Someone misled us on AQ’s demise

The Wall Street Journal carries an important column by Steve Hayes and Tom Joscelyn on the status of al Qaeda. The column is “How America was misled on al Qaeda’s demise.” The column is behind the Journal’s subscription paywall but accessible here via Google.

One of the central themes of President Obama’s campaign for reelection in 2012 rested on the proposition that he had essentially defeated al Qaeda. By one count, Obama described al Qaeda as having been “decimated,” “on the path to defeat” or some other variation at least 32 times in the aftermath of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi. Like so much of what Obama asserts as a matter of course: not true.

Here are three paragraphs in which Hayes and Joscelyn warm to their argument:

In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending. In a speech commemorating the anniversary of the raid, John Brennan , Mr. Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser and later his CIA director, predicted the imminent demise of al Qaeda. The next day, on May 1, 2012, Mr. Obama made a bold claim: “The goal that I set—to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild—is now within our reach.”

The White House provided 17 handpicked documents to the Combatting Terror Center at the West Point military academy, where a team of analysts reached the conclusion the Obama administration wanted. Bin Laden, they found, had been isolated and relatively powerless, a sad and lonely man sitting atop a crumbling terror network.

It was a reassuring portrayal. It was also wrong. And those responsible for winning the war—as opposed to an election—couldn’t afford to engage in such dangerous self-delusion.

The headline puts the argument of the column in the passive voice. It should read “How Obama misled us on al Qaeda’s demise.” Giving the principal credit would make his agency clear, though “misled” might be euphemistic in this case, as Hayes and Jocelyn strongly suggest. Please read the whole thing.

13 questions for Hillary Clinton [Plus one more)

The mainstream media won’t let up on Hillary Clinton (nor should it). Ruth Marcus poses 13 questions about Clinton’s use of private email at the State Department:

1. Why did you make the decision to use a personal email account rather than government email upon becoming secretary of state?

2. Why did you believe this approach was necessary and/or preferable to using an official email account?

3. Did others working for you at the State Department use personal email for government business? If so, please identify them and explain whether their correspondence has been transferred to the State Department.

4. Would it have been appropriate for others working for you at the State Department to use personal email for official purposes? If not, why does a different standard apply to the secretary?

5. What steps did you or others working on your behalf take before making this decision to determine whether it complied with applicable laws and regulations, and whether your communications would be adequately secured?

6. Specifically, did you consult with officials at the State Department, the White House, or other government agencies to determine whether this approach was permissible?

7. If not, why not, given the obvious questions about compliance with federal disclosure laws and concerns about cybersecurity?

8. If you did consult with officials, what were you advised? Please provide copies of any email or other correspondence/documentation reflecting these consultations.

9. If you were advised that applicable laws and regulations did not permit and/or counseled against the use of private email, why did you decide to proceed with that plan?

10. Please explain how the decision to rely on personal email and not to provide the records until after your departure and after being requested complies with, as your spokesman has said, “the letter and spirit of the rules.”

11. Specifically, C.F.R. 1236.22, which dates from 2009, provides that “agencies that allow employees to send and receive official electronic mail messages using a system not operated by the agency must ensure that Federal records sent or received on such systems are preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.” What steps did you take to comply with this requirement?

12. When emails were turned over to the State Department last year, who in your office determined what emails constituted official business and what standards did they use to make that determination? Did anyone from the State Department oversee or vet this process to ensure that all relevant emails were supplied?

13. In 2007, criticizing the George W. Bush White House during the controversy over fired U.S. attorneys, you decried the use of “secret White House email accounts” to conduct government business. Please explain how your use of personal email differed.

If I recall correctly, Marcus is a law school graduate. Her questions read like well-framed interrogatories. Tweets will not suffice to answer most of them.

ONE MORE: A reader with extensive service in the government proposes the following question, given that Clinton would routinely have transmitted classified information via email:

How did you and your staff pass classified information via e mail in light of your exclusive use of private/personal accounts?

Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll returns with a familiar question: DIDJA EVER NOTICE? She writes:

Didja ever notice that bad comics will overuse this convention?

I have accumulated a number of ideas that don’t necessarily merit a whole column on their own but yet are things that I want to comment upon. As an exercise in nostalgia for my old job, I thought it might be fun to use many of the clichés in a standup’s bag of tricks. So, here we go.

Hey, whazzup, ____________? (Insert your city here and cheer wildly at its mention, thereby proving that you know where you live.)

Give yourselves a round of applause for coming out to read Thoughts From the Ammo Line! (I find this the most odious of all the comedy conventions, by the way, except for asking “How you doin’ tonight?” Nobody cares. Shut up and do your material…)

Didja ever notice that the PC crowd believes we are duty-bound to let all people be whoever they say they are with but a single exception? If a treasonous little gay creep is feeling kind of PMS-y one day and declares that from now on he wishes to be addressed as “Chelsea,” then Chelsea he is called by all the hip correct people who sit with the cool kids in the lunchroom. Your tax dollars will also pay for his hormone treatments. Continue to call him either “him” or Bradley, and you’re an obvious H8R. Don’t even think of being a graduation speaker.

But if a terrorist group calls itself The Islamic Islamists for Really Strict Islam-y Islam, these same people feel perfectly comfortable insisting that whatever this group is about, and we have no clue, it has nothing to do with Islam. In fact, the FARTHEST from it, according to Mr. Strategic Patience.

Isn’t it remarkable that Barry feels it is really important to pronounce Tolly-bon and Pocky-ston correctly, but has no interest in getting the Marine Corpse right?

If the Tea Party had ransacked the IRS building out of rage at being targeted and discriminated against – not that I am for a minute suggesting that; they have their own SWAT team just for starters with billions of bullets. Lois Lerner’s snotty smug look alone could probably maim – do you think the President would advise them to “stay the course”? Me neither.

If the Tolly-bon are really “just like” the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, do you think it is actually meant as a compliment when the Tea Party is called “The Taliban wing of the Republican Party”? Me neither.

If the married Rush Limbaugh had sexted a girlfriend with as lurid a series of messages as Steve Croft has sent his squeeze, how long would that have been a big story? A) For 2 weeks. B) For 3 months. C) For 4 Presidential election cycles. D) Till Hell froze over.

If Megyn Kelly had lied for many years about seeing bodies floating in a section of New Orleans that flooded up to her ankles, or taking enemy fire in a helicopter, the response from Democrats would be: A) Lying is groovy, but is there some way to make what she said racist? B) Is it remotely fair that anyone that beautiful should also be that smart? (no, wait, I’m confusing Democrats with my own personal take on the Magnificent Megyn).

Do you think Jen Psaki got her big promotion because — even while telling the most preposterous whoppers – she lacks the physical ability to blush?

How upset do you think Bibi was that John Kerry and Gropie Uncle Choo Choo were unavailable to meet with him during his visit due to urgent scheduling problems? I don’t know if Bibi even brought along a grope-able woman (admittedly, a low bar for Biden – breathing, apparently). How long do you think it took for Bibi to stop laughing when he heard that they would both be “out of the country” and Barry would be taking an important phone call during his speech?

Thank you very much! I’ll be here all week. Writing stuff for next Friday.

A lot of entertainers establish funds for charity. If you would care to, please send a check to the Ammo Grrrll Wildlife Fund. Remember, if you don’t give, I can’t lead a wild life. Or buy sufficient ammo. I’m especially looking for billions from foreigners. (Ho, ho. Just kidding! Really. Send no money. Except for the foreigners.)

The Climate Beclowning Continues

Malibu hed copyFar be it from me to prevent a mediocre leftist Democratic congressman from beclowning himself like Rep. Grijalva, but today the whole story jumped more sharks than Sharknado I & II combined when the Malibu Times, a local sheet devoted chiefly to Kardashian sightings and Bruce Jenner accident reports, ran the headline, “Pepperdine Professor Investigated by Congressman.”

Do you think the Malibu Times follows these Capitol Hill stories that closely? I happen to know for a fact—because the university’s PR department told me—that the Malibu Times had been contacted by Rep. Grijalva’s staff and encouraged to do a story on the matter—a fact not disclosed in the story. And apparently the reporter and paper editor simply asked “how high?” when suggested they jump on this story. The reporter never called or emailed me for a comment, which is contrary to standard journalistic practice (if standard practice can be presumed to exist any more).

The Malibu Times isn’t the only reporter working hand-in-glove with Rep. Grijalva and ultimately Greenpeace (the real progenitor of this project). Quite clearly Politico reporter Alex Guillen is in direct contact with Greenpeace; John already noted he dodged a direct question about his contact with Greenpeace. This isn’t the first time I’ve been through this media drill. About eight or nine years ago I spent the better part of a day on and off the phone with a TV network news reporter. He kept calling me back with more pointed (and silly) questions about my climate work at AEI. Finally I was able to figure out who he was talking to between each conversation to get fresh questions: It was Greenpeace. Nice to know I live rent-free in their heads. (Footnote: the network news reporter eventually concluded there was no substance to the Greenpeace attempt at a media smear, as did reporters from the New York Times and Washington Post, where Greenpeace also tried to shop the story.) Guillen really ought to come clean on this. I’m not holding my breath.

Brief aside: a few of our commenters objected to my calling Greenpeace the “John Birch Society of the environmental movement” in a previous post. Let me amend that by noting that you can be right about central issues and still be counterproductively extreme, and that was Bill Buckley’s complaint about the JBS back in the 1960s. But let me change my analogy anyway, and suggest Greenpeace is the Westboro Baptists of the environmental movement. Check out The Spectator of London from a month ago, on “How Green and Peaceful Really Is Greenpeace?” Sample:

As far back as 2007, after another Greenpeace publicity stunt, the science writer Martin Robbins described the group as:

‘an NGO that thinks it is acceptable to lie to the public, to lie to bloggers and journalists, and to then intimidate writers with threatening emails warning of legal action.’

Anyway, one of the little details that seems to escaped the attention of Rep. Grijalva is that the congressional testimonies I gave over a decade’s time included not a single line about climate science; each was about climate policy—a very different matter. So why sweep me up along with the genuine physical scientists like Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, and John Christy? Must be because Greenpeace really does think I am among the most influential persons on climate policy, for which I appreciate the endorsement of what is barely a part time avocation for me.   (I have written—what?—seven books by now; none of them discussing climate change at all. And I don’t teach much about the subject in any of my classes, partly because the subject plainly bores most students.)

My main original contribution to the climate policy debate was to point out, based on raw data from the Department of Energy, that the climate change advocates’ emissions targets for the U.S. for the year 2050—an 80 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels—would require rolling back hydrocarbon energy use to the level of 1910 (or 1905 by a separate analysis by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, a federal government lab I should point out). On a per capita basis (since our population has grown so much), this would mean reducing U.S. hydrocarbon energy use to the per capita level of Somalia today. This is sheer fantasy. No one can produce a credible plan to do this in 35 years (or perhaps ever), which was the point of the Daily Kos series linked to here yesterday.  Even the DailyKos can figure this out!  One of the reasons for my contempt of the Climate Haters is their total and fundamental unseriousness about the entire issue. (This is Roger Piekle’s complaint, too: see his very good book The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell You About Global Warming. My review of Roger’s fine book is here.)

It is worth pointing out here that my analysis of the practical effect of the Climate Haters’ emissions target has never been disputed by a climate change activist—not once.  And it did become a prominent talking point in the congressional debate over the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill in 2009 and 2010.  Ah—this probably explains why Greenpeace wants to put out a media hit on me—it’s a genuine inconvenient truth.

I’ll add that the last testimony I gave, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2011, concerned the defects of the international diplomacy of climate change which now go back 25 years; it was from this that Grijalva quoted in his letter to Pepperdine University. There was nothing in it about climate science at all. (Read the whole thing, as they say; quite obviously no one in Rep. Grijalva’s office did.)

It is worth mentioning that a fellow panelist at that hearing was Todd Stern, President Obama’s chief climate negotiator at the State Department. He leaned over and told me he agreed with about two-thirds of my testimony, in particular the part about how the distinction between “developed” and “developing” nations had broken down, which made a complete hash of the Kyoto framework.  No wonder Greenpeace hates me: I’ve pointed out that the climate emperor is naked.

Meanwhile, I have to thank Greenpeace and Rep. Grijalva for all the free publicity. I’ve picked up dozens and dozens of new Twitter followers (@StevenFHayward), and renewed attention for my old thoughts on a subject that, outside of my occasional posts here noting the latest pathetic failures of the Climate Haters, I spend almost no time on any more. They make this part time job so much easier.

Stay tuned. I’ll be back with a separate post about the whole matter of “peer review” in climate science, and also the Michael Mann investigation from a few years ago. But I’ll give you a preview. One of our lefty commentators—Caylee Bovee under a new name?—taunted me that I don’t publish peer reviewed science, which is true, because I don’t publish any science at all. However, one of the leading academic journals in the field uses me as a frequent peer reviewer of submitted articles.  I doubt they use anyone from Greenpeace.

Did the Obama Administration Lie to the Federal Court About Implementation of Executive Amnesty?

We wrote here about State of Texas et al. v. United States, in which 26 states sued to enjoin the Obama administration from implementing its illegal executive amnesty program. On February 16, Judge Andrew Hanen granted the states’ motion for a preliminary injunction, barring the administration from taking any steps to effectuate the changes to the nation’s immigration laws that had been announced by the administration:

[T]his temporary injunction enjoins the implementation of the DAPA program that awards legal presence and additional benefits to the four million or more individuals potentially covered by the DAPA Memorandum and to the three expansions/additions to the DACA program also contained in the same DAPA Memorandum.

Since Judge Hanen’s order was issued, it has come to light that by the date of the order, the Obama administration had already granted expanded DACA benefits (three years rather than two years) to approximately 100,000 illegal aliens. The Department of Justice disclosed this fact to Judge Hanen in a surprise filing:

In a “Defendants’ Advisory” filed with Hanen’s court late Tuesday, the Justice Department notified the judge that it has already implemented significant parts of the Expanded DACA program, and indeed that it has already granted expanded DACA protections and work permits to “approximately 100,000″ people.

The government’s lawyers essentially admitted that they were disclosing this fact because it was contrary to what they had previously told the court. That has led to a motion by the State of Texas to be allowed to conduct discovery to find out what happened. Here is Texas’s brief in support of that motion. It is damning:


The State quotes this colloquy with the court:

MS. HARTNETT [DOJ lawyer]: In that document [Defendants’ January 14 motion for extension of time] we reiterated that no applictions for the revised DACA — this is not even DAPA — revised DACA would be accepted until the 18th of February, and that no action would be taken on any of those applications until March the 4th.

THE COURT: But as far as you know, nothing is going to happen in the next three weeks?

MS. HARTNETT: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Okay. On either.

MS. HARTNETT: In terms of accepting applications or granting any up or down applications.


MS. HARTNETT: For revised DACA, just to be totally clear.

On the basis of that representation, the court extended the briefing schedule on the motion for a preliminary injunction. As the State’s brief explains cogently, if the State had known that the Obama administration was already moving forward with implementation of the revisions to DACA that were at issue in the case, it would have moved for a temporary restraining order to block such actions. No doubt such a motion would have been granted.

It seems beyond dispute that the Obama administration misrepresented to the federal court what it was doing (hence the “Defendants’ Advisory”). However, the word “lie” is a strong one. It may well be that the government’s lawyers were not aware of the zeal with which certain federal agencies had moved forward to re-write the nation’s immigration laws. Of course, lawyers should not make representations to courts unless they have verified that they are true. One way or another, it seems clear that the Obama administration misled the court and opposing counsel, and as a result has granted 100,000 applications that otherwise would have been barred by the court’s preliminary injunction. If my extensive experience with federal judges is typical, the court is likely to be unhappy with this state of affairs.

The damage the Obama administration has done to the United States falls into three broad categories: 1) its extreme leftism, 2) its incompetence, and 3) its lawlessness. It may well be that when historians assess the wreckage, the administration’s lawlessness is considered the most damaging quality of all.

Clinton reportedly told State Dept. personnel not to use private email

Fox News is reporting that in a 2011 State Department cable, Hillary Clinton instructed employees not to use personal email. The cable cited security reasons.

All the while, as we now know, Clinton was using only her personal email to communicate electronically about State Department business.

The cable, which bears Clinton’s electronic signature, reportedly states that employees should “avoid conducting official Department from your personal e-mail accounts.” It also states that employees should not “auto-forward Department email to personal email accounts which is prohibited by Department policy.”

The cable cites the State Department procedures that prohibit using private email to conduct Department business. That procedure appears at 12 Foreign Affairs Manual, 544.3.

In a related development, the Washington Post reports that “Democratic activists” are “more eager than ever for alternatives [to Clinton] in 2016.”

Dr. Willie Soon Responds

We wrote here about the Left’s effort to smear Dr. Willie Soon, who has written for many years about the Sun’s role in variations in the Earth’s climate. (How controversial can you get?) The smearing of Dr. Soon was a warm-up for the Democrats’ assault on the Magnificent Seven climate realists, a group that includes our own Steve Hayward. Dr. Soon has now released this statement in response to the attacks on him. It is, I think, a model of lucidity and a valuable reminder of how disgraceful the Left’s refusal to engage in scientific debate truly is.

In recent weeks I have been the target of attacks in the press by various radical environmental and politically motivated groups. This effort should be seen for what it is: a shameless attempt to silence my scientific research and writings, and to make an example out of me as a warning to any other researcher who may dare question in the slightest their fervently held orthodoxy of anthropogenic global warming.

I am saddened and appalled by this effort, not only because of the personal hurt it causes me and my family and friends, but also because of the damage it does to the integrity of the scientific process. I am willing to debate the substance of my research and competing views of climate change with anyone, anytime, anywhere. It is a shame that those who disagree with me resolutely decline all public debate and stoop instead to underhanded and unscientific ad hominem tactics.

Let me be clear. I have never been motivated by financial gain to write any scientific paper, nor have I ever hidden grants or any other alleged conflict of interest. I have been a solar and stellar physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for a quarter of a century, during which time I have published numerous peer-reviewed, scholarly articles. The fact that my research has been supported in part by donations to the Smithsonian Institution from many sources, including some energy producers, has long been a matter of public record. In submitting my academic writings I have always complied with what I understood to be disclosure practices in my field generally, consistent with the level of disclosure made by many of my Smithsonian colleagues.

If the standards for disclosure are to change, then let them change evenly. If a journal that has peer-reviewed and published my work concludes that additional disclosures are appropriate, I am happy to comply. I would ask only that other authors-on all sides of the debate-are also required to make similar disclosures. And I call on the media outlets that have so quickly repeated my attackers’ accusations to similarly look into the motivations of and disclosures that may or may not have been made by their preferred, IPCC-linked scientists.

I regret deeply that the attacks on me now appear to have spilled over onto other scientists who have dared to question the degree to which human activities might be causing dangerous global warming, a topic that ought rightly be the subject of rigorous open debate, not personal attack. I similarly regret the terrible message this pillorying sends young researchers about the costs of questioning widely accepted “truths.”

Finally, I thank all my many colleagues and friends who have bravely objected to this smear campaign on my behalf and I challenge all parties involved to focus on real scientific issues for the betterment of humanity.

Dr. Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics