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TODAY
Friday March 24th, 2017

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metctalf

Updated hrs PT           
              


World & National 
"The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people."
-- Justice Hugo L. Black
(1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice
Trump warns GOP that 'no' vote on health-care bill helps Planned Parenthood
Friday vote is ‘finally your chance’ to replace Obamacare
         

Hours before the House was to vote on crucial health care legislation Friday, President Trump raised the ante for conservative lawmakers planning to vote against him, issuing a thinly veiled warning about possible 2018 GOP primary challenges if they cross him.

“The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!” the president said on Twitter of his opposition on the right.

Conservative activist Ralph Reed quickly retweeted the president’s comment, and added his own view about the consequences for Republicans who oppose the Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill.
Trump demands support in do-or-die vote
Republicans scramble
Can Ryan Survive
Trump praises Healthcare plan, Disses Freedom Caucus


State Department approves Keystone XL oil pipeline

          In this Feb. 1, 2012, file photo, miles of pipe ready to become part of the Keystone Pipeline are stacked in a field near Ripley, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

The State Department finally has approved the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ending a back-and-forth process inside the federal government that lasted nearly a decade.

Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas A. Shannon issued the presidential permit Friday morning, representing the Trump administration’s formal green-lighting of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had recused himself from the Keystone review process.

“It’s a great day for American jobs and a historic moment for North America and energy independence,” President Trump said Friday morning in brief White House remarks.



The Dealmaker Faces Rare Self-Doubt

President Trump, the author of “The Art of the Deal,” has been projecting his usual bravado in public this week about the prospects of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Privately he is grappling with rare bouts of self-doubt.

Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.

He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the act’s passage, when the legislation was scheduled for a vote.



Treasury Sec Mnuchin says will try to get 'comprehensive' tax reform done by August recess


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday that he will push for "comprehensive" tax reform by Congress' August recess, according to Reuters.

During an Axios event in Washington, D.C., the Treasury secretary said that President Donald Trump's objective for tax reform is a tax cut for the middle class, not the top one percent.

Mnuchin said the tax plan will be comprehensive, including both personal and corporate tax reform.



Potential 'smoking gun' showing Obama administration spied on Trum team

Republican congressional investigators expect a potential “smoking gun” establishing that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House Intelligence Committee this week, a source told Fox News.

Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretapped him in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.

The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.



Intelligence Reports Reveal Improper Political Surveillance of Trump, Transition Team
Obama White House received foreign intelligence that included discussions by Trump and aides

A House intelligence committee investigation took a dramatic shift this week after newly disclosed intelligence reports suggested the Obama administration improperly gathered and disseminated secret electronic communications from President Trump and his transition team prior to inauguration.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, indicated that the administration used its foreign intelligence gathering authority to spy on the discussions of Trump and his transition team by improperly unmasking the identity of Americans who were swept up in foreign electronic spying.



Trump Administration Plans to Roll Out New Iran Sanctions


President Donald Trump's administration is planning new sanctions against Iran that could be instituted as soon as Friday, according to CBS News.

The sanctions are aimed at foreign entities that have assisted with Iran's ballistic missile program. The sanctions are not believed to be in violation of President Barack Obama's international deal that froze Iran's nuclear program.

Diplomats in Europe said that Trump has agreed to honor Obama's Iran deal. However, Trump questioned why the former president made the deal earlier this week, CBS News reported.



Police Arrest 2 More in British Parliament Attack

British police said they had made two further significant arrests in the investigation into the attack on London's parliament and gave the birth name of the man behind the assault as Adrian Russell Ajao.

Britain's top anti-terrorism officer, Mark Rowley, said police had nine people in custody after the attack on Wednesday which killed five people including the assailant.

Police had said the man behind the attack was British-born Muslim covert Khalid Masood, who used several aliases, and that they were trying to establish if others had directed him.



Lindsey Graham to Back 'Nuclear Option' to Stop Dem Filibuster on Gorsuch

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday that he would support invoking the "nuclear option" if Senate Democrats filibuster the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

"If you filibuster Judge Gorsuch, you're telling President [Donald] Trump and every other Republican that we don't care that you won," the South Carolina GOP member told Kate Bolduan on CNN.

"He's the most qualified person President Trump could have chosen. Beyond reproach, in terms of his qualifications.



Networks covered fake UVA rape, but ignore alleged rape involving illegal immigrant


The major television networks dedicated significant coverage to an alleged rape at the University of Virginia that turned out to be a hoax, but have paid little attention to the brutal gang rape of a 14-year-old at a Maryland high school allegedly committed by at least one illegal immigrant.

According to the Media Research Center’s NewsBusters, ABC, CBS and NBC have hardly covered the horrific crime since Fox News’ Bret Baier became the first reporter to tell the story to a nationwide audience Monday night.

The major networks failed to follow up the Fox News story with reports of their own, even after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the rape during his press briefing on Tuesday.



CNN: ICE Putting Pressure on Sanctuary Cities With Raids

          Image: CNN: ICE Putting Pressure on Sanctuary Cities With Raids

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been targeting sanctuary cities with increased enforcement operations to pressure those jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration agents, CNN reported.

Citing an unnamed immigration official, CNN reported ICE officials have talked in internal meetings about carrying out more raids in more than 100 jurisdictions – cities, states and counties – that have policies limiting cooperation or involvement in immigration operations.

According to CNN, the increase in "operational activity" in sanctuary cities is one of the ways ICE is turning up on the heat on local authorities – and part of a broader strategy to coerce cooperation.



Judge Gorsuch wins the early rounds on points


Neil Gorsuch took the best shots, such as they were, of disheartened, dismayed and despondent Democrats this week, and nobody laid a glove on him. He was as fresh when it was over as when the slugging, such as it was, began.

“So what have we learned?” asked The New York Times, which presumes to be the leader of the insurrection against the new presidency. “He’s probably going to be confirmed.”

He’ll need 60 votes under the present rule, at least 8 more than the Republicans have readily available, and finding eight Democrats willing to defy Charles Schumer, the leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, won’t be easy. Mr. Schumer dreams of Democratic goose eggs when the tally is posted, but the gang’s posting of trash and trivia against Judge Schumer looks petty and puny. Democratic senators can only cast their votes in opposition by holding their noses at the stench of their own shame. There might be a Democratic rogue or two.



The growing threat of nucelar terrorism
America and Russia must cooperate to thwart rogue state attacks

The greatest challenge to global security is the nuclear threat from rogue states, led by North Korea and Iran. There will be no progress in ensuring global nuclear stability without cooperation between the United States and Russia. This should be a major priority for Presidents Trump and Putin. Much has been made of states trying to secure their borders against terrorist threats. While it is essential that borders are secured, terrorism is tackled and hatred confronted, we cannot ignore the greatest contemporary threat of all, nuclear attacks. It feels remote and unlikely, but is a very clear and present danger.

It is essential for the international community to remain alert to the constantly growing threat of nuclear terrorism, in whatever form it may take, ranging from the detonation of a ‘dirty’ bomb by a terror group or the destruction a nuclear facility to a full-fledged nuclear attack.


"It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
-- Noel Coward
     (1899-1973) British playwright


Medal of Honor
Army Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
    • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 

Citation

Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.



3/14/20017

We Have Met the Enemy…

      
Geoff Metcalf
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
              
--Benjamin Franklin
“The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
              
--Louis Freeh
In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

It is kinda cool to finally see even the New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2017/03/09/opinion/the-truth-about-the-wikileaks-cia-cache.html?_r=0) acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998 (http://www.wnd.com/1998/04/6108/ ).

In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA treaty (https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ukusa/ ) signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional ‘Patriot Act’.

It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

“Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

    More to follow…


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