Al Jarida, a Kuwaiti newspaper which in recent years had broken exclusive stories from Israel, says Israel was ‘on the verge’ of assassinating Soleimani, but the U.S. warned Tehran and thwarted the operation.
Every decade the Islamist regime has been in power, an uprising has cost it an element of its legitimacy.
Mark Dubowitz and Ray Takeyh report: Iran has a peculiar habit of surprising Americans. It has done so again with the protests engulfing its major cities. The demonstrations began over economic grievances and quickly transformed into a rejection of theocracy.
“As with the Soviet Union in its last days, the Islamic Republic can no longer appeal to its ideals; it relies only on its security services for survival.”
The slogans must have unsettled the mullahs: “Death to Khamenei!” “Death to Rouhani!” “We will die to get our Iran back!” Imperialism has not revived the regime’s legitimacy, as the protesting Persians pointedly reject expending their meager resources on Arab wars: “Death to Hezbollah!” “No to Gaza, not Lebanon! Our life only for Iran!”
However the events on the streets unfold, their most immediate casualty will be the presidency of Hassan Rouhani and its false claim of pragmatic governance. In the aftermath of the Green Revolution of 2009, which rocked the foundations of the Islamic Republic, a sinister argument gradually pervaded Western salons and chancelleries. The convulsions of that summer, the claim went, were over no more than electoral irregularity. With the election of the so-called moderate Mr. Rouhani in 2013, the system rebalanced itself. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his allies supposedly learned some hard lessons on the need to yield to popular mandates. Iranians want gradual change, we have been told, and believe that the system’s own constitutional provisions and plebiscites can be used to nudge it toward moderation.
Then, last week, Iranians took to the streets.
Every decade of the Islamist regime’s rule has seen one of its political factions lose its legitimacy through national uprisings. In the 1980s, the Islamic Republic waged a determined civil war against liberals and secularists who sought to redeem the revolution’s pledge of a democratic order. The student riots of 1999 ended the reformist interlude and Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, which had promised that the expansion of civil society and elections would harmonize faith and freedom. The reformists lingered as discredited enablers of a repressive regime, but no one believed in their promises of change from within. The hard-liners offered their own national compact, one that privileged economic justice over political emancipation. But the tumultuous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced only corruption and bellicosity.
Then came Mr. Rouhani and his centrist disciples with their pledge to revive the economy, primarily through foreign investment. Mr. Rouhani needed a nuclear agreement to lift debilitating sanctions and stimulate commerce. The Obama administration was happy to deliver, and Iran received tens of billions of dollars in financial dividends, including $1.7 billion in paper currency. Read the rest of this entry »
The people haven’t closed ranks behind the regime.
“After years of cynicism, sneering or simply tuning out all things political,” wrote Erdbrink, “Iran’s urban middle classes have been swept up in a wave of nationalist fervor.” He went on: “Mr. Trump and the Saudis have helped the government achieve what years of repression could never accomplish: widespread public support for the hard-line view that the United States and Riyadh cannot be trusted.”
Erdbrink’s argument echoed rhetoric from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Responding to October’s announcement of new U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Zarif tweeted: “Today, Iranians–boys, girls, men, women–are ALL IRGC.”
Politico reporter is punished for raising the curtain on Obama’s Hezbollah policy.
Lee Smith reports: A week after Josh Meyer’s Politico expose, “The Secret Backstory Of How Obama Let Hezbollah Off the Hook,” former Obama officials are still berating Meyer for his 13,000-word article detailing how the Obama administration killed a nearly decade-long DEA effort to stem a global Hezbollah cocaine-smuggling-and-organized-crime ring to help secure its nuclear deal with Iran. “This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision,” former Defense Department analyst David Asher explained in the article. “They serially ripped apart this entire effort that was very well supported and resourced, and it was done from the top down.”
Asher helped establish and oversee the project, codenamed Cassandra, that looked into Hezbollah’s wide-range of illicit activities across the globe, including weapons procurement, drug trafficking, and money laundering. Senior Obama officials, according to Asher, ignored the legal and financial instruments that he and others had provided to target a terrorist organization with American blood on its hands and was still plotting against the United States.
In response, a Twitter mob of mid-level bureaucrats and former intelligence officersorchestrated in the usual fashion attacked Asher in tandem with the media echo chamber used to sell the Iran Deal, with former political operatives from the Obama White House supplying the usual talking points to their hatchet-men. Meyer’s “on the record sources have undisclosed anti-Iran deal bias,” tweeted former Obama speechwriter Tommy Vietor, who has remade himself as a podcast host. Meyer’s “entire piece,” tweeted Obama lieutenant and former CIA officer Ned Price, “is based on pure speculation by these ‘1 or 2 sources’ w undisclosed anti-Iran deal bias.”
The catchphrase, “undisclosed anti-Iran deal bias,” is an extended replay version of the catchy slogans Team Obama used to market the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Opponents and critics of the nuclear deal were “warmongers” beholden to “donors” with “agendas” whose concerns were shaped by their loyalties not to America but rather to the Jewish state. Now, the echo chamber insisted, Meyer’s sources aren’t to be trusted because they were against the Iran deal, or have associated with think tanks that opposed the Iran Deal—which means that they are secret neocon slaves of Israel, of course. Read the rest of this entry »
Josh Meyer is not an ideologue, not a partisan, not a quack.
Matthew Continetti writes: ;Nothing has been more tedious over the last year than the constant reminders that good journalism is “now more important than ever.” The implication, of course, is that solid, groundbreaking reporting was not as essential so long as a liberal Democrat was in power. I’ve long assumed that the factotums mouthing such clichés lack the self-awareness to understand the true import of their words. But maybe I’ve been wrong. Recent days brought evidence that, no, liberals really mean it: The only meaningful investigative work is that which reflects poorly on Republicans.
“Meyer points to congressional testimony from former Treasury official Katherine Bauer, who said last February, ‘These investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.'”
Earlier this week, for example, Politico Magazine published a story by Josh Meyer headlined “The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook.” This epic and copiously sourced piece relates how, “in its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it [Hezbollah, not the Obama administration] was funneling cocaine into the United States.”
“President Obama, in other words, slow-walked counter-narcotics efforts for the inane ‘greater good’ of paying Iran billions to pretend to shut down its nuclear program for ten years. This is the very definition of ‘stupid stuff.'”
The law-enforcement program in question is called Project Cassandra, which for eight years “used wiretaps, undercover operations, and informants to map Hezbollah’s illicit networks, with the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies.”
However, as investigators came closer to unraveling the globe-spanning conspiracy, “the Justice Department declined requests by Project Cassandra and other authorities to file criminal charges against major players such as Hezbollah’s high-profile envoy to Iran, a Lebanese bank that allegedly laundered billions in alleged drug profits, and a central player in a U.S.-based cell of the Iranian paramilitary Quds force.” Linger over that last item for a second.
“Meyer is not an ideologue, not a partisan, not a quack. He worked for the Los Angeles Times, for NBC News, and for the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative before joining Politico as a senior investigative reporter. His Twitter feed contains plenty of criticisms of President Trump and congressional Republicans. And his story is solid.”
Meyer cites “dozens” of interviews and documents as evidence. He quotes a veteran U.S. intelligence operative — the sort of guy whose every utterance is anonymously paraded in the newspapers and magazines so long as it’s anti-Trump — who says, “This was a policy decision, it was a systematic decision.” And the reason for this systematic decision, presumably, was to make Hezbollah’s Iranian backers more willing to deal with the Obama administration on nukes.
“He explores different angles and gives his subjects fair comment. He’s produced a classic example of the good journalism that our betters tell us we need more than ever. Except our betters don’t like it, not one bit, because it reflects poorly on the most significant – yet dubious and controversial – achievement of Barack Obama’s second term.”
Meyer points to congressional testimony from former Treasury official Katherine Bauer, who said last February, “These investigations were tamped down for fear of rocking Iran and jeopardizing the nuclear deal.” President Obama, in other words, slow-walked counter-narcotics efforts for the inane “greater good” of paying Iran billions to pretend to shut down its nuclear program for ten years. This is the very definition of “stupid stuff.”
“‘Non-fact based anti-Iran Deal propaganda,’ sneers former deputy national security adviser and creative-writing expert Ben Rhodes.”
Meyer is not an ideologue, not a partisan, not a quack. He worked for the Los Angeles Times, for NBC News, and for the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative before joining Politico as a senior investigative reporter. His Twitter feed contains plenty of criticisms of President Trump and congressional Republicans. And his story is solid. He explores different angles and gives his subjects fair comment. He’s produced a classic example of the good journalism that our betters tell us we need more than ever. Read the rest of this entry »
Project Cassandra leaders, who were working out of a DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, Obama Justice and Treasury Department officials delayed, hindered or rejected their requests.
Alex Pappas reports: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is launching a review of a law enforcement initiative called Project Cassandra after an investigative report was published this week claiming the Obama administration gave a free pass to Hezbollah’s drug-trafficking and money-laundering operations to help ensure the Iran nuclear deal would stay on track.
The Justice Department said in a statement to Fox News that Sessions on Friday directed a review of prior Drug Enforcement Administration investigations “to evaluate allegations that certain matters were not properly prosecuted and to ensure all matters are appropriately handled.”
“While I am hopeful that there were no barriers constructed by the last administration to allowing DEA agents to fully bring all appropriate cases under Project Cassandra, this is a significant issue for the protection of Americans,” Sessions said in a written statement. “We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations.”
According to a bombshell exposé in Politico on Sunday, an elaborate campaign led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, known as Project Cassandra, targeted the Lebanese militant group’s criminal activities.
“We will review these matters and give full support to investigations of violent drug trafficking organizations.”
– Attorney General Jeff Sessions
But when Project Cassandra leaders, who were working out of a DEA facility in Chantilly, Virginia, sought approval for some significant investigations, prosecutions, arrests and financial sanctions, Obama Justice and Treasury Department officials delayed, hindered or rejected their requests, according to Politico. Read the rest of this entry »
Now swap out “Trump” for “Obama” and “Russia” for “Iran” and imagine the eruption these revelations would generate. Because, by any conceivable journalistic standard, this scandal should’ve triggered widespread coverage and been plastered on front pages across the country. By any historic standard, the scandal should elicit outrage regarding the corrosion of governing norms from pundits and editorial boards.
Yet, as it turns out, there’s an exceptionally good chance most of your neighbors and colleagues haven’t heard anything about it.
Days after the news broke, in fact, neither NBC News, ABC News nor CBS News — whose shows can boast a collective 20 million viewers — had been able to find the time to relay the story to its sizeable audiences. Other than Fox News, cable news largely ignored the revelations, as well.
Most major newspapers, which have been sanctimoniously patting themselves on the back for the past year, couldn’t shoehorn into their pages a story about potential collusion between the former president and a terror-supporting state. Read the rest of this entry »
Congress Demands DOJ Turn Over All Docs Related to Obama Scheme to Nix Hezbollah Terror InvestigationPosted: December 22, 2017
Congress investigating former administration’s efforts to appease Iran.
The letter represents the first salvo in a new investigation by congressional leaders into allegations senior Obama administration officials thwarted a decade-long Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into Hezbollah’s illicit operations.
The Obama administration, in what congressional insiders described to the Free Beacon as a “potentially criminal” enterprise, interfered with the DEA’s investigation into Hezbollah drug activities in order to avoid angering the terror group’s chief patron Iran and preserve the landmark nuclear deal.
“I’ve long believed that the Obama administration could not have done any more to bend over backwards to appease the Iranian regime, yet news that the Obama administration killed the investigation into a billion dollar drug ring that lined the terrorist group Hezbollah’s pockets in order to save its coveted Iran deal may very well take the cake,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) said.
“Hezbollah is a brutal terrorist group with American blood on its hands and it would be unconscionable for American policy to deliberately empower such a nefarious group,” he said.
Congressional leaders have begun a formal investigation into the matter and petitioned the DOJ to hand over “all documents and communications” that may shine light on “interference with the DEA’s law enforcement efforts against Hezbollah,” according to a letter sent by Reps. DeSantis and Jim Jordan (R., Ohio.).
“We have a responsibility to evaluate whether these allegations are true, and if so, did the administration undermine U.S. law enforcement and compromise U.S. national security,” the lawmakers wrote to Sessions, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Free Beacon. Read the rest of this entry »
North Korea Readying for Another Nuclear Test? Satellite Images Show Heightened Activity at Punggye-riPosted: December 13, 2017
Over the weekend, Radio Pyongyang broadcast secret coded messages hinting at a possible impending weapons test.
Experts say that after North Korea’s last nuclear test, minor tremors were detected near Mt Mantap, located close to the nuclear site. However, Pyongyang is now engaged in additional tunnel work at the site.
According to experts at 38North, a US-based think tank, the fresh activities were detected at the West Portal of the site – indicating that the site may be undergoing an expansion. Meanwhile, the North Portal, where the previous five tests were conducted, appears to have been temporarily abandoned.
“At the West Portal, there has been a consistently high level of activity since North Korea’s last nuclear test. This includes a routine presence of vehicles and personnel around the portal, movement of mining carts from the portal to the adjacent spoil pile and signs of fresh spoil being dumped onto the pile,” 38North experts said in a blog. “These activities suggest that tunnel excavation is underway at the West Portal, as the North Koreans expand the site’s potential for future nuclear testing.”
Ryan Barenklau, CEO and founder of Strategic Sentinel, a Washington-based nonpartisan geostrategic consulting agency, told IBTimes UK, “The tunneling is occurring at the West Portal and activity near that area has been relatively high for the last month. They are most likely digging deeper and expanding the complex underneath so they can continue their normal operations.” Read the rest of this entry »
A synagogue was attacked by around 20 masked men while hosting a youth party in Gothenburg, Sweden, local media have reported.
Police arrived at the scene, where Jewish students had taken refuge in the basement.A police spokesman said: “There are several molotov cocktails that have been thrown against the synagogue.”It’s about bottles and gasoline.”A fire broke out between vehicles in the car park, fire fighter Kristoffer Wahter told local news.
No injuries were caused and the building did not catch fire, Police inspector Peter Nordengard said.Initial local media reports suggest the group was around 20 men wearing masks carried out the attack.
He said: “We are in place with a number of units.”Online police have said: “We do not know much more than there are several molotov cocktails that have been thrown against the synagogue.”
Authorities have asked for asked for information on possible suspects from the local community. Security forces arrived at the scene around 10.10pm local time (9.10pm GMT).
The incident comes after protests in nearby Malmo were reported to by shout anti-Semitic chants while protests Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Police were at the scene at 10.10pm local time
There is no suggestion the incidents are linked.
The US President’s decision was greeted by international condemnation as his fellow world leaders spoke out against the move.A “Day of Rage” was called in Palestine with protests held across the world, including the UK. Read the rest of this entry »
Where is the ACLU when you really need them?
Thomas Farnan reports: What do you call a system of government that cannot tolerate a transition of power without corrupt machinations by those unwilling to cede control? Banana Republic is a term that comes to mind.
The Special Counsel was appointed to determine whether Russia colluded with Trump to steal the election. Michael Flynn was indicted for a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador on December 28, 2016, seven weeks after the election.
That was the day after the outgoing president expelled 35 Russian diplomats—including gardeners and chauffeurs—for interfering in the election. Yes, that really happened.
The Obama administration had wiretapped Flynn’s conversation with the ambassador, hoping to find him saying something they could use to support their wild story about collusion.
The outrage, for some reason, is not that an outgoing administration was using wiretaps to listen in on a successor’s transition. It is that Flynn might have signaled to the Russians that the Trump administration would have a different approach to foreign policy.
How dare Trump presume to tell an armed nuclear state to stand down because everyone in Washington was in a state of psychological denial that he was elected?
Let’s establish one thing early here: It is okay for an incoming administration to communicate its foreign policy preferences during a transition even if they differ from the lame duck administration.
In 1980, President-elect Reagan’s transition was dominated by negotiations between outgoing President Jimmy Carter and the Iranians about the fate of 52 hostages that were being held in the Tehran. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom DiChristopher reports: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Wednesday appeared to threaten to disrupt Chinese crude oil shipments to North Korea following the hermit kingdom’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday.
China’s refusal to completely cut off energy exports to North Korea have been a sticking point as the United States leads the charge to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
Haley revealed during a speech at the United Nations headquarters in New York City that President Donald Trump called Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday morning to tell him the time has come for China to cut off crude oil supplies to North Korea.
“We now turn to President Xi to also take that stand. We believe he has an opportunity to do the right thing for the benefit of all countries. China must show leadership and follow through. China can do this on its own, or we can take the oil situation into our own hands,” she said.
Authoritarian regimes like Russia and China are outspending the United States in the realm of soft power, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the National Democratic Institute’s annual Democracy Dinner at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C. last night.
“Our budget is $650 million—a fraction of what our adversaries spend,” he said “Today, Russia is spending over a billion dollars on covert propaganda operations,” he added. “Russian TV, radio, and internet bots continue to push misinformation without almost no pushback from the US.”
The authoritarian threat required greater investment in non-kinetic resources for exerting influence abroad, Murphy added.
“We have more people working at military grocery stores than diplomats deployed abroad,” he said.
Facebook estimates that 10 million people saw the [Kremlin’s] paid ads and up to 150 million people saw other content from the fake accounts, which Facebook has traced to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed troll farm, WIRED reports:
Psychologists and students of advertising say the ads were cleverly designed to look like other internet memes, and to appeal to readers’ emotions. Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at NYU, says he was surprised at the sophistication of the campaign. “It wasn’t transparent lies. It was just pushing our buttons,” says Van Bavel. “To me, this is more pernicious. It’s not a matter of fiction that we can root out with fact-checking. It’s more about turning Americans against each other.”
“The IRA are not amateurs, they’re clearly familiarizing themselves with the kind of content that resonates with the target audiences,” says Renee DiResta, researcher with Data for Democracy, a nonprofit group that has been digging into the data on Russian-linked accounts.
The threat of disinformation and other active measures employed by the Kremlin requires adaptation and innovation from the advanced democracies, according to NATO’s Secretary General.
“Defense is no longer about just looking at a map and deciding where to place armies,” Jens Stoltenberg said this week. “It’s also about countering misinformation. Protecting infrastructure. Making our societies resilient to attack.”
“The geography of danger has shifted,” he added.
The NDI dinner honored three civil society groups on the front lines of confronting disinformation and false news – . Rappler from the Philippines, the Ukraine-based StopFake and the Oxford Internet Institute.
“When a lie is repeated 1 million times it becomes truth, especially when it’s state-sponsored hate,” said Rapplerdotcom‘s Maria Ressa. “A sock puppet network of 26 fake accounts can reach 3 million.”
Disinformation “exploits the fracture lines of society,” she said, adding that she received an average of 90 hate messages per hour.” Read the rest of this entry »
The new bin Laden documents make clear that there was intelligence politicization during the 2012 campaign.
Jenna Lifhits reports: A top foreign correspondent at the New York Times said Friday that the Obama administration deliberately downplayed al Qaeda’s strength in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election.
“The overall narrative that I think was being pushed to the press, and if you look back at the editorials that were done when that trove came out, was an image of bin Laden isolated, he had lost control of this group,” Rukmini Callimachi said during an event at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, referring to the 17 hand-picked documents released by the Obama administration in May of 2012.
“The narrative I would get is that . . . it had opportunistically taken the al Qaeda name in order to have prestige and scare people, and that in fact those people were just criminals.”
— Rukmini Callimachi
Her remarks triggered the following question from Kim Dozier, a former top correspondent for the Associated Press and CBS, and current executive editor of the Cipher Brief: “Do you think that was something that was kept from the public’s view because it revealed that there had to be reams of communication going back and forth, which means U.S. intelligence, Western intelligence, was missing this?”
“Suddenly, my worldview, which had been informed by officials . . . started to fall apart. Suddenly, I was seeing that this group that I was told really had no ties, with no connection . . . was in fact being micromanaged by al Qaeda central.”
— Rukmini Callimachi
“Think back to when bin Laden was killed. It was 2011, it was right before a major campaign season. I don’t want to underplay the role that the killing of Osama bin Laden had,” said Callimachi. “But I think that that was theorized into something much bigger.”
“The head of the organization has been killed, and now—these are literally quotes that I would get: the organization has been ‘decimated,’ the organization is in ‘disarray,’ the organization is ‘on the run,’” she continued. “At the same time that we were preparing to pull out troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, I think that it was important to portray this as a problem that no longer existed.”
* * *The Trump administration released roughly 470,000 files in November that were captured in the Abbottabad raid. Only a few hundred were released under the Obama administration, despite one official’s description of the haul as enough to fill a “small college library.”
When Callimachi was covering West Africa in 2011, Obama administration officials and others told her that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which had just taken over the northern half of Mali, “was actually not really connected to al Qaeda.” Read the rest of this entry »
Prior to the election, Russian government’s online meddling was focused on trying to ‘denigrate Secretary Clinton.’
Nancy Scola and Ashley Gold report: Top lawyers from Facebook and Twitter said Tuesday that Russian-linked posts and advertisements placed on the social networks after Election Day sought to sow doubt about President Donald Trump’s victory.
Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch told a Senate Judiciary panel that content generated by a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency after Nov. 8 centered on “fomenting discord about the validity of his [Trump’s] election.” That’s a change from Russia’s pre-election activity, which was largely centered on trying to denigrate Hillary Clinton, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a January report.
“During the election, they were trying to create discord between Americans, most of it directed against Clinton. After the election you saw Russian-tied groups and organizations trying to undermine President Trump’s legitimacy. Is that what you saw on Facebook?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked at the hearing.
Stretch and his Twitter counterpart, Sean Edgett, called that an “accurate” statement.
The disclosure opened up a new wrinkle in the continuing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which has increasingly focused on the role of the biggest internet companies. Tuesday’s hearing marks the first time Facebook, Google and Twitter have testified publicly about what they’ve learned about Kremlin meddling on their platforms in the presidential campaign. The companies face additional lawmaker scrutiny Wednesday with back-to-back hearings by the Senate and House Intelligence committees.
James Lewis, an international cyber policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the revelation about Russian anti-Trump activity on social media post-election fits with typical Kremlin information warfare efforts.
“Their goal is to create confusion and dissent. The target is the U.S. and NATO, not any particular candidate. They just want chaos,” Lewis said. “It went from being a grudge match against Clinton to what they thought was a priceless opportunity to inflict harm.”
The Silicon Valley giants have been slow to reckon with Russian use of social media to undermine American democracy. Days after the election — amid criticism that Facebook allowed the spread of hoax stories and misinformation — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it was a “pretty crazy idea” that fake news on Facebook influenced the vote. But as reports have piled up about Russian manipulation, Zuckerberg last month said he regretted being dismissive about the concerns, though he continued to argue that Facebook had a “far bigger” positive effect by giving people and candidates a place to communicate. Read the rest of this entry »
Chance Miller reports: Earlier this year, Apple was forced to remove several VPN apps from the App Store in China due to regulatory reasons. At the time, Tim Cook explained that he would rather not remove them, but was forced to comply.
Now, United States Senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy are pressing Apple for more information…
In a letter sent to Tim Cook, Cruz and Leahy say Apple may be “enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet,” noting that China has an “abysmal human rights record.”
Specifically, Cruz and Leahy pointed to Cook’s acceptance of the Newseum’s 2017 Free Expression Award. While receiving the award, Cook remarked that Apple “enables people around the world to speak up.” The senators, however, argue that Apple’s removal of VPN apps in China do the exact opposite of that:
While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to “speak up.” To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese governments, it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China’s new regulations targeting online anonymity.
Cook and Leahy outline a list of questions they want Cook to answer. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON (AP) — It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what? It seems to undulate, even writhe. Listen closely: There are multiple, distinct tones that sound to some like they’re colliding in a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect.
The Associated Press has obtained a recording of what some U.S. Embassy workers heard in Havana in a series of unnerving incidents later deemed to be deliberate attacks. The recording, released Thursday by the AP, is the first disseminated publicly of the many taken in Cuba of mysterious sounds that led investigators initially to suspect a sonic weapon.
The recordings themselves are not believed to be dangerous to those who listen. Sound experts and physicians say they know of no sound that can cause physical damage when played for short durations at normal levels through standard equipment like a cellphone or computer.
What device produced the original sound remains unknown. Americans affected in Havana reported the sounds hit them at extreme volumes.
Whether there’s a direct relationship between the sound and the physical damage suffered by the victims is also unclear. The U.S. says that in general the attacks caused hearing, cognitive, visual, balance, sleep and other problems.
The recordings from Havana have been sent for analysis to the U.S. Navy, which has advanced capabilities for analyzing acoustic signals, and to the intelligence services, the AP has learned. But the recordings have not significantly advanced U.S. knowledge about what is harming diplomats.
The Navy did not respond to requests for comment on the recording. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert wouldn’t comment on the tape’s authenticity.
Cuba has denied involvement or knowledge of the attacks. The U.S. hasn’t blamed anyone and says it still doesn’t know what or who is responsible. But the government has faulted President Raul Castro’s government for failing to protect American personnel, and Nauert said Thursday that Cuba “may have more information than we are aware of right now.”
“We believe that the Cuban government could stop the attacks on our diplomats,” said White House chief of staff John Kelly.
Not all Americans injured in Cuba heard sounds. Of those who did, it’s not clear they heard precisely the same thing.
Yet the AP has reviewed several recordings from Havana taken under different circumstances, and all have variations of the same high-pitched sound. Individuals who have heard the noise in Havana confirm the recordings are generally consistent with what they heard.
“That’s the sound,” one of them said.
The recording being released by the AP has been digitally enhanced to increase volume and reduce background noise, but has not been otherwise altered.
The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again. Read the rest of this entry »
A short list of very good, serious, totally factual reasons to be suspicious of the special counsel’s motives.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s got everyone convinced he’s such an upstanding public servant. In The Threat Matrix, Garrett Graff writes that “both political parties respect” Mueller as “a consummate law enforcement professional with a track record, forged in Vietnam, of grace under fire and getting organizations on track.”
Whatever. Don’t be fooled by Mueller’s Boy Scout act. As his critics point out, if America is never great again, it’ll be all Mueller’s fault. We have to admit, they’ve got some good points.
Here are 10 perfectly reasonable — not at all crazy or imaginary — reasons to hate him:
1. The guy’s a leaker.
Breitbart says so. Sure, Muller’s got a rep for rarely speaking in public or giving interviews. But behind the scenes he’s obviously spending day and night dishing dirt on Donald Trump and the president’s oh-so-honorable colleagues to any reporter who will listen. The deluge of daily stories disparaging President Trump, after all, began the day Mueller was appointed; before Mueller, Trump press coverage was constant sunshine and rainbows. Plus, it’s clearly to Mueller’s strategic advantage to have his investigative steps aired to the public in real time. Besides, who else would leak this kind of stuff? Only Mueller and his team have motive. The White House isn’t a factionalist den of vipers; the president’s legal team is a well-oiled machine that never leaks; defense lawyers are paragons of virtue. Don’t even get us started on tight-lipped congressional staff — those guys never talk. The only logical explanation here is information about the investigation is coming from Mueller.
2. Mueller is a highly political actor.
Thank God, Newt Gingrich has seen through Mueller’s act. He tweetedrecently that “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair. Look who he is hiring.check fec reports. Time to rethink.” It’s quite a rethink. Mueller is so political that he’s spent his entire career going back and forth between politicians. He worked in the first Bush administration as an assistant attorney general, then he was a prosecutor on murder cases in Washington, D.C. after running the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, and then he flip-flopped back to be a U.S. attorney in the Clinton administration. Get this: he then goes on to run the FBI for both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (a bipartisan Congress even extended his term for two years at Obama’s request).
The guy is so political he can’t even decide which side he’s on.
3. Mueller is too thorough and taking too long.
This thing is seriously taking forever. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders spoke for all of us in saying that, “the president is frustrated by the continued witch hunt of the Russia investigation and he’d love for this to come to a full conclusion so that everyone can focus fully on the thing that he was elected to do.” You and me, both, friend. Could Mueller go any slower? It’s as if he’s a highly methodical actor systematically gathering strings on multiple broad areas simultaneously: Trump-Russia collusion, Trump Organization business dealings, misconduct in the Trump campaign, and obstruction of justice. He needs to hurry this thing along. Trump just wants to be cleared without the fuss of an investigation. Wouldn’t you? The president knows he is innocent and only wishes to spare us all the pain of this drawn-out ordeal. Of course, Trump recently told the New York Times that “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.” It’s completely reasonable of Trump to be frustrated that this investigation — which doesn’t exist — is taking so long and that Mueller is being so thorough about it. Read the rest of this entry »
Caroline B. Glick writes: The nuclear confrontation between the US and North Korea entered a critical phase Sunday with North Korea’s conduct of an underground test of a thermonuclear bomb.
If the previous round of this confrontation earlier this summer revolved around Pyongyang’s threat to attack the US territory of Guam, Sunday’s test, together with North Korea’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental US, was a direct threat to US cities.
In other words, the current confrontation isn’t about US superpower status in Asia, and the credibility of US deterrence or the capabilities of US military forces in the Pacific. The confrontation is now about the US’s ability to protect the lives of its citizens.
The distinction tells us a number of important things. All of them are alarming.
First, because this is about the lives of Americans, rather than allied populations like Japan and South Korea, the US cannot be diffident in its response to North Korea’s provocation. While attenuated during the Obama administration, the US’s position has always been that US military forces alone are responsible for guaranteeing the collective security of the American people.
Pyongyang is now directly threatening that security with hydrogen bombs. So if the Trump administration punts North Korea’s direct threat to attack US population centers with nuclear weapons to the UN Security Council, it will communicate profound weakness to its allies and adversaries alike.
Obviously, this limits the options that the Trump administration has. But it also clarifies the challenge it faces.
The second implication of North Korea’s test of their plutonium-based bomb is that the US’s security guarantees, which form the basis of its global power and its alliance system are on the verge of becoming completely discredited. Read the rest of this entry »
Ayaan Hirsi Ali joins me to discuss her new book, The Challenge of Dawa: Political Islam as Ideology and Movement and How to Contain It and her views on the challenges facing Western civilization in regards to political Islam. She argues that Islam needs to be separated into two different parts, one part of religion and the other part, political philosophy. She concedes that many aspects of the religious part of Islam are peaceful but argues that the political side is much more concerning due to its focus on Dawa, which means “to plead or to call non-Muslims to Islam.” This call to convert people to Islam is what she argues was a driving force behind the spread of Islam throughout history.
Earlier this year Ayaan Hirsi Ali was called before Congress to testify on her book. She discusses her testimony and that although she was invited by a Democrat senator to speak “about the ideology of radical Islam,” the Democrats present didn’t ask her a single question because they were likely uncomfortable with what she had to say about Islam. She argues … (read more)
Source: National Review
Former Obama Aide Ben Rhodes Now a Person of Interest in House Intelligence Committee Unmasking InvestigationPosted: August 1, 2017
Sara A. Carter reports: Former Obama White House National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes is now an emerging as a person of interest in the House Intelligence Committee’s unmasking investigation, according to a letter sent Tuesday by the committee to the National Security Agency (NSA). This adds Rhodes to the growing list of top Obama government officials who may have improperly unmasked Americans in communications intercepted overseas by the NSA, Circa has confirmed.
The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-CA, sent the letter to the National Security Agency requesting the number of unmaskings made by Rhodes from Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 20, 2017, according to congressional sources who spoke with Circa. Rhodes, who worked closely with former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and was a former deputy national security adviser for strategic communications for President Obama, became a focus of the committee during its review of classified information to assess whether laws were broken regarding NSA intercepted communications of President Trump, members of his administration and other Americans before and after the election, according to congressional officials. The committee is requesting that the NSA deliver the information on Rhodes by August, 21.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Rice and former CIA Director John Brennan have all been named in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the unmasking of Americans. A letter sent last week from Nunes to Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, suggested that top Obama aides made hundreds of unmasking requests during the 2016 presidential elections. The story, which was first reported by The Hill last week, stated that the requests were made without specific justifications as to why the unmasking was necessary. Rice and Brennan have confirmed they sought the unredacted names of Americans in NSA-sourced intelligence reports but insisted their requests were routine parts of their work and had no nefarious intentions. Power also has legal authority to unmask officials, though the practice has not reportedly been common for someone in her position. Rhodes also had legal authority to unmask Americans in NSA-source intelligence reports. But intelligence and congressional sources question the extent of the unmasking.
Nunes told Coats in a letter last week that the committee has “found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information.”
Multiple federal law enforcement and intelligence officials told Circa, that requesting an unmasking for intelligence and analytical purposes is something that is done only when the information is absolutely necessary to analyze a specific threat or for other national security purposes. An intelligence source, with direct knowledge of the type of requests made by the Obama aides, said “it’s like hell and high water to fill out and gain approval for these types of unmaskings. It’s something analysts take seriously and could entail filling out 80 pages of paperwork to prove there is a need to unmask. If top officials were unmasking without oversight it’s something everyone should be concerned about and it puts our intelligence community in a very bad place.” Read the rest of this entry »
Regime uses sanctions relief to beef up weaponry, leading their neighbors to do the same.
When a speedboat manned by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel approached American vessels operating in open water, the U.S. Navy patrol craft USS Thunderbolt issued a series of warnings, all translating as “stay away, keep safe distance.” The Revolutionary Guards kept coming, as they often do, probing until the USN reacts.
A fanatic’s boat weaving among American warships could disrupt the U.S. formation and cause a collision. Tehran propagandists would tout that as a victory at sea. Worse, an Iranian boat might be a water-borne bomb capable of sinking a big ship. The deadly October 2000 terror attack on the USS Cole is very much on the minds of Navy sailors when Iran’s small boats appear. Read the rest of this entry »
Pompeo: China, not Russia, poses greatest long-term threat
Bill Gertz reports: The Central Intelligence Agency under President Trump is giving more authority to field operatives and cutting excessive bureaucracy in a bid to boost intelligence operations, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says.
In his first news interview since taking charge of the agency in January, Pompeo also said he believes America’s greatest long-term security challenge is the threat posed by China, not Russia. Excerpts of the interview can be found here.
During the wide-ranging interview on the sidelines of a security conference in Aspen, Colo., Pompeo revealed the CIA is preparing intelligence options for the president, including covert action, for use against North Korea in efforts to counter the threat of a future nuclear missile attack.
He also outlined how the CIA is stepping up counterintelligence programs against foreign spies and leaks of intelligence.
Other disclosures by the CIA chief included new details of North Korea’s drive to develop reliable strategic nuclear missiles and a renewed CIA focus on stealing foreign secrets.
“Look, our primary mission is foreign intelligence,” Pompeo told the Washington Free Beacon.
“That is at the core of what we do, and so the ability to go collect against the most difficult places, the most difficult targets in a way that is not one off, that is deep and robust and redundant, is something this agency is really good at when they are allowed to do it. And the president is going to go let us do it.”
Similar to the Pentagon shift in giving military commanders greater authority to act in the field, the CIA is unleashing its spying power—clandestine operations, intelligence analysis, and technical prowess.
The CIA chief said decentralizing spying authority presents both risks and promise.
“In nearly every one of those cases it increases the risk level,” he said. “It also greatly enhances the likelihood you’ll achieve the outcome you’re looking for.”
The shift followed an internal agency review earlier this year that identified several areas where the CIA needed new guidance, or CIA activities that are allowed under law but had been restricted under President Barack Obama’s administration, Pompeo said.
The CIA director said he meets regularly with Trump during intelligence briefings and noted that the president has been very supportive of agency reforms aimed at improving CIA operations.
A former Army officer who until January was a Republican member of the House, Pompeo said the two most immediate security threats are Islamic State terrorists fleeing the Middle East and North Korea’s aggressive effort to field long-range missiles with nuclear warheads that can strike the United States.
U.S. Faces Growing Threats From China, North Korea
Over the longer term, however, Pompeo singled out China as the most serious security challenge.
While China, Russia, and Iran all are expected to pose significant problems in the future, China is a greater threat because of its robust economy and growing military power—both aimed against the United States.
“I think China has the capacity to present the greatest rivalry to America of any of those over the medium and long term,” he said.
China’s military is building up forces that are aimed at countering U.S. power projection around the world, he said.
“So you see that, whether it’s going on in the South China or East China Sea, or the work they’re doing in other parts of the world,” Pompeo said. Read the rest of this entry »
Natalia Veselnitskaya was allowed into the U.S. without a visa by the former administration’s Justice Department; Catherine Herridge has the details for ‘Special Report’.
The Cold War test of nerves is back. Risky close encounters between Russian and NATO forces have increased dramatically in the Baltic region over the past three years. The WSJ’s Tanya Rivero explains what’s at stake.
President Donald Trump spoke Thursday in Warsaw, Poland, on his second international trip as President. These are his full remarks with first lady Melania Trump, as transcribed by the White House.
MRS. TRUMP: Hello, Poland! Thank you very much. My husband and I have enjoyed visiting your beautiful country. I want to thank President and Mrs. Duda for the warm welcome and their generous hospitality. I had the opportunity to visit the Copernicus Science Centre today, and found it not only informative but thoughtful, its mission, which is to inspire people to observe, experiment, ask questions, and seek answers.
I can think of no better purpose for such a wonderful science center. Thank you to all who were involved in giving us the tour, especially the children who made it such a wonderful experience.
As many of you know, a main focus of my husband’s presidency is safety and security of the American people. I think all of us can agree people should be able to live their lives without fear, no matter what country they live in. That is my wish for all of us around the world. (Applause.)
Thank you again for this wonderful welcome to your very special country. Your kindness and gracious hospitality will not be forgotten. (Applause.)
And now it is my honor to introduce to you my husband, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. That’s so nice. The United States has many great diplomats, but there is truly no better ambassador for our country than our beautiful First Lady, Melania. Thank you, Melania. That was very nice. (Applause.)
We’ve come to your nation to deliver a very important message: America loves Poland, and America loves the Polish people. (Applause.) Thank you.
The Poles have not only greatly enriched this region, but Polish-Americans have also greatly enriched the United States, and I was truly proud to have their support in the 2016 election. (Applause.)
It is a profound honor to stand in this city, by this monument to the Warsaw Uprising, and to address the Polish nation that so many generations have dreamed of: a Poland that is safe, strong, and free. (Applause.)
President Duda and your wonderful First Lady, Agata, have welcomed us with the tremendous warmth and kindness for which Poland is known around the world. Thank you. (Applause.) My sincere — and I mean sincerely thank both of them. And to Prime Minister Syzdlo, a very special thanks also. (Applause.)
We are also pleased that former President Leck Walesa, so famous for leading the Solidarity Movement, has joined us today, also. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
On behalf of all Americans, let me also thank the entire Polish people for the generosity you have shown in welcoming our soldiers to your country. These soldiers are not only brave defenders of freedom, but also symbols of America’s commitment to your security and your place in a strong and democratic Europe.
We are proudly joined on stage by American, Polish, British, and Romanian soldiers. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Great job.
President Duda and I have just come from an incredibly successful meeting with the leaders participating in the Three Seas Initiative. To the citizens of this great region, America is eager to expand our partnership with you. We welcome stronger ties of trade and commerce as you grow your economies. And we are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy. (Applause.)
Mr. President, I congratulate you, along with the President of Croatia, on your leadership of this historic Three Seas Initiative. Thank you. (Applause.)
This is my first visit to Central Europe as President, and I am thrilled that it could be right here at this magnificent, beautiful piece of land. It is beautiful. (Applause.) Poland is the geographic heart of Europe, but more importantly, in the Polish people, we see the soul of Europe. Your nation is great because your spirit is great and your spirit is strong. (Applause.)
For two centuries, Poland suffered constant and brutal attacks. But while Poland could be invaded and occupied, and its borders even erased from the map, it could never be erased from history or from your hearts. In those dark days, you have lost your land but you never lost your pride. (Applause.)
So it is with true admiration that I can say today, that from the farms and villages of your countryside to the cathedrals and squares of your great cities, Poland lives, Poland prospers, and Poland prevails. (Applause.)
Despite every effort to transform you, oppress you, or destroy you, you endured and overcame. You are the proud nation of Copernicus — think of that — (applause) — Chopin, Saint John Paul II. Poland is a land of great heroes. (Applause.) And you are a people who know the true value of what you defend.
The triumph of the Polish spirit over centuries of hardship gives us all hope for a future in which good conquers evil, and peace achieves victory over war.
For Americans, Poland has been a symbol of hope since the beginning of our nation. Polish heroes and American patriots fought side by side in our War of Independence and in many wars that followed. Our soldiers still serve together today in Afghanistan and Iraq, combatting the enemies of all civilization.
For America’s part, we have never given up on freedom and independence as the right and destiny of the Polish people, and we never, ever will. (Applause.)
Our two countries share a special bond forged by unique histories and national characters. It’s a fellowship that exists only among people who have fought and bled and died for freedom. (Applause.)
The signs of this friendship stand in our nation’s capital. Just steps from the White House, we’ve raised statues of men with names like Pułaski and Kościuszko. (Applause.) The same is true in Warsaw, where street signs carry the name of George Washington, and a monument stands to one of the world’s greatest heroes, Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)
And so I am here today not just to visit an old ally, but to hold it up as an example for others who seek freedom and who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization. (Applause.) The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken, and who have never, ever forgotten who they are. (Applause)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much. Such a great honor. This is a nation more than one thousand years old. Your borders were erased for more than a century and only restored just one century ago.
In 1920, in the Miracle of Vistula, Poland stopped the Soviet army bent on European conquest. (Applause.) Then, 19 years later in 1939, you were invaded yet again, this time by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. That’s trouble. That’s tough.
Under a double occupation the Polish people endured evils beyond description: the Katyn forest massacre, the occupations, the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the destruction of this beautiful capital city, and the deaths of nearly one in five Polish people. A vibrant Jewish population — the largest in Europe — was reduced to almost nothing after the Nazis systematically murdered millions of Poland’s Jewish citizens, along with countless others, during that brutal occupation.
In the summer of 1944, the Nazi and Soviet armies were preparing for a terrible and bloody battle right here in Warsaw. Amid that hell on earth, the citizens of Poland rose up to defend their homeland. I am deeply honored to be joined on stage today by veterans and heroes of the Warsaw Uprising. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: What great spirit. We salute your noble sacrifice and we pledge to always remember your fight for Poland and for freedom. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
This monument reminds us that more than 150,000 Poles died during that desperate struggle to overthrow oppression.
From the other side of the river, the Soviet armed forces stopped and waited. They watched as the Nazis ruthlessly destroyed the city, viciously murdering men, women, and children. They tried to destroy this nation forever by shattering its will to survive.
But there is a courage and a strength deep in the Polish character that no one could destroy. The Polish martyr, Bishop Michael Kozal, said it well: “More horrifying than a defeat of arms is a collapse of the human spirit.”
Through four decades of communist rule, Poland and the other captive nations of Europe endured a brutal campaign to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity — indeed the very essence of your culture and your humanity. Yet, through it all, you never lost that spirit. (Applause.) Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken. (Applause.)
And when the day came on June 2nd, 1979, and one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope, that day, every communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down. (Applause.) They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II’s sermon when a million Polish men, women, and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer. A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: “We Want God.” (Applause.)
In those words, the Polish people recalled the promise of a better future. They found new courage to face down their oppressors, and they found the words to declare that Poland would be Poland once again.
As I stand here today before this incredible crowd, this faithful nation, we can still hear those voices that echo through history. Their message is as true today as ever. The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out “We want God.” (Applause.)
Together, with Pope John Paul II, the Poles reasserted their identity as a nation devoted to God. And with that powerful declaration of who you are, you came to understand what to do and how to live. You stood in solidarity against oppression, against a lawless secret police, against a cruel and wicked system that impoverished your cities and your souls. And you won. Poland prevailed. Poland will always prevail. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. You were supported in that victory over communism by a strong alliance of free nations in the West that defied tyranny. Now, among the most committed members of the NATO Alliance, Poland has resumed its place as a leading nation of a Europe that is strong, whole, and free.
A strong Poland is a blessing to the nations of Europe, and they know that. A strong Europe is a blessing to the West and to the world. (Applause.) One hundred years after the entry of American forces into World War I, the transatlantic bond between the United States and Europe is as strong as ever and maybe, in many ways, even stronger.
This continent no longer confronts the specter of communism. But today we’re in the West, and we have to say there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life. You see what’s happening out there. They are threats. We will confront them. We will win. But they are threats. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We are confronted by another oppressive ideology — one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe. America and Europe have suffered one terror attack after another. We’re going to get it to stop. (Applause.)
During a historic gathering in Saudi Arabia, I called on the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations to join together to drive out this menace which threatens all of humanity. We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding, and their networks, and any form of ideological support that they may have. While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism, and we will prevail. We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.
Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence, and challenge our interests. To meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare, we must adapt our alliance to compete effectively in new ways and on all new battlefields.
We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran — and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself. (Applause.)
Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger — one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.
Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are. (Applause.) If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit, and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.
But just as our adversaries and enemies of the past learned here in Poland, we know that these forces, too, are doomed to fail if we want them to fail. And we do, indeed, want them to fail. (Applause.) They are doomed not only because our alliance is strong, our countries are resilient, and our power is unmatched. Through all of that, you have to say everything is true. Our adversaries, however, are doomed because we will never forget who we are. And if we don’t forget who are, we just can’t be beaten. Americans will never forget. The nations of Europe will never forget. We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations.
We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.
We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression. (Applause.)
We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives. And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves. (Applause.)
And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are. Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies, and as a civilization.
What we have, what we inherited from our — and you know this better than anybody, and you see it today with this incredible group of people — what we’ve inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before. And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again. So we cannot fail.
This great community of nations has something else in common: In every one of them, it is the people, not the powerful, who have always formed the foundation of freedom and the cornerstone of our defense. The people have been that foundation here in Poland — as they were right here in Warsaw — and they were the foundation from the very, very beginning in America.
Our citizens did not win freedom together, did not survive horrors together, did not face down evil together, only to lose our freedom to a lack of pride and confidence in our values. We did not and we will not. We will never back down. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: As long as we know our history, we will know how to build our future. Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests. That is why my administration has demanded that all members of NATO finally meet their full and fair financial obligation.
As a result of this insistence, billions of dollars more have begun to pour into NATO. In fact, people are shocked. But billions and billions of dollars more are coming in from countries that, in my opinion, would not have been paying so quickly.
To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment. (Applause.)
Words are easy, but actions are what matters. And for its own protection — and you know this, everybody knows this, everybody has to know this — Europe must do more. Europe must demonstrate that it believes in its future by investing its money to secure that future. Read the rest of this entry »
Leah Barkoukis reports: After suffering 17 months of brutal captivity in North Korea, Otto Warmbier died Monday, having spent more than a year in a coma before his release last week.
After news of his death, Twitter users were quick to resurface articles from liberal sites Salon, Huffington Post, and Bustle in 2016 mocking the college student for getting what he deserved.
Warmbier was accused of stealing a propaganda poster from the hotel he was staying at in North Korea and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
This Huffington Post blog sure aged well. pic.twitter.com/8DSZ1uL6qe
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) June 19, 2017
Everyone in frame is smiling and laughing in the North Korean cold. Otto Warmbier, like the other tourists, launches a snowball, captured in slow motion on what appears to be a camera phone.
It’s the kind of innocent fun you expect to be captured on a tour group holiday. Otto turns to his right, mouth wide open, laughing.
“This is the Otto I know and love. This is my brother,” wrote Austin Warmbier, who released the video, which was shot during a three-night North Korea tour at the end of 2015.
Two months later, Otto would again appear on video, but in very different circumstances.
Head bowed and clutching a prepared “confession”, the 21-year-old student walked out in front of North Korean TV cameras to speak, explaining why he had been arrested at the end of that tour, when everyone else had been allowed to leave.
He wore a cream-coloured jacket and tie. Before speaking, he got up an offered a low bow.
Otto thanked the North Korean government for the “opportunity to apologise for my crime, to beg for forgiveness and to beg for any assistance to save my life”.
He said he tried to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel as a “trophy” for a US church with the “connivance of the US administration” in order to “harm the work ethic and motivation of the Korean people”.
Later, he would break down in tears: “I have made the single worst decision of my life, but I am only human.”
Otto is now back in the US after 15 months of captivity in North Korea. But he is in a coma, cannot understand language and has severe brain damage.
In the year-and-a-half since he threw that snowball, the life of a young man full of promise has been permanently altered.
Much remains unknown about how Otto’s health deteriorated. Doctors at Cincinnati Medical Center say they have seen no sign he was physically abused but they and his family also don’t buy North Korea’s story that he contracted botulism and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.
But how did a brilliant student from an Ohio suburb with hopes of becoming an investment banker end up imprisoned in a pariah state? And why was he released in a coma?
The Warmbiers hail from a small suburb called Wyoming in Cincinnati, Ohio, where father Fred owns a small company.
Otto attended the best high school in the state, and was prom and homecoming king. Read the rest of this entry »
President Donald Trump is growing his brand in China.
David Francis reports: According to a report from the Associated Press, the Chinese government has approved nine Trump trademarks it had earlier rejected, in whole or in part. The latest development is likely to add to the growing controversy over Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, and especially charges that he could be in violation of the emolument clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is supposed to prevent a sitting president from gaining a financial benefit from foreign nations.
There are now three lawsuits alleging the president is violating the Constitution by refusing to put his assets into a blind trust; Trump has put his son in charge of managing his many business dealings. Trump’s new Washington hotel is a particular sore spot, since many visiting delegations stay there. One was filed by nearly 200 Congressional Democrats Wednesday; a joint one was filed by the attorney generals of Washington, D.C. and Maryland; and a similar suit was filed by the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Benefitting from foreign governments, whether through hotel bills or the granting of trademarks, lie at the center of all these cases. In the case of the China trademarks, records don’t show why these requests were initially rejected or why they were reconsidered. Read the rest of this entry »