Volunteers receive images and videos every day of Afghans, including children, executed at the hands of the Taliban.
Two months ago, Rambo, the code name for a commander in the Afghan National Army’s Special Operations Command, and seven other commandos were kidnapped by the Taliban. A video of the commandos’ execution was sent to members of Operation North Star, an all-volunteer organization working tirelessly to secure safe haven for thousands of Afghan allies abandoned by the State Department in post-withdrawal Afghanistan.
After watching the video hundreds of times in search of Rambo, volunteers “assumed the worst,” according to Ben Owen, a former U.S. Army infantryman and president of Flanders Fields, a nonprofit that raises funds for evacuation organizations Operation North Star and Task Force Argo.
Two weeks ago, Flanders Fields received a request to acquire a safe house in Afghanistan for an unidentified high-value target. An hour later, Owen received a pixelated photo of a familiar Afghan man being embraced by his family members on the safe house floor. Rambo had escaped Taliban captivity.
Maintaining Rambo’s safety presents constant monetary and logistical struggles for Flanders Fields and Operation North Star. Rambo “is essentially trapped in a meat grinder with his family,” according to a former U.S. Army recon platoon sergeant and Operation North Star volunteer we will call Duke. Rambo had inadequate time to apply for the documents the State Department requires to enter the United States prior to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Applying for the passport the Taliban require to exit Afghanistan would also put Rambo’s life at risk.
The only solution, according to Duke, is for the U.S. government to set up “a surged second wave of evacuations” to a host nation where at-risk Afghans like Rambo can “be further vetted by the State Department.”
Every day, Duke receives images and videos of Afghans, including children, executed by the Taliban. He sends the gruesome files to Amnesty International to document the Taliban’s relentless violence against the 10,000 to 100,000 Coalition Forces allies who remain in Afghanistan. Much of the proof he receives now comes from Rambo, whose “commando brothers [are] being tortured and killed,” Duke says. “It breaks my heart … that [the U.S. government] would leave this man and his family. Nobody at North Star is going to leave him. Never.”
An interpreter, whom we will call Nasir, is one of around 500 people Operation North Star has successfully exfiltrated from Afghanistan. After working with the U.S. Army for 10 years, Nasir was one of 18,800 interpreters mired in the State Department’s Special Immigrant Visa backlogs when Kabul fell.
In early August, he began receiving threats from the Taliban, who said they would take Nasir’s 10- and 13-year-old daughters as wives, “execute his pregnant wife, and cut the baby out of her in front of him before they kill him,” Owen said.
On Aug. 23, Nasir and his family joined the throngs waiting outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, hoping to be evacuated from Afghanistan. The first day, his three-year-old son was nearly killed after being trampled in a stampede incited by Taliban gunfire. The following day, Nasir suffered heatstroke and lost consciousness.
On Aug. 25, hellbent on getting through to the Americans, Owen says Nasir “plowed through Taliban” with his vehicle, which was riddled with bullet holes by the time he arrived at the meet-up point Owen had arranged with American contacts. After a tense handover period, Nasir and his family were brought to a U.S. facility where they remain now until Nasir’s background check and SIV is processed.
Another man’s evacuation story, who we will call Hassan, nearly ended in tragedy when the Operation North Star safe house he shared with a group of six Afghan Christians was raided by the Taliban. As an LGBT activist and gay man, Hassan was in serious danger when the Taliban, which reportedly maintains a kill list of homosexual Afghans, took him into custody. Miraculously, Hassan talked his way to freedom.
During eight weeks of shared hardship in their safe house, the leader of the Christian group became Hassan’s close friend. The group of seven has been evacuated to a third country, where they await the extensive vetting, including biometric identification and a lie detector test, that must occur prior to entry in the United States.
Operation North Star’s manifest includes about 30 dual citizens, and around 2,000 Afghan allies, government personnel, activists, minorities, and policewomen who are stuck in Afghanistan. Around 90 percent of these individuals do not possess the State Department paperwork required to enter the United States. For enemies of the Taliban, awaiting visa processing and vetting in Afghanistan is a dangerous proposition.
Just last week, when Feroza’s interpreter husband was killed by the Taliban, she also lost the chance to use the SIV program he qualified for. Now a widow in a country she cannot escape, Feroza cannot work or receive an education.
“Had the State Department not impeded every effort to evacuate [Feroza’s husband] and his family,” Owen told the Washington Examiner, “he’d still be alive.”
In July, U.S. Navy Lt. Cdr. Doug Ramsdell received a call from his former colleague, an Afghan commando we will call Noor Mohammad, who needed assistance leaving Afghanistan with his imperiled family as the Taliban gained ground in the country. Ramsdell jumped in headfirst to save his colleague, and Operation 620 was born. By mid-August, Noor Mohammad’s family of 10 had become a family of 260.
The Afghans on Ramsdell’s early manifest were Taliban targets, backed by U.S. military personnel willing to vouch for their honorable service to the United States, but none met the criteria to apply for the SIV program, which is limited to interpreters and personnel directly employed “by or on behalf of” the U.S. government. Ramsdell pursued Priority-1, Priority-2, and Humanitarian Parole visas in order to ensure these forgotten allies reach safety.
The day prior to the Aug. 26 bombing at the Kabul airport, Ramsdell directed his group to travel by bus to Mazar-i-Sharif. On their nine-hour overnight journey, the group went through 16 Taliban checkpoints. At a stop outside the city, one bus was robbed under the guise of taxation. Several Afghans were pulled off the bus that followed. Under interrogation, they thanked the Taliban for “sav[ing] [them] from the wicked western philosophy,” Ramsdell said. They were allowed back on the bus.
When plans to fly the group out of Afghanistan did not materialize, Ramsdell located safe houses and optimized security measures. Over the following weeks, the organization continued to grow. Today, 620 Afghans, including teachers, medics, and aircrew chiefs, are putting their faith in Ramsdell’s team to find them safe haven outside their homeland.
Despite constant efforts from Ramsdell’s all-volunteer team to provide for their safety, more than 50 Afghans from Operation 620’s original manifest are missing. Ramsdell says they have been “disappeared” by Taliban hit squads, who have access to biometric data and personnel lists left behind by the U.S.
For a time, the Taliban’s stranglehold on media kept evidence of these reprisals from reaching Western audiences. Finally, last month, Human Rights Watch reported having “credible information on over 100 killings” of former Afghan military, police, and intelligence personnel in four of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces between Aug. 15 and Oct. 31.
Due to shortcomings with the SIV program, a chaotic withdrawal, and a lack of assistance to stranded allies or the aid groups assisting them, Afghan allies stuck in Afghanistan face constant danger with little hope for their future. Evacuation groups working to bring them to safety need millions of dollars to transport Afghans to host countries where they can await visa processing and vetting, and to support and sponsor Afghans as they await humanitarian parole adjudication. They also need assistance from the U.S. government.
As it stands, Operation 620 and Operation North Star spend between $12 and $30 per person every day to provide protection, food, water, and safe houses for at-risk Afghans who are hunted in their home country for their service to the United States. The costs to these groups will likely increase as winter and a devastating food crisis arrive.
At present, both groups are struggling to meet their funding needs. Operation 620 is currently $95,000 in the red. Operation North Star has twice run out of funds, severely affecting their ability to assist those in dire need. Even as funding diminishes, the number of struggling Afghans does not. Owen says he receives “thousands of messages” from Afghan allies in need of aid every day.
by Peter Roff • U.S.News
So many shoes have dropped on the matter of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s conduct and ethics she’s starting to resemble former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos. No one else has as many shoes.
Now we find out, midway through the presidential campaign, that her family foundation was selling access to her while she was in charge at Foggy Bottom. Whether or not she actually did anything in exchange for the more than $100 million in contributions received – many coming from people ineligible to give to U.S. presidential campaigns – the point is clear: If you wanted access to the secretary you had to go through the foundation.
We’ve seen this kind of thing before, going back to the Arkansas days when Bill Clinton was the governor and she was busy at the Rose Law Firm. Everything with them is pay for play – even when there is no demonstrable pro quo to go along with the quid. Continue reading
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds • USAToday
Back in July, Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “there is absolutely no connection between anything that I did as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation.”
On Monday of this week, ABC’s Liz Kreutzer reminded people of that statement, as a new batch of emails reveal that there was a connection, and it was cash. As the emails, recovered by the public-interest law firm Judicial Watch, demonstrate, people who made donations to the Clinton Foundation got preferential treatment, and access, at the State Department when Hillary was Secretary of State:
The Abedin emails reveal that the longtime Clinton aide apparently served as a conduit between Clinton Foundation donors and Hillary Clinton while Clinton served as secretary of state. In more than a dozen email exchanges, Abedin provided expedited, direct access to Clinton for donors who had contributed from $25,000 to $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. Continue reading
by Julian Hattem • The Hill
The previously undisclosed February 2009 emails between Clinton from her then-chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, raise new questions about the scope of emails from Clinton’s early days in office that were not handed over to the State Department for recordkeeping and may have been lost entirely.
Clinton’s presidential campaign has previously claimed that the former top diplomat did not use her personal “clintonemail.com” account before March 2009, weeks after she was sworn in as secretary of State. Continue reading
Aides shouldn’t take the fall for her self-serving actions.
Hillary Clinton’s Super Tuesday victory gives her a clear path to the Democratic presidential nomination, but Bernie Sanders has never been her biggest obstacle to the White House. Her real liability is an email scandal that has put her in legal jeopardy.
Camp Clinton is arguing that the State Department’s Monday release of the final batch of emails ends the controversy over her private server. Yet that release is merely the end of one judicially mandated exercise overseen by a bureaucracy friendly to the former Secretary of State. The real action is in the courts, the FBI and Justice Department.
But even the friendly State Department review has been damaging. Of 30,000 emails Mrs. Clinton turned over to State, we now know that 2,093 were classified as “confidential” or “secret.” Another 22 were classified “top secret”—and State withheld their contents from public release. Mrs. Clinton keeps claiming these were “retroactively” classified, but that’s been vigorously disputed by intelligence community members, who note that at least some of the top-secret emails refer to intelligence projects classified from the beginning. Continue reading
In casually disregarding basic security, Secretary Clinton harmed our country and helped our adversaries
By John R. Schindler • Observer
Every few days, another bombshell appears in the media illustrating just how poorly Hillary Clinton, during her tenure as our nation’s foreign policy boss, handled communications security. By now, we have a complex portrait of someone whose mishandling of our nation’s secrets, by herself and her staff, beggars belief for anyone versed in such matters. EmailGate isn’t going away, no matter how much Ms. Clinton’s supporters want it to.
The number of “unclassified” emails that turn out to be classified, some of which transited Ms. Clinton’s unencrypted server of bathroom fame, now surpasses 1,300 and may go higher still. A couple weeks ago I explained how Ms. Clinton’s emails included highly classified information from the National Security Agency, based on signals intelligence about Sudan at the Top Secret Codeword level (see this for an explanation of such classifications). How they got there has yet to be explained. Continue reading
by Glenn Kessler • Washington Post
“It was not prohibited. It was not in any way disallowed. And as I have said and as now has come out, my predecessors did the same thing and many other people in the government.”
— Hillary Clinton
This is language that had previously earned Clinton Three Pinocchios. Clinton is relying on the fact that the legal requirement to immediately preserve emails from nongovernment email accounts was not made mandatory until nearly two years after she stepped down as secretary of state.
But that does not mean that when Clinton was secretary of state, there were not already in place State Department rules on how to handle emails and whether to use a personal email account. While Clinton says that “my predecessors did the same thing,” none had set up an exclusive and private email server for all of their departmental communications. (In fact, only Colin L. Powell has ever said he sent emails from a personal account, so Clinton’s use of plural is misleading.) Continue reading
by Glenn Kessler • Washington Post
“Everything I did was permitted. There was no law. There was no regulation. There was nothing that did not give me the full authority to decide how I was going to communicate. Previous secretaries of state have said they did the same thing…. Everything I did was permitted by law and regulation. I had one device. When I mailed anybody in the government, it would go into the government system.”
— Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, interview with CNN, July 7, 2015
It’s been a while since we looked deeply at the controversy surrounding Clinton’s e-mails while she was secretary of state, but her recent statements to CNN provide a new opportunity.
In some ways, her remarks, when questioned on her “e-mail practices,” remind The Fact Checker of then-Vice President Al Gore’s statement in 1997 that there was “no controlling legal authority” concerning his phone calls from the White House seeking Democratic campaign contributions.
Here, Clinton claims that “everything I did was permitted” because “there was no law … there was no regulation.” So is that really the case? Continue reading
by Guy Benson • Townhall
March 10th was the one-year anniversary of Hillary Clinton’s mendacious United Nations press conference, at which she issued a string of assertions that have subsequently been proven false. Conservative group America Rising has released a damning compilation of her lies, spliced together with news reports systematically refuting each one. Watch:
State, the Associated Press reports, won’t release 22 of Clinton’s messages to the public because they contain too much most-secret information.
OK: Clinton’s only promised that none of her e-mails were labeled “classified” — so she’s technically not a blatant liar.
But US intelligence agencies have determined these message contain enough sensitive information that even blacking out whole passages isn’t enough to make them safe for public view.
These e-mails are part of a trove of 7,000 pages — the last from Hillary’s private server the State Department was poring through — that were to be released this month. Continue reading
by Steve Guest • Daily Caller
In an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Thursday, the former CIA director said “the Pentagon acknowledges that they get attacked about 100,000 times a day.”
Hewitt asked Gates, “[A]re you surprised by the news that continues to come out about the former Secretary of State’s server and the fact that the intelligence community’s inspector general has said there was a lot of very highly classified information on her server?”
“Yeah, that’s a concern for me,” Gates said. “I never used email when I was head of CIA or head of the Department of Defense. Continue reading
by Deroy Murdock
Imagine that you own a large department store called Foggy Bottom. Your most frequent customer is a superbly connected globetrotter with some one million miles on her passport. She never uses a standard shopping basket like everyone else. Instead, she strolls in with her own gigantic, custom-made, black-leather handbag.
Quite often when this 68-year-old grandmother visits Foggy Bottom, you catch her shoplifting. Indeed, you have pried 1,340 pilfered items that magically tumbled into her black bag.
How does she get away with it? Whenever you call the police, she gives them the same excuse:
“I did not take anything marked with a price tag.”
You keep wondering, “Why don’t the cops arrest her already?”
The authorities seem to accept her unprecedented justification. But everyone believes she knows better: Just because a sweater lacks a price tag doesn’t make it free of charge. Continue reading
by Derek Hunter • Townhall
President Barack Obama’s friend William Ayers famously said he was “guilty as sin, free as a bird” after his acquittal on charges related to the Weather Underground, the domestic terrorism group he co-founded. The unrepentant Ayers and Hillary Clinton have that veneer of Teflon in common.
Were her last name anything other than Clinton, Hillary would be indicted today. Actually, she would have been indicted long ago and sitting in prison today. But her last name is Clinton. As such, she’s on the verge of becoming the nominee of the Democratic Party for president.
“What a country, America,” to finish quoting Ayers.
What a country indeed. And what a disgrace.
The Clintons always have been about one thing – the Clintons. Continue reading
by John Sexton • Breitbart
An investigation into possible mishandling of classified information on Hillary Clinton’s private email server has expanded to consider whether Clinton’s work as Secretary overlapped with her work for the Clinton Foundation run by her family.
Fox News‘ Catherine Herridge published the report, citing unnamed FBI sources, Monday morning. The report indicates the initial security referral looking into whether or not classified information was mishandled has expanded to look at possible public corruption involving the Clinton Foundation.
The report paints a picture of an internal struggle within the FBI over whether or not to prosecute Clinton. Herridge quotes an unnamed FBI source saying, “many previous public corruption cases have been made and successfully prosecuted with much less evidence than what is emerging in this investigation.” Continue reading
by Russ Wiles • USAToday
A new enforcement provision passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this month allows the government to revoke the passports of seriously delinquent tax scofflaws — people who owe more than $50,000 to Uncle Sam.
“You could be on your honeymoon and they could revoke your passport,” said Tom Wheelwright, a certified public accountant and chief executive officer at ProVision Wealth Strategists in Tempe, Ariz.
Some details still need to be worked out, but the new passport rule indicates the government wants to get serious about collecting unpaid tax debts. The IRS reported 12.4 million delinquent accounts owing nearly $131 billion in assessed taxes, interest and penalties in 2014. Continue reading