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FBI 1, Apple 1: Congress To Step In?

This week a judge in New York ruled in a case similar to the San Bernardino case that Apple should not be compelled to do work for the government against its will, in these cases providing a back door to its encrypted products. Both the FBI and Apple were on the Hill this week to present their sides of the case, and Congress will likely soon step in to try and settle the dispute. Does anyone think Congress will come down on the side of privacy over government snooping? Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-IL) has given us a clue which side Congress will come down on when he told Apple's lawyers, "I warn you, you won't like what comes out of Congress." What to expect from Congress? Tune in to the Liberty Report...
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'Plan B' and the Bankruptcy of US Syria Policy

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US Secretary of State John Kerry provoked widespread speculation when he referred in testimony before the Senate foreign relations committee last week to “significant discussions” within US President Barack Obama's administration about a “Plan B” in Syria. The speculation was further stoked by a “senior official” who told CBS News that options under consideration included "'military-like' measures that would make it harder for the regime and its allies to continue their assault on civilians and US-backed rebels.”

But “Plan B” is more complicated than that. A report by CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr on 26 February leaves little room for doubt that the administration’s cupboard of policy options is actually bare. An unnamed “senior US official” at the Pentagon admitted that “Plan B” is actually “more an idea than a specific course of action”. In other words, the administration’s national security policymakers believe something more should be done in Syria, but they are not at all clear what could be done now.

The official said three options were under discussion, none of which is even close to being realistic in the present situation: an increase in US Special Forces on the ground, an increase in arms assistance to fighters opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and a no-fly zone.
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Washington’s Neocon Occupation Upholds Illusion Of Choice In The Two-Party Duopoly

A good part of the country heads to the primaries today, Super Tuesday, to cast a vote for which Democrat or Republican will run for president in November. The media and the pundits make their living playing up the illusion that there is a great difference between parties and candidates, while in fact when it comes to the most critical issues there is very little space between them. 

Certainly when it comes to foreign policy, it matters very little whether Democrat or Republican sits in the White House. The neocons have held a firm grip on US foreign policy in administration after administration. But who are the neocons? What is their agenda? How do they survive so well? RPI's Daniel McAdams is interviewed by MintPressNews about the neoconservative stranglehold on Washington:
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Intel Agencies: Clinton Emails Match Top Secret Documents

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Clinton supporters, erroneously, make much out of the idea that of the many, many emails that passed through her private server, none were “marked” classified. They claim that, when in fact thousands of those same emails are indeed now marked classified, that is just after-the-fact Washington squabbling.

So this new information — that America’s intelligence agencies now say the contents of some of those unmarked emails match the contents of their own classified documents — is a big deal. It also suggests just how Clinton’s unclassified server came to be loaded up with classified material.

Several agencies have told Congress that Hillary Clinton’s home server contained some emails that should have been treated as TOP SECRET because their wording matched sections of some of the government’s most highly classified documents. These reports are the first formal declarations by intel agencies detailing how they believe Clinton violated government rules when highly classified information in at least 22 email messages passed through her unsecured home server.
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Reality Check: No Matter Who Wins the White House, the New Boss Will Be the Same as the Old Boss

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Politics today is not about Republicans and Democrats.

Nor is it about healthcare, abortion, higher taxes, free college tuition, or any of the other buzzwords that have become campaign slogans for individuals who have mastered the art of telling Americans exactly what they want to hear.

Politics today is about one thing and one thing only: maintaining the status quo between the Controllers (the politicians, the bureaucrats, and the corporate elite) and the Controlled (the taxpayers).

Hillary will not save the nation. Nor will Bernie, Trump, Rubio, or Cruz.

The only ones who can save the nation are “we the people,” and yet the American people remain eager to be persuaded that a new president in the White House can solve the problems that plague us.

No matter who wins this next presidential election, you can rest assured that the new boss will be the same as the old boss, and we—the permanent underclass in America—will continue to be forced to march in lockstep with the police state in all matters, public and private.
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Migrant Crisis: The End Of The EU?

Greece is wracked by financial meltdown but is hosting tens of thousands of migrants who are blocked from their intended journey northward. Calais in France is home to makeshift refugee camps where thousands hope to travel to the UK. The EU social welfare system attracts migrants from poorer regions, but Brussels following Washington's policy of destabilizing the Middle East has resulted in a perfect storm of hundreds of thousands seeking a better life in relatively rich Europe. Brussels is demanding that all EU Member states take in tens of thousands of migrants to share the burden equally. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban is resisting such demands and has called a referendum to let Hungarians decide if they want to take in migrants. Brussels is furious. Will this migrant crisis be the final undoing of the European Union? Tune in to today's Liberty Report...
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First They Came For the iPhones...

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The FBI tells us that its demand for a back door into the iPhone is all about fighting terrorism, and that it is essential to break in just this one time to find out more about the San Bernardino attack last December. But the truth is they had long sought a way to break Apple’s iPhone encryption and, like 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, a mass murder provided just the pretext needed. After all, they say, if we are going to be protected from terrorism we have to give up a little of our privacy and liberty. Never mind that government spying on us has not prevented one terrorist attack.

Apple has so far stood up to a federal government's demand that it force its employees to write a computer program to break into its own product. No doubt Apple CEO Tim Cook understands the damage it would do to his company for the world to know that the US government has a key to supposedly secure iPhones. But the principles at stake are even higher. We have a fundamental right to privacy. We have a fundamental right to go about our daily life without the threat of government surveillance of our activities. We are not East Germany.
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US Plotting Color Revolt in Russia?

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The annual meeting of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the successor organization to the Soviet-era KGB is an important occasion to take the temperature in the ‘East-West’ relations. (The Cold War cliche is becoming useful once again.) President Vladimir Putin’s customary address at the FSB meeting was the hallmark of the occasion on Friday in Moscow.

The sensational part of Putin’s speech is his disclosure that the FSB is in possession of definite information that plots are being hatched in the West to stir up political turmoil in Russia as the country heads for crucial parliamentary election in October. Putin avoided the use of the expression "color revolution" but hinted at it. To quote him:
Of course, you (FSB) must also prevent any attempts from outside to intervene in our election and our country’s political life. As you know, such methods exists and have been put to use in a number of countries. Let me say again that this is a direct threat to our sovereignty and we will respond accordingly.

I read the regular documents you (FSB) prepare, read the summaries, and see the concrete indications that, regrettably, our ill-wishers abroad are preparing for these elections. Everyone should therefore be aware that we will defend our interests with determination and in accordance with our laws.
Elsewhere, Putin noted that foreign intelligence agencies have “stepped up their activity” and this was “convincingly confirmed” insofar as the FSB’s counter-intelligence interdicted over 400 foreign intelligence operatives last year and criminal charges were initiated against 23 of them.
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NATO Weakens As Old Alliances Break Down

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Last week, I suggested that since Turkey seems intent on starting a war with the Russians, NATO might be wise to dump Turkey, or face war with Russia over a part of the world that is not European. This suggestion came out of no special animosity for the Turkish state, but for the fact that I oppose NATO in its current form, and it’s obvious that Turkey is the soft underbelly of NATO that should be exploited accordingly. 

Little did I know at the time that Europe was already planning to informally announce that Turkey was pressing its luck with other NATO members. 

On Thursday, had I looked, I would have noticed that Benny Avni at the New York Post was suggesting that NATO is headed toward ending with a “whimper.” Avni asks: “[C]an anyone envision America — or anyone else in the alliance — rushing to Turkey’s aid in a military confrontation with Russia?”

Avni is pro-NATO, but he does seem to be observant, since The Daily Mail reported on Saturdaythat Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn had told Der Spiegel “NATO cannot allow itself to be pulled into a military escalation with Russia as a result of the recent tensions between Russia and Turkey.” 

Both the DM and the Washington Times report an unnamed German diplomat as saying “We are not going to pay the price for a war started by the Turks.”
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The US Banking System as an Arm of US Foreign Policy

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The Russian government is readying a new issuance of foreign bonds and has invited non-Russian banks to participate in the bond auction. US banks would like to participate in the auction but have been warned by the State Department that this would violate the spirit, if not the letter, of US sanctions against Russia. Even though it wouldn’t be illegal for the banks to bid in the auction, the State Department is warning of “reputational risk” to those banks that do decide to participate. There must be stronger language that the State Department is using privately, in which they’re undoubtedly trying to make the banks an offer they can’t refuse.

This incident is one more example that demonstrates the contempt with which the US government holds private companies. Private companies are literally being conscripted to serve the state. Last week we found out about the FBI trying to force Apple to hack into phones it produces in order to allow the FBI access whenever it wants. Now we have the State Department trying to bully American banks into not doing business in Russia. In fact, the very concept of sanctions relies on private companies acting as arms of the state. No company would willingly turn down lucrative business opportunities in Russia. It is only through government threats that companies cooperate with sanctions. There is a name for an economic system in which ownership is nominally private but ultimate control is exercised by the government: fascism.
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