SENATE REPUBLICANS NARROWLY defeated an amendment Friday that would have limited President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran without congressional approval. The 50-40 vote gave the measure a majority of votes cast, but due to parliamentary maneuvering by Senate leadership, it needed 60 votes to pass.
With much of the world on edge over simmering tension in the Middle East, and the U.S. threatening war with Iran, defense executives talked of opportunity.
During the 1990s, the U.S. abused the UN arms control process to target Iraq’s non-WMD military and overthrow Saddam Hussein.
The government — via the DHS and CBP — has long insisted it should be able to search whatever, whenever, within X number of miles of the border for national security reasons. The DOJ has routinely argued on its behalf, delivering non sequiturs like “Not searching your laptop doesn’t protect your civil liberties” with a straight face.
The security/liberty tradeoff has routinely suffered from the government’s insistence that its Fourth Amendment-skirting efforts are in the public’s best interest, even if the public isn’t nearly as interested in seeing the drawers of their personal computing equipment emptied onto the floor every time they stray too close to the “Constitution-Free Zone.”
The courts have generally upheld the government’s arguments, with a few exceptions. The Eastern District of New York basically said that if you don’t want your stuff looked through for no reason, don’t put so much stuff in your stuff — especially sensitive stuff. The presiding judge, Edward Korman, went so far as to compare the US to countries with severe civil rights issues, like Syria and Lebanon, and declared the US the “winner,” seemingly because citizens enjoy more rights once they move further inland.
It’s hard for some Americans to understand why the Obama administration is so determined to come to an agreement with Iran on its nuclear capability, given that huge Iranian rallies are constantly chanting “Death to America!” I know the chanting makes me unhappy, since I’m part of America, and I strongly oppose me dying.
But if you know our actual history with Iran, you can kind of see where they’re coming from. They have understandable reasons to be angry at and frightened of us — things we’ve done that if, say, Norway had done them to us, would have us out in the streets shouting “Death to Norway!” Unfortunately, not only have the U.S. and our allies done horrendous things to Iran, we’re not even polite enough to remember it.
Reminding ourselves of this history does not mean endorsing an Iran with nuclear-tipped ICBMs. It does mean realizing how absurd it sounds when critics of the proposed agreement say it suddenly makes the U.S. the weaker party or that we’re getting a bad deal because Iran, as Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham put it, does not fear Obama enough. It’s exactly the opposite: This is the best agreement the U.S. could get because for the first time in 35 years, U.S.-Iranian relations aren’t being driven purely by fear.
A truly stunning debasement of the U.S. justice system just occurred through the joint efforts of the Obama Justice Department and a meek and frightened Obama-appointed federal judge, Edgardo Ramos, all in order to protect an extremist neocon front group from scrutiny and accountability. The details are crucial for understanding the magnitude of the abuse here.
At the center of it is an anti-Iranian group calling itself “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI), which is very likely a front for some combination of the Israeli and U.S. intelligence services. When launched, NBC described its mission as waging “economic and psychological warfare” against Iran. The group was founded and is run and guided by a roster of U.S., Israeli and British neocon extremists such as Joe Lieberman, former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and current CNN “analyst”) Fran Townsend, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and former Mossad Director Meir Dagan. One of its key advisers is Olli Heinonen, who just co-authored a Washington Post Op-Ed with former Bush CIA/NSA Director Michael Hayden arguing that Washington is being too soft on Tehran.
This group of neocon extremists was literally just immunized by a federal court from the rule of law. That was based on the claim — advocated by the Obama DOJ and accepted by Judge Ramos — that subjecting them to litigation for their actions would risk disclosure of vital “state secrets.” The court’s ruling was based on assertions made through completely secret proceedings between the court and the U.S. government, with everyone else — including the lawyers for the parties — kept in the dark.
Israel spied on the recent US-Iran nuclear talks, alleges America. And the US knows enough about it to say it publicly because the NSA is spying on Israel, along with everyone else.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Israel handed over confidential information from the negotiations with friendly members of the US Congress in a bid to derail any deal.
Israel denies the accusations, which highlight a widening gulf between Binyamin Netanyahu’s hawkish government in Israel and the Obama administration.
Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) is in the news this month. For reasons that passeth understanding he’s been offered up as a spokesperson for the 47 Republicans who wrote a letter to Iran.1 Today I noticed a number of links to 2013 reports asserting that Sen. Tom Cotton offered an amendment to a bill that would allow imprisonment without due process of the relatives of the targets or Iranian sanctions. The Huffington Post’s Zach Carter may be Patient Zero on this idea:
WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Wednesday offered legislative language that would “automatically” punish family members of people who violate U.S. sanctions against Iran, levying sentences of up to 20 years in prison.
. . .
Article III of the Constitution explicitly bans Congress from punishing treason based on “corruption of blood” — meaning that relatives of those convicted of treason cannot be punished based only on a familial tie.
US director of National Intelligence James Clapper has accused Iran of orchestrating a 2014 hack of the Las Vegas Sands casino. The attack crippled the magnificent cultural institution’s IT infrastructure.
Clapper told a US Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday (US time) that the hack of the US$14 billion casino was the handiwork of Iran rather than ordinary hacking groups, Bloomberg reports.
“While both of these nations (Iran and North Korea) have lesser technical capabilities in comparison to Russia and China, these destructive attacks demonstrate that Iran and North Korea are motivated and unpredictable cyber-actors,” Clapper says.
The attacks brought down the casino’s IT systems including email but not the most valuable components of the organisation.