House Democrats put complete trust in a gang of Pakistani crooks 14

… who exploited them, cheated them, robbed them, mocked them, and seriously endangered them, the government, and the nation.

It’s not fake news. It really happened.

From the Daily Caller, April 1, 2018:

Every one of the 44 House Democrats who hired Pakistan-born IT aides who later allegedly made “unauthorized access” to congressional data appears to have chosen to exempt them from background checks, according to congressional documents.

All of them appear to have waived background checks on Imran Awan and his family members, even though the family of server administrators could collectively read all the emails and files of 1 in 5 House Democrats, and despite background checks being recommended for such positions, according to an inspector general’s report.  But it also includes a loophole allowing them to simply say that another member vouched for them.

No background checks? So what sort of people were the Awans? What could have been found out about them? What reputations did they have?

Among the red flags in Abid’s background were a $1.1 million bankruptcy; six lawsuits against him or a company he owned; and at least three misdemeanor convictions including for DUI and driving on a suspended license, according to Virginia court records. Public court records show that Imran and Abid operated a car dealership, referred to the CIA, that took $100,000 from an Iraqi government official who is a fugitive from U.S. authorities. Numerous members of the family were tied to cryptic LLCs [Limited Liability Companies] such as New Dawn 2001, operated out of Imran’s residence, Virginia corporation records show. Imran was the subject of repeated calls to police by multiple women [complaining of abuse] and had multiple misdemeanor convictions for driving offenses, according to court records.

How did they exploit their position and betray the trust reposed in them?

If a screening had caught those, what officials say happened next might have been averted. The House inspector general reported on Sept. 20, 2016, that shortly before the election members of the group were logging into servers of members they didn’t work for, logging in using congressmen’s personal usernames, uploading data off the House network, and behaving in ways that suggested “nefarious purposes” and that “steps are being taken to conceal their activity”.

A pair of closely-held reports on Imran Awan, his brothers Abid and Jamal, his wife Hina Alvi, and his friend Rao Abbas, said, “the shared employees have not been vetted (e.g. background check).”

Were they highly qualified and thoroughly experienced?

No.

“Shared employees” means they were all hired as part-time, individual employees by individual members, cobbling together $165,000 salaries. Jamal began making that salary at only 20 years old, according to House payroll records; Abid never went to college, his stepmother said; and Rao Abbas’ most recent job experience was being fired from McDonald’s, according to his roommate. (“Whether they had formal training or not, they were trained on the job by Imran,” one of Imran’s lawyers said.)

Who first brought them into the confidence of the House Democrats?

Among the 44 employers, the primary advocate for the suspects has been Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who  … was also chair of the Democratic National Committee when Wikileaks published its emails. (The Wikileaks emails show that DNC aides called Imran when they needed the password to her device.) Since then, she and other Democrats have described cyber breaches in the strongest possible terms, such as “an act of war” and “an assault on our democracy.”

But there is no indication Democrats put those concerns into practice when they entrusted the Pakistani dual citizens with their data, nor when suspicious activity was detected.

Once the crooks had been rumbled, did the Dems who’d employed them at least  take immediate steps to find out how much damage they’d done and repair it as best they could?

Well, Debbie didn’t. She kept Imran in his job.

Police banned the suspects from the network after the IG report, but Wasserman Schultz kept Imran on staff anyway. He was in the building and in possession of a laptop with the username RepDWS months later, according to an April 6, 2017 police report.

Was there no security policy that could have prevented this outrage, or at least discovered it sooner?

The House security policy, HISPOL16, says “House Offices shall… ensure background checks, as defined in this policy, have been conducted on Privileged Users”. It includes quarterly reviews of privileged accounts’ appropriateness. By the time the policy was enacted, some members had dropped the Awans for assorted reasons …

What reasons? None given, except –

… including Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona in early 2015 for what her spokesperson called “incompetence”. 

So they weren’t even competent at the job they were paid to do by the Representatives? Kyrsten Sinema may not have been able to judge that. “Incompetence” was probably just her excuse for dismissing the Awans. The real reason seems to be was that she was afraid of them. So were they all – all  the Democratic Representatives who irresponsibly entrusted their computers to the Awan gang.  

The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to all 44 members, and none disputed that they had not conducted a background check. Not a single one of the 44 would say which of their colleagues vouched for the Awans, nor stated what criteria they used to determine that it was prudent to give them access to all their data.

Besides Wasserman Schultz, Imran has longstanding personal relationships with Reps. Gregory Meeks and Marcia Fudge of New York, Politico reported.

“Personal relationships”? He was their friend?

Employers also include Rep. Ted Lieu of California on the Foreign Affairs Committee and three members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: Reps. Andre Carson of Indiana, Jackie Speier of California and Joaquin Castro of Texas. …

Two of their employers said not a word when they were robbed by the Awans.

The Awans’ employers also included Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York, who saw $120,000 in computer equipment disappear under Abid Awan’s watch but “wrote off” the taxpayer funds rather than make an issue of it, according to the IG report and multiple senior government officials.

Xavier Becerra, now attorney general of California, ran the House Democratic Caucus, and his server was physically stolen shortly after the IG report named it as evidence in a hacking probe, three senior government officials said.

But wait, there’s more:

The Daily Caller reported on October 2, 2017:

A now-indicted IT aide to various House Democrats was sending money and gifts to government officials in Pakistan and received protection from the Pakistani police, multiple relatives claim.

A Democratic aide also said Imran Awan personally bragged to him that he could have people tortured in Pakistan. Awan’s lawyer acknowledged that he was sending money to a member of the Faisalabad police department, but said there was a good explanation.

The relatives said Awan and his brothers were also sending IT equipment, such as iPhones, to the country during the same period in which fraudulent purchase orders for that equipment were allegedly placed in the House, and in which congressional equipment apparently went missing.

Awan’s stepmother, Samina Gilani, said the brothers were paying police officer Azhar Awan and that he is their cousin.

Facebook confirms that Azhar works for the police and is Facebook “friends” with the former congressional aides, who worked for 45 Democratic House members until the aides were banned Feb. 2, following the discovery of 5,400 unauthorized logins to congressional servers and the funneling of “massive” amounts of data off the congressional network. …

A fellow Democratic House IT aide … recounted a conversation between Awan and three colleagues in a House cafeteria several years ago in which Awan seemed to relish bragging about his ability to have people harassed in Pakistan.

“He wanted to build a CRM [customer relationship management software] but he wanted to do it in Pakistan,” the aide told TheDCNF. “But the government doesn’t allow that. They have to be American, but Imran said, ‘Well, we can say that they’re American, but really they’ll be in Pakistan. I have these guys that work for the Faisalabad police department, and all we have to do is pay them $100 a month and they take them over to the police station, strip their clothes off, hang them upside down and beat them with a shoe. And that person will work hard and be loyal from then on.’  …

In early 2016, $120,000 in equipment, including iPads, were discovered missing from the office of Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York, for which Abid ran IT. Equipment billed to other congressional offices was shipped to their house, and invoices were falsified to show prices as $499 — just under the cutoff at which equipment would be inventoried by central administrators. …

Awan’s younger brothers Abid and Jamal were also on the House payroll, but have not been charged with any crimes. …

According to one witness:

Imran Awan introduces himself [in Pakistan] as someone from U.S. Congress or federal agencies … [so that he] manages to have police to escort him during his visits to Pakistan.”

But:

The Washington Post reported that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was investigating the Awans, but that “according to a senior congressional official familiar with the probe, criminal investigators have found no evidence that the IT workers had any connection to a foreign government”.

If true, that raises questions about how thoroughly agents have probed.

Dan Perrin, a former staffer for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations who had studied foreign actors, told TheDCNF there is a risk that the payments to the local police department signal a relationship to Pakistani authorities, such as the intelligence agency ISI, which he said “often works with or is embedded in the major city police forces in Pakistan.”

While they were working on Capitol Hill, the brothers set up a car dealership that took $100,000 from Ali Al-Attar, an Iraqi politician who has been tied to Hezbollah and is wanted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Imran Awan has been indicted for fraud in connection with a crooked car-dealership.

Their former business partner, Nasir Khattak, testified in Virginia court that the car dealership’s finances consisted of byzantine transfers in which staff and cars were often swapped between it and a dealership next door. …

Perrin said the family’s numerous car-related LLCs deserve special scrutiny because car dealerships are a favorite front for people with ties to foreign governments, providing the opportunity for money laundering and “giving the owners access to credit reports on all Americans”. 

To sum up: These Pakistani crooks were engaged by Democratic members of Congress, without any enquiry into their background, to “look after” their computers which contained highly confidential information concerned with the protection of Americans. The Democrats never apparently considered the possibility that their data was being stolen and sent to Pakistani authorities. When their hardware was stolen by the crooks – and they knew it was the Awan gang who had stolen it – they did not go to the police. When the FBI did finally arrest Imran Awan on charges of fraud in a car-dealership – and denied that the gang “had any connection with a foreign government” – Imran Awan continued to be on the payroll of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The Democrats were putty in the hands of the foreign criminal gang. Helpless as babies. They feared to offend them by reporting them to the police or firing them.

Yet these people, for whom large numbers of Americans voted to represent them in the federal government, want, yearn, ache to rule the country. To conduct US relations with foreign powers. To be in charge of the world’s mightiest military force … 

Yes, there are atheist politicians 3

… but they fear to confess their atheism.

This is from the State Journal-Register:

Many lawmakers feel a sense of pride when asked to give the invocation to open a House session, but state Rep. Juan Mendez of Arizona was gripped by a different emotion.

“I came in with a little bit of fear — not wanting to let myself be known,” said Mendez, a freshman Democrat from Tempe.

“Known,” that is, as an atheist.

Even as Americans become less religious and their tolerance for atheism is growing, there are still very few politicians who are openly nonreligious. They have to walk the thin line between their personal feelings and public image.

“There is such a stigma attached to being a nonbeliever,” said Lauren Youngblood, spokeswoman for the Secular Coalition for America.

This despite the fact that the fastest-growing religious group in the U.S. from 2007 to 2012 was religiously unaffiliated — or “nones” — according to a 2012 Pew Research report. It said the percentage of religiously unaffiliated U.S. adults grew from 15.3 to 19.6 percent in that time.

Nonreligious includes everything from atheists and agnostics to people who simply do not affiliate with any particular religion. But Pew said atheists and agnostics made up 5.7 percent of the adult population in 2012, accounting for about 13 million people.

But there is only one member of Congress who has gone on record as nonreligious: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., was the only one to answer “none” when a 2013 Pew Research poll asked members of Congress about their religion. …

“When she first got elected, everybody in our movement was very enthusiastic,” said Bishop McNeill, coordinator for a new secular political action committee. “But unfortunately … she has gotten some advice to stray away from that label.”

Bishop is Mr McNeill’s first name, not his title. Unsuitable for a secularist, of course, but we rather relish the irony.

Experts say such reticence is understandable given the often-negative perception of atheists in this country and the long history of religion and politics….

Ever since George Washington talked in his first inaugural address about “fervent supplication to that almighty being,” …  presidents and other politicians have felt inclined to talk about religious faith.

Even though the Constitution bans a religious test for elected office, … a de facto test is whether or not a candidate openly speaks to his or her beliefs.

It’s only fair that candidates share their religious beliefs [opined Brent Walker, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty], so voters can know where politicians stand morally. …

– Which is just the sort of statement that gives believers away as  non-thinkers. Why would knowing someone’s religion tell you what their morals are? A religious person is far more likely to be intolerant than a secularist, just to start with.

In 2007, then-Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark, D-Calif., became the first member of Congress to declare his atheism.

Stark won two more elections as an atheist, but was beat in a 2012 primary race … 

Youngblood claims that 32 members of the current Congress have told her or others in the Secular Coalition for America that they are atheist but cannot admit it for fear of political backlash. …[She] said the coalition is encouraging atheists [in politics] to “come out” — much as gays and lesbians did in the past. …

Chances for non-believing politicians are better [than they were] — but still not good.

A 2012 Gallup poll found that 54 percent of voters would vote for an atheist in a presidential election, well above the 18 percent who said in 1958 that they would vote for an atheist.

But the same 2012 Gallup poll said 95 percent would vote for a woman, 94 percent for a Catholic, 80 percent for a Mormon and 68 would vote for [a] homosexual. Atheist was the least-popular option.

[Rep. Juan] Mendez said he does not shy away from the word atheist — but he did not want to be labeled the atheist lawmaker, either.

When [Mendez] was called to offer the prayer in May, he first tried to get a secular lobbying group to give the invocation in his place, but that fell through. So he gave an invocation that started by asking all present at the Arizona House of Representatives not to bow their heads, but to look around at the others in the room.

“Let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness,” Mendez said, “our shared ability for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our constitution and for our democracy.” 

The next day, Arizona state Rep. Steve Smith, a Republican, asked House members to join him in prayer for “repentance of yesterday”.

A Republican did that. A Republican believer. There hisses intolerance!

But Mendez said that was the only thing “that made it feel like I was doing something that I wasn’t supposed to be doing”. Otherwise, he said, he got positive emails and phone calls, and was stopped on the street by people thanking him for his prayer and message.

No prayer. Message only.

But we need atheist conservatives in Congress. And that may not happen for a long time yet, we reckon.

 

(Hat-tip our Facebook commenter, Pat Sisson-Kelley)