Obama’s Conflict Tanked the Clinton E-mail Investigation — As Predicted (Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder)
September 26, 2016 4:00 AM @ANDREWCMCCARTHY National Review
Hillary couldn’t be proven guilty without proving the president guilty as well. ‘How is this not classified?” So exclaimed Hillary Clinton’s close aide and confidante, Huma Abedin. The FBI had just shown her an old e-mail exchange, over Clinton’s private account, between the then-secretary of state and a second person, whose name Abedin did not recognize. The FBI then did what the FBI is never supposed to do: The agents informed their interviewee (Abedin) of the identity of the second person. It was the president of the United States, Barack Obama, using a pseudonym to conduct communications over a non-secure e-mail system — something anyone with a high-level security clearance, such as Huma Abedin, would instantly realize was a major breach.
Abedin was sufficiently stunned that, for just a moment, the bottomless capacity of Clinton insiders to keep cool in a scandal was overcome. “How is this not classified?” She recovered quickly enough, though. The FBI records that the next thing Abedin did, after “express[ing] her amazement at the president’s use of a pseudonym,” was to “ask if she could have a copy of the email.” Abedin knew an insurance policy when she saw one. If Obama himself had been e-mailing over a non-government, non-secure system, then everyone else who had been doing it had a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Thanks to Friday’s FBI document dump — 189 more pages of reports from the Bureau’s year-long foray (“investigation” would not be the right word) into the Clinton e-mail scandal — we now know for certain what I predicted some eight months ago here at NRO: Any possibility of prosecuting Hillary Clinton was tanked by President Obama’s conflict of interest. As I explained in February, when it emerged that the White House was refusing to disclose at least 22 communications Obama had exchanged with then-secretary Clinton over the latter’s private e-mail account, we knew that Obama had knowingly engaged in the same misconduct that was the focus of the Clinton probe: the reckless mishandling of classified information. To be sure, he did so on a smaller scale. Clinton’s recklessness was systematic: She intentionally set up a non-secure, non-government communications framework, making it inevitable that classified information would be mishandled, and that federal record-keeping laws would be flouted.
Obama’s recklessness, at least as far as we know, was confined to communications with Clinton — although the revelation that the man presiding over the “most transparent administration in history” set up a pseudonym to conceal his communications obviously suggests that his recklessness may have been more widespread.
Still, the difference in scale is not a difference in kind. In terms of the federal laws that criminalize mishandling of classified information, Obama not only engaged in the same type of misconduct Clinton did; he engaged in it with Clinton.
It would not have been possible for the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton for her offense without its becoming painfully apparent that 1) Obama, too, had done everything necessary to commit a violation of federal law, and 2) the communications between Obama and Clinton were highly relevant evidence. Obama not only engaged in the same type of misconduct Clinton did; he engaged in it with Clinton. Indeed, imagine what would have happened had Clinton been indicted. The White House would have attempted to maintain the secrecy of the Obama-Clinton e-mails (under Obama’s invocation of a bogus “presidential communications” privilege), but Clinton’s defense lawyers would have demanded the disclosure of the e-mails in order to show that Obama had engaged in the same misconduct, yet only she, not he, was being prosecuted. And as most experienced criminal-law lawyers understand (especially if they’ve read a little Supreme Court case known as United States v. Nixon), it is an argument that Clinton’s lawyers would have won. In fact, in any other case — i.e., in a case that involved any other unindicted co-conspirator — it would be the Justice Department itself introducing the Obama-Clinton e-mails into evidence. As noted above, the FBI told Huma Abedin that the name she did not recognize in the e-mail with Clinton was an Obama alias. For the agents to do this ran afoul of investigative protocols.
The point of an FBI interview is for the interviewee to provide information to the investigators, not the other way around. If agents give information to potential witnesses, the government gets accused of trumping up the case. But of course, that’s only a problem if there is actually going to be a case. In this instance, it was never going to happen. The president’s involvement guaranteed that . . . so why worry about letting Abedin in on the president’s involvement? Abedin was startled by this revelation. No wonder: People in her lofty position know that direct presidential communications with high-ranking officials who have national-security and foreign-policy responsibilities are presumptively classified. To convey this, and thus convey the legal significance of Obama’s involvement, I can’t much improve on what I told you back in February. When the Obama Justice Department prosecuted retired general David Petraeus, the former CIA director, for mishandling classified information, government attorneys emphasized that this top-secret intelligence included notes of Petraeus’s “discussions with the president of the United States of America.”
Petraeus pled guilty because he knew the case against him was a slam-dunk. He grasped that trying to defend himself by sputtering, Clinton-style, that “the notes were not marked classified” would not pass the laugh test. As I elaborated in the February column, when you’re a national-security official engaging in and making a written record of policy and strategy conversations with the president, the lack of classified markings on the documents you’ve created [does] not alter the obvious fact that the information they contain [is] classified — a fact well known to any high government official who routinely handles national-defense secrets, let alone one who directly advises the president. Moreover, as is the case with Clinton’s e-mails, much of the information in Petraeus’s journals was “born classified” under the terms of President Obama’s own executive order — EO 13526.
As I’ve previously noted, in section 1.1(d) of that order, Obama issued this directive: “The unauthorized disclosure of foreign government information is presumed to cause damage to the national security.” In addition, the order goes on (in section 1.4) to describe other categories of information that officials should deem classified based on the damage to national security that disclosure could cause. Included among these categories: foreign relations, foreign activities of the United States, military plans, and intelligence activities. Abedin knew, as the FBI agents who were interviewing her surely knew, that at least some of Obama’s pseudonymous exchanges with Clinton had to have crossed into these categories. They were born classified. As I said in February, this fact would profoundly embarrass Obama if the e-mails were publicly disclosed.
Hundreds of times, despite Clinton’s indignant insistence that she never sent or received classified information, the State Department has had to concede that her e-mails must be redacted or withheld from public disclosure because they contain information that is patently classified. But this is not a concession the administration is willing to make regarding Obama’s e-mails. That is why, as I argued in February, Obama is trying to get away with the vaporous claim that presidential communications must be kept confidential. He does not want to say “executive privilege” because that sounds too much like Nixon. More important, the only other alternative is to designate the e-mails as classified. That would be tantamount to an admission that Obama engaged in the same violation of law as Clinton. Again, this is why the prosecution of Mrs. Clinton never had a chance of happening. It also explains why, in his public statements about the matter, Obama insisted that Clinton’s e-mailing of classified information did not harm national security. It is why Obama, in stark contrast to his aforementioned executive order, made public statements pooh-poohing the fact that federal law forbids the mishandling of any intelligence secret. (“There’s classified, and then there’s classified,” he said, so cavalierly.) He had to take this position because he had himself effectively endorsed the practice of high-level communications through non-secure channels. This is also why the Justice Department and the FBI effectively rewrote the relevant criminal statute in order to avoid applying it to Clinton. In his public statements about Clinton, Obama has stressed that she is an exemplary public servant who would never intentionally harm the United States. In rationalizing their decision not to indict Clinton, Justice Department officials (in leaks to the Washington Post) and the FBI director (in his press conference and congressional testimony) similarly stressed the lack of proof that she intended to harm the United States.
As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, however, the operative criminal statute does not call for proof of intent to harm the United States. It merely requires proof of gross negligence. This is entirely lawful and appropriate, since we’re talking about a law that can apply only to government officials who have a special duty to preserve secrecy and who have been schooled in the proper handling of classified information. Yet the Justice Department frivolously suggested that applying the law exactly the way it is written — something the Justice Department routinely tells judges they must do — would, in Clinton’s case, potentially raise constitutional problems.
Alas, the Justice Department and the FBI have to take that indefensible position here. Otherwise, Clinton would not be the only one in legal jeopardy. I will end with what I said eight months ago: To summarize, we have a situation in which (a) Obama knowingly communicated with Clinton over a non-government, non-secure e-mail system; (b) Obama and Clinton almost certainly discussed matters that are automatically deemed classified under the president’s own guidelines; and (c) at least one high-ranking government official (Petraeus) has been prosecuted because he failed to maintain the security of highly sensitive intelligence that included policy-related conversations with Obama. From these facts and circumstances, we must deduce that it is possible, if not highly likely, that President Obama himself has been grossly negligent in handling classified information. That is why the Clinton e-mail scandal never had a chance of leading to criminal charges. — Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/440380/obama-email-alias-clinton-why-fbi-didnt-prosecute-hillary
The cost to house an inmate in the Will County Jail is $97 per day. If 100 offenders are placed on Electronic Monitoring instead of housing them in jail would save Will County residents $3,385,200 per year! To save this kind of money for Will County taxpayer’s requires us to have a serious discussion that should include an industry expert. It is time for all of us to get serious about looking at ways to reduce our taxes. $3,385,200 would go a long way towards fixing streets, funding the Will County Health Department or simply RETURNING IT TO THE TAXPAYERS!
The Will County Judicial Committee recently discussed the use of Electronic Monitoring. The committee heard from Adult Probation Officer Eric Larson and previously Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley discuss the use of Electronic Monitoring on low risk offenders.
Eric Larson, who is responsible for the GPS program with the Adult Probation Department indicated in Sunday’s (September 18) Daily Southtown, that he was not enamored with the technology.
Sheriff Mike Kelley indicated previously that electronic monitoring was a “slippery slope” and more “labor intensive”.
I have a couple of concerns about the committee meeting that took place. To determine if the Electronic Monitoring should or shouldn’t be used, they relied on a probation officer that has very limited use of the technology and a Sheriff that may have another agenda. The fact remains, we must consider 1) Public Safety and 2) Cost. In that order.
Will County Adult Probation has had GPS devices on two offenders over the last two years! We’ve had a few more in the Will County Drug Court and some ordered by Court. To compare, Kane County has used Electronic Monitoring for 8 years and have several officers overseeing the program. Cook County has Electronic Monitoring programs in Adult Probation, Juvenile Probation and the Sheriff’s office. The State of Illinois monitor close to 3,500 offenders on Electronic Monitoring. Throughout Illinois, we have approximately 10,000 offenders being monitored on either GPS devices, Home Curfew Devices or Alcohol Monitoring Devices.
A county the size of Will (700,000 residents) should easily have 500 offenders on electronic monitoring. To have a meeting without an industry expert in attendance, is a disservice to the public.
I want to be clear, monitoring offenders does require staff, facilities and computers. It is not 100% fool proof, nothing is. However, compare that to the staffing requirements to house someone in jail, having cells, guards, food, medical care, law suits, etc., it is not even close.
The most successful Electronic Monitoring programs in the country are well thought out. They have very clear policies and regular updates with a committee that over sees it. Many have money budgeted for the program with a specific number of offenders to be monitored. I have worked in this industry for over 10 years and have been found to be an expert by Will, Cook and Kane County courts. I work closely with numerous State and County programs throughout the country. As a lifelong resident of Joliet, my purpose of following up on this matter is not to gain business for myself, but to save taxpayers money. $3,385,200 to be exact, or more!
We can do this in such a way that it could be a successful program for the community, the low risk offender and the courts. No longer shall we rely on narrow minded individuals but instead listen to industry experts to how to properly build a successful alternative program for the entire community.
The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act (IL Public Act 099-0758) for Illinois domestic employees goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
This Act grants rights to domestic workers afforded by four other Illinois pieces of legislation: the Illinois Human Rights Act, Illinois Minimum Wage Law, Illinoiw Wages of Women and Minors Act, and the Illinois One Day in Seven Act. If you, or someone you know is a domestic worker, or you employ people to work within your household, you’ll need to become familiar with this act.
Drug makers spend thousands on GA lawmakers, lobbying
By Kathleen Foody
Updated Sep 26, 2016
ATLANTA (AP) – A joint investigation by The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that drug makers and related advocacy groups hire hundreds of lobbyists and give millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at prescription opioids that have contributed to the death of 165,000 Americans.
Makers of prescription painkillers have spent $880 million nationwide on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2006 through 2015, more than 200 times what those advocating for stricter policies spent, according to a 50-state review. In Georgia, state lawmakers received more than $1.2 million and were lobbied each year by an average of 41 people representing drug makers and related advocacy groups.
Here’s a look at how the drug makers and others seek to influence policy in Georgia:
CONTRIBUTIONS AND LOBBYING
Members of the Pain Care Forum, a coalition of companies and advocacy groups that meets to discuss opioid-related issues, gave more than $1.2 million to state lawmakers, candidates and parties from 2006 to 2015. That total put Georgia eighth in the nation when painkiller producers’ contributions are ranked using a ratio that factors in all campaign contributions.
Pfizer Inc. spent the most in Georgia among all drug companies and advocates – at least $622,686 from 2006 through 2015. The company’s contributions in 2012 were the highest for a single year, totaling $91,550.
The company has several locations in Georgia, including a manufacturing plant in Albany.
The companies and advocacy groups are involved in a number of issues beyond opioids, so it’s not possible to say whether the contributions are related to trying to influence laws about the drugs.
Gov. Nathan Deal received the most financial support among state lawmakers and candidates in Georgia, reporting at least $89,900 from 2006 through 2015. He received the seventh-highest total among state candidates nationally who received donations from the organizations, behind Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and ahead of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Deal, a Republican, ran for statewide office twice during the period reviewed. Both were competitive contests that saw him raise more than $8 million in 2010 and more than $16 million in 2014.
Drug makers and advocates hired an average of 41 lobbyists each year to keep tabs on legislation and try to sway lawmakers from 2006 through 2015. Those totals put Georgia 36th in the nation when drug makers’ lobbying hires are ranked using a ratio accounting for all lobbyists in each state.
Some of Georgia’s prominent lobbyists appear on reports the group members must file with state authorities. The Washington-based advocacy group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, for instance, lists both John “Trip’’ Martin, a veteran lobbyist, and Arthur “Skin’’ Edge, a former state senator who led the Senate Republicans for part of his time in office.
Caitlin Carroll, communications director for the group, said it is “committed to working with patients, providers, first responders, policymakers and many others to address the scourge of opiate abuse.’’
“We have long supported a comprehensive policy approach that includes mandated prescriber education on appropriate prescribing of opioids and non-opioid alternatives; mandated training and use of state-based data bases to prevent abuse; the need for clinical guidelines to help guide prescribers in determining when and under what circumstances an opioid may or may not be appropriate; expanding access to treatment including medications for assisting overdose victims; and accelerating the development of abuse deterrent formulations of opioid medications, alternatives to opioids and medications to treat addiction and prevent drug overdose and death,’’ Carroll said in a written statement.
A 2015 bill introduced by Georgia state Sen. Rick Jeffares contained nearly identical language to 20 other proposals introduced nationally calling for required coverage of abuse-deterrent formulations of opioids. The move would benefit pharmaceutical companies.
Lawmakers in at least five of the states said drug company lobbyists provided or helped with the language for the legislation. Jeffares, a Republican from McDonough who chairs the Senate’s Regulated Industries and Utilities committee, didn’t return requests for comment this week. Jeffares has received $2,500 from drug makers Baxter International Inc. and Pfizer Inc. since 2006, far below what Deal, legislative leaders and other influential officials received.
Senate leaders assigned the Georgia bill to the chamber’s Insurance and Labor committee but it never received a hearing or a vote in the full chamber.
USE AND DEATHS
Opioid prescriptions in Georgia since 2013 put the state in the middle of the pack nationwide. According to data collected by health care information company IMS Health, doctors wrote 7.8 million prescriptions in Georgia in 2015. The data doesn’t specify whether individual patients received more than one prescription.
Between 2006 and 2014, more than 9,100 drug overdose deaths have been reported in Georgia, increasing 45 percent during that time span. That’s higher than the 37 percent increase in overdoses nationally during the period. The Centers for Disease Control doesn’t specify how many of those deaths were caused by opioid use, but CDC officials have said the majority of drug deaths are caused by prescription opioids and heroin.
ROAD READY: Alamo Colleges spent $3,255,202 on staff travel in fiscal 2015, but won’t say who went where or why without a payment from Watchdog.org.
A Texas community college that won a state “transparency” award is charging $2,340 to disclose the school’s travel records. The state attorney general says not so much.
Last May, Watchdog.org sought the travel expenses of administrators and board members at San Antonio’s Alamo Colleges for 2014 and 2015.
Alamo Colleges attorney Ross Laughead responded with a three-page letter estimating that 130 hours of staff time would be required to compile the information.
“The request requires manipulation of data,” Laughead wrote on May 23. “The cost of manipulating data becomes the responsibility of the requestor pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 552.231.”
Subsequently, Laughead agreed to disclose, without charge, the colleges’ overall travel expenditures for the past two years.
The district’s total travel outlays for fiscal year 2015 were reported at $3,255,202, up from $2,190,637 in fiscal 2014 – a 49 percent increase.
“These amounts include travel conducted by both employees and students and encompass all funding sources, including operations, auxiliary and grant sources,” Laughead explained.
Pursuing a breakdown of the district’s travel logs — who went where and why — Watchdog challenged the college district’s $2,340 charge with the state AG’s office.
Meanwhile, Watchdog requested, and received, travel records from two other major community college districts in Texas.
Austin Community College provided 975 pages of detailed expense sheets showing $951,571 in travel costs for fiscal 2015. Austin’s travel bill was less than a third of Alamo Colleges’ outlays.
Fort Worth-based Tarrant County Community College, with an enrollment comparable to Alamo’s 58,000 students, listed $37,924 in itemized travel charges.
Austin and Tarrant disclosed their travel expense information at no charge.
Houston Community College reported $838,634 in travel expenses, but did not itemize its outlays. The college system said it would charge $120 to do so.
The Dallas County Community College District — the state’s largest with more than 70,000 students — quoted a charge of $550 to produce its travel records. The college said the travel logs could be viewed in person at no cost.
Laughead denied Watchdog’s request to examine Alamo’s travel spending, citing “privacy” issues involving cell phone numbers that may appear on the records.
AP file photo
BUCKS UP: Alamo Colleges chancellor Bruce Leslie, the highest compensated county community college chancellor in the nation, applauds his school’s financial transparency.
Ironically, the Alamo Colleges won the Texas Comptroller Leadership Circle 2015 Platinum Award for financial transparency from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.
The Leadership Circle honors state agencies that “open records to the public; provide clear, consistent pictures of spending; and share information in a user friendly format that helps taxpayers understand how their tax dollars are spent.”
At the time, Alamo Colleges President Bruce Leslie said, “We have recently expanded and enhanced the information available on our financial transparency website to keep taxpayers, students and employees informed about our financial health.”
“The college may not recover more than $40” for accounting work already performed, Smith ruled, citing insufficient itemization by the school.
As for any uncompleted work, Smith said, “The college may charge labor at $15 per hour for the time spent retrieving [and copying] the responsive information. … However, the college failed to explain how ‘verifying expenses’ and ‘managerial review’” qualified for charges.
“Accordingly, the college may not charge for those items,” Smith wrote.
Smith said Alamo Colleges “may charge 20 percent of any applicable labor as overhead,” citing Section 552.269 of the Government Code and Section 70.8 of Title 1 of the Administrative Code.
The AG’s office gave the college five days to produce amended charges for the information requested by Watchdog.
Given the compelling real-world evidence, our objective should not be to expand government, as Duncan did at CPS in the Obama administration. Such efforts have only increased costs and demonstrated almost no empirical results – despite all of the government-funded theories that hypothetically attach improved results to spending increases. Instead, our objective should be to expand access for families and increase performance incentives for schools. Look at what works in the real world.
War on Students: Arne Duncan and the Left’s Education Failure
Arne Duncan spent seven years running the failed Chicago Public Schools. Remarkably, that led to another seven years as U.S. Secretary of Education. During his tenure in Washington, Duncan introduced Common Core, as well as a cadre of new standardized tests. Tom Loveless, an education expert at The Brookings Institute confirmed Duncan’s big government bias, saying, “He definitely expanded the role of the Department of Education.”
Duncan appeared on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight last week to advocate a theoretical school funding formula that, in practice, would further expand government-run education in Illinois and increase spending.
It is important to note that, since the beginning of Duncan’s tenure as CPS superintendent, funding to education increased year after year, while the results in the district showed little to no improvement.
In fact, after 14 years of Duncan at the helm of education, of CPS high school students who graduate in four years, less than 20 percent of them will be considered “college ready.” And the average amount spent per student for the year now exceeds $14,000 – which is only operational costs, and does not include funding for school programs, construction grants, targeted initiatives, or even pension payments.
By comparison, my local high school district in Hinsdale (HSD 86) spends $12,357 on operational costs per student and graduates 87% of students college-ready. There are clearly factors outside of spending that are not being addressed by Arne Duncan’s inadequate, bureaucracy-heavy solutions.
Duncan has stated, “When you have a system that actually perpetuates inequity and inequality, we have to challenge that… It’s morally wrong. I can’t put it any more simply – it’s morally wrong and it has to change.”
I agree. But if he really believes that, Duncan should support immediately moving to a system that discontinues the practice of attaching a child’s education and therefore opportunity in life to his parents’ income and zip code.
To his credit, Duncan has – in the past – broken with Democrats on the issue of Charter Schools. He sends his own children to the prestigious University of Chicago Lab School. So he understands the importance of choice in education, especially for his own kids. But if he truly wants equality, he should stridently advocate for all families to have the same options he has enjoyed.
Currently, without a state-approved universal voucher system, the only way low-income families can access better schools is through the help of nonprofits and scholarships. But, the need greatly outweighs the available resources.
Democrats repeat the tired and discredited attack that voucher programs siphon funding away from traditional public school systems.
If anything, the opposite is true. According to research from the Friedman Foundation, such policies actually free up state education dollars, allowing traditional public school districts to spend more per pupil. In many states, such as Indiana and Wisconsin, traditional public schools successfully coexist with charters, private and home schooling programs.
Thirty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes of students who remain in public schools. Of these, thirty-one—have found that choice improved public schools.
Given the compelling real-world evidence, our objective should not be to expand government, as Duncan did at CPS and in the Obama administration. Such efforts have only increased costs and demonstrated almost no empirical results – despite all of the government-funded theories that hypothetically attach improved results to spending increases. Instead, our objective should be to expand access for families and increase performance incentives for schools.
Look at what works in the real world. Make the money follow the child, as we do at the college-level. Instead of sending education dollars to centralized bureaucracies like CPS, the state should attach those dollars to the students, allowing their parents to choose which school is best for their child. And, as they do at the college-level, schools will be forced to compete for students—forcing CPS teachers and administrators to do their jobs better.
Over and over again, empirical evidence has supported the case for investing in families instead of bureaucracy. Yet, Duncan and other leftists continue to push the latest and largest big government theories and formula, running away from the facts (and often, their own experiences). Because they are afraid. Afraid to confront their misguided beliefs. Afraid to take on feckless teacher unions. Afraid to admit that they have crushed hope and opportunity for so many for so long so they could stay in power.
When current Recorder of Deeds Karen Stukel executed a no-bid contract for a new software system in 2014, she negatively affected taxpayers not once, but twice. The new software system did not include the ability for township assessors to search for real estate transfer declarations, which is a key component of the property assessment process that is done every four years. That search capability had previously been available to assessors since 2008.
That process, called a quadrennial assessment, was due July 1, 2015. Although the new software was installed in December 2014, the assessors still did not have the tools they needed by May 2015. The township assessors informed Stukel and the county board in February 2015 of the oversight. On May 7, 2015, Stukel lied in a Will County Board Executive Committee meeting, saying that she only found out about the problem in April.
Also in that May 7th meeting, Stukel promised that the software module needed would be ready in 3-4 weeks for the assessors, giving them only a few weeks to complete their work. This timeline was well-documented in the Daily Southtown (Chicago Tribune), The Herald-News and Farmers Weekly Review.
We have obtained a document that shows that the contract to add the “Assessors Product” from Fidlar Technologies, the software vendor, was actually executed on November 10, 2015, by Stukel, nearly a full year after the initial implementation of the new software system.
Stukel is not a team player and does not communicate effectively with other departments and stakeholders. Now she wants a third term as Recorder. Good government is not run this way. This is another reason we should fire Karen Stukel in November.
SpaceX Wants to Go to Mars. Here’s Why Humans Aren’t There Yet.
Elon Musk isn’t the first visionary to set down a road map to the red planet. But will he be the first to succeed?
By Michael Greshko
PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 27, 2016
Excitement for the talk was buoyed in large part by Musk’s charisma and SpaceX’s impressive track record of backing up its lofty rhetoric with action—particularly with the company’s regular cargo missions to the International Space Station and its self-landing, satellite-delivering rockets.
Still, things have not been entirely smooth sailing for SpaceX, with a recent launch pad explosion potentially casting a shadow on their Mars ambitions. And keep in mind that when it comes to human missions to Mars, visions like Musk’s have been in the works for quite a while: the last 70 years straight.
The delay is at least in part technical. A trip to the red planet is like visiting an even more inhospitable Antarctica, and its unbreathable atmosphere is less than two percent of what you’d find at Everest’s summit. Never mind the fact that you have to fly at least a year, round-trip, to get there in the first place.
National Geographic Channel is currently in production on MARS, a global event series set to premiere November 14. Join the journey at MakeMarsHome.com. #CountdownToMars
And don’t even get started on the politics of such an undertaking.
“It’s a choice, not an imperative,” says John Logsdon, an emeritus professor at George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute. “Mars is far away, it’s hard to get there, and it costs a lot of money.”
But for decades, imaginative engineers and policymakers have dreamt of ways over these hurdles and toward the red planet. Some designs were aimed to inspire; others truly aimed to put boots on the Martian surface. But they all have one thing in common:
They’ve never left the drawing board.
Disney and the Germans (1947-1957)
The first plausible Mars plan came from an unexpected source: a terrible novel by a brilliant scientist formerly employed the Nazis. In the aftermath of World War II, German rocketeer Wernher von Braun—who’d later design the Apollo mission’s Saturn rockets—was essentially commandeered as war booty, kept in the New Mexico desert to perform tests of the German V-2 rocket for the U.S. Army.
In an effort to liven up his days, von Braun researched and wrote The Mars Project, a novel about a manned Mars expedition. “The main idea, I think, was to escape from where he was,” says David Portree, an archivist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center and author ofHumans to Mars. The novel’s detailed technical appendix described a physically plausible series of spacecraft, routes, and even launch dates.
Von Braun called for a mission to Mars in 1985, with ten 4,000-ton ships and 70 crewmates. After a months-long cruise, the fleet would have sent a landing party to the Martian ice caps on gliders equipped with skis. These astronauts then would hike 4,000 miles to build a landing strip near the Martian equator for the rest of the ships.
Editors at Collier’s magazine soon became enamored with von Braun’s ideas, commissioning a lavishly illustrated article series about the future of space exploration. In 1957, von Braun and former V-2 colleague Ernst Stuhlinger teamed up with Walt Disney for several space-focused episodes of the TV show Disneyland, including one about humans on Mars.
Von Braun’s plans—and relentless popularization of them—helped soften up the American public to the idea of space travel. “They created in popular culture the notion that it was realistic,” says Logsdon.
NASA’s First Plan: Nuclear Rockets (1959-1961)
Barely six months into NASA’s official existence, the agency was itching to plan a mission to Mars.
Its first official study served as the outline for NASA’s future plans and borrowed heavily from the “von Braun paradigm,” though it was much smaller and employed highly efficient nuclear-thermal rockets, which use fission reactors to heat hydrogen into a plasma exhaust.
Through the 1960s, the U.S. government conducted ground-based tests of these nuclear rockets, and ever since, they have remained popular among NASA mission designers. But sending nukes into space has proven politically unsettling: To get one into orbit, you’d have to launch huge amounts of uranium into space. They’ve never left the Earth’s surface.
Photos of Mars Get a Big Yawn (1965)
In 1966, NASA fought hard to send astronauts careening past Mars in 1976. The Joint Action Group (JAG) plan would have sent a four-person crew to Mars and back without landing, equipping them with a 40-inch telescope to scout the surface as they zoomed by.
But new, up-close images of Mars proved to be a buzzkill. The 1965 flyby of NASA’s Mariner 4 probe revealed that the planet’s barren surface was pockmarked with craters, and that its atmosphere was much thinner than previously thought—ruling out cruising around on a Martian airplane.
Budget deficits, unrest over the Vietnam War, and a disastrous fire on the Apollo 1 launchpad didn’t help. Congress declined to fund the JAG program, ultimately scuttling piloted flyby plans by 1968. And the following year, similar tensions struck down a short-lived NASA bid for a “second Apollo” landing—the last Mars plan that von Braun designed.
Buzz Aldrin’s Big Plan (1985-present)
In 1985, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin began working on an elaborate “cycler” Mars mission, which requires two motherships revolving around the sun to routinely intercept Earth’s and Mars’ orbits. At the mission’s peak, this interplanetary bus route would annually ferry batches of astronauts to and from permanent colonies on Mars and Phobos, one of Mars’s moons.
If the plan sounds enormous, it is: Aldrin fervently believes that if humans are going to go to Mars, they might as well go big.
“What did we get out of [the Apollo missions’ funding]? We landed two people for a day and then brought them back,” he says.
“Why do we think that [less] would establish a credible, inspiring mission sequence to Mars?”
Over the years, he has fleshed out his plan in numerous books. In April 2015, Purdue University engineering students completed a detailed technical analysis of Aldrin’s plan. And Aldrin recently opened a research institute at the Florida Institute of Technology with his cyclers in mind.
But for the foreseeable future, Aldrin’s wings are clipped by politics. NASA has a more austere plan, called Journey to Mars, but the details haven’t been announced, in large part because such a massive, long-term spending project would require the unlikely support of several successive U.S. presidents.
USSR Down, Mars to Go (1989-1991)
On the twentieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landings, President George H.W. Bush announced his Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), a lofty realignment of NASA’s priorities that culminated with boots on the Martian ground by 2019, the 50-year anniversary of Apollo 11.
Though fond of space, Bush never seemed personally invested in the plan. In the months before the announcement, he essentially delegated the White House’s space policy to Vice President Dan Quayle and the White House’s space advisers, including National Space Council head Mark Albrecht, who fought hard for it.
Yet from the beginning, the plan showed cracks: Disagreements between NASA and the White House totally soured the effort. “There was a fundamental disconnect,” says Albrecht. “NASA assumed a blank check but didn’t get one,” Portree affirms.
By the time the SEI reached Congress, its price tag—conservatively ballparked at an eye-popping $450 billion—alarmed key members of Congress, who spiked the initiative altogether.
So they called it Mars Direct. Designed by a pair of aerospace engineers, the plan called for a robotic advance mission to supply the crew’s living quarters and vehicles using derivatives of the Martian soil and atmosphere. Humans would then follow, staying some 500 days on the Martian surface before returning home.
As president of the Mars Society advocacy group, engineer Robert Zubrin has championed his mission for the last 25 years, claiming that the only impediment is NASA itself. An early version of the plan declared that the agency could put “Humans on Mars in 1999!” if it had so chosen.
Though NASA didn’t take up Zubrin’s timetable, its in-house Mars mission takes cues from Mars Direct’s lean, “live-off-the-land” approach. NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover also will carry experiments designed to make fuel and oxygen from the Martian atmosphere.
As SpaceX and other private companies jostle for a decades-long Martian payday, NASA continues to tout its agency-wide “Journey to Mars” initiative.
The plan, detailed in late 2015, breaks down the technologies and stepping-stones needed to get humans safely to Mars and back again—amounting to a flexible, and somewhat vague, “Evolvable Mars Campaign.”
And NASA is steadily chipping away at the problems Mars poses: The agency and a bevy of private contractors are busy developing the tech for a Martian trek, such as the Orion crew capsule and the Space Launch System rocket. In fact, NASA baked the red planet into its recent astronaut recruitment, saying that the job postings were “in preparation for the agency’s journey to Mars.”
But today’s bright-eyed astronaut applicants should probably check their expectations for a voyage to the red planet.
For one, even at its most aggressive, the Journey to Mars won’t culminate with boots on the ground until the 2030s—a timetable recognized by NASA and Congress, which is poised to legally bind the agency to send humans to Mars. The most ambitious near-term venture on the books? An oft-criticized plan that would send astronauts into lunar orbit to study a boulder robotically plucked from an asteroid.
And despite successful design reviews, the Space Launch System and Orion still face an uphill climb: The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently criticized the two programs for cost overruns and potential delays.
Most importantly, it’s an open question if a decades-long Mars project could maintain broad political support and funding in the U.S., even if it relied on international partners or private collaborators such as SpaceX.
“When Kennedy said ‘go to the moon,’ he’d already been told that it was possible by 1967—and he fully expected to be president then,” says Logsdon. “One presidential administration is different than doing [a Mars mission] over five or six.”
But that won’t stop would-be astronauts from dreaming big.
After all, says Logsdon, “it’s what space people do.”
Judge Rules Election Day Registration is Unconstitutional
Joliet, IL (September 27, 2016) – Will County Clerk, Nancy Schultz Voots, wants to inform Will County residents that an order was issued today by United States District Court Judge, Samuel Der-Yeghiayan. The court order alleges facts that suggest Election Day Registration (EDR) operates to provide unfair benefits to some United States citizens in Illinois and imposes severe hardships on certain other citizens’ right to vote in Illinois based on what county in which they reside. The lawsuit was filed to protect the rights of citizens in the low-population counties without electronic polling books to ensure that they have the same opportunity to vote as voters in high-population counties. They contend that EDR violates the equal protection rights of voters in low-population counties without electronic polling books.
Therefore, Election Day Registration at each of our 300 precincts in Will County will not take place. Residents must take action to meet the registration deadlines of in-person by October 11th and online by October 23rd. The only location eligible to conduct Same Day Registration on Election Day for the voters in Will County would be at the Will County Clerk’s Office, 302 N. Chicago St., Joliet.