Monthly Archive: October 2016

Clinton challenges new FBI email inquiry, saying, ‘There’s no case here’

KENT, Ohio — Hillary Clinton forcefully challenged the FBI’s new email inquiry Monday, declaring during a campaign rally in battleground Ohio, “There’s no case here.”

Clinton’s comments were her most pointed yet on the subject, and they underscored her campaign’s decision to fight back aggressively against FBI Director James Comey.

Related Headlines

photo-store

On Friday – just over a week from Election Day – Comey alerted Congress that the FBI has new material that may be related to its dormant investigation into whether classified information passed through Clinton’s private email server while she was secretary of state.

The FBI plans to review the emails to determine whether they contain classified information and, if so, whether they were handled properly. The Justice Department said Monday that it would “dedicate all necessary resources” to concluding the review promptly.

Clinton accused the FBI of having jumped into the election “with no evidence of any wrongdoing with just days to go.” She said that if the bureau wants to look at the emails, which appear tied to her longtime aide Huma Abedin, “by all means, they should look at them.”

But she insisted that the FBI would reach the same conclusion it did earlier this year, when it decided not to recommend Clinton and her advisers face charges for how they handled classified information.

“They said it wasn’t even a close call,” she said. “I think most people have decided a long time ago what they think about all of this.”

The investigation appears to center on a laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman and Abedin’s estranged husband. It’s unclear whether the material on the device was from Clinton. It’s also not known if the emails in question are new or duplicates of the thousands the former secretary of state and her aides have already turned over.

In another sign of the Clinton campaign’s escalating feud with Comey, her advisers leapt on a CNBC report that the director opposed releasing information close to Election Day about Russian interference in the White House race. Campaign manager Robby Mook called the report evidence of a “blatant double standard.”

The AP has not confirmed that report, and the FBI declined to comment on it Monday.

Intelligence agencies have linked Russia to the hacking of Democratic groups during the campaign. Clinton has charged that the Kremlin is trying to tilt the election in favor of Donald Trump and has questioned the Republican’s financial ties to Russia.

The Obama administration delayed for weeks formally blaming Russia because of sensitive negotiations that were being held with Moscow at the time over Syria, according to people familiar with the investigation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the hackings, which were investigated as counterintelligence cases.

Even hawkish officials in the Justice Department who were urging an announcement blaming Russia did not object to waiting for those negotiations to conclude. When the Syria talks collapsed, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Homeland Security Department released a joint statement accusing Russia of the hacking.

Clinton’s advisers were stunned by Comey’s decision to publicly alert Congress that the bureau had new information that could be pertinent to its initial email investigation. Comey’s letter to lawmakers was short on detail, infuriating the Clinton campaign, which accused him of leaving the situation open to inaccurate interpretations.

Trump has seized on the FBI review, gleeful over getting a new opportunity to hammer Clinton’s trustworthiness and perhaps change the trajectory of a race that appeared to be slipping away from him.

On Monday, Clinton tried to refocus the contest on Trump as she opened the final full week of campaigning with a rally at Kent State University. She’s blasted Trump at length for being unfit to serve as commander in chief, bringing together several of the charges she has leveled against him throughout the campaign.

Speaking in serious tones, Clinton warned at length about putting Trump in control of the nation’s nuclear stockpiles. She accused him of talking “casually” about nuclear war and wondered whether he knows “that a single nuclear warhead can kill millions of people.”

Clinton’s message was amplified by Bruce Blair, a former intercontinental ballistic missile launch control officer. Blair said he would “live in constant fear” of Trump making a bad call about nuclear weapons if he were still a launch officer.

Clinton’s blistering warnings about Trump’s preparedness for the Oval Office were an attempt to refocus the choice in front of voters after a rough stretch for her campaign. Her team has long accepted that many voters simply don’t trust the former secretary of state, but they believe she is viewed as more qualified than Trump to be president – an assertion backed up by many public opinion polls.

Democrats have robustly rallied around Clinton, including black and Hispanic lawmakers. During a Congressional Black Caucus news conference on Saturday, Rep. Gregory Meeks suggested Comey might be trying to affect the election results.

“Don’t hide in silence,” Meeks said. “Don’t be the one that’s trying to sway an election 10 days beforehand. The American people deserve and we want to know in its entirety what the emails are and what you are investigating.”

FBI gets warrant to search emails that might be tied to Hillary Clinton email probe

The Justice Department sent a brief letter to six lawmakers Monday, saying that the department will work closely with the FBI to take “appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible” in the renewed investigation into emails potentially tied to Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

The three paragraph letter written by Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Peter J. Kadzik said that the department and FBI will “dedicate all necessary resources” to the investigation, but provided no further details about the contents of the emails or whether they are significant.

The short statement on behalf of Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and FBI Director James B. Comey represents an effort by the Justice Department to stabilize and assert control over a politically explosive situation set in motion Friday when Comey notified congressional leaders about the FBI’s renewed probe.

Kadzik was responding to a letter sent Saturday to Lynch and Comey from Democratic Sens. Thomas R. Carper (Del.), Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.) asking that law enforcement authorities provide by Monday more details of the investigative steps being taken by the FBI, the number of emails involved and what is being done to determine how many of the emails are the same as ones already reviewed by the FBI. The letter was also sent to Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

“Just ten days before a presidential election, the American people deserve more disclosure without delay regarding the FBI’s most recent announcement,” the senators wrote over the weekend. “Anything less would be irresponsible and a disservice to the American people.”

On Friday, Comey set off a firestorm by telling the chairmen of eight congressional committees that the FBI would take “appropriate investigative steps” to determine whether newly discovered emails found in an unrelated investigation contain classified information and to assess whether they are relevant to the investigation involving Clinton’s private email server. The unrelated case was an investigation of former congressman Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

Justice officials have said that before Comey notified Congress they warned him that doing so would go against long-standing practices of the department to not comment on ongoing investigations and to not take steps that could be viewed as influencing an election.

Officials familiar with Comey’s decision said that he felt a sense of obligation to lawmakers to “supplement” his testimony under oath in July that the Clinton investigation was complete and there would be no charges. Comey was also concerned that word of the new email discovery would leak to the media and raise questions of a coverup, the officials said.

But his brief letter to lawmakers on Friday did not satisfy at least one of the recipients, Charles Grassley, R-Ia., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Grassley wrote Comey Monday saying that the disclosure he provided to Congress last week “did not go far enough” and was unfair to Congress and the American people.

“In the absence of additional, authoritative information from the FBI in the wake of your vague disclosure, Congress and the American people are left to sift through anonymous leaks from Justice Department officials to the press of varying levels of detail, reliability, and consistency,” he wrote. “The American people deserve better than that.”

Grassley asked Comey to answer by Nov. 4 a series of questions about the email discovery and what the FBI has learned so far about their contents.

Grassley’s request adds to the increasing pressure on Comey to release more details and clarify his letter to Congress. A bipartisan group of about 100 former federal prosecutors and senior Justice Department officials have also called on Comey to release more information.

“We do not question Director Comey’s motives,” wrote the group, including former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson. “However, the fact remains that the Director’s disclosure has invited considerable, uninformed public speculation about the significance of newly-discovered material just days before a national election. For this reason, we believe the American people deserve all the facts, and fairness dictates releasing information that provides a full and complete picture regarding the material at issue.”

Over the weekend, Comey reached out to the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and the panel’s ranking member, John Conyers of Michigan. Goodlatte told ABC News that he spoke briefly with Comey in a joint conversation with Conyers.

“We both encouraged him to make sure that the American people have as much information as possible before they have to make a decision on November 8th, based upon this stunning new development, that the bureau is examining new evidence in this case, that they said they had completed several months ago,” Goodlatte said Sunday on ABC This Week.

Goodlatte said that Comey was not responsive to specific questions.

“He did not give us any response in terms of what more he could say,” Goodlatte said. “But he certainly took that under advisement.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest praised Comey as “a man of principle . . . integrity and talent,” and said that President Barack Obama, who nominated Comey three years ago to serve a ten-year sentence, does not believe that he is trying to influence the presidential election.

“The president’s assessment of his [Comey’s] character has not changed,” Earnest said. “The president doesn’t believe he is secretly strategizing to help one candidate or one political party. He’s in a tough spot.”

Earnest said repeatedly that he would “neither defend nor criticize” Comey’s decision, saying he lacked the independent knowledge to weigh in on the ongoing probe.

Earnest said that president believes it is important for the “norms, traditions and guidelines” surrounding FBI investigations to be followed, but Earnest didn’t weigh in on this specific case, saying again that he would neither defend or criticize the FBI director.

The Washington Post’s Greg Jaffe contributed to this report.

Tihar beefs up security to avoid Bhopal rerun

New Delhi: As news of eight alleged SIMI operatives[1] fleeing a jail in Bhopal and later being killed in an encounter beamed on Monday, security at Tihar Jail[2] was scaled up. Here, too, many SIMI operatives and others belonging to terror groups are …

India: Maoists Shocked In A ‘Safe Haven’ – Analysis

By Deepak Kumar Nayak*

In the most successful operation ever conducted by the Security Forces (SFs) against the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), since the formation of the outfit in September 2004, SFs killed at least 24 CPI-Maoist cadres in two successive encounters in the Bejingi forest area, between Ramgarh and Panasput, in the Malkangiri District of Odisha on October 24, 2016. One Greyhound [the elite anti-Maoist force of the Andhra Pradesh (AP) Police] commando, Mohammed Abu Bakar, was also killed during the operation, while another commando was injured. A large quantity of arms and ammunition, including four AK-47 rifles, 10.303 rifles, three Self-Loading Rifles (SLRs), two INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles, and four SBBL (Smooth Bore Breech Loading) guns were recovered from the encounter site. Police also recovered about 50 kit bags, one laptop, INR 216,000 in cash and a large quantity of Maoist literature. Another four Maoists were killed during the subsequent combing operation in the same area on October 25. Two Maoists were also killed in the same area on October 27, yielding a total of 30 Maoists killed in a quick succession of SF operations in the region.

Following a tip-off about movement of the Maoists in the area which falls along the Andhra Pradesh-Odisha Border (AOB), Odisha Police sought the help of the AP Police and, subsequently, a combined team of AP Police, Greyhounds, Odisha Police Special Operations Group (SOG) and the District Volunteer Force (DVF, mostly comprising ex-service men) carried out the operation. Between 50 and 60 Maoists were reportedly holding a ‘plenary session’, which was also attended by the Maoist Central Committee (CC) member Akkiraju Hargopal aka Ramakrishna aka RK, the ‘secretary’ of the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) and overall in-charge of Maoist activity in the region. The Maoists had assembled there to discuss their tactical counter offensive campaign (TCOC) against the SFs and were reportedly planning ‘something big’ to revive their movement in the region.

On October 26, 2016, Odisha State Home Secretary, Asit Tripathy disclosed that, of the 28 bodies recovered by the Police, 18 had been identified. Those killed included Bakuri Venkata Ramana Murthy aka Ganesh aka Prasad aka Ramireddy, ‘official spokesman’ of AOBSZC and ‘secretary’ of east division unit of the party; Chemella Krishnaiah aka Bhaskar aka Daya, ‘secretary’ of the Koraput-Srikakulam ‘joint division’ of the AOBSZC; Gamelli Kesava Rao aka Birsu, ‘area commander’ of First Central Regional Committee (CRC) and ‘divisional committee secretary’ of the Koraput-Srikakulam ‘division’; Anna Parthi Dasu aka Madhu (50), member of the inner protection team around Bakuri Venkata Ramana Murthy and ‘divisional committee member’ (DCM), technical team of West Godavari; Geddam Suvarnaraju aka Kiran (38), brother-in-law of Madhu; Prabhakar Kapukka alias PKM aka Devendra, DCM; Latha aka Jyothi aka Padma, DCM and wife of Dubashi Shankar aka Mahendra, ‘Special Zonal Committee Member’, (SZCM), of the Hyderabad area; Rajesh aka Bimal, ‘area commander’ of First CRC and DCM from Chhattisgarh; Mamata aka Banajalas Nirmala aka Boddu Kundanalu Maru (DCM of Third CRC of the party and wife of Suresh, SZCM of the Srikakulam area); Yamalapalli Simhachalam aka Murali aka Krishna aka Hari, key member of Central Committee member RK’s protection team and DCM of the Vizianagaram District; Kameswari aka Swarna aka Swaroopa aka Ricky, part of cadre supply team and DCM of Pedabayalu; Kilo Sita aka Swetha, part of cadre supply team and ‘area committee member’ (ACM) of Pedabayalu; Budri, woman bodyguard of RK’s inner protection team and ACM from Chhattisgarh; and key members in RK’s security cordon, Munna aka Akkiraju Prithvi aka Shivaji (27), an ACM of Malkangiri’s cut-off area Local Guerrilla Squad (LGS), and Raino aka Sunil aka Jalmuri Srinu Babu, DCM of Third CRC of the party. Ganesh and Daya carried a reward of INR two million each.

The second most successful operation in terms of fatalities among Maoists across India was the November 23, 2010, incident in which 20 CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in an encounter with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and State Police personnel near Aasrampura village of the Jagargunda area in the Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh. There were three earlier operations in which 20 Maoists had been killed: On February 17, 2008, at least 20 CPI-Maoist cadres were killed during ongoing combing operations by SFs in the border area of the Nayagarh-Ganjam-Kandhamal Districts of Odisha; on July 9, 2007, at least 24 SF personnel and 20 CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in a gun battle that occurred when a joint team of the CRPF and Chhattisgarh Police were combing the Elampatti-Regadgatta forest area of Dantewada District of Chhattisgarh; and on June 24, 2005, SFs killed at least 20 CPI-Maoist cadres during a nightlong operation in the East Champaran and Sheohar Districts of Bihar.

The most successful previous operation in the AOB region in terms of fatalities among Maoists had been carried out in September 2013, in Malkangiri District. On September 14, 2013, at least 14 Maoists were killed in an encounter with the State Police SOG and the DVF near Silakota village under the Podia Block of Malkangiri District. However, no senior Maoist leader was killed in that encounter. A CPI-Maoist ‘divisional committee’ member, identified as Rakesh, who was present at the encounter site, had managed to escape.

The AOB region comprises of nine Districts –East Godavari, Khammam, Srikakulam, Vishakhapatnam and Vizianagaram Districts of AP; and Gajapati, Koraput Malkangiri and Rayagada of Odisha. Presently, Khammam is a part of Telangana. Between September 21, 2004 and October 2016, the region witnessed at least 715 Maoist-related fatalities, including 298 civilians, 147 SFs and 270 Maoists. During the same period, 7,254 such fatalities, including 2,926 civilians, 1,847 SFs and 2,481 Maoists, had been recorded across India. The AOB region has thus accounted for almost 10 per cent of the total Maoist-related fatalities during this period across India.

The AOB region has long been one of the Maoists’ strongholds. A small part of the region situated at the tri-junction of three states – AP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha– acts as a bridge for the Maoists to cross freely from one State to the other. This served as a ‘safe haven’ for the Maoists, as the region’s difficult terrain made it tougher for SFs to carry out combing operations. According to an unnamed senior Police officer involved in anti-Maoist operations, “It is very difficult to enter the cut-off area located in AOB. The area is covered with thick forests and water bodies are in full spate during monsoon and now. Maoists who consider AOB as a safe zone conduct plenary and plenums during this chosen season (sic).”

The Maoist ‘movement’ is presently facing severe challenges across India due to various factors, the primary among which has been successful intelligence-based operations launched by SFs, and spearheaded by the AP Police Special Intelligence Branch (SIB) over the past years, which have helped neutralize top cadres among the extremists. According to the partial database compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), between 2010 and 2016 (till October 30), at least 775 Maoist leadership elements have been neutralized (93 killed, 434 arrested, 248 surrendered). According to UMHA data, the total number of LWE cadres arrested between 2010 and 2015 stood at 11,608. During the same period at least 633 LWE cadres surrendered. From a peak of 1,180 Maoist-linked fatalities across India in 2010, the fatalities came down to 215 in 2015. Unsurprisingly, the ‘movement’ is also waning in the AOB region. Overall fatalities in Maoist violence in the region witnessed sharp decline from a peak of 93 in 2010 to 35 in 2015.

Meanwhile, the AP Government gave permission to private bauxite mining companies in the Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam tribal belts of AP in 2008 to set up a mining-cum-refinery project. This irked the tribals and provided an opportunity to the Maoists to expand their base. They resorted to several abductions of public representatives and officials, including Vineel Krishna, the then District Collector of Malkangiri, in 2011, besides killing a few public representatives and Policemen in the border villages. The Maoists have also called for frequent shutdowns in the towns and villages of the AOB area and conducted ‘public meetings’ in the forests. Nevertheless, they have failed in their efforts to revive their ‘movement’.

Documents recovered at the encounter site in Malkangiri on October 24-25, 2016, indicate that the Maoists are deeply concerned about the status of their ‘movement’ in the AOB region and were desperate to do ‘something big’. The loss of leadership elements of the region during the encounter, however, has served a body blow to the outfit and will impact severely on their operational capabilities.

* Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management