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If you’ve seen movies or TV shows about the FBI and CIA, you’re familiar with the expression, “That’s on a need-to-know basis.” Traditionally, even members of the intelligence community weren’t necessarily entitled to a given piece of information. That changed on January 12, 2017, through modifications in Executive Order #12333, just as President Obama was on his way out the door. (Goodness, those first three weeks in January were a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity.)

Even at the time, there was interest in Obama’s rationale for doing this. THE ATLANTIC ran a piece by Kavey Waddell called “Why Is Obama Expanding Surveillance Powers Right Before He Leaves Office,” which suggested, perversely, that it was somehow to keep incoming President Trump from “encroaching even further on civil liberties.” What a joke; little did leftists know then that it was not Trump but the ‘deep state’ bureaucracy left in place under Obama that would be encroaching on civil liberties big-time in the months to come.

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/01/obama-expanding-nsa-powers/513041/

Thanks to Dan Bongino for citing this piece and taking us all down memory lane. Certainly there were questions at the time on both sides of the aisle about why Obama would do this just as he was leaving the White House. But recent revelations about the phony “Trump-Russia” investigation and the runaway unmasking of names connected with Trump are shedding light on this in a way never dreamed of in January of 2017.

What Obama did with Executive Order #12333 was to finalize new rules that allowed the National Security Agency to share information combed from its vast international surveillance capability with the 16 other intelligence agencies. These agencies would be able to apply for access to raw NSA intelligence, and their analysts would then be able to sift through this information unencumbered, BEFORE IMPLEMENTING REQUIRED PRIVACY PROTECTIONS. Before this, the NSA was required to apply those protections BEFORE sending information to other agencies.

The piece in THE ATLANTIC is an interview between Waddell and Susan Hennessey, managing editor of LAWFARE and previously an attorney in the NSA general counsel’s office, a person who actually believed --- I kid you not --- that this rule change was put in place to help discourage TRUMP from violating civil liberties. She said the regulations, coming at that time, might serve as “a huge source of comfort.” Waddell agreed:  “...While the changes may subject more Americans to warrantless surveillance, the last-minute timing of the announcement actually might have been designed to cut future privacy losses.” Huh?

Read the article and note the way Hennessey "minimized" (ha) the effect that these rule changes would have on privacy. She reassured us that other agencies would have to “provide justification” for why they needed access to the data. (Yes, we’ve seen since then how that requirement has held them in check.)

Hennessey said she wasn't concerned that Americans could be caught up in warrantless searches from being caught up in the raw intelligence that was shared. “Look, she told the interviewer, “I think it’s important to understand that these minimizing procedures are taken very seriously, and all other agencies that are handling raw signals intelligence are essentially going to have to import these very complex oversight and compliance mechanisms that currently exist at the NSA.”

I’ll pause while you fall to the floor helpless with laughter.

Recovered? Well, here’s more: “Within the NSA, those are extremely strong and protective mechanisms. I think people should feel reassured that the rules cannot be violated --- certainly not without it coming to the attention of oversight and compliance bodies. I am confident that all of the agencies in the U.S. intelligence community will discharge those very same obligations with the same level of diligence and rigor, adhering to both the spirit and letter of the law.”

Makes you want to laugh till you cry. I wonder if Bill Barr is laughing...or crying.

Oh, gosh, here’s even more amusement: “...I think the bottom line is that it’s comforting to a large national security community that these are procedures that are signed off by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and not by the DNI and attorney general that will ultimately be confirmed under the Trump administration.”

Well, THAT’S a relief!  Why, Trump might try to defy Americans’ constitutional rights, and the Obama people would NEVER have done that.

Hennessey concludes, “If there’s a silver lining to some of the ANXIETIES THAT THE INCOMING ADMINISTRATION HAS PRODUCED [emphasis mine], I think it’s the potential to move the conversation into a much more productive place.” Funny, I think it's the abuses of Obama’s administration, not Trump’s, that have brought us to the “productive” conversation we need to have about the intelligence community.

In his Thursday podcast, Bongino took a look at Obama’s order #12333 and noted that the day it was signed, January 12, coincides with the final unmasking request on Michael Flynn, made by Joe Biden. He postulates that after the rule changes on intelligence sharing, formal unmasking requests were no longer needed. By then, they had what they needed on Flynn, and #12333 made it possible for them to use “evidence” of a crime that was seized “incidentally” (while they were recording Ambassador Kislyak’s calls). That’s how they were able to criminally investigate Flynn, send the two agents 12 days later to interview the unsuspecting Flynn, and all the rest.

Remember that this particular call with Kislyak, the one on December 29, 2016, was NEVER unmasked, because Obama’s Presidential Briefing staff had told the FBI to get it. The narrative was that Flynn was picked up “incidentally,” but he really wasn’t. They were listening very intentionally. As Bongino explained, this executive order provided cover and allowed them to use the call. (Even though he never said anything inappropriate during the call, they absurdly tried to stretch the Logan Act to cover it.)

The media --- Exhibit A: that piece in THE ATLANTIC --- ran with their idiotic cover story: that Obama changed these rules because of anxiety that TRUMP would tread on Americans’ civil liberties. They really did it to stomp all over Mike Flynn’s civil liberties and to give themselves cover to do it.

By the way, I mentioned yesterday that we should mark our calendars for former acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 3, and now, Elizabeth Vaughn at RedState.com has just posted a great piece expressing the same enthusiasm.

https://www.redstate.com/elizabeth-vaughn/2020/05/27/844759/

Vaughn explains that it’s no accident Rosenstein is first up. The FBI’s own documentation shows that by the time Rosenstein appointed Mueller to be special counsel, he’d already been briefed that President Trump was not a suspect, as they had no evidence he personally had been involved in Russian “collusion.” The sources (Christopher Steele and his sub-sources) hadn’t held up. This must be why Rosenstein expanded the scope to include Flynn’s “criminal” violation of the Logan Act.

As I said, mark your calendars.

There are a few celebrities in the news these days for making profane, threatening tweets against the President. I usually ignore these stories because I have enough kids and grandkids to know that if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it; and these spoiled children are desperately seeking attention. The worst punishment you can mete out to them isn’t criticism, it’s ignoring them. So instead of rewarding them with undeserved attention, I thought I’d shine a spotlight on a few celebrities who are using their fame to make a positive difference.

First, how about a hand for Matthew McConaughey? He’s the spokesman for Lincoln Motors, and he convinced them to donate 110,000 face masks to rural hospitals and first responders in his home state of Texas. Then he loaded up his pickup, and he and his wife Camilla Alves hit the road to deliver them personally. Allright, allright, allright!...

Celebrity chef Guy Fieri is part of an effort to provide free meals for front line health care workers and first responders at Santa Clara, California, hospitals. One day, he not only helped make and hand out 1200 boxed lunches, he put a personal thank-you note inside each one.

Last month, country superstar Brad Paisley opened a grocery store in Nashville for people struggling to feed their families. It’s just like a regular grocery, except the food is free. It even delivers to the elderly. Brad has also launched an online song series with music stars performing to thank health care workers, and he recently recorded a personal thank-you for the nurses of Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Finally, a big Huck’s Hero salute to a celebrity who does more for veterans than just about anyone I know, Gary Sinese. His foundation is donating 20,000 meals to health care workers at VA medical centers around the nation.

I’m happy to give these celebrities some recognition because what they did was meant to help others, not to get themselves publicity. Social media might be a lot more civil if all media outlets would simply adopt the same policy of not giving attention to people who only do things to get attention.

The Fight Over Fisa

May 28, 2020

House Democrats were all set to vote on reauthorizing the use of advanced surveillance tools under the FISA court system, but they adjourned last night without voting after President Trump threatened to veto it. He tweeted, "Our Country has just suffered through the greatest political crime in its history. The massive abuse of FISA was a big part of it!"

Trump also urged Republicans to vote no "until such time as our Country is able to determine how and why the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history took place!”

Supporters of the FISA system argue that it’s needed to give intelligence agencies the tools they need to secretly intercept threats such as terrorist plots. However, as we’re learning more every day, when the people in charge don’t follow the rules, it can quickly become an unconstitutional, Soviet-style “secret court” system targeting US citizens without them even knowing it. We were assured that safeguards had been built in to prevent that, but they’re only as secure as the people entrusted to follow them – people like Peter Strzok, need I say more? I’m reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s comment on due process rights, that it’s better that 100 guilty men should escape than that one innocent man should suffer.

My “Huck’s Profiles in Cluelessness Award” goes to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who declared that we need to extend the FISA system because “if we don't have a bill, our civil liberties are less protected." Tell it to Michael Flynn! Come up with a bill that protects our civil liberties from the people running the FISA courts and then we’ll talk.

PS - Big props to Newsmax for picking the perfect photo to illustrate the story of Trump’s veto threat stopping this bill. I’ll bet when Nancy Pelosi pulled this little stunt for the cameras, she never imagined it being used to illustrate her own loss to Trump.

Today, President Trump reportedly plans to issue an as-yet undisclosed executive order aimed at ending political bias in the “fact-checking” and censoring of conservative posts on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

This has been brewing for a long time, but it came to a head when Twitter, for the first time, branded one of Trump’s tweets as substantially false and linked to CNN and Washington Post articles “debunking” it. Problem was, the tweet was about mail-in voting being an invitation to voter fraud, something that’s been widely established around the country, even as liberal media outlets continue to don blindfolds and deny it exists, in the same way that social media giants deny that bias exists in their ranks, no matter how obvious it is or how many former employees blow the whistle about it.

For instance, take a look at the past comments of Twitter’s “Head of Site Integrity,” the person tasked with insuring that posts are “just the facts, ma’am,” with no political partisanship:

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook tried to distance his company from this stench, saying, "We have a different policy than, I think, Twitter on this. I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. Private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that."

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wasn’t thrilled with that, responding: "Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make. This does not make us an 'arbiter of truth.' Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions."

First of all, I think criticizing an employee is fair game when that employee’s job is to prevent partisanship on Twitter and his history of radical leftwing partisanship on Twitter includes denigrating “flyover country” for electing a “racist tangerine” and putting “actual Nazis in the White House.” Seriously, did NOBODY else apply for that job?

Secondly, the problem arose when these social media platforms started yielding to the left’s demands to brand anything that they disagree with as a “lie.” I’m hard pressed to think of a single leftist policy of the past hundred years that hasn’t been a complete disaster, but I don’t accuse them of lying when they claim they work. I just assume they’re deluded and say, “Bless their hearts.”

These platforms have grown into the equivalent of America’s town square, a place where free speech should reign supreme. But they’ve been threatened with lawsuits because of what users post on them. They’ve enjoyed legal immunity because they’re classified as a "platform" (merely a conduit for other people’s comments), not a “publisher” (which implies that they control what is or isn’t posted.) Publishers can be sued. This is why they need to back off the editing and censoring of posts if they don’t want to worry about losing their immunity from lawsuits.

On the other hand, in our lawsuit-happy world, if Trump declares them publishers, that will practically force them to start exerting even more control over speech on all sides. They’ll no longer let radical leftists post threats against people they disagree with, but they’ll also edit and censor any remotely “controversial” posts by conservatives. That could easily include many of Trump’s own tweets.

As much as I hate the one-sided politics of the social media giants, I’d hate to see them replaced with even heavier censorship of both sides. How about returning to the idea of the Internet as the 21st century version of the Founders’ vision of a free marketplace of ideas, where bad ideas weren’t declared bad by self-appointed gatekeepers but by the wisdom of the people in shooting them full of holes and discarding them?

Now, I hope I don’t get banned from Facebook and Twitter for using the phrase “shooting them full of holes.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been saying for months that he would hold hearings on the “Trump/Russia” investigation and FISA abuse by the FBI. I know, I know –- more hearings, lots of oratory, lots of lawyerly evasion, maybe little to come of it all. On the other hand, it might actually be pretty darn productive; the first witness scheduled is former deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein released a statement saying how “grateful” he is to Sen. Graham for the “opportunity” to testify. I'm not kidding; he actually said that. Personally, I’m “grateful” for the “opportunity” to see this guy squirm under oath before the committee. What he has previously said under oath sounds utterly ridiculous in light of what we now know about the Carter Page FISA warrant, so this might really be amusing. I might even write up my own list of “just for fun” questions for Mr. Rosenstein.

"During my three decades of service in law enforcement,” his statement reads in part, “I learned firsthand that most local, state and federal law enforcement officers deserve the high confidence people place in them, but that even the best law enforcement officers sometimes make mistakes and that some engage in willful misconduct.” Well, he would know! Also, I’d want him to define the word “best.”

Here’s Rosenstein’s entire statement.

Recall that Rosenstein signed off on the last renewal of the FISA warrant against Carter Page, well after it was known they'd turned up no real evidence. He also wrote the “scope” memo (first and second versions) for Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, tasking Mueller in August of 2017 with investigating allegations against Carter Page (innocent), Michael Flynn (innocent), George Papadopoulos (innocent) and Paul Manafort (innocent of anything having anything to do with the campaign).

There’s yet a third Mueller “scope” memo that hasn’t been declassified yet; Rosenstein wrote it in October of 2017, long after they knew the "Trump-Russia" evidence was fiction.

No doubt Rosenstein will be asked about reports that he talked with other agents about wearing a wire into the Oval Office as part of a plan to use the 25th Amendment to get Trump removed from office. Sources told NBC NEWS that he was only “joking” about recording the President. Maybe he’ll regale us with a few more hilarious jokes while he’s under oath in Senate chambers.

Mark your calendars; the Senate’s “Oversight of the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation: Day 1” will be June 3.

Speaking of the Mueller investigation, John Dowd, President Trump’s lead attorney during that time, spoke out on Tuesday in an interview with Gregg Jarrett, saying the special counsel engineered a perjury trap for the President in the exact same way that James Comey’s FBI set a trap for then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

"Mueller’s scheme was the same one captured in the FBI set-up notes pertaining to Flynn,” Dowd told Jarrett. “They knew they had nothing, but using their official power they created and perpetuated the fraud of an investigation.”

Dowd said that his transparency with the special counsel team was turned against the President and that Trump’s legal counsel was “misled.” According to Dowd, they deliberately exploited what they knew to be untrue and discredited information (I assume he meant the Steele “dossier,” which was still kicking around after being debunked as fiction).

Stunningly, Mueller ADMITTED during a meeting with the President’s lawyers on March 5, 2018, that there was no evidence of Trump-Russia “collusion” to influence the 2016 election. But remember how they still tried to push Trump to testify? Dowd said he thought they had a “trusting” relationship with Mueller, “based on his word and handshake.” (Are you kidding me?) The special counsel had received “everything” they asked for, “including the most intimate notes of conversations.” Dowd didn’t see how there could be a “whisper” of obstruction under these circumstances.

As Mueller kept pushing for Trump to testify, Dowd realized it was a perjury trap, as this was the only thing they could possibly get. “Robert Mueller --- ‘D.C.’s great man’ --- completely and deliberately misled us in order to set up a perjury/false statement trap for POTUS," Dowd said. "It was a monstrous lie and scheme to defraud.”

This isn’t just Dowd's word; he came to the interview supplied with documents and letters supporting his accusations. Jay Sekulow, another of Trump’s lawyers, confirmed some of his accounts as well. As Jarrett says of the documents, “They paint a vivid picture of a special counsel determined to damage the President with an investigation bereft of any credible evidence.”

I hope you’ll read Jarrett’s piece in full; it goes into more detail about what Mueller was up to, particularly in trying to “get” Trump on obstruction simply for firing FBI Director James Comey. (No one has ever more richly deserved to be fired than Comey.) Mueller even said that Trump’s criticism of the special counsel might be construed as obstruction. Trump wasn’t even supposed to say anything in his own defense.

Quoting Jarrett: “Dowd felt that Mueller and his subordinates were now living in an alternate universe where their version of the law bore no resemblance to statutes, Supreme Court decisions, and accepted constitutional law.”

I hope John Durham has been talking with Dowd in his investigation of the “Russia” case. Sounds as if Dowd could tell him a thing or two about how that was really conducted. He told Jarrett he wants them all to be held to account for their corruption and dishonesty and their phony three-year investigation. NONE of them should walk, he said. “They knew there was nothing to investigate. People subverted the system of justice...It’s staggering. The lies were monstrous. It was all pretense and fraud.”

Finally, in breaking news announced Wednesday by the Justice Department, Attorney General Bill Barr has tapped Western Texas U.S. Attorney John Bash to look specifically into the issue of unmasking, as a support to the investigation being conducted by Durham.

Unmasking, when done for an appropriate reason, is not illegal, but it's a big deal, and there are many questions about why so many unmaskings took place, especially during Obama’s second term. Of course, there’s also the rapt attention that was being paid to Mike Flynn’s phone calls.

Incidentally, U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen, who was assigned by Barr to review the Flynn case, told Barr that based on what we now know, he doesn’t believe that ANY ONE of the 93 U.S. attorneys in the country would have continued to prosecute Flynn. So the mystery deepens as to why Judge Emmet Sullivan so bizarrely insists on doing it.