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Thursday, May 07, 2015

In the news

Thank you! The Second Circuit appeals court has ruled that the NSA's brobdinagian phone collection program, authorized by the Patriot Act, is illegal. However...
Thursday’s ruling did not come with any injunction ordering the program to cease, and it is not clear that anything else will happen in the judicial system before Congress has to make a decision about the expiring law.
Thus, the NSA is continuing to pursue an illegal program as we speak. Another important point:
The data collection had repeatedly been approved in secret by judges serving on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, which oversees national security surveillance. Those judges, who hear arguments only from the government, were willing to accept an interpretation of Section 215 that the appeals court on Thursday rejected.
In the latter part of the Bush years, a number of liberals decided to hate my guts because I said that the entire FISA system should be gutted and reconstructed from scratch. At the time, Bush was operating outside of FISA, so Dems felt obligated to defend the system as though it were a dishonored maiden in an 18th century novel.

My argument: When FISA was born (in the late 1970s), plenty of lefties argued against the thing. Opposition remains an honorable stance. The FISA courts are unaccountable and thus allow for too much mischief.

The Think Progress crowd hated me for saying those words back in 2007. Now, a US Appeals Court agrees with me. I hope the readers won't mind if I do a small jig of vindication.

One more point about the NSA...
The House appears ready to pass a bill next week that would end the government’s bulk collection of phone records and replace it with a new program that would preserve the ability to analyze links between callers to hunt for terrorists but keep the bulk records in the hands of phone companies. That proposal however, has faced resistance from Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader.

A similar bill died in the Senate in November after national-security hawks said it would be a gift to terrorists and Mr. McConnell urged Republicans to block an up-or-down vote on it with a filibuster. Mr. McConnell has urged a “clean extension” of Section 215 this time so the program can continue in its present form, and he said on Tuesday that he thought that was the “most likely” outcome.
Oh Mitch. You bitch.

The internet abounds with libertarian dolts who want you to believe that Democrats always want to invade your privacy and Republicans always want to protect it. Nuh-uh. It's not so simple. There is a split within the GOP: See here and here. And we know which side of that divide is the place Mitch calls home.

It's quite true that the better libertarians (with a small L) tend to say the right things about privacy, but those "better libertarian" instincts tend to vanish the moment a conservative gets anywhere near power. That's the moment when politicians are made to understand that it is in their rational self-interest (read: $$$) to get with the program. Trust me: Conservatives -- even the ones who worship Ayn Rand, especially the ones who worship Ayn Rand -- will always sell out. Greed is good and selfishness is a virtue, so, like, fuck it.

The only politicians dumb enough to believe in all that altruism crap are those jackass Dems. That said, I will be the first to admit that Dems invariably find ways to "shade" their altruism when dreams of the Oval Office start dancing in their heads.

American collaboration with Al Qaeda. Yes, it is indeed heretical to assert that a US-Al Qaeda linkage exists. But Moon of Alabama has the goods.

M of A directs our attention to the analysis of one Charles Lister, of Brooking Doha, "which is paid with Qatari money," although they also advise the Obama administration. The Lister piece lauds a recent loss by Assad's forces in and around the Syrian town of Idlib.

Problem: The guys who won that fight were Al Qaeda jihadists.

Remember how it was a few years ago? Obama assured us that America would not give aid to the Islamic jihadists fighting Assad. We were told that American support would go only to those fine democracy-lovers in the Free Syrian Army. We were told that the leaders of the FSA were "vetted."

Remember that? Remember all of that talk about vetting?

And then the FSA was caught working hand-in-hand with ISIS and the Nusra Front (a.k.a. Al Qaeda). The FSA was also caught selling hostages (foreign journalists, aid workers) to ISIS to star in those beheading videos. For example, the FSA kidnapped David Haines, then handed him over to ISIS, who went on to separate Haines' head from his body.

It turns out that our much-vaunted "Free Syrian Army" was a bad joke -- a loose network of warlords who would do anything for a price, and who were despised by most Syrian civilians. They were also militarily ineffective.

At that point, did Obama say "Screw the FSA"? Nope. He said that from now on, he was going to give aid only to anti-Assad rebels who were vetted.

Wait a minute.

The administration had always claimed that American aid went only to the vetted. Now, apparently, they were going to be vetted better. Super-vetted. We were gonna vet their brains out.

Alas, the super-vetting program hasn't worked out so well. Let's get back to Charles Lister and that "great victory" in Idlib...
Whereas these multinational operations rooms have previously demanded that recipients of military assistance cease direct coordination with groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, recent dynamics in Idlib appear to have demonstrated something different. Not only were weapons shipments increased to the so-called “vetted groups,” but the operations room specifically encouraged a closer cooperation with Islamists commanding frontline operations.
I put those last words in boldface because I want the truth to burn in your brains: Islamists commanding frontline operations. For some strange reason, the war against Assad always seems to end up with us helping jihadist maniacs.

What should Obama do, now that his super-vetting program has proven so ineffective? Maybe he'll announce a program of super-duper-pooper vetting.

The final word belongs to Moon of Alabama:
The U.S. and its allies are now in full support of violent Sunni Jihadists throughout the Middle East. At the same time they use the "threat of AlQaeda" to fearmonger and suppress opposition within their countries.

Charles Lister and the other Brooking propagandists want the U.S. to bomb Syria to bring the Assad government to the table to negotiate. But who is the Syrian government to negotiate with? AlQaeda?

Who would win should the Syrian government really lose the war or capitulate? The U.S. supported "moderate rebels" Islamist, who could not win against the Syrian government, would then take over and defeat AlQaeda and the Islamic State?

Who comes up with such phantasies?

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