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Posts tagged ‘The Wall Street Journal’

Harvard’s Niall Ferguson: US in Global Retreat.


The United States’ “geopolitical taper” is having long-lasting, significant effects on the country’s national security strategy, as world powers stop taking President Barack Obama’s warnings seriously, says Niall Ferguson, Harvard history professor and Stanford University Hoover Institution senior fellow.

“The world remembers the red line that Mr. Obama once drew over the use of chemical weapons in Syria…and then ignored once the line had been crossed,” Ferguson writes in an op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal.

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Ferguson’s use of the phrase “geopolitical taper” is a play off Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s use of taper” last June, when he announced modest reductions in the Fed’s large-scale asset-purchase program, creating repercussions worldwide..

But Obama’s tapering, or promising consequences only when other nations step “over the line” is far more significant, said Ferguson.

On Wednesday, when the president commented that “there will be consequences if people step over the line”  in the raging battles between Ukrainian protesters in Kiev and government forces, nobody took the warning seriously, Ferguson said.

“Ukrainian government snipers kept on killing people in Independence Square regardless,” he commented. “The compromise deal reached on Friday in Ukraine calling for early elections and a coalition government may or may not spell the end of the crisis. In any case, the negotiations were conducted without concern for Mr. Obama.”

The geopolitical taper can be traced to Obama’s first term, when he wanted troops out of Iraq and to have a minimum of U.S. overseas commitments, said Ferguson.

“Less easy to understand was his policy in Afghanistan,” said Ferguson, and the result was a compromise and a surge of additional troops, followed by a commitment to begin withdrawing.

Ferguson said Obama passively watched as the Iranian people arose against their rulers starting in 2009 and was caught off balance by the Arab Spring.

Obama’s other policies have been confused as well, said Ferguson.

“Mr. Obama backed the government led by Mohammed Morsi, after the Muslim Brotherhood won the 2012 elections. Then the president backed the military coup against Mr. Morsi last year,” said Ferguson.

“On Libya, Mr. Obama took a back seat in an international effort to oust Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, but was apparently not in the vehicle at all when the American mission at Benghazi came under fatal attack in 2012.”

And Ferguson said, “Syria has been one of the great fiascos of post-World War II American foreign policy” because of Obama’s “ineffectual” intervention.

The inaction has resulted in disaster, Ferguson said, with at least 130,000 Syrian civilians being killed and another 9 million driven from their homes. Further, the civil war has escalated into a proxy war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that involves jihadist groups.

“Obama’s supporters like nothing better than to portray him as the peacemaker to [former president] George W. Bush’s warmonger,” said Ferguson. “But it is now almost certain that more people have died violent deaths in the Greater Middle East during this presidency than during the last one.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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NSA May Have to Store More Phone Records as Evidence in Lawsuits.


The National Security Agency may be forced to expand its extensive collection of phone records, an unintended consequence of lawsuits aiming to stop the controversial surveillance program, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Government officials have told the paper that federal court rules on preserving evidence related to lawsuits could mean that the agency would be forced to stop routinely destroying older phone records, thereby expanding the database, at least while the lawsuits remain active.

“It’s difficult to understand why the government would consider taking this position, when the relief we’ve requested in the lawsuit is a purge of our data,” Patrick Toomey, an ACLU lawyer on one of the lawsuits against the government, told the newspaper.

No final decision about whether to retain the data has yet been made, but one official told the Journal that if the information was preserved, it would be used solely for lawsuits and not for surveillance purposes.

Cindy Cohn, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the other plaintiffs in the case, said she did not see a problem with the government saving the phone records as long as they would not still be searchable under the program.

“If they’re destroying evidence, that would be a crime,” she said. She did, however, question the motives and timing of the government in considering this course of action, telling the Journal, “I think they’re looking for any way to throw rocks at the litigation.”

Surveillance program critics, including Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the program, say the collection and storage of phone records violates Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.

In December, a presidential advisory panel recommended sweeping limits on the government’s surveillance programs, including requiring a court to sign off on individual searches of phone records and stripping the NSA of its ability to store that data from Americans.

The NSA currently holds about five years of data, and about twice a year, purges any call record more than five years old, officials told the Journal.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Melanie Batley

Graham: Karzai ‘Empowers’ Taliban By Freeing Afghan Thugs.


Sen. Lindsey Graham has accused Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai of “empowering” Taliban terrorists by releasing 65 dangerous Afghan “thugs” from jail.

The South Carolina Republican, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, condemned Karzai for freeing the prisoners who pose an immediate threat to U.S., Afghan, and allied forces in the war-torn country, McClatchy reports.

“Karzai is doing a lot of damage to his country and to the relationship between us and Afghanistan,” said Graham, who once traded jokes with Karzai over dinners at his presidential palace in Kabul.

“He’s undercutting a relationship (with the U.S.) that most Afghans want and empowering the Taliban…

“The Taliban look at something like this (the release of prisoners), and they’ve got to be encouraged. I’ve been to that prison dozens of times, and it makes my blood boil to see these thugs walk out of there.”

Graham said he’s been unable to confirm reports that Karzai has held secret talks with the Taliban, Muslim fanatics who ruled the country and imposed strict Islamic laws there until the U.S. invasion in October 2001.

Although the Taliban have recently launched a new offensive in the region, Graham said, “(Karzai) doesn’t treat the Taliban as an insurgency. He calls them ‘wayward brothers’ rather than thugs that are killing people.”

“I’ve known Karzai for 10 years, but he’s getting completely irrational. He’s totally detached from the reality about what’s going on in his own country.”

Graham, who has made several trips to Afghanistan as a senator and as an Air Force Reserve colonel, even met with Karzai in Kabul last month, along with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and pleaded with him to keep the “thugs” behind bars, McClatchy reported.

But Karzai dismissed them, saying that the national detention center in Parwan that housed the inmates and was built with U.S. funds was “a black hole.” Although the jail is guarded by U.S. troops, the Karzai government has authority over the handling of prisoners and claims the 65 detainees were being held without cause.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of U.S troops in Afghanistan, attacked Karzai’s decision because he believes that some of the freed prisoners will join forces with the Taliban insurgency.

“They have killed Afghan men, women and children,” Dunford said, noting that two dozen inmates were tied to roadside bombs, the number one killer of Afghan citizens. “We believe some of the individuals previously released have already returned to the fight.”

Now a furious Graham is fighting back by demanding that Congress cuts off U.S. reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, and he’s enlisted the support of House Speaker John Boehner.

“After years of fighting alongside our Afghan partners — who have sustained serious casualties themselves from common enemies — this decision is especially egregious,” said Boehner.

The tense relations between Afghanistan and the U.S. have sunk to an all-time low, with U.S. officials claiming that Karzai has gone back on a bilateral agreement to keep a small military contingent in the country after the remaining 34,000 U.S. troops pull out by the end of the year.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House may now wait until Karzai leaves office in April before attempting to sign a new pact with the next government to keep peace-keeping troops on the ground there.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Drew MacKenzie

Terror Experts: Power Plant Assault ‘Very Serious’.


A possible terrorist assault on a California power station last April, which got little publicity, was a very serious breach that reveals how vulnerable the nation is, counterterrorism experts say.

“This is very serious . . . This was a trial run for a terrorist attack,” said Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and FBI agent who is now chief analyst for the global intelligence forecaster LIGNET.

“We now have something called a smart grid system, where our electric grid is linked to other grids over the Internet and by computers, and a major attack on one part of the grid could cause a devastating outage that could put tens of millions of Americans in the dark,” Fleitz told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

Story continues below video.

Wall Street Journal report this week that a sniper attack had knocked out an electrical substation near San Jose is raising fears that the country’s power grid is vulnerable to terrorism.

Nobody has been arrested or charged in the attack.

“The FBI is still not prepared to say that this was a terrorist attack even though this power station was attacked with AK47s and there was a systematic plan to cut the phone lines, the fiber-optic cables, in a way that couldn’t be detected or easily repaired,” Fleitz said.

John Guandolo, a former FBI agent, told Malzberg he is convinced the power plant incident was a planned attack.

“If this was only one individual, which it does not look like it was, they would’ve had to been moving out pretty good,” he said.

“They’ve got the telephone cables cut at the underground vault and then within about 30 minutes you’ve got a shooter open-firing on transformers and, according to the police reports, there are over 100 rounds fired from a semi-automatic rifle. So, that’s pretty serious.

“They knew what to shoot, to take it out, and they knew what lines to cut, and they did it all, so far as we can tell, without any person getting on any of the security cameras. So, I’d say it was a pretty well-executed job.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Bill Hoffmann

Booz Allen: Snowden Targeted Our Firm to Get at NSA Secrets.


Image: Booz Allen: Snowden Targeted Our Firm to Get at NSA Secrets Booz Allen Hamilton vice chairman Mike McConnell

By Elliot Jager

Edward Snowden went to work at Booz Allen Hamilton, the federal contractor, because he wanted access to high-level national security secrets, Mike McConnell, a Booz Allen vice chairman and ex-NSA director told  The Wall Street Journal.

In McConnell’s telling, Snowden began his national security career as a NSA security guard. He then entered the CIA’s information-technology section and was sent overseas. He had disciplinary problems, left for the private sector, and was posted in Japan.

He then decided he wanted to rejoin the NSA at the highest level of operations. Snowden broke into the agency’s computer system “administratively,” gained access to the answers to the admittance exam, then “aced” the test, McConnell told the Journal.

“He walked in and said you should hire me because I scored high on the test,” McConnell said.

But Snowden was dissatisfied with the level of the job that the NSA offered him.

“That’s when he turned,” said McConnell.

He said the “narcissistic” Snowden decided to work for Booz Allen because he wanted higher level security access than would have been available to him at the NSA.

“He targeted my company because we enjoy more access than other companies. Because of the nature of the work we do…he targeted us for that purpose,” said McConnell.

Booz Allen hired Snowden in 2013. The government had already vetted him— contractors do not provide security clearances, only the government does that, said McConnell. The company confirmed that his resume was accurate, though in hindsight, McConnell acknowledged, there were gaps in his history.

Snowden worked for the company only three months. He never entered a Booz Allen facility.

“The government invited him into its space for training. That’s when he did his download,” said McConnell.

Snowden transferred data he wanted to a storage disk, went back to Hawaii, and then left for Hong Kong.

As damaging as Snowden’s access turned out to be, he chiefly penetrated only the first two of four information levels. At the first level, though, he gained information to the FISA court order authorizing NSA eavesdropping.

At the second level Snowden was able to access intelligence reports from around the world— though how the information was collected was basically shielded. McConnell said Snowden had very little access to the third tier, and almost none at all to the top level.

With all that, said McConnell, Snowden compromised more intelligence capability than any previous spy.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper previously described Snowden’s disclosures as the “most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history,” according to the Journal.

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Creator of 3-D Printable Gun Lands Book Deal.


Image: Creator of 3-D Printable Gun Lands Book DealA Liberator pistol that was made by Cody Wilson on a 3-D-printer at his home in Austin, Texas.

By Lisa Barron

Cody Wilson, who created the first fully 3-D printable gun last spring, has landed a quarter-million-dollar book deal with Simon & Schuster.

The head of the 3-D-printed gun group, Defense Distributed, signed the deal in December to write a non-fiction book about his efforts to create the digital weapon, Forbes reports.

The working title of the book is “Negative Liberty,” Wilson told the publication, explaining, “The whole point to me is to add to the hacker mythology and to have a very, very accurate and contentious portrayal of what we think about the current political situation, our attitude and political orientation, a lasting remark.”

“It won’t be a manifesto,” he said. “But culturally, I hope to leave a couple of zingers . . . a touchstone for the young, disaffected radical toward his own political and social development, that kind of thing.”

Wilson, whose blueprints were downloaded 100,000 times in two days after he initially published them online, said his proposal drew mixed responses from publishers.

“Some think I’m awful, that what I did was terrible, and the others think this is an incredible story that needs to be told,” said Wilson, 25.

The graduate of the University of Central Arkansas is involved in a legal dispute with the State Department, which demanded that he take the blueprints off the Internet.

He is also focusing on the software he helped build, called Dark Wallet, which allows for anonymous transactions using the virtual currency bitcoin, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“We need an anonymous cash online,” Wilson told the Journal, “It’s not that I want you to buy drugs. It’s just that I think you should have the freedom to do it.”

Wilson reportedly works from an apartment near the University of Texas at Austin with a group of self-described anti-establishment techies.

Meanwhile, anticipating a potential legal battle with the government over publication of the 3-D-printing gun file, he said the book advance could come in handy.

“At least now if I’m in prison I’ll have something to do,” he joked to Forbes.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Mukasey: Obama Should Be More Worried About ‘Present Dangers’ to US.


Image: Mukasey: Obama Should Be More Worried About 'Present Dangers' to US

By Courtney Coren

President Barack Obama is more worried about protecting the American people “from hypothetical abuses than from present dangers,” says former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in response to Obama’s speech Friday on intelligence gathering reforms.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal Monday, Mukasey derided the president for offering “no recommendations” on how to stop leaks like those exposed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Instead, he said, Obama is trying to change a NSA system of phone and Internet data collection when “there is no evidence it has been abused” while at the same time acknowledging that the surveillance programs need to be preserved.

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“To impose such a burden on the NSA as the price of simply running a number through a database that includes neither the content of calls nor the identity of callers is perverse,” Mukasey wrote, of the president’s order that the NSA can no longer query the database unless it seeks permission from the special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The problem, Mukasey observed, is that such a request will end up becoming a long legal process before a request even reaches the court.

“The president said that this step may be dispensed with only in a ‘true emergency,'” he noted, all but calling it absurd to think that “events unfold to a musical score with a crescendo to tell us when a ‘true emergency’ is at hand.”

The former attorney general also argued that Obama’s long-term goal of having the database monitored by a private entity would simply make the United States even more vulnerable to a data breach.

“Telephone carriers sensibly do not wish to be compelled to undertake the risks of storing the data, and could not as readily provide it to the NSA as the agency’s own storage,” Mukasey said. “A private entity is likely to be far less secure than the NSA and staffed by less reliable personnel. The paradoxical result is that the Chinese and the Russians could wind up with easier access to the data than those trying to protect us.”

Mukasey also took issue with the president’s promise to “offer the same privacy protections to citizens of other countries as we do to our own,” something he said “no other nation does.”

“Many people whose job it is to decide how aggressively we will fight our enemies watched President Obama’s speech from the Justice Department and got the message . . . that when it comes to intelligence-gathering, the president would rather protect us from hypothetical abuses than from present dangers,” Mukasey concluded.

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