Category Archive 'Obama Administration'
06 Mar 2017
Cory Bennett explains that the Deep State could easily have have initiated surveillance on its own with no explicit permission from the White House. This would, of course, in no way preclude the use of the fruits of such surveillance by persons affiliated with Barack Obama against the Trump Administration and Trump appointees.
[T]here are still many ways in which information from Trump Tower phone calls could end up in the hands of intelligence agents or law enforcement officials â€” even without any knowledge on Obamaâ€™s part.
First, they may have come upon Trump Tower phone calls if a targeted foreign agent was on the other end of the line â€” this method comes from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court. Or Trump Tower digital chatter might have shown up while authorities dug through the vast quantities of data hoovered up via more sweeping foreign surveillance programs.
Second, the FBI could also have asked for a so-called â€œpen registerâ€ or â€œtrap and trace device,â€ which record only the parties involved in a phone call. These requests have a lower bar for approval.
While it’s unknown whether any of these scenarios occurred, it’s â€œvery likely that the people in the Obama administration had access to the communication of senior Trump officials in the run-up to the election, because they have very, very broad authority,â€ said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has advocated for revising surveillance laws.
And given the ongoing FBI-led investigation into potential ties between Trumpâ€™s associates and Russian officials, itâ€™s plausible that law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies had an interest in â€” or simply came across â€” the communications in Trump Tower, specialists said. The government is also investigating an alleged Russian plot to use cyberattacks and disinformation to help Trump win.
According to news reports, the FBI last summer went to the FISA court â€” which approves clandestine spying efforts â€” asking for warrants to monitor four members of Trumpâ€™s team suspected of having improper exchanges with Russian officials. After being rebuffed, officials reportedly narrowed their request and got approval in October to monitor a computer server in Trump Tower to establish whether there were ties to Russian banks.
But such surveillance would be vastly different than the type of direct wiretapping Trump raised in his tweetstorm Saturday morning.
Nojeim explained that government investigators have two routes to obtaining a wiretap in the U.S. â€” one for criminal probes, one for intelligence gathering.
On the criminal side, the government must present a judge with probable cause that a wiretap-eligible offense has occurred â€” or is occurring â€” and that a wiretap will uncover the necessary evidence. Wiretap-eligible offenses are numerous, and they run the gamut from bribing witnesses to more opaque ones like â€œfraud by wire.â€
The other route is through the FISA court, where the hurdles are trickier, specialists said, because the spying programs it oversees focus on foreign targets.
Officials must present the FISA court judge with probable cause that the person being wiretapped is an agent of a foreign power, like a spy, or an agent of a foreign terrorist organization. The government must also show that the phone line, email account or computer server in question is going to be used by that foreign target. If that target is an American citizen, the attorney general also has to OK the spying.
â€œThere is a significant hurdle to wiretapping a person in the United States under either of these authorities,â€ Nojeim said.
Indeed, senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the governmentâ€™s investigation into Russiaâ€™s alleged digital meddling with the U.S. election told The Washington Post there had been no wiretap of Trump.
But surveillance experts â€” and especially surveillance critics â€” were quick to note the myriad other routes officials have to get at the banter inside Trump Tower.
Through routine data collection programs authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the government gathers information from the internet backbone, which carries web browsing histories and a rapidly increasing amount of telephone traffic.
The government discards information that is plainly domestic and searches through the rest using only specific selectors â€” a phone number or email address, for instance. But Americansâ€™ information that is incidentally collected and determined to contain some foreign intelligence value is fair game for review.
Cohn said such data on Americans could include communications that are to, from or about foreign targets the FISA court has already approved for surveillance. For example, if two Trump campaign officials were talking via email about a Moscow official under surveillance, that conversation might get flagged as relevant.
Trumpâ€™s anger over the potential surveillance of him and his campaign is only likely to increase peopleâ€™s awareness of these programs, some of which are up for reauthorization at the end of 2017.
The White House reportedly supports a â€œcleanâ€ reauthorization with no revisions. But the heightened attention to the topic has already been used in Capitol Hill hearings to argue for an overhaul of the laws.
â€œI think that even if [Trump is] not exactly right about what happened here, the fact that he could tweet this â€¦ and we canâ€™t tell exactly what happened, means that we need to have an honest conversation in this country about these authorities,â€ Cohn said.
30 Dec 2016
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.
02 Aug 2016
The Truth About Knives:
Operation Choke-point is the scandal-ridden Department of Justiceâ€™s initiative aimed at punishing making business difficult for those industries they donâ€™t like. Payday lenders (ok, these can be dicey but are still better than loan-sharks), coin dealers (precious metals throw a wrench in their fiat currency scam), and firearms manufacturers and dealers (becauseâ€¦guns are icky and stuff) have all been targeted by the Obamaâ€™s highly-politicized DOJ. Since the Administrationâ€™s frontal assaults on the Second Amendment have not yielded the results they want, they have resorted to Executive Branch action to try to move the ball. In this they are pressuring financial institutions to deny banking services to the targeted industries.
While Congress is trying to put an end this abuse, Operation Choke Point is expanding into new realms. This past Friday Hogue Inc. announced that Wells Fargo has refused to do business with them, because they ostensibly manufacture â€œweaponsâ€.
Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.
I didn’t even know that Hogue Inc. made knives. They are best known for high quality handgun grips.
This is the sort of thing that really does lend credence to charges that Republicans in Congress do nothing with majorities. Operation Choke Point is an outrageous Obama Administration Executive Order overreach inflicting radical left-wing ideology on all sorts of legal American businesses. It started in 2013 and there has obviously been plenty of time to investigate it, denounce it, and abolish it by legislative action. The very idea that a presidential administration can attempt to put businesses it does not like out of business by denying them access to banking services is totally appalling.
29 Sep 2015
1st Lts. Shaye Haver and Kristen Griest
People Magazine (not exactly a rabid conservative source) reports that the two female candidates successfully passing US Army Ranger School for the first time last April had more than a little special help.
[T]he women got special treatment and played by different rules,” sources say.
Ranger School consists of three phases: Benning, which lasts 21 days and includes water survival, land navigation, a 12-mile march, patrols, and an obstacle course; Mountain Phase, which lasts 20 days, and includes assaults, ambushes, mountaineering and patrols; and Swamp Phase, which lasts 17 days and covers waterborne operations.
But whereas men consistently were held to the strict standards outlined in the Ranger School’s Standing Operating Procedures handbook sources say, the women were allowed lighter duties and exceptions to policy.
Multiple sources told PEOPLE:
â€¢ Women were first sent to a special two-week training in January to get them ready for the school, which didn’t start until April 20. Once there they were allowed to repeat the program until they passed â€“ while men were held to a strict pass/fail standard.
â€¢ Afterward they spent months in a special platoon at Fort Benning getting, among other things, nutritional counseling and full-time training with a Ranger.
â€¢ While in the special platoon they were taken out to the land navigation course â€“ a very tough part of the course that is timed â€“ on a regular basis. The men had to see it for the first time when they went to the school.
â€¢ Once in the school they were allowed to repeat key parts â€“ like patrols â€“ while special consideration was not given to the men.
â€¢ A two-star general made personal appearances to cheer them along during one of the most challenging parts of the school, multiple sources tell PEOPLE.
The end result? Two women â€“ First Lts. Kristen Griest and Shaye Haver â€“ graduated August 21 (along with 381 men) and are wearing the prestigious Ranger Tab. Griest was surprised they made it.
“I thought we were going to be dropped after we failed Darby [part of Benning] the second time,” Griest said at a press conference before graduation. “We were offered a Day One Recycle.”
At their graduation, Maj Gen. Scott Miller, who oversees Ranger School, denied the Army eased its standards or was pressured to ensure at least one woman graduated.
“Standards remain the same,â€ Miller said, according to The Army Times. “The five-mile run is still five miles. The 12-mile march is still 12 miles.
“There was no pressure from anyone above me to change standards,” said Miller, who declined to speak to PEOPLE.
Instructors say otherwise.
“We were under huge pressure to comply,” one Ranger instructor says. “It was very much politicized.”
The women didn’t want or ask for special treatment, says one who attempted the program.
“All of us wanted the same standards for males and females,” Billi Blaschke, who badly injured her ankle only six days into a required pre-assessment program, tells PEOPLE. “We wanted to do it on our own.”
On September 2, the Army announced that Ranger School is now open both to men and women.
Read the whole thing.
28 Sep 2015
Duffleblog (the military satire site) hits the nail on the head with this one.
op Army leaders have ordered its elite Special Forces unit to change its motto from the Latin â€œDe Opresso Liberâ€ (To liberate the oppressed) to something that would be more culturally sensitive, after a large number of Afghans holding child sex slaves have complained.
â€œWe want to make sure we are not offending our coalition partners and not judging them based on our own biases,â€ said Col. Dwight S. Barry, a Pentagon spokesperson. â€œAt the end of the day, we just have to respect that raping young boys and mutilating female genitals is just a part of their culture.â€
Started in 1952, Army Special Forces chose its Latin motto of â€œDe Opresso Liberâ€ at a time when the U.S. was heavily focused on freeing people around the world from the chains of Soviet Communism. Now decades later, Army leaders want operators to be more aware of cultural differences they may not understand in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Berkeley, California.
The move comes in the wake of numerous complaints from Afghan men, who have chided U.S. military officials over previous run-ins with Special Forces soldiers unaware of the ancient Afghan custom of â€œbacha bazi.â€ The practice, which literally translates to â€œboy play,â€ consists of chaining children to beds, taking off their clothes, and then sexually assaulting them until they scream â€œbingo.â€…
Officials are currently weighing a number of potential mottos as replacements, which include â€œTolerate Iniustitia (Tolerate Injustice)â€ and â€œAd Dissimulare (To Turn a Blind Eye).â€
In addition to the change in motto, the Army band has also been directed to record a new version of the â€œBallad of the Green Berets,â€ which was recorded during the Vietnam War. An initial draft of the lyrics include: â€œSilver wings upon their chest / These are men, Americaâ€™s best / One hundred slaves get raped today / But all ignored by the Green Beret.â€
07 May 2015
Scott Grannis calculates just how much economic growth we’ve lost, for some unknown reason, over the course of the last six years.
Real GDP growth in the first quarter was weaker than expected (0.2% vs. 1.0%), but it wasn’t much of a surprise. It’s now been almost six years that the economy has managed only meager growthâ€”about 2 Â¼% per year on average. As a result, by my calculations, real GDP is a little over 10% below its long-term trend potential. That’s more than $2 trillion in lost income every year, and it’s getting worse. …
The chart above compares the level of real GDP to a long-term trend growth rate of 3.1%. This confirms once again that we are stuck in the slowest recovery ever. It’s my belief that the persistence of slow growth is largely the result of bad policies, though demographics likely plays a part too. Corporate profits have been very strong, but business investment has been very weak. Without new investment and risk-taking, we are not going to see a pickup in productivity which is, at the end of the day, what drives stronger growth and higher living standards. Investment has been weak probably because marginal tax rates and regulatory burdens have increased significantly in the past six years. In a sense, and expansion of government has suffocated the private sector.
Things are not going to change much for the better until policies become more pro-growth.
Whether the persistence of relatively weak growth is a reason for the Fed to continue to keep short-term interest rates extraordinarily low is one of the key questions of our time. I don’t see how low interest rates stimulate investment or enhance productivity. Only private initiatives can do that.
On the bright side, if policies do become more favorable, there is tremendous upside potential to look forward to. Closing the GDP gap would be nothing short of exhilarating.
23 Feb 2015
Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security
Mark Steyn takes note of a recent new Obama Administration cabinet department priority.
I opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security on the basic Thatcherite principle that if you create a government bureaucracy in order to deal with a problem you’ll never be rid of the problem. But I underestimated the creativity of our rulers: The DHS was set up because 19 Muslims flew planes into skyscrapers and killed thousands of people. Thirteen years later, the head of the DHS thinks his department’s priority should be to “give voice to the plight of Muslims” who have the misfortune to live in America.
12 Feb 2015
The Marine Corps responded to reports that US Marine guards at the embassy in Yemen had been under orders to surrender their rifles and sidearms to Houthi fighters at the airport before leaving the country.
Marine Corps Times:
Marine embassy security guards smashed personal weapons with sledgehammers and scattered them before departing Yemen as the U.S. Embassy was being evacuated this week, officials with Marine Corps Headquarters said.
The officials offered new details of the Marines’ departure in the wake of differing reports about what had become of personal weapons the troops had to leave behind before departing the country via the airport at Sanaa. A Pentagon spokesman told reporters Wednesday that Marines had handed over the weapons to Yemeni officials before boarding commercial aircraft for departure, while staff with the Sanaa airport told the Associated Press that Houthi rebels had seized U.S. Embassy vehicles, some with weapons inside.
A Marine official with knowledge of the movement told Marine Corps Times Wednesday that all personal and crew-served weapons had been rendered inoperable, but could not address how they had been made so or how they were disposed of before the Marines departed.
“To be clear: No Marine handed a weapon to a Houthi, or had one taken from him,” Marine officials said late Wednesday in a statement.
Crew-served weapons, officials said, were destroyed at the embassy before the Marines departed in accordance with an approved destruction plan.
The Marine embassy detachment then proceeded to the airfield at Sanaa with just their personal weapons.
“Upon arrival at the airfield, all personal weapons were rendered inoperable in accordance with advance planning,” Officials said in the statement. “Specifically, each bolt was removed from its weapons body and rendered inoperable by smashing with sledgehammers. The weapons bodies, minus the bolts, were then separately smashed with sledgehammers. All of these destroyed components were left at the airport â€” and components were scattered; no usable weapon was taken from any Marine at Sanaa airport.
Read the whole thing.
12 Jan 2015
The New York Daily News and Gateway Pundit both comment upon just how conspicuous was the absence of major representatives of the Obama Administration at the Paris march against Islamic terrorism.
It was an international rally against terror.
Over 50 world leaders were in attendance.
But no Obama.
The Obama administration sent three representatives to Michael Brownâ€™s funeral in Ferguson, Missouri.
But only the Ambassador to France made the historic anti-terror march in Paris today.
Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris but was not seen at the march.
But when you elect a president educated at a madrassa as a child, who thinks the ululations of the muezzin are a pretty sound, who has celebrated the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with an Iftar dinner each year he has been in the White House, who told the United Nations in 2012 that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” and who has worn since at least 1981 a ring with “There is no God but Allah” inscribed in Arabic, would you really expect him to fly to Paris to march in this parade?
Twitter hashtag: ReasonsObamaMissedFranceRally
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