Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Czer, Jun 30, 2017.
Velox, we should wait and see.
Documents Reveal Serious Abuse Allegations By Minors In Border Patrol Custody
October 17, 2019
A new trove of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union sheds light on years of alleged abuse of minors by Border Patrol agents as the kids were held in Customs and Border Protection custody.
The 35,000 heavily-redacted pages were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union after a lengthy court battle with the Department of Homeland Security over a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
They contain hundreds of instances of minors who claim they were abused by Border Patrol agents all along the U.S.-Mexico Border.
The children say they were beaten while handcuffed, run over by ATVs, and bitten by dogs being handled by agents. The complaints cover the years between 2009 and 2014.
DHS followed up on many of the complaints but did not release its findings to the public. Parts of these investigations have now been released as a result of the litigation.
“A lot of these investigations are closed,” said Sarah Thompson, an attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “They all happen in a black box. The individual investigations of what the results were for the individual kids, all of that happens behind closed doors, and we only know some of that because of the FOIA request.”
The documents, along with audio and video interviews of agents and minors, paint a disturbing picture of the treatment of unaccompanied children in Border Patrol custody after they’re caught trying to cross the border.
In one video, a teenage girl describes being made to fully undress after her arrest by a Border Patrol agent.
A 2009 allegation details a Border Patrol agent putting his hand down a teenage girl’s waistband. A 2014 allegation describes stripping a teenage boy down to his underwear and leaving him in a cold room for hours. And another has a Border Patrol agent hitting a teenager with a flashlight as he calls them a liar.
“These documents absolutely show how the culture of this type of behavior and abuse is very deeply rooted in the agency and not the result of a few bad apples as they like to say,” Thompson said.
While the documents don’t cover any allegations from over the past five years, the ACLU says that the type of abuse alleged by CBP remains common inside the agency, especially as Central American migrants have filled Border Patrol stations over the past year.
This week, KPBS broke the story of a 9-year-old held in Border Patrol custody, whose lawyers said was not receiving medical care for a stomach ailment.
“We don’t have any evidence that anything has changed. And in fact, it seems that things are just getting worse and worse,” Thompson said. “So I think one of the big functions of this batch of documents, it’s very voluminous and I don’t expect anyone to go through the whole thing, but I think the long timeline of it — these records started in 2009, 10 years ago and we’re still dealing with these issues today.”
The ACLU hopes that journalists, politicians, lobbyists, and others will dig into the documents to learn more about the extent of the allegations.
Customs and Border Protection has not yet responded to a request for comment on the documents.
U.S. energy secretary will not comply with congressional Democrats' impeachment probe
OCTOBER 18, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will not turn over documents to congressional Democrats who had subpoenaed them over his role in Ukraine as part of their impeachment probe into President Donald Trump, a department official said in a letter on Friday.
Three U.S. House of Representatives committees subpoenaed Perry on Oct. 10 for any role he played in Trump’s push to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
In a letter to the three committees, Melissa Burnison, an assistant energy secretary, wrote that the impeachment inquiry had not been properly authorized.
“Even if the inquiry was validly authorized, much of the information sought in the subpoena appears to consist of confidential Executive Branch communications that are potentially protected by executive privilege,” said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.
“However, the Department remains committed to working with Congress on matters of mutual importance conducted in accordance with proper authorizations and procedures,” it said.
The energy department’s response follows the lead of the White House, which has said it would refuse to cooperate with an “illegitimate, unconstitutional” congressional impeachment inquiry.
The impeachment probe stems from Trump’s efforts to push Zelenskiy in a July 25 call to investigate his unsubstantiated allegation that Biden improperly tried to aid his son Hunter’s interests in a gas company in Ukraine.
Perry, who submitted his resignation to Trump on Thursday, told Fox News in an interview on Friday morning that he had urged Trump to call Zelenskiy to talk about fighting corruption and how U.S. liquefied natural gas could help ease dependency on gas from Russia.
He said he never talked about Biden in any conversations with Zelenskiy or the White House, however.
AG Barr expands mysterious review into origin of Russia investigation
If U.S. Attorney John Durham is conducting a criminal investigation, it’s not clear what allegations of wrongdoing are being examined.
Oct. 19, 2019
A review launched by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia investigation has expanded significantly amid concerns about whether the probe has any legal or factual basis, multiple current and former officials told NBC News.
The prosecutor conducting the review, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, has expressed his intent to interview a number of current and former intelligence officials involved in examining Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, Brennan told NBC News.
Durham has also requested to talk to CIA analysts involved in the intelligence assessment of Russia’s activities, prompting some of them to hire lawyers, according to three former CIA officials familiar with the matter. And there is tension between the CIA and the Justice Department over what classified documents Durham can examine, two people familiar with the matter said.
With Barr’s approval, Durham has expanded his staff and the timeframe under scrutiny, according to a law enforcement official directly familiar with the matter. And he is now looking into conduct past Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, a Trump administration official said.
Although the probe did not begin as a criminal investigation, Justice Department officials won’t comment on whether it has morphed into one.
When White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney sought Thursday to justify President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine, he called the Durham review “an ongoing investigation by our Department of Justice into the 2016 election.“
Mulvaney added: "So you’re saying the president of the United States, the chief law enforcement person, cannot ask somebody to cooperate with an ongoing public investigation into wrongdoing?” Mulvaney said.
The FBI began investigating Russian election interference in July 2016. The firing of FBI Director James Comey led to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel in May 2017. Ultimately, Mueller did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian election interference effort, although he documented dozens of what critics say were inappropriate contacts between Trump aides and Russians.
Republicans have suggested the investigation stemmed from a plot by members of the Obama Administration and career intelligence officials in what they call the “Deep State,” to undermine Trump.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, has conducted an investigation into the FBI’s actions in launching the Russia probe.
But Barr has said he believes an IG inquiry is not sufficient to answer the questions he has about how the investigation began. In doing so, he made comments suggesting Durham had authority only a criminal investigation could provide.
President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr attend the 38th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service on Capitol Hill on May 15, 2019.
In a May 31 interview with CBS News, Barr said Horowitz “doesn't have the power to compel testimony, he doesn't have the power really to investigate beyond the current cast of characters at the Department of Justice. His ability to get information from former officials or from other agencies outside the department is very limited.”
Barr also said in the interview that the purpose of the Durham review is to make sure there was not inappropriate surveillance of the Trump campaign.
“I had a lot of questions about what was going on,” he said. “Some of the facts that I've learned don't hang together with the official explanations of what happened.”
He declined to elaborate.
If Durham is conducting a criminal investigation, it’s not clear what allegations of wrongdoing are being examined. The Justice Department has not detailed any, and a spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.
“I don’t know what the legal basis for this is,” Brennan said, calling the probe “bizarre.”
Greg Brower, former assistant FBI director for congressional affairs and a former U.S. Attorney, said it’s not normal for a U.S. Attorney to conduct an investigation without an FBI referral of criminal allegations. That’s the role of inspector generals, he said.
“It’s unusual to the point that it looks to be political and it’s a bad thing for DOJ to appear to be doing something for political reasons,” Brower said, adding that it appears that “for political purposes, the White House wants to be able to say through the election cycle that all of this is being investigated.”
Justice Department officials have said that Durham has found something significant, and that critics should be careful.
Skeptics who have been trying to track Durham’s movements say he has yet to interview key figures, including former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Stzrok and former FBI general counsel James Baker.
“Nobody who knows anything has been interviewed,” said a person in touch with those former officials.
The New York Times on Saturday reported that Durham and his team appeared to be hunting for signs of anti-Trump bias among former FBI officials and were focused on the actions of Strzok, who was removed from the investigation after Mueller learned of texts he wrote criticizing Trump.
But Durham has been busy on other fronts. He traveled with Barr to the United Kingdom and Italy in an effort to examine the contributions of foreign countries to the Russia probe. A Justice Department spokeswoman said the list of countries being examined includes Ukraine, but she declined to say whether Durham is investigating “corruption related to the DNC server,” as Mulvaney put it in his Thursday news conference.
Mulvaney appeared to be referencing a conspiracy theory, mentioned by President Trump in his July phone call with the Ukrainian president, that a Democratic National Committee computer server hacked by Russian intelligence agents is actually in Ukraine.
Under that discredited theory, Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democrats in 2016. To believe that, one would have to doubt the unanimous assessment of the intelligence community and the findings of Congressional intelligence committees who have examined the classified evidence, including Republican Trump supporters.
President Trump’s first homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said on ABC last month that he was frustrated about the president’s embrace of that falsehood.
"It’s not only a conspiracy, it is completely debunked," Bossert said. "And at this point I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again and for clarity here ... let me just again repeat that it has no validity.”
He continued: "United States government reached its conclusion on attributing to Russia the DNC hack in 2016 before it even communicated it to the FBI, long before the FBI ever knocked on the door at the DNC. So a server inside the DNC was not relevant to our determination to the attribution. It was made up front and beforehand."
A Western intelligence official familiar with what Durham has been asking of foreign officials says his inquiries track closely with the questions raised about the Russia investigation in right-wing media.
Many of those questions spring from accusations made by George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. He declined to comment Friday.
Contrite in the courtroom, Papadopoulos emerged from prison on the attack against what he calls a Deep State conspiracy to set him up in an effort to get Trump.
Papadopoulos claims in his book that the professor who told him the Russians had Democratic emails – Joseph Mifsud, identified by the FBI as a Russian intelligence asset – was in fact working for Western intelligence.
He has made similar allegations against Australian diplomat Alexander Downer, who relayed the story about the emails to the FBI; and about a Cambridge professor, Stefan Halper, whom Papadopoulos says grilled him about what he knew about the Russians.
The New York Times and the Washington Post have reported that Halper is a US government informant, and Durham appears to be investigating whether the spy agency or the FBI broke any rules in how the matter and other aspects of the case were handled.
The Senate intelligence committee examined the allegations about Downer, Mifsud and Halper, as part of its bipartisan investigation into the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was responsible for attacking the 2016 election, and found nothing to substantiate any wrongdoing, a committee aide said.
“I’m very comfortable with everything I was involved in,” Brennan said.
Pompeo, asked about Turkey crisis, says Trump is ‘fully prepared’ to take military action if needed
OCT 21 2019
“We prefer peace to war,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells CNBC’s Wilfred Frost. “But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action.”
Pompeo declines to lay out a red line for what action would prompt a U.S. military response.
Trump is under heavy criticism for his decision to withdraw American forces from northern Syria, abandoning the Kurds, who led the ground war against ISIS.
President Donald Trump is prepared to use military force if “needed,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday when he was asked about Turkey’s attack on Kurds in northern Syria.
“We prefer peace to war,” Pompeo told CNBC’s Wilfred Frost in a taped interview that aired on “Closing Bell” on Monday. “But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action.”
The president is under heavy criticism for his decision to withdraw American forces from northern Syria, abandoning the Kurds, who led the ground war against ISIS. The withdrawal precipitated Turkey’s incursion into the border zone earlier this month, which has left more than 120 civilians dead, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Pompeo declined to lay out a red line for what action would prompt a U.S. military response, saying he did not want to “get out in front of the president’s decision about whether to take the awesome undertaking of using America’s military might.”
“You suggested the economic powers that we’ve used. We’ll certainly use them. We’ll use our diplomatic powers as well. Those are our preference,” Pompeo said.
The State Department declined comment on Pompeo’s remarks.
Trump told reporters at a Cabinet meeting on Monday that the U.S. “never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”
“We’re not going to take a position. Let them fight themselves,” Trump said.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Turkey last week following the country’s incursion into Syria’s northern border area, which has been occupied by Kurdish allies in America’s fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey views the Kurds as terrorists.
On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that Turkey agreed to a five-day pause in attacks as the U.S. facilitated the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters in the region. Following the completed withdrawal, the U.S. will eliminate its sanctions on the country, Pence said.
The cease-fire agreement was immediately criticized even by the president’s Republican allies in Congress, who said it gave Turkey everything it wanted while abandoning U.S. allies. In the interview, Pompeo defended the agreement, saying he was “fully convinced that that work saved lives.”
“Not only the lives of the [Syrian Democratic Forces] fighters, but the ethnic minorities in the region,” Pompeo said, referring to the Kurdish-led military force.
“Our allies see it the same way. We got real commitments to protect ethnic minorities throughout the region from the Turks in the course of negotiating that statement. I think the work that we did saved lives,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo also sought to distance Trump’s actions in the Middle East with those of his predecessor.
The former Kansas congressman was sharply critical when President Barack Obama appeared to violate his 2012 “red line” in Syria by not authorizing a threatened military strike against the country despite evidence that its forces had used chemical weapons.
Trump had pressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to invade northern Syria before the Turks moved into the country. In an extraordinarily undiplomatic letter sent Oct. 9, Trump told Erdogan not to be a “tough guy.” But Erdogan reportedly threw the letter in the trash, and the country’s military operation began that day.
Asked whether Trump’s actions mimicked Obama’s, Pompeo said: “It’s fundamentally different.”
He added: “Turkey didn’t — the country that Turkey invaded, they conducted an incursion into, is Syria, a sovereign nation. We worked with Kurdish friends, the SDF up and down the Euphrates River.”
“We jointly took down the threat of the Caliphate of ISIS,” Pompeo added. “It was to the benefit of the SDF, it was to the benefit of the United States of America, and indeed, to the benefit of the world. The commitment that we made to work alongside them we completely fulfilled.”
Inside the Iran Hawks' Hijacking of Trump's Syria Withdrawal Plan
Former Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk: Donald Trump's Syria debacle may be "a Fort Apache scenario" in the making.
October 21, 2019
President Donald Trump says he wants to “end endless wars.” But the counter-Iran, counter-Russia hawks on his national security team are planning to sneak in a long-term U.S. military presence in southeast Syria. And their plans may have been in the works for a while.
With U.S. forces opening the gates for Turkey to take over northeast Syria, Trump administration officials are now drawing up plans to keep several hundred U.S. troops alongside Arab rebel groups in the country’s oil-rich southeast. Trump has said, “we have secured the oil.” And Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) diplomats have said they’re willing to work with such a plan.
The National Interest has learned that the Trump administration’s anti-ISIS team, led by Ambassador James Jeffrey, has floated the idea of a counter-Iran presence in Deir ez-Zor for some time now.
“Every day, the [U.S.-led] coalition has been very strong against [Syrian ruler] Assad,” said Omar Abu Layla, CEO of Deirezzor24, who said that he has seen U.S. helicopters and F-35 fighter jets increase their presence against Iranian-backed forces in the region.
Abu Layla told the National Interest that he spoke to Jeffrey’s team three or four months ago. “They promised, ‘we will not leave Syria before we kick Iran out of Syria,’” he claimed. “They will not leave our province easily.”
"Since December, President Trump has been clear that American forces would be withdrawing from Syria. At the President’s directive, the State Department, including Ambassador Jeffrey, has been working with the Department of Defense on a deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of American forces overtime, while also working with our partners on the ground to maintain consistent pressure to ensure ISIS’s enduring defeat," a State Department spokesperson told the National Interest. "We do not discuss details of our diplomatic engagements but our message on this has been consistent with all of our partners in Syria."
“I can assure you that the effort to push back against Iran are real and continuous, unlike what the last administration did that picked Iran as its strategic security partner in the Middle East,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on October 20.
But it’s unclear how feasible a long-term U.S. presence will be without the Kurdish core of the SDF.
“It’s going to be a Fort Apache scenario,” former Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk, who ran the anti-ISIS team at the end of the Obama administration and beginning of the Trump administration, told the National Interest. “Very difficult to resupply.”
McGurk was describing the difficulty of supplying a military outpost in the middle of nowhere.
“Trying to do more, we’re going to dig a hole deeper” for the Syrian Kurds, McGurk had said at an event earlier today at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Jeffrey has made no secret of his desire to use the U.S. presence in Syria for a counter-Iran mission, even if he is uneasy with his Syrian Kurdish partners. He told the Atlantic Council on December 17 that the United States “does not have permanent relationships with substate entities,” referring to the Syrian Kurdish forces, but emphasized that U.S. forces will not leave Syria until all Iranian forces are gone. A few months later, Jeffrey took over McGurk’s office.
“I know Jeffrey and others, they have real passion on Syria. They want to do something on Syria. They want to kick Assad out,” said former Syrian diplomat Bassam Barabandi. “They want the Syrian people to have the chance to elect their leader.”
Barabandi says that he has talked to Jeffrey “many times” after defecting to America in 2013.
The end result of Jeffrey’s goals may be a plan to cultivate the Arab branch of the SDF as an independent counter-ISIS, counter-Assad force.
“It had been under consideration,” said Brian Katz, a former CIA military analyst who served as the Secretary of Defense’s country director for Syria in 2016 and 2017. “Some of these efforts were underway.”
Katz also said there were efforts to tone down the ideological bent of the SDF, which reveres the imprisoned left-wing Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan. Such a move could reduce the influence of the SDF’s core Kurdish leadership over other factions.
Trump announced after an October 6 phone call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria.” The announcement kicked off a Turkish attack on the SDF, which Turkey sees as a branch of the Kurdish separatist movement within Turkey.
The Trump administration brokered a shaky cease-fire solution between the SDF and Turkey, giving U.S. troops time to retreat even as the Turkish offensive resumed in full force. Without U.S. support, the SDF cut deals with the Russian- and Iranian-backed government of Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.
But the White House’s October 14 statement noted that U.S. forces will remain at al-Tanf, a key outpost in southeastern Syria outside the SDF-controlled zone.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that “we have secured the oil.”. He is likely referring to al-Omar, the largest oil field in Syria, and a key SDF fortress bordering Assad-controlled territories in Deir ez-Zor.
“Deir ez-Zor specifically is a pure Arab area, and they suffered a lot from ISIS. They lost thousands of people. They suffered from Iranian militias, from Assad,” said Barabandi, who has family ties to Deir ez-Zor. “We hope that the Americans can benefit from the dynamics on the ground, because these people are anti-ISIS, they are anti-Iran, they are local, and they are hoping to find some formula to work with the United States even after the United States leaves Syria.”
But Katz emphasized to the National Interest that Arab elements of the SDF “lack the capability of the YPG,” the Kurdish core of the SDF. In order to leave an Arab stay-behind force in Deir ez-Zor, the United States would need to “train the trainer,” using the YPG to build the capacity of Arab fighters.
Now that the YPG is busy fighting Turkey—and working on a deal with Assad that would likely exclude a U.S. presence—U.S. forces would have to be directly involved in supporting the fighters in Deir ez-Zor.
“That’s going to be a difficult and intense train and assist mission,” Katz said.
U.S. forces in the area would need a “land bridge” of their own. While the garrison in al-Tanf is connected to Jordan, a U.S. partner, the Faysh Khabur border crossing with Iraq and the Rmeilan military airfield are the only U.S.-friendly links between Deir ez-Zor and the outside world.
Both are within the twenty-mile strip of land that Erdoğan has claimed for his “safe zone.” Keeping a U.S. presence there requires Turkish cooperation.
The counter-Iran, pro-Turkey hawks who now have Trump’s ear seem to believe such cooperation is possible.
“I am one of those who would have liked to have seen us leverage the position in northern Syria to become a position of power that we would use to prevent the Iranians from creating a corridor from Baghdad to Beirut,” Hudson Institute fellow Michael Doran said on October 17. “I think when Americans are looking at this crisis, they should say to themselves, when the dust all settles, we want the Turks working within our framework.”
“I hope we have divorced [Öcalan’s party] the PKK,” he continued, speaking at SETA, a think tank in Washington close to Turkey’s ruling party.
Trump retweeted a statement by Doran denouncing the PKK, and has since then repeated Doran’s talking points, calling the party “more of a terrorist threat in many ways than ISIS.”
“Deir ez-Zor is not an area that means much to Turkey,” claimed Barabandi. “I would not be surprised if Turkey said to the Americans, we will work with you in that part.”
But even with Turkey’s cooperation, the U.S. presence in southeastern Syria may not be sustainable in the long run.
“We'll work something out with the Kurds so that they have some money, so that they have some cash flow,” Trump said at a cabinet meeting today. “Maybe we'll get one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly.”
“It’s not really possible for us to exploit those oil resources unless we want to be oil smugglers,” McGurk said. He said that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a long-time oil industry executive, had looked into helping the SDF sell Syrian oil, but could not find a legal path for American involvement without Assad’s permission.
“The Assad government is going to want to control oil resources, so U.S. bases that are in close proximity to oil resources will become a real geopolitical boiling point,” said Center for a New American Security fellow Nicholas Heras.
“Over the long term, the pro-regime forces see that the U.S. wants out, and they’ll be willing to take more risks,” Katz added. “We’re going to be in competition for the same kind of proxies.”
“It’s hard to counter an insurgency remotely,” Katz emphasized.
Lawsuit: ICE agent threatened immigrant, raped her for years
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An immigration agent threatened a Honduran woman living in Connecticut with deportation if she didn’t have sex with him, then raped her as often as four times a week for seven years, impregnating her three times, the woman says in a federal lawsuit.
The woman, identified in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe, sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and former ICE agent Wilfredo Rodriguez on Saturday. She is seeking $10 million in damages.
“My only comment is that my client had a choice, cooperate with ICE or be deported with her family,” George Kramer, the woman’s lawyer, said in an email. “She remains in a very fragile psychological state. She is not only seeking compensation for the physical and emotional damage she suffered but to change the way those who are cooperating with ICE are treated by those in a position of power and who often wield total control over the ability to remain in the United States.”
An ICE spokesman said he couldn’t comment on litigation but confirmed Rodriguez no longer works for the agency. Homeland Security didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
It was not immediately clear whether Rodriguez had a lawyer to speak for him, and a phone listing for him could not immediately be found.
Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut, said he could not comment on whether there has been or will be a criminal investigation.
The woman first met Rodriguez in 2006 after her brother was arrested for entering the U.S. illegally, according to the lawsuit.
Rodriguez found out she was also living in the country illegally and said that to avoid being deported, she had to become an informant and help the agency locate criminals ripe for deportation. She did her job, according to the lawsuit, pointing ICE to three men living in the U.S. illegally who had stabbed her husband.
But that wasn’t enough for Rodriguez, the lawsuit indicates.
At one point, while trying to locate someone in 2007, Rodriguez told the woman to go to a motel and tried to have sex with her, according to the lawsuit. When she refused, she says in the lawsuit, he covered her mouth, threw her on the bed, put his gun next to her and said that if she opened her mouth, he would use it. Then, she says, he raped her.
He called himself the “wolf” and said he was the reason she and her family weren’t deported, she says in the lawsuit.
The woman alleges she first became pregnant by Rodriguez in 2007, then again in 2009 and a third time in 2013. She had an abortion each time, she said in the lawsuit, and Rodriguez paid for one of them.
“There was no question” that was she was pregnant by Rodriguez and not her husband, the lawsuit said.
The abuse continued unabated, she says.
He made her perform oral sex on him and participate in “abhorrent sexual behavior,” the lawsuit states. He would constantly remind her that he was the “wolf” and threaten to kill her and her family, she says.
She attempted suicide four times, the lawsuit says.
In 2014, while working at her job in construction, she received a call. It was Rodriguez, demanding to see her, and she knew it would be for sex, she says. She was so shaken that she fell off a ladder after hanging up and seriously injured her neck, back and ribs.
She underwent surgery and tried to use it as an excuse not to see Rodriguez — but it didn’t deter him, the lawsuit says.
Later, he told her that he was leaving the agency but that if she told anyone what happened, “she and her family would pay,” according to the lawsuit.
The woman finally told her story last year when her father, living in the U.S. and fearing deportation because of her friendliness with ICE, applied for asylum. She opened up to an agent who approached her about her father’s application, the lawsuit says.
The agent, she says, suggested she consult an attorney.
Democrats intend to resume depositions in U.S. impeachment probe immediately: Swalwell
OCTOBER 23, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell said early Wednesday afternoon that Democrats intended to resume taking depositions in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, after Trump’s fellow Republicans stormed a hearing room and blocked the testimony of a Pentagon official.
Republican Representatives Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, vocal critics of Democrats’ restricted approach to hearings in the probe, which has involved keeping out the press and some members of Congress, said they did not know if the Democrats would succeed in restarting the testimony.
ACLU says 1,500 more migrant children were taken from parents by the Trump administration
Oct. 24, 2019
The American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday that the Trump administration separated 1,556 more immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border than has previously been disclosed to the public.
The majority of the children are ages 12 and under, including more than 200 considered “tender age” because they are under 5 years old.
The ACLU said the Justice Department disclosed the final tally — which is in addition to the more than 2,700 children known to have been separated last year — hours before a federal court deadline to identify all children separated since mid-2017, the year President Trump took office.
U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego gave the Trump administration six months in April to disclose the names to the ACLU, which is trying to track down all the families and learn whether they have been reunited.
The ACLU said the children were taken from their parents and released from federal shelters sometime between July 1, 2017, and June 2018, when Sabraw, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ordered the administration to reunite the more than 2,700 children who were still in custody without their parents.
But Sabraw and ACLU lawyers did not know at that time that hundreds of other children had been taken from their parents and released from U.S. Health and Human Services shelters months earlier, including when DHS secretly piloted the separations in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector. An HHS Office of Inspector General report in January disclosed that the administration may have separated more families than it revealed to the public.
The ACLU says the newest figures show that far more “tender age” children were separated from their parents than previously understood. Federal officials have already acknowledged that approximately 100 of the 2,700 separated children last year were under age 5.
But the new list says an additional 207 children, including several infants, were also separated from their parents and then released to a sponsor. Another 101 children on the new list were 5 years old.
Judge gives Trump administration six months to identify separated children
ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said the Justice Department has been sending the names of separated families to them in batches and provided the last information Thursday. He said he is worried that parents have been deported without their children.
“These are the families we’re going to have to search for all over the world,” Gelernt said Thursday. “We’re still in the middle of trying to find them.”
Justice Department lawyers have said in court that most of the separated children have already been released to parents or guardians.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment Thursday and did not immediately respond to requests to confirm the ACLU’s figures.
The ACLU’s announcement follows months of speculation about the number of children separated from their families at the Mexican border under a policy that Democrats and some Republicans decried as inhumane, and some Homeland Security officials came to regret.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department officially implemented the family separations from May 2018 to June 20, 2018, to discourage fast-rising numbers of families, particularly from Central America, from surrendering at the Mexican border and seeking asylum. The Trump administration said adults were traveling with children on purpose because legal limits on detaining minors made it easier to slip into the United States.
Under the policy, federal officials prosecuted parents in criminal courts for the misdemeanor offense of crossing the border illegally, and then dispatched them to immigration detention or deported them. Their children were sent to HHS shelters across the United States, and the Trump administration did not have a plan to quickly reunite them.
Family separations remain one of the most significant debacles of the Trump administration, and officials are still debating it more than a year later. The acting homeland security secretary, Kevin McAleenan, who is expected to step down soon, said in a recent interview that the family separations “went too far.”
“When you see the impact in the six-week period on 2,500-or-so families and understand the emotional pain for those children, it’s not worth it,” he said in the interview. “It’s the one part of this whole thing that I couldn’t ever be part of again.”
Former homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told PBS NewsHour Tuesday that she didn’t regret “enforcing the law” but was sorry for the prolonged separations.
“What I regret is that that information flow and coordination to quickly reunite the families was clearly not in place,” Nielsen said.
Justice Department review into origins of Russia probe turns into criminal investigation
Attorney General William Barr's administrative review of what would become the Mueller investigation is now a criminal probe.
Oct. 24, 2019
A probe by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia investigation has changed from an administrative review into a criminal investigation, a person familiar with the review confirmed to NBC News.
The review is being conducted by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham. The New York Times first reported Thursday that the administrative review has turned into a criminal investigation.
It’s not clear when the change occurred, but the probe began in May as an administrative review.
The Times reported that the change in status gives Durham the power to subpoena witness testimony and documents, to impanel a grand jury and to file criminal charges.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly called the Russia investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller a "witch hunt."
Republicans have suggested the investigation stemmed from a plot by members of the Obama Administration and career intelligence officials, in what they call the "Deep State," to undermine Trump.
The FBI began investigating Russian election interference in July 2016. The firing of FBI Director James Comey led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in May 2017.
Ultimately, Mueller did not establish that the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian election interference effort, although he documented dozens of what critics say were inappropriate contacts between Trump aides and Russians.
Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, has conducted an investigation into the FBI's actions in launching the Russia probe.
But Barr has said he believes an IG inquiry is not sufficient to answer the questions he has about how the investigation began. In doing so, he made comments suggesting Durham had authority only a criminal investigation could provide.
Barr was criticized after he released a brief account of the Mueller report in March that critics said was inaccurate. Mueller in a letter and phone call said that Barr's four-page description what Barr called the report’s principal conclusions did not fully capture the context and substance of the more than 440-page document.
That the administrative review into the origins of the Mueller probe has turned into a criminal investigation could raise alarms that President Donald Trump is using the Justice Department to go after his perceived enemies, the Times reported.
Democrats in the House are conducting an impeachment inquiry into Trump that centers on alleged attempts to pressure the president of Ukraine to announce investigations into what has been described as a conspiracy theory about interference in the 2016 election, as well as into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Critics say that alleged pressure amounts to Trump using withheld foreign aid and the power of the presidency to advance his own political interests, inviting a foreign power to again interfere with the U.S. presidential election.
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Erik Prince's company plans business in China province under human rights scrutiny according to financial disclosure
Oct 9, 2019
An American citizen stands to profit as his security company expands operations into a Chinese province described as a modern-day police state by human rights activists, and where the Chinese government is detaining up to a million Muslims in "re-education" camps.
Erik Prince, a former U.S. Navy SEAL officer and brother of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, is the deputy chairman and minority shareholder of Frontier Services Group (FSG), a Hong Kong-listed security, logistics and insurance company he co-founded in 2014. Prior to FSG, Prince founded Blackwater, a private military contractor that was mired in controversy for its actions in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- specifically when its employees were convicted of killing unarmed civilians.
(MORE: China is using app to collect personal information on its citizens, report says)
FSG plans to spend approximately $15.4 (HK$120.8) million in Pakistan and Xinjiang, China by May 2020, according to a recent financial disclosure. The Trump administration announced sanctions this week against multiple Chinese entities tied to Xinjiang, citing the alleged human rights violations taking place in the region.
Earlier this year, Prince told Al-Jazeera that FSG "has zero footprint in Xinjiang, China. Period." However, this new financial disclosure reveals that FSG has been planning to spend millions in Xinjiang since 2018.
The recent disclosure does not specifically outline what these funds would be used for, simply stating the money is for "setting up businesses in Pakistan and Xinjiang, China." Nor does the document disclose how much money has been spent in these areas to-date. A spokesperson for FSG said the company won’t comment beyond what is in the financial disclosure.
However, according to a press release signed by the company’s board in Mar. 2018, FSG planned to spend the same amount ($15.4 million) to establish "training facilities" and buy "security equipment and vehicles" in Pakistan and Xinjiang. Prince told Al-Jazeera the information in this release was incorrect and that the money was for "construction services."
The recent disclosure, issued by FSG’s board of directors on Sept. 23, provides "supplementary information" to FSG’s 2018 annual report, which was published in April of this year. The company’s original 2018 annual report did not disclose any intended funding for projects in Pakistan or Xinjiang, China. FSG’s 2019 interim report also does not disclose any such funding for Xinjiang projects.
Several outlets reported earlier this year that FSG intended to build training centers in Xinjiang, based on another press release from the company -- which has since been removed from its website. Reuters reported in February that, according to this statement, FSG planned to invest 6 million dollars in the Xinjiang training center, which would have had the capacity to train 8,000 people a year.
That same week, a spokesman for FSG told Reuters that the statement was "published in error by a staff member in Beijing" and had been taken off FSG's website. A Prince spokesperson later told Reuters that Prince had no knowledge of the alleged project.
According to company filings, FSG lends its services to companies associated with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a $1 trillion global development strategy implemented by the Chinese government to extend its political and economic influence across Asia and into Africa and Europe. Xinjiang and countries neighboring the province, such as Pakistan, are major economic junctures for the BRI.
The Chinese government has faced international scrutiny for its actions in Xinjiang -- specifically for detaining up to a million people from its Muslim population in what human rights experts are calling "re-education camps," while others call them "internment" or "concentration" camps.
Reports also claim that Xinjiang has become a surveillance state, with the government specially targeting the country’s Muslim population.
In May of this year, a FSG spokesperson responded to questions from ABC News regarding the company’s alleged plans to build training centers in Xinjiang, stating “We have no business in Xinjiang and are not building training centres there.”
In an early September interview with Recoil, a firearm and lifestyle magazine, Prince reiterated that FSG was “not building a training center in Xinjiang, China,” adding that the company does not provide training to any Chinese police or military.
However, in 2017, FSG acquired a 25% stake in Beijing’s International Security Defense College (ISDC), which claims to be the largest private security training school in China. The press release added that FSG would provide “world-class training courses” to those enrolled at ISDC.
On its own website, FSG refers to ISDC as “Our Facility,” and offers classes to “regular and reserve law enforcement officers” and “military personnel,” as stated on its enrollment form.
ISDC offers both military and police training, as well as “training and security solutions” for several Chinese entities, including China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and China Customs, according to ISDC’s website.
FSG declined to answer questions about discrepancies between Prince’s statement and the company’s policies on training Chinese police and military.
Prince last made headlines in April when the Mueller report claimed he provided some funding for a secretive effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s private e-mails from “dark web” operatives. ABC News learned earlier this year that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was particularly interested in a 2017 meeting between Prince and a Russian financier with ties to the Russian government.
The Chinese government acknowledges the existence of camps located throughout its Xinjiang Province, but dubs them "vocational centers" -- aimed at combating “extremist thoughts,” according to officials who work in the centers.
ABC News has reported on several accounts of torture taking place within some of these facilities. The Chinese government has denied all allegations of torture within these facilities.
Sentences Halved for Blackwater Security Guards Named in Iraq Shooting
October 14, 2019
Three former Blackwater security guards involved in the shooting spree in Baghdad, which killed more than a dozen people in 2007, have had their prison sentences reduced by half or more, authorities confirmed Tuesday.
The three Americans – Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard – were sentenced to 15, 14 and 12.5 years respectively in Washington on Thursday, according to a statement released by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
The offenders originally sentenced to 30 years each, had been members of a Blackwater team named Raven 23, which worked on contractual basis to provide security for the US State Department personnel in Iraq.
The case, which is now more than a decade old happened in Baghdad’s crowded Nisur Square, and also led to heightened acrimony of the American presence.
“The defendants’ orders were for self-defense, and they were firing wildly into cars,” Judge Royce Lambert said while handing the sentence, noting that some of the victims were turning around in the other direction.
“There was just wild shooting that could never be condoned by any court,” the Justice Department quoted him as saying.
The Blackwater security guards who opened fire, said during their trial back in 2014 that they acted out of self-defense to the subversive fire. Yet the explanation sounded nothing, but a cliché, because it left as many as 14 Iraqis dead while at 17 least injured in the process.
The three Americans were, thus, convicted of manslaughter, attempted manslaughter and a firearm offense.
A fourth colleague, Nicholas Slatten, also involved in the attacks, was said to have fired the first shots and convicted of first-degree murder and given life term in prison. However, the sentences were not deemed as valid by the appeals court, which ruled that the men should have been tried as separate entities.
Slatten was then retired, yet back in August he was again given life imprisonment.
Blackwater, was founded by Erik Prince, the brother of the current Education Secretary Betsy Devos. The firm was renamed Xe in 2009 and became Academi two years later. Erik Prince and his firm Blackwater are named in several controversies. Prince was part of the infamous meeting held in Seychelles concerning the 2016 US Presidential election meddling scandal while he provided Colombian mercenaries to UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed under a contract worth $529 million through his firm Blackwater.
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