Twitter Temporarily Blocks Petition Supporting Houston Pastors

Kelsey Harkness /

In response to subpoenas issued by the city of Houston to pastors who spoke out on same-sex marriage, a faith-based organization launched a petition demanding that the city end its “bullying.”

Shortly after the group began spreading the petition using the hashtag #HoustonWeHaveAProblem, social media users discovered Twitter had blocked it.

#HoustonWeHaveAProblem is no joke, twitter really is blocking access to HoustonProblemDOTcom pic.twitter.com/wpaqKvT9PP

— Jose Galvan (@Jose_Galvan) October 15, 2014

Not again! @Twitter is blocking you from typing www[dot]HoustonProblem[dot]com. Help us get the petition unblocked! #HoustonWeHaveAProblem

— FaithDrivenConsumer (@FaithConsumer) October 15, 2014

Today, Twitter blamed it all on a glitch.

The petition, found on HoustonProblem.com, called on the city to stand down on its attempt to demand pastors hand over their sermons to the government.

By signing this petition, I stand with these valued faith leaders and demand that you cease and desist all bullying and other offensive actions against them. I also call on the City of Houston, in their quest to provide protection for LGBT citizens, to equally and explicitly acknowledge and ensure the equal rights of people of faith to live and express openly their deeply held religious beliefs.

A Twitter spokesman says the ban was a technical malfunction.

“The URL HoustonProblem.com was mistakenly flagged as spam last week, by an outside organization that tracks spam sources. We quickly restored access and apologize for the error,” the spokesman told The Daily Signal in an email.

Faith Driven Consumer is the same organization that petitioned for Phil Robertson to remain on A&E’s hit show, “Duck Dynasty.” Using the hashtag #IStandWithPhil, Faith Driven Consumer succeeded in pressuring A&E to reinstate Robertson to his show.

Twitter temporarily blocked that campaign, too.

>>> A&E Reverses Duck Dynasty Decision, Welcomes Phil Robertson Back

Matthew Faraci, executive director at Faith Driven Consumer, which connects Christian consumers with faith-compatible companies, told The Daily Signal that while it is possible the two campaigns were blocked for technical reasons, it looks “suspicious.”

Faraci said:

“We saw this during #IStandWithPhil, this happened to [former Arkansas] Gov. Mike Huckabee, and we know this also happened to [actor] Kirk Cameron, so fundamentally, someone needs to ask the question: Why is there a repeated pattern of behavior here?”

Within hours of Twitter’s addressing the problem with #HoustonWeHaveAProblem, which leads users to the petition found on HoustonProblem.com, the campaign garnered over 10,000 signatures.

#HoustonWeHaveAProblem Twitter Petition Supporting Houston Pastors Has Over 10,000 Signatures http://t.co/2D5h7momJB pic.twitter.com/91NzWHsY5d

— Kathleen Herne (@kathleen_herne) October 21, 2014

“One of the things that we have found is that when people are prohibited from sharing content, in some senses they even become more passionate,” said Faraci, one of the main organizers of the campaign.

“They get creative to find different ways to get around the block and share content anyways—but it’s still a challenge.”

The “Houston Problem” campaign comes days after Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker, the city’s first openly gay mayor, issued a broad subpoena demanding that a few local pastors hand over copies of their sermons and communications related to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

>>> Commentary: Houston Tries to Force Pastors to Provide Sermons to Government

After coming under fire from leaders such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who called the subpoena an “assault against religious liberty,” the mayor backtracked on her demands.

As of Friday, the city was asking pastors for “[a]ll speeches or presentations related to [the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance] or the petition prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by [the pastors] or in [the pastors’] possession.”

>>> Mike Huckabee Wants to Send a Message to Houston Mayor With ‘Thousands’ of Sermons, Bibles

Faraci says the public deserves more transparency from social media giants like Twitter. He said:

In an era where transparency is the expectation, we encourage Twitter and other social media sites to be very open about how this whole process works in order to reassure the public that there is fair and equal treatment for people of all perspectives.

Twitter did not respond to follow-up questions from The Daily Signal about how many websites it flags as spam each day.

Ultimately, Faraci asked: “What pro-LGBT site on the other side has been blocked? I really challenge you to find it.”

Thanks to Obama’s Tax Hikes, Tax Revenue Surpasses $3 Trillion for First Time Ever - Daily Signal

Thanks to Obama’s Tax Hikes, Tax Revenue Surpasses $3 Trillion for First Time Ever

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay /

The Treasury Department released this month figures showing that federal tax revenue exceeded $3 trillion in fiscal year 2014—the first time revenue surpassed that mark.

Yet the deficit was still almost $500 billion.

Clearly, the government continues to spend too much. We should tax enough to fund the legitimate functions of government, like national defense, homeland security, public health and others, but no more.

The new record also shows us that, absent policy changes, the amount of revenue the government takes out of the private sector keeps getting bigger. Tax revenue grows as income grows, no matter what kind of tax system is in place. A progressive system like ours, with higher rates on higher levels of income, results in a bigger increase in revenue during economic expansions than a flat rate system would. Alternatively, when the economy enters a recession, a progressive system reduces revenue intake at a faster clip.

Tax revenues are rising even faster than the sluggish economic should yield. Tax revenue increase nearly $247 billion in fiscal year 2014 from fiscal year 2013. Contributing to that growth were two large tax increases passed during President Obama’s tenure, namely the tax hikes in Obamacare and the fiscal cliff tax increases in 2013 which allowed the expiration of certain Bush-era tax cuts.

Together, those tax increases raised revenue by approximately $74 billion last year (see here and here). Without those hikes, receipts would likely not have topped $3 trillion.

Percentage of GDP

total-tax-burden-680

(From 2014 Federal Budget in Pictures)

A new record for tax revenue in nominal dollar terms is to be expected each year when the economy is growing, as ours is, albeit at a too slow pace. As long as the economy keeps plodding along, revenue will increase. Given that, and that the economy will likely continue its tepid growth this year, receipts in fiscal year 2015 should break last year’s record.

Tax receipts measured in nominal dollar amounts are important, but they don’t tell us everything we need to know, such as whether taxes are too high. To know that, because a growing economy raises tax revenue automatically, it is necessary to compare that revenue to the size of the economy, in order to contrast it to previous years. According to the Treasury Department, tax revenue was 17.5 percent of the economy last year.

That is in line with the historical average as a share of gross domestic product, but below the average during periods of economic growth. On our current course, revenue will likely surpass both averages next year and grow higher each successive year.

Nevertheless, going forward we are likely to hear calls from Obama and some in Congress to raise taxes yet again. But the recent data shows there is plenty of revenue coming in to Washington.

In fact, unless there is another recession, the president and Congress should instead be planning to reduce taxes so they do not rise permanently above their historical amount.

Watch This Man Get Arrested for Just Playing His Guitar in New York City - Daily Signal

Watch This Man Get Arrested for Just Playing His Guitar in New York City

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay / Jordan Richardson /

Watch out: dangerous guitar players could threaten you next!

That seems to be the mindset of the New York Police Department. The NYPD recently arrested a local musician for loitering while playing the guitar in a New York subway station, despite reading word for word the law which allowed him to perform his music.

The incident was recorded and uploaded to YouTube on Friday. The video shows Andrew Kalleen being confronted by an unidentified police officer who orders him to pack up his guitar and leave the subway station.

In the background, an onlooker exclaims, “We have bigger problems in New York City than someone playing guitar!”

Kalleen disputes the order to leave, and instead requests that the officer read Section 1050.6c of the MTA Rules of Conduct. That section states in pertinent part:

Except as expressly permitted in this subdivision, no person shall engage in any nontransit uses upon any facility or conveyance. Nontransit uses are noncommercial activities that are not directly related to the use of a facility or conveyance for transportation. The following nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities and they are conducted in accordance with these rules: public speaking; campaigning; leafletting or distribution of written noncommercial materials; activities intended to encourage and facilitate voter registration; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations [emphasis added].

Despite reading out loud the clear language of the rule, the officer tells Kalleen that playing the guitar was prohibited, and that since he lacked a permit, he must leave. The officer never told Kalleen he was impeding transit activities—just that playing an instrument required permission from the government.

The crowd watching the confrontation was clearly disturbed by the officer’s ultimate decision to arrest Kalleen and remove him from the subway platform.
An unidentified voice in the background shouts, “You said it out loud. You said it out loud. There are crack dealers in New York City, and you are arresting this man for playing a guitar!” Another says, “I listen to this guy’s music every day, I like it. I don’t wanna hear you trying to arrest him.”

Gothamist.com reported the NYPD’s response to the incident:

Kalleen was playing guitar, singing and accepting donations ‘without permit of permission’ from the MTA. Because he is a ‘transit recidivist,’ which the spokesperson explained as someone having an open ticket or warrant, perhaps related to turnstile jumping or a similar offense—he was arrested and charged with loitering. There was no mention of him impeding transit activities.

Was there truly an outstanding warrant for Kalleen’s arrest? If so, the behavior and statements of the NYPD officer certainly did not support that conclusion. Kalleen was repeatedly told in the video he would have to leave because he lacked a permit, not because he was a “transit recidivist.”

From all that we can see on the videotape, the musician did nothing justifying his arrest. There is no evidence that the musician was disturbing the public or being a nuisance. What really went on here is that the musician refused to comply with the officer’s directive to leave the station and stood on his rights.

Interestingly enough, our knowledge of this incident was made possible only because someone videotaped it on a camera or cell phone, something that others have been arrested for doing, in violation of the First Amendment.

Not every incidence of perceived misconduct merits law enforcement intervention–especially when the MTA Rules of Conduct allow artistic performances. Unless Kalleen was causing harm to others around him, or impeding the flow of traffic, the NYPD should have refrained from turning an underground concert into a criminal arrest scene.

Instead of entertaining a crowd who were clearly enjoying his rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” this guitarist will be playing “Jailhouse Rock.”

No Justice for Persecuted Christian, Aasia Bibi, in Pakistan - Daily Signal

No Justice for Persecuted Christian, Aasia Bibi, in Pakistan

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay / Jordan Richardson / Olivia Enos /

Pakistan has, yet again, demonstrated that it does not respect religious liberty. Yesterday, Pakistan’s Lahore High Court upheld the death penalty for Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, on blasphemy charges. Bibi’s lawyers will appeal the case to the Supreme Court, but, as of now, Bibi will be hanged for blasphemy.

Bibi, a farm worker and mother of five, was first accused of blasphemy in June 2009 after she got into an argument with a Muslim woman over carrying a water bowl. The Muslim woman alleged that, as a Christian, Bibi was unfit to touch the water bowl. The Muslim woman claims that Bibi insulted the Muslim prophet Mohammed during their altercation and insisted she be tried for blasphemy.

Under Pakistan’s legal system, blasphemy constitutes acts such as desecrating a place of worship, burning pages of the Quran, and defaming Mohammed. Pakistan’s blasphemy law is leveled only at those blaspheming Islam, and does not provide protection for any other religious group.

An estimated 1,274 people have been accused of violating the blasphemy laws. At present, there are an estimated 16 Pakistanis on death row and another 20 individuals serving life imprisonment for blasphemy against Islam. Thirteen percent of the accused were Christian, 50 percent were Muslim, and the rest belong to other minority religious groups.

Pakistani Muslims and Christians alike are outraged over Bibi’s case. In fact, two prominent Pakistani leaders, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were murdered three years ago by religious extremists for supporting Bibi and attempting to abolish the blasphemy laws. In the wake of their assassinations, then Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari commended Taseer and Bhatti as courageous heroes.

In a recent article from CNN, former Pakistani parliamentarian, Farahnaz Ispahani, and Nina Shea, senior fellow and director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, further expounded on the ways in which Pakistan’s blasphemy laws facilitate persecution of religious minorities:

The blasphemy law was originally introduced to appease extremists, but has instead           stimulated an appetite for more. As Bhatti noted: “This law is creating disharmony and intolerance in our society.” He is right—it legitimizes and inflames religious passions over speech, while providing extremists a platform within the very heart of Pakistani society.

Bibi’s case is just one example of the kind of persecution, violence, and intimidation that members of Pakistan’s religious minorities face on a regular basis. Just last year, terrorists bombed the famous All Saints Church in Peshawar, killing more than 80 Christians during a worship service. The bombing was the largest single attack ever targeting Christians in Pakistan.

Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow Lisa Curtis had this to say:

The growing pattern of religious intolerance and support for extremist ideologies in Pakistan—most recently exemplified by the mixed reaction in Pakistan to Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize—increasingly puts the lives of millions of members of religious minorities in danger. It also is threatening the very fabric of Pakistani society and undermining democracy.

The U.S. needs to make the case for religious freedom in Pakistan and support those individuals and organizations who seek to defend religious minorities against the growing tide of Islamist extremism in the country.

Report: Tens of Thousands of Federal Employees on Extensive Paid Leave - Daily Signal

Report: Tens of Thousands of Federal Employees on Extensive Paid Leave

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay / Jordan Richardson / Olivia Enos / Kate Scanlon /

Thousands of federal employees are being kept on paid leave for extended periods of time while they are investigated for wrongdoing, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO analyzed federal paid leave during fiscal year 2011 through 2013 using federal payroll data. According to their report, 97 percent of the 1,931,945 federal employees who were put on paid leave during the three-year period were on paid leave for a period of fewer than 20 days.

But 53,055 were put on paid leave for one to three months; 4,018 for three months to a year and 263 for one to three years.

In addition to receiving pay, employees continued to add to their pensions and lost no vacation or sick days. According to the Washington Post, “the tab for these workers exceeded $775 million in salary alone.”

According to the Post, the charges against the employees include “alleged violations of ­government rules and laws, whistleblowing, doubts about trust­worthiness, and disputes with colleagues or bosses.”

Some employees also stay on paid leave as they challenge the results of their investigations.

James Sherk, a senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation,recently testified before Congress about the difficulty of  “separating federal employees from their jobs:”

“Managers who wish to fire problematic employees, whether because of misconduct or poor performance, must go through draining and time-consuming procedures that take about a year and a half. Consequently the federal government very rarely fires its employees, even when their performance or conduct justifies it.”

Sherk said that the federal system “shelters employees who engage in misconduct:”

“Most federal managers find letting all but the most egregious misconduct slide the path of least resistance. Congress should streamline the firing process in the federal government. The system should serve the interests of the public, not the civil service itself.”

Some federal employees are frustrated by the extensive leave. “Six months went by, and we didn’t hear anything,” Scott Balovich told the Washington Post. “You’re so anxious. You don’t know if you’ve got a job. You’re getting paid, but it’s no vacation.”

Balovich was put on paid leave by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He has since been cleared of any wrongdoing and has returned to work. His attorney, Debra D’Agostino, told the Post that Balovich “got stuck in the inertia of bureaucracy.”

According to the Post, “this is the first time the government has calculated the scope and cost of administrative leave.”

 

 

9 Photos That Show Why First Ladies Loved to Wear de la Renta - Daily Signal

9 Photos That Show Why First Ladies Loved to Wear de la Renta

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay / Jordan Richardson / Olivia Enos / Kate Scanlon / Kelsey Harkness /

Legendary fashion designed Oscar de la Renta, famous for dressing first ladies ranging from Jackie Kennedy to Laura Bush, died last night at age 82.

His death was confirmed by his wife Annette de la Renta, and attributed to complications of an eight-year battle with cancer.

De la Renta will go down as one of the most famous designers for  first ladies in American history. He will be remembered for designs from Hillary Clinton’s trademark pantsuits to Laura Bush’s glamorous inaugural gown.

For most of her tenure as first lady, Michelle Obama notably never donned any of de la Renta’s designs. Yet, earlier this month on Oct. 8—less than two weeks before his passing—Obama arrived to a cocktail party in a stunning de la Renta creation.

The moment, whether accidental or on purpose, was a fitting tribute to a historic career.

In honor of the late designer, here is a look back at some of his most famous first lady designs.

40th U.S. President Ronald Wilson Reagan 1981-89

First lady Nancy Reagan stands by as President Ronald Reagan announces his support of George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential bid at a dinner at Maison Blanche in Tulsa, Okla. (Oct. 24, 1986.)

krtphotos067142

President Bill Clinton dances with first lady Hillary Clinton at the Midwest Inaugural Ball at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. The ball was part of the festivities surrounding Clinton’s second term as president of the United States. (Jan. 20, 1997.)

**HILLARY SWORN-IN**PER03BRCK0228

Hillary Rodham Clinton is sworn in as the new Democratic senator from New York, as her husband President Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea hold a Bible, during a re-enactment ceremony in the Capitol’s Old Senate Chamber. (Jan. 3, 2001.)

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Hillary Clinton and designer Oscar De La Renta attend the 2002 CFDA Fashion Awards held at the New York Public Library in New York City. (June 2, 2002.)

NY: Queen Sofia Spanish Institute 2013 Gold Medal Gala

Queen Sofia of Spain, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Oscar de la Renta and Henry Kissinger attend the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute 2013 Gold Medal Gala in New York City. (Nov. 19, 2013.)

Freedom Ball

President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush attend the Inauguration Freedom Ball at Union Station in Washington, D.C. (Jan. 20, 2005.)

Kennedy Center Honorees with President and Mrs. Bush

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush face the cameras with the 2006  Kennedy Center honorees in the Blue Room of the White House during a reception. (Dec. 3, 2006.)

UPI POY 2008 - Campaign 2008.

First lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), take the stage to speak on the first day of the Republican National Convention at  Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. (Sept. 1, 2008.)

A photo posted by Nneya Richards (@doublenrich) on


Michelle Obama speaks at a Fashion Education Workshop at the White House. (Oct. 8, 2014.)

How Doctors and Nurses Suit Up to Fight Ebola, in One Video - Daily Signal

How Doctors and Nurses Suit Up to Fight Ebola, in One Video

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay / Jordan Richardson / Olivia Enos / Kate Scanlon / Kelsey Harkness / Melissa Quinn /

For doctors and nurses treating patients with Ebola, protecting themselves from direct contact with those infected is serious business. During her Fox News show “On the Record” last night, Greta Van Susteren teamed up with Lance Plyler, medical director of the disaster response unit for Samaritan’s Purse, to show viewers the process of putting on and taking off the protective gear.

>>> Q&A: The Pentagon’s New Ebola Team

 

President Obama Evolves on Marriage. Again. - Daily Signal

President Obama Evolves on Marriage. Again.

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay / Jordan Richardson / Olivia Enos / Kate Scanlon / Kelsey Harkness / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson /

President Obama has evolved on marriage.

Again.

After supporting marriage as the union of a man and a woman until just before the elections of 2012, Obama announced back then that he supported democratic efforts to redefine marriage—but he didn’t think judges should redefine marriage. Now, just before the elections of 2014, Obama has announced that he thinks there’s a constitutional requirement to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships.

According to the Obama of today, the Obama of early 2012 held an unconstitutional view of marriage.

“Ultimately, I think the Equal Protection Clause does guarantee same-sex marriage in all fifty states,” Obama told the New Yorker.

This is a case study in how liberals “evolve” on policy. First they embrace a policy change. If they can’t convince a majority of Americans to vote for their preferred policy, they discover that the Constitution requires their preferred policy. So, according to the Obama of today, the Obama of early 2012 held an unconstitutional view of marriage. Or, perhaps, it wasn’t unconstitutional back then but it is now.

But this isn’t how the Constitution works.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, explained earlier this month what the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment means in the marriage context:

It is beyond dispute that when the 14th Amendment was adopted 146 years ago, as a necessary post-Civil War era reform, it was not imagined to also mandate same-sex marriage…. [It is a] preposterous assumption that the People of the United States somehow silently redefined marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment.

Nothing in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the 14th Amendment or any other constitutional provision authorizes judges to redefine marriage for the Nation. It is for the elected representatives of the People to make the laws of marriage, acting on the basis of their own constitutional authority, and protecting it, if necessary, from usurpation by the courts.

Indeed, during the Supreme Court oral arguments over California’s Proposition 8—a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman—this same point came up. Justice Antonin Scalia asked Ted Olson, the lawyer arguing Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, a simple question: “When do you think it became unconstitutional? Has it always been unconstitutional?”

Scalia had proffered some possible dates: “1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted? Sometimes–some time after Baker, where we said it didn’t even raise a substantial Federal question? When–when–when did the law become this?”

As Obama’s latest evolution shows, we’re not only redefining marriage, we’re redefining our Constitution.

Finally, Scalia asked, “50 years ago, it was okay?” And Olson responded: “I–I can’t answer that question.” And Scalia then pounced: “I can’t either. That’s the problem. That’s exactly the problem.”

And as Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out at the time:

I’m not sure that it’s right to view this as excluding a particular group. When the institution of marriage developed historically, people didn’t get around and say let’s have this institution, but let’s keep out homosexuals. The institution developed to serve purposes that, by their nature, didn’t include homosexual couples.

As former Attorney General Ed Meese and I argued last month in The Washington Post, in a system of limited constitutional self-government, the people and their elected representatives should be making decisions about marriage policy. While there are reasonable arguments on both sides of this debate, there is nothing in the Constitution that requires the redefinition of marriage—unlike, for example, the case of interracial marriage. Judges should not insert their own policy preferences about marriage and declare them to be required by the Constitution.

Citizens are, of course, free to redefine marriage policy to include same-sex relationships, but so too should citizens be free to retain in law the historic definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman—as citizens in a majority of states have done.

Nothing less than the future of our society and the course of constitutional government in the United States are at stake. And as Obama’s latest evolution shows, we’re not only redefining marriage, we’re redefining our Constitution—making it a living, breathing, evolving document.

Benghazi Terror Suspect Pleads Not Guilty - Daily Signal

Benghazi Terror Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay / Jordan Richardson / Olivia Enos / Kate Scanlon / Kelsey Harkness / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Helle Dale /

The “not guilty” plea entered Monday by Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khatallah in U.S. federal court in Washington D.C. hardly comes as a surprise.

The suspect is now facing an additional 17 charges added to the original indictment filed by the government on July 26which accused him of support for a terrorist group and conspiring murder of Americans. If convicted of the new charges, Khatallah could face the death penalty for the brutal deaths of the four Americans killed in on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

The indictment is interesting both for what it contains and what it does not contain. It contains, for instance, no mention whatsoever of the YouTube video “The Innocence of Muslims,” which according to the Obama White House, was responsible for a demonstration that supposedly turned violent. This version of the events, concocted mainly in the National Security Council, was recognized immediately within the U.S. government, including by then- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, as nowhere close to the truth and has helped create mistrust of the government’s veracity.

The superseding indictment filed last week tells a very different story of a terrorist leader wanting to expel the U.S. from Benghazi, suspecting an intelligence gathering operation.

According to the Justice Department’s press release, Khatallah was the leader of an extremist militia group and conspired to attack the Benghazi consulate and the CIA Annex. His intent was to kill Americans, destroy the buildings and plunder materials including documents and maps, as well as computers with sensitive information.

Indictments that carry the death penalty listed one count of murder of an internationally protected person –that is,U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens; three counts of murder of an official and an employee of the United States; four counts of killing a person in the course of an attack on a federal facility involving the use of a firearm and two counts of maliciously damaging and destroying U.S. property by means of fire and explosives causing death.

The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 9. Dealing with terrorism as a law enforcement matter, which has been the policy of President Obama as it was of President Clinton before him, is not swift. Nor does it seem to offer much of a deterrent to enemies of the United States in the Middle East.

Uncle of Benghazi Victim: Will We Ever Learn? - Daily Signal

Uncle of Benghazi Victim: Will We Ever Learn?

Kelsey Harkness / Curtis Dubay / Jordan Richardson / Olivia Enos / Kate Scanlon / Kelsey Harkness / Melissa Quinn / Ryan T. Anderson / Helle Dale / Michael Ingmire /

Most news accounts of the attack on Benghazi say it cost the lives of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

My nephew Sean Smith was one of those other Americans.

It’s been a frustrating two years since Sean died serving his country on Sept. 11, 2012. There have been countless news reports, multiple congressional investigations and more than one set of recommendations that either should’ve been followed before the attacks or that should be addressed going forward.

But when it comes to definitive answers on what happened, how and why my nephew died that night, and what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, we’re still waiting and wondering and hurting and asking.

That’s why I made the journey from my home in North Carolina to the first hearing of the Benghazi Select Committee on Sept. 17.

It is important for me and my family to get to the truth and to honor the memory of my nephew, who was an information officer for the State Department.

As I sat in the hearing room in the U.S. Capitol, I considered the history of the moment. I thought back to similar hearings on Watergate and Iran-Contra. I believe Benghazi ranks with them on the list of the biggest cover-ups in American history.

The hot, white lights reminded me that sometimes the brightest light is needed to uncover the darkest truth.

The approach by the committee, particularly the bipartisan cooperation between the chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., gave me confidence this is a serious investigative body with little to none of the partisan grandstanding that marred earlier Benghazi hearings before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

A burnt building is seen at the United States consulate, one day after armed men stormed the compound and killed the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi, Libya on September 12, 2012. (Photo: Tariq AL-hun/Newscom)

A burnt building is seen at the United States consulate, one day after armed men stormed the compound and killed the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others in Benghazi, Libya on September 12, 2012. (Photo: Tariq AL-hun/Newscom)

Then the hearing began. Its focus and the ramifications of what it covered horrified me both as an American citizen and a Benghazi victim family member.

The hearing dealt with the Benghazi Accountability Review Board report produced nearly a year earlier by Adm. Mike Mullen and Ambassador Thomas Pickering.

The witnesses were Gregory Starr, assistant secretary for diplomatic security at the State Department; Todd Keil, a member of the independent panel on best practices, and Mark Sullivan, chairman of the independent panel on best practices.

The history of Accountability Review Board reports—whether about Beirut, Kenya or Benghazi—shows the State Department accepts the conclusions, promises to do better, then does little to implement the substantive security recommendations.

A truly revelatory moment occurred when Gowdy quoted from an Accountability Review Board report: “We are disturbed at the inadequacy of resources to provide security against terrorist attacks. We are disturbed at the relative low priority accorded security concerns, and we praise the ambassador for seeking security enhancements before the attack.”

Patricia Smith, mother of American Sean Smith who was killed in the Benghazi attack, wipes away tears while testifying during the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on 'Reviews of the Benghazi Attacks and Unanswered Questions', on Capitol Hill September 10, 2013. (Photo: Michael Reynolds/Newscom)

Patricia Smith, mother of American Sean Smith who was killed in the Benghazi attack, wipes away tears while testifying during the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on ‘Reviews of the Benghazi Attacks and Unanswered Questions’, on Capitol Hill September 10, 2013. (Photo: Michael Reynolds/Newscom)

Only that report was not about Benghazi. It was written in 1999 about the 1998 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. We should not be able to cut and paste key items of these reports; we should be learning what works and should be making adjustments. But we don’t.

We’re slow to even find out what went wrong. And when we do, and we realize this could’ve been prevented if we had acted on past recommendations, we’re even slower to hold people accountable.

There are some questions I have for the Benghazi Select Committee:

1. Why was Stevens sent to this dangerous part of the world on the anniversary of 9/11 without adequate security? Why didn’t then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally oversee the security guidelines or even review the risk assessment for this “diplomatic mission” facility?

2. For that matter, why has Secretary of State John Kerry still not appointed an undersecretary of diplomatic security, as has been recommended in previous Accountability Review Board reports? Will he be called to testify? Will Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta?

3. Finally, what were we doing in Benghazi in the first place?

The most disturbing lessons about Benghazi are that the U.S. government has learned nothing, and the most important recommendations of the Benghazi panel, as well as previous Accountability Review Board reports, still have not been implemented.

Sean’s mother Pat and I do not want to see other Americans lose their lives like this.

We removed a fourth-tier dictator in Libya and armed Islamic rebels who turned around and killed American citizens. Once again, in the name of fighting ISIS, we are repeating similar mistakes, and our battle plans are being dictated by Islamic heads of state. Repetition of error is the true definition of insanity.