National Security & Foreign Policy

Issues ››› National Security & Foreign Policy
  • Conservatives Ridicule Gingrich’s “Kooky” And “Embarrassing” Plan To Test American Muslims’ Faith

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Conservative media figures ridiculed Trump vice presidential finalist and former Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich’s call on Fox News to “test every person” in America “of a Muslim background” to see if they “believe in Sharia,” stating that the proposal is “unconstitutional,” “embarrassing,” and “kooky.”

  • Hannity Uses Attack In France To Push Muslim “No-Go Zones” Myth That Fox Previously Apologized For

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox News host Sean Hannity, in the aftermath of an apparent terrorist attack that killed at least 77 in Nice, France, claimed that “no-go zones actually do exist in France,” where only Muslims are allowed and the government has no control.

    In January 2015, after Steve Emerson claimed on Fox News that there are parts of France and England “where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” two different Fox hosts apologized for letting the lie go unchallenged on their network, with Julie Banderas saying there is “no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion.” British Prime Minister David Cameron called Emerson a “complete idiot” after he heard of the claim. From the July 14 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Many of the topics we've been discussing this presidential election season, immigration, Donald Trump talking about at least a temporary ban on people coming from countries that practice Sharia law. We have -- we watched the Islamization of Europe, and I've discussed it at length on this program and on my radio program. You know, for example, most people don't know that Great Britain has 88 Sharia courts or that no-go zones actually do exist in France. I know because I've covered it here on this program.

  • After Attack In France, Fox’s Van Susteren Allows Trump To Attack Obama With Lies  

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    After news broke of a possible terror attack in Nice, France, Fox News hosted Donald Trump for a phone interview in which host Greta Van Susteren allowed him to attack President Obama and Hillary Clinton with debunked lies about refugees fleeing the war-torn Middle East.

    At 5:44 PM ET time, Fox News reported a large truck had been driven through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, killing dozens.

    At 7:20 PM ET time Donald Trump phoned into live coverage of the attack on Fox News. During the interview, Van Susteren allowed him to use falsehoods about Syrian refugees entering the United States to attack Obama and Clinton. 

    DONALD TRUMP: Hillary Clinton wants to allow 550 percent more than Obama and Obama is allowing a lot of people to come in. We have no idea who they are. They are from Syria, maybe. But they have no paperwork many times. They don't have documentation proper. I would make it -- I would not allow people to come in from terrorist nations. I would do extreme vetting. I would call it extreme vetting, too. And, you know, our country has tremendous problems. We don't need any more of the problems. Right now we have more investigations of this kind going on than we have ever had in the history of our country and we are going to allow thousands and tens of thousands of more people coming.

    Trump’s attack on Obama and Clinton over the refugee vetting process has been debunked numerous times, with PolitiFact writing:

    The vetting begins with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee, which determines who counts as a refugee, who should be resettled (about 1 percent) and which countries would take them. This alone can take four to 10 months.

    If the UNHCR refers refugees to the United States, they then face scrutiny from federal intelligence and security agencies.

    Their names, biographical information and fingerprints are run through federal terrorism and criminal databases. Meanwhile, the refugees are interviewed by Department of Homeland Security officials. If approved, they then undergo a medical screening, a match with sponsor agencies, "cultural orientation" classes and one final security clearance.

    Syrian refugees in particular must clear one additional hurdle. Their documents are placed under extra scrutiny and cross-referenced with classified and unclassified information.

    The process typically takes one to two years or longer and happens before a refuge ever steps onto American soil. Ultimately, says the State Department, about half are approved, and there’s no real precedent of a terrorist slipping in through the vetting system.

  • The Benghazi Hoax Has Its Own Night At The GOP Convention

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    The Republican National Convention will include a themed-night highlighting the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attacks, according to a new report. The announcement follows years of conservative media myths surrounding the attacks.

    According to The New York Times, the convention will emphasize “a few of [Donald Trump’s] favorite hot-button issues,” featuring different themes each night of the convention, including “the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi.” From the Times July 13 report (emphasis original):

    A night highlighting the tragedy in Benghazi, Libya. An appearance by onetime football star Tim Tebow. A presentation detailing former President Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.

    Donald J. Trump, the presumptive nominee, has been promising a different kind of Republican National Convention, and plans obtained by The New York Times show that he is eager to put his showbiz stamp on the party’s gathering, even as he struggles to attract A-list talent.

    [...]

    There are plans to emphasize different themes each night of the convention. Mr. Trump wants to touch on a few of his favorite hot-button issues, like the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, former President Clinton’s infidelities and border security.

    [...]

    Night 1: A Benghazi focus, followed by border patrol agents and Mr. Shaw, whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant. Senator Cotton, Mr. Giuliani, Melania Trump, Ms. Ernst and others.

    Conservative media have spent years continually misleading about the attacks and falsely alleging nefariousness on the parts of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. Fox News, in particular, relentlessly pushed misinformation surrounding the attacks, running nearly 1,100 segments on the attacks within the first 20 months after the attacks alone. Thanks in part to Fox’s calls for a special investigation into the attacks, House Republicans convened a two-year select committee to investigate that subsequently revealed little new information about the attacks. Donald Trump has also used conservative media myths surrounding the attacks throughout his campaign thus far, and has lamented that “outside of Fox, Benghazi has never resonated.”

  • NY Times Reports On “Marked Classified” Emails In Clinton Case Without Noting The Classification Was Botched

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On July 7, The New York Times reported on testimony FBI Director James Comey gave to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the FBI’s recently closed investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email use as secretary of state. Comey discussed the apparent contradiction between Clinton’s public statements that her private email did not contain emails “marked classified” and the director’s July 5 statement to the contrary. But missing from the Times’ report were the facts that two of these emails were reportedly mistakenly classified and that, in his testimony, Comey explained that it was not “reasonable” to assume even an “expert” would have realized they were classified at all because they were incorrectly marked.

    In its report, the Times failed to note that on July 6, State Department spokesperson John Kirby explained to reporters that two emails with a “C” notation, denoting “confidential” material, were marked as such in error. On July 7, before the committee, Comey further testified that the mistaken marking of those emails as classified was also incorrectly performed, as they lacked necessary headers. Comey said that because of this incorrect procedure, it would be “reasonable” to infer that even an “expert at what is classified and what's not classified” would not have realized the email was classified.

    Despite describing the apparent contradiction between Clinton’s statement and Comey’s July 5 claim that a small number of her emails “bore markings indicating the presence of classified information,” the Times failed to report on either Kirby or Comey’s explanation for why the former secretary may have repeatedly claimed she did not send or received emails “marked classified” on her private email account. From the July 7 New York Times article:

    Mr. Comey — who maintained his composure except for one flash of anger when Republicans questioned his integrity — repeatedly acknowledged that the public statements by the former secretary of state, including some she delivered during a sworn appearance before Congress last year, were contradicted by the facts uncovered during the F.B.I. investigation.

    “Secretary Clinton said there was nothing marked classified on her emails, either sent or received,” Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, said during several hours of testimony by Mr. Comey before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Was that true?”

    “That’s not true,” Mr. Comey said. Asked later about Mrs. Clinton’s assertion during congressional testimony that none of her emails had been marked “classified,” Mr. Comey said three emails bore small markings indicating that they contained classified information.

  • FBI Director Explains Why The “Marked Classified” Clinton Email Discrepancy Is Overblown

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A day after a State Department spokesperson explained that two emails that were sent to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and bore classified markings were, in fact, classified in error, FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress that it would be reasonable to assume that even “an expert at what is classified” would not have realized these emails were “marked classified.”

    Media outlets have reported on Comey's July 5 statement that a small number of the former secretary’s emails turned over to the State Department contained a marking suggesting the "presence of classified information," saying it contradicts Clinton’s past statements that no emails “marked classified” were sent from or received on her private email account. On July 6, State Department spokesperson John Kirby provided an explanation for the discrepancy: Two emails with a “(C)” notation -- indicating that their information about a future Clinton phone call was “confidential” -- had been marked classified in error.

    On July 7, the FBI director, called by congressional Republicans to testify as to why he had concluded “no charges are appropriate” against Clinton for her use of a private server, provided more details about his statement that a few emails “bore markings indicating the presence of classified information," further undermining media efforts to scandalize that comment.

    Without commenting on the substance of the emails, which Kirby had already explained were inappropriately marked “confidential,” the director further clarified that this mistaken attempt to mark the emails classified was incorrectly performed. In fact, Comey agreed with Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) that without a required header indicating the email with a "(C)" notation was “marked classified,” it would be a “reasonable inference” that even an “expert at what is classified and what's not classified” would not have realized the email was classified. From the director’s July 7 testimony:

    REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D-PA): All right, you were asked about markings on a few documents. I have the manual here, Marking Classified National Security Information, and I don't think you were given a full chance to talk about those three documents with the little c's on them. Were they properly documented? Were they properly marked according to the manual?

    JAMES COMEY: No.

    CARTWRIGHT: According to the manual -- and I ask unanimous consent to enter this into the record, Mr. Chairman -- according to the manual, if you're going to classify something, there has to be a header on the document, right?

    COMEY: Correct.

    CARTWRIGHT: Was there a header on the three documents that we've discussed today that had the little c in the text someplace?

    COMEY: No, there were three emails, the c was in the body, in the text, but there was no header on the email or in the text.

    CARTWRIGHT: So, if Secretary Clinton really were an expert at what's classified and what's not classified, and were following the manual, the absence of a header would tell her immediately that those three documents were not classified. Am I correct in that?

    COMEY: That would be a reasonable inference.

    CARTWRIGHT: Alright. I think you for your testimony, Director. I yield back.

  • How The FBI Statement On Clinton Emails Was “Totally Overblown”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Slate’s Fred Kaplan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign policy columnist, reviewed the facts FBI Director James Comey revealed during his press conference in which he recommended no charges be brought regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and concluded that the media and Republicans dramatically over-hyped those findings.

    Reporters and pundits have termed Comey’s July 5 statement “biting,” “scathing,” and “blistering,” claiming that he “contradicted many of Clinton’s past explanations” and that he “called [Clinton] out for having committed one of the most irresponsible moves in the modern history of the State Department.” Five different House Republican congressional committees are considering investigations into Comey’s investigation, and Speaker Paul Ryan has called on the director of national intelligence not to provide Clinton with classified briefings as the Democratic presidential nominee.

    But after a review of Comey’s findings, Kaplan reports that Clinton’s actions did not “damage national security” and that, even if foreign intelligence services had access to her emails, “they would not have learned anything the slightest bit new or worthy of their efforts.” Kaplan's piece is titled, "The Hillary Clinton Email Scandal Was Totally Overblown."

    Kaplan breaks down the emails that Comey reported intelligence services said either contained classified intelligence at the time they were sent or received or were “up-classified” after the fact:

    Examining the 30,000 emails that Clinton turned over, the FBI agents found 110—the back and forth of 52 email chains—that contained classified information. Of these, just eight had material that she should have known was “top secret”; 36 of them had “secret” information; and eight more had stuff that she should have known was “confidential.”

    The agents also scrounged through the bits and pieces of 30,000 more emails that she didn’t turn over and found three—three!—that contained classified information: one secret and two confidential.

    About those first 30,000 emails, the ones Clinton turned over, the FBI handed them out to auditors at other agencies that might have an interest in the matter, and after months of review they “up-classified” 2,000 emails to confidential. In other words, when Clinton wrote or received those 2,000 emails, she and her correspondents would have had no reason to suspect they were jotting down classified facts. But the reviewers have declared them classified retroactively. Your taxpayer dollars at work.

    He then points out that based on his own experience and those of his sources, “the labels secret and confidential mean next to nothing”:

    As anyone who’s ever had a security clearance will tell you, the labels secret and confidential mean next to nothing. When I worked on Capitol Hill in the late 1970s, the government gave me a secret clearance on my first day of work, pending the investigation into my worthiness to hold a top secret badge. As far as anyone knew, I might have been a Soviet spy, carting out confidential and secret documents every night and making copies for my handler. But they also knew the risk was low because there was nothing in those documents that the Soviets would have paid a dime for. The same is true of our various adversaries and stuff marked secret today.

    Kaplan goes on to make a case for why even the “top secret information” contained in Clinton’s emails is not concerning -- they all concern either the CIA drone strikes, which are classified top secret even though they have been widely reported, or a conversation with the president of Malawi:

    Top secret information is another matter, but the stuff that showed up in Clinton’s private email wasn’t so special. Seven of the eight email chains dealt with CIA drone strikes, which are classified top secret/special access program—unlike Defense Department drone strikes, which are unclassified. The difference is that CIA drones hit targets in countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where we are not officially at war; they are part of covert operations. (Defense Department drone strikes are in places where we are officially at war.) But these operations are covert mainly to provide cover for the Pakistani and Yemeni governments, so they don’t have to admit they’re cooperating with America. Everyone in the world knows about these strikes; nongovernment organizations, such as New America, tabulate them; newspapers around the world—including the New York Times, where some of the same reporters are now writing so breathlessly about Clinton’s careless handling of classified information—cover these strikes routinely.

    The other top secret email chain described a conversation with the president of Malawi. Conversations with foreign leaders are inherently classified.

    In other words, even if Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or Syrian spies had hacked into Clinton’s email servers, and if they’d pored through 60,000 emails and come across these eight chains that held top secret material, they would not have learned anything the slightest bit new or worthy of their efforts. The FBI’s discoveries should be viewed in that context.

    Kaplan concludes, “The Hillary email scandal has been brewing for a long time. Like the Benghazi scandal, this one has fizzled out, and one can imagine the frustration of reporters and politicians who had been savoring a climax that just didn’t come through.”

    As Media Matters has noted, journalists seized on FBI Director James Comey’s July 5 statement that “a very small number of the emails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information” to claim that Comey, in the words of The Washington Post,“directly contradicted Clinton’s claim that she did not send or receive materials ‘marked’ classified.” But yesterday, State Department Spokesman Kirby provided an explanation for the discrepancy, saying that the “markings were human error” and should not have been included in the documents, which were call sheets for Clinton.