CRACKDOWN: FBI Arrests Man for Alleged Seizure-Inducing Tweet to Triggered Journalist Kurt EichenwaldPosted: March 17, 2017
The FBI arrested a man accused of sending Dallas reporter Kurt Eichenwald a tweet that Eichenwald claims triggered an epileptic seizure.
The name of the suspect has not yet been released, but FBI spokeswoman Lauren Hagee confirmed that an arrest in the case was made Friday morning.
Eichenwald tweeted that the man who “assaulted” him faces federal charges and is also expected to be indicted by the Dallas district attorney on different charges in the next few days.
Kevin Daley reports: Journalists and Democrats in Congress were far too quick to speculate that Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, after The Washington Post revealed he had failed to disclose two meetings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
“There are three elements here: a statement must be false, the false statement must be material (relevant) to the question/s asked, and the false statement must be made with an intent to deceive.”
Perjury is the crime of willfully telling an untruth while under oath before a court or tribunal. Read the rest of this entry »
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stopped accepting Freedom of Information Act requests by email. The agency wants requesters to use fax, standard mail, or the agency’s online portal to make things on their end more efficient. But, FOIA advocates say this puts a lot of burden on the requester.
Hey millennial FOIA nuts: Time to familiarize yourselves with the concept of a paper jam.
“The goal seems to be ‘creating a lot of extra burden. Everyone is used to emails. It creates a permanent record. It has a time-stamp on it. Everyone knows how to use it’.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has stopped accepting Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by email. The agency wants requesters to use fax, standard mail, or the agency’s online portal, FBI eFOIPA.
The goal seems to be “creating a lot of extra burden,” says Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “Everyone is used to emails. It creates a permanent record. It has a time-stamp on it. Everyone knows how to use it.”
The FBI says the move will help the agency expedite its backlog, which was estimated at 2,614 requests in 2015. Agency spokesperson Jillian Stickels told the Daily Caller that using an online portal will automate the processing of requests and “increase efficiency.”
But does the FBI really want to make the process more efficient? And its decision to continue accepting faxes and standard mail seems to only create headaches for requesters, who might run out of toner or have their transmission signal interrupted when someone picks up the line.
“Most mail that goes to a federal agency has to go through a screening process,” says Marshall. “Sometimes they irradiate it to make sure that there isn’t anthrax or other things in it […] So, it can take a long time for your mail to get from you to the FOIA officer who’s going to open it up and read it.” Yet the law says that the agency is required to provide a response to a FOIA request within 20 business days.
A beta version of the online portal required users to provide personal information about themselves and limited requests to one per day. The FBI backed away from these rules in response to public pressure from Muckrock and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), but the system still imposes a 3,000-character restriction. Also, the FBI says that not all types of requests can be fulfilled through the portal, though which types the agency won’t say.
There are other bureaucratic hurdles: The FBI has multiple computerized filing systems for documents. Typically, if a requester doesn’t specify which records system to search, the Bureau only queries its Central Records System (CRS) and then might fail to locate a document that it actually has on file. Marshall finds these multiple record systems “incredibly confusing” even though understanding them, he says, is part of his job. Read the rest of this entry »
‘The knives are out.’
Richard Pollock reports: National Security Advisor Gen. Michael T. Flynn (ret.) — who resigned Monday — was the victim of a “hit job” launched by intelligence operatives, Obama government holdovers and former Obama national security officials, according to former intelligence officials who spoke with The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.
“There are individuals who are well versed in information operations — we used to call that propaganda. They know how to do it. It’s deliberately orchestrated.”
The talk within the tight-knit community of retired intelligence officers was that Flynn’s sacking was a result of intelligence insiders at the CIA, NSA and National Security Council using a sophisticated “disinformation campaign” to create a crisis atmosphere. The former intel officers say the tactics hurled against Flynn over the last few months were the type of high profile hard-ball accusations previously reserved for top figures in enemy states, not for White House officials.
“This was a hit job,” charged retired Col. James Williamson, a 32-year Special Forces veteran who coordinated his operations with the intelligence community.
Noting the Obama administration first tried to silence Flynn in 2014 when the former president fired him as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Williamson called Monday’s resignation, “stage Two of ‘Kill Mike Flynn.”
Former intelligence officials who understand spy craft say Flynn’s resignation had everything to do with a “disinformation campaign” and little to do with the December phone conversation he had with the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
They charge officials from America’s top spy counsels leaked classified government intercepts of Flynn and President Trump’s conversations with world leaders and had “cutouts” — friendly civilians not associated with the agency — to distribute them to reporters in a coordinated fashion.
The issue of leaks was a prime topic for Trump when he tweeted Wednesday, “Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).Just like Russia.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Retired Col. James Waurishuk, who spent three decades in top military intelligence posts and served at the National Security Council, said in an interview with TheDCNF. “We’ve never seen to the extent that those in the intelligence community are using intelligence apparatus and tools to be used politically against an administration official,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Federal prosecutors are weighing bringing child-pornography charges against former congressman Anthony Weiner over sexually explicit exchanges he allegedly had with a 15-year-old girl.
Erica Orden and Nicole Hong report: Federal prosecutors are weighing bringing child-pornography charges against former Rep. Anthony Weiner over sexually explicit exchanges he allegedly had with a 15-year-old girl, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Weiner, a New York Democrat, is being investigated by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which seized his electronic devices, including a laptop and a cellphone, as part of the probe.
Officials initiated the investigation last fall, after the Daily Mail in the U.K. reported that Mr. Weiner had exchanged sexually explicit messages and photos with the girl.
In recent weeks, according to some of the people familiar with the matter, attorneys for Mr. Weiner have had discussions with federal prosecutors in Manhattan in hopes of dissuading them from bringing charges, or at least from bringing the most serious one: production of child pornography, which carries a 15-year mandatory minimum prison sentence upon conviction.
These types of discussions can indicate both sides are trying to reach an agreement in which the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a less-severe charge.
Mr. Weiner could face the production charge, some of the people familiar with the case say, because he allegedly solicited explicit images from the teenager. Read the rest of this entry »
YOU’RE FIRED: Obama Holdover Sally Yates, AG Who Ordered Justice Deptartment Not to Defend President’s Travel Ban, FiredPosted: January 30, 2017
‘It’s sad that our politics have become so politicized that you have people refusing to enforce our laws’
Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz and Mark Berman reports: President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night, after Yates ordered Justice Department lawyers Monday not to defend his immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world.In a press release, the White House said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) January 31, 2017
The White House has named Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general. Boente told The Washington Post that he will agree to enforce the immigration order.
Earlier on Monday, Yates ordered Justice Department not to defend President Trump’s immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world, declaring in a memo that she is not convinced the order is lawful.
Yates wrote that, as the leader of the Justice Department, she must ensure that the department’s position is “legally defensible” and “consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful,” Yates wrote. She wrote that “for as long as I am the Acting Attorney General, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the Executive Order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.”
Yates is a holdover from the Obama administration, but the move nonetheless marks a stunning dissent to the president’s directive from someone who would be on the front lines of implementing it.
Also Monday, State Department diplomats circulated various drafts of a memo objecting to Trump’s order, which was issued Friday. The document is destined for what’s known as the department’s Dissent Channel, which was set up during the Vietnam War as a way for diplomats to signal to senior leadership their disagreement on foreign policy decisions. More than 100 diplomats have signed the memo, which argues that the immigration ban will not deter attacks on American soil but will generate ill will toward U.S. citizens.
What will happen next is unclear. A Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said those who would normally defend the order under Yates’s authority can no longer do so. Yates will probably be replaced soon by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s attorney general nominee, who could be confirmed as early as Thursday or Friday. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider his nomination Tuesday, and the entire Senate must wait one day before voting. Read the rest of this entry »
Victor Davis Hanson writes: After the election, Democrats could not explain the inexplicable defeat of Hillary Clinton, who would be, they thought, the shoo-in winner in November. Over the next three months until Inauguration Day, progressives floated a variety of explanations for the Trump win—none of them, though, mentioned that the Clinton campaign had proven uninspired, tactically inept, and never voiced a message designed to appeal to the working classes.
When a particular exegesis of defeat failed to catch on, it was mostly dropped—and then replaced by a new narrative. We were told that the Electoral College wrongly nullified the popular vote—and that electors had a duty to renege on their obligations to vote for their respective state’s presidential winner.
“Fake news is something quite different. It is not merely a public figure’s spinning of half-truths. It is largely a media-driven, and deliberate attempt to spread a false narrative to advance a political agenda that otherwise would be rejected by a common-sense public.”
Then followed the narrative of Trump’s racist dog-whistle appeals to the white working classes. When it was reported that Barack Obama had received a greater percentage of the white votes than did either John Kerry in 2004 or Hillary Clinton in 2016, the complaint of white chauvinism too faded.
“The methodology is to manufacture a narrative attractive to a herd-like progressive media that will then devour and brand it as fact—and even lobby for government redress.”
Then came the allegation that FBI Director James Comey had given the election to Trump by reopening the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails just days before Election Day. That fable too evaporated when it was acknowledged that Comey had earlier intervened to declare Clinton without culpability and would so again before November 8.
Then came the trope that Vladimir Putin’s hackers stole the election—on the theory that the Wikileaks revelations had turned off the electorate in a way the Clinton candidacy otherwise would not have. That storyline then evolved into the idea of Russian propagandists and Trump supporters variously peddling “fake news” to websites to promulgate myths and distortions—as a grand plan to Hillary Clinton and give Trump the election.
More specifically, it was alleged that Trump’s exaggerations and fabrications—from his allegations about Barack Obama’s birth certificate to rumor-mongering about Ted Cruz’s father—had so imperiled journalism that the media in general was forced to pronounce there was no longer a need to adhere to disinterested reporting in the traditional sense.
“No one has described the methodology of fake news better than Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor for Barack Obama and brother of the president of CBS News, David Rhodes.”
The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour confessed that they could not be fair in reporting the news in the era of Donald Trump. Apparently, being fair had become tantamount to being a co-conspirator in Trump falsity. The New York Times in a post-election op-ed explained why it had missed the Trump phenomenon, admitting, but not necessarily lamenting, that its own coverage of the election had not been fair and balanced.
“Ben Rhodes cynically bragged about how the Obama administration had sold the dubious Iran deal through misinformation picked up by an adolescent but sympathetic media (for which Rhodes had only contempt).
Yet all politicians fib and distort the truth—and they’ve been doing so since the freewheeling days of the Athenian ekklesia. Trump’s various bombastic allegations and claims fall into the same realm of truthfulness as Obama’s statement “if you like your health plan, you can keep it”—and were thus similarly cross-examined by the media.
“As Rhodes put it, ‘The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.’”
Yet fake news is something quite different. It is not merely a public figure’s spinning of half-truths. It is largely a media-driven, and deliberate attempt to spread a false narrative to advance a political agenda that otherwise would be rejected by a common-sense public. The methodology is to manufacture a narrative attractive to a herd-like progressive media that will then devour and brand it as fact—and even lobby for government redress.
Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen has never been to Prague to negotiate quid pro quo deals with the Russians. Trump did not watch Russian strippers perform pornographic acts in the bedroom that Barack Obama once stayed in during a visit to Moscow. Yet political operatives, journalists, and even intelligence officers, in their respective shared antipathy to Trump, managed to lodge these narratives into the public consciousness and thereby establish the “truth” that a degenerate Trump was also a Russian patsy.
No one has described the methodology of fake news better than Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor for Barack Obama and brother of the president of CBS News, David Rhodes. Read the rest of this entry »
John Fund & Hans von Spakovsky: Why Trump’s Probe of Voter Fraud Long Overdue: Obama Has Hid the Data for 8 YearsPosted: January 25, 2017
Majerczyk faced up to five years in prison. His lawyers argued in a sentencing memo that his participation was limited to the unauthorized access of information on his personal computer, ‘for his personal use and viewing only.’
“Majerczyk sent phishing emails to his victims, tricking them into providing their usernames and passwords to a third-party website, according to a plea agreement. He in turn used the information to access their accounts, leading to material belonging to more than 300 victims.”
CHICAGO — A Chicago man was sentenced to nine months in a plea deal Tuesday for hacking the electronic accounts of 30 celebrities and stealing their personal data, including nude photos and videos.
Edward Majerczyk, 29, was accused of orchestrating a phishing scheme from November 2013 to August 2014 that netted personal information from celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton and many more in Los Angeles.
Lawrence likened the privacy invasion to a “sex crime” and said she worried about its impact on her career.
Majerczyk, the son of two Chicago police officers, did not plead guilty to distributing the images. His plea was limited to
his role in obtaining them.
“At the time of the offense, Mr. Majerczyk was suffering from depression and looked to pornography websites and Internet chat rooms in an attempt to fill some of the voids and disappointment he was feeling in his life.”
After his case was transferred from California to Chicago, he pleaded guilty in September to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer to obtain information.
A spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Los Angeles told the Chicago Tribune that the investigation into who leaked the sensitive information was ongoing.
Majerczyk sent phishing emails to his victims, tricking them into providing their usernames and passwords to a third-party website, according to a plea agreement. He in turn used the information to access their accounts, leading to material belonging to more than 300 victims, according to the plea agreement.
Majerczyk faced up to five years in prison. His lawyers argued in a sentencing memo that his participation was limited to the unauthorized access of information on his personal computer, “for his personal use and viewing only.” Read the rest of this entry »
Even a prominent Trump adviser accepts the false premise that there has been no ‘ethical shadiness.’
Even Trump adviser Peter Thiel seems to agree. When the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd observed during an interview that Mr. Obama’s administration was “without any ethical shadiness,” Mr. Thiel accepted the premise, saying: “But there’s a point where no corruption can be a bad thing. It can mean that things are too boring.”
In reality, Mr. Obama has presided over some of the worst scandals of any president in recent decades. Here’s a partial list:
• State Department email. In an effort to evade federal open-records laws, Mr. Obama’s first secretary of state set up a private server, which she used exclusively to conduct official business, including communications with the president and the transmission of classified material. A federal criminal investigation produced no charges, but FBI Director James Comey reported that the secretary and her colleagues “were extremely careless” in handling national secrets.
• Operation Fast and Furious. The Obama Justice Department lost track of thousands of guns it had allowed to pass into the hands of suspected smugglers, in the hope of tracing them to Mexican drug cartels. One of the guns was used in the fatal 2010 shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Congress held then-Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt when he refused to turn over documents about the operation.
• IRS abuses. Mr. Obama’s Internal Revenue Service did something Richard Nixononly dreamed of doing: It successfully targeted political opponents. The Justice Department then refused to enforce Congress’s contempt citation against the IRS’s Lois Lerner, who refused to answer questions about her agency’s misconduct. Read the rest of this entry »
‘I think they made a mistake here. And when people make mistakes, they should apologize.’
Mark Finkelstein writes:
…not only does Pelosi implicitly accept the scurrilous allegations as true, her implication would seem to be that Trump is being blackmailed…(more)
DONALD TRUMP: A thing like that should never have been had, and it should certainly never have been released.
NANCY PELOSI: I always wondered what did Russia have on Donald Trump?
CHRIS WALLACE: Bob, what do you think, and this is something we discussed with both of our guests, of the way that the intelligence community handled the so-called Russia dossier, and overall, how do you think of the way they’ve handled Donald Trump?
BOB WOODWARD: I think what’s underreported here is Trump’s point of view on it. And you laid it out: when those former CIA people said these things about Trump, that he was a recruited agent of the Russians —
WALLACE: — a useful fool
WOODWARD: — yeah, and a useful fool. I mean, they started this in Trump’s mind, he knows the old adage, once a CIA man, always a CIA man. And no one came out and said those people shouldn’t be saying things. So then act two is the briefing when this dossier is put out.
I’ve lived in this world for 45 years, where you get things and people make allegations. That is a garbage document. It never should have been presented as part of an intelligence briefing, as you suggested, other channels have the White House counsel give it to Trump’s incoming White House counsel. Read the rest of this entry »
Russia Says ‘Нет, у нас нет никаких компрометирующих материалов на Трампа’
Russia has denied such accusations and described them as unsubstantiated and an attempt by U.S. politicians to distract attention from domestic issues.
Laura Mills writes: Russia on Wednesday denied it has compromising material on Donald Trump, calling a dossier of unverified allegations an “absolute fabrication” and an attempt to damage U.S.-Russian relations.
“Among the allegations, contained in a set of confidential memos written by the former official, are that Mr. Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, met with Kremlin officials and discussed how to arrange cash payments to hackers working under Moscow’s direction against the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the report, which claimed that Russia has material that could be used to blackmail Mr. Trump, as “pulp fiction,” according to Russian news agencies.
“The FBI has found no evidence that he traveled to the Czech Republic, where the meeting allegedly took place in August of last year, officials said.”
“This is a clear attempt to damage our bilateral relations,” he said. “Truly, there are those who whip up this hysteria, who will break their necks to support this ‘witch hunt’”
Mr. Peskov said that the Kremlin wasn’t involved in collecting compromising information on anyone, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
His comments come a day after it emerged that U.S. intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have spent months trying to substantiate explosive claims, compiled by a former Western intelligence official, that Russian government operatives engaged in an extensive conspiracy with advisers to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and employees of his company, according to people familiar with the matter.
The U.S. intelligence community and top officials have repeatedly accused Russia of trying to influence the 2016 presidential election, releasing a report last week that leveled broad accusations against Moscow, including cyberattacks meant to undermine the election and skewed coverage by state-funded Russian media.
Russia has denied such accusations and described them as unsubstantiated and an attempt by U.S. politicians to distract attention from domestic issues.
The latest claims were deemed sufficiently significant by senior intelligence officials to summarize them in a two-page addendum to the classified briefing President-elect Trump received last Friday about Russian efforts to influence the U.S. presidential campaign, the people said.
“FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” Mr. Trump tweeted after the allegations surfaced publicly Tuesday evening.
U.S. officials confirmed that a summary of the information had been given to Mr. Trump. They said sharing of such unverified information was taken out of an abundance of caution that the incoming president should be aware of allegations being made against him that could become public—a decision intelligence experts backed. President Barack Obama received the same information, officials said. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian intelligence agencies sought to influence the 2016 presidential election through coordinated cyber and propaganda activities, three U.S. intelligence leaders told a Senate hearing Thursday.writes:
“This was a multifaceted campaign, so the hacking was only one part of it. It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”
Additionally, Senate testimony revealed that the National Security Agency, the government’s key cyber intelligence and technical spying service, confirmed the Russian intelligence service’s covert cyber and propaganda effort to influence the election campaign.
Wow, the DNI’s report, presented in this tweet in its entirety, is pretty amazing: pic.twitter.com/U1gtUS5jqd
— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) January 6, 2017
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper previewed a forthcoming government report, to be released as early as Monday, on the Russian intelligence operations that included intrusions into Democratic National Committee computers and the email account of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.
The Russians then orchestrated the release of hacked internal information through three propaganda conduits in a coordinated campaign.
“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was with that statement on the 7th of October. I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a more aggressive or direct effort to interfere in our election.”
“This was a multifaceted campaign, so the hacking was only one part of it,” Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”
The forthcoming report will describe the full range of Russian intelligence activities during the campaign, Clapper said.
Clapper confirmed the details of the Oct. 7 statement issued jointly by his office and the Department of Homeland Security accusing Russia of interfering with the 2016 election. That statement identified three entities, the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, another site called DCLeaks.com, and a hacker code-named Guccifer 2.0, as the outlets for the hacked information.
“There’s actually more than one motive, so that’ll be described in the report.”
“Our assessment now is even more resolute than it was with that statement on the 7th of October,” Clapper said. “I don’t think we’ve ever encountered a more aggressive or direct effort to interfere in our election.”
Asked if the earlier assessments about Moscow’s disinformation program had changed, Clapper stated: “No. In fact, if anything, what we’ve since learned just reinforces that statement the 7th of October.”
NSA Director Mike Rogers told the hearing that the report was “done essentially” by the CIA, FBI, and NSA.
The inclusion of NSA in the report is the first time NSA’s role in assessing the Russian cyber attacks was mentioned.
NSA’s capability to monitor foreign cyber intelligence operations is highly advanced. Documents disclosed by renegade NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the agency in the past has broken into foreign intelligence service networks and stolen information those services were gathering from spies—without being detected. Read the rest of this entry »
Five people are dead and a shooting suspect is in custody Friday after a lone gunman opened fire at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida without saying a word, witnesses and authorities say.
At 2:30 p.m. local time, the TSA said there was another active shooter at the airport and that all terminals were closed. Law enforcement officials would not confirm it.
The suspect in custody was identified as Esteban Santiago, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters. He said Santiago was carrying a military ID, but did not elaborate.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 6, 2017
“The shooter was a passenger on a Canadian flight with a checked gun,” Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca wrote on Facebook. “He claimed his bag and took the gun from baggage and went into the bathroom to load it. Came out shooting people in baggage claim.”
Santiago was taken into custody without incident and was unharmed, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.
“This scene is considered fluid and active,” Israel added.
Eight people were rushed to hospitals.
“It was very surreal,” John Schlicher, a witness, told Fox News. “He did not say a word.” He described the shooter as a slender man with dark hair, likely in his 30s, wearing a Star Wars T-shirt.
While speaking to Shepard Smith live on Fox News, Schlicher said he heard crews ordering passengers to take cover. He spoke over the phone while ducked down on the floor.
“He was shooting people that were down on the ground, too,” Schlicher said.
The gunman apparently got down on the ground and waited for police to arrive after he ran out of bullets, a witness told CBS News. Read the rest of this entry »
The media just pretended they didn’t exist.
Mark Hemingway writes: As achievements go, this would be one in which a modern president could take pride. But in making the claim for himself, Obama proves he cannot even accurately describe the events of his presidency. His tenure saw an astounding number of scandals: Benghazi, Fast and Furious gunrunning, Solyndra and green energy subsidies for campaign donors, cash for Iranian hostages, IRS targeting of conservative groups, spying on journalists, Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the Veterans Administration disaster, trading deserter Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders held in Guantánamo, droning American citizens without due process, and firing inspector general Gerald Walpin for investigating an Obama crony who was abusing federal programs. And that list isn’t exhaustive.
The media have certainly tried their best to buttress Obama’s claim to have presided over a scandal-free administration—starting long before he even made it. In 2014, New Yorker editor and Obama biographer David Remnick told the (skeptical) host of PBS’s Charlie Rose that the president had already racked up “huge” achievements. On his list: “The fact that there’s been no scandal, major scandal, in this administration, which is a rare thing in an administration.”
Remnick was hardly alone. Veteran journalist Jonathan Alter wrote a column for Bloomberg back in 2011 headlined “The Obama Miracle, a White House Free of Scandal.” More recently, Glenn Thrush, then a Politico reporter, tweeted, “As Obama talks up legacy on campaign trail important to note he’s had best/least scandal-scarred 2nd term since FDR.” Even conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks last year declared the Obama administration “remarkably scandal-free.”
Remnick’s remark is particularly notable for how it presaged White House talking points. Obama’s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod was asked at the University of Chicago in 2015 about the administration’s broken promise to bar lobbyists from working for it. Axelrod admitted things hadn’t been “pristine” but said, “I’m proud of the fact that, basically, you’ve had an administration that’s been in place for six years in which there hasn’t been a major scandal.”
As Noah Rothman observed in Commentary, “The qualifier ‘major’ lays the burden on shoulders of the press to define what constitutes a serious scandal, and political media had thus far reliably covered the administration’s ethical lapses as merely the peculiar obsessions of addlebrained conservatives.”
So what would constitute a “major” scandal? Would it involve, say, dead bodies? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives gave thousands of guns to Mexican drug cartels; they used some of them to kill dozens of people, including American border patrol agent Brian Terry. When Congress tried to investigate why the ATF gave away so many guns and failed to track them, the Department of Justice engaged in unprecedented stonewalling.
The department withheld 92 percent of the documents requested and forbade 48 relevant employees from speaking to congressional investigators. Attorney General Eric Holder was ultimately held in contempt of Congress, with 17 Democrats supporting the measure. An explanation for why the ATF gave thousands of guns to violent criminals has yet to emerge—but we are to understand that this is not a “major” scandal. Read the rest of this entry »
As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence.
Edward Jay Epstein writes: Of all the lies that Edward Snowden has told since his massive theft of secrets from the National Security Agency and his journey to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013, none is more provocative than the claim that he never intended to engage in espionage, and was only a “whistleblower” seeking to expose the overreach of NSA’s information gathering. With the clock ticking on Mr. Snowden’s chance of a pardon, now is a good time to review what we have learned about his real mission.
Mr. Snowden’s theft of America’s most closely guarded communication secrets occurred in May 2013, according to the criminal complaint filed against him by federal prosecutors the following month. At the time Mr. Snowden was a 29-year-old technologist working as an analyst-in-training for the consulting firm of Booz AllenHamilton at the regional base of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Oahu, Hawaii. On May 20, only some six weeks after his job there began, he failed to show up for work, emailing his supervisor that he was at the hospital being tested for epilepsy.
This excuse was untrue. Mr. Snowden was not even in Hawaii. He was in Hong Kong. He had flown there with a cache of secret data that he had stolen from the NSA.
This was not the only lie Mr. Snowden told. As became clear during my investigation over the past three years, nearly every element of the narrative Mr. Snowden has provided, which reached its final iteration in Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie, “Snowden,” is demonstrably false.
This narrative began soon after Mr. Snowden arrived in Hong Kong, where he arranged to meet with Laura Poitras, a Berlin-based documentary filmmaker, and Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based blogger for the Guardian. Both journalists were longtime critics of NSA surveillance with whom Mr. Snowden (under the alias Citizen Four) had been in contact for four months.
To provide them with scoops discrediting NSA operations, Mr. Snowden culled several thousand documents out of his huge cache of stolen material, including two explosive documents he asked them to use in their initial stories. One was the now-famous secret order from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court requiring Verizon to turn over to the NSA its billing records for its phone users in the U.S. The other was an NSA slide presentation detailing its ability to intercept communications of non-American users of the internet via a joint program with the FBI code-named Prism.
These documents were published in 2013 on June 5 and 6, followed by a video in which he identified himself as the leaker and a whistleblower.
At the heart of Mr. Snowden’s narrative was his claim that while he may have incidentally “touched” other data in his search of NSA files, he took only documents that exposed the malfeasance of the NSA and gave all of them to journalists.
Yet even as Mr. Snowden’s narrative was taking hold in the public realm, a secret damage assessment done by the NSA and Pentagon told a very different story. According to a unanimous report declassified on Dec. 22 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the investigation showed that Mr. Snowden had “removed” (not merely touched) 1.5 million documents. That huge number was based on, among other evidence, electronic logs that recorded the selection, copying and moving of documents.
The number of purloined documents is more than what NSA officials were willing to say in 2013 about the removal of data, possibly because the House committee had the benefit of the Pentagon’s more-extensive investigation. But even just taking into account the material that Mr. Snowden handed over to journalists, the December House report concluded that he compromised “secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states.” These were, the report said, “merely the tip of the iceberg.”
The Pentagon’s investigation during 2013 and 2014 employed hundreds of military-intelligence officers, working around the clock, to review all 1.5 million documents. Most had nothing to do with domestic surveillance or whistle blowing. They were mainly military secrets, as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
Steve Kornacki looks at Hillary Clinton’s double digit lead against Donald Trump in four consecutive national polls, and trends developing in state polls, as evidence of a potential for a landslide outcome to the 2016 presidential election.
A newly unsealed search-warrant application confirms the Federal Bureau of Investigation found thousands of emails potentially linked to Hillary Clinton on a laptop used by former congressman Anthony Weiner, who was then married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
“Mr. Weiner has been under investigation into whether he sent sexually explicit material to an underage girl. The investigation into Mr. Weiner continues, and he hasn’t been charged with any crimes.”
The search warrant application doesn’t offer any new revelations or insight—if anything, it repeats and reaffirms past assertions by officials about the case regarding how and why they decided to search the laptop in the final days of a heated presidential campaign.
The search-warrant paperwork was unsealed Tuesday—with some redactions—after a California lawyer convinced a New York judge to make public the court document used in an email search that upended the final days of the 2016 race for the White House.
The search warrant was executed in late October on a laptop computer that agents believed was used by both Mr. Weiner and his now-estranged wife, Ms. Abedin. Ms. Abedin is a longtime aide to Mrs. Clinton, including when Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state.
That probe was unrelated to the politically charged investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state. In July, FBI Director James Comey announced the end of the email probe, saying no reasonable prosecutor would file charges, though he criticized “extremely careless’’ behavior at the State Department in handling Mrs. Clinton’s emails, some of which included classified information.
Then, 11 days before the election, Mr. Comey made a surprise announcement, in the form of a letter to Congress, saying federal agents were examining newly discovered emails that might shed new light on the email case. Since the election, Mrs. Clinton and many Democrats have blamed Mr. Comey’s announcement, along with alleged Russian hacking of her campaign’s internal discussions, for her defeat. Read the rest of this entry »
The Hang Seng Index was down 0.77 per cent or 168.87 points to 21,851.88 on Monday morning session close.
Shares in Hong Kong and mainland China declined at the mi-day trading pause, following retreats in most Asian equity markets as rate increases announced last week by the US Federal Reserve and Hong Kong Monetary Authority lead to capital outflow back to American shores.
“With the higher rates in US,Hong Kong stocks could be under pressure as capital could flow out of Hong Kong ,” said Ben Kwong Man-bun, executive director of KGI Asia.
Insurers led losses among Chinese companies on the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, amid concerns that mainland regulators will further place their market investments under scrutiny.
Ping An Insurance Group Co. fell 1.7 per cent to a four-month low of HK$39.75 while AIA Group Ltd fell 1.5 per cent to HK$43.75.
China Vanke Co. fell in Shenzhen and Hong Kong after the country’s largest property developer scrapped a white knight rescue plan involving Shenzhen Metro, which was intended to help defend it from a hostile takeover.
Vanke shares fell by as much as 6.3 per cent, closing 4.5 per cent lower at HK$18.48 during the lunch pause. In Shenzhen, Vanke’s shares fell as much as 5.3 per cent, dropping 4.7 per cent to 21.40 yuan.
The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.1 per cent to 3,119.65. The Shenzhen Component index dropped 0.26 to 10,307.48, while the Shenzhen Composite Index declined 0.21 per cent to 1,987.49.
The Nasdaq style ChiNext closed 0.60 per cent lower at 1,986.22.
China’s monetary policy will be pursued in a “neutral” manner in the coming year, a departure from last year’s “flexible” stance, according to an analysis by Macquarie Capital’s Larry Hu, parsing the Communist Party’s Central Economic Work Conference last Friday. Read the rest of this entry »
How do devout Muslims born in the West feel about Jews? How do they feel about Western values in general? Kasim Hafeez, who was raised a devout Muslim in England, explains.
YouTube censors video of pro-Israel Muslim as ‘hate speech’
A petition to restore the video promptly gathered over 105,000 signatures in less than a day. Late Monday evening, Youtube re-uploaded the video in “Restricted Mode,” partially restoring it. This mode marks the video as explicit content, similar to pornography, and effectively makes the video impossible to view on public internet connections at libraries and schools.
Prager is a conservative, nonprofit educational organization that produces short, educational videos. This isn’t the first time Youtube has targeted the group. YouTube put 21 of Prager University’s videos on “restricted mode” in October and currently still lists 18 PragerU videos under that mode…(read more)
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) December 2, 2016
The New York City Campaign Finance Board hit disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner with a $65,000 fine for a number of violations including using campaign funds from his failed 2013 mayoral run for his own personal use.
The board found that Weiner accepted contributions over the donation limit, failed to show that money he spent was in furtherance of his 2013 mayoral campaign and spent money after the election that was not related to the campaign.
The board is also ordering him to return $195,377 in matching campaign funds, DNA Info reported.
The NYC Campaign Finance Board hit disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner with a $65,000 fine for a number of violations including using campaign funds from his failed 2013 mayoral run for his own personal use (pictured above in 2013)
The board found that Weiner (pictured above in 2013) accepted contributions over the donation limit, failed to show that money he spent was in furtherance of his 2013 mayoral campaign and spent money after the election that was not related to the campaign
Money that Weiner spent for personal use included him paying his cell phone bill and another personal line he used for fundraising. For that violation, he was fined $2,308. Read the rest of this entry »
Trump election does not slow gun sales
So far this year, the FBI has processed24,767,514 checks through its National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS, which puts 2016 more than 160,000 checks above the yearly record set in 2015. The record comes after November 2016 set its own monthly record with 2,561,281 checks, nearly 320,000 more than the previous record set last November. This gun sales spike has lasted for over a year and resulted in monthly records for 19 straight months.
November’s record comes as the firearms industry is beginning its seasonal upswing with millions of Americans purchasing firearms in the lead up to the holiday season. That upswing is likely to add to 2016’s record because December has traditionally seen the highest number of NICS checks for the year.
The number of checks processed through the FBI’s system is generally considered one of the strongest indicators of gun sales in the United States because nearly all sales made through federally licensed firearms dealers require a NICS check. However, the number of NICS checks made in a given period of time is not a perfect representation of the number of guns actually sold in that same period of time for a number of reasons. Read the rest of this entry »
Robby Soave reports: Before he was shot dead while attempting to murder a bunch of people with a car and a butcher’s knife, Ohio State University student Abdul Artan—a Pakistani immigrant who reportedly became radicalized after learning about injustices committed against fellow Muslims—was enrolled in a class called “Crossing Identity Boundaries.”
In fact, he had a group project on “microaggressions” due later this week. The assignment, worth 15 percent of his grade, required students to find a dozen examples of microaggressions on social media and explain which identity groups were the victims, according to the syllabus.
The purpose of the class is to promote “intercultural leadership” and transform students into “actively engaged, socially just global citizen/leaders.” It seems to go well beyond merely educating students, though—it actually requires them to become social justice activists. Read the rest of this entry »
Bob Bryan reports: Paul Krugman, the Nobel-winning economist and New York Times columnist, suggested Thursday that an “alliance” between a faction of the FBI and Russian President Vladimir Putin swung last week’s election in favor of Donald Trump.
“So it looks more and more as if we had an election swung, in effect, by a faction of our own security sector in alliance with Putin.”
— Paul Krugman, during a psychotic break, on Twitter
Krugman said that given the small margin in swing states that decided the election, the FBI’s reactivation of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was just enough to change the minds of some voters.
“The economist has frequently taken to Twitter in the days after the election to bemoan the outcome and to draw concern over early policies of Trump.”
FBI Director James Comey announced the discovery of new emails “pertinent” to the case on October 28 — 11 days before the election — before clearing her again a week later.
“As evidence accumulates that Trump benefited from a lot of late deciders breaking his way, the case that it was Comey gets stronger,” Krugman wrote in a tweet.
The US intelligence community publicly accused the Russian government of being behind the hacks of emails of members of Democratic Party organizations and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, whose electronic communications were released in droves by WikiLeaks during the final weeks of the campaign. Read the rest of this entry »
Who could have seen this coming?
Donations to the Clinton Foundation plummeted amid Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential run, it has been revealed. The non-profit organization’s latest tax filings show contributions fell 37 per cent to $108million – down from $172million in 2014, according to the New York Post.…(read more)
Hillary Clinton’s aides were so sure she would win that they reportedly popped champagne on the campaign plane on Election Day.
Hours later, instead of becoming the nation’s first female president as polls had predicted, Clinton suffered one of the most stunning political defeats in history, and Donald Trump became the new president-elect.
“There is no question that a week from Election Day, Secretary Clinton was poised for a historic win. In the end, late breaking developments in the race proved one hurdle too many for us to overcome.”
The New York Times reported the champagne element on Saturday, as part of a story that detailed Clinton’s comments echoing a memo from her campaign that blamed her shocking loss on FBI Director James Comey.
“Instead of becoming the nation’s first female president as polls had predicted, Clinton suffered one of the most stunning political defeats in history, and Donald Trump became the new president-elect.”
A mere 11 days before the election, Comey sent a letter notifying Congress that the FBI was looking into new emails related to Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state.
The agency discovered the emails while investigating former congressman Anthony Weiner. But the Sunday before Election Day, Comey announced the emails didn’t warrant additional investigation, and again cleared Clinton.
The Clinton campaign and prominent Democrats slammed Comey for his timing, accusing the Republican FBI director of trying to sway the election. Read the rest of this entry »