A U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Battallion, 39th Field Artillery Regiment (1-39) Bravo Battery Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) vehicle fires a M28A1 practice rocket during exercises near the Iraqi border in northern Kuwait on Feb. 13, 2003. (Scott Nelson/Getty Images) National Security
An electrical engineer from Los Angeles who plotted to steal missile technology and sell it to a Chinese company has been sentenced to more than five years in prison.
U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt sentenced Yi-Chi Shih, 66, of Hollywood Hills, to 63 months—or more than five years—in prison for his role in the scheme. He was also ordered to pay $362,698 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the judge fined him $300,000.
Shih was arrested in January 2019 after he was found to have been involved in an illegal scheme to obtain monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) from an unnamed American company and smuggle them to the Chinese company Chengdu GaStone Technology (CGTC), which was placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List in 2014.
He was convicted on one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Export Administration Regulations.
Shih was also convicted of four counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information, one count of making false statements to an FBI agent, three counts of subscribing to a false tax return, and four counts of making false statements to the IRS about his foreign assets.
Court papers state that Shih defrauded a U.S. company that manufactured broadband, high-powered semiconductor chips which have several commercial and military applications.
The semiconductor chips, also known as MMICs, are used in missiles, missile guidance systems, fighter jets, electronic warfare, electronic warfare countermeasures, and radar applications. Those exported by Shih to China were intended for AVIC 607, a state-owned entity.
According to court documents, Shih was president of CGTC, which was building an MMIC manufacturing facility in the city. The company was placed on the list “due to its involvement in activities contrary to the national security and foreign policy interest of the United States—specifically, that it had been involved in the illicit procurement of commodities and items for unauthorized military end use in China.”
The case is just one of many examples of federal prosecutions focused on the theft of U.S. intellectual property for the benefit of China.
In April, former Coca-Cola employee You Xiaorong was convicted of stealing trade secrets relating to the coating of beverage containers from U.S. companies. You then planned to use the technology to manufacture the coating for the global market.
In June 2020, Chinese professor Zhang Hao was found guilty of economic espionage and stealing wireless technology from U.S. companies for the benefit of the Chinese regime. The technology in question filters out unwanted signals in wireless devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, and has both consumer and military applications.
U.S. Senate and House lawmakers in May reintroduced a bill, called the Protecting America from Spies Act, that would deny visas to aliens who have stolen U.S. intellectual property or committed espionage—particularly those with ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“We know that the Chinese Communist Party will spare no effort to steal from, and exploit, American companies and universities,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a May 20 statement.
“If a Chinese citizen has spied on us before, we should absolutely assume he or she will do so again. This legislation prevents repeat offenders from gaining access to our country,” he said.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) says that his proposal to block members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from acquiring land in the United States is necessary to protect U.S. national and economic security.
The legislation (pdf), named the Securing America’s Land from Foreign Interference Act, was introduced on July 9.
Roy told The Epoch Times that the measure would prevent individuals with links to the CCP from exploiting vulnerabilities to the detriment of U.S. national security and interests, through the purchase of public or private land.
“There have been a number of disturbing stories in the recent years … where we’ve seen the land being acquired in the United States of America by Chinese interests … and very obvious ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
“In general terms, the Chinese Communist Party, not only are they not our friend, they are our enemies and we ought to treat them as such. I don’t believe that we should be allowing the Chinese to be acquiring significant amounts of real estate in the United States to our detriment.”
The acquisition was reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is chaired by the Treasury Department, and the panel found that the Blue Hills Wind development in southwest Texas’s Val Verde County doesn’t currently pose a national security threat. However, an expert familiar with the project in Texas previously told The Epoch Times that there are a number of potential concerns with regard to Chinese control over the roughly 140,000 acres of land.
The proposed wind farm site is about 30 miles from the U.S.–Mexico border and about 70 miles from Laughlin Air Force Base, the U.S. Air Force’s largest pilot training facility.
Spurred by these concerns, Texas lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation that would ban individuals or companies connected with China, Iran, North Korea, or Russia from entering into contracts related to the state’s critical infrastructure. It was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 18 and took effect immediately.
In a release accompanying his legislation, Roy said data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that foreign investors control nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland—roughly the size of Ohio. Texas has the second-highest amount of foreign ownership, with 3 million acres under foreign control.
The Republican lawmaker told The Epoch Times that any foreign acquisition of U.S. land, by the CCP in particular, should be a cause for concern, as owners will then be able to control that land and how that land is being used.
“I certainly don’t want to see significant foreign ownership of American interests even from allies, much less the Chinese Communist Party,” Roy said. “Sovereignty is a wonderful thing … and that’s part of why we need to secure our border. That’s part of why we should we need to be not just suspicious of but pretty opposed to significant, if any acquisition of our assets here in this country, by the Chinese and the Chinese Communist Party.”
Roy stressed the importance of maintaining control of the production of American resources “for our own well-being in our own communities.”
The United States must not “rely upon those who have different political regimes, different interests, ones that we cannot control through our republican form of government,” he said.
“There is one United States of America, we fought a war in order to create ourselves, we have fought such wars in order to fend off tyranny. It is my belief that we need to preserve and protect this great country, along with those who are allies who believe what we believe.
“But you know, while the Chi-comms [Chinese communists] are around, murdering the Uyghurs and going around enforcing the ridiculous policies of child extermination and limitations on how many children you can have and other horrors against humanity, forgive me for not wanting to subject Americans to their Chinese Communist Party ways in any form from national security, economic security, or otherwise.”
An archbishop on Thursday responded to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that she is a devout Catholic who supports abortion.
“Let me repeat: no one can claim to be a devout Catholic and condone the killing of innocent human life, let alone have the government pay for it. The right to life is a fundamental—the most fundamental—human right, and Catholics do not oppose fundamental human rights,” San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement.
Cordileone is the archbishop of Pelosi’s home diocese.
Pelosi was asked during a press conference earlier in the day why Democrats have declined to allow a vote on a bill that would block taxpayer-funded abortions.
She said access to abortion is a health issue for many American women, “especially those in lower-income situations and in different states, and it is something that has been a priority for many of us a long time.”
“As a devout Catholic and mother of five in six years, I feel that God blessed my husband and me with our beautiful family the five children in six years, almost to the day. But it’s not up to me to dictate that that’s what other people should do. And it’s an issue of fairness and justice for poor women in our country,” she also said.
Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy, or the termination of an unborn baby. Critics say the procedure is akin to murder while proponents claim the mother’s life and wellbeing takes priority over the fetus.
Over 619,000 abortions took place in 2018, according to a surveillance system run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That amounted to 11.3 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. Abortions are available in every state due to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, though some states have imposed various restrictions on when the procedure can be done.
Cordileone condemned Pelosi’s remarks.
“To use the smokescreen of abortion as an issue of health and fairness to poor women is the epitome of hypocrisy: what about the health of the baby being killed? What about giving poor women real choice, so they are supported in choosing life? This would give them fairness and equality to women of means, who can afford to bring a child into the world,” he said.
“It is people of faith who run pro-life crisis pregnancy clinics; they are the only ones who provide poor women life-giving alternatives to having their babies killed in their wombs. I cannot be prouder of my fellow Catholics who are so prominent in providing this vital service. To them I say: you are the ones worthy to call yourselves ‘devout Catholics!’”
Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last month, Catholic bishops in the United States approved the drafting of a document that may rebuke her, President Joe Biden, and other prominent Catholics who support abortion despite the faith’s teachings.
Biden was denied communion in 2019 over his support of abortion.
Cordileone said earlier this year that he discussed with Pelosi her abstaining from receiving communion because of her position on abortion.
Falun Gong practitioners at candlelight vigil remembering victims of the 22 years persecution in China at the Washington Monument on July 16, 2021. The characters for “Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance,” the principles taught by the spiritual practice appear at the front. (Edward Dai/The Epoch Times) Thinking About China
The abuses taking place in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Region (XUR) have been well documented. With forced labor and horrific stories of sexual abuse, the Uyghur story is an important one, and it needs to be told.
Another important story that needs to be told involves the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. Twenty-two years ago today, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to eliminate the spiritual practice of Falun Gong in China. In an attempt to eliminate the peaceful practice, the Chinese regime launched a brutal campaign of religious persecution, one that continues to this day.
For more than two decades, Falun Gong practitioners have experienced unspeakable and intolerable acts of human rights abuses, with a number of practitioners being subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, forced labor, and death threats. Thousands have died at the hands of the CCP. This short piece remembers the brave men and women who have been punished and beaten, persecuted and prosecuted. It also pays respect to those who continue to spread the gospel of peace, love, and unity.
Fallen but Not Forgotten
But first, we must ask: Why does the Chinese regime fear Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that involves slow-moving exercises and meditation and places great emphasis on the importance of human decency? In China, where tyranny and lies reign supreme, there’s little room, if any, for honesty, empathy, and tolerance. In other words, there’s no room for Falun Gong.
Since July 20, 1999, the CCP has launched countless smear campaigns against Falun Gong practitioners. In “Wild Grass: Three Portraits of Change in Modern China,” Ian Johnson wrote that the CCP’s claims against the group don’t carry any truth whatsoever. Contrary to the propaganda promulgated by the Chinese regime, Johnson sets the narrative straight. Falun Gong members “marry outside the group, have outside friends, hold normal jobs, do not live isolated from society, do not believe that the world’s end is imminent, and do not give significant amounts of money to the organization,” he wrote.
This, however, hasn’t stopped the CCP from spreading malicious lies about Falun Gong. As writer James Griffiths noted, since 1999, the CCP has launched a “concerted propaganda campaign” to portray the peaceful movement as an “evil cult.” Within a month of its ban, “almost 400 articles were published in state media attacking Falun Gong.” Of course, the response has gone far beyond harshly worded editorials.
Hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been sent to “re-education” camps. People wonder if hell is real. It is, and it exists here, on Earth. Hell comes in the form of a Chinese “re-education” facility. As Amnesty International reports: “So-called ‘re-education camps’ are places of brainwashing, torture, and punishment that hark back to the darkest hours of the Mao-era, when anyone suspected of not being loyal enough to the state or the Chinese Communist Party could end up in China’s notorious labor camps.”
In these facilities, there’s little, if any, emphasis on actual education. Instead, those “who resist or fail to show enough progress face punishments ranging from verbal abuse to food deprivation, solitary confinement, beatings and use of restraints and stress positions.” The depravity experienced at these camps knows no limits. A number of unfortunate souls, “unable to bear the mistreatment,” have instead taken their own lives.
Can you blame them? For a Falun Gong practitioner who finds himself incarcerated, the chances of escape are minimal. Over the past 22 years, thousands of practitioners have been tortured to death in this campaign of terror. In Xinjiang, as I type this piece, genocide is occurring. But, with Falun Gong members, genocide has been occurring for more than two decades. In 2009, lest we forget, in both Spain and Argentina, five senior CCP officials were indicted for committing acts of genocide and torture on Falun Gong practitioners. More shockingly, tens of thousands of innocent practitioners have been murdered by the CCP. Many of these people have had their organs harvested.
In 2013, testifying on the abuses being carried out against Falun Gong members, Ethan Gutmann, an American writer, researcher, author, and a senior research fellow in China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said, although there was “no legal way” for Falun Gong practitioners to be executed, he compared the persecution faced by Falun Gong practitioners in China to “the Inquisition.” He warned that innocent people “just disappear.”
Since Gutmann’s chilling testimonial, the disappearances haven’t stopped. Far from it. In 2018, a panel of lawyers and experts, many of whom had been researching China-based atrocities for years, said they had “clear evidence forced organ harvesting” was still occurring, and that imprisoned Falun Gong members appeared to be “the principal source” of “organs for forced harvesting.”
Why were these people butchered and brutalized? Why are Falun Gong members, to this very day, singled out for the most inhumane punishments imaginable? Because they dared to speak the truth; they dared to promote the ideas of peace and unity; and they dared to question the brutal motives of the Chinese regime. Today, let’s remember the brave men and women who have lost their lives and the brave souls who continue to fight the good fight. Those who have left this world may have fallen, but they aren’t forgotten.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the likes of the New York Post, Sydney Morning Herald, The American Conservative, National Review, The Public Discourse, and other respectable outlets. He’s also a columnist at Cointelegraph.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
but more to the point, are you prepared to receive more disturbing information regarding this COVID-19 bio terrorism environment that MSM (MAIN STREAM MEDIA) has concealed from the public while simultaneously feeding their traditional disinformation?
Recall how long (and how much money) it took to “unpack” that false TRUMP – RUSSIAN CONNECTION and those resulting ridiculous impeachment hearings cooked up by LEFTIST DEMOCRATS who used the sham to distract Americans from the true QUID PRO QUO talking place within the BIDEN CRIME FAMILY and various foreign governments? The attack on President Trump was only subterfuge to assist in covering up what the LEFT has been doing all along and for a very long time. (Yes, PROJECTION POLITICS – simply accusing their innocent adversary of the exact wrongful activity they are perpetrating.)
Again, thank you PRESIDENT TRUMP for AWAKENING THE AMERICAN PATRIOT as to the depths of betrayal by those Swamp Creatures posing as legitimate government representatives. 2020 election fraud? Heck these TRAITORS TO AMERICA AND HER RULE OF LAW WERE NOT EVEN ELECTED BY THE AMERICAN VOTER BUT SIMPLY APPOINTED BY POLITICAL AND PRIVATE BUSINESS INTERESTS UTILIZING HIGH TECH METHODS TO CHEAT THE SYSTEM.
but i digress…..
Anyway, the allegation that vaccine patents were recorded long before emergence of the disease they were designed to address seems highly suspicious to say the least. The video suggested some answers to questions I have had since this nightmare started such as the initial reports that Chapel Hill N.C. was involved somehow but then all that information was silenced. Disappeared. The time frame also seems quite significant as well since much of this virus patent activity was taking place during a moratorium on the GAIN A FUNCTION bio weapon research.
Who knows what the truth actually is? I have read FACT CHECKS which claim such information is incorrect, yet their support for such a definitive conclusion always seems sketchy, whereas those challenging the current narrative seem to have much evidence to support their objections. Naturally, like everything else, research for yourself but WHATEVER YOU DO – PLEASE DO NOT SIMPLY RELY ON MSM as they have a clear and proven track record for dishonesty and concealing the facts when Democrats are involved.
Can’t help but wonder with all the CCP theft of technology already acknowledged…. could the virus responsible for COVID-19 have actually been stolen by some American University “student agent” of the CCP and then, as they say, the rest is history?
WASHINGTON—More than ever, the Chinese Communist Party is finding itself backed into a corner as the world wakes up to its human rights atrocities, according to Nury Turkel, the vice chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“China has never been this isolated in the recent memory, and the isolation is making them belligerent,” Turkel told The Epoch Times at the annual International Religious Freedom Summit. “That’s why they are picking fights with camp survivors,” he added.
Turkel was referring to attempts by Chinese officials to publicly shame Uyghur women who gave first hand accounts of sexual abuse at the internment camps in Xinjiang, where up to 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are held under what the regime claims to be a “counter-terrorism” campaign.
In a February press conference, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson held up pictures of the former detainees and called one of them, Tursunay Ziyawudun, an “actress” and accused her of “spreading lies.”
Such behavior, coming from a government official, hardly measures up to the image of “the country that everybody’s scared of,” said Turkel.
Ziyawudun shared her story at the opening of the second day of the Summit. During her year in a camp, beginning in 2018, Ziyawudun said, she saw police officers take Uyghur women from the cells to do “whatever they wanted.” Some of the women were brought back near the point of death. Some others had lost their minds. She witnessed a Uyghur woman in her 20s being raped, while three Han police officers did the same to her.
“These memories make my heart bleed,” she told the attendees on July 14.
Turkel noted that virtually every speaker on Wednesday highlighted the suppression in Xinjiang, which, following the U.S. lead, a growing number of countries have recognized as a “genocide.”
“That’s a miscalculation on Beijing’s behalf,” Turkel said of the regime’s human rights abuses. “They think that they could get away with this as they have done to the Falun Gong practitioners and they have done to Tibetans for years and years.”
Global outcry over human rights atrocities in China have been increasing, with lawmakers pushing for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics from within their respective governments.
Over the past week, the U.S. blacklisted over a dozen Chinese entities that had a role in aiding abuses in the Xinjiang region and the regime’s military modernization, while at the same time it dialed up warnings of business risks in Xinjiang. Forced organ harvesting, a state-sanctioned practice primarily targeting Falun Gong practitioners but also other prisoners of conscience, is also drawing greater scrutiny.
The mounting pressure is not being missed in Beijing. For Chinese leader Xi Jinping to call for communist officials to create a “lovable” Chinese image—this in itself is a sign of insecurity, according to Turkel.
“They are cornered,” he said.
An Uyghur American attorney, Turkel was born in a Chinese re-education camp in Kashgar where his mother was imprisoned. That was during the height of the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long violent campaign that swept China into chaos and killed millions.
Turkel has not returned to China since coming to America 26 years ago. Two years after he left, the regime’s military crushed a large demonstration in his father’s hometown.
The global push back, in his eyes, has come “a little too late.”
It “shouldn’t take a genocide” and it shouldn’t be the end of Hong Kong democracy “for the international community to have this rude awakening,” he said.
A Brookings Institute report, published last year, estimated that the regime has exported its mass surveillance platforms to over 80 countries since 2008. Chinese influence in the West is “everywhere,” in the business, media, academia, and government, Turkel said.
With the regime continuing to project its narrative worldwide, the United States should instead break out of that framework and stop worrying about “how the CCP does things,” said Turkel.
“As a free nation, as a free people, we should do what is right,” he said, adding that “eventually, this will force them to change.”
A little-watched civil rights case that threatens Silicon Valley’s Section 230 immunity took a huge step forward Friday as an appeals court that rarely does so agreed to review a lower court’s decision.
The U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit in New York agreed to review a lower court’s ruling that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) protects Big Tech companies like Vimeo from civil rights liability in censorship cases.
Big Tech censorship became a hot button issue during the 2020 presidential campaign when President Donald Trump was selectively censored by Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.
The controversy became especially heated late in the campaign when a New York Post series of news articles about the allegedly corrupt business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, was banned by the Big Tech giants.
Trump has filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against the firms that censored him. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has also been the most vocal of multiple congressional conservative Republican critics of Section 230 immunity.
The case of Domen v. Vimeo came about after Vimeo, an Internet video-hosting company, terminated Church United’s video streaming activities after it featured videos of five men and women who left the gay lifestyle to pursue their Christian faith. Vimeo claimed its terms of service bar streaming videos that promote sexual orientation change therapy. Church United is led by Pastor Jim Domen.
A federal district court had previously held that Section 230 exempted firms like Vimeo and a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling.
As a result of Friday’s decision, however, the panel’s ruling will be reheard before the entire Second Circuit. The Second Circuit covers six federal district courts in three states, including New York, Connecticut and Vermont.
There currently are 10 active judges on the Second Circuit and 13 semi-retired senior judges.
“This ruling puts Section 230 immunity in the crosshairs of judicial review. We suspect that the en banc court recognizes that Big Tech is not exempt from state and federal civil rights laws,” said attorney Robert Tyler, general counsel for the California-based Advocates for Faith & Freedom. His law firm, Tyler & Bursch, represents Pastor Jim Domen and the California-based Church United non-profit.
“Section 230 was not intended to give Big Tech the right to exclude persons from their platform just because the customer is black, Muslim, white, Christian, homosexual or formerly homosexual. That is plain invidious discrimination,” said Tyler.
Church United is a non-profit that claims to have more than 750 pastors affiliated with its efforts to “positively impact the political and moral cultures of their communities.”
Tyler’s firm claimed in a statement made public Friday that the court’s decision “is even more remarkable given the Second Circuit’s notable reputation for shunning re-hearings.”
The statement cited an August 2016 article in the New York Law Journal that said the court had granted fewer rehearing petitions than any other federal appeals court since 1979.
“I never thought I’d see the day that it would be legal in America to discriminate against my faith and the fact that I was previously engaged in the gay lifestyle,” Domen said in the statement. “As a pastor and former homosexual, I’m encouraged by the rehearing of our sexual orientation and religious discrimination lawsuit.”
In its appeal from the lower court’s decision for the re-hearing by the Second Circuit, Church United argued that “the outcome of this case will determine whether websites have blanket immunity to discriminate against customers, including outright banning customers from their website based on race, sexual orientation, religion and other protected classes.
“Under the District Court’s ruling, discrimination that is unconscionable in any other business or consumer context, is allowed if it is committed by an interactive computer service.
“The free ticket for internet platforms to discriminate is erroneously based on the Communications Decency Act … The legislature created this immunity to ensure that providers of an interactive computer service would not be treated as publishers of third-party content and therefore liable for the content of others.
“However, … applying the CDA to shield websites from liability for banning protected classes of customers based on discriminatory intent goes far beyond both the plain language of the CDA and the legislative purpose.”
Vimeo has been asked for comment, but has not yet responded.
Yes, I’m still here and speaking the same truth as years ago about this fraud of a Community Services District set up over 40 years ago by Tuolumne and Mariposa County LAFCOs (Local Agency Formation Commissions) which essentially forced their own respective LAFCO annexation interests on the “DEEP POCKET CUSTOMERS” of the LDPCSD by attempting to create a foothill water empire (based on a groundwater substitution program to replace Merced River water transfers to LAFCO ANNEXATIONS outside the permitted PLACE OF USE of water license 11395) – which was to be surreptitiously subsidized by all the MR WECs (MERCED RIVER WATER ENTITLED CUSTOMERS) of the Lake Don Pedro residential subdivision for perpetuity!
Want to discuss a major betrayal of citizens by their own local government? Folks this crap has been happening across our entire nation at every level of government where leftist bent operators/agents could/can quietly insert their own personal or political interests over that of the legitimate public demand without accountability. TRAITORS to our country and concept of rule of law. Repeated clear violations of existing law with no accountability despite a massive rippling effect of negative consequences into our future for already financially victimized customers. On and on, paying more for less. County response as to how this nightmare started? Close all public records documenting the deceit.
After several Fulton County, Georgia, poll monitors testified last year that boxes of mail-in ballots for Joe Biden looked liked they’d been run through a photocopy machine, state investigators quietly broke the seal on one suspicious box and inspected the hundreds of votes it contained for signs of fraud, RealClearInvestigations (RCI) has learned exclusively.
At the same time, a key whistleblower told RCI that state investigators pressured her to recant her story about what she and other poll monitors had observed—what they called unusually “pristine” mail-in ballots while sorting through them during last November’s hand recount.
“I felt I was under investigation,” said Suzi Voyles, a longtime Fulton County poll manager whose sworn affidavits have been used by election watchdogs to sue the county for access to the ballots in question.
Although the ballots are at the center of disputes about the Georgia presidential race, which Joe Biden won by just 12,000 votes, the state never disclosed its probe to the public or to election watchdogs suing to inspect the ballots.
State officials also neglected to inform the judge hearing the lawsuit that they were conducting such an inspection, even though the judge had issued a protective order over the ballots in January. In a nine-page amicus brief recently filed in the case, attorneys for the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger urged Superior Court Judge Brian Amero to deny petitioners’ requests to inspect the ballots, calling them a “fishing expedition.”
Frances Watson, chief investigator for the secretary of state’s office, confirmed in a statement to RCI that she sent investigators to Fulton County earlier this year to inspect the batches of sealed ballots. Poll monitors involved in last November’s hand recount had described the mail-in ballots in sworn affidavits as devoid of creases and folds and featuring identically bubbled-in marks for Biden. The state said it couldn’t find any ballots matching that description.
“Our investigators looked into it and didn’t find anything,” she said, while adding that the investigation is “still ongoing.”
The watchdogs question why state officials didn’t disclose their activities to the court and fear they may have “tampered” with the sealed ballots, which are at the center of the lawsuit seeking access to all 147,000 absentee ballots cast during the 2020 election in Fulton County, which includes much of Atlanta.
Led by longtime Georgia poll watcher Garland Favorito, founder of VoterGA.org, the court petitioners say the state has failed to inform the judge overseeing their case that they broke the chain of custody over the pallets of shrink-wrapped absentee ballots warehoused in a locked county facility in Atlanta.
“If the secretary of state’s office did that, they tampered with the ballots and violated Georgia state law,” which restricts the handling of ballots to authorized elections officials involved in the tabulation and care of the ballots, Favorito said. He also noted that Judge Amero had placed the ballots under a protective order in January. “They would have had to ask for a court order to unseal and inspect those ballots, and they never did that.”
Raffensperger’s office seemed to acknowledge that the ballots were still under seal when it urged Amero to prevent the watchdogs from inspecting the ballots.
“The security and confidentiality of ballots is to be strictly maintained,” attorneys for Raffensperger argued in the brief they filed with Amero in April, “and the court should be cautious in granting petitioners’ access to ballots that Georgia law requires to remain under seal, which makes it a felony as soon as petitioners were to lay hands on them.”
Raffensperger’s office didn’t respond to questions about why it didn’t inform the court about its probe, although it acknowledged that this is the first time its inspection of the ballots—which began in early January—has been publicly disclosed. Judge Amero didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Biden narrowly won Georgia thanks to a late-night tally of absentee ballots in Fulton and other Democratic strongholds. The revelation that state authorities have already unsealed and investigated the ballots in question is a new twist in a case that has seen the firing of poll managers who blew the whistle on the suspicious ballots; a recent breach of security at the warehouse that Fulton County officials were supposed to be guarding around the clock; and an 11th-hour attempt by county officials to dismiss the court-ordered inspection of those ballots—many of which came from Atlanta area drop boxes whose chain of custody documentation has mysteriously gone missing.
Last month, Amero ordered Fulton County to unseal its 147,000 absentee ballots and allow the petitioners to inspect them under certain restrictions, but the county filed a motion to dismiss the case. Amero is expected to rule on the motion later this month.
The issue is further muddied by Suzi Voyles’ allegation, never previously reported, that she was pressured to recant her testimony about the pristine ballots. In sworn affidavits last November, Voyles said she observed that a large batch of mail-in ballots for Biden didn’t appear to have been folded or handled like she would have expected from her two decades of working elections in the county. She also said that the marks for Biden were identical, as though they had been filled in by a copy machine rather than a pen or pencil.
In a Jan. 7 interview, which took place at a secretary of state’s office in Atlanta, Voyles told RCI that an investigator identifying himself as Paul Braun “grilled me for over two hours” about her testimony. She said he was joined by another official whom she said was from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. She said the investigators didn’t have a copy of her affidavit and didn’t know the box number or batch numbers of the ballots in question.
“I smelled a rat when they didn’t know the batch numbers when they were clearly denoted in my affidavit,” Voyles said.
She said the investigators “gave no indication” they had gone to the warehouse to find the suspicious ballots or were conducting any kind of forensic investigation. She said they kept trying to convince her she might have been mistaken about her observations.
“I did not recant,” she said. “The ballots that I saw had been preprinted. It’s a very serious thing, in my opinion. That’s what I swore to under penalty of perjury. Recanting would be perjuring myself.”
Watson told RCI that Voyles “stated that she may have been mistaken about the batch number and provided a different batch number.”
“I never said that,” Voyles insisted.
“The second batch number provided by Ms. Voyles did not exist,” Watson said.
Voyles said she never provided any other batch numbers. Watson also revealed that “investigators went to Fulton County and reviewed the batches identified by Ms. Voyles, but found no ballots that looked as Ms. Voyles described.” Favorito said his group’s attorney plans to file a motion to depose Watson and Braun to understand exactly what investigators have done regarding the boxes of absentee ballots in question.
Favorito said he doesn’t doubt Voyles’ testimony and said the ballot images his group has reviewed support her account of anomalies.
“At no time has Susan Voyles claimed she was mistaken,” Favorito said. “She has consistently stood by her affidavit since she submitted it almost seven months ago.”
Asked if Voyles is under criminal investigation, Georgia Secretary of State Communications Director Ari Schaffer said, “I have no reason to believe she’s under investigation for perjury.”
Last December, Raffensperger “condemned” the unexplained firing of Voyles by Fulton County elections officials and called on them to rehire her.
As RCI reported previously, Voyles is one of four Fulton County poll monitors who signed affidavits swearing they observed the same pattern of irregularities in stacks of mail-in ballots for Biden. All of them suggested the ballots had been photocopied.
Favorito, who didn’t vote for Trump, said the state has also tried to interview another witness—poll monitor Robin Hall—and said he himself is under investigation. He suggested state investigators are trying to intimidate witnesses into backing off their testimony, and are more interested in investigating whistleblowers than finding evidence of ballot fraud.
Schaffer said he’s unsure whether other affiants have been interviewed. “I’ll have to check on the other three” witnesses, he said.
Favorito said the discovery of hard evidence of fraud in Georgia’s largest county would be embarrassing for Raffensperger, who is running for reelection with little support from the Georgia GOP, which recently censured him for creating “opportunities for fraud” by agreeing to the relaxation of voting rules during the 2020 election.
“He is worried that we will uncover serious wrongdoing on the part of the secretary of state, not just Fulton County,” Favorito said.
Voyles pointed out that Raffensperger has been too quick to declare the 2020 Georgia election free of fraud. Most recently, he was blindsided by revelations that Fulton County election officials had “misplaced” the required chain-of-custody forms documenting the collection of almost 20,000 mail-in ballots from 36 largely unsupervised drop boxes Raffensperger agreed to let Democrat-controlled Fulton County distribute across the Atlanta area ahead of the election.
“New revelations that Fulton County is unable to produce all ballot drop-box transfer documents will be investigated thoroughly,” Raffensperger tweeted on June 14, adding that Fulton officials failed to follow state rules regarding the boxes. “This cannot continue.”
Voyles said Raffensperger’s office is increasingly concerned about its preelection decision to mollify demands by a Democratic voter-rights group to make it easier to vote by absentee ballot.
“They are investigating us to divert attention from their consent agreement with [Democratic activist] Stacey Abrams,” Voyles said.
“We never should have had any drop boxes. We wouldn’t have had chain-of-custody problems and the other problems with absentee ballots if they hadn’t put in those drop boxes,” she said. “It was negligence.”
Michigan’s Senate on Thursday approved a petition that repeals Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers, with another approval expected by the state’s lower chamber.
Whitmer, a Democrat, cannot veto the petition.
The Michigan Senate’s 20-15 vote came two days after the Board of State Canvassers certified the petition, which was started by a group called Unlock Michigan that gathered over 340,000 signatures.
The board deadlocked 2-2 in April but voted 3-0 this time around.
The petition took aim at the 1945 Emergency Powers Act that enabled Whitmer to impose harsh restrictions on state residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republicans on the Senate floor before the vote praised the petition and said it was needed to curb Whitmer’s power.
“This initiative represents a people’s veto of this governor and the unlimited power that she’s tried to claim during this pandemic,” state Sen. Tom Barrett, a Republican, told colleagues.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, another Republican, said the petition “doesn’t take power away” but “reassesses where the power belongs.”
Democrats offered different explanations for their “no” votes.
State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Democrat, argued that the legislature is “a deliberatively slow moving body.”
“But when an emergency faces our state, we don’t have the luxury of time. That is what this legislature of the past put into place. And I could not in good conscience support or measure to remove those powers and put future residents at risk if the executive of the state does not have the ability to act quickly,” she said.
A Whitmer spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
A Michigan House of Representatives GOP spokesman told news outlets that the chamber will vote on the petition soon. If it does not within approximately one month, or if the vote fails, then voters will decide on whether to repeal the emergency powers law in the next election.
Republicans control both chambers of the legislature in Michigan.
If the House follows the Senate, then an emergency declaration will be good for 28 days before requiring the legislature’s approval to be extended.
The vote on Thursday came after a series of developments, including a ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court that the emergency powers law was unconstitutional. The court later ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify the petition after the board deadlocked along party lines, with Republicans voting for and Democrats against, in April.
Unlock Michigan, meanwhile, received approval this week for a new petition that would limit emergency powers for the Michigan Department of Health. Unlock Michigan spokesperson Fred Wzolek told The Epoch Times that the petition was “another step to keep Whitmer from ruling by decree on her own.”