That doesn't sound like the statement of someone who has actually checked to find out whether any surveillance was conducted. It sounds like someone making a rote denial based on the assumption that any such request would be denied according to their understanding of British law. But that's simply not how intelligence agencies work. First, any such request would undoubtedly be framed in national security language ("Look, we can't spy on a presidential candidate. It would look bad. But we think this guy has Russian connections. We need you to spy on him -- using the NSA's infrastructure but you originate the request to get around US law -- and give us the take so we can make sure this guy isn't a Russian plant"). Second, such agencies basically ignore the law, since no one is willing to enforce it against them. They use national security law against others, they don't follow it themselves. And third, they don't report on their requests and operations to random government officials who are authorized to confirm or deny such requests to press inquiries.
If in fact the Obama Administration made a request of GCHQ to access the phone calls of his advisors, there are probably three people at GCHQ who know it happened. That's the person who received the request, the person who carried out the request, and at most one level of management to authorize it. And none of them are likely to be talking to the press.
In fact, the article I quoted above is probably best understood as a veiled threat. Shut up and don't admit to anything, or we will prosecute you to cover up our involvement. Sound familiar? As always, if you or any member of your team are captured or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.
So one of my Senators (the older, stupider, RINO-ish one) is sending out a poll to all of his constituents. Or perhaps it's all of his constituents who have given him a piece of their mind on Obamacare repeal or some other subgroup. His poll has two yes or no questions:
1. Do you support the American Health Care Act, which could replace Obamacare? (yes/no)
2. If no, would you support the American Health Care Act with additional amendments? (yes/no)
So how can any rational person respond to this poll?
I support repealing Obamacare, which this legislation sort of does. I don't support replacing Obamacare with something that's basically the same plus a few tweaks, which also describes this legislation. I'd like to know why we can't just do step one REPEAL THE WHOLE BLOODY THING and step two DISCUSS POSSIBLE IMPROVEMENTS. Instead Congress seems intent on keeping the parts that don't work while continuing to increase government regulations (including price controls) over the health care industry rather than actually addressing problems with a free market approach that has a chance of actually working.
And then the next question -- would I support the legislation "with additional amendments"?
I have no idea what "additional amendments" I'm supposed to be considering here. Amendments could make it worse. They could make it better. Judging by how the Senate operates, they could replace the whole bill with something that declares the moon is made of green cheese. I mean, I sort of get the intent of the question -- they're trying to find out if I really hate the bill because I don't want to repeal Obamacare, or if I really hate the bill because it sucks but a few small changes might get me on board because I really do want to repeal Obamacare.
Which I suppose is a good sign. It tells me the Senate Republicans are getting a lot of negative comments about the repeal bill and are shocked, surprised, confused, scared, trying to figure out what's going on -- do they hate repeal or do they hate this specific bill because it sucks and we need to do better? But seriously. Seriously. This is a guy whose career depends on understanding what the public (in his state) wants him to do. And this is the best fucking pair of poll questions he can come up with? This pair of idiotic, incoherentincomprehensible poll questions?
It's perhaps not quite that simple. The big screen TV and the XBox are one-time expenses and health insurance is a recurring, and increasingly expensive, one. But I can't blame young, healthy, and poor people for wanting someone else to pay for their health insurance, especially when the deductibles are so high the insurance never pays out. Those people are being abused by Obamacare to fund the people who aren't healthy.
It's going to take more to fix the problems in the health care system than a halfhearted Republican wimp-out.
Graham is, in theory, a Republican. But he's threatening to hold up confirmation of a Republican nominee in order to demand answers from the FBI that that nominee has a presumed interest in using his power and authority to obtain, and leave in power the people who are presumably doing the stalling.
What I suspect this actually means is that Lyndsey Graham is a senile old coot who can't remember which side he's supposed to be on. Can we primary his ass already?
Did Obama use British Intelligence to spy on Trump?
This is an interesting claim. However, I think it's also something of a distraction. While this basic structure is in place -- the various intelligence agencies have long cooperated with each other to avoid the legal restrictions on spying on their own citizens pretty much exactly as described -- there are aspects about the previous reporting on the Trump wiretapping story that don't add up. For example, there have been multiple sources reporting on applications to the FISA court and to other more normal courts for surveillance involving Trump. Doing an end-run around us law by going to the British wouldn't need such warrants, so why then file for the warrants? Would British intelligence, faced with a request to do an end-run around US law concerning a candidate for President, actually comply or gracefully decline?
I'd like to think the Brits would gracefully decline such a request, but the existence of the FISA warrants and denied applications suggests that the Obama administration didn't go the British route. And if someone is leaking information saying they did, it seems more likely that the leaker is trying to suggest a purportedly legal path to obtaining the leaked information as an alternative to the obviously illegally abuse of our own national security infrastructure and court system.
But the existence and disclosure of the warrants and denied applications for warrants says otherwise. So this is a smokescreen. For rational observers, though, the exact path doesn't matter: Obama used the intelligence agencies to try to influence the outcome of a presidential election. That's the bottom line, and it's worth than anything Nixon ever did.
There's one other thing that's worth mentioning:
There may be legal fictions that claim to allow this conduct. The Fourth Amendment does not allow it, and any judicial decisions that claim otherwise are corrupt.
There's a saying that seems to apply here. "How many legs does a calf have, if you call a tail a leg?" "Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it so." And calling a violation of the Fourth Amendment legal does not make it so.
And I'll put one other thing up for emphasis. "It is only accessed when there is a specific request from someone like the President of the United States." I call bullshit on that. It's accessed by the NSA continually for everything from investigating terrorists overseas -- their proper function -- to checking up on potential girlfriends ("LOVEINT"). Claiming that there has to be a specific request from the president is another attempt to downplay the broad-based nature of the surveillance.
Trump orders review of vehicle emissions regulation
This is worth celebrating, because the review will likely result in significant changes to one of Obama's ticking time bombs: the EPA's regulation of "greenhouse gas emissions" from vehicles. That's regulation of carbon dioxide, a natural part of Earth's atmosphere that is relatively harmless to humans and animal life, and forms a vital part of what plants need in order to survive. The use of the word "emissions" is designed to make you think of this gas as a harmful, poisonous substance. It's not. It's an inevitable byproduct of burning gasoline to move the car, and the only danger this gas presents to humans is the basic global warming argument. In other words, if you emit too much of this gas, a bunch of idiots think the average temperature of the Earth will increase by one or two degrees. Probably. In a few centuries from now. And their short term predictions aren't coming true, so scratch that "probably" right out. They're basically selling you a chicken little doomsday to scare you into following their religious dictates.
The only practical effect the regulation being reconsidered will have is that car manufacturers will have the chance to make the case that lighter, more efficient, more expensive cars are not a good idea. Oh, and that lighter, more efficient cars are not actually possible while still making things that look and act like cars.
Unless we all want to end up driving motorcycles to work, we need to make sure the vehicle efficiency standards are reasonable. We need to make sure they are possible. We need to make sure we don't bankrupt the manufacturers by forcing them to make a ton of Volts and Priuses when people want to buy trucks.
In short, we need to stop interfering with the free market. Let manufacturers make what they think people want rather than what the government demands. Let people buy what they actually want, or as close to that as the manufacturers can figure out and produce. Let the EPA stick to regulating actual pollution rather than chicken-little greenhouse gas fantasies. Or maybe turn that part over to the individual states and let the EPA's budget be spent on deficit reduction.
AG Sessions may bring in outside counsel to investigate previous administration
One of the specific things Sessions mentioned he wanted to investigate was the IRS scandal. I had previously figured that was pretty much dead -- all evidence buried. But the recent discovery of 7000 more related files suggests there may be something more to find.
If it was up to me, I'd appoint one independent counsel per scandal. One for Fast and Furious, one for the IRS, one for abuses of intelligence resources for political advantage, and so on. Pay them hourly for a fixed number of hours over the course of, say, 2 years. Set the rate based on the number of convictions they achieve.
Normally, I'd be a little bit leery of prosecuting previous administrations. But there's a difference between criminalizing political disagreements and overlooking blatant violations of the law. If the Obama administration was allowing criminals to smuggle guns across the border, that's criminal behavior. If they are using the IRS to persecute and harass political opponents, that's illegal behavior. If they are wiretapping political opponents in an effort to swing the next presidential election, that's criminal (and indeed, tyrannical) behavior. If they are abusing intelligence apparatus to sabotage the transition to a new administration, that's criminal behavior.
Isn't it the Times that mocks conservatives for standing athwart history yelling "Stop!"?
But that's not the part of the article I wanted to point out. You see, the author makes a few points that are perhaps more revealing than they intended.
By insanity-inducing, they mean Trump, presumably. I would point to the hordes of social justice warriors engaged in self-harm, fits of hysteria, and false reports of hate crimes as a better example. The sane people this election cycle are those who don't get their news from the Times.
I'm not convinced here. There's a lot of frantic backpedaling going on as people realize that they may be out on a legal limb for conducting politically-motived surveillance. They're desperately trying to spin their way out of trouble.
I'm convinced that something happened, but I'm not convinced it was all done in proper order with appropriate authority and apolitical motivations.
The simple fact that people are admitting FISA warrants were issued suggests that something beyond just using the NSA's global email archives and pen-register traces took place. And it invalidates the theory that the transcripts of conversations with the Russian ambassador were the product of tapping the Russian ambassador alone. Surely there's already a policy of spying on foreign agents in place; that wouldn't need a new warrant.
UPDATE: OK, the above math is obviously not quite correct. 3% of illegal aliens voting doesn't mean 3% of the vote totals consists of illegal alien votes. Still the point should be obvious. There are enough illegal aliens voting to swing close elections.
That's pretty much it. There are a lot of little tweaks I'd throw in, like making sure people can get tax credits on individual policies to match the way employer-based policies work, or ending both sets of tax credits. But those are minor improvements. The one thing the Republicans absolutely must deliver before 2018 is repeal of Obamacare. "Replacement" can go fuck itself.
Bear in mind, as you read the above, that the New York Times is relying on anonymous Obama Administration sources to allege serious crimes (arguably treason) against Trump associates and ideally use them to paint Trump himself with the same brush. Yet no one has specified what those crimes are, other than talking to official Russian representatives about policy matters without actually saying or doing anything improper. Democrats (in the Senate, as well as in the Clinton campaign) were conducting similar meetings. This is, basically, diplomacy 101: meet with the foreign ambassadors you will need to conduct national business with.
The Obama administration claims to have thought these matters were serious enough that they feared a Trump coverup and distributed the "evidence" of his "crimes" to as many people within the intelligence community as possible, hoping that the "evidence" would be leaked to the press and cripple the incoming president. But when the Democrats were making similar contacts, this explanation doesn't hold water.
We're left with a desperate cover up. The Obama Administration used national security infrastructure -- wiretaps, hackers -- to try to put their thumb on the scale of the election. They failed. And now they are desperate to produce enough smoke to claim there was a fire all along and that makes what they did OK.
It's not OK, and the chickens will be coming home to roost, as someone famously said before being swept under the Obama bus.
Well, either he was lying to begin with, or someone committed a felony in informing him of national-security surveillance activities in violation of classification rules. Or, you know, he committed a felony in mentioning them publicly, if he was authorized to see them.
Frankly, I think he's lying now. I think the Obama administration was absolutely willing to make use of NSA and other surveillance assets to try to sabotage Trump and give Hillary the election.
Glenn thinks there might not have been warrants at all. That's one possibility. Another is that the Deep State refuses to hand them over and pretends it never happened, or cites some technicality to avoid the specific terms of the request.