Right-wing media are scandalizing the 2011 State Department International Security Advisory Board (ISAB) appointment of Rajiv Fernando, a Chicago-based securities trader and Clinton Foundation donor, suggesting Fernando knew “absolutely nothing about intel” and claiming he was only appointed because “he donated up to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.” But Fernando is an expert in cybersecurity, which the ISAB prepared a report on in 2014, and the State Department said the ISAB is “looking for a broad range of experiences” when considering candidates.
ABC News Reports Citizens United Is Seeking Documents About International Security Advisory Board Appointee
ABC News: Citizens United Claims Clinton Foundation Donor Was Rewarded For By Being Placed On State Department Intel Board, Seeks Records. On August 12, ABC News reported that the conservative group Citizens United “appeared in federal court … to try and force the U.S. State Department to turn over detailed records about Rajiv Fernando, a major donor to the Clinton Foundation who was given a position on a sensitive government intelligence advisory board when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.” According president of Citizens United David Bossie, who was quoted in the report, “The only reason why Mr. Fernando was appointed to this board of security experts was because of his big donations to the Clinton Foundation.” From ABC News’ August 12 report:
The conservative group Citizens United appeared in federal court today to try and force the U.S. State Department to turn over detailed records about Rajiv Fernando, a major donor to the Clinton Foundation who was given a position on a sensitive government intelligence advisory board when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.
“The only reason why Mr. Fernando was appointed to this board of security experts was because of his big donations to the Clinton Foundation,” said David N. Bossie, the president of Citizens United. “The American people have a right to see these documents before the November election.”
Internal correspondence between career State Department employees showed that in 2011 top aides to then-Sec. Clinton requested Fernando be placed on the highly sensitive International Security Advisory Board, which advises the secretary on nuclear security and other classified arms control matters, as ABC News first reported in June.
The emails show some State Department officials were confused about why Fernando, a Chicago commodities trader with a long history of political donations but no known national security background, would be placed alongside officials with decades of arms control experience. [ABC News, 8/12/16]
Right-Wing Media Echo Citizens United’s Claim That Fernando “Has Absolutely No Background At All In National Security,” Was Appointed As Reward For Donation To Clinton Foundation
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough: Fernando Knew “Absolutely Nothing About Intel” And Was “Completely Ignorant About” Security Issues. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough characterized Fernando as a donor “who gave between $1 to $5 million to the Clinton Family Foundation” and was “added” to a list of candidates for a position on the ISAB “by [Hillary] Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills,” despite being “completely ignorant” about the position. Scarborough concluded that Clinton wanted to appoint “people that know absolutely nothing about intel. People that know absolutely nothing about nuclear security.” From the August 15 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
JOE SCARBOROUGH (HOST): So, a conservative group is working in federal court to try to force the State Department to reveal records that could explain how a major donor to the Clinton Foundation got a seat on an intelligence advisory board. ABC News reports that aides to then-Secretary Clinton insisted that a Chicago commodities trader be appointed to the International Security Advisory Board, which advises the secretary on nuclear security -- on nuclear security and other classified arms control matters. Emails shows that when State Department officials inquired about Fernando, who gave between $1 to $5 million to the Clinton Family Foundation, they were told he was added by Clinton's chief of staff Cheryl Mills. Quote, “Raj was not originally on the list sent to S,” which is shorthand for Secretary Clinton. “He was added at their insistence.” The Clinton campaign told ABC that Fernando was appointed to the board to reflect a balance of backgrounds and points of view. Like, for instance, people that know absolutely nothing about intel. People that know absolutely nothing about nuclear security.
NICK CONFESSORE: Rich people. You have to have rich people on the board.
SCARBOROUGH: Exactly. And, by the way, rich people who are completely ignorant about this. It was shocking to the people that actually were on that board, Mark Halperin, when his name was floated, because he was so unqualified for it, but Cheryl Mills sent this Clinton Family Foundation donor over and forced him on there. [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 8/15/16]
Fox’s Chris Wallace: Fernando “Was Appointed To The International Security Advisory Board … Although He Had Absolutely No Qualifications Or Experience In That Area.” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asserted that Rajiv Fernando was appointed to the ISAB, even though he “had absolutely no qualifications and no experience in” national security. From the August 14 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Let's talk about another case. Rajiv Fernando. He was a securities trader who gave at least $1 million to the [Clinton Foundation], and was appointed to the International Security Advisory Board, senator, although he had absolutely no qualifications and no experience in that area.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL: I'm not sure that was a good idea. On the other hand, I think everyone kind of glosses over the fact that this foundation was doing charitable work around the world. I mean, how much time has been given to really talk about the work of the Clinton Foundation? This wasn't money going in the Clinton family's pockets. This was money going to fight malaria and AIDS and to lower child mortality around the globe. The idea that anyone who gave money to the Clinton Foundation --
WALLACE: Senator, you certainly can't argue that that justifies putting a big donor on an official advisory board who had no experience in that area and when his -- that fact that he was on the board was revealed, he quit within 24 hours. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 8/14/16]
Fox’s Sean Hannity: Fernando “Has Absolutely No Background At All In National Security, But He Donated Up To $5 Million To The Clinton Foundation, And He Was Literally Appointed By Clinton.” Fox host Sean Hannity claimed that Fernando “has absolutely no background at all in national security, but he donated up to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and he was literally appointed by Clinton to the Security Advisory Board.” Guest Monica Crowley added that Fernando lacked “national security experience” but had “a big, fat paycheck and a big, fat wallet,” concluding “This is textbook corruption.” From the August 11 edition of Fox News’ Hannity:
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): And, Monica [Crowley], look at a guy like Raj Fernando. He's a securities trader. He has absolutely no background at all in national security, but he donated up to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation, and he was literally appointed by Clinton to the Security Advisory Board. Zero. Zero background in this.
MONICA CROWLEY: Right. No national security experience, but a big fat paycheck and a big, fat wallet. This is textbook corruption, Sean. This is about Mrs. Clinton leveraging her public office as secretary of state in order to gain favors in the form of money being paid out to the Clinton Foundation to enrich that foundation and, by extension, her and her husband. Here's a question that hasn't been raised, Sean. I want somebody to ask the president of the United States what he thinks -- how he -- what he thinks about his secretary of state using her office in this way, and essentially running a rogue intelligence operation under his nose.
HANNITY: It's unbelievable.
CROWLEY: Nobody has asked him that question. If any other American president had their secretary of state doing that, they would have been so furious and probably fired that secretary of state for insubordination. Maybe Obama knew and didn't care, but the question needs to be asked. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/11/16]
But ISAB Has Previously Done Cybersecurity Work, Which Fernando Has Expertise In
A Recent ISAB Report Covered Cybersecurity In Financial Industry. A 2014 ISAB report covered cybersecurity in the financial industry. From the report’s conclusion:
The open nature of cyberspace, the access to information it enables, and the creativity that results, encourages a growing potential for a unique and accelerating process of innovation. This process also threatens individual privacy and the function of national infrastructure and financial systems in an historically unprecedented way. As the National Academy of Sciences points out, “cybersecurity is important to the United States, but the nation has other interests as well, some of which conflict with the imperatives of cybersecurity. It is important to recognize that tradeoffs are inevitable, and the nation’s political and policymaking bodies will have to decide on a case-by-case basis which national interests supersede increased cyber security.” By encouraging best practice, supporting and promulgating a modified theory of deterrence, and fostering international consensus on conduct in cyberspace among allies and friends, the Department can help in the national effort to allow the greatest utility from cyberspace in ways that do no harm. [State.gov, 7/2/14]
ISAB Executive Director Said Fernando Brought “Expertise in Cyber Security To The Board.” In an August 2011 email exchanged reported by ABC News on June 10, ISAB Executive Director Richard Hartman wrote that Fernando “brings relative youth, enthusiasm, a business perspective, and expertise in cyber security to the Board.” [ABC News, 6/10/16]
ISAB Board Member Gen. Stephen Cheney: Fernando’s “Expertise In Cyber-Security Is A Great Asset To Our National Security.” Retired Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney is the CEO of the American Security Project, where Fernando is a board member, and a current board member of the ISAB. He tweeted of Fernando: “I serve on the ISAB. #RajFernando expertise in cyber-security is a great asset to our national security.” [Twitter.com, 6/11/16]
American Security Project Bio: Fernando Has “Over A Decade Of Experience Leading Cyber Security Initiatives.” Rajiv Fernando is a board member of the American Security Project (ASP), which describes itself as “a nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about the changing nature of national security in the 21st Century.” According to his bio on the ASP’s website, Fernando is “an expert in international financial markets and technological innovation,” and has “over a decade of experience leading cyber security initiatives.” [American Security Project, accessed 8/15/16; accessed 8/15/16]
Fernando Also “Serves On The Foreign Policy Program Leadership Committee At The Brookings Institute” And Is A Member Of The Chicago Council On Global Affairs’ Board Of Directors. [American Security Project, accessed 8/15/16]
Brookings VP: “I’ve Always Valued His Foreign Policy Insights.” Brookings executive vice president and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk promoted Stephen Cheney's praise of Fernando, adding, “Can’t speak to #RajFernando role on ISAB but I’ve always valued his foreign policy insights.” [Twitter.com, 6/11/16]
State Department: “Mr. Fernando Brought A Unique Perspective To ISAB” As President And CEO Of Chopper Trading. According to a statement from the State Deptartment to ABC News, "'As President and CEO of Chopper Trading, Mr. Fernando brought a unique perspective to ISAB. He has years of experience in the private sector in implementing sophisticated risk management tools, information technology and international finance.'" [ABCNews.com, 6/10/16]
Fernando “Designed, Implemented, And Managed Some Of The Most Sophisticated Risk Management” And “Source Code Security Systems In The Financial Industry.” According to Fernando's bio on Chopper Trading's website, “As CEO Mr. Fernando designed, implemented and managed some of the most sophisticated risk management, communications, trading, monitoring and source code security systems in the financial industry.” [ChopperTrading.com, Accessed 8/15/16]
State Department Spokesperson: ISAB Board Is “Looking For A Broad Range Of Experiences.” From ABC’s June 10 report:
Today State Department spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters that Fernando had been fully vetted, but Toner said he could not speak to his specific qualifications. When asked if he came from a security background, Toner said, “I don’t believe so.”
“I apologize, I don’t have his [resume] in front of me,” Toner said. “All I know is that the charter does lay out or stipulate that [they're] looking for a broad range of experiences. It’s not unimaginable that a businessman, an international businessman, might bring a certain level of expertise or knowledge or experience to such a job.” [ABC News, 6/10/16]