Friday July 13th, 2018

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metcalf

World & National

Strzok smirks through testimony, insists distaste for Trump didn't taint investigations
                            FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, testifies before a House Judiciary Committee joint hearing on "oversight of FBI and Department of Justice actions surrounding the 2016 election" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 12. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

FBI agent Peter Strzok admitted Thursday he doesn’t like President Trump but insisted his personal political views, including text messages promising to “stop” Mr. Trump or facilitate his impeachment, did not influence two of the country’s most important investigations.

In 10 hours of testimony to Congress, Mr. Strzok also confirmed for the first time that the FBI did accept documents from Justice Department official Bruce Ohr during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Ohr’s wife worked at Fusion GPS, the firm that paid to compile the salacious and unverified anti-Trump dossier.

Mr. Strzok also confirmed to Congress that his computer was used to change the language in the memo the FBI used to exonerate Hillary Clinton of criminal wrongdoing in her emails — though he said that decision was made by lawyers.



Gohmert: Watchdog Found Clinton Emails Were Sent To ‘Foreign Entity’


A member of the House Committee on the Judiciary said during a hearing Thursday that a government watchdog found that nearly all of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity and that the FBI didn’t follow-up on that finding.

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert said the ICIG investigator, Frank Rucker, presented the findings to Strzok, but that the FBI official did not do anything with the information.



Trump in U.K. adds to British PM May's Brexit woes

                           U.S. President Donald Trump, right, stands with British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, at Chequers, in Buckinghamshire, England, Friday, July 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Trump added to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit headache ahead of their meeting Friday, saying her plan was not the hard break with the EU that voters wanted and could scuttle a U.S.-U.K. trade deal.

“The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum,” Mr. Trump told the Sun, a tabloid newspaper in London.

The president’s critique came as Mrs. May faces the biggest political challenge of her career. She is struggling to hold together a government cleaved by Brexit.

Mr. Trump also praised former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a Brexit hardliner who quit Monday over Mrs. May’s plan for a soft exit from the European Union.

        Trump refutes Sun Interview as 'Fake News'


Iran's highest leaders approved Paris rally bomb plot, opposition group claims

                                 Iran's President Hassan Rouhani arrives to a press conference in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. Rouhani said Saturday he opposed a parliamentary vote on the landmark nuclear deal reached with world powers, saying terms of the agreement will turn into legal obligation if it is passed by the house. Picture of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hangs on the wall. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The Europe-based opposition to Iran’s ruling mullahs charged on Thursday that the plot to bomb its annual resistance rally near Paris on June 30 was approved by Iran’s highest leaders.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran quoted its intelligence sources inside the country as saying that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani approved the plan.

Belgian authorities foiled the plot when they found explosives in a car driven by a couple with ties to Iran. Prosecutors said the two were directed by Assadolah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat/spy posted at the country’s embassy in Vienna. After the Belgian arrests, German authorities apprehended Mr. Assadi, who had passed the explosives to the selected bombers, prosecutors said.



Can the GOP Survive a Trade War?

The economic effects will have political consequences for Republicans at every level of government.

On July 6, Donald Trump carried out his vow to slap tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China immediately reciprocated by penalizing U.S. imports, from soybeans to Teslas. The European Union, Canada, and Mexico also imposed retaliatory levies in response to Trump’s provocations. Four days later, he escalated the feud, threatening tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese products, including auto parts, refrigerators, and electronics, as well as baseball gloves and handbags. The global trade war is on.

Trump says trade wars are “easy to win.” Economists think differently, although most expect the U.S. to emerge without serious damage. A bigger question is: Will Republicans? That will depend on the scale of the conflict and the damage it causes U.S. companies and workers. Early signs are ominous. Trump alarmed GOP lawmakers on July 5 by threatening to impose tariffs on all $500 billion of Chinese goods imported to the U.S. “Members hate what the president is doing,” says a former Republican leadership aide. “None of them thinks this is a good idea.”



Trump is likely to ask Putin for help with his North Korea problem

President Donald Trump may ask Russian President Vladimir Putin for help on denuclearizing North Korea when the two leaders meet on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are sure to discuss North Korea at next week's bilateral summit as the American leader looks to tap Moscow's strategic leverage over the isolated state.

The controversial heads of state are due to meet in Helsinki on Monday, with arms control, Ukraine, Syria and Iran likely to dominate talks. Pyongyang's pledge to denuclearize may not top the agenda, but it's likely to get considerable attention.

The U.S. president will "absolutely" seek Putin's help on the matter, according to Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, associate scholar at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute. For one, Trump may ask the Russian leader to maintain sanctions on ruler Kim Jong Un's regime, he said.



Detaining Immigrant Kids Is Now a Billion-Dollar Industry

 
Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade, an Associated Press analysis finds.

Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody.

Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states — Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.



NYT: FEMA Report Reveals It Was Unprepared for Maria in PR

 
A Federal Emergency Management Agency report determined it was unprepared for a hurricane in Puerto Rico, underestimating how much food and water it would need, and how hard it would be to get supplies to the island, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the agency's plans for a crisis were based on a focused disaster like a tsunami, not a hurricane that devastated the whole island.
When Hurricane Maria hit, FEMA's warehouse in Puerto Rico was nearly empty — the contents given to the Virgin Islands, where a storm hit two weeks before, the report found.



Feds Collect Record Individual Income Taxes Through June; Still Run $607B Deficit


The federal government collected a record $1,305,490,000,000 in individual income taxes through the first nine months of fiscal 2018 (October 2017 through June 2018), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

Despite the record individual income tax collections, the federal government still ran a deficit of $607,099,000,000 over those same nine months, according to the Treasury statement.

The approximately $1,305,490,000,000 in individual income taxes that the Treasury collected in October through June of this fiscal year was $71,815,310,000 more (in constant June 2018 dollars) than the $1,233,674,690,000 (in constant June 2018 dollars) in individual income taxes that the Treasury collected in October through June of fiscal 2017—which was the previous record.



Wash Post: Jared Kushner Lacks Clearance to Do His Job

 
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner does not have the security clearance required to see some of the government's most sensitive secrets, The Washington Post reported.

For the first year of the Trump administration, President Donald Trump's son-in-law had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence with just an interim security clearance while he waited for his background check.
But when White House security officials granted him permanent clearance in late May, he got "top secret" status — a level that does not let him see some of the country's most closely guarded intelligence, the Post reported, citing unnamed sources.

He has yet to get approval to review "sensitive compartmented information," the Post reported, noting the CIA determines who can access data primarily involving intelligence sources and methods, the Post reported.



Trump Sending Top Team to Mexico to Woo Next President


President Donald Trump is sending a team of top officials to meet Mexico's president-elect on Friday to show the importance he places on the countries' relationship, the US said, after months of deeply strained ties.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will lead a high-level delegation for meetings with anti-establishment leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who won a landslide victory in Mexico's July 1 elections, opening a new chapter in what has been a troubled relationship since Trump came to office.

"This is an important trip scheduled at a key moment in our bilateral relationship," said a senior US State Department official in a background briefing on Thursday.
He confirmed that Pompeo would be joined by Trump's son-in-law, senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner; Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.



This is no NATO for deadbeats

The Europeans wrote the book on how to be successful deadbeats. We got another demonstration of that at the NATO summit this week in Brussels. Some of the chief practitioners of the art of welshing on a debt take a fulsome pride in their deadbeat pedigree.

Donald Trump, with his usual barn dance through the china closet, rebuked the easy riders with plain-spoken tweets even before he arrived in Brussels, warning that the summit might not be the usual tea with crumpets on the side, as favored by diplomats of delicate disposition.

“Getting ready to leave for Europe,” he tweeted en route. “First meeting — NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer.” Nor, he was too polite to say, is it fair to the memory of several hundred thousand Americans who left their blood and bones in Europe twice in the previous century, all to make the continent a safe place to stuff croissants, fettucine and sausages down the gullets of the deserving and the undeserving alike. A kind and forgiving folk, the Americans, generous often to a fault, and always too modest and polite to say so. That obviously doesn’t necessarily include the Donald.



Tough Love for the Allies


In international diplomacy, President Trump is often a bull in a China shop who brings his own porcelain to smash — to the delight of his domestic political base at home. However, any presidential blundering done overseas in Europe this week should not ignore that two of Mr. Trump’s instincts may be correct in the long term. Europeans need to do more for their own defense, and the United States likely needs to have a better relationship with Russia.

Although proponents of a strong NATO alliance, such as former diplomat Victoria Nuland, always tell us that it is in the U.S. interest to have strong alliances and that those alliances are in U.S. security interests, as well as those of the allies, Ms. Nuland also emphasizes that all but one of the 28 U.S. allies are already increasing defense spending and that 26 are contributing more troops to NATO activities.

"It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright

Medal of Honor

Army Medal of Honor


The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 

Citation

Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.


From the Archives

We Have Met the Enemy…

      
Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
              
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
              
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even The New York Times acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998.

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA Treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional  'Patriot Act'.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

    More to follow…