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Jonathan Turley

CIA Admits Hacking Senate Computers After Months of Denials

Brennanfinal 1

In the same week as the State Department report endorsing findings that the CIA lied to Congress and brutalized suspects, the CIA is now admitting that its recent denials of hacking Senate computers was also false. Once again, however, there is not even a suggestion of discipline, let alone criminal charges, for CIA officials who lied to Congress (or allowed others to lie) and hacked into congressional computers.

CIA Director John Brennan used the type of Orwellian speech that we have come to expect when discussing CIA abuses. He admitted that employees “acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding” between the agency and the Senate. That “inconsistency” just happened to involve hacking into computers during an investigation of the CIA itself on Bush-era interrogation practices.

Keep in mind that it was Brennan who just a few months ago mocked the allegations and said “As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. … That’s beyond the scope of reason.” Now one of two possibilities exist. First, Brennan lied to the Senate and then lied to the American people. Second, high-ranking CIA officials lied to Brennan and then sat back as he lied to the Senate and the public. I am not sure which is worse but both would seem a logical basis for a criminal investigation.
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Federal Court Rules Government’s No-Fly List Is Unconstitutional

DHS

There is a major decision out of Oregon where U.S. District Judge Anna Brown has ruled that the government’s no-fly list is unconstitutional since there is no meaningful way to contest inclusion of the list barring you from commercial flights. Brown issued a 65 page ruling with the holding that the “inclusion on the no-fly list constitutes a significant deprivation of their liberty interests in international travel.” It is a refreshing opinion from the federal courts which tend to be highly deferential to the government in this area.

Central to the decision is Brown’s recognition that “international travel is not a mere convenience or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society.” We have all heard horror stories of how people are mistakenly placed on this list and how they find themselves in an endless bureaucratic process to correct such mistakes. 

The sheer stupidity of many of these mistakes has been shocking with government officials barring people with similarly sounding names to terrorists like Bin Laden or the cavalier addition of names despite the huge cost to the individuals. The list is a CYA moment for many officials who want to be more safe than sorry, but those unfairly placed on the list find themselves in a governmental nightmare of red tape and delay.
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Once Again Into The Breach: U.S. Shipping More Weapons and Preparing More Military Aid To Iraq

Type 69 Iraq

The United States is mulling further intervention in Iraq as the government forces flee Al Qaeda-linked insurgents and the country appears teetering on chaos. While the Administration is not ready to commit boots not the grounds, we may be moving toward a further influx of hundreds of millions or billions in military aid and even air strikes. As ISIS insurgents are seizing U.S. weaponry, the U.S. has already started to flood the country a new massive shipment of new free weapons.

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant or ISIS is on a roll and nearing the capital. It is an al-qaeda linked terrorist group following the Wahhabi movement, the extreme religious view advanced by our ally Saudi Arabia.

So let’s take stock. We replaced a dictator based on lies in a massive invasion ordered by George W. Bush. We then spent over $2 trillion (the cost is over $4 trillion when you include Afghanistan). Both President Bush and President Obama continued to pour hundred of billions of dollars in the country despite massive corruption and billions that simply disappeared. That the same time we have been cutting back on our own educational, environmental, scientific, and social programs due to a lack of money. Consider what $4 trillion would have done.
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No Water For You: Obama Administration Moves To Cut Off Water To Pot Growers In Washington and Oregon

Hemp Field

For months, the Obama Administration has been dealing with the growing revolt among the states over federal marijuana laws. Twenty states and the District of Columbia legalized medical marijuana use over the opposition of the federal government and medical use. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the sale and possession of marijuana. It is a classic conflict between states and the federal government under federalism. Some of us view the states as asserting a classic police power in an area that was left to the states under our federalism principles. 

Now the Obama Administration has said that it will withhold water from state-licensed pot growers in Washington state and Colorado. The decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is particularly problematic given the fact that the federal government has stepped in to take effective control of the water resources in these states and now appears to be using that control to try to coerce states to change their laws to satisfy the federal government.

Dan DuBray, the agency’s chief of public affairs, insists that “[a] a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people.” However, that position is inconsistent with the actions of the Obama Administration in other years. I recently testified (here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws.


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Obama Administration Quietly Strips Senate Bill Of Provision Requiring Disclosure Of Annual Drone Kills

Death From Above

There is yet another victory for the national security state under President Obama. The Obama Administration has succeeded, with the help of Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, in quietly removing a provision that would seem unobjectionable to a President who pledged “the most transparent Administration in history.”

The provision simply required disclosure of the number of people killed each year by U.S. drone attacks. Not the details mind you. Just the figure. That sent the intelligence community into outrage over having to tell the public how many people have been killed in just this one area. The result was that it was simply stripped out of the Senate bill without a vote or debate.

The person demanding the change was James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence. You recall Clapper’s last notable appearance before Congress was to lie about surveillance programs — an act viewed widely as perjury but Clapper has not been even investigated let alone prosecuted by the Obama Administration. Instead, he is now working to strip out provisions requiring the most basic form of disclosure. That must certainly be a comfort to an official who admitted to previously giving false information to Congress. If no disclosure is required, there could be no new charges of perjury.
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Congress Investigates “Slush Fund” At USAID Used To Get Lawmakers To Pass Reforms

Usaidmoney

Our government has long seemed to be descending into a type of Orwellian universe of double speak. The Libyan War was not a war but a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” under Obama. Torture of detainees was not torture but “enhanced interrogation” under Bush. Now it appears open bribery of foreign officials is not bribery but “incentives” to implement policies favorable to their own people.

Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, including suitcases of cash to President Hamid Karzai. What is most interesting is that an act that is a federal crime for citizens doing business abroad can be not only legal but an official program by government officials. It appears that in the handshake shown on the USAID seal, there is often a sawbuck or two in the palm.

The USAID routinely makes “incentive” payments to lawmakers to pass legislation or enact policies through the world. Even policies that benefit their own people like granting rights to women or protecting the democratic process are secured by greasing the palms of corrupt officials. In doing so, the United States perpetuates the rampant corruption in these countries and enriches officials who will only act if it benefits them personally.
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Hayden: Feinstein Too 'Emotional' To Discuss The Torture Program

Michael Hayden

Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden has long been the face and voice of the growing security state within the United States. While many of his representations have been challenged, he continues (like Dick Cheney) to create his own reality to justify powers viewed as authoritarian and unlawful. Now, with the approaching release of a comprehensive report on the torture program, Hayden is out in the press denying the findings of the report that torture did not result in any meaningful new intelligence and that the CIA tortured people who were already cooperating with conventional (and legal) interrogations. Hayden took to the airways to champion torture by attacking the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Cal.) and said that she was just being “emotional” and should not be involved in such a serious debate.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Hayden cited comments Feinstein made last month that the report would “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.” That was just Feinstein being “emotional” Hayden insisted: “That sentence — that motivation for the report — may show deep, emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”
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Senate Report Exposes Torture and Misrepresentations By CIA Officials . . . But Recommends No Prosecution

Torture

We previously discussed how CIA officials were accused of trying to intimidate Senate staffers working on an investigation into allegations of torture and lies by the agency officials. Now the details of that still classified report have been leaked to the media. For the Senate Intelligence Committee (long accused of being a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies), the report is quite damning. The Senate found a pattern of misinformation knowingly released by the CIA to convince the public that its torture program yielded valuable intelligence — and new forms of torture that have never been previously confirmed. What is most striking however is what is not in the report: a recommendation for criminal prosecution. Indeed, consistent with its past approach to intelligence abuses, the Committee does not recommend any action be taken against a single CIA official.

The investigation reportedly details how the CIA knowingly and methodically misled the government and the public about intelligence derived from torture. This was part of a concerted effort by CIA officials and Bush officials to claim that the killing of Osama Bin Laden and other intelligence victories only occurred due to the use of torture. Indeed, the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” was a disturbing revisionist film that directly linked torture derived information with the killing of Bin Laden despite an absence of any support for such a claim. The very persons who could have been prosecuted for the torture program have given countless interviews assuring the public that the torture was beneficial. Putting aside the question of why benefits from a torture program would excuse the crime, this report further confirms that these claims were untrue.
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Breaking: Obama Declares NSA 'Reforms' While Dismissing Influence Of Snowden Leaks

Turleynsa

I just listened to the NSA speech by President Obama and as expected there is precious little in terms of real change. For civil libertarians, it is a nothing burger served hot and with a sympathetic smile. It is much of the same. Another review board composed of government officials. Another promise for the Executive Branch to review itself. I am in Salt Lake City today on the Sister Wives case, but I am struck by the absence of civil libertarians on the coverage by the networks. I will have to run to court but I was underwhelmed. It seemed like another attempt to reinvent privacy in a new surveillance friendly image.

As I tweeted earlier, it was rather unpersuasive to hear Obama say that he was always intended to force reforms and that Snowden was merely a coincidence. If you step back, you will note that the programs will continue and the intelligence community will retain its authority with little outside independent limits. The speech had the feel of a car salesman coming back from “speaking with the manager” and saying that he is able to offer a deal that no one likes but he wants to offer because he likes the customer. Of course, this “deal” does not require our consent.
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NSA Task Force Member Says Program Should Be Expanded Not Limited

Homeland Surveillance

Last week, I wrote about the dangers of tasks forces bearing gifts for civil libertarians and noted how Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program. One of those was former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell who served during the secret development and use of the program. Obviously, if he were to conclude that the program was illegal, it would have meant that he was part of the violations. Not only did the task force maintain the program was legal (in conflict with the recent ruling of a federal court), but now Morell has called not for the limitation of the program but its expansion. That is what President Obama considers a reformer in the national security field.

Morell gave an interview in the aftermath of the task force report that included a call for the expansion of the program to include emails. He also confirmed, as was stated in the earlier column, that the report actually did not include any substantial change for the program.

Morell stated “I would argue actually that the email data is probably more valuable than the telephony data. You can bet that the last thing a smart terrorist is going to do right now is call someone in the United States.” Well, yes, but the same discomfort is felt by citizens of the United States and others around the world. If you really want privacy, it appears that you had best use telepathy rather than telephony communications.
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