersen was the staging area for the B-52 Stratofortress bombers. With an increase of Airmen and B-52s taking up nearly five miles of ramp space, Andersen was the site of the largest rapid buildup of airpower in history.

“Andersen grew to a population of more than 10,000 active duty members, and the number of B-52s increased from 34 to 155 by the time Operation Linebacker II kicked off,” said Colonel Kaufman. “The population increased so much that Airmen started sleeping in the gym and ‘tent cities’ were constructed just to house the Airmen.”

Even though the operation was considered a great success, like most conflicts or wars, there were casualties. During Operation Linebacker II, 33 B-52 crewmembers were killed or missing in action as a result of the massive bombing on North Vietnam. Many deaths were credited to SA-2 surface-to-air missiles launched by the North Vietnamese.

“Operation Linebacker II was a success, but it was not without loss,” said Colonel Kaufman. “33 men and 15 aircrafts were lost during the operation,” said Colonel Kaufman. “The names of those men are etched in bronze on this memorial.”

It has been 40 years since Operation Linebacker II started, and Andersen continues to honor its fallen warriors every December.

“We come together to honor their gallantry and sacrifices to our nation,” said Colonel Kaufman during the ceremony. “Your attendance today ensures that their sacrifices will never be forgotten.”

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During operation Linebacker II a total of 741 B-52 sorties had been dispatched to bomb North Vietnam and 729 had actually completed their missions. 15,237 tons of ordnance were dropped on 18 industrial and 14 military targets (including eight SAM sites) while fighter-bombers added another 5,000 tons of bombs to the tally. 212 additional B-52 missions were flown within South Vietnam in support of ground operations during the same time period.

Ten B-52s had been shot down over the North and five others had been damaged and crashed in Laos or Thailand. 33 B-52 crew members were killed or missing in action, another 33 became prisoners of war, and 26 more were rescued. North Vietnamese air defense forces claimed that 34 B-52s and four F-111s had been shot down during the campaign.

769 additional sorties were flown by the Air Force and 505 by the Navy and Marine Corps in support of the bombers. 12 of these aircraft were lost on the missions (two F-111s, three F-4s, two A-7s, two A-6s, an EB-66, an HH-53 rescue helicopter, and an RA-5C reconnaissance aircraft).

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During these operations, ten American aviators were killed, eight captured, and 11 rescued. Overall US Air Force losses included fifteen B-52s, two F-4s, two F-111s, one EB-66 and one HH-53 search and rescue helicopter. Navy losses included two A-7s, two A-6s, one RA-5, and one F-4.

Seventeen of these losses were attributed to SA-2 missiles, three to daytime MiG attacks, three to antiaircraft artillery, and four to unknown causes. A total of eight MiGs were shot down during the operation, including two by B-52 tail gunners.

Damage to North Vietnam’s infrastructure was severe. The Air Force estimated 500 rail interdictions had taken place, 372 pieces of rolling stock and three million gallons of petroleum products were destroyed, and 80 percent of North Vietnam’s electrical power production capability had been eliminated. Logistical inputs into North Vietnam were assessed by U.S. intelligence at 160,000 tons per month when the operation began.

By January 1973, those imports had dropped to 30,000 tons per month. The North Vietnamese government criticized the operation stating that the U.S. had “carpet-bombed hospitals, schools, and residential areas, committing barbarous crimes against our people”, citing the bombing of Bach Mai Hospital and Kham Thien street on 26 December which they claimed had resulted in 278 dead and 290 wounded, and over 2,000 homes destroyed. In total, Hanoi claimed that 1,624 civilians had been killed by the bombing.

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Navy’s experimental unmanned drone passes tests aboard USS Truman

S&S – By Cristina Silva

… The X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System went through a series of mechanical and engineering tests designed to evaluate its compatibility with the Navy’s aircraft carriers during a two-week stint aboard the nuclear powered USS Harry S. Truman.

“I’m a believer that this is only the beginning,” Don Blottenberger, program manager for the Navy’s unmanned aircraft program, said in a statement. “There is a lot ahead for our program and a lot of hard work behind us. I look at Truman as the beginning of future unmanned integration with the fleet.”

Similar aircraft could eventually be used to deliver cargo to ships at sea, carry out airstrikes and conduct surveillance, according to Navy officials.

… During the testing exercise aboard the Truman, sailors towed the X-47B across the flight deck using carrier-based tractors and tested how its digital engine controls reacted to electromagnetic fields, according to the Navy. Sailors also taxied the drone on the flight deck using a joystick attached to a remote control.

“The system has performed outstandingly,” Blottenberger said, according to the statement. “We’ve learned a lot about the environment that we’re in and how compatible the aircraft is with a carrier’s flight deck, hangar bays and communication systems.”

Digital messages, instead of verbal instructions, from shipboard controllers are used to control the aircraft.

“We followed the aircraft director’s signals to move the aircraft left or right, over the arresting wire, to and from the catapults and to various spotting positions,” said Gerrit Everson, one of the operators who controlled the X-47B aboard the Truman, in a statement. “These tests proved that we can taxi the X-47B with the precision that an aircraft carrier’s flight deck requires.”

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Former Marine Standing Guard At Elementary School Lied About Service Record

HUGHSON (CBS13) – The feel-good story of a former U.S. Marine standing guard outside a local elementary school doesn’t feel so good the day after.

It turns out Craig Pusley isn’t in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, he didn’t serve overseas as he told CBS13 on Wednesday and he was discharged after less than a year with the second-lowest ranking in the Marines, private first class (E-2).

Pusley, who stood guard in uniform but unarmed outside Hughson Elementary School on Wednesday, was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego from July 2007 until April 2008, according to the Marines’ public affairs office. He was never deployed.

Pusley said Wednesday he was a sergeant in the Reserve after being on active duty in Afghanistan.

Pusley was back in front of the school on Thursday but in a coat and tie. He said Wednesday he was prompted to take action after the tragic school shooting last week in Newtown, Conn.

“I would take a bullet for any one of these kids whether I know them or not,” he told CBS 13 Wednesday. “If a gunman comes into this school, I’m not gonna kill him. I’m gonna drag him out of here. I’m gonna let the law take care of him.”

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Senators say ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ is ‘grossly inaccurate’

LA Times – By Steven Zeitchik

The Osama bin Laden manhunt film “Zero Dark Thirty” came under fire Wednesday from a bipartisan group of senators who complained to Sony Pictures that the drama is “grossly inaccurate and misleading” because it suggests that torture helped extract key information from a terrorism suspect.

In a letter to studio chief Michael Lynton, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) wrote that the movie, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, improperly establishes a connection between “enhanced interrogations” and key intelligence.

“We write to express our deep disappointment with the movie ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ We believe the film is grossly inaccurate and misleading in its suggestion that torture resulted in information that led to the location of [Osama] bin Laden,” wrote the senators, all of whom are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Feinstein heads.

Though they stopped short of specifying what action they’d like from Sony, the senators suggested that they were hoping for a disclaimer of some sort. “Please consider correcting the impression that the CIA‘s use of coercive interrogation techniques led to the operation against [Osama] bin Laden,” they wrote. A spokesman for one of the senators confirmed that they were hoping the studio would respond but that the lawmakers were leaving it to the studio to determine what action to take.

The senators’ letter comes on the heels of other complaints in Washington that the filmmakers may have had improper access to government sources or information while researching the movie…

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Black Hawk flies, lands and avoids threats – all without pilots at the helm

AL.com – By Leada Gore

A specially equipped Black Hawk was recently used to demonstrate the helicopter’s ability to operate on its own.

In the first such test of its type, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research’s Development and Engineering Center, based at Redstone Arsenal, flew the Black Hawk over Diablo Mountain Range in San Jose, Calif. Pilots were aboard the aircraft for the tests, but all flight maneuvers were conducted autonomously: obstacle field navigation, safe landing area determination, terrain sensing, statistical processing, risk assessment, threat avoidance, trajectory generation and autonomous flight control were performed in real‐time.

“This was the first time terrain-aware autonomy has been achieved on a Black Hawk,” said Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of the Flight Projects Office at AMRDEC’s Aeroflightdynamics Directorate and one of the tests pilots.

The 2-hour tests was conducted on the Rotorcraft Aircrew Systems Concept Airborne Laboratory, or RASCAL, a JUH-60A Black Hawk equipped with the H.N. Burns 3D-LZ laser detection and ranging system for terrain sensing.

“The RASCAL aircraft was the ideal platform upon which to demonstrate this technology, as it provides a unique, fully programmable fly-by-wire flight control system and advanced sensor interfaces for rapid prototyping of new concepts, while maintaining the standard UH-60 hydromechanical flight control system as a safety backup,” said Jay Fletcher, RASCAL project manager.

The aircraft flew at an altitude between 200-400 feet about ground level. As part of the field navigation tests, the aircraft’s system was able to autonomously identify a safe landing spot within a forest clearing and then hover 60 feet over the identified landing spot. It achieved this goal within 1 foot of accuracy.

“A risk-minimizing algorithm was used to compute and command a safe trajectory continuously throughout 23 miles of rugged terrain in a single flight, at an average speed of 40 knots,” said Matthew Whalley, the Autonomous Rotorcraft Project lead. “No prior knowledge of the terrain was used.”

Joining Ott on the test were Army experimental test pilots Lt. Col. Mike Olmstead, RASCAL System Operator Dennis Zollo and Dr. Marc Takahashi.

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An Update on the Recent Experience of a Marine on a Delta Flight…

December 19th, 2012 by

Hi Everyone,

I want to give you an update on our efforts to address a negative experience a Marine had on a recent Delta flight and our efforts in response to this incident.

We have made several attempts to talk with this customer directly. We have yet to be able to reach him, but I have left my personal cell phone number with people who have agreed to pass it along to our customer. If given the opportunity, I’d like to personally apologize and attempt to make up for this experience.

When we learned of this event we immediately began a thorough review of what happened and how it happened. We found that in our haste to accommodate his request for an earlier flight than originally booked – one that was already being boarded when he arrived at the gate – we clearly missed opportunities to better serve him.

At Delta, we feel a deep obligation to support our nation’s servicemen and servicewomen who fly with us daily, and we will continue to do what we can to make this right.

We’re sorry for this service hero’s experience. And we are using this unfortunate and unacceptable incident as an opportunity to revisit and reinforce the standards that our more than 80,000 employees worldwide embody.

Thank you again for your concern,

Allison Ausband, vice president – Customer Care

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Regarding the Recent Experience of a Marine on a Delta Flight…

December 14th, 2012 by

Many of you have expressed concern about a Washington Post blog account about a Marine who had a negative experience on a recent Delta flight. We too are unsettled by this incident.

We attempted to reach the customer as soon as we became aware of the situation, but so far have been unsuccessful in speaking with him directly.

An internal review is already underway to understand what occurred and take appropriate action. What is clear is that we did not care for this customer the way we should have. This incident doesn’t reflect the care with which Delta people serve our customers every day, and it doesn’t reflect the high regard we hold for those who do and have served our country.

We have the utmost respect and admiration for our active duty military and veterans who make tremendous sacrifices to protect and sustain the freedoms we enjoy every day; and our Delta team is typically very good at showing their respect through various means of recognition.

Unfortunately, we failed in this situation. We strive to exceed expectations with every customer, and particularly regret when we fail a member of the military or person with a disability. We are taking this isolated situation very seriously and doing what we can to make it right with the customer.

Our efforts to do better for our customers are constant, but incidents like this one always make us pause to revisit service standards. We are doing that now; and will make this as right as we can for this customer, which will help to prevent situations like this in the future.

Thanks for voicing your concerns,

Allison Ausband, vice president – Customer Care

LB COMMENT:  APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED – GET BACK TO US WHEN DELTA TAKES DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST THE CREW.  UNTIL THEN, MY DELTA SKYMILES MEMBERSHIP IS CANX AND I WILL NOT FLY DELTA…

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ARB FINDINGS

In examining the circumstances of these attacks, the Accountability Review Board for Benghazi determined that:

1. The attacks were security related, involving arson, small arms and machine gun fire, and the use of RPGs, grenades, and mortars against U.S. personnel at two separate facilities – the SMC and the Annex – and en route between them. Responsibility for the tragic loss of life, injuries, and damage to U.S. facilities and property rests solely and completely with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks. The Board concluded that there was no protest prior to the attacks, which were unanticipated in their scale and intensity.

2. Systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department (the “Department”) resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.

Security in Benghazi was not recognized and implemented as a “shared responsibility” by the bureaus in Washington charged with supporting the post, resulting in stove-piped discussions and decisions on policy and security. That said, Embassy Tripoli did not demonstrate strong and sustained advocacy with Washington for increased security for Special Mission Benghazi.

The short-term, transitory nature of Special Mission Benghazi’s staffing, with talented and committed, but relatively inexperienced, American personnel often on temporary assignments of 40 days or less, resulted in diminished institutional knowledge, continuity, and mission capacity.

Overall, the number of Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) security staff in Benghazi on the day of the attack and in the months and weeks leading up to it was inadequate, despite repeated requests from Special Mission Benghazi and Embassy Tripoli for additional staffing. Board members found a pervasive realization among personnel who served in Benghazi that the Special Mission was not a high priority for Washington when it came to security-related requests, especially those relating to staffing.

 The insufficient Special Mission security platform was at variance with the appropriate Overseas Security Policy Board (OSPB) standards with respect to perimeter and interior security. Benghazi was also severely under-resourced with regard to certain needed security equipment, although DS funded and installed in 2012 a number of physical security upgrades.

These included heightening the outer perimeter wall, safety grills on safe area egress windows, concrete jersey barriers, manual drop-arm vehicle barriers, a steel gate for the Villa C safe area, some locally manufactured steel doors, sandbag fortifications, security cameras, some additional security lighting, guard booths, and an Internal Defense Notification System.

Special Mission Benghazi’s uncertain future after 2012 and its “non-status” as a temporary, residential facility made allocation of resources for security and personnel more difficult, and left responsibility to meet security standards to the working-level in the field, with very limited resources.

In the weeks and months leading up to the attacks, the response from post, Embassy Tripoli, and Washington to a deteriorating security situation was inadequate. At the same time, the SMC’s dependence on the armed but poorly skilled Libyan February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade (February 17) militia members and unarmed, locally contracted Blue Mountain Libya (BML) guards for security support was misplaced.

 Although the February 17 militia had proven effective in responding to improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on the Special Mission in April and June 2012, there were some troubling indicators of its reliability in the months and weeks preceding the September attacks. At the time of Ambassador Stevens’ visit, February 17 militia members had stopped accompanying Special Mission vehicle movements in protest over salary and working hours.

Post and the Department were well aware of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks but at no time were there ever any specific, credible threats against the mission in Benghazi related to the September 11 anniversary. Ambassador Stevens and Benghazi-based DS agents had taken the anniversary into account and decided to hold all meetings on-compound on September 11.

 The Board found that Ambassador Stevens made the decision to travel to Benghazi independently of Washington, per standard practice. Timing for his trip was driven in part by commitments in Tripoli, as well as a staffing gap between principal officers in Benghazi. Plans for the Ambassador’s trip provided for minimal close protection security support and were not shared thoroughly with the Embassy’s country team, who were not fully aware of planned movements off compound.

The Ambassador did not see a direct threat of an attack of this nature and scale on the U.S. Mission in the overall negative trendline of security incidents from spring to summer 2012. His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy, and his expertise on Benghazi in particular, caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments.

 Communication, cooperation, and coordination among Washington, Tripoli, and Benghazi functioned collegially at the working-level but were constrained by a lack of transparency, responsiveness, and leadership at the senior levels. Among various Department bureaus and personnel in the field, there appeared to be very real confusion over who, ultimately, was responsible and empowered to make decisions based on both policy and security considerations.

 3. Notwithstanding the proper implementation of security systems and procedures and remarkable heroism shown by American personnel, those systems and the Libyan response fell short in the face of a series of attacks that began with the sudden penetration of the Special Mission compound by dozens of armed attackers.

 The Board found the responses by both the BML guards and February 17 to be inadequate. The Board’s inquiry found little evidence that the armed February 17 guards offered any meaningful defense of the SMC, or succeeded in summoning a February 17 militia presence to assist expeditiously.

 The Board found the Libyan government’s response to be profoundly lacking on the night of the attacks, reflecting both weak capacity and near absence of central government influence and control in Benghazi.

The Libyan government did facilitate assistance from a quasi-governmental militia that supported the evacuation of U.S. government personnel to Benghazi airport. The Libyan government also provided a military C-130 aircraft which was used to evacuate remaining U.S. personnel and the bodies of the deceased from Benghazi to Tripoli on September 12.

The Board determined that U.S. personnel on the ground in Benghazi performed with courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues, in a near impossible situation. The Board members believe every possible effort was made to rescue and recover Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith.

 The interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference.

 4. The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community’s understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.

 5. The Board found that certain senior State Department officials within two bureaus demonstrated a lack of proactive leadership and management ability in their responses to security concerns posed by Special Mission Benghazi, given the deteriorating threat environment and the lack of reliable host government protection. However, the Board did not find reasonable cause to determine that any individual U.S. government employee breached his or her duty.

Read Full Unclassified Report (PDF)

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Related Previous Benghazi Posts:

 

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UPDATE (21 Dec 2300)

Jon Hammar Sr,. has confirmed that his 27-year-old son, is back on U.S. soil and with him in a rented car in Brownsville, Texas.  Hammar Sr. said his son was released from CEDES prison at 8 p.m. local time and made it back across the bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas by around 8:30 p.m.

UPDATE

Twenty-seven-year-old former Marine Jon Hammar of Palmetto Bay will be released Friday from a Mexican prison, according to U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Source: CBSMiami

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UPDATE – Dec 20, 2012

Ever since the plight of Lance Corporal Jon Hammar was made public, the Silver Star Families of America, (SSFOA), have been quietly working behind the scenes for Hammar’s release from a prison in Mexico. And they have made some headway.

CEO of the SSFOA Steve Newton, stated: “We have contacted the Mexican Embassy in Washington and every Mexican consulate in the United States. We have also contacted the U.S. State Department and our Embassy in Mexico City. To be honest our State Department has been somewhat slow and—unhelpful.

We finally made a solid contact with our Consulate office in Matamoros who gives us up to- date information on Hammar’s condition and provided us an address to send him reading materials so we have made progress.”

“While some are engaged in big media events, the SSFOA has been working quietly with both U.S. and Mexican officials,” Newton continued. “It is probably a good thing the plight of Mr. Hammar has gotten out to the public because it might draw the attention of those in the government that can help.

We have also been passing on information to the family through Hammars Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla office.”

“It is not our job to determine blame for the situation and we feel that any solution will be a compromise between Mexico and the United States and the people of both Nations. Our main concern is making sure Hammar is well treated, safe, and is at least fairly comfortable while we work to free him.

We firmly believe that he will be released on January 17th, at his next court appearance. If that does not happen we will have to –reevaluate the situation and take other action. And we are doing a few things we can’t talk about at present.”

“We learned today our letter to the President of Mexico has finally been delivered. (Letter in full below) We will build on that and we will not rest until Hammar is home.”

———-

Dear Mr. Newton,

Thank you for your letter addressed to President Pena Nieto that you sent to the Ambassador regarding the imprisonment of Mr. Jon Hammar in Matamoros. The U.S. Embassy has forwarded your letter to the Government of Mexico per your request.

We appreciate your concern of fellow citizen Jon Hammar. Please know that U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros are working closely with high-level Mexican Officials to ensure that proper judicial proceedings are in place and encouraging a prompt resolution.

Embassy and Consulate officials continue to monitor Mr. Hammar’s safety and well-being throughout his detention.

Sincerely,

Office of the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs U.S. Embassy Mexico City

The Honorable Lic. Enrique Peña Nieto President of the United Mexican States

In care of: U.S. Embassy and the Mexican Consulate

———-

I would like to bring to your attention the mission of the Silver Star Families of America: to remember, honor and assist the wounded, ill, injured and dying of the American Armed Forces from all wars.

We are an organization of thousands of members who respect the sacrifice of those who have stood for freedom. Intergral to our mission is the welfare and well-being of Jon Hammar, a United States Marine Corp veteran has been arrested and is presently incarcerated in CERESO de Matamoro.

Mr. Hammar suffers from post traumatic stress, a psychological and emotion illness caused by prolonged exposure to violence. Mr. Hammar was a soldier in Afghanistan and Iraq, and should be receiving therapy for his wounds, which is likely to become worse under the stress of his incarceration.

We have no wish to interfere with the Mexican judicial system, nor with any official negotiations between governments, but we would like to request that for humanitarian reasons, the honorable President Enrique Peña Nieto will consider using your considerable influence and power to prevail upon the Public Ministers to consider Mr. Hammar’s condition and intention, reducing the charges to those that would allow him to leave prison and return to his own country.

The Silver Stars Families of America is willing to pay whatever fines are assessed by the court. Our respect for the sovereignty of the Mexican state is absolute and our only concern is for Mr. Hammar’s well-being.

If charges cannot be dropped or reduced to the minimum, we would ask that you consider having the criminal matter expedited, and grant Mr. Hammar amnesty as you are empowered to do in Article 89, XIV of the Political Constitution of the Mexican United States, or you request that the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of the Republic grant amnesty to Mr. Hammar under the powers granted the Legislature in Article 73, XIII.

Again, our only concern is to assume that Mr. Hammar receives the help he desperately needs. Our respect for the sovereignty of the Mexican state is absolute and our only wish is for an honorable settlement of this situation. A misunderstanding of Mexican customs regulations should not deprive a young wounded warrior of years of his life.

I appeal to you as a father and a Christian. Please let the good hearts of the Mexican people prevail and provide justice tempered with mercy. You know and I know this child should not suffer anymore than he already has.

I stand with you in justice and compassion,

Steve Newton

CEO Silver Star Families of America

The Silver Star Families of America has one mission: To remember, honor and assist the wounded, ill, injured and dying of our Armed Forces from all wars.

They can be contacted at: Silverstarfamilies.org Letter edited by a friend and don’t know if he wants his name used. Thank you my friend. I also want to thank our interpreter. You know who you are.

Steve Newton The Silver Star Families of America 525 Cave Hollow Rd. Clever, MO. 65631 http://www.silverstarfamilies.org

———-

Dear Mr. Newton:

This Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City, Missouri, acknowledges receipt of your letter dated December 10, 2012, regarding the situation of Jon Hammar, a United States Marine Corp, arrested and presently incarcerated in CERESO de Matamoros.

I inform you that your letter has been sent to the appropriate Mexican authorities for their attention.

Kind Regards,

Alicia kerber Palma Head Consul

Source

Jon_Hammar

‘Devastating’ photo sent to family of ex-Marine jailed in notorious Mexican CEDES prison over antique shotgun

NY Daily News – By Christine Roberts

The mother of a former Marine imprisoned in Mexico says she is heartbroken over a new photo of her son, the first taken since he was locked up for trying to declare an antique gun at the border.

“It’s just devastating,” Jon Hammar’s mother, Olivia Hammar, told the Daily News. “He’s normally such a happy kid. And now he just looks so lost.”

The photo shows the 27-year-old chained to a bed inside his cell at the notorious CEDES prison in Matamoros, Mexico.

An anonymous email account from Mexico sent Olivia’s husband, Jon Hammar Sr., the picture Monday, as first reported by Fox News Latino.

“I found your email on the Internet and I wanted to send you this photo,” the sender wrote in Spanish.  “I am not giving you my name because I like my job and I don’t want to lose it. Juan is OK but I hope he is let out quickly.”

Jon Hammar, who spent four years serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been jailed at CEDES since shortly after Aug. 13, when he was arrested while crossing from Brownsville, Tex., to Matamoros.

Hammar and his friend, former Marine Ian McDonough, were on a road trip to Costa Rica. When the pair reached the Brownsville border, Hammar told U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents that he was carrying a shotgun.

The agents allowed the two to continue, and allegedly said that the gun, which apparently belonged to Hammar’s great-grandfather, wouldn’t be an issue at the Mexican checkpoint.

Yet when Hammar told Mexican border agents about the gun, he and his friend were immediately handcuffed. The friend was later released…

article-hammar-3-1217

Parents Enlist Help To Free Ex-Marine From Mexican Prison

CBS Miami – By David Sutta

…The Hammars went public with their story a week ago, four months after Jon was locked up, because all diplomatic efforts seemed to be getting nowhere.

Hammar’s troubles began in August when he took off with a buddy to Costa Rica to surf and deal with post traumatic stress from the war.

Once across the border, though, he was immediately arrested, placed in a notoriously dangerous prison some say is run by a drug cartel and charged with bringing a firearm into the country – a federal crime.

“We started receiving calls from members of the cartel saying, we have your son and we’re going to kill him. And then they’d put him on the phone, and I realize that they really did,” said Olivia Hammar.

The rifle, a family heirloom, was actually cleared by U.S. Customs.

“Customs weighed the gun, measured the gun, I think took pictures of the gun and gave him paperwork to fill out and then he took that paperwork across to the Mexican side, declared the gun and was immediately arrested,” said Olivia Hammar.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Mexican Embassy stressed that possession of any weapon restricted for the use of the army in Mexico is a federal crime and must automatically be prosecuted.

“All it is, is that the barrel of the rifle was this length or the other length. It was not like he was trying to start a militia,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

Olivia said her son spends his days shacked to his bed, reading a bible…

hillary-drinking-beer-in-in

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

11 December, 2012

CLEVER, MO

 On Monday evening, the Board of Directors of the Silver Star Families of America, (SSFOA), unanimously passed a resolution calling for the release of Jon Hammar, a Marine veteran who has been jailed in a Mexican prison in Matamoros since August over a misunderstanding regarding the registration of a firearm.

Steve Newton, President and CEO of the SSFOA stated, “The mission of the SSFOA is to remember, honor and assist the wounded, ill and injured of our Armed Forces from all wars.

Hammar suffers from the invisible wound of PTS (D) and that makes him our business. We do not and will not leave one of our own behind.”

 The Board of the SSFOA also authorized the President to use “any and all legal means necessary, including the allocation of funds, to affect the release of Hammar.”

Newton continued by saying, “We have already contacted our embassy in Mexico City, although one of the three e mails was inactive. They have not responded. We attempted to contact the Mexican desk at the State Department in Washington but no one answered the phone.

It was our intention to make sure our efforts were not in conflict with any negotiations being carried on between our government and the Mexican government that might further complicate the matter. But due to their non response and the request for public assistance from the family, we are going ahead with our efforts.”

 “We will begin our efforts by trying to reach the newly elected President Enrigue Pena Nieto and by faxing letters to all the Mexican consulates in the United States. We will also continue to attempt contact with State and the White House. This issue with Hammar is not acceptable and every effort will be made to secure his release.”

You can help by visiting http://www.silverstarfamilies.org/

 
 

Hillary-Clinton-raises-her-glass-at-Akershus-Castle-in-Oslo-welcome-to-the-world-of-hillary-clinton

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Hillary Clinton Honors Late Ambassador Chris Stevens At Awards Ceremony

Benghazi attack report submitted to Hillary Clinton

 The panel set up by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to look into the circumstances that led to the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, has submitted its report, a State Department official said on Monday.

 The Accountability Review Board (ARB) led by Tom Pickering, the former US Ambassador, and Adm (rtd) Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, submitted their report to Clinton today, her spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.

 “The ARB has completed its work. Its report has gone to the Secretary this morning; she now has it,” she said.

 Pickering and Mullen are expected to brief two key Congressional committees – the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee – on Wednesday, in a closed door meeting.

 A day later two of Clinton’s top aides would appear before the two Congressional committee in an open session.

 The report – which has both the classified and unclassified parts – would be submitted to the Congress before Wednesday.

 Clinton was earlier scheduled to brief the Congressional committee, but because of her illness it would now be done by senior State Department officials.

 In a letter to the leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Clinton thanks them for their understanding and promised to remain engaged with them in January on this issue.

 “It was her intention to be there. If she had not been ill, she would be there. She has also committed, including in a letter today to the committee chairmen, that she looks forward to having an ongoing conversation with them herself,” Nuland said.

clinton-drinking1

Hillary in Hiding

American Thinker – By Daren Jonescu

… The basic question here is whether Hillary Clinton has so completely dissolved her own moral core — the way her boss and fellow Alinskyite clearly has done — that she is incapable of feeling even the fear of self-revelation when she is called to account for her words and actions.

In other words, is this week’s illness and fainting spell just a convenient excuse for avoiding her responsibilities, or might it be the pounding of a tell-tale heart?

 Never having sat on my hands for several hours while receiving live reports and images of my employees being attacked by Ansar al-Sharia, I cannot say for certain how I would feel in her situation.

 Never having received communications from men in distress pleading for rescue or support, and done nothing to respond to their cries for help, I can only speculate as to how I would feel if a committee — some of whose members are not my political allies — wanted to ask me what happened.

 Never having offered an initial statement immediately following the murder of my ambassador in which I explicitly blamed his death on “heavily armed militants” and never mentioned any “spontaneous protest” in Libya, only to follow it up with subsequent statements cagily blaming an anti-Muhammad video and fudging on the spontaneous protest story, I have no idea how I would feel if I feared that someone might ask me about the sudden 180-degree turn in my account.

 Never having spent three months, in cahoots with my boss and other liars, carefully avoiding, deferring, and obscuring the simplest inquiry of all — “At what time, exactly, did you first hear of the attack on your Libyan consulate, and by what sequence of reasoning did you all decide that a rescue attempt was uncalled for?” — how can I know how I would feel if I were concerned that I might finally be asked that question in a Congressional hearing?

… The Benghazi scandal, as I have said before, makes Watergate — during which Clinton suffered her own first scandal, incidentally — look like cheating at tiddlywinks. Men died after a seven hour battle, and after their repeated pleas to Washington for help were rejected. In the wake of this horror, the Obama administration created a calculated cloud of conflicting half-stories in order to protect Obama’s re-election bid.

The centerpiece of their cloud of lies was a fabrication about a “spontaneous” or “natural” protest that never occurred — and that they knew never occurred — a lie which, by emphasizing and repeatedly blaming a “disgusting” video about Muhammad, actually stoked real and deadly protests throughout the Middle East.

 Hillary Clinton is the highest-ranking member of the administration scheduled to testify, and her prospective testimony would be most pertinent — not because of what she would say, but because of what others would then need to say, or unsay, to remain consistent with her story…

 But she isn’t feeling well, and wants to stay home this week, so you should just forget the whole thing; goodness knows she’d like to forget it. (By the way, is this not the kind of fragility in the face of duty that ought to disqualify her as a presidential candidate?)…

120909_hillary_clinton_ap_605

Hillary Clinton Recovering at Home, Reviewing Benghazi Report

ABC News – By Dana Hughes

Secretary of  State  Hillary Clinton is feeling a bit better following the concussion she suffered early last week, but will continue to rest this week, State Department officials said.

“She is on the mend,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “We thank all of you for your good wishes, and she’s obviously going to be fine. But… she’s going to be working at home this week.”

A U.S.  official tells ABC News that Clinton is feeling more “like herself” and would like to go back to work, but doctors have advised it may take several weeks and want the secretary to rest.  That is standard for concussion treatment.

Clinton originally fell ill from a stomach virus following a whirlwind trip to Europe at the beginning of the month, which caused such severe dehydration that she fainted and fell at home, said the State Department. According to the official, the secretary had two teams of doctors, including specialists, examine her.

They also ran tests to rule out more serious ailments beyond the virus and the concussion. During the course of the week, Clinton was on an IV drip and being monitored by a nurse, while also recovering from the pain caused by the fall.

Nuland said the decision to cancel Clinton’s schedule this week was made on Saturday morning after consulting with her doctors.

The secretary was set for a full week of events and work commitments, including testifying before the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees on Thursday, following the release of the State Department’s internal investigation on the consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya in September.  Deputy Secretaries of State Bill Burns and Tom Nides will testify in her place.

The investigation, conducted by an appointed Accountability Review Board, was ordered by Clinton in October. Nuland told reporters today that the board has completed its work. She said Secretary Clinton received the report on Monday and is reviewing it at home.

Congressional committee members will receive the full, classified report before being briefed on Wednesday by the board’s chair, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and member Admiral Mike Mullen in a closed session.

House Foreign Affairs chair  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in a statement on Saturday that while the committee accepts Burns and Nides’ presence at the hearing,  she expects there will be questions  surrounding the attack that will at some point require  ”a public appearance by the Secretary of State herself. ”

Secretary Clinton has sent letters to the chairs of both committees making it clear that she is open to further meetings after the holidays, when Congress is back in session and she is feeling better,  said Nuland.

“She was ready to testify, she very much wanted to, she was preparing to, and except for this illness, she would have been up there herself.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Traitor

YOU LEFT OUR MEN TO DIE

GO TO HELL