**Written by Doug Powers
Hillary Clinton keeps proving that she’s earned the title as…
If only Hillary had wanted to be as careful about making sure classified info wasn’t recoverable as she was about her “personal” emails:
Hillary Clinton’s lawyers used a special tool to delete emails from her personal server so that “even God can’t read them,” House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy said on Thursday.
Gowdy (R-S.C.) said the use of BleachBit, computer software whose website advertises that it can “prevent recovery” of files, is further proof that Clinton had something to hide in deleting personal emails from the private email system she used during her tenure as secretary of state.
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Clinton has long said that the deleted emails were all of a personal nature, relating largely to yoga and her daughter’s wedding, but Gowdy said he did not know whether the Democratic nominee considered emails pertaining to the Clinton Foundation to be personal.
Clinton was just trying to make sure her thoughts on the lotus position never fell into enemy hands, because she’s a patriot!
Said Gowdy about Hillary’s scrubbed emails:
It’s a question he said he hopes reporters ask Clinton the next chance they get.
Well, reporters who wanted to ask her questions Thursday were distracted by chocolate, so that’s probably not going to happen any time soon:
By the way, BleachBit got some mileage out of Hillary’s super-transparency on their website:
Who says Hillary wouldn’t be good for business?
**Written by Doug Powers
Recent Bloomberg reporting reveals that since January, Baltimore police have been secretly testing a persistent aerial surveillance technology that its developer describes as “Google Earth with TiVo.” The technology, developed by Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS), is mounted on small manned aircraft and is made up of wide-angle cameras that allow users to surveil about 30 square miles. News of the surreptitious use of this persistent surveillance tool underlines the importance of transparency in law enforcement and the unsatisfying state of Supreme Court aerial surveillance rulings.
PSS’ technology is adapted from surveillance equipment first used in Iraq to help track down insurgents who had detonated improvised explosive devices. Surveillance cameras would be deployed in the air above a city. After an explosion the technology allowed users to zoom into the area and rewind the footage in order to find out where the suspects came from. Users could fast-forward to also see where the suspects went after the detonation.
The public should be informed if law enforcement agencies are recording their every move over long periods of time.
The technology used in Baltimore allows for the same kind of tracking. As Bloomberg’s reporting details, PSS’ cameras can help track down a shooting suspect. PSS analysts cannot identify individuals from their computer screens because one person takes up one pixel of resolution. But it’s not hard to gather information on people tracked with PSS’ technology. You can find out a lot about a person by following them to a home, office building, church, or school.
Given the capabilities of PSS’ tools readers may understandably feel uneasy knowing that Baltimore police have been testing this technology in secret for months. By 2014, PSS had demonstrated its capabilities in a number of cities (including Baltimore). When PSS showed off its technology to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department by flying over Compton it was not only the public that was unaware of police engaging in persistent surveillance; the mayor was also left in the dark.
Baltimore police have a history of using new gadgets in secret. Last year, it was revealed that Baltimore police had used Stingray devices thousands of times since 2007. Stingrays, like PSS’ cameras, are surveillance tools. Stingrays mimic cell-towers, forcing citizens’ cellphones within range to connect with the device. This allows officers to track suspects as well as anyone else in the area whose cellphones interact with the Stingray, unbeknownst to them.
The public should be informed if law enforcement agencies are recording their every move over long periods of time. There are examples of persistent surveillance tools being used to apprehend violent criminals, but we shouldn’t forget more nefarious possibilities. Persistent surveillance allows users to track mosque congregations, protesters, abortion clinic visitors, Alcoholics Anonymous members, and gun show attendees. Without adequate oversight these surveillance tools pose a significant risk to citizens’ privacy.
Ross McNutt, the founder of PSS, has attempted to allay privacy concerns, citing the 1986 Supreme Court case California v. Ciraolo. In that case the Court ruled that police did not need a warrant to conduct a naked-eye search for marijuana in Dante Ciraolo’s backyard from an airplane at 1,000 feet.
But there are important differences between the facts in Ciraolo and the kind of secret aerial surveillance Baltimore police have been conducting.
In Ciraolo, police surveilled one property after receiving an anonymous tip and observed marijuana without the aid of sophisticated technology. Baltimore police have been testing PSS’ technology indiscriminately, not as part of one investigation. In addition, Baltimore police are relying on sophisticated surveillance technology, not naked-eye observations.
In another aerial surveillance Supreme Court case, Dow Chemical Co. v. United States (1986), the Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency did not need a warrant to inspect a 2,000 acre chemical plant from the air with a precision mapping camera. In his majority opinion Chief Justice Burger noted that the use of sophisticated surveillance tools might require a warrant, writing: “It may well be […] that surveillance of private property by using highly sophisticated surveillance equipment not generally available to the public, such as satellite technology, might be constitutionally proscribed absent a warrant.”
PSS’ technology certainly counts as “sophisticated surveillance equipment not generally available to the public.” Nonetheless, Supreme Court rulings from the 1980s continue to grant law enforcement agencies a great deal of leeway when it comes to aerial surveillance. The emergence of persistent surveillance tools and drones may one day prompt the Court to reconsider past aerial surveillance rulings. Until then it’s up to lawmakers to tackle how best to protect privacy amid new technologies.
The recent news about persistent surveillance should concern all Americans, not just Baltimore residents. New technologies can undoubtedly play a valuable role in protecting citizens from crime and aiding investigations. But absent appropriate regulations or a major new Supreme Court ruling, law enforcement agencies will continue to engage in secret and indiscriminate surveillance.Matthew Feeney is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.
More Cubans will arrive at America’s borders this year than at any time in decades. By year’s end, probably close to 60,000 Cuban immigrants will have entered the country — the most in one year since 1980. Like the waves of Cuban refugees in years past, these immigrants should be welcomed.
Cubans are not sneaking into the country. More than 95 percent present themselves for security checks at legal entry points. Cuban immigrants are able to enter in such an orderly manner because Congress in 1966 said that it simply would not send Cubans back to communism. Under the Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans can automatically — if they are not criminals or communists — receive asylum upon reaching land in the United States.
In light of the influx, however, some members of Congress are asking whether Cubans should continue to receive special treatment under America’s immigration laws. The basic principle that people should not be treated differently based on national origin is valid, but Cubans receive special treatment not due to where they are from, but due to how they are treated where they are from.
Cubans aren’t treated uniquely because they are Cubans, but because, according to Freedom House, Cuba is the only “unfree” country in the Western Hemisphere. The communist system has no electoral process, political dissent is a criminal offense, corruption is rampant, independent media is banned, and all forms of every day activities are regulated, including internal movement.
As long as Cuba remains unfree, America will continue to welcome Cubans.
Cuba is 12th most unfree country in the world. It is less free than Iran and South Sudan. Even communist China received a higher score. No other country in the Americas comes close. In 2015, the pretend socialists in Venezuela were still 50th and ranked “partly free.” Haiti and Honduras came in at 57th and 62nd respectively. This is why Cubans are singled out.
Congress stated in 1996 that the law would end when “a democratically elected government in Cuba is in power.” As long as Cuba remains unfree, America will continue to welcome Cubans. Rather than repeal this principle, Congress should expand it to any country in our part of the world that is unfree. If Venezuela joins the ranks of the “unfree” next year, its refugees — many of which are coming here — should be treated the same as Cubans.
Some politicians have blamed the flow of refugees on President Obama’s attempt to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, saying that it’s causing Cubans to panic about the future of the law. But the increases started before the president announced any reforms. Rather, its origin is the Cuban government’s 2013 decision to allow Cubans to leave the country without restrictions. Many Cubans have taken it up on its offer.
Repealing the CAA wouldn’t end the flow. It would just redirect it back over the dangerous seas or drive it underground — away from security checks and into the black market smuggling networks in Mexico. It is better for the United States to allow Cubans to come to the United States with documents and willingly submit to background checks than waste limited resources deporting them back to communism.
Congress can take action to make the policy of accepting Cuban asylum-seekers less costly. It could eliminate the special welfare benefits that Cuban immigrants receive that other immigrants cannot. Rep. Carlos Curbelo has a bill that would do just that, and Congressional Budget Office has found that it would save $2.5 billion over 10 years.
Nearly 60 percent of Cuban Americans oppose granting Cuban immigrants public assistance, according to a poll by the Sun Sentinel. Cuban Americans understand that their communities can incorporate these new immigrants without aid from the federal government.
Cuban immigrants have contributed greatly to the United States, especially to Miami where they have rebuilt and revitalized neighborhoods. Americans benefit from Cuban culture, food, and music as well. Now that the communist dictatorship to our south has decided to release its “prisoners,” we should continue to welcome them while decreasing the burden on taxpayers.David Bier is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.
Ted Galen Carpenter
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has managed to gain unprecedented attention for stating in his usual flamboyant fashion something that many respected foreign policy analysts have maintained for years: that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an obsolete security arrangement created in a vastly different era to meet an entirely different security situation. Yet NATO partisans typically act as though the date on the calendar reads 1950 instead of 2016. They see Russia as nearly identical to the Soviet Union at the zenith of its military power and global ideological influence and regard democratic Europe as a helpless protectorate. Today, however, Russia is little more than a regional actor with limited ability to project power. And far from helpless, Europe’s democratic nations have robust economies. As long as they continue to rely on America’s military and its security guarantees, they will not divert financial resources from their preferred domestic welfare priorities to national defense.
A striking feature of analysts who echo former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s contention that the United States is the “indispensable nation” is the bland assumption that America must take primary (and often exclusive) responsibility for the defense of other regions. One popular proposal is to reverse the post–Cold War drawdown of U.S. forces stationed in Europe. Advocates also typically want to pre-position large quantities of sophisticated weaponry in the Baltic republics and along other points on Russia’s western frontier so that the American military can ride to the rescue if Moscow engages in threatening behavior.
The notion of the United States as the indispensable nation is a manifestation of national narcissism that is especially pernicious with respect to Europe. The European Union now has both a population and an economy larger than the United States. Equally pertinent, the European Union has three times the population and a gross domestic product (GDP) some ten times that of Russia — the principal security concern of those countries. Even post-Brexit, that impressive strength will be diminished just modestly. Clearly, the European Union is capable of building whatever defenses might be necessary to deter Russian aggression — even granting the questionable assumption that Moscow harbors large-scale expansionist ambitions instead of just seeking to preserve a limited security zone along its borders. The European nations have not done more to counter Russia because it has been easier for them to free-ride on America’s security efforts.
The degree of allied free riding is breathtaking. At the NATO summit in 2006, the members committed to spending a minimum of two percent of GDP on the military and 20 percent of that spending on major equipment, including related research and development. But only the United States, Britain, Greece, and Estonia met that commitment prior to 2015 (and Greece did so only because of a perceived threat from fellow NATO member Turkey and a collapsing GDP). Moreover, only the United States, Britain, and Poland met both spending mandates in 2015. Several major NATO powers, including Germany, Italy, and Spain, have spending levels far below the 2 percent threshold. By comparison, the U.S. military’s budget exceeds four percent of its GDP.
U.S. concern about a lack of NATO burden sharing is nothing new. In late 1953, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles warned that the United States might have to conduct an “agonizing reappraisal” of Washington’s European security commitment if the allies didn’t make a more serious effort. But Washington’s frustration has become more noticeable in the years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. U.S. military spending nearly doubled during the following decade, whereas the already anemic outlays of NATO’s European members continued the downward trajectory that began with the end of the Cold War.
At a meeting of NATO defense ministers in February 2014, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned his European counterparts that they must step up their commitment to the alliance or watch it become irrelevant. Declining European defense budgets, he emphasized, are “not sustainable. Our alliance can endure only as long as we are willing to fight for it, and invest in it.” Rebalancing NATO’s “burden-sharing and capabilities,” Hagel stressed, “is mandatory — not elective.” His tone was firm: “America’s contributions in NATO remain starkly disproportionate, so adjustments in the U.S. defense budget cannot become an excuse for further cuts in European defense spending.”
Hagel’s warning did little more than inspire yawns. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of secessionist forces in eastern Ukraine, however, have generated greater agitation among NATO’s European members. The decision at the July 2016 NATO summit to station four battalions in the Baltic republics and Poland may have had more symbolic than actual military importance, but it did at least hint at greater seriousness.
Not only should policymakers revisit the wisdom of the Article 5 obligation, they need to consider whether American interests are best served by the United States remaining in the alliance at all.
Yet even in Eastern Europe, military exertions remain quite modest. Warsaw’s defense budget just now reached the two percent level that it promised following the 2006 summit — some ten years ago. A great deal of self-congratulatory fanfare accompanied Lithuania’s announcement that it was increasing its military spending by nearly one-third for 2016. However, that change would barely bring the country’s military expenditures up to 1.4 percent of GDP — still far below the two percent pledge. The reality is that for all the professed concern about possible Russian aggression, political leaders in Europe show few signs they are willing to back up their rhetoric with meaningful action.
It is time for the United States finally to conduct Dulles’s agonizing reappraisal. The only way to change the long-standing, frustrating dynamic is for the United States to make clear by actions — not just words — that it will no longer tolerate free riding on America’s military posture. That means, at the very least, gradually withdrawing all U.S. ground forces from Europe and drastically downsizing the presence of air and naval forces. It also means ending Washington’s insistence on U.S. domination of collective defense efforts through its NATO leadership. Indeed, the United States needs to abandon its myopic opposition to the European Union developing an independent security capability.
Policymakers need to take a hard look at NATO for two other reasons. First, allies are supposed to enhance America’s security, but recent additions to NATO have done the opposite. Most of the newer members fall into two categories — the irrelevant and the dangerous. In the former category are countries like Montenegro, with a tiny population and economy and a minuscule military. How Montenegro is supposed to help the United States in the event of a military crisis is truly a mystery.
But at least Montenegro has few enemies and no great power enemies. The same cannot be said of the three Baltic republics, which are on bad terms with Russia. The only thing worse than committing the United States to defend a small, weak, largely useless ally is doing so when that ally is highly vulnerable to another major power. Yet that is what Washington has foolishly done with the Baltic republics. RAND analysts conclude that a concerted Russian attack would overrun the Baltic states in about 60 hours. That would leave the United States (as NATO’s leader) with an ugly choice between a humiliating capitulation or a perilous escalation.
Worse, hawks in the United States advocate making defense commitments to Georgia and Ukraine, which are even more sensitive geographic locales to Russia. Alliances with such client states are perfect transmission belts to transform a local, limited conflict into a global showdown between nuclear-armed powers.
Second, although the United States likes to portray NATO as an alliance of liberal democracies, the reality is now murkier. There are disturbingly authoritarian trends in several NATO countries. Those trends are most pronounced in Turkey, which in the aftermath of July’s abortive military coup has become a barely disguised dictatorship under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But authoritarian developments have also taken place in Hungary and to a lesser, but still worrisome, extent in Poland, where elected leaders are now cracking down on political opponents and undermining democratic institutions. Does America really want to risk its security to protect such allies, especially when it purports to lead an alliance of enlightened democracies?
The world has changed a great deal since the stark days of the early Cold War when Washington felt compelled to defend a weak, demoralized democratic Europe from a powerful, menacing totalitarian adversary. It is long past time for European countries to take responsibility for their own defense — and for the overall security of their region. U.S. leaders should move beyond the usual futile rhetorical quest for burden sharing and take substantive steps toward burden shifting. Those steps must include reducing America’s military presence in the region, especially ground forces, and preventing any further ill-considered expansion of the alliance.
But those are only the necessary first steps. At a more basic level, the United States needs to consider whether the Article 5 provision that an attack on one NATO member constitutes an attack on all really serves America’s best interests any longer. Incurring risks, even grave risks, to protect a democratic and economic power center from a rapacious totalitarian adversary was one thing. To incur similar risks to protect marginal client states along the border of a second-tier regional power (which is today’s Russia) is quite another. The justification for the latter is far less compelling.
Not only should policymakers revisit the wisdom of the Article 5 obligation, they need to consider whether American interests are best served by the United States remaining in the alliance at all. No foreign policy institution is sacred or permanent. NATO has had a very long run — nearly seven decades. It emerged victorious in the Cold War, and there is a compelling argument that it should have been given a dignified retirement on that occasion. It is time to rectify that error and promptly begin the multi-year process of transferring security responsibilities for the European region to a Europeans-only organization. That would prepare the way for a U.S. withdrawal from NATO if future American leaders decide such a step is appropriate.
Ted Galen Carpenter is a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. He is the author of ten books and the contributing editor of ten books on international affairs, including four on NATO.
Michael F. Cannon
They’re dropping like flies.
The health-insurance giant Aetna has announced it will exit 11 of the 15 health-insurance exchanges where it sells Obamacare plans. Aetna’s announcement comes on the heels of news that UnitedHealthcare,Humana, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and Texas’ Scott and White Health Plan, and 70% of Obamacare’s failed Co-Ops, and other insurers will exit many or all of the exchanges for which they had previously shown such enthusiasm.
The ongoing and nationwide exodus of insurers is just the latest piece of evidence that Obamacare is a failed law built on false promises.
The ongoing and nationwide exodus of insurers is just the latest piece of evidence that Obamacare is a failed law built on false promises.
As it turns out, Obamacare does not prevent insurance companies from denying you coverage, dropping your coverage, or watering down your coverage. It does not prevent insurers from limiting your coverage. It does not prevent discrimination against the sick. All of these things happened in Pinal County—and not in spite of Obamacare, but because of it. Obamacare made covering everybody in the exchange prohibitively expensive, so insurers stopped covering anybody.
If you’re a Pinal County resident who had a pre-Obamacare plan that covered your (now-preexisting) medical condition, Obamacare took away your coverage and the long-term protection it provided. It has left you either with far more expensive coverage, or no coverage at all.
President Obama also promised Obamacare would give everyone “the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of Congress get for themselves.” Members of Congress can choose from four carriers in D.C.’s small business Exchange. (Who knew Congress is a small business?)
What about us little people? In 2017, one third of counties and one in six enrollees will have only one carrier in their Exchange. As it was before Obamacare, few Americans will have as many health-insurance choices as Congress.
President Obama repeatedly assured Americans: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” This year’s ongoing insurer exodus has so far added another 2 million Americans to the number that Obamacare has thrown out of their health plans.
In the same breath, Obama promised: “We will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.” Can you guess what one of the worst parts of all those plan cancellations is? They often force patients to switch doctors and hospitals mid-treatment.
Are you sitting down? He hasn’t kept that promise, either.
In 2016, eight states had Obamacare plans whose premiums increased by 39% or more. Half the states saw increases of 30% or more.
Premiums appear to be rising even faster in 2017. Across Tennessee’s three exchange-participating insurers, the lowest average increase will be 44%. The highest will be 62%.
Obamacare’s defenders respond that subsidies defray the cost of Obamacare plans. Except they don’t. Subsidies don’t reduce the amount of the premium. They just shift the cost of Obamacare coverage to taxpayers. Either way, fewer than half of consumers facing these premium hikes are getting subsidies.
For a great many people, including many with preexisting conditions, Obamacare has made matters worse. No one wants the system we had before Obamacare. But repealing Obamacare would create space for a sounder and more sustainable health reform than this ongoing failure.Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute.