Archive for April 5, 2017

Did the Obama Administration’s Abuse of Foreign-Intelligence Collection Start Before Trump?

April 5, 2017

Did the Obama Administration’s Abuse of Foreign-Intelligence Collection Start Before Trump?, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, April 5, 2017

The accusation that the Obama administration used information gleaned from classified foreign surveillance to smear and blackmail its political opponents at home has gained new traction in recent days, after reports that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have been rifling through classified transcripts for over a year that could have included information about Donald Trump and his associates. While using resources that are supposed to keep Americans safe from terrorism for other purposes may be a dereliction of duty, it is no more of a crime than spending all day on Twitter instead of doing your job. The crime here would be if she leaked the names of U.S. citizens to reporters. In the end, the seriousness of the accusation against Rice and other former administration officials who will be caught up in the “unmasking” scandal will rise or fall based on whether or not Donald Trump was actively engaged in a conspiracy to turn over the keys of the White House to the Kremlin. For true believers in the Trump-Kremlin conspiracy theories, the Obama “spying and lying” scandal isn’t a scandal at all; just public officials taking prudent steps to guard against an imminent threat to the republic.

But what if Donald Trump wasn’t the first or only target of an Obama White House campaign of spying and illegal leaks directed at domestic political opponents?

In a December 29, 2015 article, The Wall Street Journal described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. The Journal reported that the targeting “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

Despite this reporting, it seemed inconceivable at the time that—given myriad legal, ethical, political, and historical concerns, as well as strict National Security Agency protocols that protect the identity of American names caught in intercepts—the Obama White House would have actually spied on American citizens. In a December 31, 2016, Tablet article on the controversy, “Why the White House Wanted Congress to Think It Was Being Spied on By the NSA,” I argued that the Obama administration had merely used the appearance of spying on American lawmakers to corner opponents of the Iran Deal. Spying on U.S. citizens would be a clear abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance system. It would be a felony offense to leak the names of U.S. citizens to the press.

Increasingly, I believe that my conclusion in that piece was wrong. I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.

“At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,” says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. “The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”

This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. The administration got the drop on its opponents by using classified information, which it then used to draw up its own game plan to block and freeze those on the other side. And—with the help of certain journalists whose stories (and thus careers) depend on high-level access—terrorize them.

Once you understand how this may have worked, it becomes easier to comprehend why and how we keep being fed daily treats of Trump’s nefarious Russia ties. The issue this time isn’t Israel, but Russia, yet the basic contours may very well be the same.

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Two inquiries now underway on Capitol Hill, conducted by the Senate intelligence committee and the House intelligence committee, may discover the extent to which Obama administration officials unmasked the identities of Trump team members caught in foreign-intelligence intercepts. What we know so far is that Obama administration officials unmasked the identity of one Trump team member, Michael Flynn, and leaked his name to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“According to a senior U.S. government official,” Ignatius wrote in his Jan. 12 column, “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”

Nothing, the Times and the Post later reported. But exposing Flynn’s name in the intercept for political purposes was an abuse of the national-security apparatus, and leaking it to the press is a crime.

This is familiar territory. In spying on the representatives of the American people and members of the pro-Israel community, the Obama administration learned how far it could go in manipulating the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for its own domestic political advantage. In both instances, the ostensible targets—Israel and Russia—were simply instruments used to go after the real targets at home.

In order to spy on U.S. congressmen before the Iran Deal vote, the Obama administration exploited a loophole, which is described in the original Journal article. The U.S. intelligence community is supposed to keep tabs on foreign officials, even those representing allies. Hence, everyone in Washington knows that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer is under surveillance. But it’s different for his American interlocutors, especially U.S. lawmakers, whose identities are, according to NSA protocol, supposed to be, at the very least, redacted. But the standard for collecting and disseminating “intercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakers” is much less strict if it is swept up through “foreign-foreign” intercepts, for instance between a foreign ambassador and his capital. Washington, i.e. the seat of the American government, is where foreign ambassadors are supposed to meet with American officials. The Obama administration turned an ancient diplomatic convention inside out—foreign ambassadors were so dangerous that meeting them signaled betrayal of your own country.

During the long and contentious lead-up to the Iran Deal the Israeli ambassador was regularly briefing senior officials in Jerusalem, including the prime minister, about the situation, including his meetings with American lawmakers and Jewish community leaders. The Obama administration would be less interested in what the Israelis were doing than in the actions of those who actually had the ability to block the deal—namely, Senate and House members. The administration then fed this information to members of the press, who were happy to relay thinly veiled anti-Semitic conceits by accusing deal opponents of dual loyalty and being in the pay of foreign interests.

It didn’t take much imagination for members of Congress to imagine their names being inserted in the Iran deal echo chamber’s boilerplate—that they were beholden to “donors” and “foreign lobbies.” What would happen if the White House leaked your phone call with the Israeli ambassador to a friendly reporter, and you were then profiled as betraying the interests of your constituents and the security of your nation to a foreign power? What if the fact of your phone call appeared under the byline of a famous columnist friendly to the Obama administration, say, in a major national publication?

To make its case for the Iran Deal, the Obama administration redefined America’s pro-Israel community as agents of Israel. They did something similar with Trump and the Russians—whereby every Russian with money was defined as an agent of the state. Where the Israeli ambassador once was poison, now the Russian ambassador is the kiss of death—a phone call with him led to Flynn’s departure from the White House and a meeting with him landed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in hot water.

Did Trump really have dealings with FSB officers? Thanks to the administration’s whisper campaigns, the facts don’t matter; that kind of contact is no longer needed to justify surveillance, whose spoils could then be weaponized and leaked. There are oligarchs who live in Trump Tower, and they all know Putin—ergo, talking to them is tantamount to dealing with the Russian state.

Yet there is one key difference between the two information operations that abused the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for political purposes. The campaign to sell the Iran deal was waged while the Obama administration was in office. The campaign to tie down Trump with the false Russia narrative was put together as the Obama team was on its way out.

The intelligence gathered from Iran Deal surveillance was shared with the fewest people possible inside the administration. It was leaked to only a few top-shelf reporters, like the authors of The Wall Street Journal article, who showed how the administration exploited a loophole to spy on Congress. Congressmen and their staffs certainly noticed, as did the Jewish organizations that were being spied on. But the campaign was mostly conducted sotto voce, through whispers and leaks that made it clear what the price of opposition might be.

The reason the prior abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus is clear only now is because the Russia campaign has illuminated it. As The New York Timesreported last month, the administration distributed the intelligence gathered on the Trump transition team widely throughout government agencies, after it had changed the rules on distributing intercepted communications. The point of distributing the information so widely was to “preserve it,” the administration and its friends in the press explained—“preserve” being a euphemism for “leak.” The Obama team seems not to have understood that in proliferating that material they have exposed themselves to risk, by creating a potential criminal trail that may expose systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection.

Dr. Jasser discusses CAIRs attempts to have a teacher fired claiming he is ‘islamophobic’

April 5, 2017

Dr. Jasser discusses CAIRs attempts to have a teacher fired claiming he is ‘islamophobic’, AIFD via YouTube, April 4, 2017

(Please see also CAIR Smears and Tries to Silence an IPT Fellow — DM)

According to the blurb beneath the video,

Dr. Jasser joins the Dana Loesche Show discussing CAIRs pressuring the Air Force to fire Patrick Dunleavy, an instructor it deems islamophobic.

Zuhdi refutes CAIRs claims and exaggerations saying that Dunleavy’s course educates Air Force personnel about issues critical for them to know o [sic] the front lines.

Iran Sponsored Shi’a Militia Launches Terror Group to Fight Israel

April 5, 2017

Iran Sponsored Shi’a Militia Launches Terror Group to Fight Israel, Investigative Project on Terrorism, April 5, 2017

Israel is very concerned with the establishment of Iranian-led terrorist bases in the Golan Heights. Hizballah openly seeks to consolidate its presence in the region and launch attacks against Israel from a new front in a future war.

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An Iranian supported Shi’a militia, Al-Nujaba, says it formed the “Golan Liberation Army” to fight Israel, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reports.

“This army has been trained and has detailed plans. If the Syria regime asks us to, we are ready to act to liberate the Golan [from Israel] along with our allies,” Al-Nujaba spokesman Hashem Al-Mousawi said in a March 8 interview with Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

Al-Mousawi also admitted that the new militant group is “part of the PMU [Popular Mobilization Units],” an Iraqi-backed umbrella organization comprised of numerous Shi’a militias, including some with close ties to Iran. The Golan Liberation Army emerged from the Iranian led “resistance” axis and consists of “special forces who have received training and equipment,” he said.

“Iran is the only country that has helped us,” Al-Mousawi said, “and sent us its military advisors, led by Qassem Soleimani.”

Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, is tasked with advancing Iran’s regional expansion and terrorist networks. Since September 2015, Iran increased its forces in Syria from hundreds to thousands to support Hizballah terrorists acting at Iran’s behest in propping up the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Despite Iran’s commitment to Syria, the Islamic Republic is establishing terrorist networks in the Golan Heights, using Hizballah, Druze, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives to target Israel. The new Golan Liberation Army shows that Iran is now diverting Iraqi militia assets from fighting ISIS to confront the Jewish state.

Soleimani’s Quds Force financed most of the Iraqi-Shi’ite militias and provided them with weapons specifically to target American soldiers. With Hizballah’s assistance, the Quds Force supplied terrorists with powerful explosive devices that killed numerous American and coalition troops in Iraq.

Israel is very concerned with the establishment of Iranian-led terrorist bases in the Golan Heights. Hizballah openly seeks to consolidate its presence in the region and launch attacks against Israel from a new front in a future war.

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference

April 5, 2017

President Trump and King Abdullah II Hold a Joint Press Conference, White House via YouTube, April 5, 2017

Australia: Muslim women accuse Ayaan Hirsi Ali of “white supremacism”

April 5, 2017

Australia: Muslim women accuse Ayaan Hirsi Ali of “white supremacism” Jihad Watch

Ms Ali, a former Muslim turned atheist who spent part of her childhood in Saudi Arabia, has called for a reformation of Islam so the Koran isn’t taken literally and individual rights are respected…..

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Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali has hit back at Australian Muslim women for accusing her of being a white supremacist and a misogynist, describing them as apologists for terrorist groups.

Anyone who criticizes Islam legitimately for its Sharia-sanctioned abuse of women, apostates and infidels is deemed “a white supremacist” and an “Islamophobe.” The absurdity of referencing Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who has herself been victimized in the name of Islam) as a “white supremacist” exposes the stealth agenda of Islamic supremacists, along with the useful idiots who assist them in advancing their Sharia objectives.

“‘Shutting people up raising awareness about Sharia law’: Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali hits back at Muslim women accusing her of being a ‘white supremacist’ – after she was forced to cancel Australian tour over security”, by Stephen Johnson, UK Daily Mail, April 5, 2017:

Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali has hit back at Australian Muslim women for accusing her of being a white supremacist and a misogynist, describing them as apologists for terrorist groups.

Six Muslim women, including four wearing hijabs, feature in a video describing the Somali-born writer and former refugee as someone who marginalises followers of Islam.

The three-minute clip, posted on Facebook by a group called Persons of Interest, describes Ms Ali as a racist and sexist person.

They overlook how she is a black woman who campaigns against female genital mutilation.

‘This is the language of patriarchy and misogyny. This is the language of white supremacy. This is the language used to justify war and genocide,’ the women say.

They posted the video on Monday, after Ms Ali’s AHA Foundation and event organisers Think Inc announced she had abruptly cancelled her Australian tour for security reasons.

Speaking from the United States, Ms Ali accused the woman of ‘carrying water’ for Islamist extremist groups campaigning for a global caliphate based on sharia law.

The 47-year-old former Dutch politician linked them to the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed in its home nation, Islamic State and Boko Haram, which captured 276 schoolgirls in 2014.

Moroccan Soup Bar owner Hana Assafiri, who featured in the video, is the same person who was a spokeswoman for a change.org petition calling for Ms Ali’s Australian tour to be cancelled.

That petition was authored by Islamic Museum of Australia board director Sherene Hassan.

Daily Mail Australia contacted Ms Assafiri for comment on Tuesday.

However, on Monday she declined to criticise sharia law, which secular Muslims reject.

‘Sharia law is a whole massive conversation we need time to discuss and debate with,’ she said.

‘It’s not something I can give you a quick sound bite.’

Zerin Firoze, a former Muslim turned atheist who lives in New York, denounced the video.

‘This is the dumbest video I have seen recently,’ she said on Facebook.

‘Ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali are not demonising Muslim women or Islam.

‘Islam itself demonises Muslims, especially Muslim women.’

Ms Ali, a former Muslim turned atheist who spent part of her childhood in Saudi Arabia, has called for a reformation of Islam so the Koran isn’t taken literally and individual rights are respected…..

Apathy, Balcony Girls & Refugee Honor Violence in Sweden

April 5, 2017

Apathy, Balcony Girls & Refugee Honor Violence in Sweden, Front Page MagazineDawn Perlmutter, April 5, 2017′

Denial of refugee violence is necessary to maintain the liberal ideal of Sweden as a successful progressive socialist utopia – even at the expense of children falling into comas and girls falling off balconies.

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An article by Rachel Aviv titled ‘The Trauma of Facing Deportation’ describes an unusual disorder known as ‘uppgivenhetssyndrom’ or ‘resignation syndrome’ that only exists in Sweden and is specific to the children of immigrants. Published in the April 3, 2017 issue of The New Yorker, Aviv describes how refugee children suffering from resignation syndrome fall into a coma-like state after being informed that their families will be expelled from the country. The Swedish refer to the condition as ‘apathy’ and the children as ‘de apatiska’, the apathetic. There have been several hundred cases of resignation syndrome in the past decade. The symptoms are very severe and typically begin with depression followed by a gradual withdrawal into an unconscious state that requires tube feeding. The children are unable to move, eat, drink or respond even to painful stimuli and are in this state for months sometimes years. The only known cure is for their families to receive residency permits to stay in Sweden.

A simple objective cultural explanation for resignation syndrome is that it is another manifestation of honor violence. However, studies that suggested the family was staging the illness were labeled xenophobic while research that theorized the migratory process precipitated the condition became the basis for government policy. Hence, a 2013 guide for treating apathy published by the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare advised “A permanent residency permit is considered by far the most effective ‘treatment,’ and that a patient will not recover until his family has permission to live in Sweden.” In brief, political correctness tainted the studies because it was more politically expedient to grant residency to all families with children suffering from the syndrome than to acknowledge that this could be another manifestation of honor violence where cultural traditions allow parents to abuse their own children. If honor violence is proven to be the reason for the syndrome than Sweden’s immigration policy is the cause of the illness not the cure.

Honor violence is a form of domestic violence that is committed by family members against other family members to either prevent the family from being dishonored or restore the families damaged honor. Victims of honor violence typically internalize the values of their family or community and feel guilty and responsible for the perceived offense against honor. Honor violence is typically attributed to assaults and murders of women who have refused arranged marriages or defiled the family’s honor by not following traditions. Honor violence is not always punitive for alleged violations of cultural traditions. Anything that preserves the family honor is permitted including forcing children into slavery or child marriage to settle a debt. Being deported back to a country where the family status and honor would be diminished could be motivation for shaming a child into staging resignation syndrome. The New Yorker article did not mention that the majority of mothers of the apathetic refugee children had been subjected to physical and/or sexual abuse and were described as severely traumatized. One study suggested a Munchausen by proxy scenario proposing the idea that the mother staged the illness as a method to cope with her own trauma. The theory characterized the syndrome as ‘lethal mothering’, a behavior that is consistent with honor violence. In honor based tribal cultures men can justifiably subject their wives to physical and sexual abuse and mothers can willingly harm their own children to preserve the family honor. A 2016 study claimed that almost all children with resignation syndrome suffered traumatization from physical abuse, harassment or by witnessing violence and abuse in the close family. Intrafamily violence is also consistent with honor crimes.

There is another unusual phenomenon among refugee children in Sweden that is not included in the New Yorker article. It is referred to as ‘Balcony Girls’ and unlike resignation syndrome this malady did not prompt lengthy medical studies. ‘Balcony Girls’ is the term for young women and girls who are either forced to jump or are thrown off the balconies of their homes. Forensically it is death due to fall from height. Culturally it is death by Islamic Sharia law. It is a more common form of honor violence also referred to as honor killing. Similar to how the apathetic children may be forced to sacrifice themselves for their family, the young girls are forced to defend the honor of their families by committing suicide.  The families inform the girls that if they do not commit suicide they will kill them. Sometimes they give them the choice of overdosing on pills, jumping in front of a train, hanging or jumping off the apartment balcony.

Forensically, pushing someone off a balcony is an easy way to get away with murder. When the body is found it is difficult to determine whether the cause of death is accident, suicide, or homicide. But on the up side nothing cuts down on those Swedish rape statistics like women not reporting for fear of being tossed off a balcony. When analyzing a fatal fall from height, pathologic features alone are not sufficient to assess the cause of death. Postmortem findings are typically considered in the context of the victim’s social, medical, and psychiatric history in conjunction with findings at the death scene and toxicology results. When the whole family participates in honor killing their interviews are going to suggest suicide.

In addition to dozens of balcony ‘accidents’ there have been several other incidents of honor killing in Sweden that involved multiple stab wounds, burning, beating with an iron bar and baseball bat, dousing in hot oil, and facial mutilations. If the women are fortunate enough to survive they are forever stigmatized.

Honor crimes have been recognized by the Swedish authorities as a subset of domestic violence but do not appear to have been as extensively studied as resignation syndrome. A report titled Resignation Syndrome: Catatonia? Culture-Bound? was published in the journal of Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience in 2016. The report detailed medical, psychological and cultural case studies that considered various neurological disorders, epidemic hysteria, and stress induced disorders resulting from a lengthy migration process. The study provided the age of the patients as 7–19 with the average being 14.3, the gender ratio was 2 males to 3 females and noted that all the cases were refugees belonging to a political or ethnic minority. They observed that there was a disproportionally large number originating from former Soviet Republics or former Yugoslavia with cases from Bangladesh and Africa and that the Uighur ethnic group was over-represented among those affected. Aviv wrote about two sisters who are Roma from Kosovo but does not disclose their religion. Roma, also known as Romani, are commonly referred to as Gypsies and the vast majority of the Roma population in Kosovo are Muslim. The Islamic religion did not appear to be mentioned in The New Yorker article.

Although Islam is not mentioned, Aviv details how the children became the focus of intense public and political debate on immigration. She describes how 42 psychiatrists accused the government of “systematic public child abuse” and how they claimed that the time it took the Migration Board to process their applications was causing the disease. Swedish news started broadcasting dramatic images of children on stretchers being expelled from the country. Thousands of Swedes signed a petition to stop the deportations and five of Sweden’s political parties demanded amnesty for the children. Consequently, Sweden’s Migration Board decided that all families of apathetic children would be granted residency permits. Remarkably, there have never been any fatalities associated with this disease. According to Aviv’s article no one knows why the illness is specific to Sweden and “there is now universal consensus that the children are not faking”. Perhaps it is specific to Sweden because they are the only country that would grant residency to an entire family that may be abusing their own child to prevent deportation.

The children may not be faking. An investigation that considered honor violence as a motive could test the children for substances that would simulate the symptoms and go undetected in a typical toxicology screening. By drugging them the family could make the children, the physicians and the researchers think they are suffering from resignation syndrome. It took a very long time for law enforcement to distinguish honor killings from more typical types of domestic violence and to adapt their investigations to include the potential of a family conspiracy. Swedish police developed an interview guide and checklist for assessing honor related crime. It is unfortunate that this assessment tool has not been applied to resignation syndrome.

It is not surprising that liberal pro-immigration bias is evident throughout The New Yorker article. In addition to romanticizing this bizarre phenomenon, Aviv exploits the children’s illnesses to characterize refugees as ‘the moral crisis of our era’ and portray Sweden as having the most diligent and conscientiousness response to refugees. Denial of refugee violence is necessary to maintain the liberal ideal of Sweden as a successful progressive socialist utopia – even at the expense of children falling into comas and girls falling off balconies.

Steve Bannon Removed From National Security Council

April 5, 2017

Steve Bannon Removed From National Security Council, Washington Free Beacon, April 5, 2017

Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to U.S. President Donald Trump attends the swearing in ceremony for Nikki Haley as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Washington, DC.  (Rex Features via AP Images)

President Donald Trump reportedly removed his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, from the National Security Council on Wednesday as part of a broader reorganization of the NSC.

Trump has reorganized his principal forum to consider national security matters by removing his top strategist and downgrading Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, according to Bloomberg, which obtained a presidential memorandum on the NSC shakeup.

Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, was given authority to set the agenda of the NSC.

The changes also allow the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, to again be regular attendees of the NSC’s principals committee.

Bannon was appointed to the NSC earlier this year as part of a reorganization that drew intense opposition from members of Congress and foreign policy experts.

One White House official told Bloomberg that Bannon was initially elevated to the NSC to keep an eye on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, but never attended a meeting. Now with Flynn gone, Bannon is no longer needed, the official said.