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April 2017

If the Government Cannot Be Trusted, Can It Protect the Nation? A brawl over FISA is coming. By Andrew C. McCarthy

‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” Ronald Reagan famously described these as “the nine most terrifying words in the English language.” It may be time to propose a two-word corollary.

“Trust us.”

In the end, underneath the geek-speak of encryption, electronic intercepts, forward-looking infrared thermal imaging, satellite surveillance, and sundry collection technologies, that is what the government is really saying when it comes to national security: “Trust us. The intelligence collection we do is important — is essential – to keeping you alive. Oh . . . and don’t ask a lot of questions. You know, can’t discuss that — methods and sources, etc.”

I don’t think that’s going to cut it this time.

Before 2017 is out, we are going to have a brawl over FISA — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Specifically, over FISA section 702, on which much of the sprawling American intelligence enterprise is now based. It will lapse if not reauthorized by Congress.

We ought to be headed into that brawl with a sense of how dangerous the world has become: Competitive great-power geopolitics has reemerged, yet international jihadism remains as threatening as ever.

Instead, foremost in our minds will be how readily the government’s awesome intelligence capabilities can be abused. That is the real significance of the controversy over Obama-administration spying on the Trump campaign and transition.

The scandal that CNN is hell-bent on ignoring brings into sharp relief the very abuses the media, echoing civil-liberties activists, have warned against for years: pretextual uses of intelligence-collection powers to spy on political opponents and dissenters. As a national-security conservative with no illusions about government, I’ve acknowledged these concerns. I’ve countered, though, that the powers are, yes, essential to national security. The abuse of power is thus a reason to get rid of the abuser, not the power.


In yesterday’s London Sunday Times, Anthony Julius and Deborah Lipstadt on the latest Livingstone imbroglio:

“Ken Livingstone, who has been suspended from holding office in the Labour Party following his claims that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism, is a provocateur. That is to say: he doesn’t care about the truth.

To respond to him is already to elevate him; to debate him is a waste of time. Self-pitying, self-admiring, he believes himself to be a truth-telling, special-interest-defying, independent-minded maverick. He cannot be persuaded out of these delusions.

The implication is that anti-semitism is best engaged with at the level of reason, or ignored, following a diagnosis of imbecility. The problem with that approach is that it overlooks the fundamentally malicious nature of anti-semitism. Anti-semites have not reached their conclusions by some faulty line of reasoning that can be corrected. As if Livingstone, when presented with the historical record would say: Oh I see! Gosh, I got it wrong!

Livingstone and people like him conform to a familiar pre-1933 – that is to say pre-Holocaust – type of anti-semite. This kind of anti-semite lived among journalists, politicians and others with access to newspapers, radio stations and other public forums. They could be relied upon to see the Jews behind every scandal, to give a “Jewish twist” to any issue of public concern.

When criticised, they dismissed their critics as in the pay of the special interests that they had exposed. Of course their enemies attacked them: didn’t that prove they were on the right track?

They mostly appealed to constituencies liable to resentment at others’ perceived success. They tended to cast themselves as oppositionists, progressives. Their constituents were down, when they should be up. The Jews were up, when they should be down. Why was this so? A ready answer was always provided.

This explains much in Livingstone’s own career. He found his pleasure in anti-semitic asides mostly in the long years of his own political opposition.

Tony Thomas: The Utter Shame of Obama’s Iran Deal

Donald Trump has delivered bombs to the West enemies. Obama shipped pallets of cold, hard cash to Iran in a ransom deal that will do nothing to crimp the mullahs’ mischief while further heightening Israel’s jeopardy. Guess which president the media paints as the wise and heroic leader?
So President Trump bombed Syria’s Shayrat air force base on April 7 with 59 cruise missiles. Compare and contrast with President Obama’s “bombing”[1] of Tehran in January, 2016, with pallet-loads of European banknotes totalling $US1.7b. There was $400 million in Swiss franc notes and $1.3b in Euro notes.

Obama had organized the swap of US government dollars for the banknotes. He had a technical difficulty with the $1.3 billion because a long-standing US government rule limited payout to $1 billion. So he used his initiative and split his $1.3b request into 13 separate requests of $99,999,999.99 and a top-up of $10,390,236.28.[2]

The pallets of banknotes materialized at Geneva airport on January 3 ($400 million in francs), and January 22 and February 5 ($1.3b in Euros – some accounts say that other hard-currency notes were included). Each time, the treasure was ushered into a waiting, unmarked Iranian cargo plane. The plane took the money to Tehran and only the Iranians know where it went thereafter. Let us hope not on weapons and salaries for terrorists.

It’s a racy story but what’s it all about? It’s about a weekend’s work by Obama on January 16-17, 2016, where he consummated the anti-nuclear pact with Iran, did a prisoner swap of four Americans in Iran for seven Iranian-American sanctions-violators in the US, and settled a debt to Iran dating back to 1979 when the populace overthrew Shah Pahlavi. All three aspects involve murky stuff which has gradually trickled into the public domain, and which I’ll try to explain.

Obama’s main goal (jointly with five other world powers) was to thwart Iran’s rapid progress to the nuclear-bomb club.

In brief, Iran signed up that weekend to switching its deeply-buried Fordo nuclear plant to “a centre for science research”; to making its Arak plutonium-capable plant inoperable; and to halving its U235 bomb-capable uranium centrifuges at Natanz from 10,000 to 5,000. Enrichment is to stop at 3.7%, compared with the current 20% (bomb-capable is 90%). It has also promised to cap its stockpile of low-enriched uranium to 300kg (insufficient for an A-bomb upgrade) for 15 years.

Great stuff, but even the Obama-loving New York Times expressed concern that Iran would make monkeys out of the International Atomic Energy Agency scrutineers, given “Iran’s history of evasions, stonewalling and illicit procurements.” But assuming Iran behaves itself, the US will lift sanctions against arms sales in five years, and sales of ballistic missiles in eight years.

The Iran legislators and their street mobs have responded to the nuclear deal by retaining their No 1 slogan of “Death to America!” and re-iterating their ambition to nuke Israel as soon as feasible.

The Israeli government rated the Iran deal as a repeat of Munich in 1938, a licence for a second Holocaust, and a sop to a global terrorism. It repeated these views last August, when Obama claimed, improbably,

“Israeli military and security community acknowledges this [deal] has been a game changer…The country that was most opposed to the deal. By all accounts, it has worked exactly the way we said it was going to work.”

In reality, Iran the previous year had violated a 2010 Security Council resolution banning it from nuclear-capable missile tests. It did a further missile test in January, 2017, which exploited a loophole in a successor Security Council resolution.[3] The update inexplicably changed the wording from “shall not” test nuclear-capable missiles (emphatic) to Iran being “called upon” not to test such missiles (translation: utter, non-binding waffle).

Norway: Threat of Jihad by Judith Bergman

Norway seems to be making the same poorly thought-out choices as Britain.

It has apparently not occurred to these authorities that encouraging Muslims in prison to study the Quran and hadiths, with their exhortations to jihad against the “infidels”, may in itself serve to radicalize the inmates.

The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) just published in February its yearly threat assessment. It concluded — as did its threat assessment for 2016 — that Norway might experience an Islamic terrorist attack from Islamic State (ISIS) sympathizers acting upon ISIS’s call to carry out independent attacks. The PST explains:

“These calls to action are one reason why we have seen an increase over the last few years in the number of lone terrorist attacks in the West. The likeliest scenario for a terrorist attack in a Western country is an ISIL-/AQ-inspired attack carried out with a simple weapon against a target with little or no protection”.

“Lone wolf” attacks are rightly described as an actual terrorist strategy, rather than what the media likes to describe as random “mental illness”. In addition, this threat assessment now fits all of Europe.

The PST goes on to warn:

“Immigration to Europe will influence the terrorist threat in various ways in the coming year. One of the problems we expect to face is the radicalization of asylum-seekers, migrants and illegal immigrants in Norway. Attempts may be made to radicalize members of these groups by other migrants at reception centers or by visitors. As in previous years, individuals who support and sympathize with extreme Islamist organizations will arrive in Norway in 2017”.

The security risks inherent in unvetted migration are clearly spelled out by the PST. Migration to Norway in 2016 was at a record low of 3,460 asylum seekers — the lowest since 1997. The reason, according to Norway’s Directorate of Immigration, is that “… border and ID checks in Europe have had a decisive effect on numbers of arrivals in Norway”. Even so, the Directorate of Immigration estimates that double that number, or around 7,000 asylum seekers, will arrive in Norway in both 2017 and 2018.

The PST mentions another source of future jihadist attacks:

“Radicalization in prisons is a phenomenon that will become more common in Norway in 2017. There are a number of individuals currently in prison as a result of national investigations of travelers to Syria, and in 2017 more of them will be prosecuted for violation of the terror provisions in Norwegian law. This means that there will be an increasing number of prisoners in Norway who have played a role in extreme Islamist groups here and who also have operational experience gained abroad. It is likely that extreme Islamists will retain their convictions in prison and attempt to radicalize others. Attempts have already been made to radicalize other prisoners, including individuals sentenced for gross violence”.

Radicalization happens on a large scale in prisons, amply illustrated by experience in British prisons. The most recent example was Khalid Masood, who targeted the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge, murdering four people and injuring at least 50 others in a stabbing- and car-ramming attack. Masood is thought to have been radicalized while serving time in prison. This trend is likely in Norwegian prisons as well.

The Deconstruction of the West by Andrew A. Michta

The greatest threat to the liberal international order comes not from Russia, China, or jihadist terror but from the self-induced deconstruction of Western culture.

To say that the world has been getting progressively less stable and more dangerous is to state the obvious. But amidst the volumes written on the causes of this ongoing systemic change, one key driver barely gets mentioned: the fracturing of the collective West. And yet the unraveling of the idea of the West has degraded our ability to respond with a clear strategy to protect our regional and global interests. It has weakened the NATO alliance and changed not just the global security calculus but now also the power equilibrium in Europe. If anyone doubts the scope and severity of the problem, he or she should ask why it has been so difficult of late to develop a consensus between the United States and Europe on such key issues as defense, trade, migration, and how to deal with Russia, China, and Islamic jihadists.

The problem confronting the West today stems not from a shortage of power, but rather from the inability to build consensus on the shared goals and interests in whose name that power ought to be applied. The growing instability in the international system is not, as some argue, due to the rise of China as an aspiring global power, the resurgence of Russia as a systemic spoiler, the aspirations of Iran for regional hegemony, or the rogue despotism of a nuclear-armed North Korea; the rise and relative decline of states is nothing new, and it doesn’t necessarily entail instability. The West’s problem today is also not mainly the result of the economic decline of the United States or the European Union, for while both have had to deal with serious economic issues since the 2008 meltdown, they remain the two largest economies in the world, whose combined wealth and technological prowess are unmatched. Nor is the increasing global instability due to a surge in Islamic jihadism across the globe, for despite the horrors the jihadists have wrought upon the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, and the attendant anxiety now pervading Europe and America, they have nowhere near the capabilities needed to confront great powers.

The problem, rather, is the West’s growing inability to agree on how it should be defined as a civilization. At the core of the deepening dysfunction in the West is the self-induced deconstruction of Western culture and, with it, the glue that for two centuries kept Europe and the United States at the center of the international system. The nation-state has been arguably the most enduring and successful idea that Western culture has produced. It offers a recipe to achieve security, economic growth, and individual freedom at levels unmatched in human history. This concept of a historically anchored and territorially defined national homeland, having absorbed the principles of liberal democracy, the right to private property and liberty bound by the rule of law, has been the core building block of the West’s global success and of whatever “order” has ever existed in the so-called international order. Since 1945 it has been the most successful Western “export” across the globe, with the surge of decolonization driven by the quintessentially American precept of the right to self-determination of peoples, a testimony to its enduring appeal. Though challenged by fascism, Nazism, and communism, the West emerged victorious, for when confronted with existential danger, it defaulted to shared, deeply held values and the fervent belief that what its culture and heritage represented were worth fighting, and if necessary even dying, to preserve. The West prevailed then because it was confident that on balance it offered the best set of ideas, values, and principles for others to emulate.

Today, in the wake of decades of group identity politics and the attendant deconstruction of our heritage through academia, the media, and popular culture, this conviction in the uniqueness of the West is only a pale shadow of what it was a mere half century ago. It has been replaced by elite narratives substituting shame for pride and indifference to one’s own heritage for patriotism. After decades of Gramsci’s proverbial “long march” through the educational and cultural institutions, Western societies have been changed in ways that make social mobilization around the shared idea of a nation increasingly problematic. This ideological hollowing out of the West has been accompanied by a surge in confident and revanchist nationalisms in other parts of the world, as well as religiously inspired totalitarianism.

Republican Congress AWOL on Syria By Andrew C. McCarthy

Where is the Republican-controlled Congress on Syria? By all accounts, it is busy cheerleading the president’s firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles at a foreign sovereign — an offensive attack that was unprovoked and unauthorized by Congress, rendering it unconstitutional. With a Republican in the White House, though, Republicans on Capitol Hill are all for executive overreach, despite having spent the last eight years chiding a Democratic president’s excesses and Middle Eastern misadventures.

Of course, the bottom line is the same: Congress does nothing. But at least during the Obama years, legislative spinelessness was swaddled in righteous constitutional rhetoric. Now, lawmakers outright encourage presidential imperiousness and their own consequent irrelevance.

The Constitution vests in Congress the power to declare war — meaning the power to authorize military operations. The president may order the use of force unilaterally only when the United States is under attack, or at least the threat of attack. There was no such threat from the Syrian regime.

That makes Trump’s aggression unprovoked. Yet, Trump apologists claim that the use of chemical weapons by the despicable Assad — perhaps in collusion with his despicable Russian and Iranian enablers — is provocation enough. It is not. To be a provocation warranting unauthorized forcible retaliation, an attack must target the United States. Or, as someone once said: America First!

The Syrian atrocity — or should we say, the latest Syrian atrocity — had nothing to do with America. It was more internecine Islamic savagery. It was a case of a ruthless dictator in a barbaric civil war conducting yet another attack on his opposition, including the non-combatant civilians among whom that opposition hides. And as the Long War Journal’s Thomas Joscelyn reminds us in an essential report published by the Weekly Standard, Assad’s opposition includes al-Qaeda cells, Islamic State elements, and assorted Islamist militants. These factions are notorious for their own atrocities and desire to cleanse Syria of its Christian and other non-Islamic populations.

American troops are on the ground in Syria, coordinating coalition attacks on the anti-Assad jihadists. Assad, Russia, and their equally loathsome Iranian/Hezbollah allies are not targeting those Americans in Syria. Why would they?

While Assad & Co. avoid confrontation with American forces, Trump’s attack on Assad buoys the jihadists. It gives them hope that if they can hang in long enough, stave off the reluctant American intervention long enough, the new administration will engineer Assad’s removal from power — an intention Trump’s State Department is now signaling. That would pave the way for the jihadists to turn most of Syria into another of the Sunni sharia-supremacist basket-cases we’ve come to know so well — like Egypt while under Muslim Brotherhood-control, Afghanistan under Taliban domination, post-Qaddafi Libya, and other failed states whose ungovernable frontiers become safe havens for anti-American terrorism.

Time for the US to stop arming its enemies By Rachel Ehrenfeld

No one expects the Trump administration to reverse the disastrous effects of the Obama supported Muslim Brotherhood’s highjacking of the “Arab-Spring” in the Middle East that increased the regional contest for supremacy in the Islamic world. The rivalry has intensified between the Sunni camp led by Saudi Arabia and the Shiite camp led by Iran – each with their pet terrorist organizations.

It’s hard to overstate how much damage was done by the Obama Administration’s misjudgment that Sunni jihadists and Shia Iran were somehow friendly to us and could be useful tools of American policy. But using jihadi groups claiming to be less violent than al-Qaida and ISIS resulted in the Benghazi massacre of four Americans including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the destabilization of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, and elsewhere.

The “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” (SATA) (HR 608), which was sponsored Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) would help curtail U.S. assistance to Sunni and Shia jihadists, who would gladly use it against Americans, not not only against each other.

Rep. Gabbard points out in her introductory statement for the bill,

“Under U.S. law it is illegal for any American to provide money or assistance to al-Qaida, ISIS or other terrorist groups. If you or I gave money, weapons or support to al-Qaida or ISIS, we would be thrown in jail. Yet the U.S. government has been violating this law for years, quietly supporting allies and partners of al-Qaida, ISIL, Jabhat Fateh al Sham, and other terrorist groups with money, weapons, and intelligence support, in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government.”

Global warming: Science or dogma? By Michael Nadler

The Science & Environmental Policy Project is an outstanding resource for those unwilling to bury their heads in the sand and blindly accept the notion that human-caused catastrophic global warming is settled science and must be the highest priority in allocating the world’s limited economic resources.

Its April 1, 2017 issue of “The Week That Was” leads with the point that “government-funded Climate Studies have largely turned from empirical science to dogma — a belief system unsubstantiated by physical evidence.” Each week’s TWTW is chock full of commentary and links describing the latest science and other developments that challenge the climate change orthodoxy. This issue highlights the written testimony of John Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Alabama’s State Climatologist and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, at the March 29th hearing titled “Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method” held by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Professor Christy’s summary of his written testimony, supported by evidence in the full statement, gives rise to serious questions about those who think the subject of catastrophic global warming is no longer open to further scientific inquiry and debate.

“Science” is not a set of facts but a process or method that sets out a way for us to discover information and which attempts to determine the level of confidence we might have in that information. In the method, a “claim” or “hypothesis” is stated such that rigorous tests might be employed to test the claim to determine its credibility. If the claim fails a test, the claim is rejected or modified then tested again. When the “scientific method” is applied to the output from climate models of the IPCC AR5, specifically the bulk atmospheric temperature trends since 1979 (a key variable with a strong and obvious theoretical response to increasing GHGs in this period), I demonstrate that the consensus of the models fails the test to match the real-world observations by a significant margin…




The play is generally so smartly written, the characters and their realization so vivid, and the direction of Bartlett Sher so taut that you are drawn into a three-hour drama about something intrinsically undramatic, in which nuance and minutiae are generally more crucial than action: negotiations. It also helps quite a bit if you accept the play’s premises, which I think most people will.

I do not. But before explaining why, I should note that the play received its premiere last summer in Lincoln Center’s smaller Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater and the production was slightly modified for its new “Broadway” run. The author’s research was considerable (he previously took on the Rwandan genocide in “The Overwhelming” and 1980s Afghanistan battles in “Blood and Gifts”). And the true-to-life aspect of “Oslo” is startling. Much of it takes place in a castle outside Oslo (abstractly suggested by Michael Yeargan’s spare sets) where a Norwegian sociologist, Terje Rød-Larsen —played by Jefferson Mays as a polished but obsessed ironist—is eager to apply theories of negotiation to the conflicts of the Middle East. Together with his wife, Mona Juul, an official in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry—played by Jennifer Ehle as a stern but gracious overseer who fills the audience in on details—they secretly assemble their subjects (neither side wanted to be publicly seen meeting the other) and set the wheels in motion. The surprise is that in September 1993 this resulted in the Oslo Accord, marked by a historic handshake on the White House lawn between Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister, and Yasser Arafat, the PLO’s head, soon to lead the newly formed Palestinian Authority.

Since Mr. Rogers pulled off this success, it also seemed more plausible that the historical characters thought they could too. We are reminded of the play’s historical claims again and again, both by actors impersonating Israeli politicians ( Yossi Beilin, Shimon Peres ) and by the cast interjecting reminders of terrorist attacks and retaliations during the negotiations and, at play’s end, into the present. We are meant, ultimately, to side with Mr. Rød-Larsen, who declares that, despite it all, what was achieved should give us hope. The play is a plea for the value of negotiations.

The truth is, it depends. Most recently, negotiations removing chemical weapons from Syria proved to be a sham. The Vietnam peace talks led to a completely worthless agreement. And remember Munich?

It depends on who is negotiating and why. What we don’t learn from the play, for example, is that Israeli leaders had already had confidential meetings with a PLO-connected figure, Faisal Husseini, before the Norwegians took on this project and the talks led nowhere for multiple reasons. Oslo may have “succeeded” partly because it was so flawed: Israel had no security representative involved; the Palestinians had no legal representative. And the PLO, which had become impoverished and sidelined, was being brought back into power.

The play’s epilogue acknowledges that troubles did not end, but mentions just two terrorist attacks in the two years after the signing—both by Jews, one being the assassination of Rabin in November 1995. But that is a distortion. In May 1994, Arafat called for a “jihad” to liberate Jerusalem and referred to the agreement as part of a staged plan for dismantling Israel. And in the 21/2 years after the signing, 210 Israelis were murdered in terror attacks—three times the average toll of the previous 26 years. Before his 2001 death, Mr. Husseini boasted of the Oslo accord as a Palestinian Trojan Horse. …..

North Korea Parades New Long-Range ‘Frankenmissile’ Pyongyang displays military hardware, including apparently new intercontinental ballistic missile By Jonathan Cheng

SEOUL—North Korea showed off what appeared to be at least one new long-range missile at a military parade Saturday, as tensions simmer over the possibility of a military confrontation between the U.S. and North Korea.

The weaponry on show, which appeared to include a newly-modified intercontinental ballistic missile and two types of large launchers with never-before-seen missile canisters, is likely to trigger fresh concerns about the speed with which Pyongyang’s missile program has advanced in recent years.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on the possible new military hardware, saying more time was needed to analyze the missiles.

But an expert on North Korean weapons said the new hardware appeared to be far more advanced than expected.

“We’re totally floored right now,” said Dave Schmerler, a research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif. “I was not expecting to see this many new missile designs.”

Mr. Schmerler called the new ICBM, which appeared to have elements of two other ICBMS, the KN-08 and KN-14 missiles, a “frankenmissile.”

Missile experts said the new capabilities, if confirmed, may increase Pyongyang’s options as it seeks to test-launch a ICBM able to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S., as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un indicated in a speech in January. U.S. President Donald Trump responded after that new-year speech, posting on Twitter: “It won’t happen!”

Meanwhile, recent satellite imagery suggests North Korea may be preparing a sixth nuclear test at Punggye-ri, where the recorded blasts have escalated in strength since the first one in 2006.