Tuesday April 17th, 2018

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



World & National

U.S. and U.K. Jointly Warn of Russian Cyberattacks
Alert comes amid a low point in Moscow’s relations with the West


U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies said Russian cyberattackers are targeting critical internet infrastructure to spy on Western companies and governments, the latest salvo in a diplomatic crisis that has brought relations between Moscow and the West to their lowest level in decades.

In a rare joint alert, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre said Russian state-sponsored hackers had penetrated devices and software programs world-wide, ranging from routers to switches to firewalls, in order to steal corporate secrets and conduct espionage.

They also warned the covert Russian action is aimed at laying the groundwork for future offensive cyberattacks against Western targets. The Russian campaign “threatens our respective safety, security and economic well-being,” the agencies said.



Obama Justice Dept. feuded with FBI
Agents quit as politics played larger role
               In this May 15, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama sits with Attorney General Eric Holder during the 32nd annual the National Peace Officers Memorial Service on Capitol Hill in Washington. Obama has announced plans to improve Democrats down-ballot fortunes once he leaves office. He is launching an initiative with former Attorney General Eric Holder aimed at making Democratic gains when states redraw legislative district lines following the 2020 census. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Acrimony between the FBI and the Justice Department was so bad in the waning days of the Obama administration that some agents quit the bureau in frustration, a former G-man says.

Fractures which began during the tenure of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. deepened in the later years, and particularly in the run-up to the 2016 president election.

The depths of the antagonism were exposed in an inspector general’s report last week looking into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired from the FBI earlier this year for misleading multiple investigations. While saying Mr. McCabe lacked candor in questioning, some of it under oath, the report went much deeper, describing the rift between the bureau and its political masters at the department.



Judge Hands Defeat to Trump and Cohen Over FBI Raid
The president and his fixer tried to stop the feds from getting their hands on ‘privileged’ information. They failed.
                 

President Donald Trump and his longtime attorney Michael Cohen both lost a court challenge related to the FBI’s seizure of Cohen’s documents they both claim are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Cohen had asked a federal judge for a temporary restraining order to stop federal prosecutors in Manhattan from viewing the information seized by the FBI until an independent third party, called a “special master,” be allowed to sort out what is protected by attorney-client privilege.

Similarly, Trump’s own legal representation in this case, Joanna Hendon, filed a letter on Sunday night asking the judge to give Cohen’s team first-access to the material.
U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood denied the requests and ruled that prosecutors will get first access to the information, followed by Cohen’s defense team ten days later. Wood noted that she has not yet decided whether she will appoint a special master in the case at all.



Judge in Michael Cohen’s case officiated George Soros’ wedding

Federal Judge Kimba Wood, who is overseeing the court case against Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, officiated the 2013 wedding of George Soros, a billionaire supporter of liberal political causes, according to news reports at that time.

The judge is currently weighing whether to have a neutral third party review the documents seized in FBI raids on the office, home and hotel of Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen’s attorneys have sought to keep the government from reviewing the materials by asserting attorney-client privilege. Prosecutors have demanded access to those documents claiming they are related to an ongoing criminal investigation.




Trump puts brakes on Russian sanctions over Syria

President Trump on Monday ordered a hold on new economic sanctions against Russia over its support for Syria and said he remain committed to pulling U.S. troops out of the war-torn nation, despite what was widely seen as a successful strike with allies on President Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons infrastructure over the weekend.

The reversal announced by the White House on Monday seemed to underscore Mr. Trump’s continued ambivalence over the way forward in Syria, where he has clashed with his own civilian and military advisers over the wisdom and necessity of keeping U.S. troops stationed on the chaotic Syrian battlefield where fighters from Russia, Iran, Turkey and terror groups like Islamic State are all jockeying to territory and influence.

A day after U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said new economic penalties on Russia for its support of Syria’s chemical weapons program were imminent, Mr. Trump said, essentially, not so fast.



You'll Never File Under This Tax Code Again


Tax Day is here, and nobody is happy about it. But with the bitterness of forking over money to Uncle Sam, trying your best to actually follow the tax code — a code that seems designed to be unintelligible — and worrying you are always paying more than you should, there is some sweetness.

This is our last year ever filing under this ridiculous, complicated, punitive tax code.

Congressional Republicans passed, and President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year. People have already seen the benefits from lower tax rates: higher take home pay, businesses investing in American communities and creating American jobs, and millions of people receiving tax cut bonuses and reductions in their utility charges. In my district in California, the average family of four will receive a tax cut of nearly $2,000.
Trump: This Tax Day Ushers in New Era of 'Winning' for Americans Read


National Guard could be armed at border — but troops banned from enforcing laws
California reversal means state won’t send new troops to help Border Patrol

Some National Guard troops deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border will be allowed to carry weapons — but they will not, under any circumstances, be allowed to enforce immigration laws nor will they be put in a position where they’re likely to encounter illegal immigrants, top administration officials said Monday.

More than 900 troops were on the border already this week: 650 of them in Texas, 60 in New Mexico and about 250 in Arizona.

But California, which last week had signaled a willingness to help, has effectively withdrawn its commitment. Gov. Jerry Brown offered such strict conditions that the guard wouldn’t have been allowed to watch surveillance cameras, fix Border Patrol vehicles, operate radios or perform clerical duties that could have freed Border Patrol agents to get into the field.



Gov. Brown: ‘Is this a war on California?’

Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that he still wants to find a way to send National Guard troops to the border to assist federal authorities on anything but helping Border Patrol agents catch illegal immigrants.

His commitment came just a day after officials said California had refused the initial request for guard troops to do duties such as monitoring border cameras, maintaining Border Patrol vehicles and performing clerical duties that would have freed agents to get out into the field to catch smugglers, stop drugs and apprehend illegal immigrants.

Mr. Brown, a Democrat, said he’s interested in assisting some of those missions but won’t help if they also mean catching illegal immigrants who might be mothers or children.



Robert Mueller's warning: 'Many' news stories on Trump-Russia probe are wrong


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is warning that “many” news articles on the Trump-Russia probe have been wrong.

The statement from a spokesperson did not single out particular stories. But the warning did come after media inquiries about a McClatchy News story on Friday that said Mr. Mueller has evidence that President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, did in fact travel to Prague in 2016 as alleged by the Christopher Steele dossier.

“What I have been telling all reporters is that many stories about our investigation have been inaccurate,” the Mueller spokesperson said. “Be very cautious about any source that claims to have knowledge about our investigation and dig deep into what they claim before reporting on it. If another outlet reports something, don’t run with it unless you have your own sourcing to back it up.”



David Hogg's boycott backfires
Laura Ingraham’s viewership jumps 20 percent

Sponsors who left Fox News star Laura Ingraham’s show at the behest of teen gun control activist David Hogg are missing out on a 20 percent increase in eyeballs.

The conservative author of “Shut up and Sing” lost nearly 30 advertisers since a boycott against her show launched March 29, but those who held firm are benefiting from a ratings windfall. Data compiled by the media watchdog News Busters shows a jump from 2.23 million viewers prior to Mr. Hogg’s campaign to 2.7 million since her return from a vacation.



Syria 'chemical attack'
OPCW investigators to be allowed into Douma

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will be given access to an alleged chemical attack site in Syria on Wednesday, Russia says.

Experts arrived in Damascus on Saturday, but they have been unable to visit the nearby town of Douma because of "security issues" cited by Russia.

US officials have raised concerns that Russia, the Syrian government's ally, might have tampered with the site.



Cambridge Analytica’s Brittany Kaiser Says The Facebook Data Scandal Is Just The Beginning

When Brittany Kaiser joins our video call from a white and gray conference room in the UK, she seems calm for someone who would soon testify in front of British parliament about her former employer, Cambridge Analytica. Kaiser is at the center of the ongoing investigation of the political consulting firm that worked for the Trump campaign (and others), and is accused of improperly obtaining the personal data of millions of Facebook users.

While the headlines have focused on Cambridge Analytica’s leadership teams, Kaiser would soon be called upon to add what details she has about the firm’s operations. What did she know and when did she know it? Tuesday she faced those questions and more while she testified before the House of Commons Digital Committee about the firm’s involvement with the Leave.Eu campaign.



Senators Introducing New War Powers Resolution


The leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are set to unveil a bipartisan resolution authorizing the use of military force overseas, accelerating a debate that Congress has been reluctant to have, but that's taking on new urgency after President Donald Trump's strikes on Syria.

The resolution from Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., is expected to revisit the broad authorizations Congress approved in 2001 and 2002 for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A growing number of critics say Congress should no longer be using such resolutions as legal underpinnings for the fight against extremist groups such as the Islamic State. The new resolution could be introduced as soon as Monday.



Cubans prepare to turn the page on Castro era

Cuban President Raul Castro steps down Thursday, passing the baton to a new generation in a transition that brings to a close the Castro brothers' six-decade grip on power.
"We have come a long way... so that our children, those of the present and those of the future, will be happy," Castro said in one of his last speeches as leader last month.

The 86-year-old has been in power since 2006, when he took over after illness sidelined his brother Fidel, who seized power in the 1959 revolution.



Still waiting for the garlic bullet

Donald Trump called James Comey a “slimeball,” which is not a very presidential way to talk. But just this time we might have to forgive the president. James Comey really is a slimeball. Just about everybody says so.

The critics of his book, finally out Monday after the weekend news accounts had already begun squeezing the juice out of it, joined in a rare unanimous appraisal of the man who wrote the book. He’s a windbag, a hack, a blowhard, a swaggering pretender, a churl and the hindquarters of a horse.

Some of the critics, who are paid by the word to deliver their daily jibes at the Donald, say they find in Mr. Comey just the qualities they find in the president, pettiness, insecurity, runaway ego and need for affirmation. Columnist Alexandra Petri spoofs Mr. Comey’s sanctimony in The Washington Post for his references to the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God, and then, on Dec. 14, 1960, I, James Comey was born.”



Strike on Syria—who really won

President Trump and his national security team deserve high praise for their recent action in attacking Syrian chemical weapons facilities. They did everything right. Not only was it well-justified and timely, the president and his team did not rush into an attack but waited several days to evaluate the intelligence from various sources, develop attack options that met the president’s specific objective, and form a coalition with key allies Great Britain and France for the strike.

The limited strike itself went off without a hitch. Designated chemical weapons facilities in Damascus and outside were precisely struck with little collateral damage. Ample warning was given to the Russians through “deconfliction channels” so that there would be no Russian casualties and they would not be dragged into a larger conflict. As a military operation, it’s one that can go into future textbooks.


"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 (www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/opinion/the-truth-about-the-wikileaks-cia-cache.html?_r=0) acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998 (http://www.wnd.com/1998/04/6108/ ).

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 (https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukusa/ ) 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’.
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/mar/15/hyperloop-a-new-transportation-technology-offers-s/
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…