Driving a Stake in the Heart of Bloodthirsty IRS Agents, Americans Living Abroad Renounce U.S. Citizenship in Record NumbersPosted: February 9, 2016
Uncle Sam’s Global Tax Police Crawl Over International Borders to Extract Tribute from U.S. Citizens.
The number of citizens and long-term residents cutting their official ties to Uncle Sam jumped more than 20% last year to 4,279, according to a CNNMoney analysis of the latest government data.
“Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live.”
It’s a trend that’s been increasing in recent years. Many of those severing links are Americans living overseas who are tired of dealing with complicated tax paperwork, a headache that has worsened since new regulations came into effect.
“For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.”
Eighteen times as many Americans renounced their citizenship or long-term residency in 2015 compared with 2008. Last year was the third record-breaking year in a row.
“The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.”
Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live. For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.
The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.
It requires individuals to report certain foreign assets and banks to disclose all foreign accounts held by Americans. That comes on top of another rule that requires Americans to disclose foreign bank holdings above $10,000. Read the rest of this entry »
‘We Caved’: How Barack Obama’s Idealistic Rhetoric Collided With the Cold Realities of War and Dictatorship in the Middle EastPosted: January 9, 2016
The persistent problem of how to deal with American-allied strongmen has long tripped up an inflexible president who boasts of his preference for ‘pragmatic solutions’ over moral purity but has been unable to find much of either in the Middle East.
Eight new American fighter jets, freshly delivered from Washington, swooped low over the city, F-16s flying in formation. As they banked hard over the city’s center, they trailed plumes of red, white and black smoke—the colors of the Egyptian flag.
“The rhetoric got way ahead of the policymaking. It … raised expectations that everything was going to change.”
— Michael Posner, who served as Obama’s top State Department official for human rights and democracy in his first term
For Egypt’s brutally repressive president, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the spectacle was a triumph, symbolizing not only his militaristic power at home, but also his victory over an American president who had tried to punish him before surrendering to the cold realities of geopolitics.
“He’s never quite melded his rhetoric with his policies.”
— Dennis Ross, who served as Obama’s top Middle East aide in his first term
Just two years earlier, Sisi had seized power in a military coup, toppling Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected successor to Hosni Mubarak, himself a strongman of 30 years pushed out in early 2011 by mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In the summer of 2013, Sisi followed his coup with a brutal crackdown that would have done Saddam Hussein proud. His security forces arrested thousands of people, including much of his political opposition, and in one bloody day that summer, they gunned down some 1,000 pro-Morsi protesters (or more) who were staging peaceful sit-ins. The massacre was shocking even by the standards of Egypt’s long-dismal human rights record.
“It seems like we are swinging back to the idea that we must make a choice between supporting dictators or being safe.”
— Robert Ford, who was Obama’s ambassador to Syria before resigning in frustration over the president’s policy there
Obama was appalled. “We can’t return to business as usual,” he declared after the slaughter. “We have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and ideals.”
Several weeks later, Obama halted the planned delivery of U.S. military hardware to Cairo, including attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles and several F-16 fighter jets, as well as $260 million in cash transfers. He also cast doubt on the future of America’s $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt—a subsidy on which Cairo depends heavily, and much more than the United States sends to any country in the world aside from Israel.
But a fierce internal debate soon broke out over whether and how to sanction Egypt further, a fight that many officials told me was one of the most agonizing of the Obama administration’s seven years, as the president’s most powerful advisers spent months engaged in what one called “trench warfare” against each other. It was an excruciating test of how to balance American values with its cold-blooded security interests in an age of terrorism. Some of Obama’s top White House aides, including his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, and the celebrated human rights champion Samantha Power, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the president to link further military aid to clear progress by Sisi on human rights and democracy. But Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Hagel’s successor, Ash Carter, argued for restoring the aid. Trying to punish Sisi would have little effect on his behavior, they said, while alienating a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in an imploding Middle East. “Egypt was one of the most significant policy divides between the White House and the State Department and the Department of Defense,” says Matthew Spence, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy. Read the rest of this entry »
Police have raided the home of an Australian tech entrepreneur identified by two US publications as one of the early developers of the digital currency bitcoin.
On Wednesday afternoon, police gained entry to a home belonging to Craig Wright, who had hours earlier been identified in investigations by Gizmodo and Wired, based on leaked transcripts of legal interviews and files. Both publications have indicated that they believe Wright to have been involved in the creation of the cryptocurrency.
Other people who say they knew Wright have expressed strong doubts about his alleged role, with some saying privately they believe the publications have been the victims of an elaborate hoax.
More than 10 police personnel arrived at the house in the Sydney suburb of Gordon at about 1.30pm. Two police staff wearing white gloves could be seen from the street searching the cupboards and surfaces of the garage. At least three more were seen from the front door.
The Australian Federal police said in a statement that the raids were not related to the bitcoin claims. “The AFP can confirm it has conducted search warrants to assist the Australian Taxation Office at a residence in Gordon and a business premises in Ryde, Sydney. This matter is unrelated to recent media reporting regarding the digital currency bitcoin.”
One officer told Reuters they were “clearing the house”. Reuters reporter Jane Wardell said Wright’s offices were also being raided.
The house was the only one on the street with a rubbish bin still outside, six days after the weekly Thursday collection, and the letterbox was full, indicating that the house may have been empty recently.
Garry Hayres, the owner of the property, now based in Maroochydore, Queensland, told Guardian Australia that Wright and his wife Ramona Watts had leased the property in November 2012.
He only met Watts, “a lovely lady”, but said the couple were “typical tenants. They didn’t look after the place fantastically, but it wasn’t their home. They didn’t seem bad.”
He said they switched to from a full lease to month-by-month about six months ago, before informing him in the first week of December of their intention to leave.
Wright told him they were moving to London; he would go first, then Watts would follow. Read the rest of this entry »
Adam Kredo reports: Democratic lawmakers are planning to attend prayer services at a Washington-area mosque that has been accused of acting as a front for Hamas and that served as the home of terrorist spiritual leader Anwar al-Awlaki, who reportedly mentored two of the 9/11 hijackers.
“That Democrats in the name of tolerance and diversity are mainstreaming extremists like this is inherently damaging to the Muslim community.”
On the heels of a deadly mass shooting by two Muslim individuals in San Bernardino, California, a group of Democratic lawmakers said they would attend Friday prayer services at the Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Virginia, which has been linked to the financing of terrorists and where al-Awlaki served as the spiritual leader.
“These same folks just yesterday wanted to take away the Second Amendment rights of those on the terror watch list, and now they want to embrace a mosque that we know from FOIAs was on the terror watch list. Unbelievable.”
— Patrick Poole, a terrorism analyst and national security reporter
The Democrats set to attend include Reps. Don Beyer (D., Va.), Joseph Crowley (D., N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D., Minn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.), and several Virginia state lawmakers, according to the New York Times.
Beyer told the Times that the visit could help diffuse tensions with the Muslim community in the wake of the San Bernardino attack and the recent terrorist massacre in Paris.
“After Paris and after the House resolution a few weeks ago, we just thought it was really important to continue to reiterate to the many, many peace-loving Muslim Americans that they were still a welcome part of our community,” Bayer said.
“A founding member of Dar al-Hijrah, Ismail Elbarasse, also has been accused of working for Hamas’s top leadership. The FBI accused Elbarasse of wiring $735,000 to a Hamas operative in 2004, according to the Investigative Project.”
The accused attackers in San Bernardino reportedly pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State before carrying out the rampage.
Al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011, began service as Dar al-Hijrah’s imam in January 2001. He is accused of acting as a key recruiter for al Qaeda and as serving as a spiritual adviser for those aligned with the terror group.
Treasury Department records have indicated that, in the past, Dar al-Hijrah acted “as a front for Hamas operatives in U.S.,” and was at one point “associated with Islamic extremists,” according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »
Heather Wilhelm writes: On Monday, NBC’s “Today” show hosted everyone’s favorite person who might actually be an android, Hillary Clinton, for a folksy “Pancakes and Politics” town-hall gathering. The setting was autumnal Hollis, N.H., in a cozy red barn; Hillary wore a cozy
blazer the color of a minor explosion. The event opened with the jovial flipping of pancakes, because we all know that the former secretary of state—a woman whose inside desperately
screams “Don’t blackball me, I NEED THIS!” but whose outside cleverly imitates an animatronic wax statue from Madame Tussauds—likes nothing better than to stay home and cook.
“Honestly, there’s so much wackiness here, it’s hard to know where to begin.”
“I guess you’ve probably flipped a pancake before in your life?” Savannah Guthrie, the “Today” host, asked gamely. To be fair, when it comes to Hillary Clinton, who famously insulted millions of American cookie bakers during her husband’s 1992 campaign, this is actually a legitimate question.
“Yes. I have. I have.” Here, in this moment, Clinton stared at the spatula she’d been forced to hold, perhaps considering whether she could quietly murder someone with it. The seconds slowed. The spatula quivered. No one died. Instead, Hillary glanced up at the lofty, rough-hewn ceiling, and replied in a flat tone: “Never in a barn.”
Ridiculousness aside, here’s the bottom line: I don’t care if there is ever a female president, and you shouldn’t either. What I would like is a president who:
1. Actually likes human beings
2. Does not constantly act all exhausted and frustrated with the yokel dummies out in the hinterlands—that’s you and me, of course—when problems arise in America
3. Does not claim to have the power to adjust sea levels
4. Does not have a name that rhymes with Schlonald Frump
5. Understands the value of limited government and the separation of powers
6. Maybe takes notice when rogue Russian agents are trying to sell nukes to ISIS
7. Is not a closeted socialist
8. Is not an actual socialist
About an hour later, after cheerful audience questions about Clinton’s favorite alcoholic drinks, hidden musical talents, and people dying in Benghazi, Guthrie closed the interview with a slow, delicious meatball, dripping a trail of sauce right over home plate: “You often say that you’re not running because you’re a woman; you’re running on the merits, and one of your merits is that you are a woman.”
This sentence was hilarious, circular, and nonsensical, but no matter. Hillary nodded, perhaps channeling Yoda or Vishnu or some voodoo doll in a closet somewhere, then smiled and agreed. Read the rest of this entry »
Obama’s promise was to be a transformative figure, his supporters averred. He would reverse a suspiciously colonialist Bush-era foreign policy, deliver the country into a post-racial period, and restore America’s faith in the power of collectivism and the righteous efficacy of government. As the winter of the Obama presidency approaches, it seems beyond dispute that this presidency has robbed Americans of what remaining faith they had in the value of collective action. The power of massive governmental programs to effect positive change is, at best, dubious. The tragedy of it all is that cynicism has replaced shock when the latest scandalous revelations hit the newsstands. That’s dangerous. The expectation of corruption is a condition that saps a nation’s faith in the virtue of self-governance. It is this kind of contempt for public institutions that leads republics to ruin.
Barack Obama’s administration is scandal-plagued. In its twilight years, this White House has subordinated accountability and the preservation of faith in public sector competence to exculpation from the political press.
“The power of massive governmental programs to effect positive change is, at best, dubious. The tragedy of it all is that cynicism has replaced shock when the latest scandalous revelations hit the newsstands. That’s dangerous. The expectation of corruption is a condition that saps a nation’s faith in the virtue of self-governance. It is this kind of contempt for public institutions that leads republics to ruin.”
The in-party spent the better part of the three years that followed the deadly assault on diplomatic and CIA compounds in Benghazi by framing the investigation into it as a manifestation of Republicans’ pathological hatred for the president. That is an impression which remains cemented in the minds of
many average voters who have not closely followed a congressional investigation into that affair – an investigation that exposed the scandalous details regarding how Hillary Clinton and her cadre of privileged aides comported themselves at the State Department. Those Americans who do not see the investigation as a partisan witch-hunt are apt to view it as an indictment of the political culture in Washington that afforded Clinton the leeway to flaunt the law and jeopardize American national security in order to preserve her sense of “convenience.”
The Obama-era has made it difficult to recall that it was once the left that prided itself for serving as sentinels standing guard against abuses by powerful government agencies. “Artful” Nixonian abuses of the IRS in order to intimidate and tarnish the reputations of political opponents were once a Republican phenomenon. Today, yet another simmering scandal involving the misuse of the IRS has ensnared Democrats. As such, it is dismissed as a non-issue by the left and partisans in the press.
Read the rest of this entry »
Obama Administration: ‘Hey, About that Requirement to Defend The United States, Let’s Remove it from the Citizenship Oath’Posted: July 22, 2015
Katie Pavlich writes: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has “clarified” requirements for individuals becoming naturalized citizens by stripping out the requirement of defending the United States through military service.
“Effective July 21, 2015, new guidance (PA-2015-001) in the USCIS Policy Manual clarifies the eligibility requirements for modifications to the Oath of Allegiance. Reciting the Oath is part of the naturalization process. Candidates for citizenship normally declare that they will “bear arms on behalf of the United States” and “perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States” when required by the law. A candidate may be eligible to exclude these two clauses based on religious training and belief or a conscientious objection,” an email from USCIS clarifying the requirements states (bolding is mine).
The new guidance:
-May be eligible for modifications based on religious training and belief, or conscientious objection arising from a deeply held moral or ethical code.
-Is not required to belong to a specific church or religion, follow a particular theology or belief, or to have had religious training in order to qualify.
-May submit, but is not required to provide, an attestation from a religious or other type of organization, as well as other evidence to establish eligibility. Read the rest of this entry »
…Comey on Friday attributed the problem to incomplete and inaccurate paperwork related to an arrest of Dylann Roof weeks before the shooting.
He says an FBI examiner who looked into Roof’s background when he tried to purchase a gun never saw an arrest report in which police say he admitted to possessing drugs. The arresting agency was listed erroneously on the rap sheet that the examiner reviewed. Read the rest of this entry »
Sudanese authorities are to free a woman who was sentenced to death for having abandoned the Islamic faith, a foreign ministry official says.
Meriam Ibrahim, who gave birth to a daughter in custody, will be freed in a few days, the official told the BBC. Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, said Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman. Khartoum has been facing international condemnation over the death sentence.
In an interview with The Times newspaper, British Prime Minister David Cameron described the ruling as “barbaric” and out of step with today’s world. The UK Foreign Office this week said that it would push for Ms Ibrahim to be released on humanitarian grounds.
Ms Ibrahim, 27, was brought up as an Orthodox Christian, but a Sudanese judge ruled earlier this month that she should be regarded as Muslim because that had been her father’s faith. Read the rest of this entry »
Robert W. Wood reports: America is a great land and lures immigrants worldwide, yet record numbers of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are giving up their citizenship or residency. For all the immigrant arrivals the trickle the other direction is increasing. The number is still small, with the “published” expatriates for the quarter was 630 for the last quarter or 2013.
That brings the total number to 2,999 for all of 2013. The previous record high for a year was 1,781 set in 2011. It’s a 221% increase over the 932 who left in 2012. You can call it a shaming or a public record, but the Treasury Department is required to publish a quarterly list of Americans who renounced their U.S. Citizenship or terminated their long-term U.S. residency. The public outing puts Americans on notice who relinquished their rights.
Those seem like tiny numbers, yet the total thus far for 2013 is 2,369. See Number of Taxpayers Who Renounced U.S. Citizenship Skyrockets to All-Time Record High, quoting Andrew Mitchel. Under U.S. tax law, it is not relevant why someone expatriates. Whether the expatriation was motivated by tax avoidance or something else used to matter, but the law was changed in 2004.
In order to become a US citizen, immigrants must pass the Naturalization Test. American citizenship bestows the right to vote, improves the likelihood of family members living in other countries to come and live in the US, gives eligibility for federal jobs, and can be a way to demonstrate loyalty to the US. Applicants must get 6 answers out of 10 in an oral exam to pass the test. According to US Citizenship and Immigration services, 92 percent of applicants pass this test.
You must get 58 or more of these test questions correct in order to pass.
To Get Around US Law, The NSA Collects Email Address Books And Chat Buddy Lists From Foreign LocationsPosted: October 15, 2013
The Washington Post broke news this afternoon that the National Security Agency (NSA) is collecting huge numbers of email address books and chat buddy lists for both foreign individuals and United States citizens.
It appears that the NSA lacks Congressional authority to collect buddy lists and address book information in the way that it currently does. As the Post rightly points out, address book data can include physical addresses, very personal information, and more.
To get around that lack of a mandate, the NSA has agreements with non-U.S. telcos and works with other, non-U.S. intelligence groups. So to get its hands on even more information, the NSA avoids the constraints of its provided oversight and legal boundaries, by going to alternative sources of the data that it wants.
That matters because the rules of other countries for tracking the communication of United States citizens are more lax. Recall that the NSA is in some ways slowed from collecting information on citizens of the United States, but not those of other countries.
So, if the NSA is willing to accept data from foreign intelligence agencies that it is not able to collect in this case, why not in other cases as well?
Few Americans have ever thought about giving up their U.S. citizenship, but nearly half think U.S. citizens should be able to be citizens of more than one country.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only nine percent (9%) of U.S. citizens have considered giving up their American citizenship. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Perhaps in part that’s because 93% consider it at least somewhat important to be a U.S. citizen, including 79% who think it is Very Important. Read the rest of this entry »
By David Hambling
In a recent PopularScience.com post, contributing writer Kelsey Atherton suggests that Edward Snowden is at no risk from a U.S. drone strike in Hong Kong because of Chinese air defenses and the risk of collateral damage in the densely populated city.
It’s true that a strike by a Predator or Reaper drone, which can’t penetrate air defenses and cause significant collateral damage with standard weapons, could be ruled out—but the military and the CIA have plenty of other drones up their sleeve.
A morbid thought experiment: Hong Kong is an island; it’s a port city surrounded by deep water. In 2008 the Navy demonstrated something called Submarine Over-The-Horizon Organic Capability—launching and controlling a lethal Switchblade drone from a submerged sub.
The Switchblade is a one-use drone, powered by a quiet electric motor, that weighs about six pounds and flies up to 50 mph for 15 minutes. Switchblade carries a high-explosive warhead that can blow up everything within a 1-, 5-, or 7-meter range around the drone; it can take out an individual, or a truck. A high-resolution video camera in the nose allows a human operator to verify the target before detonating the drone. This is a far less destructive than the 20-pound warhead on the Hellfire missiles fired by Reaper drones, which can cause considerable collateral damage.
Although they won’t give operational details, the Switchblade has received good reviews from users in Afghanistan, where the drone has been deployed since late 2012.
If Snowden could be accurately located in Hong Kong, then a midnight Switchblade strike would be an option. Submarine launch means that the strike would be covert, and even if investigators piece together the exploded drone, it would be difficult to pinpoint where it came from (though most of us could probably guess). GPS guidance could take the Switchblade within visual range of a target, and then the human operator could steer it into, say, the window of Snowden’s hotel room.
The small size of the warhead means that collateral damage would be limited to anyone else in the room with Snowden. Switchblade can fly at a height of a few hundred feet, so it is unlikely anyone would notice or recognize a small, silent drone flying in the dark—especially in a busy place like Hong Kong.
Of course, Switchblade is comparatively well-known. Many of the details are classified, but it is an acknowledged project. The U.S. military and intelligence community also operate a number of other drones which have not yet been acknowledged, including some camouflaged as large birds and designed to operate covertly. These may even have far more impressive capabilities than the Switchblade.
Political considerations make a drone strike against Edward Snowden in Hong Kong highly unlikely. However, we should not underestimate the technical capabilities that already exist for carrying out such a strike.
(So why wouldn’t the U.S. government just send a guy with a gun to kill Snowden? First, they don’t necessarily have an agent in place—and people leave a trail that can be traced back. As in Pakistan, drones are a lot more reliable and easier to control than local assassins. And James Bond doesn’t exist….)
David Hambling is a London-based technology journalist and author.