Wednesday, May 25, 2016
WASHINGTON — The State Department’s inspector general has sharply criticized Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, saying she had not sought permission to use it and would not have received it if she had.
In a report delivered to members of Congress on Wednesday, the inspector general said that Mrs. Clinton “had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business” with officials responsible for handling records and security but that inspectors “found no evidence” that she had requested or received approval from anyone at the department to conduct her state business on a personal email.
The report also said that department officials “did not — and would not — approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business.”
It also added new detail about Mrs. Clinton’s motivation for using the private server, which she has said was set up for convenience. In November 2010, her deputy chief of staff for operations prodded her about “putting you on state email or releasing your email address to the department so you are not going to spam.” Mrs. Clinton, however, replied that she would consider a separate address or device “but I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”
The report, as well as an F.B.I. investigation and other legal challenges seeking information about her use of the server, is certain to keep alive a controversy that has shadowed Mrs. Clinton’s campaign for the presidency. The events have all come to a climax just as she is close to defeating Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Mrs. Clinton and her aides have played down the inquiries, saying that she would cooperate with investigators to put the email issue behind her. Even so, through her lawyers, she declined to be interviewed by the State Department’s inspector general as part of his review. So did several of her senior aides.
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, issued a statement saying the findings that the problems with record keeping extended beyond Mrs. Clinton’s tenure.
“Contrary to the false theories advanced for some time now, the report notes that her use of personal email was known to officials within the Department during her tenure, and that there is no evidence of any successful breach of the Secretary’s server,” Mr. Fallon said in the statement.
The report broadly criticized the State Department as well, saying that officials had been “slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks” that emerged in the era of emails, particularly those of senior officials like Mrs. Clinton.
It said that “longstanding systemic weaknesses” in handling electronic records went “well beyond the tenure of any one secretary of state” but the body of the report focused on the 30,000 emails that Mrs. Clinton sent and received on her private server.
The State Department issued numerous warnings dating back a decade about the cyber-security risks of using personal emails accounts for government business, the report said, and Mrs. Clinton was personally sent a memo in 2011 warnings of hackers trying to target unclassified, personal email accounts. She was also given a classified, in-person briefing on the dangers, the report said.
The report found that while dozens of State Department employees used personal email accounts periodically over the years, only three officials were found to have used it “exclusively” for day-to-day operations: Mrs. Clinton; Colin Powell, the secretary of state under President George W. Bush; and Scott Gration, the ambassador to Kenya from 2011 to 2012.
While State Department officials never directly told Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Powell that they needed to end their use of personal email, the report found, they did do so with Mr. Gration, a lower-level diplomat who did not have the same political clout.
The response to Mr. Gration’s situation “demonstrates how such usage is normally handed when Department cybersecurity officials become aware of it,” the report said.
State Department security officials warned Mr. Gration in 2011 that he was not authorized to be using personal email for government business in Kenya. He continued doing so anyway, however, and the State Department initiated disciplinary action against him over “his failure to follow these directions” and several other undisclosed infactions, the report said. He resigned in 2012 before any discipline was imposed.
The report did not delve deeply into the issue that has become the focus of the F.B.I.’s investigation — the references in dozens of emails to classified information, including 22 emails that the Central Intelligence Agency considered “top secret.”
But it called into question the security risk of using a private server for what were clearly sensitive discussions of the nation’s foreign policy. It noted that Mrs. Clinton sent or received most of the emails that traversed her server from a mobile device, her BlackBerry.
Security and records management officials told the inspector general’s office that “Secretary Clinton never demonstrated to them that her private server or mobile device met minimum information security requirements,” the report said.
The report also disclosed an attempt to hack into Mrs. Clinton’s server in January 2011.
It said a “nondepartmental adviser” to Bill Clinton — apparently Bryan Pagliano, who installed the private server — informed the department that he had shut down the system because “someone was trying to hack us and while they did not get in, I didn’t want to let them have a chance.”
The attack continued later that day, prompting another official to write to two of Mrs. Clinton’s top aides, Cheryl Mills and Jake Sullivan, to warn them not to send Mrs. Clinton “anything sensitive.” She explained that she would “explain more in person.”
“Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act,” the report said.
The inspector general also said that while Mrs. Clinton had turned over her email, she had not included those she sent and received in her first months as secretary from January to April 2009. In 2015, the Department of Defense also turned over 19 emails between Mrs. Clinton and David H. Petraeus that had been sent from his official email account to her private account but had not been included among those turned over.
Mrs. Clinton belatedly turned over 55,000 pages of emails to the State Department, which she said were all the records “in her custody.”
But investigators determined that her production of those records was “incomplete,” and they found gaps in the documents that she turned over.
The controversy over Mrs. Clinton’s emails could force significant changes in the department, which has faced new scrutiny about its handling of records, including from the conservative watchdog organization, Judicial Watch. The inspector general made a series of recommendations for the department, and a spokesman, Mark Toner, said they would be implemented.
Secretary of State John Kerry also acknowledged to the inspector general that he had used a personal account at times during his transition between leaving the Senate and joining the State Department, but that after becoming secretary and discussing the issue with aides, he “began primarily using his Department email account to conduct official business.”
Mr. Kerry said that while he occasionally responded to people who emailed him on his personal account, he would preserve the records.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Europe Quickly Becoming Islamic As Churches And Synagogues Are Converted To Mosques Or Disappear Entirely
Europe: Allah Takes over Churches, Synagogues
Last year, at the famous Biennale artistic festival in Venice, Swiss artist Christian Büchel took the ancient Catholic Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia and converted it into a mosque. The church had not been used for Christian worship for more than forty years. Büchel decorated the baroque walls with Arabic writing, covered the floor with a prayer rug, and hid the crucifix behind a prayer niche indicating the direction of Mecca, the holy city of Islam. It was a provocation.
But everywhere else in Europe, the practice of Islam really is outstripping Christianity, while Jews are leaving -- not only France but the old continent -- en masse.
In January, Zvi Ammar, the president of the Marseille Israelite Consistory, recommended that Jews that stop wearing a kippah (skullcap) when out in the street. Too many anti-Semitic incidents have cast fear into the hearts of Marseille's 70,000 Jews, who make up a tenth of the city's population. 500 Jews already left the city in 2015. A few days ago, Mr. Ammar announced another attempt at appeasement: the conversion of a historic synagogue into a mosque.
The synagogue Or Torah ["light of the Torah"] was bought by the Muslim organization Al Badr for 400,000 euros ($456,000). The synagogue was empty, due to rampant anti-Semitism in Marseille, while the nearby mosque, run by Al Badr, was unable to handle the overcrowding every Friday, with the faithful forced to pray in the street (a quarter of the inhabitants of Marseille are Muslim). Muslims in Marseille already have 73 mosques.
A year ago, the Muslim French leader Dalil Boubakeur suggested turning empty churches into mosques. It is the first time in France that something similar happened to a synagogue. "History teaches us that these transformations are rarely innocent," said Bertrand Dutheil de La Rochère, an assistant to Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front party. He appeared to be comparing the fate of the synagogue to that of the Hagia Sophia Basilica, which became a mosque in Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, after its capture by the Muslim Ottoman Turks.
"What should we do?" Zvi Ammar asked this author.
"Security concerns had already pushed the Jews out of the city's center. We could no longer live in a Muslim area, so the synagogue was empty. Thousands of synagogues in the Arab-Islamic world, from Libya to Morocco, from Iraq to Tunisia, have been converted into mosques. The only difference is that in France, Muslims cannot expropriate a synagogue; they have to pay for it."What a sad consolation.
Zvi Ammar, however, is right: not only is the Middle East full of synagogues turned into Islamic sites, but also of churches converted into mosques, such as the Umayyad in Damascus, the Ibn Tulun in Cairo and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. In Hebron and on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, Muslim conquerors built their sites atop the Jewish ones.
A few years ago, Niall Ferguson, the brilliant contemporary historian, wrote about Europe's future as "the creeping Islamicization of a decadent Christendom." It is easy to find images of the decay of Europe's Christianity and the growth of Islam in the heart of the old continent. Every traveler in any modern European city can notice the new mosques being built alongside abandoned and secularized churches, some converted into museums.
The most crucial moment in Michel Houellebecq's novel, Submission, is when the novel's protagonist, a Sorbonne professor searching for a conversion experience, visits a Christian shrine, only to find himself unmoved. This is a reality in France.
In the French region of Vierzon, the Church of Saint-Eloi has become a mosque. The diocese of Bourges had put the church on sale, and a Muslim organization made a most generous offer to buy the site. In the Quai Malakoff, in Nantes, the old Church of Saint Christopher became the Mosque of Forqane.
In the Dutch province of Friesland, 250 of 720 existing churches have been transformed or closed. The Fatih Camii Mosque in Amsterdam once was the Saint Ignatius Church. A synagogue in The Hague was turned into the Al Aqsa Mosque. The Church of St. Jacobus, one of the oldest of the city of Utrecht, was recently converted into a luxury residence. A library just opened in a former Dominican church in Maastricht.
The main mosque in Dublin is a former Presbyterian church. In England, the St. Marks Cathedral is now called the New Peckam Mosque, while in Manchester, the Mosque of Disburywas once a Methodist church. In Clitheroe, Lancashire, the authorities granted permission to have an Anglican church, Saint Peter's Church in Cobridge, transformed into the Madina Mosque. It is no longer taboo in the media to talk about "the end of British Christianity."
Belgium, once a cradle of European Catholicism, is closing dozens of its churches. The Church of St. Catherine, built in 1874, dominates the historic center of Brussels, the only religious building created in the city's "pentagon" at the end of Ancien Régime, and today one of the most protected in the EU's capital, especially after the terror attacks there on March 22, 2016. Brussels, however, wanted to convert the church into a fruit market. Only the mobilization of the faithful hindered the city's plan.
Last month, The Economist explained what is happening in Belgium, once famous for the Madonna of Bruges, one of Michelangelo's most famous paintings: "If anything holds Belgium together through its third century of existence, Catholicism will not be the glue," the magazine wrote. That, it noted, will be Islam. In Brussels, half the children in state schools choose classes in Islam; practicing Catholics amount to 12%, while 19% are practicing Muslims.
According to La Libre newspaper, dozens of Belgian churches are in imminent danger of conversion to other uses. The Church of Saint-Hubert in Watermael-Boitsfort is expected to accommodate apartments, while the Church of the Holy Family of Schaerbeek awaits an investor. In Malonne, the chapel of Piroy has been transformed into a restaurant. In Namur, theSaint-Jacques Church was transformed into a clothing store and the Church of Notre Dame, built in 1749 and deconsecrated in 2004, is now a "cultural space." The square will be redeveloped, with ticketing services and catering. Dozens of exhibitions, concerts and fashion shows have already been held in the church. In Tournai, the Church of St. Margherita has been transformed into apartments.
Eight centuries after its founding, the Church of the Blessed Sacrament at Binche, a majestic building in the heart of a medieval town close to Brussels, was put on sale for the symbolic sum of one euro. In Mechelen, Flanders, in place of a famous church, a luxury hotel has arisen. Catholic arches, columns and windows still soar between menus and tables for customers.
Despite the fact that the "Pope Emeritus," Joseph Ratzinger, comes from Germany, that Chancellor Angela Merkel is the daughter of a Lutheran minister and the current German president, Joachim Gauck, is a Protestant pastor, Germany is literally selling its churches. Between 1990 and 2010, the German Evangelical Church closed 340 churches. Recently, in Hamburg, a Lutheran church was purchased by the Muslim community. In Spandau, the church of St. Raphael is now a grocery store. In Karl Marx's town, Trier, some churches have been turned into gyms. In Cologne, a church is now a luxurious residence with a private pool.
The writer Emile Cioran once cast a sinister prophecy on Europe: "The French will not wake up until Notre Dame becomes a mosque." Five years ago, a French historian, Dominique Venner, shot himself on the altar of Notre Dame, Paris's most famous Cathedral. This suicide, which the mainstream media dismissed as the gesture of a Catholic crank, was a terrible warning to Europe. But no one was paying attention.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
Victory Is Claimed, Yet The Victory Was Razor Thin! It Is Far From A Mandate And Will Only Exaggerate Problems In Austria
Austrian Freedom Party: Victory in Defeat
Austrian Presidential Elections Reveal Deeply Divided Country
Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) has been narrowly defeated in his bid to become Austria's next president.
Alexander Van der Bellen, former leader of Austrian Greens party, won 50.3% of the vote, compared to 49.7% for Hofer. The margin of victory was 31,026 out of nearly 4.5 million votes cast.
European political and media elites have been quick to hail the election of Van der Bellen, who campaigned on a pro-immigration, pro-EU platform. They seem to believe his razor-thin win validates their uninterrupted pursuit of European multiculturalism.
But Hofer can claim victory even in defeat. By winning half the ballots cast, Hofer has exposed Austria's gaping political divide on immigration and relations with the European Union. Hofer's rise, which has effectively upended Austria's political system, has also inspired anti-establishment parties in other parts of Europe.
Hofer had been in the lead after polls closed on May 22, with 51.9% of the vote to Van der Bellen's 48.1%. In the end, however, the race was decided by 700,000 mail-in votes, accounting for 14% of eligible voters. Van der Bellen won 2,254,484 votes to Hofer's 2,223,458,according to the Interior Ministry.
In what amounted to a political earthquake, Hofer won 36% of the vote in the first round of voting on April 24. Hofer — who campaigned on a platform calling for strict limits on immigration and tough rules for asylum seekers — defeated all of the other candidates, including those from the two governing parties, the Social Democrats and the Austrian People's Party, which have dominated Austrian politics since the end of World War II.
Although the role of president in Austria has traditionally been largely ceremonial, Hofer had suggested that he would try to remove the current government led by newly appointed Chancellor Christian Kern and force new parliamentary elections. Opinion polls suggest that if parliamentary elections were held today, the Freedom Party would win. The next polls are scheduled for some time in 2018.
Van der Bellen, a 72-year-old economist, was gracious in victory, pledging to be "non-partisan president for all of those living in Austria." He added: "All Austrians are equal. Austria consists of two halves. The one half is just as important as the other half."
An analysis in the German newspaper Die Welt warned that Van der Bellen will not have it easy:
"It will be up to Van der Bellen to find the right tone and to show that he not only embodies the Austria of the city dwellers, but the whole country. He will have to bear in mind that according to the polls, 40% of those who voted for him did so only because they wanted to prevent a president from the Freedom Party."Conceding the election, Hofer wrote on Facebook: "Of course, it is a sad day. But please do not be discouraged. The effort in this election campaign is not wasted. It is an investment for the future."
Hofer's meteoric rise has focused the minds of the establishment parties. On April 27, just three days after Hofer's initial electoral victory, the Austrian Parliament adopted what may be one of the toughest asylum laws in Europe.
Under the new law, Austria will declare a "state of emergency" on the migration crisis. This will allow Austrian authorities to assess asylum claims directly at the border. Only asylum seekers with immediate family members already in Austria, or those who can prove they are in danger in neighboring transit countries, will be allowed to enter the country. Other migrants will be turned away. The new law also limits any successful asylum claim to three years.
Austria received 90,000 asylum requests in 2015, the second-highest number in the European Union on a per capita basis, but this pales in comparison to what may lie ahead. In a radiointerview on April 28, Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka warned that up to one million migrants are poised to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe.
Mass migration to Austria has been accompanied by a spike in migrant-related rapes, sexual assaults and other crimes across the country, and has contributed to the rise of the Freedom Party.
Reflecting on the outcome of the presidential election, Hofer's campaign manager, Herbert Kickl, said: "This is a huge achievement. Hofer managed to convince half of the population in defiance of the system."
In France, where polls show that the leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, is leading polls for presidential elections in 2017, party secretary general Nicolas Bay wrote on Twitter: "Despite the disappointment, a historic score for our ally from the Freedom Party. The future belongs to patriots!"
Meanwhile, European elites have expressed relief at Hofer's defeat. Their reactions would indicate that they unaware that they are largely responsible for the rise of anti-establishment parties in Austria and other parts of Europe.
The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said anti-EU parties should be completely shunned: "Neither a debate nor a dialogue is possible with right-wing populists."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "The election result removes a heavy burden for all of Europe." Ralf Stegner, the deputy director of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) commented on Twitter: "This must serve as a warning that we can never again allow it [the rise of anti-establishment parties] go this far and that we have to combat this threat to our democracy with full force!"
But the leader of the Alternative for Germany party, Frauke Petry, said the vote was "an important day, not only for Austria, but for all of Europe." She added:
"Europe has been polarized for years by misguided policies pursued by the old major parties, not only in Germany but in many European countries. The fact is that it must be our task to preserve freedom, democracy and the rule of law across the continent. And the policy of open borders does exactly the opposite."The outcome of the Austrian presidential election will not be official until June 1, the deadline for legal challenges to the vote count. Some Freedom Party members have expressed anger at the opaque manner in which mail-in ballots are counted.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in 2016.