Something To Consider

I am getting tired of the Michael Flynn controversy, and I suspect you are too, but there are some aspects of this incident that need to be considered. There are two stories that I think contain important information.

The first story is from The Week, a magazine not known for its conservative leanings.

Some highlights from that story:

In a liberal democracy, how things happen is often as important as what happens. Procedures matter. So do rules and public accountability. The chaotic, dysfunctional Trump White House is placing the entire system under enormous strain. That’s bad. But the answer isn’t to counter it with equally irregular acts of sabotage — or with a disinformation campaign waged by nameless civil servants toiling away in the surveillance state.

As Eli Lake of Bloomberg News put it in an important article following Flynn’s resignation,

Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do. [Bloomberg]

Those cheering the deep state torpedoing of Flynn are saying, in effect, that a police state is perfectly fine so long as it helps to bring down Trump.

It is the role of Congress to investigate the president and those who work for him. If Congress resists doing its duty, out of a mixture of self-interest and cowardice, the American people have no choice but to try and hold the government’s feet to the fire, demanding action with phone calls, protests, and, ultimately, votes. That is a democratic response to the failure of democracy.

John Podhoretz, also not a supporter of Michael Flynn,  posted an article at The New York Post.

He stated the following:

This information might have come because the US intelligence community has an active interest in the Russian official to whom he talked.

Or it could have come because the FBI had been pursuing some sort of secret investigation and had received authorization to monitor and track his calls and discussions.

If this was intelligence, the revelation of the Flynn meeting just revealed something to the Russians we shouldn’t want revealed — which is that we were listening in on them and doing so effectively.

And if it was an FBI investigation, then the iron principle of law enforcement — that evidence gathered in the course of an investigation must be kept secret to protect the rights of the American being investigated — was just put through a shredder.

Keeping our intelligence-gathering assets hidden from those upon whom we are spying is a key element of our national security.

And as for playing fast and loose with confidential information on American citizens: No joke, people — if they can do it to Mike Flynn, they can do it to you.

The danger in this situation is not whatever relationship Michael Flynn has or had with Russia; the danger is the means that the opponents of Donald Trump will use to take down one of his appointments.

We know that former President Obama has organized a nonprofit group called Organizing for Action (OFA) for the purpose of ‘protecting the Obama legacy from President Trump.’ Aside from the fact that this is highly unusual, it is simply classless. This group may or may not be involved in what happened to Michael Flynn, but I suspect that they have a few contacts within government that they might have encouraged along the way. OFA also has a press secretary and the ear of the major media. OFA also has an office paid for with taxpayer dollars because Barack Obama is a former President. The taxpayers are paying to undermine their own government!

Be prepared for more media attacks on members of the Trump Administration.

 

 

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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