REPUBLICANS SET TO UNVEIL ELECTION-YEAR POLICY
House Republicans released their election-year agenda Tuesday....
The last agenda, the House GOP’s 2010 Pledge to America, had a decidedly mixed record of success, falling short on vows to repeal Obamacare, balance the budget, freeze hiring of new federal employees, permanently ban taxpayer funding for abortions and enforce sanctions against Iran.
Instead, Republicans settled for half-measures: Lawsuits to try to limit the reach of Obamacare, cuts to Congress’ own budget and investigations into Planned Parenthood’s funding.
“They made good plans, they didn’t make smart pledges. They didn’t have the votes, didn’t have the president,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office.
Republicans are hoping for better success this time as they release their 2016 agenda, dubbed “A Better Way.” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will kick things off Tuesday with an anti-poverty address in the Anacostia neighborhood of the District of Columbia.
Mr. Ryan will discuss national security on Thursday, followed by events in the coming weeks on innovation, the Constitution, tax reform and health care, which should include the GOP’s long-awaited replacement to Obamacare.
“I think what Ryan’s doing is very important,” said former Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose 1994 agenda, the “Contract with America,” helped Republicans retake the House after decades in the minority. “He’s helping start a conversation about solutions rather than just problems. And he is putting the Republican Party in a position of being positive and forward-looking, rather than being ‘anti-.’”
The push comes nearly six years after the GOP unveiled its Pledge to America at a family-owned lumber company in Northern Virginia.
In 45 pages Republicans outlined what they would do after riding a tea party wave to the House majority, from cutting taxes to spur the economy to repealing Obamacare and ensuring that suspected terrorists were tried in military, not civilian, courts.
“We recognize that these solutions are ambitious, and that we are proposing them at a time of intense public district in politicians and the political system,” its drafters wrote at the time.
House Republicans rode the pledge to victory, taking control of the House on the strength of the tea party revolt.
And in the early going, in 2011, conservatives said the signs were positive. GOP leaders had an Obamacare repeal bill on the floor by mid-January, and they pushed to rein in spending after a series of government bailouts and D.C. directives to lift the country out of a recession.
Congress also quickly passed a bill to repeal Obamacare tax-reporting requirements, and approved a short extension of all of the Bush-era tax cuts.
“There was an active effort to take on President Obama and secure conservative policy victories. The problem is, beyond that point, they seemed to retrench and shy away from direct confrontation,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, a conservative pressure group.
Yet 2011 “sequester” caps on federal spending have been loosened repeatedly, and the GOP’s pledge to cut off Obamacare funding yielded mixed results — a wholesale push led to a government shutdown in 2013, though a piecemeal attack on reimbursements to insurers resulted in a federal court victory last month.
Republicans retook the Senate in 2015, but the party still struggled to exact conservative victories, as Mr. Obama vetoed a fast-track bill to repeal his signature health care law and defund Planned Parenthood over its abortion practice.
Conservatives say Republican leaders in Congress failed to use the tool the Constitution gives them — the power of the purse — to force concessions from the president.
“There was never any real effort to defund Planned Parenthood,” Mr. Holler said. “The real effort would have happened on the funding bill.”
Other 2010 pledges left unfulfilled were to rein in Mr. Obama’s expansive regulations on U.S. businesses and to make all of the Bush-era tax cuts permanent.
By contrast, the 1994 Republican “Contract with America,” spearheaded by Mr. Gingrich, led to a series of balanced budgets and even prodded President Bill Clinton into signing an overhaul of welfare.
Mr. Gingrich, however, cautioned against comparing the 2010 pledges to the 1994 contract, saying Republicans now are working in the shadow of the Obama presidency, without the tools to rein him in.
Now Mr. Ryan, who accepted the speaker’s gavel after intraparty fighting nudged Speaker John A. Boehner out last fall, wants to enter the post-Obama era as the “party of ideas.”
“Let’s face it: People know what Republicans are against. Now we are giving you a plan that shows you what we are for,” the speaker said over the weekend.
Mr. Ryan said he endorsed Donald Trump, the de facto GOP presidential nominee, last week because the billionaire businessman would help turn the House policy agenda into “laws to help improve people’s lives.”
But Mr. Ryan has advanced his agenda independently of Mr. Trump, and analysts like Mr. Holtz-Eakin say it should give down-ballot Republicans a platform to stand on outside of Mr. Trump’s orbit. (Contributor: By Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)
Since its inception more than 40 years ago, IFA has encouraged non-political prayer and fervent intercession for our nation. From 1976, we have prayerfully participated in 10 presidential election cycles, and we have never violated our mandate. Politically, things are murky in our nation just now, and spiritually confused. Intercessors, keep praying for God’s glory and purpose to prevail.
“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Ps. 18:30-31)
THE FATAL SICKNESS OF FREE STUFF
Socialism always triggers a downward spiral.
The U.S. economy has been going nowhere for seven years, and there are increasing fears that it is going into a recession with only 38,000 jobs being created last month. At the same time, Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet, is sinking into economic chaos. None of this need happen. The disease is the same — only the fever is higher in Venezuela.
Politicians, at least going back to ancient Rome (with its bread and circuses), quickly understood that they could buy temporary support from the people if they were promised “free stuff.” As Margaret Thatcher famously said: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The Obama administration, realizing it could not get major tax and spending proposals through Congress, resorted to sleight of hand by lying about the true costs of many of their programs, notably Obamacare. They also used various regulations to enhance their control over the economy without doing serious cost-benefit analysis, which has resulted in a massive misallocation of resources. Some estimates now show the costs of regulations have exceeded the cost of the tax system. And perhaps most destructive of all, they followed near-zero interest rate policies (in part to disguise the true cost of the government debt) that hit savers with what is, in effect, a huge tax increase to finance this scheme. A saver who used to expect perhaps 3 percent on savings, above the rate of inflation, now receives less than the rate of inflation (which is the same as a tax increase). This again has resulted in a massive misallocation of resources from productive to less- or non-productive activities that destroy economic growth and job creation.
The amazing and disappointing fact is that every student or even casual observer of socialism knows that it always fails because it destroys the incentives for hard work, creativity and initiative. Most countries that have tried it end up as thuggish places because more and more coercion is required to control the people. Sixty years ago, Cuba and Venezuela were the richest counties on the Caribbean and were only exceeded by Argentina in per capita income in Latin America.
During the past 60 years, the United States has had real growth of about 3 percent per year — respectable but not spectacular. Poorer developing countries normally grow at a faster rate until their per capita incomes begin to reach the levels of the rich countries, at which point growth tends to slow. The accompanying table contains data of several countries that undertook very different economic policies. The numbers show their per capita income change relative to that of the United States over the 60-year period. Chile, for example, had a per-capita income of only about 23 percent of the U.S. back in 1955, but now has a per-capita income of about 42 percent. For the first half of the period, Chile did not have a coherent set of economic policies, including several years of Marxist economics, and actually became poorer relative to the U.S. But for the last 30 years, Chile has embraced free-market policies within the rule of law, protection of private property and free trade, causing it to grow much faster than the U.S.
Cuba, the darling of the left, has become relatively poorer compared to the United States and almost all of Latin America, with a total loss of civil liberties. And the many naive swallow the Kool-Aid and overlook the continuing disaster. Sixty years ago, South Korea by contrast was desperately poor, much poorer than Cuba or Venezuela, but now is a rich country with a per-capita income 65 percent of the U.S. This miracle was achieved by embracing free-market economics.
Sweden and Switzerland were both high-income developed countries 60 years ago, but while Sweden built a comprehensive welfare state, Switzerland maintained a smaller government approach. The Swedish model ran into difficulty in the 1980s and 1990s, so the level-headed Swedes partially reversed course by reducing tax rates and the relative size of government, including instituting a voucher system for education and Chilean-like largely private social security system, which enabled them to grow again. The smaller government Swiss model worked even better, allowing them to overtake the U.S. in per capita income.
And finally back to Venezuela, which grew rapidly on the basis of oil revenues, and by 1978 per capita incomes were almost 70 percent of those in the United States. But as a result of welfare statism and socialism, its relative incomes are back where they were 60 years ago, the stores are empty and people are hungry.
Socialism has at least a two-century unblemished record of untold human misery. Yet in the eyes of all too many, including much of the press, the romance of the idea dwarfs the reality. Prosperity and freedom can only flourish when the majority stands up to those who advocate the childlike fantasy of socialism. (Contributor: By Richard W. Rahn for The Washington Times - Richard W. Rahn is on the board of the American Council for Capital Formation and is chairman of Improbable Success Productions.)
Read again the first sentence of the article’s final paragraph: “Socialism has at least a two-century record of untold human misery.” It is clear from history that socialism serves its leaders but makes slaves out of the general population. It breeds dictators rather than leaders who serve. It rises from ignorance of God’s Word. Pray for a resurgence of godly servant-leaders in the Church.
“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Mt. 20:25-28 NIV)
HILLARY AND THE 'WHAT IF' SCENARIOS
Some believe that soon after Tuesday's final presidential primaries the FBI will interview Hillary Clinton about her handling of emails while she was secretary of state. What comes next is the subject of much speculation.
One of the better speculators is Bradley Blakeman, who served as a member of President George W. Bush's White House staff.
We spoke in the "green room" at Fox News before our separate interviews. The following is culled from our conversation.
Blakeman says the FBI has deliberately waited to interview Hillary Clinton until after the primaries because the bureau did not want to interfere with the nominating process. He thinks the FBI is "likely" to recommend to the Department of Justice whether or not she should be indicted for violating what she says are agency rules and what others call the law between now and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, which begins July 25.
If she is indicted before the convention, Blakeman says, it will give the party an opportunity to make changes in the rules that could result in an alternate nominee.
Here is the intriguing part about Blakeman's scenario: "If a grand jury is empaneled, or if she were to be indicted before the convention, the Democrats would have to let her go." If an indictment were to come after the convention, he says, it presents a different problem because each state needs to certify their ballots before November. If an indictment occurs after the states have certified their ballots, it would be nearly impossible to replace Hillary Clinton with another candidate.
Here's where things might get even more interesting. In states where ballots have been certified, the party would have to go to court to ask that Clinton's name be replaced. "They also have another problem," says Blakeman. "Once the convention ends, how do they reconvene to substitute Hillary? They have no rules for that."
What if a court denies a ballot change? Blakeman says the Supreme Court would almost certainly have to decide. That might look to many like a replay of the 2000 election in which the court certified Florida's vote count, awarding the state's electoral votes -- and the election -- to George W. Bush.
But what if the court -- with its one vacancy -- divides 4-4? In that case, the lower court ruling would prevail and if that court decided to strike Hillary Clinton's name from the ballot, a write-in would be the only option.
"Timing is not on Hillary's side," says Blakeman, who thinks "the silver lining for Hillary is that, if she were indicted, there is no doubt Obama would pardon her on January 19 as he walks out the door. She will never have to answer for her crimes."
What about any others who might be indicted, such as top aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills? If they are indicted, but not pardoned by the president, will they go public? It's the stuff of big book contracts.
Should any of these scenarios prove true, as Blakeman thinks they might, President Obama, unlike President Ford and his pardon of Richard Nixon, will never have to face the voters and be held accountable for his action.
In this unpredictable election season, any one -- or all -- of these scenarios are possibilities, including the ultimate scenario: the delegates turning to Vice President Joe Biden to save them from Hillary and defeat in November. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas for Town Hall)
IFA’s ministry is not speculative. We use these news articles to encourage prayer that God will fulfill His purposes for our nation through His providential guidance among the “players” on the national stage. Rees Howells, intercessor of the last century, said, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” Pray for a “great awakening” in the Church to lead the nation back to God.
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isa. 59:1-2)
PRAYING FOR RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT
“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psa. 127:1) In this season of fervent political activity, Christians need to keep these words firmly in mind. God will decide who becomes president of the United States, as well as who succeeds in obtaining other offices. It is His universe, His power, and His right (Daniel 2:21).
But He will decide based upon our prayers – their fervency, frequency, and the number of those who care enough to pray. Scriptures that attest to this are Isa 62:6-9 and James 5:16-18. Does God, who is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), care more for Jerusalem than for the United States wherein there are a thousand times as many Christians?
Satan attacked this country viciously in 1960 when he put in the heart of professional atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair the idea of removing God from every public school in our country. The U.S. Supreme Court was likewise influenced; God was ordered out and He left. Look at our public schools today, and much of the fruit of them. The attack continues because for nearly two centuries the United States was the engine of salvation for the world, giving more money and sending more missionaries than all the rest of the nations in the world combined. Destroy America and that effort may cease so that millions who might otherwise have heard the Gospel face entering the lake of fire rather than the joy of the Lord. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psa. 11:3). This is no accident, what is happening to our country today. This is war.
It is hard to believe that God’s perfect will is to destroy us. But our prayers will determine the outcome. If we are indifferent, God may conclude that we haven’t been chastened enough. If we are united, fervent, and consistent in seeking His will, He may be pleased to deliver us. In the latter case, if further destruction be our lot, we will at least know that we sought righteous government consistent with His will. We can be confident that He will say to us regarding this, “Well done.” (Contributor: By Jim Kohlmann, IFA Florida State Director)
“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psa. 127:1)
ADMIRAL WARNS: RUSSIAN SUBS WAGING COLD WAR-STYLE ‘BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC’
Russia has stepped up its submarine operations and is regularly probing U.S. anti-submarine networks in a new “Battle of the Atlantic,” the commander of U.S. 6th Fleet said.
In an article for the U.S. Naval Institute’s June issue of Proceedings, Vice Adm. James Foggo III outlined a new era in U.S. and Russian submarine warfare he dubs “The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic.”
In his piece, Foggo compares the current uptick in Russian submarine posture to the great submarine battles between the Allies and the Germans in World War I and World War II and the Soviets and the U.S. during the Cold War.
“Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us. Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict,” Foggo wrote.
“Not only have Russia’s actions and capabilities increased in alarming and confrontational ways, its national-security policy is aimed at challenging the United States and its NATO allies and partners.”
Since the Russian seizure of Crimea in 2014, Russian Navy surface ships, aircraft and submarines have been much more active in presence operations – particularly the submarines.
Russian officials have been open about increased submarine operations over the last two years. Russian Navy head Adm. Viktor Chirkov said in March of 2015 that submarines operations have increased by 50 percent.
“This is logical and necessary to guarantee the security of the state,” he said at the time in Russian state-controlled press.
While Russian surface ships and aircraft trail behind their U.S. equivalents technologically, Russia has maintained a strong submarine industrial base since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In late 2014, the U.S. officer in charge of the U.S. submarine construction told a conference he was so impressed with the Russian Navy’s new Yassen-class attack submarine he had a model built of the first-in-class attack boat K-329 Severodvinsk.
“We’ll be facing tough potential opponents. One only has to look at the Severodvinsk, Russia’s version of a [nuclear-guided missile submarine] (SSGN),” then-Program Executive Office submarines Vice Adm. Dave Johnson said at the time.
“I am so impressed with this ship that I had [the Navy] build a model from unclassified data.”
In addition to nuclear submarines, the Russians are improving the technological capability of their diesel-electric submarines, including the ability for Russian Kilos to launch long-range Kalibir NK cruise missiles.
“These are the platforms that are the most challenging for us to deal with because of their inherent stealth,” Foggo wrote.
“As demonstrated last December by Kalibr launches into Syria from the Eastern Mediterranean, Russian leaders will use such weapons at will, without the same qualms we have about collateral damage.”
All told, Foggo outlines an “arc of steel” of Russian submarine strength from the Arctic to the Black Sea.
“Combined with extensive and frequent submarine patrols throughout the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea, and forward-deployed forces in Syria, Russia has the capability to hold nearly all NATO maritime forces at risk,” he wrote. (Contributor: By Sam LaGrone for USNI News - Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.)
An old hymn reminds us, “Nations may rise and nations fall; Thy changeless purpose rules them all.” Is God lining up the nations toward the “final conflict”? Only He knows. Our calling is to spiritual warfare, principally, the ministry of intercession. “Watch and pray,” our Lord said, and the Apostle Paul wrote, “Praying always, with all prayer and supplication …” If we obey, we will be ready.
“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—“ (Eph. 6:14-18)
MILITARY DISCLOSES AT LEAST 11 TROOPS INFECTED WITH ZIKA VIRUS THIS YEAR
At least 11 U.S. troops have been infected with the Zika virus since January, nearly all of whom traveled to countries where the mosquito-born illness is prevalent, a Pentagon health report published Friday disclosed.
In addition, four dependents of servicemembers — which can include spouses and children — and two military retirees contracted the illness, according to the report. It underscored the risks to military personnel of child-bearing age exposed to the virus during deployments.
A fetus infected with the Zika virus during the first three months of pregnancy has about a 1% to 13% chance of developing microcephaly, an abnormally small head usually caused by incomplete brain development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among the 17 infected are four women, though none were pregnant, said Dr. Jose Sanchez, deputy chief of Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch.
Troops suffering from the Zika were four soldiers, three Airmen, a Marine and three members of the Coast Guard, according to Sanchez. The first confirmed case was diagnosed in late January, the report said.
Fifteen of the 17 had traveled to South America or the Caribbean. They included four who visited Columbia, three who went to the Dominican Republic and three who visited Puerto Rico. One person had traveled to Brazil, which is dealing with a Zika epidemic.
"It is a fair assumption that the military is at higher risk for mosquito-borne infections," said Amesh Adalja, a senior associate the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "The military is stationed all over the world and often have prolonged outdoor exposure, enhancing the likelihood they will be bitten."
The military should make sure that servicemembers and their families "are made completely aware of the risks and the measures required to protect themselves from both mosquito and sexual transmission," Adalja said. "Mosquito repellents for troops in active Zika zones will be essential, as will minimizing standing water mosquito breeding sites on military bases.
The Pentagon this year ordered heightened monitoring for certain mosquito species at military installations in 27 states and the District of Columbia in response to the Zika virus crisis, according to Military Times. The Pentagon called for monitoring, trapping, testing and eliminating water sources as breeding grounds, the newspaper reported.
The Pentagon also offered to relocate family members of active-duty personnel and civilian Defense Department employees assigned to regions at higher risk for infecting people with the virus, Military Times reported.
More than 600 people in the continental U.S. have been infected with Zika, including 195 pregnant women. All of those cases were related to travel. More than 1,100 cases of Zika, including 146 involving pregnant women, have been detected in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the disease is spreading among local mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The true number of Zika cases could be much higher. Only about 20% of people infected with Zika have symptoms, which can include fever, rash, joint pain, pink eye and headache.
Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito species, found in much of the southern U.S., as well as the Americas, Africa and Asia. Scientists say it's possible that Zika also may be spread by the Aedes albopictus, whose range stretches as far north as New England, according to the CDC.
The people at highest risk from the Zika virus are pregnant women because the virus can cause devastating birth defects in fetuses, according to CDC director Thomas Frieden. The CDC encourages pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas with Zika outbreaks.
Infected men also can spread Zika through vaginal, oral or anal sex, according to the CDC. It’s not known if infected women can pass the virus to men.
The CDC has issued guidance to help reduce the risk of sexual transmission.
If a man has had a possible Zika exposure and has a pregnant partner, he should wear condoms or abstain from sex for the duration of the woman’s pregnancy, according to the CDC.
If a man has had symptoms of Zika, he should consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for six months, according to the CDC.
Men who have traveled to a Zika-affected area, but who have not had symptoms, should consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for eight weeks, according to the CDC.
Women who’ve traveled to Zika-affected areas should delay trying to get pregnant until eight weeks after their symptoms start; if they don’t have symptoms, they should avoid trying to conceive for eight weeks after being exposed. (Contributor: By Greg Zoroya and Liz Szabo for USA Today)
While we have no explanation or analysis as to why this plague-like epidemic is spreading from Brazil to other nations, including our own, we do know from Scripture and history that God is in control and has used such events to draw entire people-groups to Himself. We can pray for healing and for God’s mercy in giving science researchers a vaccine. And our U.S. military always needs our prayers.
“As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Ps. 103:13-18)
SMUGGLING NETWORK GUIDED ILLEGALS FROM MIDDLE EAST TERROR HOTBEDS TO U.S.
A smuggling network has managed to sneak illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern terrorism hotbeds straight to the doorstep of the U.S., including helping one Afghan who authorities say was part of an attack plot in North America.
Immigration officials have identified at least a dozen Middle Eastern men smuggled into the Western Hemisphere by a Brazilian-based network that connected them with Mexicans who guided them to the U.S. border, according to internal government documents reviewed by The Washington Times.
Those smuggled included Palestinians, Pakistanis and the Afghan man who Homeland Security officials said had family ties to the Taliban and was “involved in a plot to conduct an attack in the U.S. and/or Canada.” He is in custody, but The Times is withholding his name at the request of law enforcement to protect investigations.
Some of the men handled by the smuggling network were nabbed before they reached the U.S., but others made it into the country. The Afghan man was part of a group of six from “special-interest countries.”
The group, guided by two Mexicans employed by the smuggling network, crawled under the border fence in Arizona late last year and made it about 15 miles north before being detected by border surveillance, according to the documents, which were obtained by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican.
Law enforcement asked The Times to withhold the name of the smuggling network.
It’s unclear whether the network succeeded in sneaking other “special interest” illegal immigrants by border officials, but the documents obtained by Mr. Hunter confirm fears of a pipeline that can get would-be illegal immigrants from terrorist hotbeds to the threshold of the U.S.
Just as troubling, the Border Patrol didn’t immediately spot the Afghan man’s terrorist ties because the database that agents first checked didn’t list him. It wasn’t until agents checked an FBI database that they learned the Afghan may be a danger, the documents say.
“It’s disturbing, in so many ways,” said Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter’s chief of staff. “The interdiction of this group … validates once again that the southern border is wide open to more than people looking to enter the U.S. illegally strictly for purposes of looking for work, as the administration wants us to believe. What’s worse, federal databases weren’t even synced and Border Patrol had no idea who they were arresting and the group was not considered a problem because none of them were considered a priority under the president’s enforcement protocol. That’s a major problem on its own, and it calls for DHS to figure out the problem — and fast.”
Mr. Hunter wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson this week demanding answers about the breakdowns in the process.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the chief agency charged with sniffing out smuggling networks, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol and initially failed to find the terrorist connections, declined to comment. Homeland Security, which oversees both agencies, didn’t provide an answer either.
The group of six men nabbed inside the U.S. — the Afghan and five men identified as Pakistanis — all made asylum claims when they were eventually caught by the Border Patrol. Mr. Hunter said his understanding is that the five men from Pakistan were released based on those claims and have disappeared.
The government documents reviewed by The Times didn’t say how much the smugglers charged but did detail some of their operation.
Would-be illegal immigrants were first identified by a contact in the Middle East, who reported them to the smuggling network in Brazil. That network then arranged their travel up South America and through Central America, where some of them were nabbed by U.S. allies.
In the case of the Afghan man with terrorist ties, he was smuggled from Brazil through Peru, then Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
He was caught near a ranch 15 miles into the U.S. after his group’s movements were detected by one of the Border Patrol’s trucks. He told agents his group had crawled under the border fence near Nogales.
In the documents obtained by Mr. Hunter, Homeland Security officials said they considered the case a victory because it showed how they can use apprehensions on the southwest border to trace smuggling networks back to their sources.
But the documents had worrying signs as well. When agents first ran the man through the Terrorist Screening Database, he didn’t show up as a danger. Indeed, KNXV-TV in Arizona reported in November that authorities said “records checks revealed no derogatory information about the individuals.”
That turns out not to be true, according to the documents. The Afghan man was listed in the FBI’s Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database as having suspect relations.
Mr. Hunter told Mr. Johnson that the discrepancy between the databases was troubling.
The government documents also said some of the special-interest aliens caught at the border were previously identified by authorities in other Latin American countries — but had different sets of biometric identifiers associated with them. That raised questions about whether those countries are sharing accurate information with the U.S.
Networks capable of smuggling potential terrorists have long been a concern, but the Obama administration tamped down those worries, arguing that the southwest border wasn’t a likely route for operatives.
Still, evidence has mounted over the past couple of years, including a smuggling ring that sneaked four Turkish men with ties to a U.S.-designated terrorist group into the U.S. in 2014. They paid $8,000 apiece to be smuggled from Istanbul through Paris to Mexico City, where they were stashed in safe houses before being smuggled to the border.
At the time, Mr. Johnson said the men were part of a group fighting the Islamic State and questioned whether they should have even been designated as part of a terrorist group.
But behind the scenes Mr. Johnson’s agents were at work trying to roll up smuggling rings under an action dubbed Operation Citadel.
Lev Kubiak, assistant director at ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ international operations branch, testified to Congress this year that Operation Citadel resulted in 210 criminal arrests in 2015. One part of the effort, known as Operation Lucero, dismantled 14 human smuggling routes, including some operations designed to move people from the Eastern Hemisphere to Latin America and then into the U.S., he said. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)
Most of us know the meaning of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” In this case, we can either give thanks for an apprehended terrorist or be concerned that he wasn’t caught sooner. Meanwhile, our beloved nation limps from crisis to crisis because it is broken and weighed down by corporate sin (abortion), a flagging economy (few new jobs), and increasing deficits. Where to turn but to God?
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)