Links for 12-16-2017

Links for 12-11-2017

  • Andrew McCarthy asks whether Robert Mueller can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Russia conducted a cyber espionage operation intended to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. If he can’t, Mueller can’t prove the Trump campaign colluded in that operation.

    The government, the media, and most of the public accept the premise that Russia interfered in the election. But not because this assertion has been proved in court. Instead, it is based on an intelligence judgment by three agencies, the FBI, CIA and NSA, announced under the auspices of a fourth, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

    All four agencies were run by Obama appointees. The Obama administration had a history of politicizing intelligence to serve administration narratives, and the intelligence judgment in question cannot be divorced from politics because it was announced just as Obama’s party was fashioning a narrative that Russian espionage had stolen the election from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Nevertheless, it is not my purpose here to make a partisan argument. The point is to consider the nature of intelligence judgments — to contrast them with courtroom findings. This dichotomy does depend on which party is running the executive branch.

    The objective of a criminal investigation is a prosecution, not a national-security judgment. In a prosecution, each essential element of the offense charged must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. It is virtually certain that Mueller could never establish, to this exacting standard of proof, that Russia is guilty of cyberespionage — at least in the absence of an accomplice witness involved in the hacking, which he apparently does not have despite the government’s 18 months of investigative effort.

  • A Department of Justice official who was demoted for concealing his meetings with Fusion GPS — the opposition research company behind the Trump dossier — had even closer ties to the company than previously known. It turns out Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 presidential campaign, although we don’t know exactly what her responsibilities were.

    Until Dec. 6, when Fox News began making inquiries about him, Bruce Ohr held two titles at DOJ. He was, and remains, director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force; but his other job was far more senior. Mr. Ohr held the rank of associate deputy attorney general, a post that gave him an office four doors down from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The day before Fox News reported that Mr. Ohr held his secret meetings last year with the founder of Fusion GPS, Glenn Simpson, and with Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier, the Justice Department stripped Ohr of his deputy title and ousted him from his fourth floor office at the building that DOJ insiders call “Main Justice.”

    Initially, DOJ officials provided no explanation for Ohr’s demotion. Later, they said his wearing of two hats was “unusual”; still later, they confirmed Ohr had withheld his contacts with the Fusion GPS men from superiors.

  • In the past week, Reuters, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, ABC, The New York Times, and CNN all published false anti-Trump stories:

    Forget your routine bias, these were four bombshells disseminated to millions of Americans by breathless anchors, pundits and analysts, feeding frenzied expectations that have now been internalized as indisputable truths by many. All four pieces, incidentally, are useless without the central faulty claim. Yet, there they sit. And these are only four of dozens of other stories that have fizzled over the year.

    Later:

    The fact that many political journalists (not all) are hopelessly biased is one thing (social media has made this fact inarguable), but if they become a proxy of operatives who peddle falsehoods, they will soon lose all credibility with a big swath of the country. They will only have themselves to blame.

  • John Daniel Davidson visited Alabama and interviewed people to learn why they (still) support Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. If the Democrats had nominated a pro-life candidate (are there any pro-life Democrats left?), they would have had a much better chance of winning this election.

  • An immigrant from Bangladesh who was inspired by ISIS attempted a suicide bombing in New York City. He injured himself and three other people. He entered the U.S. on a chain migration visa.

  • The Secret Service settled a five year old lawsuit with a whistleblower after the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General determined that the Secret Service retaliated against him for complaining about a superior’s alleged misconduct.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to convince EU foreign ministers to follow Donald Trump’s lead and recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but didn’t get anywhere. Meanwhile Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps digging deeper holes, saying, “ The ones who made Jerusalem a dungeon for Muslims and members of other religions will never be able to clean the blood from their hands… With their decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has become a partner in this bloodshed.”

  • I haven’t linked to a story like this recently, but Turkey continues to bomb northern Iraq on a near-weekly basis. The Turks claim the latest strike killed 29 PKK members.

  • Vladimir Putin visited Syria and said an unspecified number of Russian troops are withdrawing from Syria now that ISIS has been defeated.

  • The Associated Press published the backstory of “Mosul Eye,” a blogger/historian who anonymously documented life under ISIS in Mosul.

  • A Chinese diplomat threatened to invade Taiwan if a U.S. Navy ship ever visits the island.

  • Josh Robin writes for The Washington Post that Washington, D.C. is waking up to “the huge scope and scale of Chinese Communist Party influence operations inside the United States, which permeate American institutions of all kinds.”

  • The Department of Justice says it has no plans to deport Guo Wengui, who is wanted by the Chinese government:

    Since earlier this year, China's government has engaged in a wide-ranging influence operation, including the use of cyber attacks on American institutions, in a bid to force the United States to repatriate Guo to China.

    The effort has included the use of American business leaders with interests in China to lobby President Trump to return the dissident.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reviewed the case and determined Guo will not be forcibly returned, the senior official told reporters during a briefing at the White House.

    Later:

    Guo, who now lives in New York City, has become an outspoken critic of China's government and a pro-democracy advocate who has charged that senior leaders are engaged in corrupt financial and other activities. He has labeled the ruling Communist Party of China a "kleptocracy" and warned that China's government is working to subvert the United States.

Links for 12-4-2017

Links for 11-29-2017

  • The U.S. Air Force fired the commander of the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team, Lt. Col. Jason Heard. His boss cited a lack of confidence in his “leadership and risk management style.”

  • Yesterday Garrison Keillor published an op-ed in The Washington Post declaring “absurd” the idea that Senator Al Franken should resign over sexual harassment charges. Today Keillor was fired by Minnesota Public Radio over sexual harassment charges.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Carpenter v. United States, an important Fourth Amendment case dealing with the circumstances where law enforcement must obtain a search warrant to access cell phone records.

  • Mollie Hemingway points out more cases where the mainstream media bends “fact checks” to advance a political agenda, not to advance the truth:

    Far more troubling was the Washington Post’s fact check of Vice President Mike Pence’s claim that “There are more Americans working today than ever before in American history.” Now, a fact check of that statement means you check whether it’s true that more Americans work today than ever before. A reasonable person would suspect it has a high chance of being true if for no other reason than there are more Americans living today than ever before.

    In fact, it is factually correct to say that more Americans are working now than ever before. The Washington Post admits this, showcases the numbers (124 million, up from 65 million in 1968), and says Pence is “technically correct.” So they give him, quite amazingly, three Pinocchios, their little metric that summarizes their analysis of the truthfulness of the statement. Then they admit they wanted to give him four Pinocchios but were constrained by the fact that what he said was true. I’m not joking.

  • Andrew McCarthy argues that we need to create new national security courts to try terrorists instead of prosecuting them in civilian or military courts:

    These problems, it should be noted, are separate and apart from the main challenge: It is impossible to try terrorists under civilian due-process protocols without providing them generous discovery from the government’s intelligence files. This means we are telling the enemy what we know about the enemy while the enemy is still plotting to attack Americans and American interests. That’s nuts.

    The patent downsides of treating international terrorism as a law-enforcement issue are why critics, myself included, were hopeful that a shift to military prosecution of enemy combatants would improve matters — more protection of intelligence, and due process limited by the laws and customs of war. We were wrong. The experiment has been a dismal failure. To catalogue all the delays, false starts, and misadventures of the military-commission system would take another column or three. Suffice it to say that it was unfair and unrealistic to task our armed forces with designing a legal system on the fly even as they fought a complex war in which, unlike prior American wars, swaths of the American legal profession backed the enemy — volunteering to represent jihadist belligerents in challenges to military detention and prosecution.

  • Russia is a signatory to an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe agreement requiring them to allow other countries to monitor military exercises that exceed certain parameters, such as the number of troops participating or the number of tanks involved. Russia always under-reports the size of its military exercises before they’re held to elide the monitoring requirement, then trumpets the huge number of troops and equipment involved afterward — numbers that would have triggered monitoring.

    Western concerns about the possible size and purpose of Zapad 2017 were a direct consequence of Russia’s consistent lack of transparency regarding its military activities over the last several years. Russia has consistently under-reported the numbers of troops involved in its exercises to avoid outside observation, and has conducted large no-notice “snap” exercises to test Western responses to unexpected troop activity. This behavior, coupled with Russia’s actions against Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008, contributes to the perception that Russia is prepared to use military force again against its neighbors and shows that it feels little obligation to play by the rules it has agreed to.

  • A commander of Bosnian Croat forces, Slobodan Praljak, committed suicide in a U.N. court by drinking poison. Judges had just rejected his appeal of a 20 year prison sentence for war crimes against Bosnian Muslims.

  • An exceptionally tight election for president of Honduras is triggering a political crisis.

Links for 11-21-2017

Links for 11-18-2017

Links for 10-14-2017

  • Michael Brendan Dougherty writes that the battle between Silicon Valley companies and America’s political elite will end badly for conservatives:

    Silicon Valley treats complaints from Western journalists and governments as serious priorities, and its ad hoc responses are inadvertently creating a hierarchy of linguistic freedom on the Internet. Chinese is the most-policed language on the Web, thanks to the Chinese government’s fanatical efforts. But after that, Silicon Valley itself is beginning to get into the censorship and editing game in German and English, though it can’t yet hire enough Arabic and Farsi interpreters to achieve the local cultural understanding that would enable effective censorship in those languages. This means that soon, Silicon Valley will be have overwhelming incentives, business and political, to quickly police speech that annoys important Anglophone liberals — which is to say, speech by Anglophone conservatives and right wingers.

    Later:

    There’s another thing working against Silicon Valley’s companies in their coming battle with governments and the media: While it isn’t strictly illegal to accidentally make the world a worse place to live in, there is a generalized feeling, especially among the richest consumers in the West, that the digital revolution has been a disaster for society as a whole, and for the psychology of most “information workers,” in particular.

    On the political level, the promises of Silicon Valley have been a chimera. Instead of powering young democratic movements in Iran, as promised, Silicon Valley’s social networks allowed Sunni extremists to launch civil wars and tear down authoritarian regimes in favor of Islamism. They allowed ISIS to groom and recruit among the lonely and disconnected in Europe, and send back terror.

  • Andrew McCarthy explains the media freak-out over Donald Trump’s faithfully executing ObamaCare:

    Notwithstanding the many outrageous, mendacious things the president says and tweets, the press is aghast that his “fake news” tropes against mainstream-media stalwarts resonate with much of the country. Well, if you want to know why, this latest Obamacare coverage is why. What Trump has actually done is end the illegal payoffs without which insurance companies have no rational choice but to jack up premiums or flee the Obamacare exchanges. The culprits here are the charlatans who gave us Obamacare. To portray Trump as the bad guy is not merely fake news. It’s an out-and-out lie.

    Later:

    President Obama understood that without reimbursement, the insurance companies would flee the exchanges or raise prices prohibitively. His signature legacy monument would be threatened. To prevent that, he violated the law. In 2014, his administration unilaterally began making non-appropriated cost-sharing payments to insurance companies. Those payments have continued, even through the first nine months of the Trump administration.

    These payments are blatantly illegal. The federal district court in Washington so ruled last year. For what it’s worth, I believe Judge Rosemary Collyer was wrong to grant the House of Representatives standing to sue the Obama administration. The Constitution gives Congress its own powerful tools to confront presidential lawlessness; the Article I branch does not need the Article III branch to do its heavy lifting. That said, Judge Collyer’s decision on the merits is unassailable.

  • U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley drove the strategy that resulted in Donald Trump declaring Iran in violation of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal.

  • Syrian Democratic Forces are allowing the remaining ISIS fighters in Raqqa to withdraw from the city. It’s not clear if non-Syrian ISIS fighters will be allowed to leave.

  • The Spanish government is threatening to take control of Catalonia if regional leader Carles Puigdemont fails to unambiguously deny that Catalonia has declared its independence.