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FBI

Cowardice

What happened today, with the FBI Director folding like a wet paper box and recommending Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted, has to go down in the annals of the history of the United States as the day respect for the law in this country died.

Andrew McCarthy outlines the irrefutable facts in the case:

There is no way of getting around this: According to Director James Comey (disclosure: a former colleague and longtime friend of mine), Hillary Clinton checked every box required for a felony violation of Section 793(f) of the federal penal code (Title 18): With lawful access to highly classified information she acted with gross negligence in removing and causing it to be removed it from its proper place of custody, and she transmitted it and caused it to be transmitted to others not authorized to have it, in patent violation of her trust. Director Comey even conceded that former Secretary Clinton was “extremely careless” and strongly suggested that her recklessness very likely led to communications (her own and those she corresponded with) being intercepted by foreign intelligence services.

So what shouldn’t be something that anyone could get around, assuming every box was checked as Comey says, is the consequences of their felony violations.

But … when it comes to the elite (politicians and various media types), there’s always a “but” … then Comey says:

Yet, Director Comey recommended against prosecution of the law violations he clearly found on the ground that there was no intent to harm the United States.

Intent or lack of intent really doesn’t repair the damage her gross negligence cost us, does it? In fact, that’s the point – “intent” is irrelevant.  Damage to our national security is relevant.  Comey is arguing that opposite – that if we mishandle classified material in such a way that it causes damage to the United States and its national security, but we do it  with “no intent to harm”, why we’re good to go. As long as we intended no harm, well, in “otherworld” apparently “no harm was then done” and we should be left to do it again when occupying an even higher office.  One can come up with endless variations on the “no intent to harm” nonsense when applied to other crimes.  And guess what – it doesn’t do any better when used in those sorts of context either.

I have to wonder where James Comey will go to get his integrity back, because with that bit of nonsense he lost it.  As did the organization he heads.

I wonder if he even thought about that.  Apparently this whitewash was worth his honor and reputation, including that of the former proud organization he leads.  Disgraceful doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Intent?  In a gross negligence case?  It isn’t even relevant.  As McCarthy points out:

In essence, in order to give Mrs. Clinton a pass, the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require. The added intent element, moreover, makes no sense: The point of having a statute that criminalizes gross negligence is to underscore that government officials have a special obligation to safeguard national defense secrets; when they fail to carry out that obligation due to gross negligence, they are guilty of serious wrongdoing. The lack of intent to harm our country is irrelevant. People never intend the bad things that happen due to gross negligence.

I would point out, moreover, that there are other statutes that criminalize unlawfully removing and transmitting highly classified information with intent to harm the United States. Being not guilty (and, indeed, not even accused) of Offense B does not absolve a person of guilt on Offense A, which she has committed.

 

One doesn’t need to be a Supreme Court Justice much less even have a law degree to understand these points.  So how in the world did Comey justify this to himself to the point that he actually made this pitiful argument?  How?  How does a man who is qualified enough to be selected to lead one of the most elite law enforcement agencies in the world – one more time … law enforcement agency – just trade in his honor, integrity and reputation that quickly for … what?!

Finally, I thought McCarthy’s conclusion was spot on:

Finally, I was especially unpersuaded by Director Comey’s claim that no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case based on the evidence uncovered by the FBI. To my mind, a reasonable prosecutor would ask: Why did Congress criminalize the mishandling of classified information through gross negligence? The answer, obviously, is to prevent harm to national security. So then the reasonable prosecutor asks: Was the statute clearly violated, and if yes, is it likely that Mrs. Clinton’s conduct caused harm to national security? If those two questions are answered in the affirmative, I believe many, if not most, reasonable prosecutors would feel obliged to bring the case.

Comey’s job is not to decide whether to prosecute or not.  His job is to gather the evidence and let those who do that job make that decision.  And he clearly gathered enough evidence, according to himself, to make the case.

And then threw out an irrelevant excuse as justification for not doing so.

No penalty for Clinton’s obvious gross negligence and the harm she did to national security.  No accountability.

And the same can be said for Comey.  Oh he won’t be reprimanded, you can count on that.  No, the only way he’d have gotten in trouble with the administration is to recommend indictment.  Nope, he’ll likely be able to keep his job in the next Clinton administration – at least until Hillary finds someone more suitable and amenable to her priorities.  Yup, no accountability for Comey either.

Well, except to be seen by those who know better as a honorless political hack who traded his integrity and reputation, and that of the FBI, for a pat on the head from his masters.

Remember, folks … laws are for the little people.

~McQ

Will justice actually be served?

Anthony DeChristopher over at The Hill thinks the latest finds on Hillary’s email server are a “game changer”.  And he makes a good point … it’s a game changer for someone:

Special Access Programs (SAP) is a game changer.  It is now undeniably clear that the results of the FBI investigation will be the end of one of two things:  Hillary’s bid for the White House or the legitimacy of the FBI—at least when it comes to prosecuting cases on the mishandling of classified material.

The FBI’s reputation has been tarnished in the last decade or so.  No longer is it thought of quite in the same way it once was.  A series of missteps, scandals and problems have lowered the once sterling reputation of the law enforcement agency.

On the other hand is a powerful political figure that’s in the running for President of the United States and just happens to be of the same party and the presently serving President of the United States.  To make it clear, the FBI works for the executive department under the Department of Justice.  And, of course, the DoJ is headed by an Obama appointee.  Oh, and remember, the Dems want to hold on to the White House.

Hillary Clinton is a “win at any price” person.  She badly wants to be the first female President of the United States.  Badly.  Very, very badly.

The FBI wants to polish up its reputation as the incorrigible and incorruptible law enforcement agency that isn’t swayed or impacted by politics, but simply enforces the law.

Something has got to give.

DeChristopher is apparently a former Special Forces soldier who gives you a brief run down of the gravity of the Clinton offense.

First, when imagery that is classified SECRET//NOFORN (no foreign national) is viewed, regardless of the absence of classification markings, it is distinctly evident. Second, any documents that contain or reference HUMINT is always classified SECRET, and if specific names of sources or handlers are mentioned, they are at a minimum SECRET//NOFORN.  Third, SIGINT is always classified at the TS level.  It’s not uncommon for some SI to be downgraded and shared over SECRET mediums, however, it is highly unlikely that a Secretary of State would receive downgraded intelligence.  Finally, SAP intelligence has been discovered on Clinton’s private server, and many are now calling this the smoking gun.  SAP is a specialized management system of additional security controls designed to protect SAR or Special Access Required.  SAR has to do with extremely perishable operational methods and capabilities, and only selected individuals who are “read on” or “indoctrinated” are permitted access to these programs.  The mishandling of SAP can cause catastrophic damage to current collection methods, techniques and personnel.

Got it? This isn’t something that is hard to figure out, and anyone who has worked at high levels of government for years already knows all this.  Now comes the chaser:

In other words, if you have worked with classified material for more than a day, it seems highly implausible that someone could receive any of the aforementioned over an un-secure medium without alarm bells sounding.  However, reading about a Special Access Program on an unclassified device would make anyone even remotely familiar with intelligence mess their pantsuit.

You can tell it has put her highness off her stride, but she’s resurrecting the VRWC to cover that.

However this is going to be interesting to watch.  There is a large amount of evidence that points to her being directly responsible for a horrific, nay, epic security breach at the highest level.

Will the FBI do it’s job?  Or is this, like so many Clinton scandals, going to end up with no action being taken when you can be sure if it was you or I, we’d be frog-marched so fast to the local hoosegow that it would make our heads swim.

But we’re the little people, aren’t we?

~McQ

Still plotting after all these years

And we still try to deny the source of the terror.  What am I talking about, you ask? 

A Massachusetts man who was plotting to use explosives and radio controlled aircraft was arrested yesterday by the FBI for plotting to blow up the Capital and Pentagon.

It was a rather imaginative and fantastic plot by Rezwan Ferdaus who believed himself to be working with members of al Qaeda.  Of course that’s key to the point in the first sentence as you’ll see.  Anyway, the plot:

Ferdaus allegedly gave the undercover FBI agents a detailed set of attack plans “with step-by-step instructions as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and Capitol,” according to the Department of Justice.

The plans focused on the use of three small remote-controlled drone-like aircraft loaded with C-4 plastic explosives, which he planned to fly into the Capitol and the Pentagon using GPS equipment, according to the DOJ.

[…]

Ferdaus’s plan allegedly evolved to include a “ground assault” as well, in which six people would coordinate an automatic weapons attack with the aerial assault and massacre whomever came into their path, according to the DOJ.

For the past five months, Ferdaus has allegedly been stockpiling the equipment he needed for his proposed attack, including a remote-controlled aircraft, 25 pounds of fake C-4 explosives, six automatic AK-47 assault rifles and three grenades, according to the DOJ. He allegedly kept all of it in a storage facility in Massachusetts, where he was arrested.

Further:

Ferdaus allegedly modified eight cellphones to act as detonation devices for improvised explosive devices, and gave them to the FBI agents to be used against American soldiers in Iraq.

“During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq,” according to the DOJ. “Ferdaus responded, ‘That was exactly what I wanted.’”

And:

According to the DOJ, a focal point of Ferdaus’s plots revolved around “jihad” and his desire to carry out the will of Allah.

But:

The U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, stressed that any underlying religious motives to Ferdaus’s actions should not reflect on the Muslim culture at-large.

“I want the public to understand that Mr. Ferdaus’s conduct, as alleged in the complaint, is not reflective of a particular culture, community or religion,” Ortiz said.

Really?  So none of this was “reflective of a particular culture, community or religion?

Poppycock.  It is indeed reflective of a particular culture, community and religion no matter how perverted other adherents of that religion claim otherwise.  It certainly doesn’t mean that that all Muslims agree or that the community at large would act this way, but we need to quit pretending actions like this just magically happen without any influence from those three areas.

How else, then, do you get the “culture, community and religion” to face up to the fact that it has some responsibility in what is happening in this ongoing “jihad” (yeah, there’s a religion and culture free word)?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Third “Gunwalker” weapon evidence withheld by FBI?

More developments in the fiasco that is known as Operation Fast and Furious.

There appears to have been a third “Gunwalker” weapon at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry which hasn’t been in evidence, suggesting it has been withheld.  Audio recordings reveal the mention of a third gun that until now has been unknown.  The conversation is between ATF Agent Hope MacAllister and Glendale, AZ gun shop owner Andre Howard:

Agent: Well there was two.

Dealer: There’s three weapons.

Agent: There’s three weapons.

Dealer: I know that.

Agent: And yes, there’s serial numbers for all three.

Dealer: That’s correct.

Agent: Two of them came from this store.

Dealer: I understand that.

Agent: There’s an SKS that I don’t think came from…. Dallas or Texas or something like that.

Dealer: I know. talking about the AK’s

Agent: The two AK’s came from this store.

Dealer: I know that.

Agent: Ok.

Dealer: I did the Goddamned trace

Agent: Third weapon is the SKS has nothing to do with it.

Dealer: That didn’t come from me.

Agent: No and there is that’s my knowledge. and I spoke to someone who would know those are the only ones they have. So this is the agent who’s working the case, all I can go by is what she told me.

The tapes are several months old (mid March, 2011):

Law enforcement sources and others close to the Congressional investigation say the Justice Department’s Inspector General obtained the audio tapes several months ago as part of its investigation into Fast and Furious.

Then, the sources say for some reason the Inspector General passed the tapes along to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona: a subject in the investigation. It’s unclear why the Inspector General, who is supposed to investigate independently, would turn over evidence to an entity that is itself under investigation.

A spokesman from the Office of the Inspector General today said, "The OIG officially provided the United States Attorney’s Office with a copy of the recordings in question so that the USAO could consider them in connection with the government’s disclosure obligations in the pending criminal prosecutions of the gun traffickers. Prior to receiving the tapes, the OIG made clear that we would have to provide a copy of the recordings to the United States Attorney’s Office because they would need to review them to satisfy any legal disclosure obligations."

Uh, yeah.  And why has it taken this long for copies to be provided elsewhere?

Remember:

Court records have previously only mentioned two weapons: Romanian WASR "AK-47 type" assault rifles. Both were allegedly sold to suspects who were under ATF’s watch as part of Fast and Furious.

Per the agent in the transcript, the third weapon (SKS) came from “Dallas or Texas or something like that” and they had serial numbers for all three.

Why are we just finding out about the third weapon at the scene?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Why no warrant?

You go to get an oil change and while your car is up on the rack, the mechanic notices a strange wire.  It leads to some sort of device that is not a part of your car.  You pull it off, take pictures and put it on the internet trying to get some help identifying the object, and the next thing you know, the FBI is at your door demanding you return their GPS device.  You were under surveillance, something the FBI needed no probable cause or a warrant to do.

Of course the point is this isn’t something that occurred in China or some banana republic.  It happened here.

I’m not saying that perhaps their isn’t a need for surveillance or that the use of a GPS tracking device wouldn’t be a good way to do it.  What I’m questioning is the lack of due process before it is done:

One federal judge wrote that the widespread use of the device was straight out of George Orwell’s novel, "1984".

"By holding that this kind of surveillance doesn’t impair an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, the panel hands the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives," wrote Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a blistering dissent in which a three-judge panel from his court ruled that search warrants weren’t necessary for GPS tracking.

But other federal and state courts have come to the opposite conclusion.

Law enforcement advocates for the devices say GPS can eliminate time-consuming stakeouts and old-fashioned "tails" with unmarked police cars. The technology had a starring role in the HBO cops-and-robbers series "The Wire" and police use it to track every type of suspect — from terrorist to thieves stealing copper from air conditioners.

So the argument is it is convenient for law enforcement?  While I don’t normally agree with 9th Circuit judges, I certainly agree with Kozinski on this one.  And why is it such a bother for the FBI or any law enforcement agency to have to get a warrant to track a suspect. Probable cause.  Due process. Those are deeply embedded concepts that are designed to protect individual liberty.  In effect, Kozinski is exactly right – as it stands, law enforcement literally is empowered to track every single person in the US without their permission.

That isn’t the country steeped in individual liberty that I grew up to expect.

~McQ

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Russia is not our friend – part XVII

Russian spies?

Really?

Apparently so, or at least the FBI is convinced that 11 people it has arrested were indeed spies and they were spying for Russia.  Apparently the KGB’s successor, the SVR, just couldn’t help itself and places at least 5 couples in the US in deep cover.

The arrests were made after President Obama had a seemingly warm, back-slapping, hamburger eating meeting with Russian President Medvedev.  We’re told that Obama was not happy with the timing of the arrests (is there ever a good time?), but that the FBI feared their spies were about to bolt.

The arrests came after years of surveillance.  And, according to what has been released, if they weren’t spies, they certainly acted like them:

Criminal complaints filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Monday read like an old-fashioned cold war thriller: Spies swapping identical orange bags as they brushed past one another in a train station stairway. An identity borrowed from a dead Canadian, forged passports, messages sent by shortwave burst transmission or in invisible ink. A money cache buried for years in a field in upstate New York.

But the network of so-called illegals — spies operating under false names outside of diplomatic cover — also used cyber-age technology, according to the charges. They embedded coded texts in ordinary-looking images posted on the Internet, and they communicated by having two agents with laptops containing special software pass casually as messages flashed between them.

Their mission, according to the FBI, was to “penetrate American policy making circles”, something ordinary Americans have been trying to do for years.

Specifically they were to, “gather information on nuclear weapons, American policy toward Iran, C.I.A. leadership, Congressional politics and many other topics.”

One old KGB general was a little shocked at the size of the operation:

“The magnitude, and the fact that so many illegals were involved, was a shock to me,” said Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who was a Soviet spy in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s under “legal” cover as a diplomat and Radio Moscow correspondent. “It’s a return to the old days, but even in the worst years of the cold war, I think there were no more than 10 illegals in the U.S., probably fewer.”

I’m not particularly shocked – this isn’t anything particularly surprising at all.  We’re talking about Russia here – a country that still resents the US and isn’t a friend, despite all the smiles, visits and hamburgers shared.

It’ll be interesting to watch how the administration reacts to this.  True, these folks were put in place when Bush was enamored with Pootie Poot, but supposedly the relationship is much closer and has been ‘reset’.

Apparently no one told the Russians that “reset” is supposed to work both ways?

~McQ

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Ft. Hood – Intel Failure A Contributor?

One of the jobs of intelligence services is to “connect the dots” and paint a picture with them of looming threats.

Does anyone remember what one of the supposed lessons of 9/11 was?  That intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the services all need to talk and share what they know.  It was the compartmentalization of intelligence which some blame the tragedy of 9/11 on.  The dots were there, but each agency and service was holding them close to their chest and not sharing.  As it turned out, what each had wasn’t enough for that agency or service to positively identify the threat, but when put together, after the fact, painted a pretty clear picture that they should have seen.

Almost 9 years later, if what we’re hearing about Ft. Hood is true, the same problem, at least to some degree, still exists:

Pentagon officials said Tuesday that no one in the U.S. intelligence or law-enforcement community, despite all the new ways information is shared, warned them that accused shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been in contact with a radical Islamic cleric living in Yemen who had known three of the 9/11 hijackers. The officials said that information was provided to them only after Thursday’s shooting spree.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was tipped about Maj. Hasan based on his communications with the cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, was probably in the best position to flag officials at the Army or the Pentagon. But the FBI says communications between the men were innocuous and didn’t warrant more than the basic assessment it performed. Without directly pointing any fingers, the bureau also says members of the military served on two separate FBI-led counterterrorism task forces that reviewed the contacts between Mr. Awlaki and Maj. Hasan.

The content of the pair’s communications didn’t raise red flags because terrorism task-force members checked with the military and found that Maj. Hasan was an Army psychiatrist who conducted research and was working on a master’s degree, FBI officials said.

So assumptions were made by the FBI that apparently made them decide this wasn’t information which needed to be shared with the organization with whom Hasan worked. However, had that information been added to the already growing information the Army was acquiring about Hasan internally, would it have made a difference?

I, nor anyone else, can answer that question. However, the fact remains, given the existence of this information, that the Army’s information about Hasan was incomplete. And, it can be suggested, had it been provided, the Army may have taken a much more critical look at Hasan than it apparently did.

That’s not to say Hasan would have been removed, forced out of the Army or anything else by the disclosure of this information. He may have been. But it does give you an idea of what an intelligence failure – in this case the failure to share information that we now know may have connected the dots the Army already had, or prompted them into a more thorough investigation – can cost lives.

There are many, many more things to discuss about this massacre, but that’s one that shouldn’t be among them. This was supposedly solved by all those commissions and a intelligence czar and regulations and laws which required everyone share intel. Now we have a prima facia case where we find out that isn’t the case. And the results were deadly.

This also points to what may be a wider problem and one that could be – again – just as deadly, if not more so, in the future. This needs to be fixed once and for all, and if heads need to figuratively roll to reinforce the point and make it happen, then get to choppin’.

~McQ

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