Archive for the ‘“Intelligence”’ Category

GAO: Pentagon Broke Law in Bergdahl Case

RollCall

The Defense Department violated the law when it didn’t tell Congress before transferring five Taliban detainees from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to Qatar in return for the Taliban’s release of captured Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the Government Accountability Office said in a legal decision made public Thursday.

Pentagon officials “did not notify the relevant congressional committees at least 30 days in advance of the transfer,” as required by law, GAO General Counsel Susan A. Poling said in a letter to nine Republican senators who had sought the analysis.

What’s more, Poling said, “because DOD used appropriated funds to carry out the transfer when no money was available for that purpose, DOD violated the Antideficiency Act,” which “prohibits federal agencies from incurring obligations exceeding an amount available in an appropriation.”

The GAO ruling provides legal backing for the position that the administration flouted the notification requirement — a view held by most Republicans and more than a few Democrats. The GAO does not address other issues that many lawmakers have raised about the merits of the exchange.

The requirement for a 30-day notice of transfers is part of the fiscal 2014 defense authorization law ( PL 113-66 ). Moreover, the fiscal 2014 Defense appropriations act ( PL 113-76 ) prohibits spending on any transfers that do not comply with the authorization law’s requirements.

Defense Department lawyers told the GAO that they believe the transfers were lawful regardless of the notification requirement, but Poling said the GAO did not accept that argument.

Pentagon officials also told the GAO that the notification requirement is unconstitutional. They argued that it “would have interfered with the Executive’s performance of two related functions that the Constitution assigns to the President: protecting the lives of Americans abroad and protecting U.S. service members.”

The GAO did not assess the validity of that claim.

Wow. The White House finally used the “T” word…

James Foley Killing Was a Terrorist Attack, White House Says

The White House said Friday that the beheading of American journalist James Foley by ISIS militants constituted a terrorist attack against the United States.

“When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack — that represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen,” said Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser.

Rhodes also told reporters that ISIS, which controls huge swaths of Iraq and Syria, poses a greater threat today that it did six months ago, in part because of ransoms it has obtained through other kidnappings.

ISIS at one time demanded $132 million for Foley’s release. The United States does not pay ransom to what it deems terrorist organizations.

He said that the White House is “taking it very seriously,” including airstrikes against ISIS, support for Iraqi and Kurdish forces and support for the Syrian opposition.

Let’s call it like it is…

Money And Power: The Real Reason For The NSA Spying On Everyone

NSA whistleblower, Bill Binney, lays this out plain and simple. The real reason for all this NSA surveillance is about money and power. “Stop terrorism” is secondary. After pointing out that all of this data collection has been basically useless in stopping terrorism (as confirmed by multiple independent accounts of the NSA’s activities), the interviewer asks Binney why the NSA keeps doing it:

So why do they keep doing it?

Money. It takes a lot of money, you have to build up Bluffdale [the location of the NSA's data storage center, in Utah] to store all the data. If you collect all the data, you’ve got to store it, you have to hire more people to analyze it, you have to hire more contractors, managers to manage the flow. You have to start a big data initiative. It’s an empire. Look at what they’ve built! Have you ever looked around all the buildings they’ve built up because of 9/11?

So that’s what it’s all about, expanding the budget for the intelligence community?

If you have a problem, you need money to solve it. But if you solve that problem, you no longer have the justification to get money. That’s the way they view it – keep the problem going, so the money keeps flowing. Once you build up this big empire, you have to sustain it. … Look at the influence and power the intelligence community has over the government. They [the government] are giving them everything they want, they’re trying to cover up all their tracks and their crimes. Look at the influence and power they’re gaining.

As Clay Shirky famously noted years ago, “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” That appears to absolutely be the case here. It’s why there’s so much FUD. The NSA and the rest of the intelligence community has built up the threat to be this huge issue that requires huge dollars as well. And once they have the huge dollars and the giant staff, they have to keep that up. So they have to create a continuing problem for which they are the solution — and since it’s all (mostly) done in secret, you get this nefarious circle (as opposed to virtuous), in which more FUD is spread, more money flows in and everyone has to justify themselves to keep it all going.

Whistleblowers like Binney and Snowden actually disrupt that circle and put a threat to the money flows.

Yeah. How’s that smart diplomacy workin’ for ya now, Barry?

Hagel Says ISIS Threat ‘Beyond Anything We’ve Seen’

U.S. military involvement in Iraq will continue because the long-term threat from ISIS is more dangerous, even than that from al-Qaeda, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

In a briefing at the Pentagon a day after the U.S. revealed that it launched a failed mission in Syria this summer to rescue U.S. hostages being held by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sharm, Hagel said the U.S. “must be clear-eyed about the challenges ahead,” stressing: “U.S. military involvement in Iraq is not over.”

Asked to compare ISIS to al-Qaeda, Hagel said it was “beyond anything we’ve seen,” calling the group more than “just a terrorist group.”

“They marry an ideology with a sophistication of strategy and military prowess” that “represents a whole new paradigm of threats to this country,” he said.

The response to Foley’s beheading should have been a MOAB dropped on an ISIS-held town…

How the U.S. and Europe Failed James Foley

Foley’s execution is also a chilling wake-up call for American and European policymakers, as well as U.S. news outlets and aid organizations. It is the clearest evidence yet of how vastly different responses to kidnappings by U.S. and European governments save European hostages but can doom the Americans. Hostages and their families realize this fully—even if the public does not.

The cases have taken on a grim pattern: Hostages are abducted, months pass with no news from the captors, and a threatening video or email is then sent to families. In some cases, the militants ask that cases not be made public so ransom can be paid quietly.

Foley believed that his government would help him, according to his family. In a message that was not made public, Foley said that he believed so strongly that Washington would help that he refused to allow his fellow American captives to not believe in their government.

A consistent response to kidnapping by the U.S. and Europe is desperately needed. The current haphazard approach is failing.

Government to Farmers: Host Same-Sex Wedding or Pay a $13,000 Fine

Or, they could put on their big girl panties and find another venue…

Should the government be able to coerce a family farm into hosting a same-sex wedding?

In a free society, the answer is no. Family farms should be free to operate in accordance with the beliefs and values of their owners. Government shouldn’t be able to fine citizens for acting in the market according to their own—rather than the government’s—values, unless there is a compelling government interest being pursued in the least restrictive way possible.

But the New York State Division of Human Rights doesn’t see things this way. On August 8, it fined Cynthia and Robert Gifford $13,000 for acting on their belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman and thus declining to rent out their family farm for a same-sex wedding celebration. The Human Rights Commission ruled that “the nature and circumstances of the [Giffords’s] violation of the Human Rights Law also warrants a penalty.”

This is coercive big government run amok.

Here’s the back story. In 2012, Melissa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy contacted the Giffords to rent the family’s barn for their same-sex wedding ceremony and reception. Cynthia Gifford responded that she and her husband would have to decline their request as they felt they could not in good conscience host a same-sex wedding ceremony at their home. The Giffords live on the second and third floor of the barn and, when they host weddings on the first floor, they open part of the second floor as a bridal suite.

The Giffords have owned and operated Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, New York for over 25 years. Like many small farm families, they often open the farm to the public for events like berry picking, fall festivals, and pig racing.

Unfortunately, New York’s Human Right’s law (Executive Law, art. 15) creates special privileges based on sexual orientation that trump the rights of business owners. Because the Giffords’ family farm is open to the public for business, New York classifies it as a “public accommodation” and then mandates that it not “discriminate” on the basis of sexual orientation.

Of course the Giffords were not engaging in any insidious discrimination—they were acting on their belief about the nature of marriage. They do not object to gay or lesbian customers attending the fall festivals, or going berry picking, or doing any of the other activities that the farm facilitates. The Giffords’ only objection is to being forced to abide by the government’s views on sexuality and host a same-sex wedding. The Human Rights Commission has now declared this historic belief about marriage to be “discrimination.”

The Giffords must pay a $1,500 mental anguish fine to each of the women and pay $10,000 in civil damages penalty to New York State. If they can’t pay in 60 days, a nine percent interest rate will be added to that total. Like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Giffords must also institute anti-discrimination re-education classes and procedures for their staff.

Rick Perry Seizes the Moment

Ricochet

Gov. Perry responded to the out-of-control district attorney’s office with a confident, defiant press conference. Perhaps more surprisingly, this afternoon he turned himself into authorities for fingerprints and a mug shot. No presidential aspirant would willingly hand his opponents that kind of ammo without a plan. And if anyone has turned an indictment into a political positive, Rick Perry has.

Wearing a dark blue suit, white dress shirt and light blue tie, he confidently strode to a podium outside the courthouse to cheering supporters and proclaimed: “I’m here today because I believe in the rule of law. And I’m here today because I did the right thing. I’m going to enter the courthouse with my head held high knowing the actions I took were not only lawful and legal but right.”

“If I had to do so, I would veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit again,” he said.

“This issue is far bigger than me. It’s about the rule of law,” he said, interrupted by cheers. “This indictment is nothing short of an attack of the constitutional powers of the office of governor.”

He then stepped into the courthouse as the crowd shouted “Perry, Perry!” and got his mug shot.

Perry

I wish my professional photos looked that good.

 

Ferguson? Major riots, Obama & Holder involved. One innocent white journalist brutally beheaded by ISIS? Not one peep from the White House. Oh we forgot, Obama’s on vacation again…

‘American bombing had signed my death certificate': Missing US journalist James Wright Foley goes unflinching to his death as ISIS behead him in horrific video, as a warning to Obama

Horrific video of American freelance photo-journalist James Wright Foley, 40, being beheaded by ISIS in revenge for US airstrikes 12-days ago in Iraq was posted to the internet Tuesday afternoon.

Foley, has been missing since November 2012, after being taken hostage at gunpoint while reporting from Taftanaz, in northern Syria, for the agency GlobalPost.

ISIS posted the extremely graphic video shot at an unknown location, titled ‘A Message to America’ to social media as proof of their barbaric actions.

In a chilling warning at the end of grisly film, the executioner, who speaks with what sounds like a British accent, parades another American journalist, Steven Joel Sotloff, who went missing in August 2013, saying: ‘The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.’

Guess Barry hasn’t caught the news yet tonight…

Let’s demilitarize the regulatory agencies too

Overlawyered

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) has introduced a bill called the Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act, citing such unsettling developments as a U.S. Department of Agriculture solicitation for submachine guns. 28 House Republicans have joined as sponsors, according to Ryan Lovelace at National Review.

There has already been left-right cooperation on the issue, as witness the unsuccessful Grayson-Amash amendment in June seeking to cut off the military-surplus 1033 program. As both sides come to appreciate some of the common interests at stake in keeping law enforcement as peaceful and proportionate as situations allow, there will be room for more such cooperation.

John Fund cited others in an April report:

Many of the raids [federal paramilitary enforcers] conduct are against harmless, often innocent, Americans who typically are accused of non-violent civil or administrative violations.

Take the case of Kenneth Wright of Stockton, Calif., who was “visited” by a SWAT team from the U.S. Department of Education in June 2011. Agents battered down the door of his home at 6 a.m., dragged him outside in his boxer shorts, and handcuffed him as they put his three children (ages 3, 7, and 11) in a police car for two hours while they searched his home. The raid was allegedly intended to uncover information on Wright’s estranged wife, Michelle, who hadn’t been living with him and was suspected of college financial-aid fraud.

The year before the raid on Wright, a SWAT team from the Food and Drug Administration raided the farm of Dan Allgyer of Lancaster, Pa. His crime was shipping unpasteurized milk across state lines to a cooperative of young women with children in Washington, D.C., called Grass Fed on the Hill. Raw milk can be sold in Pennsylvania, but it is illegal to transport it across state lines. The raid forced Allgyer to close down his business.

Fund goes on to discuss the rise of homeland-security and military-surplus programs that have contributed to the rapid proliferation of SWAT and paramilitary methods in local policing.

Yep. That’ll do it…

Government’s Response To Snowden? Strip 100,000 Potential Whistleblowers Of Their Security Clearances

The government has tried to assess the damage posed by Snowden’s leaks, but so far all it has come up with is vague proclamations that the released have caused grave and exceptional damage to US security and an even vaguer CIA report claiming that a bunch of documents Snowden theoretically has in his possession might severely harm the US if a) they are released and b) they exist.

Charlie Clark at Defense One has a fascinating article on the man tasked with handling the intelligence community’s post-Snowden world.

The man filling that role, or the “NCIX,” as acronym-inclined national security feds call the National Counterintelligence Executive, is Bill Evanina, 47, a former FBI special agent with a counter-terrorism specialty.

Tapped in May 2014 by James Clapper, director of the Office of National Intelligence, Evanina is now immersed in coordinating multi-agency efforts to mitigate the risk of foreign infiltration, assess damage from intelligence leaks and tighten the security clearance process.

This means teaming up with the “‘most transparent administration” to help sniff out and stamp out so-called “insider threats.” This has always been a priority during Obama’s term and its efforts are now being redoubled. On one hand, the ODNI (James Clapper’s office) is dipping its toes in the transparency waters. (But mainly it’s trying to keep from being pushed into the transparency pool by a variety of litigants.) Evanina is working towards the “discussion” of security vs. privacy, but most of his efforts are focused on locking everything down.

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail…

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