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Christopher Steele As Seen By the New Yorker

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The latest salvo in the Russiagate saga is a 15,000 word New Yorker article entitled “Christopher Steele the man behind the Trump dossier: how the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia” by veteran journalist Jane Mayer. The premise of the piece is clear from the tediously long title, namely that the Steele dossier, which implicated Donald Trump and his associates in a number of high crimes and misdemeanors, is basically accurate in exposing an existential threat posed to our nation by Russia. How does it come to that conclusion? By citing sources that it does not identify whose credibility is alleged to be unimpeachable as well as by including testimony from Steele friends and supporters.

In other words, the Mayer piece is an elaboration of the same “trust me” narrative that has driven the hounding of Russia and Trump from day one. Inevitably, the Trump haters both from the left and the right have jumped on the Mayer piece as confirmation of their own presumptions regarding what has allegedly occurred, when, in reality, Trump might just be more right than wrong when he claims that he has been the victim of a conspiracy by the Establishment to discredit and remove him.

Mayer is a progressive and a long-time critic of Donald Trump. She has written a book denouncing “the Koch brothers’ deep influence on American politics” and co-authored another book with Jill Abramson, formerly Executive Editor of the New York Times. Abramson reportedly carries a small plastic replica of Barack Obama in her purse which she can take out “to take comfort” whenever she is confronted by Donald Trump’s America. Mayer’s New Yorker bio-blurb describes her as a journalist who covers national security, together with politics and culture.
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Politics, Justice, and the Surveillance State

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The role pervasive surveillance plays in politics today has been grossly underreported. Set aside what you think about the Trump presidency for a moment and focus instead on the new paradigm for how politics and justice work inside the surveillance state.

Incidental collection” is the claimed inadvertent or accidental monitoring of Americans’ communications under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Incidental collection exists alongside court-approved warranted surveillance authorized on a specific individual.But for incidental collection, no probable cause is needed, no warrant is needed, and no court or judge is involved. It just gets vacuumed up.

While exactly how many Americans have their communications monitored this way is unknown, a significant number Trump staffers (no evidence of incidental surveillance of the Clinton campaign exists) were surveilled by a White House controlled by their opposition party. Election-time claims the Obama administration wasn’t “wiretapping” Trump were disingenuous. They in fact gathered an unprecedented level of inside information. How was it used?

Incidental collection nailed Michael Flynn; the NSA was ostensibly not surveilling Flynn, just listening in on the Russian ambassador as the two spoke. The intercept formed the basis of Flynn’s firing as national security advisor, his guilty plea for perjury, and very possibly his “game changing” testimony against others.

Jeff Sessions was similarly incidentally surveilled, as was former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, whose conversations were picked up as part of a FISA warrant issued against Trump associate, Carter Page.Paul Manafort and Richard Gates were also subjects of FISA-warranted surveillance; they were surveilled in 2014, the case was dropped for lack of evidence, then re-surveilled after they joined the Trump team and became more interesting to the state.
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Happy Anniversary, James Clapper

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Today is an important anniversary for former intelligence chief James Clapper. No it is not his marriage anniversary or conventional milestone. Clapper can celebrate the running out of the statute of limitations on his alleged perjury before Congress — five years and Clapper is now beyond the reach of the law.

recently wrote a column on the approaching anniversary and how it reaffirms the widely held view that powerful people in Washington are immune from laws used against the rest of society.

Clapper appeared before the Senate to discuss surveillance programs in the midst of a controversy over warrantless surveillance of the American public. He was asked directly, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?” There was no ambiguity or confusion and Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.” That was a lie and Clapper knew it when he said it.

Later, Clapper said that his testimony was “the least untruthful” statement he could make. That would still make it a lie of course but Clapper is a made guy. While feigned shock and disgust, most Democratic leaders notably did not call for his prosecution. Soon Clapper was back testifying and former president Obama even put Clapper on a federal panel to review the very programs that he lied about in Congress.
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Military Coup: Pentagon To Ignore Congress On Yemen

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asked for a Defense Department opinion on proposed Senate legislation to limit US military action in Yemen. The Pentagon told McConnell that it would ignore any such legislation, as the president is "commander in chief." Has there been a military coup in the US? And is Congress going to do anything about it? Tune in to today's Liberty Report...
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Tariffs Are Not the Answer

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President Trump’s planned 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports may provide a temporary boost for those industries, but the tariffs will do tremendous long-term damage to the American and global economies. Tariffs raise the price of, and reduce demand for, imported goods. Tariffs ensure the preferences of politicians, instead of the preferences of consumers, determine how resources are allocated. This reduces economic efficiency and living standards.
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Trump Seeks Congressional Funding For 60,000-Man Army To Overthrow Assad

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ISIS, or ISIL, or Islamic State, has been almost completely defeated in Syria, but the U.S. Department of Defense is requesting an increase instead of a decrease in funding to support “Vetted Syrian Opposition,” or fighters in Syria against Syria’s Government, and it refers to these fighters as being part of America’s “strategy to defeat ISIS,” instead of as being what they now obviously are: fighters for regime-change, or to overthrow Syria’s Government (which is headed by its President Bashar al-Assad, who received 89% of the votes cast throughout Syria in the internationally monitored 2014 Presidential election).

The Trump Administration’s “Department of Defense Budget Fiscal Year (FY) 2019” funding-request to Congress calls for “III. Requirements in Syria” of: 
a Coalition campaign to degrade, dismantle, and ultimately defeat ISIS in Syria. One key element of DoD’s strategy to defeat ISIS is to train, equip, sustain, and enable elements of the Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) eligible for support under current law. By the end of FY 2018, these forces are projected to total approximately 60,000 to 65,000; 30,000 to conduct ongoing combat missions against ISIS in the MERV, and 35,000 Internal Security Forces in liberated areas (to provide approximately 20 police/security forces for every 1,000 civilians).
Here is the:
SUMMARY

The FY 2019 request fully funds the Syria T[rain]&E[quip/arm] program based on requirements to sustain a 35,000 Internal Security Force together with a 30,000 combat personnel partner forces (as required) to liberate, secure, and defend territory previously controlled by ISIS [but now no longer ISIS-controlled]. The following is a summary of the requirements in Syria by category:

Category FY 2018 Request FY 2019 Request ($ in Millions) [FY2018, then FY2019]

Weapons, Ammunition, Vehicles and Other Equipment $393.3 $162.5

Basic Life Support $6.1 $8.0

Transportation and Staging $40.0 $28.0

Operational Sustainment $60.6 $101.5

TOTAL $500.0 $300.0
In other words: for the 2018 FY, $500 million is being sought, and for the 2019 FY, $300 million is being sought, for this campaign to overthrow Syria’s democratically elected (but in any case legitimate) President, and thus successfully to culminate the former U.S. President Barack Obama’s active military support of Al Qaeda in Syria to achieve this overthrow-objective.
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Double Standards in Libya

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Two weeks ago Interpol issued a Red Notice for the Libyan National Army "Saiqa" Special Forces Major, Mahmoud Werfalli. 

According to the notice, Werfalli is "wanted by the Judicial Authorities of the International Criminal Court."

As to the Werfalla case, the Libya National Army (LNA) had twice announced Werfalla’s questioning and arrest, and his subsequent release twice, amid its own ongoing internal investigation.

But the Red Notice muddies a wider, more complicated picture.

First, what is the nature of Libya’s war? To understand go back to June 2014 when Libya held elections for a new parliament, the House of Representatives (HOR). When the results came in, the Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and allied coalition parties who had controlled the previous parliament, called the General National Congress (GNA), realised they had lost big at the polling booth.
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Google And Geek Squad: Arms Of The Deep State?

Best Buy's Geek Squad has been discovered acting as undercover FBI informants, snooping on their customers' computers and reporting anything that looks amiss to the FBI...for cash payments! And Google is teaming up with the Pentagon to help it better analyze drone footage for targeting and other purposes. While once it seemed the big tech firms would provide us protection against the ever-prying eyes of the national security state, it seems now they have become arms of the national security state. We look at this troubling phenomenon in today's Liberty Report...
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The US Ponders a Strike Against Syrian Government Forces: What’s Behind This Aggressive Approach?

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The US is considering the option of military action against Syria. The alleged use of chemical weapons (CW) by the Syrian government, which is not backed by any solid evidence, is to serve as the pretext. Syrian President Assad is going to be “punished.” On March 6, US President Trump and Israeli PM Netanyahu discussed the threat posed by Iran’s presence in Syria and ways to counter it.

Chemical weapons? But why should Syria’s President Assad use them if he has had no trouble winning with conventional weapons wherever he goes? Couldn’t the rebels be using CW? Instances of that have been uncovered and confirmed. But no, US officials don’t even bother to give a passing thought to such “unimportant and irrelevant” considerations. They know better who to blame and who deserves to be made to pay for the wrongdoings they believe have taken place. In April, 2017, the US delivered a missile strike against a Syrian military facility, in flagrant violation of international law.

It’s worth noting that a group of US senators visited Israel in late February. According to them, a conflict between Israel and the pro-Iranian forces in southern Lebanon was imminent and that fighting would likely encompass Syria as well. Israel has been increasing its support of proxy groups in Syria recently.

Senator Lindsey Graham believes that Tehran is “testing” the US and Israel and that the administration is not doing enough to push back against Iran in Syria and throughout the Middle East.
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Gun Crackdowns Have Already Led to Too Many Federal Abuses

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President Trump declared last week that the law enforcement should “take the guns first, go through due process second.” But the history of federal firearms enforcement shows that due process is often a mirage when federal bureaucrats drop their hammer. Before enacting sweeping new gun prohibitions, we should remember the collateral damage and constitutional absurdities from previous federal crackdowns.

Gun control advocates have called for prohibiting possession of AR-15 rifles — a ban that could create five million new felons overnight, since most owners would not meekly surrender their firearms at the nearest federal office. Others advocate outlawing all semi-automatic firearms — an edict first floated by the Clinton administration that would create tens of millions of new offenders.

But before vesting vast new power in federal enforcers, the record of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency must be considered. A 1982 Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution report on ATF concluded, "Enforcement tactics made possible by current firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible.” Outrageous abuses have continued to the present day. An analysis conducted for the University of Chicago found that ATF heavily targeted racial minorities in its entrapment operations. And across the nation, ATF has been caught using mentally handicapped individuals in sting operations.
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