Thursday, June 15, 2017

If Only He Would Shut Up

One of the takeaways from the Washington Post piece about Trump now being under investigation for obstruction is that he probably wouldn’t be if he kept his mouth shut.

Accounts by Comey and other officials of their conversations with the president could become central pieces of evidence if Mueller decides to pursue an obstruction case.

Investigators will also look for any statements the president may have made publicly and privately to people outside the government about his reasons for firing Comey and his concerns about the Russia probe and other related investigations, people familiar with the matter said.

We know that Trump talks to a lot of people.  He’s on the record for telling the Russians in the Oval Office that he got rid of “that nutjob” Comey, and he picks up the phone and talks to just about anybody who will listen.  (He’s probably chatted with Rachel from Credit Card Services about this whole mess.)  We know he did this before he was elected and of course there’s the power-barf level of tweets that come forth every morning.

What’s important about that is that now that he’s in the White House, there are laws governing how those conversations are recorded such as the Presidential Records Act, basically making everything he does a piece of public property.  And anyone he talks to can be called as a witness.

It’s ironic that Trump accused Comey of being a leaker.  If Trump hadn’t gone on TV and told Lester Holt that he fired Comey over the Russian thing, we wouldn’t be here.

Nixon had his secret tapes and they were his undoing.  Trump has his big mouth, and that may be his.

Bonus Track: On another note, Trump’s big mouth may engender trouble for the Republicans’ stealth plan to repeal Obamacare.

House Republicans are angry with President Trump for blurting out an inconveniently candid view of their health-care bill, Politico reports today. Trump reportedly told a closed-door gathering of GOP senators that the House repeal-and-replace bill is “mean” and called on them to make it “more generous.” This promptly leaked, and a lot of people are noting that Trump undercut House Republicans politically and provided Democrats with ammo for a thousand attack ads.

You were saying?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Russian Hacking and Reality Winner

There are several layers to this story.  First, The Intercept reports via a leaked document from the NSA that Russian military intelligence launched a cyberattack against a U.S. voting software supplier.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

[…]

This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.” Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with “patriotic leanings” may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU.

The NSA analysis does not draw conclusions about whether the interference had any effect on the election’s outcome and concedes that much remains unknown about the extent of the hackers’ accomplishments. However, the report raises the possibility that Russian hacking may have breached at least some elements of the voting system, with disconcertingly uncertain results.

The second part of this story is that the person who leaked the documents to The Intercept has been caught and arrested.  She is a 25-year-old employee of an NSA contractor in Georgia.  Her name is Reality Winner (a name straight out of an 18th century British comedy).  Via the Department of Justice:

Winner is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation assigned to a U.S. government agency facility in Georgia. She has been employed at the facility since on or about February 13, and has held a Top Secret clearance during that time. On or about May 9, Winner printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it. Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.

Once investigative efforts identified Winner as a suspect, the FBI obtained and executed a search warrant at her residence. According to the complaint, Winner agreed to talk with agents during the execution of the warrant. During that conversation, Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a “need to know,” and with knowledge that the intelligence reporting was classified. Winner further admitted removing the classified intelligence reporting from her office space, retaining it, and mailing it from Augusta, Georgia, to the news outlet, which she knew was not authorized to receive or possess the documents.

The fact that the FBI was able to arrest Ms. Winner in such a short time tells us that the story about the Russian hacking must be skating very close to the truth or else they wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to catch the leaker.  (Also, they lucked into having a leaker who wasn’t really good at it.)

It also makes you wonder if this was just an isolated incident or part of a pattern of hacking and that there’s a lot more out there that the NSA is keeping under wraps.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Today’s Lesson in Irony

According to anonymous sources, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer really hates it that the White House is leaking stories to the news media, so he is trying to control it.  (Audio auto-play at link.)

Spicer called staff into his office last week to reiterate his frustration with the leaks, sources with knowledge of the matter said. He informed them that the use of encrypted texting apps, like Signal and Confide, was a violation of the Federal Records Act.

Then, with White House counsel Don McGahn standing by, Spicer asked his staff to provide him with their cell phones so he could ensure they were not using those apps or corresponding privately with reporters.

Spicer asked to review both his staff’s government-issued and personal cell phones, the sources said. He also specifically asked his staff not to leak information about the meeting or his efforts to crack down on leaks to the media, one source said.

That’s hilarious.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

More Like A Gusher

From the New York Times:

As a candidate for president, Donald J. Trump embraced the hackers who had leaked Hillary Clinton’s emails to the press, declaring at a rally in Pennsylvania, “I love WikiLeaks!”

To the cheering throngs that night, Mr. Trump marveled that “nothing is secret today when you talk about the internet.” The leakers, he said, had performed a public service by revealing what he called a scandal with no rival in United States history.

Now, after less than four weeks in the Oval Office, President Trump has changed his mind.

At a news conference on Wednesday and in a series of Twitter postings earlier in the day, Mr. Trump angrily accused intelligence agencies of illegally leaking information about Michael T. Flynn, his former national security adviser, who resigned after reports that he had lied about conversations with the Russian ambassador.

“It’s a criminal action, criminal act,” Mr. Trump fumed at the White House. In a Twitter message, he asserted that “the real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy. Very un-American!”

Most of the time, leaks are about power and controlling it.  Either the leakers are trying to undermine those who have it, or they’re trying to alert the public to nefarious goings-on.  It would be naive to think that all leakers have the nation’s best interest at heart — a lot of them are about sabotage, intrigue, and revenge — but in the case of Trump, we’re getting leaks from everywhere because a lot of people, including career politicians and people who may have supported Trump in the first place are seeing what’s going on now and are truly concerned about the fate of the country.  This is their way of putting the brakes on this careening train wreck.

Of course Trump is upset with leaks now.  And of course he’s raising a stink about them.  It’s called deflection: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”  To top it all off, this weekend he’s holding a campaign-style rally in Florida because that’s a lot more fun that being president.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Short Takes

President Obama tells Donald Trump to “stop whining” about ‘rigged’ election claims.

Short-term cease-fire in Yemen seems possible.

Local cable unplugged: Ecuador says it limited Julian Assange’s internet access.

Ford’s plant in Mexico won’t affect its U.S. workforce.

Magazine says six people corroborate writer’s claim that Trump assaulted her.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Friday, January 24, 2014

Short Takes

Bombing reported at Cairo police headquarters.

U.S. willing to talk to Edward Snowden if he pleads guilty.

Arrest made in 1978 “Goodfellas” heist at JFK.

Conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza charged with campaign finance violations.

Super PAC throws in with Hillary Clinton.

Mars rover Opportunity marks 10 years on the job.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Short Takes

Egypt — Morsi arrives at trial venue.

Toronto mayor apologizes for behavior but won’t resign.

Iranian protestors mark anniversary of U.S. embassy takeover in 1979.

President Obama campaigns in Virginia for Terry McAuliffe.

White House and Congress agree: no clemency for Edward Snowden.

Oil holds at $94 a barrel.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sentence First, Verdict After

I don’t hold any particular banner for PFC Bradley Manning.  I just think it’s a little ironic that the people who committed the crimes he leaked about are enjoying their government pension and making money on books and speaking tours while he goes to jail.

I think by the time he’s served his sentence, we will have come to the conclusion that the wars and activities he exposed were a lot worse than the crimes he was convicted of.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Journalism Is Not Terrorism

Rachel Maddow made this point last night:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And this is David Atkins over at Hullabaloo:

If there’s one overarching theme to the post-Patriot Act civil libertarian argument, it’s that in the pants-wetting national reaction to the 9/11 attacks, the insane amount of authority the government has been given to secretly surveil and interfere with the lives of citizens is being used for far less defensible or frankly indefensible purposes. The potential for abuse of unlimited surveillance power is radically high, and the danger of a totalitarian society is quite strong when just about any abuse of power the government conducts is justified by “terrorism.”

I’ve had my issues with Greenwald. But I don’t care if you believe that Greenwald and Snowden are the embodiments of the Anti-Christ. I don’t care what documents Greenwald’s spouse was carrying, how classified they were, or whether you believe that Greenwald is a journalist. I don’t care.

When a government detains someone who is very clearly not a terrorist for nine hours without access to an attorney under a terrorism statute, that government has proven every point Greenwald wanted to make. The argument is over right there.

And every “progressive” with a beef against Greenwald who attempts to defend the UK’s actions does nothing more than prove Greenwald’s point. Governments that detain civil libertarian bloggers and journalists as terrorists deserve every heaping of scorn they get, as do those who defend them.

It’s not about the players, it’s about the rights and wrongs.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weak and Desperate

This is worth noting.

LONDON (AP) — A British lawmaker on Monday called for police to explain why the partner of a journalist who received classified information from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was detained for nearly nine hours at Heathrow Airport.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said that he wants to know why police stopped David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Miranda was held for nearly the maximum time authorities are allowed to detain individuals under the Terrorism Act’s Schedule 7, which authorizes security agencies to stop and question people at borders.

Miranda’s cellphone, laptops and memory sticks were confiscated, Greenwald said.

“What needs to happen pretty rapidly is we need to establish the full facts,” Vaz told the BBC. “Now you have a complaint from Mr. Greenwald and the Brazilian government — they indeed have said they are concerned at the use of terrorism legislation for something that does not appear to relate to terrorism — so it needs to be clarified, and clarified quickly.”

Miranda, 28, was stopped Sunday while traveling home to Brazil after visiting Germany where he met with Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker who has worked with Greenwald on the NSA story. The Guardian reported it paid for Miranda’s flights, but did not immediately respond to a request for elaboration on what his role with the newspaper might be, if any.

Vaz said it was “extraordinary” that police knew that Miranda was Greenwald’s partner, and the authorities were targeting partners of people involved in Snowden’s disclosures.

“Bearing in mind it is a new use of terrorism legislation to detain someone in these circumstances … I’m certainly interested in knowing, so I will write to the police to ask for the justification of the use of terrorism legislation — they may have a perfectly reasonable explanation,” Vaz said.

No matter what you think of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and the whole NSA leak story, this situation has the distinct odor of harassment and vengeance.  It also makes the British government look like it is toadying to the United States, and we had enough of that with Tony Blair and his bromance with the Bush administration.

I get that they’re trying to put the NSA leak story off the front pages and keep it quiet.  But detaining the partner of a reporter for nine hours and confiscating his electronics doesn’t help.  In fact, it makes the authorities look weak and desperate.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Short Takes

Egypt erupts in massive demonstrations and scores killed by government troops.

Bradley Manning apologizes for “hurting my country.”

Jesse Jackson, Jr. gets 30 months in prison.

BSOD at the Grey Lady — New York Times website crashed for a couple of hours on Wednesday.

R.I.P. Jack Germond, 85, one of the best political reporters in the business.

The Tigers‘ slump ends with a win against the White Sox 6-4.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It’s Not All About You, Glenn

I’ve had a great deal of respect for Glenn Greenwald’s work over the years, and I still think he’s a good reporter in a lot of respects.  So I’m disappointed to see that he’s let his role in l’affaire Snowden turn him into some kind of caricature of a crusading journalist out to tell The Truth no matter what happens.

Case in point: he is telling us via Democracy Now that the alerts issued by the State Department that closed a number of embassies in Muslim areas around the world are a thinly-veiled plan to silence him.

“Here we are in the midst of one the most intense debates and sustain debates that we’ve had in a very long time in this country over the dangers of excess surveillance, and suddenly an administration that has spent two claiming that it has decimated Al-Qaeda decides that there is this massive threat that involves the closing of embassies and consulates throughout the world,” Greenwald explained. “And within literally an amount of hours, the likes of Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham join with the White House and Democrats in Congress — who, remember, are the leading defenders of the NSA at this point — to exploit that terrorist threat, and to insist that it shows that the NSA and these programs are necessary.”

This whole story went from serious to sheesh when people became obsessed about where Edward Snowden conducted his personal hygiene while stuck in the transit zone at the Moscow airport, and when the reporter who broke the story made it more about him than the fact that why yes, the NSA does know when you clicked on HotStuds On-Line and told your wife it was just a silly billing mistake from Comcast.

HT to LGF.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On Bradley Manning

From the New York Times:

A military judge on Tuesday found Pfc. Bradley Manning not guilty of “aiding the enemy” for his release of hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks for publication on the Internet, rejecting the government’s unprecedented effort to bring such a charge in a leak case.

But the judge in the court-martial, Col. Denise R. Lind, convicted Private Manning of six counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and most of the other crimes he was charged with. He faces a theoretical maximum sentence of 136 years in prison, although legal experts said the actual term was likely to be much shorter.

While advocates of open government celebrated his acquittal on the most serious charge, the case still appears destined to stand as a fierce warning to any government employee who is tempted to make public vast numbers of secret documents. Private Manning’s actions lifted a veil on American military and diplomatic activities around the world, and engendered a broad debate over what information should become public, how the government treats leakers, and what happens to those who see themselves as whistle-blowers.

I am not sure if I see PFC Manning as a hero as some do, nor do I see him as a villain.  I’m not a psychologist, and even if I was, I wouldn’t try to analyze him from a distance based on the evidence presented.  I don’t know if he got duped into doing what he did by the folks at Wikileaks or whether he actually thought he was doing the country some good.

But for whatever reason, the result is probably not what he wanted, either personally or for the country.  He probably knew he was going to end up in the stockade and he may have even felt it was worth it.  But for all the thousands of documents leaked, how have they changed the course of the wars, the way they are conducted, and the practices of keeping secrets?

Whistleblowers seek to put a stop to things they see happening that are wrong.  In the case of PFC Manning, nothing much has changed.  And he will have a long time to decide if it was worth it.

Short Takes

Bradley Manning acquitted of aiding the enemy, convicted on 20 other charges.

Court rules no warrant needed to track cell phones.

President Obama offers a new “grand bargain” ahead of budget battle.

Six of 22 Miami-Dade libraries slated for closure to be saved.

Millions in farm subsidies go to dead people.

R.I.P. Eileen Brennan, 80, star of Broadway and film.

The Tigers beat the Nationals 5-1.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Havana Daydreaming

The chase for Edward Snowden is turning into a Marx Brothers movie.

NSA Leaker Edward Snowden was supposed to be on Aeroflot Flight 180 from Moscow to Havana. He wasn’t. But “dozens” of journalists are. It just took off. And there’s no booze service on board. Welcome to the Cuban Whistleblower Crisis.

Moscow to Havana is a 12-hour flight.  Plus, those journalists have to stay in Havana for a minimum of three days.  And it’s hot and humid there this time of year.

Heh.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Short Takes

U.S.-Taliban talks remain on the line.

Nine foreign tourists shot to death in Pakistan.

Floods: India death toll passes 500; three dead in Alberta.

Crews battle wildfire in southwest Colorado.

Edward Snowden left Hong Kong; destination unknown.

The Tigers beat the Red Sox 10-3 as Max Scherzer goes 11-0.