February 24, 2014 archive

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Spy Chief James Clapper: We Can’t Stop Another Snowden

Eli Lake, The Daily Beast

02.23.14

He is the nation’s top intelligence officer at a time when the intelligence community is derided because it can’t keep its secrets, and loathed because some of the secrets it has tried to hide  concern the same American citizens it was charged with protecting. Thanks to rogue contractor Edward Snowden, the machinations of the shadow bureaucracy Clapper heads have for the last eight months been exposed one news story at a time.



Add to this the fact that the legal authority Clapper needs to command the 16 intelligence agencies under his control is murky at best.

And in the last eight months at least, a growing chorus in Congress and the media are calling for him to resign.



Not only did Snowden’s first published disclosure expose a major intelligence operation-the collection of millions of call records under section 215 of the Patriot Act. It also led some members of Congress to conclude that Clapper had lied to them. Last March, Clapper was asked in an unclassified hearing by Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, whether the National Security Agency collects data on hundreds of millions of Americans. Clapper said no such data was collected “wittingly.” He would later say he misunderstood Wyden’s question and thought he was referring to another classified intelligence program. But the damage was done.

Wyden in a statement told The Daily Beast, “It’s true that no one knows what is going through a witness’s head when they are sitting at the witness table, other than the witness himself. Unfortunately, over the past several years a number of senior officials have repeatedly made misleading and inaccurate statements about domestic surveillance at congressional hearings and in other public settings.” Others are less charitable. Last month Sen. Rand Paul, the libertarian Republican from Kentucky, said if Snowden was to face justice, he should “share a jail cell with James Clapper” for lying to Congress.



The Snowden leaks would be horrible to any spy chief, but for a man like Clapper they were particularly horrifying. “This is his life,” said Norton Schwartz, a retired Air Force general who is a friend of Clapper. “This is his community, the thing that he did professionally to defend the nation.”

When Clapper spoke publicly at first about the Snowden disclosures he described the feeling as “literally gut-wrenching.” Here was a man who had spent his life in espionage wars with the Russians, the Viet Cong, and al Qaeda, a man who had spent years railing against leaks. And now, this. “You have to appreciate the sadness that he felt,” Schwartz said. “This was not the result of an act of genius from a foreign intelligence adversary but rather the act of an insider who got past even the most rudimentary of controls.”

And maybe the worst part for Clapper is, he still doesn’t get why Snowden did it. Clapper sees himself as the man who’s opened up the intelligence community to public scrutiny, who keeps the Constitution on his wall, and who’s endured the endless congressional grillings-all while keeping Americans safe. How could Snowden, a fellow intelligence analyst and contractor, not see that? “Maybe if I had I’d understand him better because I have trouble understanding what he did or what he’d do,” the director said. “From my standpoint, the damage he’s done. I could almost accept it or understand it if this were simply about his concerns about so-called domestic surveillance programs. But what he did, what he took, what he has exposed, goes way, way, way beyond the so-called domestic surveillance programs.”

Inside the Mind of James Clapper

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

24 Feb 2014, 7:50 AM EST

It’s been rather amazing to watch not only the standard roster of government-loyal American journalists, but also those who fancy themselves some sort of cynical critics, uncritically regurgitate the government’s evidence-free assertion that Snowden took and then gave to journalists 1.7 million documents. It amazes me because: (1) anyone at this point who is willing to equate evidence-free government assertions with Truth is drowning in some extreme levels of authoritarianism, by definition; and (2) the government clearly has no idea what Snowden took, as report after report has made crystal clear.



Recall how House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and former CIA/NSA chief Mike Hayden “joked” at a hearing that Snowden should be put on the U.S. government’s “hit list” and murdered. Last month, BuzzFeed quoted several anonymous Pentagon and intelligence community officials as they laid out their fantasies for how they would like to murder Snowden (“Going back to his flat and he is casually poked by a passerby. He thinks nothing of it at the time starts to feel a little woozy and thinks it’s a parasite from the local water. He goes home very innocently and next thing you know he dies in the shower”). Former CIA chief James Woolsey said “he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead” if convicted of treason, while former UN Ambassador John Bolton revealed an even more detailed fantasy: “My view is that Snowden committed treason, he ought to be convicted of that, and then he ought to swing from a tall oak tree.”

Not only does this underscore the warped pathologies among the glorious leaders of America’s National Security State, but it also highlights the inanity of believing that these kinds of people can and should be trusted with invasive spying powers to be exercised in the dark.



It’s hardly surprising that President Obama regards a proven liar as a “straight shooter”. That’s the same President who regards torture-and-rendition-advocating John Brennan as his high moral priest when deciding who should be put on his “kill list”.

But what’s remarkable here is the self-pity on display from Clapper. He’s gone around the country over the last month branding journalists as “accomplices” for the crime of reporting on the NSA without the slightest regard for the effects that this thuggish behavior has on those journalists, their families, and the news-gathering process.

But what’s even more amazing is that Clapper considers himself some sort of victim rather than what he is: the completely undeserving beneficiary of a system of “justice” in which ordinary and powerless people are imprisoned for trivial offenses at greater numbers than any other nation in the world, while those who wield political power, like him, are free to commit crimes without even losing their powerful jobs, let alone being prosecuted for them. James Clapper should look in the mirror every morning and be extremely grateful for the corrupted political system that has shielded him from the consequences of his crimes even as he tries to criminalize others for doing things that the U.S. Constitution guarantees them the right to do.

Instead, he sees himself as the victim. He has medals on his chest and an important national security state position. It is simply outrageous that some people suggest that he has no right to commit felonies, and it’s infuriating that his adult son has to hear some people (almost none in the media) suggest that his criminal conduct should have the same consequences as when ordinary citizens commit less serious crimes. That’s the refusal to accept any personal responsibility, the view of powerful U.S. officials that they are and must be entirely above the law, the obsessive self-regard, that more than anything else has destroyed Washington’s political culture.

Deep State, the Secret Government Exposed

Former GOP congressional staff member with the powerful House and Senate Budget Committees and author of “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,” Mike Lofgren was a guest on “Moyers and Company” and discussed with host, Bill Moyers, how elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests.

The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight



Transcript can ge read here

Mr. Lofgren also wrote this essay in conjunction with the show: Anatomy of the Deep State

There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.

As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.

Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented – at least since the McCarthy era – witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions – with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either – even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.

These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least ¬£100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an expos√© of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.

The entire article is a must read.

Cartnoon

On This Day In History February 24

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 24 is the 55th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 310 days remaining until the end of the year (311 in leap years).

On this day in 1803, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Marshall, decides the landmark case of William Marbury versus James Madison, Secretary of State of the United States and confirms the legal principle of judicial review–the ability of the Supreme Court to limit Congressional power by declaring legislation unconstitutional–in the new nation.

Marbury v. Madison is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in the world that a court invalidated a law by declaring it “unconstitutional.”

This case resulted from a petition to the Supreme Court by William Marbury, who had been appointed by President John Adams as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia but whose commission was not subsequently delivered. Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court to force Secretary of State James Madison to deliver the documents, but the court, with John Marshall as Chief Justice, denied Marbury’s petition, holding that the part of the statute upon which he based his claim, the Judiciary Act of 1789, was unconstitutional.

Marbury v. Madison was the first time the Supreme Court declared something “unconstitutional,” and established the concept of judicial review in the U.S. (the idea that courts may oversee and nullify the actions of another branch of government). The landmark decision helped define the “checks and balances” of the American form of government.

The Issue

There are three ways a case can be heard in the Supreme Court: (1) filing directly in the Supreme Court; (2) filing in a lower federal court, such as a district court, and appealing all the way up to the Supreme Court; (3) filing in a state court, appealing all the way up through the state’s highest courts, and then appealing to the Supreme Court on an issue of federal law. The first is an exercise of the Court’s original jurisdiction; the second and third are exercises of the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction.

Because Marbury filed his petition for the writ of mandamus directly in the Supreme Court, the Court needed to be able to exercise original jurisdiction over the case in order to have the power to hear it.

Marbury’s argument is that in the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress granted the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over petitions for writs of mandamus. This raises several issues that the Supreme Court had to address:

  • Does Article III of the Constitution create a “floor” for original jurisdiction, which Congress can add to, or does it create an exhaustive list that Congress can’t modify at all?
  • If Article III’s original jurisdiction is an exhaustive list, but Congress tries to modify it anyway, who wins that conflict, Congress or the Constitution?
  • And, more importantly, who is supposed to decide who wins?
  • In its answer to this last question, the Supreme Court formalizes the notion of judicial review. In short, the constitutional issue on which Marbury v. Madison was decided was whether Congress could expand the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

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