Conservative Media Run With Faulty ABC Report To Allege Hillary Clinton “Sold A Seat” On An Intelligence Advisory Board

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Conservative media figures are running with an ABC News report to claim that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “sold a seat” on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) to Rajiv K. Fernando, a donor to the Clinton Foundation who was allegedly unqualified for the position. But the appointee in question is an expert in financial systems and serves on other national security boards. Contrary to ABC News’ implications, ISAB’s work includes financial security, and a general who works works with Fernando -- and who also currently sits on the ISAB -- says Fernando’s ”expertise in cyber-security is a great asset to our national security.”

For more on the smear campaign against Fernando, click here.

ABC News Publishes Story Suggesting Seat For State Board Was Given Slot Due To Donations

ABC News Reports “How Clinton Donor Got On Sensitive Intelligence Board.” From ABC News’ June 10 article:

Newly released State Department emails help reveal how a major Clinton Foundation donor was placed on a sensitive government intelligence advisory board even though he had no obvious experience in the field, a decision that appeared to baffle the department’s professional staff.

The emails further reveal how, after inquiries from ABC News, the Clinton staff sought to “protect the name” of the Secretary, “stall” the ABC News reporter and ultimately accept the resignation of the donor just two days later.

Copies of dozens of internal emails were provided to ABC News by the conservative political group Citizens United, which obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act after more the two years of litigation with the government.

A prolific fundraiser for Democratic candidates and contributor to the Clinton Foundation, who later traveled with Bill Clinton on a trip to Africa, Rajiv K. Fernando’s only known qualification for a seat on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) was his technological know-how. The Chicago securities trader, who specialized in electronic investing, sat alongside an august collection of nuclear scientists, former cabinet secretaries and members of Congress to advise Hillary Clinton on the use of tactical nuclear weapons and on other crucial arms control issues. [ABC News, 6/10/16]

Conservative Media Run Wild With The Story, Claiming It Proves State Department Was “Up For Sale”

The Federalist: “Hillary Clinton Put Crony Donor On Top-Secret State Dept. Security Board.” The Federalist cited the ABC News report and attacked Clinton for appointing “a grossly unqualified Clinton Foundation donor to a State Department advisory board that handled top-secret national security information.” [The Federalist, 6/10/16]

Townhall: “It Seems As If Anything Is Up For Sale If You Give Enough Money To The Clinton Foundation.” Associate editor Matt Vespa wrote of the ABC News report: “It seems as if anything is up for sale if you give enough money to the Clinton Foundation, even positions on a national security intelligence board that has access to top-secret information.” [Townhall, 6/10/16]

Hot Air: “Hillary Sold Access To The ISAB As A Payback For Political And Clinton Foundation Donations.” Hot Air writer Ed Morrissey responded to the ABC News report by writing: “While that’s a serious problem, the internal response to ABC’s initial probe five years ago was high comedy. No one could come up with an explanation for Fernando’s appointment, even after two days of trying. The best that the combined efforts of State’s legal and executive team could do was to hail Fernando’s “relative youth, enthusiasm, a business perspective, and expertise in cyber security,” a description that would apply to thousands if not millions of mid-level executives in the US.” [Hot Air, 6/10/16]

Ben Shapiro: ABC Report Shows Hillary Will Be More Corrupt “By A Long Shot” Than Trump. Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro responded to the ABC News report by concluding it shows Clinton would be more corrupt than Trump as president: “So, who’s more corrupt? Hillary, by a long shot. We don’t know just what Trump would do as president – but it wouldn’t be honest. We do know Hillary. Hillary is the devil we know, and have known on an unfortunately intimate basis for three decades.” [Daily Wire, 6/10/16]

Newt Gingrich: Appointment Shows Clinton “In Effect, Sold A Seat.” While appearing on Fox News, contributor Newt Gingrich claimed the report shows that "Clinton, in effect, sold a seat on a nuclear weapons advisory group to a financier from Chicago who had no technical knowledge." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/10/16, via Newsmax]

New York Post Editorial About ABC News Report: “Another Sign Hillary Clinton’s State Department Was For Sale.” [New York Post, 6/10/16]

ABC News' Implications Are Undermined By Their Own Reporting That Fernando Had Relevant "Technical Know-How”

State Department Spokesperson: ISAB Board Is “Looking For A Broad Range Of Experiences.” From ABC’s report:

Today State Department spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters that Fernando had been fully vetted, but Toner said he could not speak to his specific qualifications. When asked if he came from a security background, Toner said, “I don’t believe so.”

“I apologize, I don’t have his [resume] in front of me,” Toner said. “All I know is that the charter does lay out or stipulate that [they're] looking for a broad range of experiences. It’s not unimaginable that a businessman, an international businessman, might bring a certain level of expertise or knowledge or experience to such a job.” [ABC News, 6/10/16]

ISAB Charter States The Board “Shall Reflect A Balance Of Backgrounds.” The board’s charter, posted on the State Department’s website, states of its membership: “The ISAB shall reflect a balance of backgrounds, points of view, and demographic diversity and shall include a wide variety of scientific, military, diplomatic, and political backgrounds. All members shall hold a Top Secret security clearance.” [State.gov, accessed 6/11/16]

ABC Notes Fernando Was Technical Expert Who “Specialized In Electronic Investing.” From ABC’s report:

A prolific fundraiser for Democratic candidates and contributor to the Clinton Foundation, who later traveled with Bill Clinton on a trip to Africa, Rajiv K. Fernando’s only known qualification for a seat on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) was his technological know-how. The Chicago securities trader, who specialized in electronic investing, sat alongside an august collection of nuclear scientists, former cabinet secretaries and members of Congress to advise Hillary Clinton on the use of tactical nuclear weapons and on other crucial arms control issues. [ABC News, 6/10/16]

Fernando Has Extensive Experience In The Financial Sector. Fernando’s biography states of his financial experience:

Raj Fernando is the founder and CEO of The Chopper Group, which is working on a new Internet venture. He is the former founder and CEO of Chopper Trading, a Chicago-based trading firm he founded in 2002 and sold in 2015. Prior to Chopper Trading, Raj held a variety of trading positions at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade from 1991-2001. [American Security Project, accessed 6/11/16]

Fernando Participated In Government Roundtable On Financial Systems In 2010. Fernando was part of a staff roundtable discussion on disruptive trading practices in December 2010 for the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, an independent government agency. [CFTC.gov, 12/2/10]

Contrary To ABC's Suggestion, ISAB's Work Covers Financial Security Issues, Not Just Arms Control

ABC: Fernando Was “Placed On A Sensitive Government Intelligence Advisory Board Even Though He Had No Obvious Experience In The Field.” [ABC News, 6/10/16]

But Recent ISAB Report Covered Cybersecurity In Financial Industry. A 2014 ISAB report covered cybersecurity in the financial industry. From the report’s conclusion:

The open nature of cyberspace, the access to information it enables, and the creativity that results, encourages a growing potential for a unique and accelerating process of innovation. This process also threatens individual privacy and the function of national infrastructure and financial systems in an historically unprecedented way. As the National Academy of Sciences points out, “cybersecurity is important to the United States, but the nation has other interests as well, some of which conflict with the imperatives of cybersecurity. It is important to recognize that tradeoffs are inevitable, and the nation’s political and policymaking bodies will have to decide on a case-by-case basis which national interests supersede increased cyber security.” By encouraging best practice, supporting and promulgating a modified theory of deterrence, and fostering international consensus on conduct in cyberspace among allies and friends, the Department can help in the national effort to allow the greatest utility from cyberspace in ways that do no harm. [State.gov, 7/2/14]

Fernando Serves On Multiple National Security And Foreign Policy Boards

ABC Acknowledged That Fernando Is Now A Board Member Of The American Security Project. ABC wrote:

Fernando is now a board member of a private group called the American Security Project, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about the changing nature of national security in the 21st Century.” He also identifies himself online as a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and says he's involved with a Washington think tank. [ABC News, 6/10/16]

Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney And Current ISAB Member: Fernando’s “Expertise In Cyber-Security Is A Great Asset To Our National Security.” Retired Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney is the CEO of the American Security Project, where Fernando is a board member. He tweeted of Fernando: “I serve on the ISAB. #RajFernando expertise in cyber-security is a great asset to our national security.” [Twitter.com, 6/11/16]

Fernando Also “Serves On The Foreign Policy Program Leadership Committee At The Brookings Institution And Is A Member Of The Chicago Council On Global Affairs.” [American Security Project, accessed 6/11/16]

Brookings VP: "I’ve Always Valued His Foreign Policy Insights." Brookings executive vice president and former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk promoted Stephen Cheney's praise of Fernando, adding, "Can’t speak to #RajFernando role on ISAB but I’ve always valued his foreign policy insights." [Twitter.com, 6/11/16]

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