How These Two Government Programs for Farmers Could Hurt You

Daren Bakst /

Last year, Congress created two major programs for farmers that, not surprisingly, will shatter Congressional Budget Office’s cost projections. Taxpayers’ liability for these programs is open-ended because a widely-supported limit on costs to protect taxpayers didn’t make it in the final farm bill. Congress should put an end to this liability immediately.

The 2014 farm bill eliminated the infamous direct payments program that gave farmers subsidies regardless of need. However, it also created two new programs that are likely to be even more expensive.

Farmers can participate in either the Agricultural Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage programs on a crop-by-crop basis. The Agricultural Risk Coverage program covers shallow losses (i.e. minor losses) incurred by farmers. The Price Loss Coverage program provides payments to farmers when commodity prices fall below a fixed reference price set in law. This program set the reference prices so high that, for some commodities (such as corn), payments were likely to be triggered from the outset.

Critics of these programs warned that assuming prices would stay at or near record highs was a mistake because prices would likely decline. As a result, the programs would incur far greater costs than projected.

Even before the farm bill passed, corn and wheat prices had already dropped significantly. CBO was using outdated price projections, and Congress failed to wait a couple of weeks until the U.S. Department of Agriculture could provide more updated price projections.

That was some costly impatience. Between using assumptions that did not reflect declining prices and setting reference prices in the Price Loss Coverage program far too high, Congress almost ensured that the new programs would cost far more than projected.

Sure enough, the new programs are shattering cost projections and will likely be more expensive than the projected costs (about $4.5 billion annually) of the old direct payments program. Right before the 2014 farm bill’s passage, CBO projected the new programs would cost taxpayers $3.6 billion annually over their first five years. Its just released (January 2015) report, however, projects annual costs of $5.3 billion. That’s a 47 percent increase, less than a year after passage of the farm bill.

Even these numbers are very conservative. Some well-respected experts are estimating that these new programs will cost as much as $8 billion in the first year alone. That would be more than double the $3.8 billion originally projected by CBO for the first year.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently explained, “Well, with crop and commodity prices coming down rather precipitously in the last 12 months, it’s anticipated we’re actually going to have to spend a lot more on ARC [Agricultural Risk Coverage] and PLC [Price Loss Coverage].”

He’s right. But it should be noted that when Vilsack says “we’re” going to have to spend a lot more, he really means “taxpayers.”

The House in a bipartisan manner recognized the potential risk that could exist for taxpayers due to these programs. An amendment to the original House farm bill that would have capped the costs of these programs overwhelmingly passed. While the original House farm bill was never passed, the bill that did get through the House maintained the cost cap provision.

Inexcusably, the provision was removed when the House and Senate worked out the final farm bill. Taxpayers are going to pay the price for this action. Congress should immediately pass a cap similar to the one originally included by the House. It would have capped the costs at 110 percent of the CBO projections. A new cap should be based on CBO’s projections right before passage of the farm bill.

As much as legislators are touting that they got rid of direct payments, they should be embarrassed that these two new programs will likely cost even more than what direct payments were projected to cost.  At a minimum, Congress should develop a cap for these programs that limits total costs for the five-year bill to what direct payments were projected to cost, about $22.5 billion.

Make no mistake, these new programs should be repealed. They are costly, unnecessary, and provide subsidies that effectively eliminate most risk, even normal business risk. In the interim though, Congress can provide some immediate protection for taxpayers by creating a common-sense cap.

Originally published in American Thinker


In Puzzler, President Lets ISIS Know Iraq Battle Schedule - Daily Signal

In Puzzler, President Lets ISIS Know Iraq Battle Schedule

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes /

Team Obama’s decision last month to disclose to the press the operational outline for an all-out assault on the Islamic State (aka ISIS)-held Iraqi city of Mosul is a bit of a head scratcher.

It’s like: “Hey, ISIS—please save the date.”

The Pentagon also reportedly told the press that the April-May offensive would include as many as 25,000 Iraqi/Kurdish Peshmerga troops, alongside Sunni tribesmen and local police.

Now, it’s not as if we gave them the exact hour of the exact day, but we’ve certainly taken away the time-old, treasured military element of surprise—often an important factor.

Plus, given that urban assault can be a serious slog with street fighting and house-to-house clearing operations, isn’t it going to be even more difficult with the steps the enemy will now take to improve its odds of prevailing?

For instance, while the Islamic State expected that Mosul would be contested at some point, its fighters will find the best sniper locations, set up fields of fire, plant IEDs, etc.—ASAP.

Worse, news analysis seems to indicate the Iraqi army probably won’t be ready by the spring and the Kurds aren’t properly armed yet due to Baghdad’s sensitivities about bolstering the Peshamerga forces.

ISIS will also probably look for opportunities to distract the coalition militarily elsewhere from its planned operation against Mosul. In fact, the announcement of the upcoming fight might “turbo-charge” militant recruitment (via social media, of course) to defend the caliphate’s eastern outpost.

None of this is good. So what might account for broadcasting operational information to the enemy?

First, the Obama administration just ended a “Combating Violent Extremism” conference in Washington where the outcome seemed (from the outside) to be more “thud” than “thunder.”

The president came under fire—again—for not calling the violent extremism we’re experiencing either “Islamic” or “Islamist,” even though that is what the conference seemed to be mostly about.

It’s possible the White House concluded that since the confab came off as a bit academic, replete with ideas such as “jobs for jihadists” and “education for extremists,” maybe its overall message needed some muscling up.

What better way than announcing a military operation against ISIS?

Then, perhaps Team Obama wanted to put pressure on the Iraqi political/military leadership to get hot on defeating the Islamic State, especially after last summer’s Mosul humiliation—which included its troops stripping off their uniforms while in full retreat.

In other words: Baghdad, it’s time to get your act together and take back your country—of which ISIS owns a third, oh, by the way.

It’s also conceivable that perhaps by giving the Islamic State plenty of notice of a spring offensive that it might rapidly retreat for Raqqa or give the nearly two million civilians in Mosul tons of time to beat feet before the bullets start flying.

Regardless of the possible reasons, none seem to satisfy.

The ISIS “pre-vite” also seems to require a successful outcome for the operation, something that has been in short supply. Indeed, anything short of overwhelming victory for the coalition will look like a win for the Islamic State.

Originally published in Boston Herald.

It’s Time to Kill This Tax (Entirely) - Daily Signal

It’s Time to Kill This Tax (Entirely)

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes / Stephen Moore /

If there were ever a right time to eliminate the estate tax in America, it is right now.

The latest tax collection data make an overwhelmingly persuasive case for abolishing the most immoral and counterproductive of all federal taxes.

Here is what the latest IRS numbers tell us: In 2013, the estate tax raised $12.7 billion. And estate tax revenue is falling, not rising. In 2001 the tax collected nearly twice as much money as 2013 ($23.5 billion).

This $12.7 billion raised was out of about $2.8 trillion in total federal revenue in 2013. In other words, a trivial 0.46 percent of federal tax receipts now comes from estates.

Its impact on the federal deficit is minimal. If we got rid of the estate tax altogether, the feds, at worst, would still collect more than 99 percent of all federal revenue.


Why does the tax raise such a pittance, compared with income taxes, business taxes, even customs duties? It’s partly because the exemption level was raised to $5 million, indexed for inflation (rising to $5.43 million this year) as part of the tax deal in 2012.

The tax rate was also cut to 40 percent from 55 percent. But the other factor that appears to be driving lower collections is that wealthy Americans are getting savvier in avoiding the tax.

Which brings us to the stupendous inefficiency of the tax. In 2013, only 4,687 estates paid any estate tax. This was about one-fifth of a percentage point of all deaths that year. Yet nearly every medium-sized estate has to waste time and money filling out catalogs of tax forms.


The joke in legal circles today is that we have an estate tax not to raise money, but to keep thousands of accountants and lawyers in jobs.

The common objection screamed from the rooftops to eliminating this tax is: tax cuts for rich trust fund babies.

Actually, no. Most of the billionaire households—Gates, Buffett, Rockefeller, etc.—will pay almost no estate tax. In the case of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, billions of dollars of their wealth is sheltered from the IRS through the creation of tax-exempt entities like the Gates Foundation.

In many cases, the income parked there will never be taxed, neither while they are alive nor after they are dead—thanks to this mother of all tax shelters.

Dick Patten, who runs a coalition of family business owners dedicated to ending the death tax, reminds me that the third plank of Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ “The Communist Manifesto” was to abolish all rights of inheritance.

“With a 100 percent inheritance tax, the government eventually owns everything. That’s the point, right?” And with an effective federal 57 percent inheritance tax, as President Obama has proposed, the government, in some cases, owns more than half.

Most of the billionaire households—Gates, Buffett, Rockefeller, etc.—will pay almost no estate tax.

This is all so economically self-defeating. Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, who served as chairman on Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, once found in a research paper that the estate tax may increase inequality by reducing savings and driving up returns on capital.

Former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Obama economic adviser Larry Summers co-authored a 1981 study finding that the estate tax reduces capital formation. And a 2012 study by the Joint Economic Committee’s Republicans showed that the estate tax, since its inception nearly a century ago, has reduced the capital stock by approximately $1.1 trillion.

The major propeller of growth in a nation is that one generation after another leaves wealth to the next. This makes societies richer over time as trillions of dollars of wealth are passed to children and grandchildren.

The higher the estate tax rate, the less the incentive for wealth creation in the first place. The incentive is to die broke—in which case future generations get nothing, but the government gets shut out, too. This is called a lose-lose for everyone.

Amazingly, many socialist or former communist nations, like Sweden and Russia, have eliminated their death taxes. They found the tax to be economically counterproductive. America should do the same—at almost no cost to the Treasury, according to the new revenue numbers, and maybe even a big gain.

Originally published in the Orange County Register. 

We Haven’t Had a True Free Enterprise System for Decades - Daily Signal

We Haven’t Had a True Free Enterprise System for Decades

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes / Stephen Moore / Norbert Michel /

People who believe in the power of individual liberty and free enterprise have had a rough time lately. And with so many recent examples of government intrusion, it’s hard to feel good about the future of capitalism.

In the case of financial markets, the tide has never really turned in favor of free markets. At the federal level, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act effectively enshrines as law the progressive movement’s paternalistic view of regulation. Under this view, it’s not enough to merely deter and punish fraud; the government also has to protect everyone from virtually everything that could go wrong.

Thankfully, there’s a ray of hope for everyone’s inner capitalist – a spirited defense of capitalism from Frank Keating, president of the American Bankers Association. In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Keating argued it’s not the federal government’s business to dictate private companies’ salaries. According to Keating:

[I]f it’s private money, if it’s not FDIC-insured money, for example, if it’s private capital, private stockholders, whatever they pay or don’t pay is their business. This is a free enterprise capitalist system after all.

Now, if you’d like to remain in a state of capitalistic bliss, read no further in that interview. Please. Because the rest of Keating’s interview displays symptoms far more in keeping with the paternalistic approach to regulating financial markets.

This approach goes well beyond simply providing legal protections for property rights and against fraud. Instead, it defines exactly what people must consider high risk versus low risk, and it dictates which risky activities are acceptable for which people.

As a result, we end up with exactly what we have: a giant mess that hinders the formation and use of capital and subjects it to political whims.

The last part of Keating’s defense is dead wrong because we really don’t have a free enterprise capitalist system. We haven’t had one for decades.

To paraphrase financial journalist Jim Grant, what we have is much closer to some sort of smiley-faced socialism. Government doesn’t fully own the means of production, but it directs the daylights out of them. Especially in financial markets.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act is a great example of the ills that come with smiley-faced socialism.

By the end of 2014, federal financial regulators had finalized more than 11,000 pages of rules and regulations. But they had also missed more than 36 percent of the Act’s rule-making deadlines, and they hadn’t even bothered to propose more than 20 percent of the required rules.

Anyone paying attention to this rule-making process over the last few years can see that the process spawns crony capitalism. Regulators work with industry employees to craft the rules because they have to.

Employees have expertise regulators need to do their job, and vice versa. In a social sense, they end up working together. Nobody should be surprised that some of these people build symbiotic social relationships rather than antagonistic ones.

Our paternalistic system also lends itself nicely to cronyism because financial executives are very good at making basic economic calculations. They understand, for instance, that it is often more profitable to make a deal with the government rather than to outright oppose new regulations.

We shouldn’t be surprised that people with big money at risk are often happy to accept a bit more regulation for good press and more taxpayer backing.

For a great example, we can go right back to Keating’s interview.

Keating suggests it’s appropriate for regulators to focus on “the responsibilities” of corporate compensation committees and of employees that make financial decisions. He also argues that it is “reasonable for regulators to determine just how much of a banker’s pay can be deducted on taxes.”

Reasonable to whom? Reasonable to executives willing to give up a tiny share of earnings in return for looking reasonable to populists politicians?

This sort of rule dictates that shareholders’ after tax return, all else equal, must be lower.

This dangerous way of thinking opens up a slimy can of worms because it literally means that legitimate business expenses are no longer tax deductible.

How long before a whole industry – oil drilling, perhaps – finds that its business expenses are no longer deductible? Too far-fetched? Turns out that some policymakers have already proposed this idea for insurance and advertising expenses. Over time, this policy would make the statutory tax rate meaningless.

But beyond this short-term apparent victory, the free market suffers. As it has for years, especially in the financial sector. (Banks are a case-study unto themselves, but the problem goes well past the banking segment.)

Here’s a tiny handful of the countless ways the federal government directs financial resources – the capital that’s supposed to fuel capitalism.

The list goes onand nearly all of these regulations are instituted in the name of protecting people from themselves even though this paternalistic approach has repeatedly failed in the past.

It condescendingly assumes a group of elites should tell everyone else what to do; it breeds cronyism, limits competition thus putting upward pressure on consumer prices, and it hinders capital formation.

If we want a free enterprise capitalist system, we need to go back to the drawing board. Let the government deter and punish fraud, but don’t let it dictate the size and structure of financial markets. Let investors invest and accept their own risks.

To his credit, Keating wants policies that “make sure the taxpayers are not burned even though your stockholders may be burned.” That’s a capital idea.

Originally published in Forbes. 

Russia and China Aren’t Less Committed to Nuclear Force. So Why Are We? - Daily Signal

Russia and China Aren’t Less Committed to Nuclear Force. So Why Are We?

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes / Stephen Moore / Norbert Michel / Michaela Dodge / Adam Lowther /

As Russia and other nations around the world flex their “nuclear muscles,” when it comes to the United States, maintaining a credible nuclear force is certainly a tough task. Challenges include: declining research, development and acquisition budgets; uncertain prospects for modernization, and an American public that lacks a clear understanding of how nuclear weapons contribute to national security.

The U.S. nuclear force has prevented a great power war for seven decades. Yet the commitment to maintain a credible nuclear force appears shaky.

That is certainly not the case in competitor nations such as Russia, China and North Korea. While sanctions and low oil prices have crippled Russia’s economy, the Kremlin is still doggedly spending billions of dollars on modernizing its strategic rocket forces. Washington’s lack of commitment takes a toll on more than investment. It does not go unnoticed by the men and women who man the nation’s nuclear submarines, bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. That only makes executing a nuclear mission more difficult, both practically and morally.

State of Affairs

Imagine being out on the vast prairie of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado or Nebraska in the dead of winter, the blasts of wind making the sub-zero temperatures nearly unbearable. After driving one to three hours to reach your missile alert facility, you go down into the launch control center where the 50-year-old equipment smells the same as it did to your father, who pulled alerts here before you were born. During winter, heavy snow may trap maintenance and missile alert crews in the missile field for days. When they finally get to go home, the smell of old equipment and chemicals lingers on their clothes.

Much the same can be said for the bomber crews who fly the exact same aircraft their fathers flew and their sons or daughters will likely fly.

Recent Analysis

The Heritage Foundation’s newly released “2015 Index of U.S. Military Strength” evaluates the health of the U.S. nuclear complex according to nine categories. In four of those categories—warhead modernization, delivery systems modernization, nuclear weapons complex and nuclear test readiness—the complex was rated as “weak” (the second worst rating possible).

One of the main factors behind these low scores is sequestration. Its “automatic pilot” budget regimen threatens sustained and predictable funding—a major problem for addressing issues within the nuclear complex. It has already forced a delay in plans to replace aging delivery systems. This includes everything from a new bomber and its nuclear certifications, to a replacement for the Ohio-class strategic submarine, to a follow-on intercontinental ballistic missile.

Another major factor contributing to lower scores are the government’s conflicting policies regarding the nuclear complex. We say we care about the nuclear force and the complex that supports it, yet manpower and resources available to execute the nuclear mission have been steadily declining until recently. We say we are in favor of a robust nuclear modernization program, yet proclaim, at the same time, we need to get to a world without nuclear weapons—all while refusing to truly modernize our weapons.

The president’s fiscal year 2016 budget dedicates over $75 million for the ground-based strategic deterrent, better known as the Minuteman replacement. While the current missiles are in fact woefully archaic—they were first deployed in the 1970s—there is no provision for replacing the even older silos and launch control centers from which a new missile would be launched.

On the bright side, the president’s budget accelerates by two years the Long-Range Standoff missile, an essential advancement in American capabilities. This project is particularly vital considering the limited number of available stealth bombers and the angle of attack needed to counter the tunneling efforts of our adversaries, which make targets hard to reach.

The main question, however, is what Congress will do.  At the end of the day, it’s the House and Senate that decide which programs get funded and at what level.

The Index’s low rankings indicate the areas of America’s nuclear force that are in greatest need of investment. And it’s a force that must be sustained. The nuclear mission is critical. Its ultimate purpose is to deter a catastrophic attack on our homeland, our forces abroad, and our allies. While it is true that we require a nuclear force we never hope to launch, it is important to recognize that our nuclear weapons serve to keep the peace every day.

Originally published in Real Clear Defense 

Rand Paul Tops CPAC Straw Poll for Third Year; Scott Walker Places Second - Daily Signal

Rand Paul Tops CPAC Straw Poll for Third Year; Scott Walker Places Second

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes / Stephen Moore / Norbert Michel / Michaela Dodge / Adam Lowther / Ken McIntyre /

For the third straight year, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., won the straw poll of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC.

In results announced about 5:15 p.m., Paul rolled up 26 percent of the vote to top the field of 17 possible Republican candidates for president next year. CPAC officials said he was followed at 21 percent by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has been surging in scientific preference polls of Republican voters.

>>> Rand Paul at CPAC: ‘Defend the Whole Bill of Rights’

“I am humbled by the enthusiastic support and encouragement I received this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference,” Paul said in a statement.

A thin margin separated third- and fourth-place finishes by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor considered a Republican powerhouse, came in fifth with 8 percent followed by a veteran of the 2012 presidential race—Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania.

Paul, in his first term as the junior senator from Kentucky, dipped from his performance last year, when he received 31 percent of the vote at CPAC. He garnered 25 percent the year before.

I plan on doing my part to continue making the GOP a bigger, bolder party. Thanks, #cpac2015!

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) February 28, 2015

The annual poll co-sponsored by The Washington Times asked CPAC attendees—many of them under 30—who they would vote for as the Republican nominee for president in 2016. A total of 3,007 votes were cast over the four-day conference outside Washington, D.C.

Final results:

Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), won the CPAC straw poll in 2010 and 2011.

Rubio’s seventh-place finish put him in the same slot as last year when, hurt by his efforts to move illegal immigrants toward legal status, the first-term Florida senator drew 6 percent. In 2013, he had finished second behind Paul with 23 percent.

Last year Cruz, also a first-term senator, finished second with 11 percent, edging Carson at 9 percent and followed by Christie (8 percent), Walker and Santorum (both with 7 percent).

In his statement, Paul also said:

Our party is filled with constitutional conservatives who have chosen to stand with me for a third consecutive straw poll victory. Since President Ronald Reagan, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been the gold standard on where conservatives stand.

The constitutional conservatives of our party have spoken in a loud and clear voice today. I plan on doing my part and I hope you will join me as I continue to make the GOP a bigger, better and bolder party.

CPAC, the largest annual national gathering of conservative activists, ran Wednesday through this evening at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

This post was modified as final results were released.

>>> 15 Things Jeb Bush Said When He Faced Conservative Critics

Twitter Reacts to Mike Pence’s Reagan Dinner Keynote Speech - Daily Signal

Twitter Reacts to Mike Pence’s Reagan Dinner Keynote Speech

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes / Stephen Moore / Norbert Michel / Michaela Dodge / Adam Lowther / Ken McIntyre / Ben Smith /

Indiana Governor Mike Pence closed out the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference, keynoting the the Reagan Dinner Friday night.

It was my honor to speak at tonight’s Reagan dinner at #CPAC2015. Thank you all for your support!

— Mike Pence (@mike_pence) February 28, 2015

Listening to Mike Pence speak at CPAC. He can really deliver a good talk. Makes me think of RR. — Julie (@jffree1) February 28, 2015

Pence opened the dinner discussing his faith.

Mike Pence leads off CPAC dinner speech: “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican,” an order of personal importance for him. — Ralph Z. Hallow (@RHallow_Times) February 28, 2015

Pence hit at the Obama administration on ISIS and hinted at more military spending.

IN Gov. Mike Pence: Mr. President, Jihadi John doesn’t want a job. He wants to see paradise. Let’s help him get there. #CPAC2015

— al_pastor (@istealhotsauce) February 28, 2015

Pence: It’s time to ‘dramatically increase defense spending’ — The Washington Times (@WashTimes) February 28, 2015

Pence had his detractors.

Mike Pence is such a war hawk, he would have us invade Canada. #CPAC2015

— Madison (@Madison_Dyann) February 28, 2015

The press was mostly a no show to the governor’s speech.

A bunch of press stuck around to watch Gov. Mike Pence speak at CPAC this evening.

— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) February 28, 2015

Still, the governor made news and hinted at a presidential campaign.

Mike Pence hints at presidential campaign at CPAC — Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 28, 2015

Fed Chair Janet Yellen Met With a Coalition of Conservatives Friday. Here’s How the Meeting Went. - Daily Signal

Fed Chair Janet Yellen Met With a Coalition of Conservatives Friday. Here’s How the Meeting Went.

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes / Stephen Moore / Norbert Michel / Michaela Dodge / Adam Lowther / Ken McIntyre / Ben Smith / Kate Scanlon /

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen met with a coalition of conservatives on Friday to discuss monetary policy.

In December, a coalition of conservative groups led by American Principles in Action requested a meeting with Yellen after she had a similar meeting with left-leaning groups.

She accepted their invitation.

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Steve Lonegan, APIA’s director of monetary policy, said he was surprised by her acceptance.

“Yes, I was surprised,” said Lonegan. “Never in the Fed’s 101 year history have they done anything like this. There were conservatives, libertarians…it was a cool dynamic.”

Lonegan called the meeting “productive.”

“It went very well, it was a terrific meeting,” said Lonegan. “We provided compelling background information and ideas.”

Lonegan said that the right needs to make clear that they have the key to economic prosperity for all Americans.

“Our key message was that the left does not have a monopoly on concern for low income Americans,” said Lonegan. “Sound economic policy is the best path to growth.”

The coalition included the Cato Institute, the Atlas Network and The Heritage Foundation—the parent organization of The Daily Signal.

Emails Show State Department Aides Knew Early On Benghazi Attack Had Terror Ties - Daily Signal

Emails Show State Department Aides Knew Early On Benghazi Attack Had Terror Ties

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes / Stephen Moore / Norbert Michel / Michaela Dodge / Adam Lowther / Ken McIntyre / Ben Smith / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon /

On Sept.11, 2012, State Department aides knew that the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya was under attack by armed assailants and soon after, that a terrorist group was claiming credit for the attack, according to documents from the U.S. Department of State obtained by Judicial Watch and released Thursday.

“These emails leave no doubt that Hillary Clinton’s closest advisers knew the truth about the Benghazi attack from almost the moment it happened,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement:

And it is inescapable that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton knowingly lied when she planted the false story about ‘inflammatory material being posted on the Internet.’ The contempt for the public’s right to know is evidenced not only in these documents but also in the fact that we had to file a lawsuit in federal court to obtain them. The Obama gang’s cover-up continues to unravel, despite its unlawful secrecy and continued slow-rolling of information. Congress, if it ever decides to do its job, cannot act soon enough to put Hillary Clinton, Cheryl Mills, and every other official in these emails under oath.

On Sept. 11, 2012, at 4:07 PM, Maria Sand, a special assistant to Clinton, forwarded an email to Mills, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Jacob Sullivan, executive assistant Joseph McManus, and her fellow special assistants in the secretary’s office that said:

The Regional Security Officer reports the diplomatic mission is under attack. Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots; explosions have been heard as well. Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM [Chief of Mission] personnel are in the compound safe haven. The 17th of February militia is providing security support.

At 6:06 p.m. on Sept. 11, State Department officials received an e-mail with the subject line “Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack (SBU)” confirming that “Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and call for an attack on Embassy Tripoli.”

Al-Sharia is affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Despite these State Department e-mails, Clinton issued an official statement shortly after 10:00 PM on Sept. 11 saying that the attack may have been “a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet.”

The “inflammatory material” referred to a trailer for a film called “Innocence of Muslims.”

On Sept. 12, Rabbi David Saperstein, then-Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued a statement condemning “Innocence of Muslims” as an effort “clearly crafted to provoke, offend, and to evoke outrage” and called the film the attacker’s motive.

Michael Posner, then-assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, forwarded  Saperstein’s statement to other State Department officials calling it “excellent” and advocating that they “get the Conference of Presidents, the ADL etc. to follow suit and use similar language.”

Saperstein is now ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.

Related documents obtained by Judicial Watch prove that the U.S. military believed the attack was tied to Islamic terrorism.

The Sept. 11, 2012 attack resulted in the deaths of four Americans: U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service information management officer Sean Smith, and security officers Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty. Woods and Doherty were former Navy SEALs. Three other Americans were wounded.

Judicial Watch had filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department in order to obtain “any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to notes, updates or reports created in response to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.”

3 Reasons Why Carly Fiorina Thinks Hillary Clinton Is Beatable - Daily Signal

3 Reasons Why Carly Fiorina Thinks Hillary Clinton Is Beatable

Daren Bakst / Peter Brookes / Stephen Moore / Norbert Michel / Michaela Dodge / Adam Lowther / Ken McIntyre / Ben Smith / Kate Scanlon / Kate Scanlon / Video Team /

No other potential 2016 contender was tougher on Hillary Clinton than Carly Fiorina at CPAC. The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive attacked Clinton during her CPAC speech, then continued the critique during an interview with The Daily Signal. Fiorina explained, in three reasons, why the former secretary of state is beatable.