Eternal Vigilance Is The Cost Of Freedom

While we were waiting for Donald Trump to become President, there were some things going on in Washington that we need to look at. At the time these things may not have seemed important, but in view of recent events, they need to be re-examined.

Yesterday PJ Media reported on a New York Times story from January 12, 2017,.

The New York Times reported:

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

PJ Media states:

Let’s call the roster of the bad guys:

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch signed the new rules, permitting the N.S.A. to disseminate “raw signals intelligence information,” on Jan. 3, after the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., signed them on Dec. 15, according to a 23-page, largely declassified copy of the procedures.

Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.

Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.

This is essentially a land mine placed in the path of the Trump Administration by the Obama Administration. If I told you how angry I was about this, this blog would no longer be family-friendly.  I hope Americans can put partisan politics aside and realize how damaging this is to the country and to the Fourth Amendment rights of all Americans. Former President Obama has gone out of his way to make things difficult for President Trump. This is not appropriate. It is petty, vindictive and unpatriotic. If laws were not broken, there cannot be a legal penalty, but there should be a public censure of some sort. I have always felt that former President Obama did not understand America. His actions in the last months of his presidency and his actions since leaving office have convinced me that is true.

At Least There Is Some Check On Releasing Prisoners From Guantanamo

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posted a story today about the continuing push by President Obama to release all of the prisoners from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. It is quite possible that the recent ‘normalization’ of America‘s relationship to Cuba might be related to this desire in some way. However, here at home, there seems to be another roadblock in the President’s way (thank goodness).

In January of this year, NewsMax ran a story about the recidivism rate of former Guantanamo prisoners. They compared the numbers the government has released with their information. Any resemblance between the two sets of numbers was purely coincidental.

These are the government figures:

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This is what the article says about those numbers:

Republican claims of a 30 percent recidivism rate are based on combining the figures in green on all detainees confirmed or suspected of re-engaging in terrorism.

I believe the actual recidivism rate is probably 30 percent or higher because of the time and difficulty in determining whether released Gitmo detainees have returned to terrorism.

Further complicating this determination are very strict definitions set by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to define what “confirmed” and “suspected of” reengaging in terrorist activities mean. Among other things, these definitions require evidence of direct involvement in terrorist activities and exclude communications with terrorist groups or engaging in anti-U.S. propaganda.

Meanwhile, President Obama is dealing with a familiar problem regarding the release of the prisoners.

Ed Morrissey reports:

Carter (Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter) also said that not every detainee in Guantanamo can be freed. “[W]e have to be very clear – there are people in Guantanamo Bay who cannot and should not be released because they will return to the terrorist fight,” he said. “And therefore we need a place where we can detain them in the long term. We have been forbidden to create such a place in U.S. territory.”

This is the problem that President Obama ran into with the last Secretary of Defense. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There has been speculation that our involvement with Cuba will involve the turning over of Guantanamo to Cuba. It will be interesting to see how that will be handled between now and the time that President Obama leaves office. A first-term President is not likely to want a resume that includes the release of prisoners that were later to be found killing Americans.

The Fight For Honest News Continues

John Hinderaker at Power Line posted a story today about Sharyl Attkisson, the investigative reporter who resigned from CBS’s Washington Bureau in March of this year.

Ms. Attkisson tells her story in her book Stonewalled: My Fight For the Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.

In the book, Ms. Attkisson describes the hacking of her computer while she was at CBS:

Attkisson says the source, who’s “connected to government three-letter agencies,” told her the computer was hacked into by “a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”

The breach was accomplished through an “otherwise innocuous e-mail” that Attkisson says she got in February 2012, then twice “redone” and “refreshed” through a satellite hookup and a Wi-Fi connection at a Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The spyware included programs that Attkisson says monitored her every keystroke and gave the snoops access to all her e-mails and the passwords to her financial accounts.

“The intruders discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool,” she wrote in “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”

But the most shocking finding, she says, was the discovery of three classified documents that Number One told her were “buried deep in your operating system. In a place that, unless you’re a some kind of computer whiz specialist, you wouldn’t even know exists.”

“They probably planted them to be able to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point,” Number One added.

It is scary that our government is involved in this sort of thing.

John Hinderaker comments on Ms. Attkisson’s story:

If the Obama administration hacked into a reporter’s computers, used them to spy on her, and even prepared to frame her for a potential criminal prosecution by planting classified documents, aren’t we looking at the biggest scandal in American history? Perhaps I’m forgetting something, but I can’t come up with anything to equal the stunning lawlessness on display here–if what Attkisson says is true (which I don’t doubt), and if the administration is the guilty party.

John Hinderaker suggests that she file a lawsuit against the offending agency. Ms. Attkisson’s story is another example of a government that is out of control.

The Empty Chair In The Oval Office

Bret Stephens posted an article at the Wall Street Journal yesterday  about the leadership style of President Obama. The article is titled, “The Unbearable Lightness of Obama.” Mr. Stephens points out that the President says that he was briefed on NSA eavesdropping in general, but never told the specifics of listening in on foreign leaders. In terms of ObamaCare there was no person with the right technology experience involved in launching the website.

Some other observations in the article:

Besides the Syrian government‘s gains, there was mounting evidence that Mr. Assad’s troops had repeatedly used chemical weapons against civilians.

“Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient and disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.”

…”On Saturday, as the shutdown drama played out on Capitol Hill, President Obama played golf at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.”

…”In polo shirt, shorts and sandals, President Obama headed to the golf course Friday morning with a couple of old friends, then flew to Camp David for a long weekend. Secretary of State John Kerry was relaxing at his vacation home in Nantucket.

“Aides said both men were updated as increasingly bloody clashes left dozens dead in Egypt, but from outward appearances they gave little sense that the Obama administration viewed the broader crisis in Cairo with great alarm.”

Please follow the link above to the article to see further examples. The article concludes:

Call Mr. Obama’s style indifferent, aloof or irresponsible, but a president who governs like this reaps the whirlwind—if not for himself, then for his country.

I don’t think this is the kind of leadership America wants, but since the majority of Americans voted for this man, they got what they asked for.

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If You Are Already Feeling Uncomfortable With the National Security Agency Surveillance Program This Article Is Not Going To Help You

In February of this year, Breitbart.com posted the following:

“The President has put in place an organization with the kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life,” Representative Maxine Waters told Roland Martin on Monday. “That’s going to be very, very powerful,” Waters said. “That database will have information about everything on every individual on ways that it’s never been done before and whoever runs for President on the Democratic ticket has to deal with that. They’re going to go down with that database and the concerns of those people because they can’t get around it. And he’s [President Obama] been very smart. It’s very powerful what he’s leaving in place.”

Have you noticed that the advertisements on the websites you frequent are related to other websites you have recently visited or possibly to organizations you receive e-mail from? The database being compiled by the Democrats will aim their campaign ads at every voter according to websites they visit and organizations they receive e-mail from. If you are a frequent visitor of education websites, the pop-up ad on your computer will tell you that Republicans don’t care about education. If you frequent websites dealing with investments, your pop-up ad will tell you that Republicans are bad for the economy. The only way to protect yourself from this is to do your own research on the issues and to stay informed. A well-informed voter is the best defense against targeted propaganda.

Now, to make things worse, the Daily Caller posted an article yesterday about two instances where non-terrorists who were caught up in NSA surveillance.

In the first instance the NSA routinely listed to the telephone calls of Americans traveling overseas.

The article reports:

Two former intercept officers who worked at the NSA facility in Fort Gordon, Georgia told ABC News’s Brian Ross in 2008 that they and their colleagues listened in on phone calls home of hundreds of Americans living and working abroad.

These were not suspected terrorists–they were Americans traveling or working abroad.

The article further reports:

Navy Arab linguist David Murfee Faulk told ABC News a similar story. He said that he and his colleagues listened in on the calls of American officers living in the Green Zone in Baghdad.

Faulk described the personal nature of many of the calls, and how he and his colleagues would encourage each other to listen into a call where “there’s good phone sex” or “some colonel making pillow talk.”

Kinne said when concerns were raised with her superiors about the nature of the calls they were listening in on, she was told “your job is not to question.”

Obviously that is an example of an abuse of the NSA program. But there is another abuse that hits much closer to home. The article alleges that Eliot Spitzer was brought down through the use of the Patriot Act.

The article quotes a Newsweek article to explain how this happened:

Another element of the formulas: whether an account holder was a “politically exposed person.” At first focused on potentially crooked foreign officials, the PEP lists expanded to include many U.S. politicians and public officials who were conceivably vulnerable to corruption.

The new scrutiny resulted in an explosion of SARs, from 204,915 in 2001 to 1.23 million last year. The data, stored in an IRS computer in Detroit, are accessible by law-enforcement agencies nationwide. “Terrorism has virtually nothing to do with it,” says Peter Djinis, a former top Treasury lawyer. “The vast majority of SARs filed today involve garden-variety forms of white-collar crime.” Federal prosecutors around the country routinely scour the SARs for potential leads.

One of those leads led to Spitzer. Last summer New York’s North Fork Bank, where Spitzer had an account, filed a SAR about unusual money transfers he had made, say law-enforcement and industry sources who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the probe. One of the sources tells NEWSWEEK that Spitzer wasn’t flagged because of his public position. Instead, the governor called attention to himself by asking the bank to transfer money in someone else’s name. (A North Fork spokesperson says the bank does not discuss its customers.) The SAR was not itself evidence that Spitzer had committed a crime. But it made the Feds curious enough to follow the money.

When the Feds followed the money, they discovered that Eliot Spitzer had engaged in activities not befitting his office, and he was removed from power. When the government snooped General Petraeus‘ email, they found an illicit relationship that was probably used by the Obama Administration for political purposes. When the government snooped James Rosen’s email, they found nothing they could use against him.

There are dangers to our freedom in this kind of snooping, but there are also dangers to our political system. Unbridled snooping by the political party in power could have major negative consequences for our republic. It is time to rein in the NSA–they need to be tracking terrorists–not Americans.

Establishing Our Rights Through The Courts

The courts were not meant to be the all-powerful entity they have morphed into, but as long as the courts have assumed that role, we ought to be able to use them to protect our rights as citizens. A number of organizations have figured this out.

Yesterday the Daily Caller reported that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) have filed a lawsuit against the government calling for the end of the NSA domestic phone surveillance program. The lawsuit, ACLU v Clapper, argues that the surveillance program is a violation of the U.S. Constitution and exceeds the Patriot Act. The article states that both the ACLU and NYCLU were customers of Verizon Business Network Services, which had been required to hand over on an ‘ongoing, daily basis’ domestic phone records by a routinely renewed order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The article reports:

A class action suit already in place against the U.S. government for the NSA’s routine collection is expected to be amended Wednesday to include the Internet companies alleged to have partnered with the NSA regarding a secret Internet surveillance program, reported U.S. News & World Report.

The accused Internet companies — AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo! and YouTube — have all denied any knowledge or  the program.

I don’t have a problem with monitoring calls from and to Americans from out of the country, but it does seem a bit much to put all Americans under telephone surveillance.

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Unfortunately We Don’t Live In A Vacuum

This is an article about the eavesdropping scandal currently dominating press reporting on the Obama Administration. I will say offhand that I have very mixed emotions about the intelligence gathering going on. First of all, if the intelligence gathering is so universal and has been going on since 2007, why did it miss the Fort Hood shooting, the 2009 recruiting office shooting in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Boston Marathon bombings? Of these three the Boston Marathon bombing should have been the easiest to foresee simply by looking at the travel records of the older brother involved.To add to my mixed emotions is the fact that Andrew McCarthy, someone I totally trust on matters of terrorism and the role of government, has stated that he is not bothered by the National Security Agency’s intelligence gathering. I have also heard a recent interview of John Bolton, someone whose opinion I also respect, in which he stated that he was not overly concerned about the information gathering.

I am adding to the discussion an article posted in the Guardian by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. Representative Sensenbrenner released the following statement last Thursday:

Washington, Jun 6 – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) today sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s application for a top secret court order to collect the phone records of essentially every call made by millions of Verizon customers. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “As the author of the Patriot Act, I am extremely troubled by the FBI’s interpretation of this legislation. While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses. The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act.  I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”

Since Representative Sensenbrenner was one of the authors of the Patriot Act, I believe he needs to be listened to on this matter.

In his article for the Guardian, Representative Sensenbrenner states:

Technically, the administration’s actions were lawful insofar as they were done pursuant to an order from the Fisa court. But based on the scope of the released order, both the administration and the Fisa court are relying on an unbounded interpretation of the act that Congress never intended.

The released Fisa order requires daily productions of the details of every call that every American makes, as well as calls made by foreigners to or from the United States. Congress intended to allow the intelligence communities to access targeted information for specific investigations. How can every call that every American makes or receives be relevant to a specific investigation?

This is well beyond what the Patriot Act allows.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I have very mixed emotions on this. Because someone in the Obama Administration used the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to target conservatives, how do we know that the NSA information will not also be used to target specific groups? We don’t live in a vacuum. Without the IRS scandal, I might be willing to ignore the NSA snooping, but with the IRS scandal, it has a much more sinister look. I have reached no conclusion except to conclude that I need more information.

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Posted On Facebook By Allen West

As I ponder the NSA records data mining episode here are my thoughts. This is like carpet bombing vs. precision attack. Can someone explain why we weren’t listening to Anwar-al-Awlaki and his conversations with Major Nidal Hasan? Why weren’t we able to track Carlos Bledsoe‘s travel to Somalia and Yemen to receive terrorist training? Why didn’t we pay attention to warning signs of Abdul Mutallab (underwear bomber) with a one-way ticket and little baggage traveling from Nigeria to America? Why weren’t we paying attention to the Tsarnaev brothers’ travels and connections to Chechen Islamic terrorism — heck Russia warned us? Why is it that in October 2011, 57 Islamic organizations — several with ties to Muslim Brotherhood — sent a letter to then counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan demanding we purge training materials and punish instructors they deemed “offensive” and we didn’t say “shove it” and target THEIR records? We’d rather carpet bomb Americans to cover our cowardice in confronting Islamic extremism. Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
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