Democrats

Democrats Set to Re-Nominate Sen. Bob Menendez After Preventing Challengers, Showing How Calcified the Party Is

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/06/2018 - 11:55pm in

Fresh off escaping a federal bribery conviction thanks to a hung jury, two-term Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez is almost sure to win his party’s nomination on Tuesday for re-election in New Jersey against only token opposition. That Menendez — who has been in Congress for 26 years and is seeking his third Senate term — is about to become the Democrats’ nominee without any real primary challenge says a great deal about the party and the U.S. political system.

In 2015, the Obama Justice Department’s public integrity unit, with the personal approval of Attorney General Eric Holder, prosecuted Menendez on a dozen federal corruption and bribery charges. The 12-count indictment alleged that the senator received a slew of expensive gifts — including multiple lavish vacations in Paris and in Caribbean villas via a private jet and more than $750,000 in campaign contributions — from Menendez’s friend and supporter Salomon Melgen. Melgen also wrote numerous large checks to the New Jersey state Democratic Party to aid Menendez’s various campaigns and legal defense funds.

These luxurious gifts, prosecutors said, were given in exchange for Menendez’s help with various disputes Melgen had with federal health agencies. Menendez also intervened to secure numerous government contracts for Melgen. The indictment also detailed how “Menendez helped three of Melgen’s foreign-born girlfriends obtain visas to visit the United States.”

At his criminal trial, Menendez was the beneficiary of decades’ worth of Supreme Court rulings that have diluted federal bribery statutes to the point of virtual impotence: Unless prosecutors can produce a “smoking gun” in which a lawmaker explicitly states that he’s doing favors in exchange for money or gifts, convictions are close to impossible to obtain. The jurors who refused to vote to convict Menendez cited the lack of a “smoking gun.” The Trump DOJ originally announced its intention to retry Menendez following the hung jury, but shortly thereafter changed its mind.

On April 26, the Senate Ethics Committee “severely admonished” Menendez in a Public Letter of Admonition, which detailed that the committee “found that over a six-year period [Menendez] knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of significant value from Dr. Melgen without obtaining required Committee approval” and “failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate Rule and federal law.” It concluded that the senator’s “actions reflected discredit upon the Senate” and that his “failure to disclose numerous gifts while simultaneously using [his] Senate office in furtherance of Dr. Melgen’s interests created, at a minimum, the appearance of impropriety.”

How, then, is this sleazy career politician — who just barely escaped a multi-count federal bribery conviction — running for re-election in a Democratic Party primary with essentially no opposition? The answer is clear: because Democratic Party leaders, both in New Jersey and in Washington, unified in support of Menendez from the start and never stopped supporting him.

Even after the Obama DOJ indicted Menendez and detailed all of the behavior cited by the Senate Ethics Committee, the Democrats’ senior lawmaker in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, made his solidarity with Menendez clear, heralding him as “one of the best legislators in the Senate and is always fighting hard for the people of his state,” adding: “I am confident he will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.”

Their united front, along with the massive war chest of money Menendez has compiled from corporate interests, has made it essentially impossible for any credible primary challenge to be mounted against him.

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Photo: Hopkins

For a very short time, it looked as if Menendez might face a credible challenger. In December, Michael Starr Hopkins (pictured, right), an African-American lawyer who worked on both the Hillary Clinton and Obama campaigns, signaled his intention to run, asking, quite reasonably, about Menendez’s sleazy behavior over years: “If what Menendez did doesn’t disqualify you from serving in the Senate, then what does?”

Touting his commitment to “fight for Medicare for all” and other progressive causes, Hopkins argued that re-nominating “a candidate whose name is synonymous with corruption only muddies the waters, making it easy for Republicans to cry hypocrisy and for voters across the country to say that ‘both parties’ are rotten.”

But a mere four months later, Hopkins announced he was dropping his bid. The reason? He could not raise anywhere near the money needed to mount a credible challenge because, as Politico put it, Menendez “has the support of virtually all of the top Democrats in the state.” In his letter announcing his withdrawal, Hopkins wrote: “In a campaign system such as we have that is stacked against the average guy seeking public office to challenge an incumbent, prodigious fundraising is practically the only way to get the traction needed to keep a campaign afloat.”

The speed and unanimity with which Democratic leaders rallied to endorse Menendez’s re-election was dizzying. As the New York Times reported in November:

When a mistrial was declared Thursday in the federal corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, it seemed that Mr. Menendez could face a tenuous political future. …

Hours later, the likelihood that Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, might face any real threat from within the party grew dim.

Every major Democratic power broker in the state quickly endorsed Mr. Menendez for re-election in 2018: Philip D. Murphy, the governor-elect; Senator Cory Booker; Stephen M. Sweeney, the senate president; Craig Coughlin, the incoming speaker of the State Assembly; George E. Norcross, an influential political leader in southern New Jersey; and the county chairs in northern Democratic strongholds such as Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Essex and Middlesex.

Mounting a campaign without the support of powerful Democratic leaders is almost a lost cause in a state where party machines remain deeply entrenched. Leaders can direct donors and can determine other essential political advantages, such as the line where a candidate’s name is listed on a ballot.

In April, an obscure publisher of a small community newspaper, Lisa McCormick, announced that she would run, but she has basically no money and zero chance of defeating Menendez. As New Jersey’s political website put it, Menendez has “the support of all 21 county committees” of the state’s Democratic Party.

In so many ways beyond the corruption and sleaze, Menendez is the classic representation of what the Democratic Party is at the national level. He first made it to the Senate when he was appointed by former Goldman Sachs CEO and then-Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. Though he is a somewhat reliable Democratic vote on standard domestic debates, in the area where he has exerted the greatest influence as chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, he has been far to the right, especially recently, despite being from one of the country’s bluest states.

In 2006, he joined with the GOP and right-wing Democrats to enact the Bush-Cheney Military Commissions Act, which stripped war on terror detainees of the right to judicial review (it was later struck down as unconstitutional). He is one of the Senate’s most extreme Iran hawks, having opposed Obama’s Iran deal (as the party’s senior foreign policy senator) and serving as one of the most vocal loyalists for a pro-regime change Iranian cult that had been on the U.S. terrorist list (once it was removed from the list, money associated with the group began flowing aggressively to Mendenez).

Most of all, the New Jersey Democrat is one of the most fanatical loyalists to the Israeli government and AIPAC. He has been the honored guest of the American Friends of Likud, along with officials from the Netanyahu government. AIPAC supported him vocally during his corruption trial, and after his hung jury, he received what the JTA described as a “hero’s welcome” in March. Menendez was also one of the co-sponsors of a bill that would have made it a crime for companies to support a boycott of Israel, which the American Civil Liberties Union denounced as a severe threat to free speech.

Indeed, the list of groups, corporations, and figures that donated to Menendez’s legal defense fund in his corruption case is dominated by AIPAC supporters and officials, as this excellent reporting from NorthJersey.com, based on IRS records, shows. It includes Sheldon Adelson, as well as a real estate firm owned and controlled by part of the Kushner family.

This is how calcified the Democratic Party is: They even unite behind an incumbent who is drowning in sleaze and corruption, who was just “severely admonished” by the Senate Ethics Committee, whose legal defense was funded by far-right figures, and who has used his senior leadership role to repeatedly join with the Bush-Cheney and right-wing GOP factions against his own party’s supposed positions. Not only do they unite behind him, but they ensure that no primary challenge can even happen — they deny their own voters the right to decide if they want Menendez — by making it impossible for any such challengers to raise money from funders who rely on the largesse of Democratic officeholders and who thus, do not want to run afoul of their decreed preferences.

In the 2018 cycle, not a single Democratic incumbent has yet been defeated by a primary challenge. As The Intercept’s political reporting team has spent the year documenting, the entire party apparatus is designed to ensure that only rich, establishment candidates can win, while doing everything possible to block and destroy the chances of outsider, insurgent candidates (see the superb reporting from my colleague Aída Chávez on Sunday about the obstacles put in front of working-class Democratic primary challenges, often by their own party’s structures).

It’s a party that lacks any vibrancy or movement. It’s stilted, stifled, and ossified. They don’t even allow primary challenges to rotted incumbents who have oozed a suffocating stench of corruption during almost three decades of incumbency in Congress, even if that incumbent has repeatedly blocked the party’s own agenda. As was also demonstrated by Hillary Clinton’s recent endorsement of the corruption-tainted Andrew Cuomo over his progressive primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, seeking to become New York state’s first female governor: All that matters to them is closing ranks around one another, clinging as tightly as they can to their own prerogatives, preventing anyone from disrupting their ability to greedily feed at the corporate-fueled trough which keeps them fat and satiated.

Those who think that this critical focus on Democrats will empower Trump and the Republicans, or that it serves the GOP’s interests, have it exactly backward. As Vox’s Matt Yglesias so deftly documented after Trump’s victory, “The Obama years have created a Democratic Party that’s essentially a smoking pile of rubble.”

A refusal to attempt to improve the party, to inject a new form of politics and new voices, to change what has caused its collapse as a national political force, will ensure more victories by more Trumps and more Republicans for years to come. And it’s hard to imagine anything that better exemplifies that sickness, that danger, than rank-closing around someone like Bob Menendez.

The post Democrats Set to Re-Nominate Sen. Bob Menendez After Preventing Challengers, Showing How Calcified the Party Is appeared first on The Intercept.

The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 20/05/2018 - 12:27am in

An extremely strange episode that has engulfed official Washington over the last two weeks came to a truly bizarre conclusion on Friday night. And it revolves around a long-time, highly sketchy CIA operative, Stefan Halper.

Four decades ago, Halper was responsible for a long-forgotten spying scandal involving the 1980 election, in which the Reagan campaign – using CIA officials managed by Halper, reportedly under the direction of former CIA Director and then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush – got caught running a spying operation from inside the Carter administration. The plot involved CIA operatives passing classified information about Carter’s foreign policy to Reagan campaign officials in order to ensure the Reagan campaign knew of any foreign policy decisions that Carter was considering.

Over the past several weeks, House Republicans have been claiming that the FBI during the 2016 election used an operative to spy on the Trump campaign, and they triggered outrage within the FBI by trying to learn his identity. The controversy escalated when President Trump joined the fray on Friday morning. “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” Trump tweeted, adding: “It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!”

In response, the DOJ and the FBI’s various media spokespeople did not deny the core accusation, but quibbled with the language (the FBI used an “informant,” not a “spy”), and then began using increasingly strident language to warn that exposing his name would jeopardize his life and those of others, and also put American national security at grave risk. On May 8, the Washington Post described the informant as “a top-secret intelligence source” and cited DOJ officials as arguing that disclosure of his name “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, who spent much of last week working to ensure confirmation of Trump’s choice to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, actually threatened his own colleagues in Congress with criminal prosecution if they tried to obtain the identity of the informant. “Anyone who is entrusted with our nation’s highest secrets should act with the gravity and seriousness of purpose that knowledge deserves,” Warner said.

But now, as a result of some very odd choices by the nation’s largest media outlets, everyone knows the name of the FBI’s informant: Stefan Halper. And Halper’s history is quite troubling, particularly his central role in the scandal in the 1980 election. Equally troubling are the DOJ and FBI’s highly inflammatory and, at best, misleading claims that they made to try to prevent Halper’s identity from being reported.

To begin with, it’s obviously notable that the person the FBI used to monitor the Trump campaign is the same person who worked as a CIA operative running that 1980 Presidential election spying campaign.

It was not until several years after Reagan’s victory over Carter did this scandal emerge. It was leaked by right-wing officials inside the Reagan administration who wanted to undermine officials they regarded as too moderate, including then White House Chief of Staff James Baker, who was a Bush loyalist.

The NYT in 1983 said the Reagan campaign spying operation “involved a number of retired Central Intelligence Agency officials and was highly secretive.” The article, by then-NYT reporter Leslie Gelb, added that its “sources identified Stefan A. Halper, a campaign aide involved in providing 24-hour news updates and policy ideas to the traveling Reagan party, as the person in charge.” Halper, now 73, had also worked with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and Alexander Haig as part of the Nixon administration.

When the scandal first broke in 1983, the UPI suggested that Halper’s handler for this operation was Reagan’s Vice Presidential candidate, George H.W. Bush, who had been the CIA Director and worked there with Halper’s father-in-law, former CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline, who worked on Bush’s 1980 presidential campaign before Bush ultimately became Reagan’s Vice President. It quoted a former Reagan campaign official as blaming the leak on “conservatives [who] are trying to manipulate the Jimmy Carter papers controversy to force the ouster of White House Chief of Staff James Baker.”

Halper, through his CIA work, has extensive ties to the Bush family. Few remember that the CIA’s perceived meddling in the 1980 election – its open support for its former Director, George H.W. Bush to become President – was a somewhat serious political controversy. And Halper was in that middle of that, too.

In 1980, the Washington Post published an article reporting on the extremely unusual and quite aggressive involvement of the CIA in the 1980 presidential campaign. “Simply put, no presidential campaign in recent memory — perhaps ever — has attracted as much support from the intelligence community as the campaign of former CIA director Bush,” the article said.

Though there was nothing illegal about ex-CIA officials uniting to put a former CIA Director in the Oval Office, the paper said “there are some rumblings of uneasiness in the intelligence network.” It specifically identified Cline as one of the most prominent CIA official working openly for Bush, noting that he “recommended his son-in-law, Stefan A. Halper, a former Nixon White House aide, be hired as Bush’s director of policy development and research.”

In 2016, top officials from the intelligence community similarly rallied around Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept has previously documented:

Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell not only endorsed Clinton in the New York Times but claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” George W. Bush’s CIA and NSA director, Gen. Michael Hayden, pronounced Trump a “clear and present danger” to U.S. national security and then, less than a week before the election, went to the Washington Post to warn that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin” and said Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”

So as it turns out, the informant used by the FBI in 2016 to gather information on the Trump campaign was not some previously unknown, top-secret asset whose exposure as an operative could jeopardize lives. Quite the contrary: his decades of work for the CIA – including his role in an obviously unethical if not criminal spying operation during the 1980 presidential campaign – is quite publicly known.

And now, as a result of some baffling choices by the nation’s largest news organizations as well as their anonymous sources inside the U.S. Government, Stefan Halper’s work for the FBI during the 2016 is also publicly known

Last night, both the Washington Post and New York Times – whose reporters, like pretty much everyone in Washington, knew exactly who the FBI informant is – published articles that, while deferring to the FBI’s demands by not naming him, provided so many details about him that it made it extremely easy to know exactly who it is. The NYT described the FBI informant as “an American academic who teaches in Britain” and who “made contact late that summer with” George Papadopoulos and “also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page.” The Post similarly called him “a retired American professor” who met with Page “at a symposium about the White House race held at a British university.”

In contrast to the picture purposely painted by the DOJ and its allies that this informant was some of sort super-secret, high-level, covert intelligence asset, the NYT described him as what he actually is: “the informant is well known in Washington circles, having served in previous Republican administrations and as a source of information for the C.I.A. in past years.”

Despite how “well known” he is in Washington, and despite publishing so many details about him that anyone with Google would be able to instantly know his name, the Post and the NYT nonetheless bizarrely refused to identity him, with the Post justifying its decision that it “is not reporting his name following warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts.” The NYT was less melodramatic about it, citing a general policy: the NYT “has learned the source’s identity but typically does not name informants to preserve their safety,” it said.

In other words, both the NYT and the Post chose to provide so many details about the FBI informant that everyone would know exactly who it was, while coyly pretending that they were obeying FBI demands not to name him. How does that make sense? Either these newspapers believe the FBI’s grave warnings that national security and lives would be endangered if it were known who they used as their informant (in which case those papers should not publish any details that would make his exposure likely), or they believe that the FBI (as usual) was just invoking false national security justifications to hide information it unjustly wants to keep from the public (in which case the newspapers should name him).

In any event, publication of those articles by the NYT and Post last night made it completely obvious who the FBI informant was, because the Daily Caller’s investigative reporter Chuck Ross on Thursday had published an article reporting that a long-time CIA operative who is now a professor at Cambridge repeatedly met with Papadopoulos and Page. The article, in its opening paragraph, named the professor, Stefan Halper, and described him as “a University of Cambridge professor with CIA and MI6 contacts.”

Ross’ article, using public information, recounted at length Halper’s long-standing ties to the CIA, including the fact that his father-in-law, Ray Cline, was a top CIA official during the Cold War, and that Halper himself had long worked with both the CIA and its British counterpart, the MI6. As Ross wrote: “at Cambridge, Halper has worked closely with Dearlove, the former chief of MI6. In recent years they have directed the Cambridge Security Initiative, a non-profit intelligence consulting group that lists ‘UK and US government agencies’ among its clients.”

Both the NYT and Washington Post reporters boasted, with seeming pride, about the fact that they did not name the informant even as they published all the details which made it simple to identify him. But NBC News – citing Ross’ report and other public information – decided to name him, while stressing that it has not confirmed that he actually worked as an FBI informant:

The professor who met with both Page and Papadopoulos is Stefan Halper, a former official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations who has been a paid consultant to an internal Pentagon think tank known as the Office of Net Assessment, consulting on Russia and China issues, according to public records.

There is nothing inherently untoward, or even unusual, about the FBI using informants in an investigation. One would expect them to do so. But the use of Halper in this case, and the bizarre claims made to conceal his identity, do raise some questions that merit further inquiry.

To begin with, the New York Times reported in December of last year that the FBI investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia began when George Papadopoulos drunkenly boasted to an Australian diplomat about Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was the disclosure of this episode by the Australians that “led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired,” the NYT claimed.

But it now seems clear that Halper’s attempts to gather information for the FBI began before that. “The professor’s interactions with Trump advisers began a few weeks before the opening of the investigation, when Page met the professor at the British symposium,” the Post reported. While it’s not rare for the FBI to gather information before formally opening an investigation, Halper’s earlier snooping does call into question the accuracy of the NYT’s claim that it was the drunken Papadopoulos ramblings that first prompted the FBI’s interest in these possible connections. And it suggests that CIA operatives, apparently working with at least some factions within the FBI, were trying to gather information about the Trump campaign earlier than had been previously reported.

Then there are questions about what appear to be some fairly substantial government payments to Halper throughout 2016. Halper continues to be listed as a “vendor” by websites that track payments by the federal government to private contractors.

Earlier this week, records of payments were found that were made during 2016 to Halper by the Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment, though it not possible from these records to know the exact work for which these payments were made. The Pentagon office that paid Halper in 2016, according to a 2015 Washington Post story on its new duties, “reports directly to Secretary of Defense and focuses heavily on future threats, has a $10 million budget.”

It is difficult to understand how identifying someone whose connections to the CIA is a matter of such public record, and who has a long and well-known history of working on spying programs involving presidential elections on behalf of the intelligence community, could possibly endanger lives or lead to grave national security harm. It isn’t as though Halper has been some sort of covert, stealth undercover asset for the CIA who just got exposed. Quite the contrary: that he’s a spy embedded in the U.S. intelligence community would be known to anyone with internet access.

Equally strange are the semantic games which journalists are playing in order to claim that this revelation disproves, rather than proves, Trump’s allegation that the FBI “spied” on his campaign. This bizarre exchange between CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and the New York Times’ Trip Gabriel vividly illustrates the strange machinations used by journalists to justify how all of this is being characterized:

Despite what Halper actually is, the FBI and its dutiful mouthpieces have spent weeks using the most desperate language to try to hide Halper’s identity and the work he performed as part of the 2016 election. Here was the deeply emotional reaction to last night’s story from Brookings’ Benjamin Wittes, who has become a social media star by parlaying his status as Jim Comey’s best friend and long-time loyalist to security state agencies into a leading role in pushing the Trump/Russia story:

Wittes’ claim that all of this resulted in the “outing” of some sort of sensitive “intelligence source” is preposterous given how publicly known Halper’s role as a CIA operative has been for decades. But this is the scam that the FBI and people like Mark Warner have been running for two weeks: deceiving people into believing that exposing Halper’s identity would create grave national security harm by revealing some previously unknown intelligence asset.

Wittes also implies that it was Trump and Devin Nunes who are responsible for Halper’s exposure but he almost certainly has no idea of who the sources are for the NYT or the Washington Post. And note that Wittes is too cowardly to blame the institutions that actually made it easy to identify Halper – the New York Times and Washington Post – preferring instead to exploit the opportunity to depict the enemies of his friend Jim Comey as traitors.

Whatever else is true, the CIA operative and FBI informant used to gather information on the Trump campaign in the 2016 campaign has, for weeks, been falsely depicted as a sensitive intelligence asset rather than what he actually is: a long-time CIA operative with extensive links to the Bush family who was responsible for a dirty and likely illegal spying operation in the 1980 presidential election. For that reason, it’s easy to understand why many people in Washington were so desperate to conceal his identity, but that desperation had nothing to do with the lofty and noble concerns for national security they claimed were motivating them.

The post The FBI Informant Who Monitored the Trump Campaign, Stefan Halper, Oversaw a CIA Spying Operation in the 1980 Presidential Election appeared first on The Intercept.

Will Democrats Unite to Block Trump’s Torturer, Gina Haspel, as CIA Chief? If Not, What Do They #Resist?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/05/2018 - 2:45am in

The confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA, Gina Haspel, will begin in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday. Haspel’s nomination has become controversial because of her supervision of a CIA black site in Thailand, where detainees were tortured (with heinous methods that extended far beyond “mere” waterboarding), as well as her central role in destroying videotapes of the interrogation sessions at which torture was employed.

Two GOP senators appear unlikely to vote for Haspel: John McCain, whose illness prevents him from attending, and Rand Paul, who has vowed to oppose Haspel (though few things have proven less reliable than Rand Paul’s promises to act on his supposed principles). That means that Democrats have the power to block a torturer and evidence-destroyer from becoming Trump’s CIA director — if they remain united in their opposition.

Will they do so? It is difficult to be optimistic, to put that mildly. The history of Democrats throughout the war on terror is to ensure that just enough members of their caucus join with the GOP majority to ensure passage of even the most extremist pieces of legislation or nominees justified in the name of terrorism or national security.

The ruse Democrats typically use to accomplish these dirty deeds is quite ingenious: The defectors change so that no one member bears the blame for enabling right-wing measures, while the party itself is able to claim that a majority opposed the extremism. In 2010 — as the Bush-era tactic of Democratic defections to the GOP continued under Barack Obama — I referred to this tactic as “Villain Rotation” and described it this way:

The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation.  They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.  One minute, it’s Jay Rockefeller as the Prime Villain leading the way in protecting Bush surveillance programs and demanding telecom immunity; the next minute, it’s Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer joining hands and “breaking with their party” to ensure Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General; then it’s Big Bad Joe Lieberman single-handedly blocking Medicare expansion; then it’s Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb joining with Lindsey Graham to support the de-funding of civilian trials for Terrorists; and now that they can’t blame Lieberman or Ben Nelson any longer on health care (since they don’t need 60 votes), Jay Rockefeller voluntarily returns to the Villain Role, stepping up to put an end to the pretend-movement among Senate Democrats to enact the public option via reconciliation.

If Haspel is confirmed, it will be because a certain number of Democratic senators join with the GOP caucus to support her, while allowing the Democratic Party to claim it tried to stop her by pointing to a majority of futile Democratic votes against her. That’s why the record of the Democratic Party over the last 17 years — providing whatever amount of support is needed for GOP war on terror policies — makes it difficult to believe that Democrats will unite to kill her nomination.

The prospect of united Democratic opposition to Trump’s CIA nominee is further complicated by the vocal support for Haspel coming not only from the CIA itself — which has been running what amounts to a domestic propaganda campaign on her behalf — but also from the most admired Democratic Party intelligence and military officials.

Despite her role in the CIA torture program — or perhaps because of it — Haspel has been showered with praise, and her confirmation urged, by a bipartisan cast of intelligence officials that includes Obama’s two CIA directors (John Brennan and Leon Panetta), Obama’s director of national intelligence (James Clapper), Panetta’s former chief of staff at the CIA and current MSNBC star Jeremy Bash, and a bevy of Bush-era CIA and military officials who have rehabilitated their reputations among liberals in the Trump era (led by Bush’s CIA and NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden).

It is not difficult to understand why these Democratic national security officials — despite effectively rebranding themselves as #Resistance icons — are so supportive of Trump’s choice of a torturer to lead the CIA. Part of it is ideological and group loyalty: unlike Trump, Haspel is one them, a member in good standing of the intelligence and military world in which they have spent so much of their lives. Part of what motivates their support is standard tribalistic rank-closing: Yes, she is a torturer, but she’s one of our torturers.

Part of the motive is undoubtedly financial. Many of Haspel’s most vocal supporters from the intelligence community make great profit from doing business with the CIA. Few things would be better for business than earning the gratitude of the agency by publicly agitating for their prized nominee and using their credentials as Good Democrats to creating space for, and applying pressure to, Democratic senators to support her.

Jeremy Bash, for instance, is a founder and managing director of Beacon Global Strategies LLC, a private consulting firm led by Obama’s former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell (who, needless to say, also supports Haspel). Beacon is filled with ex-CIA and intelligence officials from both parties — including Panetta and Bush Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend.

Many of the Beacon executives are the same national security officials who last year worked with Bill Kristol and Mario Rubio’s neocon foreign policy guru, Jamie Fly, to create the Alliance for Securing Democracy and its Hamilton 68 dashboard to advocate for a new, more aggressive foreign policy (among those in both groups are Morell, Fly, Julianne Smith, and Adm. James Stavridis). It’s the living, breathing personification of the Revolving Door sleaze that everyone who doesn’t swim in it despises:

Beacon describes itself as “a strategic advisory firm specializing in International Policy, Defense, Cyber, Intelligence, and Homeland Security” and — to clients — touts its “deep experience informed by their years of service in the White House, State Department, Defense Department, CIA, Justice Department, on Capitol Hill.” In other words, it leverages its connections to the intelligence and military agencies for which they worked to generate profits from corporate clients who do business with those agencies or whose business otherwise depends on their good will.

If your income and profit depended on maintaining close relations with the government agencies which you once helped manage — as is true of so many of D.C.’s Revolving Door beneficiaries — wouldn’t you also leverage your public credentials to bolster whatever agenda they were supporting at any moment? For so long, Washington’s national security policy has been shaped by profit motives, fueled by legalized Revolving Door corruption, dressed up as counterterrorism and national security imperatives.

This is one of the problems with having TV and cable networks fill their rosters with former military and intelligence officials: They are ideologically and, so often, financially motivated to support those agencies’ worldview and agenda under the guise of “news” — in other words, to spout state propaganda. Of course they are going to use their Democratic Party credentials to support the CIA’s campaign elevate this CIA torturer: They have every ideological and business incentive to do so.

The primary argument being mounted on Haspel’s behalf is not that it was wise or just to torture detainees (the only one who seems to be making that argument is the president who nominated her and Dick Cheney’s daughter, now a pro-torture congresswoman occupying her dad’s old seat). Instead, the defense is the one proffered by the defendants — and rejected by the tribunal — at Nuremberg: Haspel was just following orders.

As my colleague Jon Schwarz noted when Haspel was unveiled, some Democratic national security officials are unironically using the exact phrase invoked by the Nazi defendants at Nuremberg to justify, or at least mitigate, Haspel’s conduct:

Samantha Winograd, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council and now is an analyst for CNN, likewise used Nuremberg defense language in an appearance on the network. Haspel, she said, “was implementing the lawful orders of the president. . . . You could argue she should have quit because the program was so abhorrent. But she was following orders.”

There is some factual accuracy to this claim: Haspel was not some rogue torturer. It is absolutely true that she was implementing CIA policy as decreed by George Bush, Dick Cheney and the Justice Department. Like most CIA officials involved in torture, not only was Haspel protected from punishment for that, but she was repeatedly promoted. That’s because torturing helpless detainees is regarded by the CIA as a noble and patriotic act.

That’s why it was so predictably disastrous when Barack Obama elevated to the highest national security positions CIA officials such as John Brennan who had supported and advocated for major parts of the CIA’s torture and rendition program, and why it was even worse when Obama devoted himself to shielding all torturers from all forms of criminal and even civil penalty for their war crimes (even in the face of a treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan, requiring all signatory states to prosecute, not immunize, their torturers no matter their excuse for using it).

Indeed, as CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski pointed out today, a central prong of the GOP’s pro-Haspel messaging is “all the support Brennan got for CIA director from Democrats opposing her.” And that is, as he says, a “fair point”: after all, how can Democratic Senators posture now as vehement opponents of empowering torturers when they cheered Obama for naming the torture-and-rendition advocate Brennan as CIA Director, voted for his confirmation, and have now turned Brennan into a beloved #Resistance hero whose every Twitter utterance instantly goes viral?

While the primary guilt for torture lies with those who did it (namely, top officials of the Bush White House and the CIA which obeyed their criminal orders), Obama’s sustained 8-year campaign to rehabilitate, protect and even empower torturers converted torture from what it should be – a criminal taboo that automatically leads to prosecution – into just another partisan political dispute. As a result, those who advocate it or even did it not only remain in decent company but even get Washington Post columns, MSNBC contracts, and hugs from beloved liberal TV icons.

ellen-1525787903

George W. Bush with Ellen Degeneres, backstage after the former President appeared on “Ellen” and was hailed by her as a good friend

Ellen Degeneres (Instagram account)

The outcome of that climate is that one of the people who oversaw some of the worst torture the U.S. has inflicted is about to be elevated to lead the world’s most powerful intelligence agency.

The word “normalize” has become a favorite media cliché in the Trump era, but it applies with full force here: Gina Haspel as CIA Director is what happens when you normalize torturers by barring their prosecution and awarding them with high-level positions in media, politics, and the intelligence community. Torture becomes just another good faith political disagreement, something that at worst “taints” someone’s record – to use the remarkable  minimizing word chosen by the Washington Post’s long-time CIA defender David Ignatius – but should be weighed against their good points:

This is American Exceptionalism in its purest, and ugliest, expression: war criminals which lead African nations or enemies of the U.S. are sent to the Hague to be prosecuted, while American war criminals are rewarded, empowered, and praised. When an American tortures, it’s not a crime but a mere “taint,” and certainly not one that should result in denial of promotions let alone handcuffs and a prison cell.

During the last Israeli election, when pundits thought Benjamin Netanyahu may lose, I recall many Palestinian activists hoping that Netanyahu would win, because it’s clarifying of what Israel is to have Netanyahu as its leader rather than some prettier, more palatable figure who would support the same policies of occupation, aggression, and illegal settlement.

One could certainly look at Gina Haspel that way: she’s the Director the CIA deserves, an accurate reflection of what this agency really is. Having someone who everyone knows is a torturer at the helm of this agency will make it that much harder to sustain the U.S. media propaganda script – led by CIA spokespeople such as NBC’s Ken Dilanian and Ignatius – about the good and noble work this agency does. On some level, it’s healthy for the CIA to finally wear its true identity on its sleeve.

But it’s also clarifying about the charade of Trump and the #Resistance, about the supposed inability of the parties to agree on anything, of the refusal of people from different ideologies to unite. That Trump chose someone with one of the most gruesome torture histories to lead the CIA is certainly revealing about who he is. And if the Democrats cannot unite to stop that, that will be further evidence of what they are. What kind of #Resistance refuses to stop an actual torturer chosen by Donald Trump from being promoted to head the most powerful spy agency in the world?

The post Will Democrats Unite to Block Trump’s Torturer, Gina Haspel, as CIA Chief? If Not, What Do They #Resist? appeared first on The Intercept.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid Claims Her Website Was Hacked and Bigoted Anti-LGBT Content Added, a Bizarre Story Liberal Outlets Ignore

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/04/2018 - 12:13am in

MSNBC weekend host Joy-Ann Reid apologized last December for a series of homophobic blog posts she wrote from 2007 to 2009 about then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whom she repeatedly mocked as “Miss Charlie” and ridiculed with ugly anti-gay stereotypes. Miss Charlie, wrote Reid, was someone who, if he ever got to the White House as John McCain’s vice president, would be fixated not on policy, but on designing pretty napkin patterns at state funerals, and spend his honeymoon “ogling male waiters.” In her apology, Reid insisted that she has some gay friends (“The LGBT community includes people whom I deeply love”) and that her writings were “insensitive, tone deaf and dumb.”

Most people, at least in the media, seemed quick to accept Reid’s apology — and they were right to do so. People have the right to change their beliefs as they and the society around them grow, learn, and evolve. That process should be encouraged, not stigmatized. Politics, at its core, should be about persuading people to repudiate misguided and destructive beliefs and adopt ones that are more reasoned, humane, and just. And when that happens, it should be celebrated, not scorned.

In 2012, the Democratic Party officially changed its position on LGBT equality when Barack Obama “evolvedand announced his support for gay marriage, which he had previously opposed. There’s no reason to doubt that Reid (who once worked as a press aide for the Obama campaign) changed her views on LGBT people to align with the new party dogma.

Candidly acknowledging the erroneous nature of one’s previously held views is a virtue, not a character flaw. As someone who has changed many of my own views about a wide range of both political and nonpolitical questions — growth that I hope and expect will continue for as long as I live — I regard it as vital that everyone have the space to reconsider old beliefs, and not have them held against one in perpetuity once they are renounced.

All humans err, and a critical part of life — one of the parts that makes it most valuable — is learning and changing. The very first line of my first book back in 2006 was this observation from Abraham Lincoln: “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” That was the framework through which I, and many others, viewed Reid’s December apology.

But the last 24 hours have changed the Joy Reid situation considerably. Last week, the same left-wing Twitter user (Jamie Maz) who first unearthed Reid’s anti-gay tweets about Crist unearthed far more toxic, bigoted, and vicious anti-gay articles that appeared to be from Reid’s old blog.

Reid has removed her blog from the internet, so Maz found the articles using the “Wayback Machine,” the internet digital archive that stores old online content even after it’s been removed or deleted by the publisher. Last night, the news outlet that reports on TV news media, Mediaite, published an extensive story on these newly found articles that appear under Reid’s byline.

But unlike the posts for which Reid apologized in December — which she said were intended to mock the hypocrisy of GOP officials who are simultaneously closeted gays, but also anti-gay in their politics — these newly discovered articles have nothing to do with GOP hypocrisy. They are just hateful, bigoted, and homophobic in their own right.

Some of the lowlights, as Mediaite itemized, include:

  • “defend[ing] former NBA star Tim Hardaway’s aggressively anti-gay comments by writing that while such comments are stupid for a public figure to make: ‘most straight people cringe at the sight of two men kissing’”;
  • saying she “couldn’t go see [Brokeback Mountain] either, despite my sister’s ringing endorsement, because I didn’t want to watch the two male characters having sex. Does that make me homophobic? Probably”;
  • arguing that “intrinsic” to being straight is finding gay sex acts “gross”;
  • “defending Marine General Peter Pace after he condemned ‘homosexual acts’ as ‘immoral’ by suggesting his views are actually normal”;
  • opposing Harriet Miers’s nomination to the Supreme Court by implying she is a closeted lesbian and comparing her “lesbian haircut” to those worn by the presidents of NOW and GLAAD;
  • promoting the ugliest and most destructive stereotype of gay men as pedophile predators by suggesting that anti-gay attitudes are based in “concerns that adult gay men tend to be attracted to very young, post-pubescent types, bringing them ‘into the lifestyle’ in a way that many people consider to be immoral” and that “gay rights groups seek to organize very young, impressionable teens who may have an inclination that they are gay.”

There are many other similarly horrific and bigoted passages that appear under Reid’s byline on her blog — far beyond the ones she previously acknowledged and apologized for.

If, in response to these new even-uglier posts, Reid had done what she did in December — acknowledged they were hers, owned her mistakes, apologized for the hurt she caused, and explained that she no longer holds these views — the reaction would have almost certainly been the same. Though many would likely be a bit bothered by just how deeply bigoted these writings were, few would hold them against her now. I know I would have reacted the same: If someone repudiates past beliefs and changes their views, they should be judged by their current viewpoints, not ones they held a decade ago.

But, this time, acknowledging and apologizing for these viciously bigoted post isn’t what Reid did. She did the opposite: She denied that she ever wrote them — or, at least, she denied writing some of them.

How, then, did they end up on her blog under her name? According to Reid, she was the victim of “hackers”: somehow, nefarious disinformation agents managed to hack not her blog (which is now deleted), but rather the Wayback Machine and its digital archive. They penetrated the Wayback Machine and then, according to Reid, added some anti-gay content.

Notably, Reid did not deny that all of the newly discovered hate-mongering was hers. But, in a statement to Mediaite, she suggested that at least some of these horrible articles — which ones she did not specify — were added by unknown “external” hackers:

In December I learned that an unknown, external party accessed and manipulated material from my now-defunct blog, The Reid Report, to include offensive and hateful references that are fabricated and run counter to my personal beliefs and ideology.

I began working with a cyber-security expert who first identified the unauthorized activity, and we notified federal law enforcement officials of the breach. The manipulated material seems to be part of an effort to taint my character with false information by distorting a blog that ended a decade ago.

Now that the site has been compromised I can state unequivocally that it does not represent the original entries. I hope that whoever corrupted the site recognizes the pain they have caused, not just to me, but to my family and communities that I care deeply about: LGBTQ, immigrants, people of color and other marginalized groups.

Is it technically possible that hackers altered the digital archives of the Wayback Machine? Probably. After all, pretty much anything is possible.

But computer experts consulted by The Intercept said they were personally unaware of previous instances of the Wayback Machine being hacked and altered (which is not proof that it never happened). They also said that the work required to do this would be quite extensive and sophisticated. Cybersecurity expert Jeffrey Carr told The Intercept:

Regarding the Wayback Machine, I don’t know. I’ve never heard of that happening but it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen, I guess. Was it the very last post that she published? Because if it wasn’t (and depending upon how her blog was set up), then there may have been more than one copy that would need to be hacked. My old Blogspot blog is like that. … That’s an awful lot of work for a hacker to do, and for what end? To make a homophobic person appear MORE homophobic?

Moreover, some of Reid’s uglier, confirmed writings — not just about gay people, but also transgender people — square quite consistently with the newly discovered writing that she denies. Indeed, Reid has a far more extensive — and far more recent — record of homophobic and transphobic writing independent of the material she wrote about Charlie Crist, that postdates it and is material for which she never apologized.

Reid, for instance, was a vocal defender of the abuse doled out by the U.S. government to Chelsea Manning, which the U.N. concluded was “cruel, inhuman,” and bordering on torture; she mocked that abuse as nothing more than Manning whining that she wanted a “pillow.” Reid repeatedly suggested that Manning leaked not out of conscience or horror at what the U.S. military was doing in Iraq, but due to mental problems from being trans.


Mocking people on gender grounds, referring to men she suspects are gay as “Miss,” or implying they are trans for the sake of mockery, is a longtime Reid tactic. And she appears to have promoted, via her own tweets, at least some of the articles that she now denies:



None of this precludes her hacking claims from being true — maybe “external” actors decided to augment her confirmed bigoted, anti-LGBT writing with even more bigoted, anti-LGBT writing — but it is certainly probative on the question, given how consistent the passages she denies writing are with the ones she clearly did write.

Regardless of one’s views on Reid’s past anti-gay remarks, and regardless of what actually happened here, this is a serious news story — obviously so. And the biggest part of the story is not whether Reid wrote this anti-gay content. Again, if she did, and she acknowledged and apologized for it, that should not be held against her.

The biggest part of the story is the veracity of her remarkable claim — that she’s making not 10 years ago but now — that it was hackers who wrote the offensive material under her name.

Only one of two things can be true here, and they are both rather consequential: Either (a) hackers found a way to effectively alter the digital archives of the Wayback Machine in order to smear the name of a major TV news personality by attributing fabricated content to her, or (b) this major TV news personality is lying — not 10 years ago, but today — in order to falsely deny authorship of her own journalism.

Given the important issues at stake that liberal media outlets have vocally elevated as crucial — LGBT equality, combating bigotry, the security and reliability of online information, the dangers posed by hacking, journalistic integrity — one would think that they would be quite interested in this story and the critical questions it raises. But one would be quite wrong in assuming this.

The extraordinary claims from Reid that she was hacked by cunning and malicious actors has received substantial media attention — but only from conservatives sites such as Fox News and Hot Air (which asks some quite good questions):

So four months ago, Reid took ownership of the mocking remarks found on her old blog, even adding “there’s no excusing it.” Now she’s saying it wasn’t her at all and the FBI has been notified. Why didn’t she realize the problem before she apologized last year? Why didn’t she mention that she believed the site had been hacked until this new, unflattering material was revealed?

Mediaite notes that the person who sent them the fresh examples also sent them links to the internet archive showing where the screengrabs came from. However, the entire site is now gone from the archive so it’s no longer possible to see the archives of The Reid Report.

One way an archive can be removed is by the owner of the site adding a robots.txt file which tells the Internet Archive to exclude the site. Another way is to email the site and ask them to remove it. So it seems that, sometime after the story broke last December, Joy Reid had the archive taken down. Did she do that because she knew it had been hacked or because it was embarrassing? It seems she was embarrassed by it last year but now it’s someone else’s fault entirely.

A CNN reporter, Nathan McDermott, expressed subtle yet obvious skepticism: “Joy Reid uses the old, ‘I was hacked!’ defense after newly discovered homophobic posts from her blog were revealed.” (By “old,” perhaps McDermott was referencing the fact that Anthony Weiner, along with many others, originally claimed his accounts had been “hacked” when embarrassing material was revealed under his name.)

By very stark and notable contrast, liberal news outlets and liberal journalists have steadfastly ignored the story almost completely (the only exception I’ve seen is a tweet from the editor of one large liberal blog who suggested that Vladimir Putin was behind the hacking in order to ruin Reid’s reputation).

The reason liberal news sites are ignoring the story is as self-evident as it is troubling: Because Reid’s ideology is in accordance with theirs, and they therefore don’t care if she’s lying or telling the truth when denying authorship of these bigoted articles, nor do they care about the anti-LGBT bigotry itself. Those are concepts to be exploited opportunistically for partisan gain; they are devoid of any actual conviction. Their silence on this latest, incredibly strange episode involving one of their iconic media personalities demonstrates that rather compellingly.

Just as right-wing sites would be steadfastly ignoring this story if a Fox News host — in response to embarrassing articles found on their website — had claimed they were the work of bizarrely innovative and enterprising hackers, while liberal sites would be flooding the internet with detailed and indignant coverage of those claims, liberal sites are going to just pretend the Joy Reid story does not exist until it disappears. Reid knows this — she works every day with the people who run these liberal outlets and she knows exactly what their mentality is — and that’s why she feels no obligation even to address it beyond the statement she provided to Mediaite.

Reid is assuming that liberal media outlets will prioritize their ideological and partisan affinity for her over their proclaimed, profound concern for LGBT bigotry, hacking, and journalistic integrity. And on that question, at least, Reid is almost certainly right. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why trust in media institutions has collapsed to the point where people are as willing to believe what they read from fake sites as they are from established ones?

Update: April 24, 2018, 5:39 p.m.
The organization that maintains the Wayback Machine Internet Archive issued a statement this afternoon on its official blog, in response to this article and last night from Mediate’s. They write that in December, Reid’s lawyers contacted them and requested that they remove Reid’s blog from their archive on the ground that it had been tampered with. In response, they “let Reid’s lawyers know that the information provided was not sufficient for us to verify claims of manipulation” and thus “declined to take down the archives.”

In other words, they could find no evidence that Reid’s claims were true that her blog was hacked, and thus refused to remove it. Thereafter, special code was placed on Reid’s blog, presumably by Reid, that resulted in the automatic deletion of her blog from the archives.

As CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski put it, the Internet Archive’s response “basically says there’s no proof Reid’s posts were the result of hacking or tampering, adding, ‘Reid’s claim regarding the point of manipulation is still unclear to us.'”

Correction: April 24, 2018
In discussing Reid’s multiple articles implying that former Gov. Crist was gay but in the closet, this article used a phrase inadvertently suggesting that he has subsequently come out as gay. He never has; Crist continues to maintain he is not gay. That phrase has been removed.

The post MSNBC’s Joy Reid Claims Her Website Was Hacked and Bigoted Anti-LGBT Content Added, a Bizarre Story Liberal Outlets Ignore appeared first on The Intercept.

Cartoon: 'Identity politics'

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/04/2018 - 9:50pm in

This paragraph from Linda Burnham in the Guardian last year spells it out nicely:

It’s never a good idea to enter willingly into a frame your opponent has constructed to entrap you. The term “identity politics” is part of a whole vocabulary including “thought police,” “politically correct,” and “liberal elites”, whose main intention is to undermine the legitimacy of liberal and left politics. Uncritically adopting the “identity politics” language of the right is the equivalent of dropping our guard and waltzing on to their terrain. Master’s tools, master’s house, anyone? We need to recognise a toxic frame when we see one and refuse to be a party to its proliferation.

Once upon a time, “identity politics” was a phrase heard occasionally in the halls of academia (at least, for those of us who were social science majors), typically in discussion of nationalist movements or other phenomena outside of day-to-day US political debate. Now, thanks largely to right-wing media, it has become a noxious catchphrase that lumps together all social justice movements — the fight for civil rights, equality for women, same-sex marriage, immigrant rights, to name just a few — into a belittling abstraction that makes these great historical movements sound frivolous. The phrase has become so normalized, many progressives use it uncritically. We need to wake up and recognize it for what it has become: a sanitized shorthand for “those people” — a dog whistle. You want to talk about these issues? Be specific. Spell out what you mean. Are you referring to Black Lives Matter? Don’t hide behind a sterile, human being-erasing euphemism.

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The DNC’S Lawsuit Against WikiLeaks Poses a Serious Threat to Press Freedom

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/04/2018 - 11:52am in

The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit this afternoon in a Manhattan federal court against the Russian government, the Trump campaign, and various individuals it alleges participated in the plot to hack its email servers and disseminate the contents as part of the 2016 election. The DNC also sued WikiLeaks for its role in publishing the hacked materials, though it does not allege that WikiLeaks participated in the hacking or even knew in advance about it; its sole role, according to the DNC’s lawsuit, was publishing the hacked emails.

The DNC’s suit, as it pertains to WikiLeaks, poses a grave threat to press freedom. The theory of the suit — that WikiLeaks is liable for damages it caused when it “willfully and intentionally disclosed” the DNC’s communications (paragraph 183) — would mean that any media outlet that publishes misappropriated documents or emails (exactly what media outlets quite often do) could be sued by the entity or person about which they are reporting, or even theoretically prosecuted for it, or that any media outlet releasing an internal campaign memo is guilty of “economic espionage” (paragraph 170):

It is extremely common for media outlets to publish or report on materials that are stolen, hacked, or otherwise obtained in violation of the law. In October 2016 — one month before the election — someone mailed a copy of Donald Trump’s 1995 tax returns to the New York Times, which published parts of it even though it is illegal to disclose someone’s tax returns without the taxpayer’s permission; in March 2017, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow did the same thing with Trump’s 2005 tax returns.

In April, 2016, the Washington Post obtained and published a confidential internal memo from the Trump campaign. Media outlets constantly publish private companies’ internal documents. Just three weeks ago, BuzzFeed obtained and published a secret Facebook memo outlining the company’s internal business strategies, the contents of which were covered by most major media outlets.

Some of the most important stories in contemporary journalism have come from media outlets obtaining and publishing materials that were taken without authorization or even in violation of the law. Both the New York Times and Washington Post published thousands of pages from the top-secret Pentagon Papers after Daniel Ellsberg took them without authorization from the Pentagon — and they won the right to publish them in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Guardian and the Washington Post won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for publishing and reporting on huge numbers of top-secret documents taken by Edward Snowden from the National Security Agency. The Guardian, the New York Times, and numerous papers from around the world broke multiple stories by publishing classified classified documents downloaded by Chelsea Manning without authorization and sent to WikiLeaks. In 2016, more than 100 newspapers from around the world published and reported on millions of private financial documents known as the Panama Papers, which were taken without authorization from one of the world’s biggest offshore law firms and revealed the personal finances of people around the world.


In sum, investigative journalism frequently entails media outlets receiving documents and other private information from people who have stolen them or otherwise broke the law to obtain and release them. To convert that into a legal transgression or part of an unlawful racketeering plot — as the DNC lawsuit seeks to do — is to turn a core part of journalism into something illegal.

Media figures have constantly sounded the alarm about threats to press freedom each time Donald Trump posts an insulting tweet about various media personalities. But the DNC’s lawsuit — just like the attempts of the Obama and Trump DOJs to criminalize and prosecute whistleblowing under the Espionage Act — is an actual grave threat to those press freedoms.

What the DNC is counting on is that contempt for WikiLeaks and Julian Assange is so intense in official Washington that it will drown out the obvious menace this lawsuit poses to basic press freedom, or that journalists will be afraid to object out of fear that it will look like they are siding with a despised-in-Washington organization that has been accused by Trump CIA officials (without evidence) of being “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

But just as one should object to torture and the denial of due process for Guantánamo detainees — even if some of the people detained there are actually terrorists who have killed people — one’s personal feelings about Assange and WikiLeaks should be totally irrelevant to recognizing and sounding the alarm about how dangerous the DNC’s legal theory is.

Nor does it matter at all whether one views WikiLeaks as “real journalists” — whatever that might mean. The First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press is not just for media corporations; it is not applicable only to a select group of people called “journalists,” but rather operates to protect an activity when engaged in by anyone. It protects everyone who wishes to publish information that informs the public on matters of public interest.

Even WikiLeaks’ most devoted critics and enemies are constrained to acknowledge that WikiLeaks’ publications in general — and its disclosure of at least some of the DNC and Podesta emails, in particular — informed the public about matters legitimately in the public interest. That’s why literally every major media outlet reported on their contents, why those documents forced the resignation of five top DNC officials and the firing of a CNN commentator, and why the DNC itself believes, as evidenced by this lawsuit, that it changed perceptions of Hillary Clinton.

That the Constitution and basic precepts of press freedom bar the attempt to convert WikiLeaks’ publication into something illegal was a fact embraced by the Obama administration. The Obama DOJ was eager to prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing hundreds of thousands of State Department cables and classified war logs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But it knew that it was barred from doing so if all it could demonstrate was that WikiLeaks published stolen information.

As a result, the Obama DOJ knew that its only chance to prosecute WikiLeaks was if it could prove that Assange actually participated in and abetted what the government regarded as the theft by Chelsea Manning of those documents; so it tried hard, as the New York Times reported in 2010, to prove that Assange did more than just receive and publish the stolen documents:

Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. [Chelsea] Manning to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them. … But while prosecutors have used such laws to go after leakers and hackers, they have never successfully prosecuted recipients of leaked information for passing it on to others — an activity that can fall under the First Amendment’s strong protections of speech and press freedoms.

The Obama DOJ could never find evidence that anyone from WikiLeaks actually helped Manning take the documents. They concluded that WikiLeaks’ role was confined to receiving and then publishing the materials Manning took. As a result, the Obama DOJ decided that it could not prosecute WikiLeaks because to do so would be to threaten all press freedom. After all, if it were criminal for WikiLeaks to publish those documents, why wasn’t it also a crime for the New York Times and The Guardian to do so? As the Washington Post put it in 2013:

The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists, according to U.S. officials. …  [O]fficials said that although Assange published classified documents, he did not leak them, something they said significantly affects their legal analysis. …

Justice officials said they looked hard at Assange but realized that they have what they described as a “New York Times problem.” If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

In 2017, after Trump CIA Director Mike Pompeo threatened to do everything possible to destroy WikiLeaks, including prosecuting it, former Obama DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Twitter that the threats were “hollow” because the U.S. government knows that it is not illegal for someone merely to publish documents, even if the documents are stolen:

That a grave threat to press freedoms would be posed by any attempts to render illegal WikiLeaks’ publication of stolen material was also widely recognized many major media outlets, which strongly editorialized against it. The Washington Post Editorial Page, for instance, published an 2010 editorial headlined “Don’t Charge WikiLeaks”:

Such prosecutions are a bad idea. The government has no business indicting someone who is not a spy and who is not legally bound to keep its secrets. Doing so would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations that vet and verify material and take seriously the protection of sources and methods when lives or national security are endangered.

No media outlet can function, indeed journalism cannot function, if it becomes illegal to publish secret materials taken by a source without authorization or even illegally. The Obama DOJ — which was not exactly a bastion of press freedom protection, and which despised Assange as much as anyone — wisely recognized this fact, when it decided that it could not prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing stolen materials without severely endangering press freedoms.

The DNC, unfortunately, is not nearly as wise — nor nearly as worried — about destroying press freedom in the U.S. The theory it embraced today to sue WikiLeaks for publishing documents is a far more serious menace than any of Donald Trump’s insulting tweets about Chuck Todd. It deserves condemnation and scorn by anyone who actually cares about press freedom.

The post The DNC’S Lawsuit Against WikiLeaks Poses a Serious Threat to Press Freedom appeared first on The Intercept.

With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confrontational Toward Russia Than Obama Was

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/04/2018 - 12:14am in

The civil war in Syria began in 2011 and escalated for five years during the Obama presidency, yet Barack Obama — despite demands from leaders of both parties and think tanks across the spectrum — never once bombed Syrian government targets. Although the CIA under Obama spent $1 billion per year to covertly train and fund Bashar al-Assad’s enemies, it was never close to enough to topple him: just enough to keep the war going.

But Obama never bombed Assad or his military assets: a decision which, to this day, is scorned across official Washington. Hillary Clinton blasted Obama’s refusal to do more to stop Assad, and in 2017, she actively encouraged Donald Trump to bomb Assad and take out his air force.

To this day, Obama regards his refusal to bomb Assad as one of his best moments; about this, Obama told The Atlantic in 2016: “I’m very proud of this moment.” He made the decision because he “was tired of watching Washington unthinkingly drift toward war in Muslim countries” and because he was wary of military confrontation with a regime that is “sponsored by two large states”: Russia and Iran.

Indeed, not only did Obama refuse to risk military confrontation with Russia in Syria, he sought in 2016 — after Russia annexed Ukraine — to form a military partnership with Vladimir Putin to bomb agreed-to targets in Syria:

In contrast to Obama’s efforts to avoid confrontation with Russia, his successor has been far more belligerent — not only in Syria, but elsewhere. In April of last year, Trump ordered the bombing of a Syrian military airfield near Homs; though it was quite limited, it was intended to send a message to Assad and Putin — and it was more than Obama was willing to do.

Over the past several days, Trump has made very clear that he intends to order another bombing campaign against Assad. After an alleged chemical attack by Assad, Trump declared on Twitter that “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” and warned that there would be a “Big price” to pay for this. All of the signals over the past 48 hours — including the cancellation of long-planned trips by Trump and his top national security officials — have made clear that Trump is planning another bombing assault against Assad.

This morning, Trump explicitly promised that missiles were on the way. For good measure, he mocked Russian promises to intercept those missiles and boasted that they would be unable to stop his bombing campaign:

The exact danger Obama sought to avoid — military confrontation with Russia in Syria — is now upon us, being directly threatened by Trump. And Democrats — who spent years first scorning Obama for not becoming more militarily involved in Syria and then pushing Trump to be more hostile to Moscow — are, just as Clinton last year did, defending Trump’s military aggression.

This morning on CNN, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — who spent 2012 mocking Mitt Romney as an archaic Cold Warrior for warning that Putin posed a grave threat to the U.S. — praised Trump’s tweets: “I agree with President Trump and his description of Putin,” she said, adding: “At least the President has recognized that Putin is not a friend.” She then demanded that a “strategy of some kind” is needed for this new bombing campaign, worrying that one has not yet been formulated:

It is a common refrain among Trump’s Democratic critics that he is Putin’s “puppet.” Because the Russian government preferred him in the 2016 presidential election and has compromising information to hold over his head, so the prevailing narrative goes, Trump is predisposed toward, perhaps even captive to, Moscow’s point of view — and thus, enacts policies demanded by the Kremlin to benefit the Russians at the expense of the U.S.

MSNBC-PutinTrump-Power-Play--1491941048

Putin/Trump Power Play.

Yet far beyond Trump’s hostile posture toward Russia’s client state led by Assad, the reality is the exact opposite: The Trump administration has been more belligerent, and more confrontational, toward Moscow than the Obama administration was.

Two weeks ago, Trump responded to the alleged Russian-directed poisoning attack in the United Kingdom by personally signing off on expelling 60 Russian diplomats and shuttering the Russian consulate in Seattle — just another example negating the claim that the U.S. under Trump is serving the dictates of the Russian government. Indeed, Trump’s decision on the Russian diplomats was the largest such expulsion in U.S. history: higher than the number Obama expelled after being told that the Russians had interfered in the U.S. election. (In 1986, when Ronald Reagan expelled 55 Russian diplomats, it was previously the largest number of Russian diplomats ever expelled at one time from the United States.)

After Trump ordered what the Washington Post correctly described as “the largest expulsion of Russian spies and diplomats in U.S. history,” the paper acknowledged an uncomfortable, narrative-busting truth:

Despite Trump’s reliably warm rhetoric toward Moscow and his steadfast reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Trump administration has at times taken aggressive action against Russia at the recommendation of the president’s top aides.

Indeed, the Post then quoted John Herbst, “a Russia scholar at the Atlantic Council,” as saying that the Trump administration has been more willing to confront Putin than the Obama administration was. “If you just look at policy, this administration has taken steps the Obama administration was not willing to.” Though Herbst somehow speculated that Trump’s “heart doesn’t seem to be in it,” he emphasized that Trump’s overall approach to Moscow has been far more in line with a hawkish view toward Russia than Obama’s was.

This assessment has ample support — beyond the bombing of Assad and the record expulsion of Russian diplomats:

Arming Ukraine: For years, the Obama administration refused to send lethal arms to Ukraine despite bipartisan demand that he do so. Proponents of arming Ukraine argued that doing so would be a way to push back against Russia after the annexation of Crimea. Opponents, including Obama, believed that sending lethal arms would lead to an escalation of the conflict and needlessly antagonize Russia. As The Atlantic put it after its widely touted interview with Obama: “Obama’s theory here is simple: Ukraine is a core Russian interest but not an American one.”

By stark contrast, the Trump administration last December approved a lethal arms transfers, including anti-tank weapons. The Russian government was not pleased. “Washington is trying to present itself as a mediator,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “It is not a mediator at all, it is an accomplice in fomenting a war.”

Appointing an Anti-Russia Hawk as U.N. Ambassador: The Trump administration’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has made opposition to Russian foreign policy a cornerstone of her tenure at Turtle Bay. In mid-March, she urged aggressive action after the Salisbury attack, even warning that the Russians may soon pull off similar operations within the United States.

“If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used,” she said at the U.N. “They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this council. This is a defining moment.”

Nominating an Anti-Russia Hawk as the Ambassador to Germany: The Trump administration tapped former Bush administration staffer Richard Grenell to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany, a country whose geopolitical importance makes it a counterweight to Russia. Grenell is a hawkish critic of Russia, who castigated the Obama administration for “swearing off military action [against Russia] in public.”

Nominating an Anti-Russia Hawk as CIA Director and Secretary of State: During the Obama years, one of the loudest anti-Russian voices in Congress was GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo, repeatedly warning — at a time when Obama was accommodating Putin and seeking to cooperate with him — that Putin was a grave danger to the U.S. Once Trump appointed Pompeo as CIA director and now secretary of state, Pompeo continued to speak in belligerent and hawkish tones about Russia, warning that it poses a serious threat to U.S. interests.

Antagonizing Russia’s Iranian Allies: The Trump administration has been harshly critical of engagement with Iran, which is a close ally of Russia. Last August, Trump signed into law new sanctions toward Iran that were opposed by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders because he believed these new sanctions could upset the Iran nuclear deal. It is also rumored that the administration may pull out of the Iran deal altogether in May. By contrast, Obama worked directly with Putin to forge a peace agreement with the Iranians.

Appointing a National Security Adviser Who Is Hostile to Russia: Although Russia critics have seized on a curious 2013 John Bolton video, in which he promoted looser gun laws in the country as evidence of Bolton-Russia ties, the former George W. Bush U.N. ambassador has in the recent past evinced quite hawkish views toward Russia policy. Bolton doesn’t mince words about what he thinks about Russian cyberoperations in 2016. Writing that “attempting to undermine America’s constitution is far more than just a quotidian covert operation. It is in fact a casus belli, a true act of war, and one Washington will never tolerate.” He also frequently advocates for bombing Iran, Russia’s ally.

Sanctioning Russian Oligarchs Close to Putin: In a move this week that NBC News called “a black Monday for Russian oligarchs,” Trump announced “sweeping sanctions against members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle,” causing the ruble to tumble. Specifically, “the Treasury Department, in connection with the State Department, targeted seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control. It also issued sanctions on 17 senior government officials, along with a state-owned weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank.”

It’s certainly true that Trump — like Obama before him — has repeatedly expressed a desire to work with Putin and Russia on perceived common interests. Just today, after threatening Putin, Trump lamented that “our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.” He added, echoing what was once standard orthodoxy among American liberals for decades during the Cold War: “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?

It’s also true that Trump has made his fair share of positive remarks about Putin and, until recently, had refrained from criticizing him. But that’s part of a larger pattern in which Trump has spoken only positively about the Philippines’s Rodrigo Duterte, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Saudi despots, and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump — like most American presidents — has an affinity for authoritarian rulers in general who are allied with the U.S.: a long-standing tactic that is by no means unique to Russia or to Trump.

But whatever else is true, Trump — notwithstanding the prevailing Democratic Party and media narrative over the last 18 months — has been far more willing to confront Russia and defy Putin than Obama ever was. While that may make think tank militarists, the defense industry, and warmongers in both parties giddy, it is extremely dangerous for the world.

What makes this all the more dangerous is that Democrats, both because of ideology and political maneuvering, have painted themselves into a corner where they cannot possibly provide any meaningful, credible opposition to Trump’s increasingly dangerous path regarding Syria and Russia.

Top photo: U.S. President Barack Obama, right, reacts while listening to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin before the opening of the first plenary session of the G-20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, on Monday, June 18, 2012.

The post With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confrontational Toward Russia Than Obama Was appeared first on The Intercept.

#marchforourlives: From liberal discourse to class analysis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/04/2018 - 4:53am in

image/jpeg iconsjm-l-gunmarch-0325-21212.jpg

How can a class perspective help to shed light on the ongoing debate over gun control?

It's worth attempting to anchor the debate in a class politic, not only to fend off any creeping liberalism but because #marchforourlives is part of a developing process of politicization of a new generation.

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Vote Democratic! Who Else Would Always Consistently Vote Republican?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/04/2018 - 4:11pm in

Are Democrats stupid? Are Democrats corrupt? Are they both? It’s hard to tell sometimes. Most recently, Democrats gave away the leverage that they had against President Trump and the Republicans when they agreed to sign off on a two-year spending deal that favored the Republicans in exchange for a tepid promise by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to allow a clean up and down vote on whether or not undocumented people brought to the United States by their parents as children would be allowed to stay permanently. Now the president is saying that there will be no such deal. Democrats aren’t even bothering to complain anymore. So why should anyone vote Democratic?

The $500,000 GoFundMe Charity Campaign for Wealthy Ex-FBI Official Andrew McCabe Is Obscene

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 01/04/2018 - 1:40am in

In 2017, more than a half-million human beings — 553,742 of them to be exact — were homeless in the U.S. for at least some time. Last year was the first since the 2008 financial crisis that America’s homeless population grew. The 2016 U.S. census found that 12.7 percent of Americans — which translates to just over 43 million human beings — live below the poverty line. Millions of American children live in hunger: according to a 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture study, the U.S. has “13.1 million households with children that often go without food: ‘food-insecure households.'”

Those horrifying statistics are just for the U.S. Extreme human deprivation and suffering is pervasive all over the planet: hundreds of millions of human beings live in unimaginable poverty. According to the 2016 comprehensive World Bank study on global inequality, “767 million people are estimated to have been living below the international poverty line of US$1.90 per person per day. Almost 11 people in every 100 in the world, or 10.7 percent of the global population, were poor by this standard.” There is an “estimated 780 million illiterate adults worldwide, nearly two-thirds are women.”

Although roughly half of the world’s poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, they are found in large numbers on every continent on the planet (see chart, right). Close to a billion people lack basic plumbing; according to the Guardian in 2015, “around the world, 946 million people still go to the toilet outside.” Millions of children all over the world, and hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S., die every year from treatable diseases due to lack of available medical care.

The World Health Organization found in July of last year that “some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, and 6 in 10, or 4.5 billion, lack safely managed sanitation.” If one adds in non-human animals — from abandoned, starving pets to industrial systemic cruelty toward farm animals — the amount of deprivation and poverty-caused suffering in the world is virtually endless.

Actual charities in the U.S., non-profits that provide critical services to their communities, have been plagued by extreme financial difficulties for years. In January, the Journal Sentinel, citing a new report, explained that “the financial health of the nation’s community-based organizations — or CBOs — is increasingly precarious.”

Large numbers of Americans lack the ability to secure basic legal representation even when charged with serious crimes. One major reason that the U.S. imprisons more people than any other country in the world — both in terms of absolute numbers and proportionally — is that legal aid services have been continually slashed to the point where poor people and even those who are lower-middle-class have little chance of having competent, zealous representation, because of how overworked public defenders are.

As a result of these severe financial constraints in the legal system, citizens are often forced to plead guilty and accept prison terms because it’s their only viable option. As the Guardian wondered in 2016: “How many of the 30 defendants present for a single ‘mass plea’ hearing in Louisiana’s 16th judicial district in June would have pleaded not guilty if they’d had more than 20 seconds of legal counsel?”

In the midst of all of this need, struggle, misery and deprivation, a just-created online charity fund is enjoying massive success and an extraordinary outpouring of donations from small donors. It has become one of the most successful pages on the popular GoFundMe site: a campaign to raise money for former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe (pictured, above, next to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year). Created just 48 hours ago with the goal of raising $250,000 for McCabe’s “legal defense fund,” it has already doubled that amount — to over $500,000 — and shows no sign of slowing down, as donations continue to pour in as of publication of this article.

The funds will be used for his attorneys’ fees for various legal fights he faces. Those courtroom battles relate to a report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General which recommended that McCabe’s be fired after its investigators found that he repeatedly and deliberately lied to the FBI about his role in various leaks. Any amounts left over from this fund will be donated to a non-profit group designated by McCabe.

The original impetus for a charity drive for McCabe seems to have come from Silicon Valley investor Jason Calacanis, who two weeks ago announced on Twitter that, at the age of 47, he finally got motivated by someone’s suffering to create his very first ever GoFundMe campaign: one designed to raise funds that would go to McCabe personally. Calacanis ultimately announced he was terminating the campaign and would transfer the modest funds he received to the new fund drive for McCabe’s legal defense.

That new charity campaign received a huge boost yesterday when MSNBC’s beloved-by-Democrats host Rachel Maddow tweeted a link to the new GoFundMe campaign for McCabe to her 9.4 million followers. At the time of Maddow’s tweet — which has now been re-tweeted by 4,000 people and “liked” by another 11,000 — McCabe’s fund had $100,000. Less than 24 hours after Maddow’s viral tweet, the amount quintupled to a half-million dollars.

So here’s the nation’s 14th highest-paid TV star, just behind Blake Shelton of The Voice and the stars of Grey’s Anatomy, who earns at least $7 million per year from her Comcast salary alone (i.e, beyond her book and appearance income), successfully encouraging small donors who follow and watch her to charitably donate their money to a rich federal police officer who is married to a doctor and who lives in an extremely expensive home in the the richest county of the world’s wealthiest nation.

The next time you’re feeling pessimistic about the nature of humanity, just reflect on this touching act of compassion and empathy for the needy. By the way, the now-closed GoFundMe campaign for the family of Stephon Clark — the 22-year-old father of two young children who, while he was unarmed after he ran to his grandmother’s backyard, was gunned down by Sacramento Police with seven bullets in his back, while he took 10 minutes to die as the police officers who shot him did not call for medical help — generated $83,000 in donations, or 1/7 of what has been raised (thus far) for McCabe.

So who exactly is the recipient of this extraordinary public charity? McCabe has spent his career working at the FBI. He began working on organized crime investigations but switched to “counterterrorism” work as part of the 17-year-old U.S. “War on Terror.” He rose to the position of Deputy Director of the FBI under Jim Comey, where he worked on both the investigation into election-related hacking as well as the criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton for her private email server. It was in connection with those investigations that he was accused by the Inspector General of leaking secret information to the media and then lying about it to FBI officials.

By all metrics, McCabe and his family are financially secure; a more accurate term for them would be “quite wealthy.” As Splinter’s Paul Blest documented — in an article accurately entitled “Andrew McCabe Does Not Need Your Money” — his “average salary between 2015 and 2017, when he was in the senior leadership of the FBI, was over $157,000.” That income figure for McCabe does not count the income earned by McCabe’s wife, who is a highly accomplished medical doctor with multiple sources of income.

McCabe’s FBI salary alone put his family in the top 4-5 percentile of income for all Americans. An analysis by FactCheck.org of financial disclosures forms he filed found that, beyond that salary, “McCabe has several mutual fund accounts, including 529 college savings accounts and a 401K retirement fund, with the total value of those investment accounts ranging from $287,000 to $880,000.” While his firing significantly reduced the value of his pension (which would have been $1.8 million had he retired as scheduled: $60,000 per year until the 50-year-old McCabe died), he still will receive some pension benefits.

According to public property records, the McCabes purchased their Northern Virginia home in 2006 for a price of $715,000, which means it’s worth far more than that now, as real state prices in that region have skyrocketed. Indeed, the McCabes’ home almost doubled in value from 2003, when it was sold to the prior owners, to 2006, when the McCabes purchased it. The expensive house in which the McCabes reside is located in Loudoun County, which, according to the latest Census Bureau report, is the single richest county in the entire United States.

And this is all independent of the massive private-sector wealth that is almost certainly making its way to McCabe as you read these words. Given the massive pre-publication success and anticipated blockbuster status of the forthcoming book by Jim Comey (just by the way, for other MSNBC hosts who may be considering promoting a GoFundMe campaign for Comey: he’s worth $11 million and received a $3 million payout from a hedge fund when he was confirmed as FBI Director), it is a virtual certainty that publishing houses will be competing to pay a hefty advance to McCabe for a tell-all book of his own, particularly given news that he kept notes on his conversations with President Trump. A cable news contract also seems likely given how many U.S. security state officials are hired by MSNBC and CNN.

Beyond the current and future wealth of the McCabe family, what makes this outpouring of charity for him so noxious is the work he’s spent his adult life doing. For many years, McCabe has gone to work every day in a building that actually — and appropriately — bears the name of J. Edgar Hoover.

The Pennsylvania Avenue entrance of the J. Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Building is seen in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Pennsylvania Avenue entrance of the J. Edgar Hoover Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Building is seen in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

AP

The recipient of this GoFundMe campaign spent much of the last two decades as a senior official of an agency that has long been aggressively entrapping young and mentally unstable Muslims, got caught repeatedly and systematically breaking the law in spying on Americans, has been “using race and ethnicity in conducting assessments and investigations,” spied on Muslim-American political leaders and scholars, and secretly maintained a mass surveillance program with “more than 1.5 billion government and private-sector records about citizens and foreigners, the documents show, bringing the government closer than ever to implementing the ‘Total Information Awareness’ system first dreamed up by the Pentagon in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks.” Just a few months ago, the agency McCabe helped run got caught creating a special program to target black and Muslim activists in the U.S.

In one sense, this is just the latest chapter in the bizarre and infinitely ironic spectacle of Democrats venerating security state agencies such as the CIA, NSA and FBI under the banner of “resistance.” Canonizing law enforcement agents and intelligence operatives most definitely makes this history’s strangest rendition of “resistance,” a term that — until Democrats after 2016 desperately needed a re-branding campaign — had been reserved for dissidents who bravely risked imprisonment and even death fighting to subvert, not sanctify, state security agencies that perform those functions.

But a charity campaign fueled by a multi-millionaire cable news host, for the benefit of a rich federal police official, is not just bizarre but obscene. If one wants to protest the tragic plight of Andrew McCabe, there are many ways to do that aside from encouraging people to donate money to his legal battles.

For anyone who works with people who are actually suffering and deprived, or who falls into the huge category of humans who experience that suffering and deprivation, or who lacks legal representation because of poverty, or who has been victimized by the FBI’s abuses and lawlessness, watching this public campaign direct a tidal wave of money to someone like McCabe is really nothing short of nauseating.

The post The $500,000 GoFundMe Charity Campaign for Wealthy Ex-FBI Official Andrew McCabe Is Obscene appeared first on The Intercept.

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