Valentines for Washington Post and Sally Yates

New Orleans   I made sure on Valentine’s Day that I was covered with my companera, my daughter, and my mother, but turns out I should have figured out a way to send a card to the Washington Post and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, because if they had not done their jobs in such a stellar fashion none of us could celebrate the early Valentine’s present from the President of finally forcing the resignation of former General Michael Flynn as National Security Council adviser.

It turns out the President had known Flynn was off the rails for weeks and weeks, and did nothing, including letting some of his gang know he was sitting on solid evidence of Flynn’s dissembling over his contact with the Russian Ambassador. He was only provoked to action first by a column in the Post that revealed that there was a transcript of the conversations he had with the Russian Ambassador picked up in packets of intercepts by the NSA, and the transcript was at odds with his claim that he had not discussed the sanctions prior to Trump’s inauguration. That column wasn’t the final straw though even as the story unraveled. The final trigger was the White House’s knowledge that yet another story was coming out in the Post on Monday. And, then and only then did Trump demand and receive Flynn’s resignation.

As the story finally dribbles out, Trump had known about this mess since shortly after the Inauguration, when Acting Attorney General Sally Yates after discussion and a greenlight from the head of the FBI reached out to the White House counsel and shared with him the information they had had since late December. The FBI had asked Yates to wait until then in order to do more investigation and interviewed Flynn within days of Trump’s taking office. The White House lawyer immediately informed President Trump that there was a discrepancy in Flynn’s version of his contact with the Russians. This is the same Sally Yates, friends, neighbors and fellow countrymen and women, who was forced out after instructing the Justice Department not to enforce Trump’s travel ban because it was inherently flawed unconstitutional, as numerous federal judges and the 9th Circuit Appeals Court have now held. We lost a good one, when she left the building.

The Post wonders now how far out of the loop Vice-President Pence was as well since he was having to carry water for the White House and Flynn’s credibility throughout the period when Trump was sitting on a powder keg in the Oval Office with Flynn’s name stenciled all over it. Heck, Trump and another loose cannon, Stephen Bannon, were already interviewing candidates to replace Flynn during this period as well.

There’s disruption and then there’s just plain reckless, and that’s what we’re getting now. Trump spent more time thinking about assistants on the “Apprentice” than he seems to have thought about the impact of letting wild men near the steering wheel of the ship of state. There’s no way that Flynn as a former head of Defense Intelligence, before being fired by President Obama, didn’t know that the NSA routinely monitors the phones of the Russian Ambassador, so Flynn clearly was arrogant and foolhardy in assuming none of this would matter, or he was a good soldier doing what he was told to do by his Commander-in-Chief. Either way, this is bad. Very bad.

All of this goes way past any standard notion of dysfunctional, and this is involves national security, which the Trumpsters claim is their top priority, so I hate to think how badly they are dropping the ball on domestic policy. In fact, it seems they have not picked up the ball there at all, since there has been no legislation proposed by the White House on any measure yet, leaving us clueless of the chaos over there.

Any relief has to be short lived in a time of dread.

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Domestic Surveillance in the USA

023-0216144320-info_fusionWaveland        The holidays are slow news days, but not no news days.   One item that caught my attention in the list of big stories of the year was the ongoing tale of domestic surveillance in the USA, which I reread again.

Much of this was the post-9/11 reality that we forget is as much about us, as about the unknown “them” that threaten national security according to the experts.  There are a number of “fusion” centers now around the country that collect random information from different intelligence agencies, local police departments, and others.  Fusion because they are supposed to connect the dots, pull the strands together, bring order to the random pieces of “intel.”

Occupy Wall Street was a big moment for the fusion centers from these reports for reasons that escape explanation.  Of all of the things that the Occupy movement might have been, it takes a bizarre kind of imagination to believe that it might have been a national security threat.

Bizarre though seems to have been the order of the day.  The reports monitored Noam Chomsky, the linguist and political activist, when he spoke in Boston to an Occupy group.  Other reports tracked random car loads of activists as they left their town to head for an Occupy site, even noting that there seemed to be nothing to worry about.   If there’s nothing to worry about, why were they monitoring such movement and sending the “intel” to the fusion centers though?

Part of the reason I find this troubling is that I also bet the current wave of protests about the excesses of police powers have probably blown the roof off of the surveillance system in the USA.  Think about it.  If we now allow domestic surveillance of US citizens on the flimsiest of excuses, and most of the Occupy activity around the country has to fully qualify in that regard with all due respect, it’s not hard to imagine that direct protests, lie-ins, die-ins, and what not directed at the police forces themselves are probably seen as wild security threats.

On many levels we’ll never know or at least we won’t know for several years until some redacted freedom-of-information request is processed that has as many words blackened as we are able to decipher, but my bet is that restraint has flown out the window, and organizers and activists that are moving these ongoing protests can bank on the fact that their names are front and center in communiques being sent between local and state police and federal authorities these days.  I would bet the fusion centers are blowing a fuse keeping up with all of these so-called “security” threats.

All of which in my book calls for a clampdown on domestic surveillance, but if the CIA can spy on a Senate committee, and it’s “no harm, no foul” as far as the CIA is concerned, then it’s clearly open season on the rest of us.

Keep your eyes open and watch your backs, brothers and sisters, we’re being watched!

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