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 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.


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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

No Hero

Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on Edward Snowden:

What, one wonders, did Snowden think the N.S.A. did? Any marginally attentive citizen, much less N.S.A. employee or contractor, knows that the entire mission of the agency is to intercept electronic communications. Perhaps he thought that the N.S.A. operated only outside the United States; in that case, he hadn’t been paying very close attention. In any event, Snowden decided that he does not “want to live in a society” that intercepts private communications. His latter-day conversion is dubious.


Snowden fled to Hong Kong when he knew publication of his leaks was imminent. In his interview, he said he went there because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.” This may be true, in some limited way, but the overriding fact is that Hong Kong is part of China, which is, as Snowden knows, a stalwart adversary of the United States in intelligence matters. (Evan Osnos has more on that.) Snowden is now at the mercy of the Chinese leaders who run Hong Kong. As a result, all of Snowden’s secrets may wind up in the hands of the Chinese government—which has no commitment at all to free speech or the right to political dissent. And that makes Snowden a hero?

The American government, and its democracy, are flawed institutions. But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work. But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air—and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. We all now have to hope that he’s right.

It is also a bit ironic that all of the recourses that Mr. Snowden had such as the federal whistleblower protections were put in place by the government after another such case of leakage: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in 1971.  Why he felt he had to go to Glenn Greewald — whom I admire as an eloquent writer and advocate for civil liberties but not especially prone to nuance — is probably one of the more derpy aspects of the story.