NEWSWEEK: Gonzo Apocalypto’s Next Targets: The 1st Amendment & Reporters — Truth-Challenged Press Conference Assails “Leakers!”

http://www.newsweek.com/sessions-leaks-trump-fired-fake-news-media-cnn-mueller-comey-obama-golf-646838?spMailingID=2132659&spUserID=MzQ4OTU2OTQxNTES1&spJobID=850160461&spReportId=ODUwMTYwNDYxS0

Jeff Stein reports:

“Another day, another Donald Trump show. The president was absent from the elaborate press conference that Attorney General Jeff sessions held at the Justice Department on Friday to showcase the administration’s intent to crack down on leaks.

But his looming presence was palpable. The president reportedly often watches and critiques the TV performance of his officials.

“This culture of leaking must stop,” Sessions said, echoing Trump’s increasingly bitter tweets.

Flanking Sessions were Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats and William Evanina, head of the little-known National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

“Conspicuously absent,” The Washington Post noted, “were representatives for the FBI, which generally investigates leaks.” Rosenstein said the new FBI Director, Christopher Wray, wasn’t there because he had just started his job this week.

Unlikely. Wray’s office is just a short walk across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Justice Department. If Wray were unavailable, plenty of other top FBI officials certainly were. Under a president obsessed with how his officials come across on television, the exclusion of them seemed deliberate.

. . . . .

The tableau presented by Sessions, who is struggling to hold on to his job after weeks of withering criticism from Trump for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, seemed designed to suggest to the president’s political base that other, more trusted security agencies would play a prominent role in the leak investigation.

Not going to happen. As opposed to what the TV pictures might suggest, U.S. intelligence agencies are barred from criminal investigations of leaks (although they conduct their own internal probes).  

“Only the FBI has jurisdiction to conduct that type of investigation,” Robert L. Dietz, who has held senior legal positions at the CIA, NSA, the National Geo-Spatial Agency and the Defense Department, tells Newsweek. “Indeed, the entire intel establishment has no authority over leaks.”

. . . .

Historically, critics of leak investigations, including government officials, have called them “a fool’s errand.” They can often lead right back to the offices of the White House or cabinet official who demanded them.

But Sessions added a dark element to his Friday announcement, suggesting he might start issuing subpoenas to reporters. The secret monitoring of media organizations could well accompany such investigations, history shows.

Press freedom organizations denounced the idea. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said it would “strongly oppose” a revision of Obama administration guidelines generally prohibiting such subpoenas. It also announced it had set up a toll-free hotline for reporters to call for legal advice if they got a subpoena.

Most leaks involving controversial Trump administration policies and its in-fighting and chaos have not included classified information. But some national security officials, both Democrats and Republicans, said Thursday they were shocked by the leaks of complete transcripts of Trump’s private telephone conversations with the president of Mexico and prime minister of Australia. Both transcripts revealed Trump saying things in stark contrast to his public positions. He had denounced previous reports characterizing the calls—accurately, as it turned out—as “fake news.” Sessions indicated he was going to get to the bottom of who leaked the transcripts.

But far from being investigated and punished, whistleblowers should be recognized as playing an important role in a democracy, says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C. nongovernmental organization. Leak probes, she said, can stumble onto rightful efforts to expose crimes by government officials.

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse and illegality within the federal government,” Brian told The Washington Post. “The last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks.”

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Notable that Sessions’s so-called “press conference” (is it really a “press conference” if you don’t take questions from the press?) was actually a performance aimed at reassuring President Trump that he was “on message” after being accused (falsely) by the President of being “weak on leaks.”

There is one major disclosure of classified information that should concern all Americans: Trump’s cavalier offering of sensitive documents to the Russians, who are not our friends or allies. Other than that, most of the “leaked” information consists of what NBC’s Chuck Todd would call “water cooler stuff” that more likely than not was “leaked” by members of Trump’s own “inner circle” as part of the never ending “palace intrigues” and “power struggles” surrounding the West Wing. While it’s easy to understand why truth could be embarrassing to Trump and his minions, its not by any means a threat to national security. No, the biggest REAL thereat to our national security remains President Trump himself.

PWS

08-07-17

Newsweek: Bannon Wants “American Gulag” — Will Anyone Have The Guts To Stop Him?

http://www.newsweek.com/steve-bannon-fever-dream-american-gulag-551472

Jeff Stein writes in this week’s Newsweek:

“Imagine: Miles upon miles of new concrete jails stretching across the scrub-brush horizons of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, with millions of people incarcerated in orange jumpsuits and awaiting deportation.

Such is the fevered vision of a little-noticed segment of President Donald Trump’s sulfurous executive order on border security and immigration enforcement security. Section 5 of the January 25 order calls for the “immediate” construction of detention facilities and allocation of personnel and legal resources “to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico” and process them for deportation. But another, much overlooked, order signed the same day spells out, in ominous terms, who will go.

Trump promised a week after the November elections that he would expel or imprison some 2 million or 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions—a number that exists mainly in his imagination. (Only about 820,000 undocumented immigrants currently have a criminal record, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. Many of those have traffic infractions and other misdemeanors.)

Still, the spectre of new, pop-up jails housing hundreds of thousands of people is as powerful a fright-dream for liberals as it is a triumph for the president’s “America first” Svengali, Steve Bannon. But, like the fuzzy Trump order dropping the gate on travelers from seven Muslim-majority states, the deportation measure presents so many fiscal and legal restraints that is also looks suspiciously like just another act of ideological showboating from the rumpled White House strategy chief.

“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed to the writer Ronald Radosh at a party at his Capitol Hill townhouse in November 2013. “Lenin,” he said of the Russian revolutionary, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

The executive orders were “not issued as result of any recommendation or threat assessment made by DHS to the White House,” Department of Homeland Security officials conceded in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, according to a statement from Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. They were all Bannon-style revolutionary theater.

. . . .

Expect DHS to start advertising for bids from private prison operators, a much-maligned industry that was collapsing in the latter years of the Obama administration. Two of the largest, GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic Inc., are already seeing windfalls from their second chance at life: Their stock prices have nearly doubled since the election.

All of which recalls another Leninist idea that Bannon may have forgotten: Prisons are universities for revolution.”

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Stein’s article confirms what many of us had suspected all along — these draconian and unnecessary measures were were “’not issued as result of any recommendation or threat assessment made by DHS to the White House.’” No, they were part of a pre-hatched anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim program cooked up by Bannon and others in the White House to “make good” on Trump’s campaign promises (regardless of whether the measures were necessary of sensible).

But they will be a boon for two important U.S. industries: the private prison industry and the legal industry, as both sides “lawyer up” for a long-term, avoidable, and wasteful fight. Who needs foreign enemies when the Administration is so determined to wage warfare against a large number of our own citizens and residents who disagree with his ill-considered and ill-timed policies?

Stein’s full article (well worth the read) is at the link.

PWS

02/03/17