Category Archives: GWOT

A vengeful Trump has all of Big Brother’s tools


And more. . .

Donald J. Trump is a man who reacts to legitimate criticism with rage, taking to Twitter to denounce and defame anyone who dares question His Regal Purulence, even if it’s just a college student with legitimate questions.

But once in office, this man of arrogance and hubris will have at his fingertips, the most powerful espionage apparatus in the history of the Homo sapiens.

And because of laws and precedents set by legislators, courts, and his predecessors in office, Trump will have the power to enlarge that spook machine to levels a Hitler and Stalin could only envy.

Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program at New York University, spells out those powers and their implications in a post for the center’s blog:

President-elect Donald Trump is about to inherit the most powerful surveillance apparatus in history. Combining unprecedented technological capabilities with a lax legal regime, his spying powers dwarf anything the notorious FBI director J. Edgar Hoover could have fathomed.

Many privacy and civil rights advocates worry Trump will seek to expand these powers further in order to spy on Muslim Americans, activists and political opponents. The truth is, he won’t have to. Because of our country’s rush to strip civil liberty protections from surveillance laws after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Trump will already have all the powers he needs and more.

How did we get here? The laws that until recently safeguarded Americans from sweeping government intrusion were established in the 1970s, after a special Senate investigation revealed widespread abuses of intelligence-gathering. Almost every president dating to Franklin D. Roosevelt had a version of Richard Nixon’s infamous “enemies list,” resulting in wiretaps of congressional staffers, executive officials, lobbyists, law firms and reporters. Between 1956 and 1971, under the program dubbed COINTELPRO (short for “counterintelligence program”), the FBI routinely spied on anti-war protesters and civil rights organizations. The bureau targeted Martin Luther King Jr. with particular ferocity, bugging his hotel rooms and using the resulting evidence of infidelity to try to induce him to commit suicide.

To stem the abuses, the government implemented laws and regulations that shared a common principle: Law enforcement and intelligence agencies could not collect information on an American unless there was reason to suspect that person of wrongdoing. In some cases, this meant showing probable cause and obtaining a warrant, but even when no warrant was required, spying without any indication of criminal activity was forbidden.

The thinking was that if officials had to cite objective indications of misconduct, they wouldn’t be able to use racial bias, political grudges or other improper motives as a reason to spy on people. This logic was borne out, as government surveillance abuses went from being routine to being the occasional scandalous exception.

Then came Sept. 11. As swiftly as the principle had been established, it was rooted out. In 2002, the FBI abolished a rule barring agents from monitoring political or religious gatherings without suspicion of criminal activity. A 2007 law allowed the National Security Agency to collect calls and emails between Americans and foreign “targets” with no warrant or demonstration of wrongdoing by the American or the foreigner. Revisions to Justice Department guidelines in 2008 created a category of FBI investigation requiring no “factual predicate” — meaning no cause for suspicion. The list of erosions goes on.

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Trump’s not Adolf Hitler, says Noam Chomsky


While Adolj Hitler was a sincere, dedicated ideologue, Donald Trump is a thing-skinned megalomaniac, firing off tweets at 3 a.m. when anyone angers him, says Noam Chomsky in this extended interview with Al Jazeera.

And in some ways he’s worse: “The most predictable aspect of Trump is unpredictability. I think it’s dangerous, very dangerous.”

And in many ways, he says, it’s the Republican Party itself that’s the greatest threat to humanity’s future.

Topics covered include the failure of the news media to cover real issues, climate change, Barack Obama’s assassination program, NATO and threats to peace in Eastern Europe, and more

From Al Jazeera English’s UpFront:

Noam Chomsky on the new Trump era

And prepare for a new crusade against Islam


Turns out the Crusades aren’t just a dimly remembered historical era, the Hholy wars launched to seize control of the Middle East and wi the world for Christianity.

They’re very much alive in the minds of the President elect’s National Security Adviser, and he outlines them in a new book, The Field of Fight, penned with Michael Ledeen, a former member of Ted Cruz’s campaign team the man who helped sell the George W. Bush administration on the infamous “yellow cake” forgery used as justification for the invasion of Iraq and the ultimate rise of ISIS.

Ledeen was also the key intermediary in the infamous Iran/Contra Affair that lead to a sale of arms to Iran in return for the promise to free the American Embassy hostages taken after the fall of the corrupt Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, a scandal that would permanently tarnish the Reagan administration. And he wants “regime change” in [read war with] Iran.

Oh, and he’s also alleged to have been a key ally of Italy’s spy services in trying to discredit Bill Clinton during his presidency, and he’s a notorious ally of the zealots in Israel’s Likud Party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

[For a dissection of this infamous neocon, see this brilliant Vanity Fair dissection by Craig Unger.]

In other words, if you want a hoax to justify a war, Ledeen’s your go-to guy.

On to the story, from the Washington Post:

The next world war is already here. It’s a religious war. And the United States is losing.

Such is the vision of Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the retired Army three-star general who is set to become White House national security adviser after President-elect Trump takes the oath of office. Thus far, Flynn is best known for his fire-breathing speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. But six days before leading GOP delegates in a frenzy of “USA!” and “Lock her up!” chants, Flynn published a book detailing this new fight — in his telling, a multi-generational and civilizational conflict against radical Islam. “We’re in a world war,” he writes, “but very few Americans recognize it, and fewer still have any idea how to win it.”

>snip<

Though he calls for “destroying the jihadi armies,” Flynn is as focused on ideological warfare as he is on drone strikes or special operators. While Trump has said he’ll pursue a closer relationship with Russia and Vladi-mir Putin, in his book Flynn regards Moscow as part of a worldwide “enemy alliance” against the United States and concludes that the Russian president is an untrustworthy partner in the fight against the Islamic State.

Perhaps most revealing, Flynn seems quite comfortable with the prospect of a religious war. “This kind of war is not at all new. It created our world,” he writes, citing the Protestant Reformation. “The world badly needs an Islamic Reformation, and we should not be surprised if violence is involved. It’s normal.”

In the parlance of the day, one might say Trump’s national security adviser is normalizing holy wars.

Gulliani may be out as AG, but in as Sec. of State?


Holy cap!

Hold on to your hats, folks. We’re in for a really bumpy ride.

From the New York Times:

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is the leading contender to be secretary of state in the Trump administration, campaign officials said on Tuesday, as Vice President-elect Mike Pence plans to join President-elect Donald J. Trump in New York to accelerate the process of filling out his cabinet.

Mr. Giuliani, a loyal, often ferocious backer of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, would be a startling choice to be the nation’s chief diplomat – a relentless former federal prosecutor who has viewed foreign policy largely through the prism of the Sept. 11 attacks, which turned him into a national figure.

Though that ordeal gave Mr. Giuliani a firm grounding in domestic security issues, his formal diplomatic experience is slim. Like other New York City mayors, he made occasional ventures into foreign policy, on issues like the Middle East peace process or more parochial concerns, like going after foreign diplomats for their unpaid parking tickets.

Mr. Giuliani, who mounted brief bids for the Senate in 2000 and the White House in 2008, is now best known for his full-throated advocacy of his fellow New Yorker, Mr. Trump. He delivered a speech on his behalf at the Republican National Convention in which he condemned President Obama, saying he had failed to protect Americans from “Islamic extremist terrorism.”

Giuliani may be one of the few Republicans ever more frightening tan Trump, a President elect who’s says he’s willing to press the nuclear button.

Trump and Giuliani, two loose cannons. . .

Nuclear cannons.

Another group cheered by Trump’s election: ISIS


Yep, they see him as their best recruiting tool in years.

From Reuters:

A top Islamic State commander has warned how the election of Donald Trump will make it easier to recruit thousands of jihadists to their cause.

Abu Omar Khorasani, a top IS commander in Afghanistan, told Reuters, Mr Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail against Muslims could be used as a propaganda tool to bring new fighters to their battlefields.

Taliban commanders and Islamic State supporters claim Mr Trump’s call for a total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States will aid their recruitment efforts, especially for disaffected youth in the West.

“This guy is a complete maniac,” Khorasani said.

“His utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands.”

When ISIS calls a guy a maniac, you know he’s really out there.

Campaign 2016 voting threats & a view from Canada


With just days to go before Campaign 2016 wraps up [?],we present an omnium gatherum roundup of election stories.

Voting machines prove all-too-hackable

We have always opposed voting by anything other than paper ballots. Our reasons are two-fold:

First, the paper ballot provides a permanent physical record of the votes as they were marked by hand by each voter and can be recounted manually to verify each vote cast.

Digital data, as we all know by now, is susceptible to hacking, and voting machines are notably vulnerable, as The Verge reports:

Like most municipally-contracted technology, voting machines are terrible in basically every way. They’re expensive, old, prone to failure, and unpleasant to look at. As you might expect, they’re also not that hard to break into. Computer scientists have been demonstrating that for at least 10 years, generally by physically cracking open the machines and installing election-rigging software. Election boards have been slow to respond, and the demonstrations have just gotten better as the years go by.

Princeton computer scientist Andrew Appel, one of the main figures doing those demos, has argued that no voting machine is entirely immune. “It’s a general principle about computers,” he wrote earlier this year. “They run whatever software is installed at the moment.” That fatalism holds true in the everyday practice of security as well: once your opponent has physical access to your device, the fight is pretty much over.

The important question isn’t “can this machine be hacked?” but “can we verify whether it’s working properly on Election Day?” Voting machines aren’t doing too well on that front either. The key safeguard is a paper trail — either a paper ballot scanned into an optical reader, or a touchscreen interface that prints out a paper receipt when a vote is cast. That record prevents voting tallies from being changed after the fact, allows an audit if the result is disputed, and enables frequent checks to make sure votes are being accurately recorded. But according to a Brennan Center study, a full 20 percent of Americans’ votes this November will be cast on systems without that paper trail, which give election officials few protections if a machine is compromised.

Supremes effectively disenfranchise rural Arizona

A United Press International story covers another kind of election threat, and one that may have a huge impact on a swing state with a large number of poor, rural voters, folks who have more claim to the right to vote than most of the rest of us.

Ironically, this is one case where the highest court in the land has made voting on paper a threat to democracy:

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Republicans and ordered a law in Arizona banning ballot collecting by third party groups can stand in Tuesday’s election.

Republicans in Arizona passed the ballot collection law, making it a felony punishable by up to a year in jail and a $150,000 fine for someone to turn in a ballot that is not their own. Exceptions were included for family members, roommates and caregivers.

Democrats fought the law in court, arguing it would disproportionately affect minorities. Some minority communities and Native Americans in rural parts of the state have come to rely on third party groups to deliver mail-in absentee ballots, then collect them and drop them off at a polling place on Election Day. Many of the most rural Indian reservations do not have reliable mail service.

Republicans argued the practice, which they refer to as ballot “harvesting,” invites voter fraud.

Trumpies, including militia, announce poll-watch plans

UPDATE: You knew this one was coming, via the Guardian:

As opinion polls tightened this week between Trump and Hillary Clinton ahead of Tuesday’s presidential vote, there are concerns of chaos following his claims, without serious evidence, that the election could be “rigged” and his refusal to say if he will accept the outcome.

The Democratic party has launched a series of legal challenges around the country alleging voter intimidation, and on Friday in the battleground state of Ohio a judge issued a temporary restraining order against Trump’s campaign and his unofficial adviser Roger Stone. The ruling said anyone who engaged in intimidation or harassment inside or near Ohio polling places would face contempt of court charges.

Republican leaders in some battleground states are reporting a surge of volunteers signing up to serve as official poll watchers, and in an unprecedented move, the Trump campaign itself has since August been requesting that volunteers sign up as “election observers” to “Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!”. Stone, meanwhile, has said he has helped recruit people to do “exit polls” to tackle voter fraud.

The nation’s most prominent anti-government militia and a neo-Nazi group have also announced plans to send their members to monitor for voter fraud outside the polls.

There’s lots more after the jump, including terrorism threats in New York and the view from the north. . . Continue reading

Charts of the day: A tragic Bush/Obama legacy


Since George W. Bush launched his “Global War on Terror [Terra?]” and Barack Obama expanded it with even greater zeal, the flood of refugees in the Mideast has turned into a raging torrent, with millions fleeing their homes for temporary refuge both in their own and in other countries.

Two charts from a sobering new report from the Pew Research Center illustrates the scope of the problem.

First, the overall rise in refugees throughout the Middle East:

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And then the rise of refugees displaced from their homes and still living in their own countries:

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