Democrats don’t want you to find out—and that ought to be a scandal of its own.
Kimberley A. Strassel reports: It has been 10 days since Democrats received the glorious news that Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley would require Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to explain their meeting with Russian operators at Trump Tower last year. The left was salivating at the prospect of watching two Trump insiders being grilled about Russian “collusion” under the klieg lights.
Yet Democrats now have meekly and noiselessly retreated, agreeing to let both men speak to the committee in private. Why would they so suddenly be willing to let go of this moment of political opportunity?
Fusion GPS. That’s the oppo-research outfit behind the infamous and discredited “Trump dossier,” ginned up by a former British spook. Read the rest of this entry »
Matt Vespa writes: Prior to the testimony given by Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, there was a lot of chatter about his third undisclosed meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Depending on whom you read, like the LA Times or the Associated Press, Sessions denied the third meeting, while NBC News says the attorney general said it was “conceivable” a third rendezvous occurred, but he cannot recollect what happened. He did stress that nothing improper had occurred.
FRANKEN: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week, that included information that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say “there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.” Again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so, you know.
But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
SESSIONS: Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.
FRANKEN: Very well.
[LEAHY:] Several of the President-Elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after Election Day?
Ian Schwartz reports: FOX News Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge reacts to former FBI director James Comey‘s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Herridge said she can not recall a time when a former FBI director deliberately leaked a memo to start an investigation or change the entire focus of an investigation going forward.
“What you can draw here from that testimony is that once he left the office of FBI director, he was not necessarily a person of principle. He made a decision to leak information on an anonymous basis in the hope of really changing the entire focus of the Russia investigation going forward.”
“I can’t remember a time ever where a former FBI director has deliberately leaked the contents of a government document so it would get to a reporter in the hopes that it would prompt a special counsel investigation,” Herridge said Thursday afternoon.
“What you can draw here from that testimony is that once he left the office of FBI director, he was not necessarily a person of principle,” Herridge said. “He made a decision to leak information on an anonymous basis in the hope of really changing the entire focus of the Russia investigation going forward.”
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS: I can’t remember a time ever where a former FBI director has deliberately leaked the contents of a government document so it would get to a reporter in the hopes that it would prompt a special counsel investigation. Read the rest of this entry »
The media are pitching James Comey’s Thursday testimony as the biggest since Watergate, and the former FBI director may provide high Trump ian drama. Let’s hope Congress also challenges Mr. Comey on matters he’d rather not talk about.
The politically savvy Mr. Comey has a knack for speaking in congenial forums such as the clubby Senate Intelligence Committee he’ll address Thursday. By contrast he is refusing to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee—where he came under a grilling in May, days before he was fired—though there is no bar to him testifying more than once.
Circa News is also reporting (and we have confirmed) that Mr. Comey is refusing to answer seven questions sent to him in a letter from Judiciary on May 26. The bipartisan request is from Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein, as well as the chairman and ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism.
The questions are aimed at discovering how the contents of Mr. Comey’s famous “memo” to himself came to be splashed across the press. This still private memo reportedly says President Trump asked Mr. Comey to back off an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and its contents surfaced in the New York Times not long after Mr. Comey was fired—courtesy of an unidentified Comey “associate.”
The Judiciary letter asks if Mr. Comey created other memos about interactions with Justice Department officials or Mr. Trump; if he shared the contents of his memos with people inside or outside the Justice Department; if he retained copies of the memos, and if so to turn them over to the committee.
We’re told Mr. Comey replied via email that he didn’t have to answer the questions because he is now a “private citizen.” But that same private citizen will be opining in front of a national TV audience before a committee investigating serious questions of law and intelligence … (read more)
David Harsanyi writes: Almost a month after President Donald Trump fired him, former FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
Comey will reportedly claim that the president asked for his “loyalty” but that he “demurred.” A keeper of meticulous notes, Comey will also likely testify that the president asked him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation only days after the national security advisor was fired. “I hope you can let this go,” the president purportedly told Comey. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
One imagines that special counsel Robert Mueller would not have agreed to allow Comey to testify publicly in the middle of ongoing investigation if the content of his testimony implicated the president in a criminal offense. Comey also won’t be able to shed light on the ongoing investigations. Still, there’s lots of anticipation out there. And there are a slew of questions Comey should answer.
For instance: As the former head of the FBI, do you believe your private conversation with the president rose to the level of obstruction of justice? Was it your impression that the president was speaking extemporaneously about an investigation, offering an opinion about its prospects and your actions, or do you believe he was demanding or insisting that the FBI drop the investigation into Michael Flynn?
Do you believe the president exhibited criminal intent?
Were there any other occasions in which the president brought up Flynn, or any other ongoing investigation of his campaign or administration officials? If so, what was the substance and tone of those conversations? Read the rest of this entry »
…The same forces that opposed Trump during the Republican primary and general election are trying to break his presidency before it is a month old. At issue is the philosophy of nation-state populism that drove his insurgent campaign. It is so at variance with the ideologies of conservatism and liberalism predominant in the capital that Washington is experiencing something like an allergic reaction.
“The message this establishment is sending to Trump? Conform or be destroyed. The outrage at the president’s executive order on refugees and travel was a sample of what is coming. Trump is used to fighting the media and campaign opponents, but he has little experience with the professional and supposedly nonpartisan bureaucracy.”
Nation-state populism diverges from Beltway conservatism on trade, immigration, entitlements, and infrastructure, and from liberalism on sovereignty, nationalism, identity politics, and political correctness. Its combative style and heightened rhetoric offend the sensibilities of career-minded Washingtonians of both parties, who are schooled in deference, diplomacy, being nice to teacher, and the ancient arts of CYA.
“Not only are there two Americas. There are two governments: one elected and one not, one that alternates between Republicans and Democrats and one that remains, decade after decade, stubbornly liberal, contemptuous of Congress, and resistant to change. It is this second government and its allies in the media and the Democratic Party that are after President Trump, that want him driven from office before his term is complete.”
The message this establishment is sending to Trump? Conform or be destroyed. The outrage at the president’s executive order on refugees and travel was a sample of what is coming. Trump is used to fighting the media and campaign opponents, but he has little experience with the professional and supposedly nonpartisan bureaucracy. That is why his firing of acting attorney general Sally Yates was so important. She ordered her department not to defend an executive order that had been cleared by the White House counsel and her own Office of Legal Counsel. For Trump to have delayed or done nothing would have been an invitation to further subversion. He let Yates go within hours.
The blasé manner in which the media describes opposition to Trump from within the bureaucracy is stunning. “Federal workers turn to encryption to thwart Trump,” read one Politico headline. “An anti-Trump resistance movement is growing within the U.S. government,” says Vanity Fair. “Federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives,” reports the Washington Post. Read the rest of this entry »
John O. McGinniswrites: President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch, meets the most important criterion for the successor to Justice Antonin Scalia—that he be an articulate exponent of originalism. Scalia was the most consequential justice in the last half-century because he had the intellect to forge a consistent jurisprudence and the pen to make it widely known. When he arrived on the Court in 1986, originalism had no influence in the legal academy. Today, even among liberals, it is the jurisprudential theory to beat. He not only changed the law but the legal culture as well. Changing the legal culture is as important as making the right decisions in individual cases, because only a good culture will preserve those decisions for tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON—Staring down in shock at her empty hands where the piece of legislation had been only seconds earlier, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was reportedly left horrified Monday after her gun control bill disintegrated immediately upon crossing into the Senate chamber.
“I was just walking in from my office holding the bill like this, and as soon as I stepped through the doorway, it just crumbled to nothing,” said an alarmed Feinstein…(read more)
…According to Suffolk University, in addition to not wanting to hear about gun control in 2016, a majority of Americans do not believe increasing gun control via expanded background checks will curb mass violence. Fifty-six percent of respondents said it would not, while only 40 percent of respondents said it would.
This makes sense, when you consider that Roof allegedly purchased his gun via a background check at a Charleston gun store.
This poll comes nearly seven months after a PEW Research Poll showed that American attitudes toward gun control had shifted to a place where the majority of Americans wanted protection of gun rights rather than passage of more gun control. Released on December 10, the PEW Poll showed that 52 percent of Americans were concerned with protecting gun rights while 46 percent were concerned with passing more gun control.Read the rest of this entry »
Emails disclosed by a hacker show a close family friend was funneling intelligence about the crisis in Libya directly to the Secretary of State’s private account starting before the Benghazi attack.
“Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton, which were directed to her private email account, include at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya as well as events in other nations.”
Jeff Gerth and Sam Biddle report: Starting weeks before Islamic militants attacked the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, longtime Clinton family confidante Sidney Blumenthal supplied intelligence to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gathered by a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer, according to hacked emails from Blumenthal’s account.
They came to light after a hacker broke into Blumenthal’s account and have taken on new significance in light of the disclosure that she conducted State Department and personal business exclusively over an email server that she controlled and kept secret from State Department officials and which only recently was discovered by congressional investigators.
The emails, which were posted on the internet in 2013, also show that Blumenthal and another close Clinton associate discussed contracting with a retired Army special operations commander to put operatives on the ground near the Libya-Tunisia border while Libya’s civil war raged in 2011.
Blumenthal’s emails to Clinton, which were directed to her private email account, include at least a dozen detailed reports on events on the deteriorating political and security climate in Libya as well as events in other nations. They came to light after a hacker broke into Blumenthal’s account and have taken on new significance in light of the disclosure that she conducted State Department and personal business exclusively over an email server that she controlled and kept secret from State Department officials and which only recently was discovered by congressional investigators.
“The contents of the memos, which have recently become the subject of speculation in the right-wing media, raise new questions about how Clinton used her private email account and whether she tapped into an undisclosed back channel for information on Libya’s crisis and other foreign policy matters.”
The contents of that account are now being sought by a congressional inquiry into the Benghazi attacks. Clinton has handed over more than 30,000 pages of her emails to the State Department, after unilaterally deciding which ones involved government business; the State Department has so far handed almost 900 pages of those over to the committee. A Clinton spokesman told Gawker and ProPublica (which are collaborating on this story) that she has turned over all the emails Blumenthal sent to Clinton.
The dispatches from Blumenthal to Clinton’s private email address were posted online after Blumenthal’s account was hacked in 2013 by Romanian hacker Marcel-Lehel Lazar, who went by the name Guccifer. Lazar also broke into accounts belonging to George W. Bush’s sister, Colin Powell, and others. He’s now serving a seven-year sentence in his home country and was charged in a U.S. indictment last year. Read the rest of this entry »
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — The State Department confirmed late Tuesday that it has closed the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff because of the political crisis and security concerns following the takeover of much of the country by Shiite rebels.
“The United States remains firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis who continue to work toward a peaceful, prosperous and unified Yemen. We will explore options for a return to Sanaa when the situation on the ground improves.”
— State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki
The department announced it had suspended operations at the embassy in Sanaa and relocated its remaining diplomatic personnel “due to the ongoing political instability and the uncertain security situation.” The embassy had been operating with only a skeleton staff for some weeks amid deteriorating conditions.
Yemen has been in crisis for months, with Iran-linked Shiite Houthi rebels besieging the capital and then taking control. Earlier Tuesday, U.S. officials said the embassy closure would not affect counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida’s Yemen branch.
“The United States remains firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis who continue to work toward a peaceful, prosperous and unified Yemen,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “We will explore options for a return to Sanaa when the situation on the ground improves.”
The State Department also issued a travel warning advising U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and urging U.S. citizens currently living in Yemen to depart.
Two U.S. officials said Marines providing the security at the embassy will also likely leave, but American forces conducting counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate in other parts of the country would not be affected. The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the closure publicly on the record.
Although operations against al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate will continue, the closure of the embassy will be seen as a blow to the Obama administration, which has held up its partnership with ousted Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government as a model for his strategy in combatting terrorism, particularly in unstable countries.
“Yemen has never been a perfect democracy or an island of stability,” President Barack Obama said late last month as conditions in the capital of Sanaa became worse. “What I’ve said is, is that our efforts to go after terrorist networks inside of Yemen without an occupying U.S. army, but rather by partnering and intelligence-sharing with that local government, is the approach that we’re going to need to take.”
The embassy closure will also complicate the CIA’s operations in Yemen, U.S. intelligence officials acknowledge. Although CIA officers could continue to work out of U.S. military installations, many intelligence operations are run from embassies, and the CIA lost visibility on Syria when that embassy was evacuated in 2012. The CIA’s main role in Yemen is to gather intelligence about members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and occasionally kill them with drone strikes. Both the CIA and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command run separate drone killing programs in Yemen, though the CIA has conducted the majority of the strikes, U.S. officials have said. Read the rest of this entry »
…In the space of just 144 words, Gopnik has managed to: 1) conflate the supposed problem of “assault weapons” with the actions of the man who murdered Richard Martinez’s son (when, in fact, that killer did not use a rifle, but instead used a trio of bog-standard handguns that were legal even in California); 2) propose that those handguns “should never have been in the hands of a lunatic” (when, in fact, that “lunatic” passed the federal and state background checks that Gopnik’s ilk routinely sell as a panacea for our problems); and 3) pretend that there is any evidence whatsoever that to “reinstate assault-weapons bans” would likely “stop the next massacre” — which, as even the Obama administration’s DOJ concedes, there is not….(read more)
“It shows al Qaeda and the al Qaeda 2.0 folks, ISIL, that we’re divided and that we’re easy targets, that we don’t have the will to defeat them because that’s what they know. In fact, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told me personally, ‘Your country will turn on you, the liberal media will turn on you, the people will grow tired of this, they will turn on you, and when they do, you are going to be abandoned.”
Mitchell described Sheikh Mohammed in initial interrogations as “immensely arrogant” and “disdainful.”
“He had a propensity at that particular point to be confrontational without being physical,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell touched on waterboarding, telling Kelly, “Those techniques are so harsh that it’s emotionally distressing to the people who are administering them. Even though you don’t want to do it, you’re doing it in order to save lives in the country, and we would just have to man up for lack of a better term.”
Mitchell recalled how he initially did not want to do interrogations, and he remembered the instant that he decided to “pony up.”
“The 911 victims are the reason that I’m here,” he said.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is shown in this file photograph during his arrest on March 1, 2003. Accused Sept. 11 mastermind Mohammed and four suspected co-conspirators were referred to trial before a Guantanamo war crimes tribunal on charges that could carry the death penalty, the Pentagon said, April 4, 2012. REUTERS/Courtesy U.S. News & World Report
Mitchell remembered the heroes on Flight 93, telling Kelly that if ordinary people were willing to give up their lives to save the Capitol building, then he should be able to give up his moral high ground to save more lives.
“What we forget is al Qaeda tried to decapitate the United States on 9/11,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell recalled how waterboarding was not effective against Sheikh Mohammed, and he told Kelly that other enhanced interrogation techniques finally led the terrorist to divulge useful information.
He cautioned that Americans shouldn’t trust Senate Democrats who Mitchell claimed went in with an agenda on this report. Instead, they should trust the men and women of the CIA who wrote reports which were released back when ex- Vice President Dick Cheney requested them.
Mitchell told Kelly that this ordeal “is like being caught in a bad spy novel.”
He said that those who released the CIA report knew the results they wanted beforehand.
“They didn’t give us a chance to explain anything.”
Now, Mitchell said that interrogators are getting death threats, and he fears for his life.
“I do not mind giving my life for my country, but I do mind giving my life for a food fight for political reasons between two groups of people who should be able to work it out like adults.”
Louis J. Freeh writes: Seventy-three years ago this week, on a peaceful, sunny morning in Hawaii, a Japanese armada carried out a spectacular attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403, wounding 1,178 and damaging or destroying at least 20 ships. Washington immediately declared war and mobilized a peaceful nation.
“The RDI program was not some rogue operation unilaterally launched by a Langley cabal—which is the impression that the Senate Intelligence Committee report tries to convey. Rather, the program was an initiative approved by the president, the national security adviser and the U.S. attorney general…”
In another unfortunate Washington tendency, the government launched an investigation about who to blame for letting the devastating surprise attack happen. A hastily convened political tribunal found two senior military officers guilty of dereliction of duty, publicly humiliating them, as some political leaders sought to hold anyone but themselves accountable for the catastrophe.
“The Senate committee’s new report does not present any evidence that would support the notion that the CIA program was carried out for years without the concurrence of the House or Senate intelligence committees, or that any of the members were shocked to learn of the program after the fact.”
With the Democratic members of the SenateIntelligence Committee this week releasing a report on their investigation holding the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency accountable for the alleged “torture” of suspected terrorists after 9/11, some lessons from the Pearl Harbor history should be kept in mind.
First, let’s remember the context of the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when President George W. Bush and Congress put America on a war footing. While some critics in and out of government blamed the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for failing to prevent the terrorist attack, the 9/11 Commission later concluded that part of the real reason the terrorists succeeded was Washington’s failure to put America on a war footing long before the attack. Sept. 11, 2001, was the final escalation of al Qaeda’s war-making after attacking the USS Cole in 2000 and U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998.
“CIA leaders and briefers who regularly updated this program to the Senate Intelligence Committee leadership took what investigators call ‘copious, contemporaneous notes.’ Without a doubt, the Senate Intelligence Committee and congressional staffers at these multiple briefings also took a lot of their own notes…”
The Intelligence Committee’s majority report fails to acknowledge the Pearl Harbor-esque state of emergency that followed the 9/11 attack. One week after the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history, President Bush signed into law a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which granted the president authority to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.”
“…Will the committee now declassify and release all such notes so that Americans will know exactly what the senators were told and the practices they approved?”
This joint congressional resolution, which has never been amended, was not a broad declaration of a “war on terror,” but rather a specific, targeted authorization to use force against the 9/11 terrorists and to prevent their future attacks. Read the rest of this entry »
The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogations is a moment for reflection, but not for the reasons you’re hearing. The outrage at this or that ugly detail is politically convenient. The report is more important for illustrating how fickle Americans are about their security, and so unfair to those who provide it.
“The report’s greatest offense is its dishonest treatment of political accountability. The authors portray a rogue CIA operating without legal authority and hiding information from Congress, the public and even President Bush. This charge is rebutted even by current CIA director John Brennan , who otherwise dries his predecessors out to hang.”
After the trauma of 9/11 and amid the anthrax letters in 2001, Americans wanted protection from another terror attack. The political class fired up a commission to examine what went wrong so it “would never happen again.” So the CIA, blamed for not stopping 9/11, tried to oblige. It captured the plotters, detained and interrogated them—sometimes harshly. There hasn’t been another successful al Qaeda plot on the homeland.
“Ms. Feinstein has had an admirable career, so it is a shame to see her mar her legacy with this one-sided report. Mr. Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are also not profiles in courage, issuing everyone-has-a-point statements while endorsing release of the report. Better leaders would have resigned for the morale of their agencies…”
But political memories are short. As the Iraq war became unpopular, the anti-antiterror left fought back. Democrats who sensed a political opening began to fault the details of how the CIA and Bush Administration had protected the country—on surveillance, detention and interrogation. Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin, the lead Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, unleashed their staff to second-guess the CIA.
“Then there is President Obama, who issued his own have-it-both-ways statement that condemned the Bush-era practices but extolled our intelligence services. He could have taken executive responsibility by having Mr. Brennan issue his own report or release the one done by former CIA director Leon Panetta , but that would have meant more personal political risk. Better to leave the public wet work to Senate staff.”
That’s the context in which to understand the Senate report, which reads like a prosecutor’s brief. It devotes 6,000 pages to marshalling evidence to indict the CIA program, and nothing was going to interfere with its appointed verdict. Read the rest of this entry »
The problem, as the Founders saw it, is to prevent the president or Congress from acquiring unchecked power, as they will inevitably try to do. The solution was to divide powers between the executive and the legislature and hope that they would be constrained by countervailing institutional interests. But Harry Reid is a “party man,” not a “Senate man.”
Mr. Lipson is a professor of political science and director of the Program on International Politics, Economics, and Security at the University of Chicago.
Charles Lipson writes: With the midterm elections looming, the White House has delayed controversial decisions and appointments. That makes sense politically. The administration doesn’t want to force Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Michelle Nunn, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, or other embattled Democrats to defend presidential actions right now, or worse, to oppose them publicly. But as soon as the voting is done (perhaps after runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia), several big shoes will drop. Here are the most likely ones.
Obama’s Post-Election Policy Blowout
1) Immigration. How many millions will the president let in? On what terms? One hint: The Department of Homeland Security recently ordered more than four million green cards and visas for next year and says it might order another 29 million for future years.
“All of these matters have been high-profile and potentially deeply divisive. That is precisely why the White House is postponing any announcements. When the administration finally does speak, it will unleash a political storm, even if Democrats hold the Senate.”
The cards would give immigrants who are here illegally the right to continue living and working in the U.S. legally—and perhaps receive a variety of federal and state benefits. Should the president unilaterally issue these cards, there will be a brutal debate over the wisdom of this policy, whether it extends to welfare benefits, and whether the president has the constitutional authority to issue so many cards without specific congressional approval.
“If Republicans win, those winds will reach hurricane force, since the president will likely try to ram everything through a lame-duck Congress. If that happens, consider boarding up the windows.”
2) The next U.S. attorney general. The president wants a crusader on progressive causes and a reliable firewall to protect him, just as Eric Holder has done. Rumor has it that he wants Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has been the point man on racial preferences. Read the rest of this entry »
CIA director nominee John Brennan and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Photo: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images)
CIA responded to Obama’s acquiescence when it spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Public Servants Acting as Public Masters
For USAToday, Glenn Reynolds writes: “Nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that.” That was CIA Director John Brennan’s answer in March when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., charged the CIA with breaking into computers used by Senate investigators looking into CIA misconduct.
“Call me old-fashioned, but I believe that people respond to incentives.”
It turns out that the CIA would do that — and, in fact, had done so. Brennan’s reassurances were false, and CIA spooks had been hacking into the committee investigators’ computers looking for documents they thought the investigators shouldn’t have, violating a promise not to. So, first Brennan broke a promise. Then, he either lied, or showed that he doesn’t control his own agency, which in many ways would be worse.
Couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting, similar to Columbine or Newtown. And Australia just said, well, that’s it, we’re not doing, we’re not seeing that again, and basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since.
Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced, developed country that would put up with this.
In other words, the president of the United States just praised a government for forcefully removing all semi-automatic firearms (i.e. a remarkable number of the guns in America and the majority of those sold today) from its citizenry.
Let me be clear, as Obama likes to say: You simply cannot praise Australia’s gun-laws without praising the country’s mass confiscation program. That is Australia’s law. Read the rest of this entry »
For The Washington Free Beacon, Bill Gertz reports: A senior CIA official has died in an apparent suicide this week from injuries sustained after jumping off a building in northern Virginia, according to sources close to the CIA.
CIA spokesman Christopher White confirmed the death and said the incident did not take place at CIA headquarters in McLean, Va.
“We can confirm that there was an individual fatally injured at a facility where agency work is done,” White told the Washington Free Beacon. “He was rushed to a local area hospital where he subsequently died. Due to privacy reasons and out of respect for the family, we are not releasing additional information at this time.”
The Daily Caller‘sMike Piccione reports: California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein is circulating a letter on Capitol Hill calling once again for a ban on semi-automatic rifles and asking for President Barack Obama to keep his State of the Union promise to make 2014 a “year of action.”
Citing the Gun Control Act of 1968, Feinstein states, “In recent years… importers of firearms have taken advantage of ATF’s interpretation of the ‘sporting purposes’ test to evade the import ban.”
The phrase contained in The Gun Control Act of 1968 Feinstein is referencing prohibits the importation of firearms that are not “generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” She claims that in recent years firearms importers have taken advantage of ATF’s interpretation of “sporting purposes” to circumvent the ban.
Although Feinstein recognizes that the firearms are designed for civilian use and never manufactured or used by any standing army, she maintained that “many semiautomatic firearms on the market today do not have a military origin but are modeled closely after military firearms.”
Kevin D. Williamson writes: Now we know what it takes to nudge Congress’s sense of self-respect into a state of at least semi-consciousness.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, God bless her, is throwing a very public fit over findings that the CIA spied on Congress — on her Select Senate Intelligence Committee, specifically — as part of a campaign to undermine the committee’s investigation into an interrogation program that the agency does not much want to see investigated.
“Willing subservience to the presidency is not the mark of a legislative branch that has any meaningful sense of self-respect, or any real understanding of its constitutional role.”
It’s a strange contradiction: Senators do not want for self-respect. If anything, the individual members of that august collection of a hundred self-identified future presidents and vice presidents suffer from excessive self-regard at levels that are frequently embarrassing and occasionally delusional. Look into the eyes of John Kerry or Joe Biden and consider for a moment the political incubator that hatched such specimens of Miltonic-Luciferian self-importance. But the Senate, and Congress as a whole, have been experiencing something of a crisis of confidence in recent decades. Our constitutional order makes Congress the effective seat of domestic governance: Only Congress can appropriate funds; only Congress can tax. Spending bills must originate in the House, presidential appointments are subject to Senate approval. Only Congress can coin money. And while the Constitution entrusts the president with some important powers regarding such outward-directed issues as military engagements, only Congress can declare war or ratify a treaty.
“The most nefarious explanation is that they are not privileged and the White House simply doesn’t want to hand them over…”
— Elizabeth Goitein
In contrast to public assertions that it supports the committee’s work, the White House has ignored or rejected offers in multiple meetings and in letters to find ways for the committee to review the records, a McClatchy investigation has found.
“…Executive privilege is generally asserted after negotiations and brinksmanship behind the scenes. People put on paper what they want to be formalized, and these negotiations by their very nature are very informal.”
— Elizabeth Goitein
The significance of the materials couldn’t be learned. But the administration’s refusal to turn them over or to agree to any compromise raises questions about what they would reveal about the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons.
The dispute indicates that the White House is more involved than it has acknowledged in the unprecedented power struggle between the committee and the CIA, which has triggered charges that the agency searched the panel’s computers without authorization and has led to requests to the Justice Department for criminal investigations of CIA personnel and Senate aides.
Mark Mazzetti reports: The Central Intelligence Agency’s attempt to keep secret the details of a defunct detention and interrogation program has escalated a battle between the agency and members of Congress and led to an investigation by the C.I.A.’s internal watchdog into the conduct of agency employees.
“As you are aware, the C.I.A. has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal C.I.A. review, and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy…”
— Senator Mark Udall
The agency’s inspector general began the inquiry partly as a response to complaints from members of Congress that C.I.A. employees were improperly monitoring the work of staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to government officials with knowledge of the investigation.
The committee has spent several years working on a voluminous report about the detention and interrogation program, and according to one official interviewed in recent days, C.I.A. officers went as far as gaining access to computer networks used by the committee to carry out its investigation.
The events have elevated the protracted battle — which began as a fight over who writes the history of the program, perhaps the most controversial aspect of the American government’s response to the Sept. 11 attacks — into a bitter standoff that in essence is a dispute over the separation of powers and congressional oversight of spy agencies.
The specifics of the inspector general’s investigation are unclear. But several officials interviewed in recent days — all of whom insisted on anonymity, citing a continuing inquiry — said it began after the C.I.A. took what Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, on Tuesday called an “unprecedented action” against the committee. Read the rest of this entry »
Andrew Johnson writes: The chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees believe the United States is not safer than it was at the beginning of the Afghanistan war. Representative Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) agreed that the risk of a terrorist attack against the U.S. is not only higher, but also more diverse.
“Al-qaeda as we knew it before is metastasizing into something different — more affiliates than we’ve ever had before” Rogers said on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “All have them have at least some aspiration to commit an act of violence in the United States or against western targets all around the world.”
Feinstein warned of enhanced weapons technology among terrorist groups, including state-of-the-art bombs that go undetected and have been attempted on at least four separate occasions in the U.S.
Burdened with a failing president and stung by blocked appointments, Reid rallies Senate to impose limits on filibuster in desperate effort to advance judicial agenda
WASHINGTON — Jeremy W. Peters writes: Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, is prepared to move forward with a vote that could severely limit the minority party’s ability to filibuster presidential nominees, possibly as early as this week, Democrats said Tuesday.
Exasperated with the refusal of Senate Republicans to confirm many of President Obama’s nominees, Mr. Reid has been speaking individually with members of his caucus to gauge whether there is enough support to change filibuster rules.
Given how much deference senators have traditionally shown to the rules and procedures of the institution — many of them in place since the 18th century — any modifications are a serious undertaking. Read the rest of this entry »
Charles C. W. Cooke writes: President Obama is rather fond of presenting himself as a champion of the people — the only choice for the average citizens who, through “no fault of their own” and having “played by the rules,” are screwed over by a bleak and unjust system. Heroic language was a mainstay during his campaigns of 2008 and 2012, and it continues to be deployed today. “Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same,” argued Obama during the State of the Union in 2012. “It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom. No bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.” Through an ill-disguised desire to “fundamentally transform” the place, he would be the man to build that America.
Among those whom the president has explicitly deemed to be losing out “through no fault of their own” are illegal immigrants who were brought here as children, federal workers who were furloughed during the recent government shutdown, and “homeowners facing foreclosure.” Oddly enough, however, he has yet to mention the millions of responsible and admirable Americans who for years purchased health insurance on the individual market and who are now being thrown off their plans — through no fault of their own, of course, but by him and his central political achievement.
BEN SHAPIRO writes: On Wednesday, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced a bill in the Senate that would allow Americans to keep their health insurance plans for a limit of two years. “I have repeatedly said that the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect,” Udall said, “and it will need to be improved as it is implemented.” Udall already wants to push off the open enrollment deadline on the Obamacare health exchanges until the end of May.
But Udall’s plan isn’t the only one in the offing. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has introduced the “Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act,” co-sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Kay Hagen (D-NC), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). That act does not set a two-year deadline on how long people can keep their insurance. As Ezra Klein of The Washington Post points out, “Obamacare’s premiums would rise.” But Landrieu’s office ominously called the bill a “transitional fix.”
“It’s impossible for me to imagine that the NSC, the administration, the White House, didn’t know,” Hayden said, “and the fact that they didn’t rush in to tell the president this was going on, points out what I think is a fundamental fact: This wasn’t exceptional, this is what we were expected to do.”
Senator Diane “Laws are for the Little People” Feinstein during a January 24 Capitol Hill press conference introducing legislation to ban so-called “assault weapons.” Actual firearms are displayed behind her. AP photo
Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier seems to think that gun-control laws don’t apply to the liberal elite. The police chief helped Sen. Dianne Feinstein acquire “assault weapons,” which are illegal to possess in the District, for a news conference early this year to promote a ban on these firearms, then tried to cover up the police involvement.
A Washington, D.C., Metro police officer (left) and a Washington Naval District policeman (right) stand guard at the main gate of the Washington Navy Yard. (Jason Reed/Reuters
In the wake of the D.C. shooting, some lawmakers are pushing for new regulations on firearms. But legislation should never be passed in the heat of a crisis.
Nick Gillespie writes: Monday’s horrific mass shooting at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard left 12 victims (plus the shooter) dead and more than a dozen people wounded. It has raised immediate, impassioned, and understandable—if ultimately misguided—calls for increased levels of gun control now.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a longtime proponent of assault-weapons bans whose effectiveness is questionable at best, announced that the killer was armed with a “military-style assault weapon” and asked, “When will enough be enough?” She argued for restricting sales of AR-15 rifles even though the shooter was not armed with that weapon. Read the rest of this entry »
Washington’s Boogey-Man Bad-Boy Voodoo-Doll Senator
How does Senator Ted Cruz freak out liberals? Usually by being good at what he does.
Several times a day, especially if he’s out travelin’ and talkin’ to folks, as he always is when the U.S. Senate isn’t in session, Ted Cruz will stand before an audience and reflect, seemingly for the first time, about the generational shift taking place in the Republican party. Read the rest of this entry »
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is among many government officials uttering misstatements in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA leaks. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA spying have set off a fierce global debate about security and privacy in the internet age.
The revelations of the United States performing mass surveillance on an international scale have also unleashed an avalanche of government misstatements aimed at defending, or even denying, the NSA’s dragnet surveillance. We’ve gone through them and picked out some of the biggest whoppers. Read the rest of this entry »
By DONNA CASSATA – Associated Press – WASHINGTON – A Senate panel on Thursday approved a measure defining a journalist, which had been an obstacle to broader media shield legislation designed to protect reporters and the news media from having to reveal their sources.
The Judiciary Committee’s action cleared the way for approval of legislation prompted by the disclosure earlier this year that the Justice Department had secretly subpoenaed almost two months of telephone records for 21 phone lines used by reporters and editors for The Associated Press and secretly used a warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist. The subpoenas grew out of investigations into leaks of classified information to the news organizations. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week saw revelations that the FBI and the National Security Agency have been collecting Americans’ phone records en masse and that the agencies have access to data from nine tech companies.
But secrecy around the programs has meant even basic questions are still unanswered. Here’s what we still don’t know:
Has the NSA been collecting all Americans’ phone records, and for how long?
It’s not entirely clear.
The Guardian published a court order that directed a Verizon subsidiary to turn over phone metadata — the time and duration of calls, as well as phone numbers and location data — to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis” for a three-month period. Citing unnamed sources, the Wall Street Journal reported the program also covers AT&T and Sprint and that it covers the majority of Americans. And Director of National Intelligence James Clapper himself acknowledged that the “collection” is “broad in scope.”
How long has the dragnet has existed?
At least seven years, and maybe going back to 2001.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and vice chair Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said last week that the NSA has been collecting the records going back to 2006. That’s the same year that USA Today revealed a similar-sounding mass collection of metadata, which the paper said had been taking place since 2001. The relationship between the program we got a glimpse of in the Verizon order and the one revealed by USA Today in 2006 is still not clear: USA Today described a program not authorized by warrants. The program detailed last week does have court approval.
What surveillance powers does the government believe it has under the Patriot Act?
The Verizon court order relies on Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That provision allows the FBI to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a secret order requiring companies, like Verizon, to produce records 2013 “any tangible things” 2013 as part of a “foreign intelligence” or terrorism investigation. As with any law, exactly what the wording means is a matter for courts to decide. But the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s interpretation of Section 215 is secret.
As Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman recently wrote, the details of that interpretation matter a lot: “Read narrowly, this language might require that information requested be shown to be important or necessary to the investigation. Read widely, it would include essentially anything even slightly relevant 2014 which is to say, everything.”
In the case of the Verizon order — signed by a judge who sits on the secret court and requiring the company to hand over “all call detail records” — it appears that the court is allowing a broad interpretation of the Patriot Act. But we still don’t know the specifics.
Has the NSA’s massive collection of metadata thwarted any terrorist attacks?
It depends which senator you ask. And evidence that would help settle the matter is, yes, classified.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told CNN on Sunday, “It’s unclear to me that we’ve developed any intelligence through the metadata program that’s led to the disruption of plots that we could [not] have developed through other data and other intelligence.”
He said he could not elaborate on his case “without further declassification.”
Sen. Feinstein told ABC that the collection of phone records described in the Verizon order had been “used” in the case of would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi. Later in the interview, Feinstein said she couldn’t disclose more because the information is classified. (It’s worth noting that there’s also evidence that old-fashioned police work helped solve the Zazi case 2014 and that other reports suggest the Prism program, not the phone records, helped solve the case.)
How much information, and from whom, is the government sweeping up through Prism?
It’s not clear.
Intelligence director Clapper said in his declassified description that the government can’t get information using Prism unless there is an “appropriate, and documented, foreign intelligence purpose for the acquisition (such as for the prevention of terrorism, hostile cyber activities, or nuclear proliferation) and the foreign target is reasonably believed to be outside the United States.”
One thing we don’t know is how the government determines who is a “foreign target.” The Washington Post reported that NSA analysts use “search terms” to try to achieve “51 percent confidence” in a target’s “foreignness.” How do they do that? Unclear.
We’ve also never seen a court order related to Prism — they are secret — so we don’t know how broad they are. The Post reported that the court orders can be sweeping, and apply for up to a year. Though Google has maintained it has not “received blanket orders of the kind being discussed in the media.”
So, how does Prism work?
In his statement Saturday, Clapper described Prism as a computer system that allows the government to collect “foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision.”
That much seems clear. But the exact role of the tech companies is still murky.
Relying on a leaked PowerPoint presentation, the Washington Post originally described Prism as an FBI and NSA program to tap “directly into the central servers” of nine tech companies including Google and Facebook. Some of the companies denied giving the government “direct access” to their servers. In a later story, published Saturday, the newspaper cited unnamed intelligence sources saying that the description from the PowerPoint was technically inaccurate.
The Post quotes a classified NSA report saying that Prism allows “collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations,” not the company servers themselves. So what does any of that mean? We don’t know.