Experts said Iranian officials are trying to demonstrate to the U.S. and its allies that the Islamic Republic is able to push back and gain leverage against the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy, which intensified after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the landmark nuclear deal in May 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions, making it difficult for Iran to export oil, the foundation of the country’s economy.
China, Russia and leading Western European countries have sought ways around the U.S. sanctions, but it has been difficult to bypass them.
“The message that Iran is sending is that it is capable of making international waters unsafe not just for the U.S., but for international trade,” said Reza H. Akbari, a program manager and Iran expert at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
These are the reasons for oil tanker seizures and attacks by Iranian limpet mines.
They have sparked fears of wider US-Iran attacks in the greater region, which could take place in and around the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow body of water linking the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, which feeds into the Arabian Sea and the rest of the world.
A satellite image of marine traffic passing through the Strait of Hormuz as on January 9, 2020. MarineTraffic.com
One strategy could include Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz, which would stop oil tanker traffic, disrupt global oil supply, and send prices shooting up.
Here’s what you need to know about this valuable strait.
Some 21 million barrels of crude and refined oil pass through the strait every day, the EIA said, citing 2018 statistics.
That’s about one-third of the world’s sea-traded oil, or $1.2 billion worth of oil a day, at current oil prices. The majority of Saudi Arabia’s crude exports pass through the Strait of Hormuz, meaning much of the oil-dependent economy’s wealth is situated there. Saudi state-backed oil tanker Bahri temporarily suspended its shipments through the strait after Iran’s missile strikes in Iran, the Financial Times reported.
Trump noted that much of China and Japan’s oil flow through the strait, and added: “So why are we protecting the shipping lanes for other countries (many years) for zero compensation.”
While a large proportion — 76% — of oil flowing through the chokepoint does end up in Asian countries, the US still imports more than 30 million barrels of oil a month from countries in the Middle East, Business Insider has reported, citing the EIA.
That’s about $1.7 billion worth of oil, and 10% of the US’s total oil imports per month.
If Iran followed through with these threats, it would likely cause a huge disruption to the global oil trade. As the strait is so narrow, any sort of interference in tanker traffic could decrease the world’s oil supply, and send prices shooting up.
Global oil prices have proven vulnerable to tensions between Iran and the West before. After the Trump administration said in April 2019 it would stop providing sanctions waivers to countries who purchase Iranian oil, prices rose to their highest level since November the year before, Axios reported.
How likely is Iran to shut down the strait?
Iran is more likely to disrupt traffic in the Strait of Hormuz than to engage in an all-out conventional war with the US, which is much stronger militarily.
But doing so comes with high costs to Iran.
To close down the entire strait, Iran would have to place at least 1,000 mines with submarines and surface craft along the chokepoint, security researcher Caitlin Talmadge posited in a 2009 MIT study. Such an effort could take weeks, the study added. (taken in part from here)
Asim Umar (1974/1976 – 23 September 2019) was an Indian militant and the leader of al–Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. Al–Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the creation of AQIS and introduced Asim Umar as its leader in a video posted online in September 2014.
Though the Taliban or al-Qaeda has not given an official confirmation of their own, the Afghan government has released pictures and confirmed his death alongside six other AQIS operatives in a joint U.S.-Afghan operation (Al Jazeera, October 8).
Umar was killed in an Afghan Taliban hideout in Musa Qila district, a known Taliban stronghold in Helmand province. The circumstances are indicative of long-running Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda ties and their collaboration in the Afghan insurgency. The idea that the Taliban would deny a safe haven to foreign fighters in Afghanistan after reaching a peace deal with the United States, as was suggested during negotiations, has been proven unlikely following Umar’s discovery in Taliban-held territory. More details here.
The U.S. Department of Defense suppressed a press release that would have announced the death of Asim Umar, the emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, because it “would complicate future negotiations with the Taliban,” military officials have told FDD’s Long War Journal.
The U.S. military killed Umar in the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala in Helmand province, Afghanistan on Sept. 23, 2019. Umar was killed just two weeks after President Donald Trump canceled a possible deal between the U.S. and the Taliban. As part of that accord, the U.S. was willing to accept the Taliban’s supposed counterterrorism assurances.
The Sept. 23 raid exposed the ongoing ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda’s branch in South Asia. Among the 17 people killed was Haji Mahmood, the Taliban’s military commander for the neighboring district of Naw Zad, which is also controlled by the Taliban.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, has claimed throughout “peace” negotiations that the Taliban would sever ties with al Qaeda. But Umar’s presence with the Taliban cast further doubt Khalilzad’s claim that the Taliban is truly willing to split with its longtime battlefield allies.
Umar was not the only al Qaeda operative killed in the raid. Raihan, Umar’s courier to Zawahiri; Faizani, the AQIS chief for Helmand and an ‘explosives expert;’ and Madani, Faizani’s deputy, also perished during the raid, which including intense airstrikes that killed more than a dozen civilians.
Umar’s wife was identified as one of six Pakistani women detained during the operation. Fourteen other “terrorists” were also captured, according to Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security.
The NDS confirmed Umar’s death on Oct. 8, 2019, and released photographs of Umar, both dead and alive. AQIS itself had previously obscured images of Umar, likely due to its concerns over operational security.
Al Qaeda and AQIS have not released a martyrdom statement confirming his death, but have not denied that he was killed. The Taliban, which has a vested interest in hiding its ties with al Qaeda (although it occasionally slips up) called the reports of his death “a part of enemy fabricated propaganda.”
Umar’s presence with the Taliban was “inconvenient”
The U.S. military was aware of Umar’s death and the Department of Defense was prepared to announce it a week after the statement by the NDS, military officials and officers who are familiar with the events told FDD’s Long War Journal on condition of anonymity.
A press release announcing Umar’s death was drafted and currently resides at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, military officials have confirmed. Yet, three months after OSD drafted the press release, it remains hidden from the public.
FDD’s Long War Journal has contacted the OSD several times over the past three months requesting comment on the press release, but has not received a response.
The U.S. military has suppressed the report of Umar’s death as “his presence with the Taliban during the late stage of talks would complicate future negotiations with the Taliban,” one defense official said.
“Asim Umar, his staff, his courier to [Al Qaeda emir Ayman] Zawahiri, and even his wife, were embedded with the Taliban, in the Taliban’s heartland,” a military officer said. “When you want to sell a split between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, these facts become inconvenient.”
President Trump has long pledged to sign off on declaring drug cartels as terror organizations going back to at least March of 2019.
Mexican security forces on Sunday killed seven more members of a presumed cartel assault force that rolled into a town near the Texas border and staged an hour-long attack, officials said, putting the overall death toll at 20.
The Coahuila state government said in a statement that lawmen aided by helicopters were still chasing remnants of the force that arrived in a convoy of pickup trucks and attacked the city hall of Villa Union on Saturday.
The reason for the military-style attack remained unclear. Cartels have been contending for control of smuggling routes in northern Mexico, but there was no immediate evidence that a rival cartel had been targeted in Villa Union.
Earlier Sunday, the state government had issued a statement saying seven attackers were killed Sunday in addition to seven who died Saturday. It had said three other bodies had not been identified, but its later statement lowered the total deaths to 20.
The governor said the armed group — at least some in military style garb — stormed the town of 3,000 residents in a convoy of trucks, attacking local government offices and prompting state and federal forces to intervene. Bullet-riddled trucks left abandoned in the streets were marked C.D.N. — Spanish initials of the Cartel of the Northeast gang.
Given the recent deaths in two attacks, momentum is building and what is taking so long? Frankly, it comes down to the trade deal(s) between the United States and Mexico which has been approved by Mexico, Canada, and the United States but not ratified yet by our own Congress.
For some context on how easy it is to apply sanctions regarding ‘countering narcotics trafficking,’ there is a law titled the King Pin Act. Recently updated this past June, The Foreign Narcotics King Pin Designation Act has 32 pages, two columns of named individuals or organizations.
On December 3, 1999, the President signed into law the Kingpin Act (21 U.S.C. §§ 1901-1908 and 8 U.S.C § 1182), providing authority for the application of sanctions to significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations operating worldwide. Section 805(b) of the Kingpin Act blocks all property and interests in property within the United States, or within the possession or control of any U.S. person, which are owned or controlled by significant foreign narcotics traffickers, as identified by the President, or foreign persons designated by the Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Attorney General, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Secretary of State, as meeting the criteria as identified in the Kingpin Act.
On July 5, 2000, OFAC issued the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 598, which implement the Kingpin Act and block all property and interests in property within the United States, or within the possession or control of any U.S. person, which are owned or controlled by specially designated narcotics traffickers, as identified by the President, or foreign persons designated by the Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Attorney General, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State, as meeting the following criteria:
• Materially assists in, or provides financial or technological support for or to, or provides goods or services in support of, the international narcotics trafficking activities of a specially designated narcotics trafficker;
• Owned, controlled, or directed by, or acts for or on behalf of, a specially designated narcotics trafficker; or
• Plays a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.
III. PROHIBITED TRANSACTIONS
E.O. 12978 blocks the property and interests in property in the United States, or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, of the persons listed in the Annex to E.O. 12978, as well as of any foreign person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, to be a specially designated narcotics trafficker.
The names of persons and entities listed in the Annex to E.O. 12978 or designated pursuant to E.O. 12978, whose property and interests in property are therefore blocked, are published in the Federal Register and incorporated into OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List) with the OFAC program tag “[SDNT].” The SDN List is available through OFAC’s web site: http://www.treasury.gov/sdn.
THE KINGPIN ACT
The Kingpin Act blocks all property and interests in property within the United States, or within the possession or control of any U.S. person, of the persons, identified by the President, or foreign persons designated by the Secretary of the Treasury, after consultation with the previously identified federal agencies.
So, what is the problem? Actually it is likely the top government officials of Mexico would be sanctioned and the government itself would fall. The other suggestion is U.S. domestic banks would be implicated as well as some city officials in the United States including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Newark, and Miami.
In part: Usman Khan, 28, was jailed in 2012 for his role in an al Qaeda-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and the US Embassy and kill Boris Johnson.
The members of Usman Khan’s Al Qaeda-inspired gang who plotted to blow up the London Stock Exchange and kill Boris Johnson. From left to right: Mohammed Moksudur Chowdhury, Mohammed Shahjahan, Shah Mohammed Rahman. Middle row: Mohibur Rahman, Gurukanth Desai, Abdul Malik Miah. Bottom row: Nazam Hussain, Usman Khan, Omar Sharif Latif
Giving a statement outside Scotland Yard, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said Usman Khan was subject to an ‘extensive list of license conditions’ on his release from prison and that ‘to the best of my knowledge he was complying with those conditions’.
A furious political row began today after it was revealed that Khan was released automatically from prison last year – though he was still tagged and monitored.
Khan, born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, originally received an indeterminate sentence for public protection with a minimum of eight years behind bars after his 2012 arrest, meaning he would remain locked up for as long as necessary, to protect the public.
Passing judgment at the time, Mr. Justice Wilkie said: ‘In my judgment, these offenders would remain, even after a lengthy term of imprisonment, of such a significant risk that the public could not be adequately protected by their being managed on license in the community, subject to conditions, by reference to a preordained release date.’
But this sentence was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he was given a determinate 16-year jail term instead, meaning he would be automatically released after eight years.
It has been speculated that the attack may have been revenge for the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
It has also emerged today that he was a student and ‘personal friend’ of hate preacher Anjem Choudary. Khan spent years preaching on stalls that were linked to al-Muhajiroun, the banned terror group once led by Choudary.
As part of the plotting which led to his 2012 arrest, Khan’s group planned to set up a training camp in Kashmir, where his family had land.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that it was a ‘mistake’ to release Khan from prison and has vowed to crack down on early releases for inmates. The PM visited the scene of the attack today with Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, and Home Secretary Priti Patel.
When first sentenced, yesterday’s attacker Khan was handed an Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) with a minimum term of eight years by Mr. Justice Wilkie in February 2012.
This was overturned by the Court of Appeal in April 2013, when the indeterminate sentence was quashed. Instead, he was handed 16 years in jail with an extended license period of five years.
At the time he was jailed, Khan had spent 408 days on remand and this was taken into account when considering his release date.
He was eligible for release after serving half of his 16-year jail term, less the time he had already spent on remand.
Khan was obliged to adhere to the notification provisions of the 2008 Counter-Terrorism Act for a total of 30 years.
He was released from prison after agreeing to wear an electronic tag and be monitored by authorities.
Speaking before chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee Cobra on Friday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had ‘long argued’ that it is a ‘mistake to allow serious and violent criminals to come out of prison early and it is very important that we get out of that habit and that we enforce the appropriate sentences for dangerous criminals, especially for terrorists, that I think the public will want to see’.
Chris Phillips, a former head of the UK National Counter Terrorism Security Office, said today: ‘The criminal justice system needs to look at itself.
‘We’re letting people out of prison, we’re convicting people for very, very serious offenses and then they are releasing them back into society when they are still radicalized. Much more here.
*** Just for consideration, there are an estimated 74 more cases of those just like Khan walking the streets of Britain. With the numbers of returning ISIS fighters to Europe….well it is easy to predict more attacks. ISIS may no longer have caliphate territory but the Internet is for sure the headquarters for continued and successful militant Islamic fighters. Europe… hear the clarion call.
The details were contained in a search warrant affidavit partially unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Boston in connection with the pending appeal of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now 26, the younger brother of Tamerlan and his coconspirator in the bombings.
While Tamerlan Tsarnaev and a friend, Ibragim Todashev, were suspected in the Waltham killings previously, this week’s filing offers new details into the actions of the elder Tsarnaev in the years leading up to the 2013 Marathon bombings.
The search warrant affidavit, filed in the bombing case, recounted statements that Todashev made to investigators in a May 2013 interview. Shortly after making the statements, officials say, Todashev was fatally shot by a Boston FBI agent when he allegedly lunged at the agent with a metal broomstick.
Officials also alleged Todashev hurled a coffee table at the agent, striking him in the head. Authorities ruled that the FBI agent who shot Todashev had acted in self-defense.
“Todashev confessed that he and Tamerlan participated in the Waltham murders” on Sept. 11, 2011, of Brendan Mess, 25, Erik H. Weissman, 31, and Raphael M. Teken, 37, the affidavit said. The victims were killed in Mess’s apartment on Harding Avenue in Waltham.
The Middlesex district attorney’s office said Friday the investigation into the Waltham triple slaying was still open.
One of the Waltham victims, Mess, had formerly been a close friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. But Tsarnaev did not attend Mess’s funeral, a friend of Mess’s told the Globe in 2013, saying it raised suspicions.
The affidavit said Todashev indicated “he and Tamerlan had agreed initially just to rob the victims, whom they knew to be drug dealers who sold marijuana. Todashev said that he and Tamerlan took several thousand dollars from the residence and split the money. Todashev said that Tamerlan had a gun, which he brandished to enter the residence.”
Todashev indicated that Tamerlan Tsarnaev chose to escalate the crime from robbery to murder.
“Tamerlan decided that they should eliminate any witnesses to the crime, and then Todashev and Tamerlan bound the victims, who were ultimately murdered,” the affidavit said. “Todashev said that they spent over an hour cleaning the scene.”
According to this week’s filing, Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev wanted to remove “traces of their fingerprints and other identifying details” from the scene.
The two traveled to the scene of the murders together in a gray, 1999 Honda CR-V and left the scene together in that same vehicle, according to the filing.
The victims were discovered in Mess’s apartment with their throats slit and their bodies sprinkled with marijuana.
The search warrant was for Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Honda CR-V. Investigators were seeking “blood, DNA, trace evidence, and other items” in the vehicle that may have linked him and Todashev to the Waltham slaying, according to the affidavit.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether any physical evidence was recovered.
The Tsarnaev siblings carried out the April 15, 2013, bombings, which killed three people, including an 8-year-old Dorchester boy, and wounded more than 260 others. The brothers also killed an MIT police officer while they were on the run.
State and federal investigators first contacted Todashev, who was a gym buddy of Tamerlan Tsarnaev before he moved to Florida, six days after the Marathon bombings.
Todashev spoke to investigators several times in the weeks after the bombings. But, after Todashev booked a ticket home to Russia in May, an FBI agent and two state troopers traveled to Orlando to interview him.
At his apartment in May 2013, the three law enforcement officers interviewed Todashev starting around 7:30 p.m. and stretching past midnight. Another officer stood guard outside.
At first, Todashev denied involvement in the Waltham murders: “Like I said, I didn’t kill nobody and I need your help.” But eventually, he confessed that he was involved in it, officials said.
Shortly after midnight, the apartment erupted in violence. A coffee table was hurled in the air, opening a gash on the FBI agent’s head that would require nine staples. Todashev then brandished a metal broomstick and charged. The bleeding agent shouted at Todashev to stop, then fired his gun three or four times. Todashev fell, but sprang up and lunged again, and the agent shot him several more times. Todashev fell again, face down, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted and sentenced to death in 2015 for his admitted role in the Marathon bombings.
The heavily redacted warrant was unsealed Wednesday at the request of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers.
The attorneys maintain the trial judge erred when he barred the defense from telling jurors about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s suspected involvement in the Waltham case.
Federal prosecutors have responded that the Waltham evidence doesn’t “show that Tamerlan ‘influenced’ or ‘intimidated’ him into committing the crimes in this case or that [Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev played a lesser role in the bombing.”
The changes to our vocabulary change our ideas, steal our freedoms, and indoctrinate our students to accept the rules that socialists and fascists are inflicting upon them.
A letter written by a local elementary school teacher, I’ll call “Mrs. Krieg,” was brought to my attention by a mutual acquaintance. In light of the notice that honor classes will be discontinued, she thoughtfully agreed that equity (defined as fairness and impartiality) in the schools should benefit all students. Regrettably, she has been influenced by terminology that has been devalued and redefined to become a tool for social engineering among students. Such revisionism has been applied to Equity, Diversity and Social Justice, and comes at the expense of freedom and true justice.
Honors classes were designed to challenge students academically. The advanced work, faster pace, and higher course-credit weight have provided for smarter, happier, well-rounded children who had the opportunity to flourish according to their capabilities and not misbehave out of boredom. But now, the authorities have determined it best to cancel the honor courses across the country because of a “lack of diversity” – that is, more Caucasian and Asian students were engaged than Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. Instead of also providing honors classes that meet the interests of the low-energy students – perhaps music, theater, artisanal handicrafts – the Department of Education has decided to close the achievement gap by lowering the bar and expectations and discontinuing all incentives. Mrs. Krieg did not foresee that by eliminating the incentives and opportunities, the resulting “equity” would be mediocrity and the loss of exceptional achievement.
Now the Department of Education will generate equity in boredom, discontent, resentment, truancy, and delinquency. Academia is not unaware of these inevitabilities. Their purpose is not an improved education but the decline of achievement and the elimination of the exceptional. Former President Obama expressed a similar derogatory outlook when he denounced high-achieving Americans with, “You didn’t build that.”
Diversity in the schools no longer describes a richness of ideas, course studies, or specialty careers, but defines and categorizes the students themselves, by race, religion, ethnicity, financial status, sexual orientation, and however else the students choose to differentiate themselves. As with the term “equity,” the meaning of “diversity” has been corrupted, as it now implies division, divisiveness, and discord, the opposite of E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One. These differences have led to a totalitarian-style monitoring and bullying – called Speech Control, necessitating “Diversity Officers” with doctoral degrees, credentials in counseling and inclusion techniques, and six-figure salaries reflected in higher tuition costs. The officers’ mere presence confirms the growing disharmony, isolation, discrimination, harassment, and violence that characterize the socialist strategy. These points are significant:
Many schools have implemented a policy of discouraging the bonding between classmates, beginning with Kindergarten, alleging that “best friends” keep the students from mingling with This is false and destructive. Best friends are a mutual support system, as they learn to agree, compromise, comfort, accommodate, and be reliable, traits needed throughout their adult lives.
Schools now place students at their computers for hours, removing eye contact and discussion opportunities with others, disallowing autonomy over time scheduling, reducing writing and penmanship with its inherent creativity. Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris said she would increase daily school time by three hours, thereby seriously reducing home and family activities, personal growth, and individual achievement.
Academia has introduced “intersectionality” to diminish the self and encourage victimhood by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, family class; the more the classifications, the higher their status. Instead of a unitedness with school and pride of citizenship in their own country, they are now tribalistic, divisive, and intolerant.
Bigotry against Jewish students and staff (antisemitism) is on the rise and spreading. History has shown that Jews are always the first, but never the only ones, to be attacked. There is growing hostility directed towards whites (white supremacy), extending to our founding and history, particularly by the socialists and Sharia-compliant; and towards boys (toxic masculinity), which works to diminish their self-worth and ambitions, and damage their God-given purpose of contributing to our nation’s growth and defense. Boys must become men: marry and support their families, be strong fathers and teach morality to the next generation.
The removal of God from the schools and population’s psyche has produced a plethora of new definitions that facilitate a ruling class, convince the public to tolerate lawlessness over sovereign borders, and to submit to the measured demands of sharia made by the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates on campus and in the media.
The Common Core standards introduced new courses: intentionally convoluted math that prohibits parental participation; dystopian and uninspiring literature that offers limited creative vocabulary and replaces inspiration with fatalism; inaccurate and indoctrinating history lessons that misinform students about our growth and successes and secretes the truths about Islam; and social studies that support a political agenda.
With individuality stifled, the children are indoctrinated to think alike, falter alike, and expect equal return for widespread mediocrity. This equity in communist countries has produced stagnation in education, the economy, and real income; slow improvement in everyday services and medical care; shortages of goods; rising criminality and corruption, along with an increase in alcoholism, particularly in Russia. Socialism kills the spirit of personal endeavor.
The introduction of transgenderism is ruining the lives of many children, psychologically and physically, wrecking all opportunities for happiness in marriage and family, leading some to suicide.
The threat of climate change, perhaps the greatest hoax, is the extensive control over all life, which would bring a scarcity of energy, failing manufacturing firms and retail operations, vilified consumerism, diminishing food supplies, curbed transportation for people and food distribution. The environmentalists purposely falsify the data about climatic conditions in order to throttle human activity – which they hate – to produce their worshipped green planet.
In short, the goal of the left is to crush the human spirit. Pride in accomplishment must be stifled, progress discouraged, and the dispirited population reminted into the globalists’ compliant working class.
Contrary to Mrs. Krieg’s understanding, the term “diversity” was invented to con the populace into accepting all incoming non-citizens. Regardless of criminality, disease, or hatred for the American flag, they must be housed, fed, clothed, educated and medicated. Multiculturalism is already the downfall of several European countries due to cultures that are too disparate for assimilation. Muslims come to replace their hosts’ laws with their sharia and establish yet another oppressive totalitarian Islamic state.
Contrary to Mrs. Krieg’s understanding, the term “diversity” was invented to con the populace into accepting all incoming non-citizens. Regardless of criminality, disease, or hatred for the American flag, they must be housed, fed, clothed, educated and medicated. Multiculturalism is already the downfall of several European countries due to cultures that are too disparate for assimilation. Muslims come to replace their hosts’ laws with their sharia and establish yet another oppressive totalitarian Islamic state.
Justice becomes injustice when the word needs a modifier. “Social justice” means a revision of laws to accommodate a socialist agenda. True justice is served only when the interests of Americans are considered, when Americans can, of their own volition and in their own time, partake of the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The authoritarian government seeks total/totalitarian control over the masses to forcibly produce identical workers, taught and indoctrinated to comply with the needs of the regime.
The final outcome is not unknown to mankind. We have seen countries fall to socialism, fascism, and Islam, and the vulnerable children are always the first to feel the effects of the increasing control.
Now is the time to act if we are to avoid Orwell’s dire warning: If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
RFERL: The UN’s nuclear watchdog has issued a report saying Iran is preparing for possible major expansion of uranium enrichment in a fortified underground facility.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) quarterly report also says “extensive activities” — a reference to suspected sanitization efforts — at Iran’s Parchin military complex will hamper its investigation of possible past nuclear weapons development work there, if inspectors are granted access.
The report says Iran has produced 189 kilograms of higher-grade enriched uranium since 2010 — up from 145 kilograms since May, when the previous quarterly report was issued.
The IAEA reported last year that Iran placed “a large explosives containment vessel” in Parchin in 2000 and constructed a building around it.
The facilities were designed to contain the detonation of up to 70 kilograms of high explosives — something the IAEA called “relevant to the development of an explosive nuclear device.”
Since that report, the IAEA has sought to send inspectors to the site of the suspected building but have been denied access by Iran to that part of the military base.
In recent months, the agency also has obtained information that indicates Iran has been busy cleaning up the suspected site, including tearing down some buildings and removing soil.
The last effort by the IAEA to convince Iran to let inspectors visit the site — where Iran denies clean-up activities are taking place — broke down in June when Tehran accused the agency of acting like an “intelligence organization.”
More Centrifuges At Fordow Site
The IAEA’s latest report also says the number of enrichment centrifuges at Fordow has more than doubled to 2,140 from 1,064 in May.
The Fordow facility is extremely controversial for two reasons.
First, it is dug into a mountain, making it difficult to bomb — suggesting it could have a military purpose.
Secondly, the centrifuges at the facility are being used to enrich uranium to purities of 20 percent — far higher than the 4 percent needed for fuel for commercial reactors.
Iran has said it is producing the 20 percent-enriched fuel for use in research reactors to produce medical isotopes.
But arms-control experts worry that creating large stockpiles of 20 percent-enriched uranium makes it much easier for Iran to later complete the jump to 90 percent-enriched uranium needed for nuclear bombs.
In Washington, the White House said it was closely studying the fresh IAEA report.
In Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, denied his country is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, adding Iran will “never abandon its right for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
In what appears to be a sign of the IAEA’s growing concern over Iran’s nuclear activities, the agency this week revealed it was creating a special Iran “task force.”
The task force is to scrutinize Tehran’s nuclear program and its compliance with UN resolutions — including those demanding a suspension of uranium enrichment.
Iran has denied any interest in nuclear arms.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Liz Cheney is introducing legislation to fully terminate all of the Iran nuclear deal including the remaining sanctions waivers.
Yet, it seems that Turkey, who is a NATO member and is also in a major dispute with the United States over Syria, has not only defied NATO rules and the United States but has fully allied with Russia as well as Iran.
FDD: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announced yesterday that it will sell its 10 percent stake in the Istanbul stock exchange after Turkey named as its CEO a Turkish banker convicted in U.S. court for his role in a multi-billion dollar scheme to evade Washington’s sanctions on Iran. Ankara’s move to reward a sanctions buster further strengthens the argument that Turkey has become a permissive jurisdiction for illicit finance.
Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund offered today to buy EBRD’s shares, which would increase the fund’s stake in the stock exchange to over 90 percent. EBRD’s exit will mean the departure of Borsa Istanbul’s only major foreign stakeholder at a critical moment in Turkey’s relations with its western allies. Ankara’s military operation in northeast Syria targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces – Washington’s key partner in the fight against the Islamic State – has drawn sweeping condemnation from the international community.
Five days after Ankara launched its Syria incursion, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three Turkish officials and Turkey’s ministries of energy and defense. That same week, the Southern District of New York filed an indictment charging Halkbank, a Turkish public lender, for its role in the multi-billion dollar gas-for-gold scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran. Halkbank’s deputy general manager, Mehmet Hakan Atilla, in 2018 received a sentence of 32 months for his role in the affair. At the time of Atilla’s sentencing, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the trial as a political attack on his government.
Atilla returned to Turkey in July after serving his U.S. sentence. Last week, just days after U.S. federal prosecutors indicted Halkbank, Turkish Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also Erdogan’s son-in-law, named Atilla as CEO of the Istanbul stock exchange.
Atilla’s promotion is part of a string of appointments that showcase Erdogan’s policy of rehabilitating Iran sanctions busters and rewarding corrupt officials who further his personal ambitions. In September, Erdogan appointed former Minister for European Union Affairs Egemen Bagis as Turkey’s ambassador to Prague. Bagis had resigned from the ministry after a 2013 corruption scandal implicated him in accepting bribes related to the gas-for-gold scheme run through Halkbank.
Members of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) who dare criticize his policy of rehabilitating sanctions evaders continue to draw the Turkish president’s wrath. After publicly pronouncing strong opposition to Bagis’s ambassadorial appointment and other party policies, a senior AKP lawmaker, Mustafa Yeneroglu, resigned from the party yesterday after Erdogan commanded him to step down.
Another minister implicated in taking bribes as part of the Halkbank scheme, Zafer Caglayan, who served as minister of Economy in 2013 before resigning due to corruption allegations, has returned to political life as an AKP delegate from the Turkish city of Mersin. Caglayan is best known for accepting bribes of cash and jewelry worth tens of millions of dollars.
Erdogan’s rehabilitation of sanctions evaders continues to hurt Turkey’s image, economy, and investment climate. Ankara’s apparent disregard for U.S. sanctions, including those targeting Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, does not bode well for Washington or other NATO allies. Yet so far, President Donald Trump has shielded Erdogan from U.S. sanctions, the most recent of which he lifted after only nine days. In contrast, a biting sanctions bill focused on Turkey passed the House 403 to 16 on Tuesday. Like Congress, Trump should communicate to his Turkish counterpart that his policy of evading sanctions and rewarding sanctions busters could have dire consequences.
Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism. The regime has spent nearly one billion dollars per year to support terrorist groups that serve as its proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe. Tehran has funded international terrorist groups such as Hizballah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It also has engaged in its own terrorist plotting around the world, particularly in Europe. In January, German authorities investigated 10 suspected Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force operatives. In the summer, authorities in Belgium, France, and Germany thwarted an Iranian plot to bomb a political rally near Paris, France. In October, an Iranian operative was arrested for planning an assassination in Denmark, and in December, Albania expelled two Iranian officials for plotting terrorist attacks. Furthermore, Tehran continued to allow an AQ facilitation network to operate in Iran, which sends fighters and money to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Syria, and it has extended sanctuary to AQ members residing in the country.
Forty years ago, on November 4, 1979, the United States embassy in Tehran was taken over by a group of people calling themselves “Student followers of the line of the Imam.”
Fifty-two U.S. embassy employees and diplomats were taken hostage for 444 days. Years later, the hostage-takers went on to become the most senior officials of Iran’s regime, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former President of the regime. Many of the hostage-takers still hold key positions in the regime. Some were wrongly dubbed as “moderates” by the West despite their loyalty to the regime’s agenda.
Masoumeh Ebtekar, spokeswoman of the “Student followers of the line of the Imam”:
Masoumeh Ebtekar, also known as “Sister Mary,” was the spokeswoman for the hostage-takers. She vehemently defended the Americans’ detention and demanded to be tried. She is now Iran’s Vice President for women and family affairs. In the first term of Hassan Rouhani’s Presidency, she was also Vice President and head of the environmental preservation organization. In Mohammad Khatami’s administration, she was Vice President and Head of the environmental preservation organization for several years.
He is now Political Advisor to the President. For years, he held top positions in the Foreign Ministry, including the post of Deputy Foreign Minister for political affairs, the regime’s Ambassador to a number of Western countries including Italy, Belgium, Australia, and the European Union (for 15 years). He was previously General Manager of Political Affairs in the Foreign Ministry (for 5 years), Advisor to the Foreign Minister (for 5 years), and member of Foreign Ministry’s Strategic Council. In 2014, he was Rouhani’s candidate to become the regime’s representative to the United Nations in New York, but the U.S. government refused to grant him a visa due to his role in the hostage-taking and in the 1993 assassination of Mohammad-Hossein Naqdi, representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in Italy.
Hossein Sheikholislam, council member of “Student followers of the line of the Imam” and member of the team reviewing U.S. embassy documents:
He is now Advisor to the Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Previously, for several years, he was Deputy for International Affairs to Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. For 16 years, Sheikholislam was Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs. Subsequently, for three years, he became Iran’s Ambassador to Syria, and after two terms as a Member of Parliament, he became Deputy Foreign Minister for Middle Eastern affairs.
Mohammad-Ali (Aziz) Jafari, one of the plotters of the U.S. embassy takeover:
Until April 21, 2019, for over 10 years, Major General Mohammad-Ali Jafari was Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He is currently in charge of the “Baqiollah Cultural and Social Headquarters.”
IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan was Iran’s Defense Minister in Rouhan’s first term (2013-2017), and he is now Advisor to the Supreme Leader on Defense Industries and Army Support. From 2004 to 2009, he was Vice President and chairman of the Shahid Foundation (Bonyad-e Shahid), one of the largest economic institutions in the regime.
During Khatami’s Presidency, he was Deputy Defense Minister. Prior to that, he was Deputy Chief of the IRGC Air Force.
After the U.S. hostages were released, Hossein Dehqan joined the IRGC and went to Lebanon. In the years 1982 to 1984, he was in Beirut at the peak of terror attacks in Lebanon, especially massive explosions like the ones at the U.S. embassy and U.S. Marines barracks. He had acknowledged his key role in the formation of Lebanese Hizballah. Based on reports by U.S. media, he had a direct role in the 1983 bombing in Beirut, in which 241 U.S. marines were killed.
Reza Seifollahi, a main plotter of the embassy takeover and member of the central council of the “Student followers of the line of the Imam”:
From 2013 to 2018, Reza Seifollahi was the Political Deputy of the Secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). From 2008 to 2013, He was deputy coordinator of the regime’s Expediency Council. He was a senior IRGC commander, including the commander of IRGC Intelligence. When the Police, Gendarmeries, and Committees (Comite) were all combined into once force, Seifollahi was appointed as the first commander of the State Security Forces (SSF). During Khatami’s Presidency, he was Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs.
Habibollah Bitaraf, a main plotter of the embassy takeover and member of the central council of the “Student followers of the line of the Imam”:
From 1997 to 2005, he was Iran’s Energy Minister. From 1986 to 1989, he was the Governor of Yazd Province. Also, for nearly five years, he was Deputy Minister of Energy for Educational Affairs.
An IRGC Brigadier General, he became head of the state Radio and Television Corporation on the orders of the Supreme Leader, and from 2004 to 2014 he played a key role in the regime’s propaganda machine. For years, Zarghami was the keynote speaker at ceremonies in front of the US embassy in Tehran to mark the anniversary of the embassy takeover.
After the hostages were released, Afshar joined the IRGC, and he has held important posts in the IRGC ever since, including as Chief of the IRGC General Staff, Commander of the Basij Force and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces for Cultural Affairs.
In Ahmadinejad’s administration, Afshar was Deputy Minister of Interior for Political and Social Affairs.
He is now head of the Supreme Delegation for the IRGC School of thought.
During Khatami’s presidency, Mohsen Aminzadeh was Deputy Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs. He was a shadow minister when Kamal Kharrazi was Foreign Minister.
During Khatami’s second term as President, Sharifzadegan was a member of “the Islamic partnership front” and General Manager of the Social Security Organization and Minister of Social Security.
Mohammad Mehdi Rahmati:
During Ahmadinejad’s Presidency, Rahmati was in charge of President’s Office of Planning and Strategic Oversight
In the first term of Ahmadinejad’s Presidency, Behzadian-Nejad was Deputy Interior Minister for Economic Affairs. Later, he became head of the Commerce Office of Tehran.
The seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran marked the beginning of the regime’s policy of hostage-taking and international blackmail, a policy that has become official and institutionalized as part of the foreign policy of this regime.
For 40 years, the foreign policy of the mullahs’ regime has been rooted in terrorism and blackmail. Today, it is recognized as the world’s main state sponsor of terrorism. In the past 40 years, there has never been a time that this regime has not held onto hostages. Still, under different pretexts, Americans and other countries’ citizens are kept in the Iranian regime’s prisons as hostages.
In the past 40 years, thousands of innocent people have fallen victim to the regime and its proxy groups’ terrorism in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and even Latin America.
Terrorism and hostage-taking are a part of the DNA of Iran’s regime.
The 1979 U.S. embassy takeover, which later was dubbed by regime officials as a ‘revolution greater than the 1979 revolution,’ had the goal of eliminating Iran’s democratic forces, and more specifically the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), or Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) from the political scene. Khomeini, the regime’s Supreme Leader at the time, supported the act of the students, and Khamenei the current Supreme Leader, who at the time was Friday prayers’ leader and Khomeini’s representative, was one of the main supporters of the takeover; he went to the embassy and encouraged the students.
It is no surprise then that just last week Khamenei, through his representative in the state-run Keyhan newspaper, called on regime-backed Iraqi militias known as the “Hashd al Shaabi,” who are under the command of the IRGC Qods Force, to take over the U.S. embassy in Baghdad by the same model that took place in Tehran 40 years ago.
Hossein Shariatmadari, editor and representative of the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader in Kayhan, in the paper’s October 30, 2019 editorial called for the takeover of the U.S. Embassy by the Iraqi militias.
Shariatmadari, whose words reflect Khamenei’s opinions, wrote: “In a previous note, by mentioning the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran, which the Imam called the “second revolution,” the issue was raised in the context of a question that why the Iraqi revolutionary youths … are not ending the presence of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which is the epicenter of conspiracy and espionage against the innocent people of Iraq!? And why are you not eliminating and throwing out this infected wound from your holy land? The takeover of the U.S. espionage center in Islamic Iran and eliminating that epicenter of conspiracy had many benefits for us. So why then are the revolutionary youths of Iraq depriving their holy land from these benefits?”
Obama bureaucrats in the CIA are still stinging over President Trump’s dramatic decision to both withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria and take down the leader of ISIS. The decision was a win-win, as the communist terrorist PKK/YPG Kurds in northern Syria were dealt a military defeat by Turkey, and the ISIS terrorist leader was sent to hell, as a result of U.S. military might and canine expertise.
But now, American and other ‘volunteers” who went to the Middle East to fight for a Kurdish utopia known as Rojava are coming back to America to continue their revolutionary struggle here.
It never made sense for the U.S. to back one set of terrorists, the PKK/YPG, against another, ISIS. But that was Obama’s conscious and deliberate policy. Trump decided he would pursue a pro-American foreign policy that respected our ally Turkey and would leave both terrorist groups in ashes. In another masterstroke, Trump wisely decided to withhold details of the anti-terrorist operation from the leakers and liars on Capitol Hill.
Now, the Kurds are whining to their Obama handlers, many still in the national security bureaucracy. Hence, the same CIA bureaucrats who engineered Obama’s no-win policy are now retaliating with smears of Trump in the fake news media. They placed an anti-Trump article in the Tuesday New York Times, under the long title, “As Kurds Tracked ISIS Leader, U.S. Withdrawal Threw Raid Into Turmoil.” The theme was that Trump betrayed the Kurdish “allies” who had helped locate the ISIS leader by stealing his underwear.
Here’s how the Times put it: “…even as the Syrian Kurdish fighters were risking their lives in the hunt that led to Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death this weekend, Mr. Trump abruptly shattered America’s five-year partnership with them.”
That “partnership” was initiated by the previous Obama Administration, which has blood on its hands for funding various terror groups in an effort to initiate “regime change” in Syria and Libya. Let’s remember that Obama’s legacy was up to 500,000 dead in Syria, Libya became a disaster as well, and Germany welcomed a Muslim invasion of Europe.
The PBS Newshour ran an interview with Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan, in which he called the outcome “regrettable.”
How does Obama’s CIA director get away with simply saying that the human misery and suffering in Syria spilling over into Europe are “regrettable?” Where is the accountability for this debacle? And on what legal and constitutional basis did Obama take America to war in Syria anyway?
Perhaps this is why Brennan and his comrades conceived Russia-gate. It was a largely successful effort to divert public attention from the bloody policies they pursued in the Middle East.
It’s not as if the media didn’t understand what Obama’s CIA was doing. The Washington Post and the New York Times both reported that a secret CIA operation to train and arm “rebels” in Syria had cost $1 billion by the middle of 2015. The Post said the CIA program set up in 2013 was “to bolster moderate forces.” But according to Brennan on PBS, more radical groups joined the fight, leading to a “regrettable” situation.
Those groups joining the fight included the Kurdish PKK/YPG. But they were supported overtly by the Obama Administration, using the CIA and the Pentagon to create a new nation-state of Rojava in northern Syria. Members of Antifa, anarchist, and communist groups in the U.S. went there to fight for this new socialist paradise. They formed an “International Freedom Battalion,” a “socialist fighting group of foreign volunteers fighting ISIS and Turkey in Syria.”
Like the CIA and Pentagon war in Syria, Obama’s intervention in Libya was also illegal and unconstitutional. But the media failed to acknowledge the facts. Under the War Powers Act, a president can go to war on his own only if there is an imminent threat to the U.S., and there is a 60-day deadline for the withdrawal of forces. Obama violated both provisions of the law. There was no direct or immediate threat to the U.S. from Libya or Syria, and Obama ignored the 60-day deadline for approval from Congress.
Back in 2007, then-Senator Obama had loudly declared that: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
One result of Obama’s Libya intervention was the Benghazi massacre of four Americans.
Obama’s intervention in Syria could result in “blowback” on American soil.
Consider the fact that Americans and others fighting for the PKK in Syria produced a film, “We Need to Take Guns,” about their effort. A masked fighter in the film says “this is how internationalism works,” and that those who came to the region would take their experiences “back home.”
Earlier this year, the Times had actually featured an article about some of the “American volunteers.” These were among the “hundreds of civilians from Western nations” fighting for the new Marxist state of Rojava in the PKK/YPG military units. “I’ve always hated capitalism and materialism,” said one American from Texas. “What the Kurds are doing fits with what I believe.”
In fact, in the wake of the PKK/YPG defeat against the Turks, many of these fighters may be returning to the U.S. as hardened communists with military skills, including bomb-making. A “Solidarity With Rojava” organization in the U.S. claims affiliates in several American cities and has announced a “World Resistance Day” against the U.S. and Turkey.
The theme of Trump “betraying” the PKK/YPG terrorists serves to further radicalize left-wingers in love with the mythical state of Rojava. There was never an “alliance” with the Kurds, as the paper claimed. Obama used them against ISIS, based on their expectation they would eventually get their own state in northern Syria. It was a fiction that Obama’s CIA dangled in front of them. But Trump was having none of it.
Whatever the Kurds did, they did on their own behalf. But Trump was under no obligation to them. Instead, he had a commitment through NATO to NATO member Turkey, which has been attacked by the PKK/YPG for decades, losing thousands of their citizens to terrorism. In Syria, these units called themselves the Syrian Democratic Forces. Their presence on Turkey’s border was a clear and present danger.
Instead of sticking by the Kurdish Marxists, who always had their own terrorist agenda, the United States had and has an obligation to NATO member Turkey to turn over alleged YPG/PKK terrorist leader Ferhat Abdi Sahin, codenamed Mazloum Kobani. The Turkish Embassy says he has killed 41 Turkish civilians and wounded more than 400 in his 28 years in the PKK terrorist organization.
Indeed, Turkey has requested the extradition of Mazloum Kobani under the Treaty on Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the US and Turkey.
But several U.S. senators are moving in the opposite direction, asking the Trump Administration to expedite a visa for Kobani to enter the U.S. They are Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut)
This is a dangerous time and we can expect more of the same “betrayal of the Kurds by Trump” stories since they conveniently divert attention from Obama’s illegal and immoral policy of arming them in the first place without Congressional approval. Many Obama bureaucrats in the intelligence community and the Pentagon are implicated in this bloody and disastrous policy. They hate Trump for putting a stop to the endless war.
But now, the carnage could come to America.
The February Times article noted that some of the PKK/YPG volunteers “have returned to the United States, where they are often detained on arrival for questioning about their activities,” but that none so far have been prosecuted. However, “…that could change if Turkey — a NATO ally — goes to war with the Kurdish forces in Syria,” the paper said.
As a result, the communist and anarchist hotheads may now be returning to the United States, to take up arms against Trump, who engineered the perceived “betrayal” of their comrades.
America’s new Civil War could be taking an ominous turn.
The USA PATRIOT Act provides a textbook example of how the United States federal government expands its power. An emergency happens, legitimate or otherwise. The media, playing its dutiful role as goader for greater government oversight, demands “something must be done.” Government power is massively expanded, with little regard for whether or not what is being done is efficacious, to say nothing of the overall impact on our nation’s civil liberties.
No goals are posted because if targets are hit, this would necessitate the ending or scaling back of the program. Instead, the program becomes normalized. There are no questions asked about whether the program is accomplishing what it set out to do. It is now simply a part of American life and there is no going back.
The American public largely accepts the USA PATRIOT Act as a part of civic life as immutable, perhaps even more so than the Bill of Rights. However, this act – passed in the dead of night, with little to no oversight, in a panic after the biggest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor – is not only novel, it is also fundamentally opposed to virtually every principle on which the United States of America was founded. It might not be going anywhere anytime soon, but patriots, liberty lovers and defenders of Constitutional government should nonetheless familiarize themselves with the onerous provisions of this law, which is nothing short of a full-throttle attack on the American republic.
What’s Even in the USA PATRIOT Act?
What is in the USA PATRIOT Act? In the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11, then Rep. John Conyers cracked wise about how no one had actually read the act and how this was in fact par for the course with America’s laws. Thus, before delving into the deeper issues surrounding the PATRIOT Act, it is worth discussing what the act actually says. Here’s a brief look at the 10 Titles in the PATRIOT Act:
Title I: Enhancing Domestic Security Against Terrorism: This provision dramatically expands the powers of the President, the military and the intelligence community whenever the specter of “terrorism” is invoked. Bizarrely, it contains a provision condemning discrimination against Arabs, Muslims and South Asians, which seems to have very little to do with protecting Americans from terrorism.
Title II: Enhanced Surveillance Procedures: Title II contains the meat of the Act with regard to massive, industrial-scale surveillance on the American public. Beyond the simple spying on Americans and their communications, Title II increases the ability of federal intelligence agencies to share your private communications with one another.
Title III: International Money Laundering Abatement and Financial Anti-Terrorism Act: Not simply a section of the USA PATRIOT Act, Title III is an Act of Congress in its own right. You might have noticed how much more difficult it is to open a bank account or send a wire transfer after 9/11. You can blame this provision, which shredded banking privacy rights in the United States.
Title IV: Protecting the Border: Other than expanding the number of federal employees (of course), the provision of the USA PATRIOT Act charged with protecting America’s borders does little other than point toward paths for future action and study. It is worth noting that the weakest provision of the act is the only one explicitly authorized by the Constitution — protecting the border.
Title V: Removing Obstacles to Investigating Terrorism: Title V authorizes bounties for the apprehension of alleged terrorists, broadens government power to conduct DNA analysis, allows for greater data sharing between law enforcement agencies and, perhaps most disturbingly, requires private telecommunication carriers to comply with government requests for electronic communication records whenever requested by the FBI. It also expands the power of the Secret Service to investigate computer fraud.
Title VI: Providing for Victims of Terrorism, Public Safety Officers and Their Families: Perhaps the most innocuous portion of the USA PATRIOT Act, Title VI provides for a victims’ fund for victims of terrorism and their families.
Title VII: Increased Information Sharing for Critical Infrastructure Protection: The subtitle of this section of the act is a rather wordy way of saying that the United States federal government is allowing for law enforcement agencies to share information across jurisdictional boundaries in an easier fashion than was previously legal. To that end, the Bureau of Justice Assistance was given a $50,000,000 budget for 2002 and a whopping $100,000,000 budget for fiscal year 2003.
Title VIII:Strengthening the Criminal Laws Against Terrorism: Title VIII is where the rubber meets the road: What exactly is terrorism, according to the federal government? Unfortunately, this Title does little to clarify what terrorism is, instead focusing on declaring a number of actions (such as attacks on transit) as “terrorism,” regardless of intent.
Title IX: Improved Intelligence: The section subtitled “improved intelligence” largely expands the powers and responsibilities of the Director of Central Intelligence.
Title X: Miscellaneous: When the federal government titles a segment of a law “miscellaneous,” you know it’s going to include everything and the kitchen sink. And so it does: The definition of electronic surveillance, additional funds for the DEA in South and Central Asia, research on biometric scanning systems, a limitation on hazmat licensure and infrastructure protections are all addressed in Title X, which is a catchall for everything the federal government forgot to address in the first nine sections of the law.
Most of the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act were set to sunset four years after the bill was passed into law. However, the law was extended first by President George W. Bush and then by President Barack H. Obama. The latter is particularly scandalous given that, at least in part, a rejection of the surveillance culture that permeated the Bush Administration was responsible for the election of Obama in 2008.
Passing the USA PATRIOT Act
Next, it’s important to remember the environment in which the USA PATRIOT Act was passed: Post-9/11. It is not the slightest bit of exaggeration to label the environment in which the PATRIOT Act was passed as “hysterical,” nor is “compliant” a misnomer for the Congress of the time. Opposition to the Act was slim and intensive review of one of the most sweeping acts of Congress in American history was nonexistent.
All told, Congress took a whopping six weeks drafting, revising, reviewing and passing the PATRIOT Act. That’s less time than Congress typically spends on totally uncontroversial and routine bills that don’t gut the Fourth Amendment. The final vote found only 66 opponents in the House and one (Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold) in the Senate. The entire passage of the PATRIOT Act, from start to finish, took place behind closed doors. There were no committee reports or hearings for opponents to testify, nor did anyone bother to read the bill.
“Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism” is the bloated and overwrought full name of the bill, crafted by a 23-year-old Congressional staffer named Chris Cylke. This ridiculous name puts the focus not on the surveillance aspects or the erosion of basic civil liberties enshrined in Western society since the Magna Carta, but on patriotism. At the time of its creation, the messaging was very clear: Real patriots support massive intrusions on civil rights. As President George W. Bush said at the time, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” This sentiment very much seemed to apply to American citizens.
While the argument that if you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t fear investigation is anathema in a Constitutional republic with regard to citizens, it should be standard operating procedure when it comes to our organs of government. If we cannot expect transparency from the United States Congress – elected officials charged with representing the will of the people and protecting the Constitution – then we certainly can’t expect it anywhere else.
The Unfortunate Growth of the USA PATRIOT Act
It’s no surprise to those in the liberty movement that given an inch, the government (in particular the military-intelligence community) took a mile. Even the nebulous definition of “terrorism,” largely centered around a long litany of acts rather than the motivation behind them, has expanded to include receiving military training from a proscribed organization (without actually committing any terrorist acts or even acts of violence of any stripe) as well as “narcoterrorism” – the latter particularly convenient, as the United States government continues its losing “War on Drugs.”
Indeed, in many ways, the War on (Some) Drugs was the template for the War on Terror. Both wars have no defined enemy, no defined terms of victory. Instead, they are waged against a nebulous concept, while enjoying bipartisan support for their ever-expanding budgets. What’s more, it didn’t take long for the Feds to start using the USA PATRIOT Act for things it was never intended for, including prosecuting the War on Drugs.
Perhaps the silliest application of the USA PATRIOT Act is the prosecution of Adam McGaughey. McGaughey maintained a fansite for the television seriesStargate SG-1. The Feds charged him with copyright infringement and computer fraud. In the course of their investigation, the FBI leveraged the PATRIOT Act to get financial records from his website’s ISP. This was made possible by the USA PATRIOT Act amending the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, allowing for search and seizure of ISP records.
The New York Timesdiscovered in September 2003, that the USA PATRIOT Act was being used to investigate alleged drug traffickers without what would otherwise be sufficient probable cause. These were investigations into non-terrorist acts using a law ostensibly designed to investigate terrorism. There was some suspicion that the Act was being used to investigate crimes occurring before the act was passed, violating the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution.
In one of the biggest power grabs (excluding virtually everything we know from Edward Snowden – more on that below), the FBI sent tens of thousands of “national security letters” and procured over one million financial records from targeted businesses in Las Vegas. These businesses were primarily casinos, car rental bureaus, and storage spaces. The data obtained included financial records, credit histories, employment records, and even people’s personal health records.
The FBI maintains and databases this – and, indeed, all information collected through the USA PATRIOT Act – indefinitely. In the good old days before the PATRIOT Act, the Feds were compelled to destroy any evidence they collected on someone later found not guilty of a crime. Note that the aforementioned data collection brought to public attention by Edward Snowden (which, again – we’re getting to that) falls under this provision. Not only is the government collecting obscene amounts of private and personal information about you, they’re also storing it indefinitely with no plans to stop.
What’s more, the FBI has approached public libraries to turn over the records for specific terminals, collecting information not about specific users who might be under investigation, but about anyone who has ever used the computer at the public library. Libraries, to their credit, have been very much at the forefront of resistance against the PATRIOT Act, with some litigating compliance despite operating on small budgets and others posting “canary letters,” which effectively say “The FBI Hasn’t Been Here Yet.” The removal of such a letter would warn patrons that the FBI has been sniffing around in their records.
Indeed, the greatest criticism of the PATRIOT Act is the simplest and perhaps most obvious: Why does an act ostensibly passed to fight terrorism so drastically expand the government’s power to investigate virtually everyone else? The PATRIOT Act is not merely unconstitutional, it is an unprecedented expansion of state power in the Anglosphere, a culture based on restricted government and the primacy of individual rights.
An excellent example of this is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) expansion. Most people are familiar with the term “FISA court,” but very few people actually know what it is – a special federal court created under the Carter Administration that grants approval of electronic surveillance of both citizens and resident aliens in the event that they are accused of acting in the service of a foreign power. The last part of this sentence is very important: The FISA courts are not simply for allowing surveillance of anyone that it might be expedient to collect information about. The scope of their powers is very, very limited.
The PATRIOT Act lowered the burden of evidence required to obtain a FISA warrant for electronic surveillance and expanded the overall scope of the FISA courts. Any savvy federal agent can now drape his charges in the garb of (what else?) “national security” and obtain electronic surveillance privileges hitherto only dreamed of by investigators. FISA courts have become pliant tools in the hands of the Feds, gladly approving their requests to monitor phone and internet surveillance, as well as access to medical, financial and educational records.
The Future of the USA PATRIOT Act
Do we still need the PATRIOT Act? Did we ever? All laws are certainly a product of their times. But this seems much more acutely true of the USA PATRIOT Act, which was passed in a rush and under duress without due consideration.
Particularly in light of the revelations from Edward Snowden – that the government is spying on everything they possibly can – it’s worth asking if there’s any walking back. He points out that the police state apparatus was originally for drug dealers, then for terrorists, but ultimately ended up being applied to anyone and everyone.
What’s more, Bob Bullard notes another frightful aspect of the USA PATRIOT Act: Terrorism-related cases are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This means that there is little or no oversight. There is no surer hallmark of a police state than an all-powerful domestic surveillance agency with no transparency or oversight. While the USA PATRIOT Act might not create an American Stasi as such, it certainly paves the way for one.
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