Showing posts with label FBI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FBI. Show all posts

Saturday, February 03, 2018

60s, FBI, Gong Show


This guy could never have been elected in the 60s or 70s, but maybe he could have given Ronald Reagan a run for it.  I was able to meet people like Abbie Hoffman and all his incarnations, Tom Hayden, saw Lenny Bruce live, collaborated briefly with Severn Darden, and so on.  Electing the host of the Gong Show was simply out of the question.  Today, well, we elected the host of the Apprentice, so who knows?

Some time ago, someone said that the 60s was a great time, and early 70s.  Having lived though it, I disagreed.  Now, looking back, perhaps we need it again.  After all, Gretchen Carlson was born in the 60s, so she missed them entirely.  Maybe she woke up during Ronald's Rule?  Seems like it. 

Well, who remembers that?  Most people today weren't even born then, except Gretchen.  I knew some older people who could talk about Herbert Hoover (a chicken in every pot) and others who like FDR who repaired the country after the big businesses ruined it.  He used ideas from Eugene Debs and other Socialists to do so.  Corporations have been trying to undo what he accomplished ever since, but there have been impediments.

These big businesses managed to keep Henry Wallace from being Vice President during FDR's last term, but that wasn't enough for them.  Wallace would have been an excellent President, for the people that is, but not for big business.  Truman ran instead and these forces tried to get even him out with John Dewey.  It didn't work.

Still, I don't remember any of this.  I know Eisenhower became President, but it didn't matter much.  I do remember he said "moreover," a great deal, but that's about it.  No, the first President I was really aware of was JFK and that was because I grew up in Chicago and helped get him elected (I couldn't vote, but I could sure mark up ballots so they would be disqualified – just doing my bit, don't you know?)  Yes, that precinct was heavily Republican.  Too many Swedes, I think the story was.  I'm not sure.  Anyway, I did know that Nixon was evil.

In fact, I knew that because I heard the debates of the radio and I am one of the few that think Kennedy made more sense than Nixon on the radio, beard or no beard.

Still, it didn't mean that much, but I did get very tired of people talking about Jackie.  Like, who cared?  I wasn't a big fan of the kids, either.  I wasn't able to vote yet anyway.  Instead, I was busy during the summer playing semi-pro baseball, pretending I was Dizzy Dean, and making enough money to go to college.  Well, things there were strange too.

First off, they offered a scholarship.  I could get free tuition, live in the athlete's dorm, free food, and show up for practice and games 4 to 5 hours a day.  One thing, however, no playing semi-pro anymore because you were no longer an amateur.  Well, I thought about it.  One the one hand, I could play 5-6 games in the summer and make enough money to pay room and board and tuition, live off campus, not have to sleep in the same room with these cretins for the entire year, or I could take their scholarship.  I said "Fuck no," and that was that.  No school spirit at all, I'm afraid.   They sent me a booklet from the fraternity council and it has a list of THINGS THEY WERE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO DO.  Man, like such creativity.  What do they do now?  Nope, no fraternal spirit either, I'm afraid.

Anyway, back to the world.  Since I've had enough, you might as well hear all about it. 

I was in my seat, waiting for the 1:00 class to begin, a class entirely on the plays of George Bernard Shaw, when someone came in with a transistor radio, put it on the desk, while it announced that JFK had been assassinated.  Yes, it was shocking.  Even more frightening was when one girl said, "Shit, that means Lyndon Johnson is President?"  That was a bad idea. 

The Vietnam War started, as I had expected and people on the BBC were predicting.  (Short wave was helpful back then.  It provided a way to hear news and information from other countries without any concern for the U.S.  Did you know that the first female newscaster I ever heard was on Radio Moscow?  I found that interesting at the time.) 

Waking up Politically

Anyway, the next election featured Barry Goldwater, fan of the John birch Society, as opposed to Lyndon Johnson.  Johnson said he didn't think we should be fighting a war in Vietnam.  Goldwater said we should "Bomb them into the stone age."  I though that was a clear choice and I voted for him (and felt guilty about it a year afterwards).  There was a television show I was able to watch during the election called THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS, and it had people saying things like "You Americans think we in Britain know nothing about what it would be like to have a Barry Goldwater as President.  Well, you're wrong, we had one, only his name was Oliver Cromwell." 

[Here we have to digress.  John Milton became Cromwell's Latin Secretary and that was an important position in those days.  Milton went on to write PARADISE LOST.  This is important because the Bible is Gods version of what happened.  Why does the Devil have his own book?  Well, the first two books of Paradise Lost are his.  If you see used copies of the book, notice that the first two books are very well read.  The rest, not so.]

The show made Goldwater look like an ass, but at the time (I found this out much later) Hillary Clinton was a supporter.  In any case, the supporter of the John Birch Society, a fanatic anti-communist group, Mr. Koch senior, bought the time of the show from NBC and put it off the air.  Still, Goldwater lost. 

As soon as he was elected, LBJ started to get read to go to real war with Vietnam.  JFK had 20K troops there, all volunteers, and was thinking of getting them out.  It was time for me to start doing some research (something nobody did back then unless it was for a term paper).  It turned out that Vietnam had been at war for at least a thousand years, we only got in when the French gave up the idea a stupid, and JFK seemed to think it was stupid to stay there so the CIA probably was involved in killing him off, but for some reason LBJ liked it (or he was afraid he would be knocked off next).  He was a very easy person to hate back then. 

Then, they had a system of involuntary servitude called "selective service" which is commemorated in the song Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie.   The John Birch Society is commemorated by Dylan and a group called the Goldcoast Singers.   Even I was writing songs.  What people don't get today is that the Tea Party is supported by the sons of this Koch, Charles Koch. 

Then the revolution began.  Civil Rights, Anti-War, supposedly drugs, sex and rock, but really, rock is too noisy (Miles Davis was better) and girls were not that easy.  By 1968, McCarthy had challenged Johnson in the primary and we were all supporting him. 

LBJ resigned, but Kennedy was still reticent.  Anyway, Gene McCarthy had a better sense of humor as well.  When RFK looked like he was getting popular, however, and after it really seemed that he had evolved, after he made the speech about the killing of Martin Luther King, and he won California, the powers that were decided he was a real threat.  Hubert was still running as well. 

The convention was insane.  No, we were not inside, we were in Grant Park and elsewhere.  Some of the cops I recognized – they had been gang members in my old high school, but they were ok.  It was the older ones, about 30 or so years old that were vicious.  It seemed they couldn't stand seeing the pretty girls next to the scrawny hippie types and really went after them.  Abbie did all sorts of things to go wild and when he got tired of seeing his face in the news, I helped him write FUCK on his forehead.  Somehow, it came off, and he did it again in a mirror (which didn't work for anyone except Abbie). 

Norman Mailer was there to make a speech and then said he felt like a coward to go off to write his column.  He was encouraged to go write.  The National guard was cheered when they showed up to relieve the Chicago Police.  Daley had given the order to "shoot to maim and kill", so higher powers took over.  Or so it seemed.   I asked a few Precinct Captains and Ward Committeemen why they had resigned a few months ago and got the same answer from every on of the "Aw, da guy started ta believe the shit he had been saying like he was really da boss, ya know?"  I assured them I knew.

So who come back with a plan to end the war?  Nixon!  Give us a break.  Not him.  His idea was to bomb not only Vietnam, but Cambodia, Laos, and wherever he could.  That was Henry's idea.  "Dr. Kissinger," to you.   Later on, much later on, I was treating a vet of the "secret" war in Cambodia (he kept saying he could not tell me about it because I would be killed and he would be killed.  He was surprised I was able to tell him about it.  Of course, I did not know he was captured and that they pulled out his fingernails) who could not stop drinking.  He had his house stocked with guns, however.  (Yes, he had a license and anybody that complained would get THEIR fingernails pulled out, I suppose.)   Suffering has its limits, however, and he finally killed himself.  He did not get a single bit of help from our government.  Also, many immigrants joined our armed forces, served, and are now facing deportation.  They became people, not property.

At this point, I find myself wondering "Who cares?"  A profound philosophical question.  Stupidity and inequity seem to be bound up together with humaqn beings, Not even "seem to be," are.  No way around it. 

So perhaps the only meaning if life is whatever fun we can get out of it.  Of course, with fun, is punishment.  The two are bound together.  If you are enjoying yourself, you will eventually be punished for it.   Thos who are called pessimists and misanthropes cannot be.  Otherwise, they would not bother to waste on single bit of energy talking or writing anything about how bad things were.  They have to be able to envision something better in order to even consider saying anything about it.


            It seems the FBI has become a secret society of left-wing radicals if you believe the Republicans.  It is difficult to realize how strange this sounds, especially if you know a bit about their history, a very strange history.

It was started by FDR (who ran for President to "save my friends from themselves" during the depression) to fight organized crime.  People like John Dillinger and Al Capone and J. Edgar Hoover was appointed head, or Directory.  He insisted on a clean-cut look.  Of course, Organized crime of those days was not very organized and the outlaws became legends.  Baby Face Nelson was there too.

Later on, organized crime became more organized and orderly.  It became more like a corporate business.  The Godfather is pretty accurate, especially Godfather II. About the same time, a bit later, the syndicate or the Mafia, choose your own name, caught on that J. Edgar Hoover like to dress up in his mother's underwear and chase his male secretary around the room and play with him.  When confronted with this, Hoover had to find other targets.  He found COMMUNISM!  No body else has, but he did.

He tapped Martin Luther King's phone, Malcolm X's phone, just about anyone else's.  He got around to tapping many phones.  The best proof of this was when a comedian who ran for Mayor of Chicago, Dick Gregory had his phone tapped.  How did he know?  As he said "Anytime a black man in this country can owe $18,000 in phone bills and they don't but off service, you know it's tapped!" 

He also made me thing it was safe to fly.  Inflation has hit to make this line seem less funny, but it was ""I'm not afraid to fly.  In a capitalist country where an airplane costs three million dollars, you know it's safe."  And it was.

During LBJ:  LBJ actually did many good things such as Medicare, the Voting Rights act, and so on, ever an immigration law that made it illegal to discriminate on immigrants on basis of COUNTRY OF ORIGIN (I wonder what has happened to that law?).  But it was hard to think about help at age 65 when you were 18 and didn't not think living past 1984 was likely.  He was asked why he didn't fire J. Edgar Hoover, and there were two reasons: 1) LBJ enjoyed reading about the sex lives of other politicians and 2) "I'd rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in".  It was the first time I'd heard that phrase. 

So, when I had friends in the SDS I told them to be careful on the phone because it was probably tapped.  They would not believe me.  I asked if the phone sounded very clear and clean, no interference?  They would say yes.  So I would tell them it was certainly tapped, no doubt about it.  They still didn't believe me.  So, I decided to prove it.  I told the leader, Garry (the one who applied for P.O. Statues with the Draft Board, (you mean C.O., don't you?"  "No P.O. I'll fight for the other side") to call me at 8 next night and be prepared to follow along.

It was in a town with a train that passed through with a fire station on the North Side.  At about 2 AM, a train would pass though and totally block one of the passages between north and south.  The only way left was under a viaduct.  That train sat there for abut and hour or two, every Thursday night.  So that's the day I had him call.  Of course, I'd told him to check the are out the night before, just to make sure.   I had 20 bucks riding on this.

Ok, so he calls.  We talk a bit, and then I say "Ok, the plan is set"

"It is?  How's it going down?"

"Easy, you got the trucks ready to block the viaduct?"

"Yeah, so what?"

"Ok, now, you know the train will block the main crossway and the only way is the viaduct.  The Fire Station is one the north side, so you pick me up along 4th street, just about 6 blocks South.  Be there about 1:45."

He plays along and says "So what gonna happen?"

"Here's what's gone happen, man.  Aquarius has his bomb for the Legion Hall and Leo is ready with his at the High School.  They will be there about 2.  Now, when the train parks, we go to the viaduct, block it, about 2:15 the bombs go off, and we are out of there.  Total destruction!  Man, it'll be great.  We already got a sign hung on the civil war cannon saying NO MORE VIETNAM!!  Cool?"

"Yeah, I'll be there."

So, when the time came, he picked me up, and we drove by there at about 2:10 and, sure enough, the train had blocked the street as we pulled up to the viaduct.  And there, sitting there in a black Oldsmobile, were two well-dressed men, overcoats, jackets and ties, Fedora hats, sitting there.  They looked mean and very alert.  I asked Gary "Are you convinced?"

He handed me the $20 Bill and we simply drove by.  Of course his phone was taped.

RFK made Hoover report to him, not to JFK.  That's why he had to go, especially when it looked like he had a chance to be nominated and become President.  That would have been the end of Hoover.

They had a lot to do in Watergate too, but that's old news.

They question for today is, how did the FBI suddenly turn into a den of lefties?  And after years of Republicans telling us what a threat Russia was, how did they become friends of sorts and attacked so often by Democrats? 

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Comey's Remarks


Illustration: Latuff pointed this out three years ago.

Since this is in the Congressional Record, I suppose it is in the Public Domain.  However, I found it, of all places, on CNBC.  The woman at the bottom
deserves credit.

Statement for the Record
Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
James B. Comey
June 8, 2017

Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.
January 6 Briefing
I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President-Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.
The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.
The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI's counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI's leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.
It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau's goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves "turning" the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.
Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will "open an investigation" on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.
In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI's leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump's reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.
I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.
January 27 Dinner
The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.
It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.
The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.
My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI's traditionally independent status in the executive branch.
I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not "reliable" in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody's side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.
A few moments later, the President said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.
At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because "problems" come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.
Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, "I need loyalty." I replied, "You will always get honesty from me." He paused and then said, "That's what I want, honest loyalty." I paused, and then said, "You will get that from me." As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase "honest loyalty" differently, but I decided it wouldn't be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.
During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn't happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren't, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.
As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.
February 14 Oval Office Meeting
On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I
were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.
The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.
When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, "I want to talk about Mike Flynn." Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn't done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.
The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed.
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, "He is a good guy and has been through a lot." He repeated that Flynn hadn't done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." I replied only that "he is a good guy." (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would "let this go."
The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.
I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn's departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency.
The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President's request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General's role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.
After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members – or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them – aware of the President's request.
Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President's concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI's potential investigation of General Flynn.
March 30 Phone Call
On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as "a cloud" that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to "lift the cloud." I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn't find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.
Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, "We need to get that fact out." (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)
The President went on to say that if there were some "satellite" associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn't done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren't investigating him.
In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn't brought up "the McCabe thing" because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe's wife) campaign money. Although I didn't understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.
He finished by stressing "the cloud" that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.
Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.
April 11 Phone Call
On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I "get out" that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that "the cloud" was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
He said he would do that and added, "Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know." I did not reply or ask him what he meant by "that thing." I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.
That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Revolution, FBI, Encryption, Apple


We have launched the New Absurd Times Television Network. In accordance with the most accepted American news practice, everything is labeled "BREAKING NEWS,' no mater what it is, if you already knew about it, or, quite frankly, do not care one bit. It is abailable on You Tube and updates will be posted on You Tube, probably on Sundays, if we really feel like it. Just search on Absurd Times or, perhaps Czar Donic.

Justice Scalia is dead, BTW. So much is made of him being a "textualist," meaning one who read the actual text of the constitution and interprets it the way it was meant to be understood. This is all very well and good if you understand the people who wrote the text. Now this was the Revolution, folks, the time of Voltaire, Rousseau, and the French Revolution as well. In fact, the French invited our leaders over there for advice during their revolution. If Scalia bears any resemblance to the thinking of that period it is to be found in the character of Pangloss in Candide. He certainly was no Tom Paine.

You can find out what you need to know about the miracle of American Capitalist "Privatization" by visiting .

Since this is a Political season, people around the world are wondering what the hell is really going on here. We had one President who served out his full term in only 39 days, William Henry Harrison. A great model and he was even more short-lived as a leader that the underesitmated Shapoor Baktiar, who served as President of Iran between the rule of the Shah and the Ayatollah. 41 days, I believe it was. No statues were erected for him, whereas we cling to our images of Jefferson Davis on the Confederacy. Actually, if might have been a wise idea to simply let those states go and allow any slaves to immigrate, but then we do need our Consititution with his prohibition against "involuntary servitude," a point important these days in the battle between Apple and the FBI.

Obama will visit Cuba soon, the first President to do so since Calvin Coolidge. The great Depression soon followed. More about Cuba soon.

But first, Apple. The FBI is trying to force Apple to write code to break its own encryption, just once, for the San Bernadino terrorists, both dead. Now, a warrant can be issued for things that exist, but to force someone (and thanks to Citizen's United, remember that?) including corporations to do work against their will is unconstitutional. It amounts to Involuntary Servitude. So did the draft, but that was a different issue. When Viet Nam began to be a real internal cause, the first complaint was why guys had to be in the Army to get killed if they couldn't drink. So the drinking age was lowered. Then the complaint was about voting. So Nixon lowered the voting age. Then people sentenced themselves to marriage rather than be in the army. Eventually, Nixon said "What the Hell," held a lottery, and got rid of the draft, or conscription, or legalized involuntary servitude.  One does wonder, however, why the FBI doesn't simply ask the NSA for the information?

An attempt to close Guantanimo is being attacked by Republicans (you know, those people). Donald Trump says he is going to keep it open and put a whole bunch of "bad Dudes" in there. Rubio and Cruz are essential the same, although Cruz says that Obama should stay in Cuba because he wants a "Socialist Heaven" and would feel right at home.
Now, as absurd as all that sounds, we also have an greement with Cuba to return that property to them. After all, it is in their country and hence is "occupied territory". Of course, as we see on the West Bank, the concept of "occupied" is quite slippery when used in American politics.

Oh, yes, we forgot about abortion. All these laws prohibiting abortion unless the clinic has admitting privileges is nothing more that a way to enforce anti-women legislation as "sanctity of life," beliefs which are religiously motivated, clearly a violation of the First Amendment. So far, I think we have at least three, probably more, violations of the constitution here.

Actually, though, religion is a force for ill right now in the world. One might be tempted to say that God saw the Republican Primaries so far and decided we already were in Hell so there was no need to bother about it anymore.

Here is some more on the Apple controversy.

As the government continues to take a bite out of Apple, Apple CEO Tim Cook says the FBI's request to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters is the "software equivalent of cancer." In an interview on ABC, he explained why the tech giant is resisting a court order to help unlock the phone. TheFBI says Apple is overstating the security risk to its devices, and argues the litigation is limited. "It won't be unique to this one phone. It would be something that the government can use against any phone. And even if you think that it's OK for the government to be able to break the encryption of anybody's phone … what backdoor is accessible to the U.S. government would also be accessible to whatever is the American enemy du jour," says our guest Barry Eisler, who has written about government surveillance in fictional form. He is also a former CIA agent. Eisler is the author of several books, most recently, "The God's Eye View."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the ongoing dispute over privacy and encryption between the FBI and the computer giant Apple. In an interview last night on ABC, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained why his company is resisting a court order to help unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino attackers. In December, Syed Farook—Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife killed 14 people and injured 22 others. The two attackers were killed in a shootout with police. Cook said what the U.S. government was asking Apple to do was the, quote, "software equivalent of cancer."
TIM COOK: This case is not about one phone. This case is about the future. What is at stake here is: Can the government compel Apple to write software that we believe would make hundreds of millions of customers vulnerable around the world, including in the U.S.? The only way we know would be to write a piece of software that we view as sort of the software equivalent of cancer. We think it's bad news to write. We would never write it. We have never written it. And that is what is at stake here.
AMY GOODMAN: The FBI says Apple is overstating the security risk to its devices, and argues the litigation is limited. In an open letter earlier this week, FBI Director James Comey wrote, quote, "The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. ... We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land," he said. Apple phone systems have a function that automatically erases the access key and renders the phone permanently inaccessible after 10 failed attempts.
To talk more about the case, we're joined by Barry Eisler, who has written about government surveillance—in fictional form. But he's also a former CIA agent. Eisler is the author of a number of books, most recently, The God's Eye View.
It's great to have you with us.
BARRY EISLER: Thank you, Amy. Good to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about what the government is doing and the pushback of Apple.
BARRY EISLER: Yeah, I like Tim Cook's metaphor. It's nice to see someone hitting back linguistically this way. You would expect the FBI to say what it's saying: It's only about one phone. This is the kind of thing the government always says. And I'm reminded of the time the CIA acknowledged that it had made two torture tapes. Fifteen months later, it acknowledged that it was in fact 92. In this case, the government said this is only going to be about one phone, and it took them only a day to say, "Did we say one phone? Actually, we're talking about 12." If you talk to any encryption or security expert anywhere, they'll all tell you that what the FBI is asking for is impossible. You can't create a backdoor for one phone without making all phones vulnerable. So that's one important issue here.
But there's another one that I think is not adequately understood. As Julian Sanchez, a guy I follow pretty closely because he knows a lot about these things, works with the Cato Institute, put it, this just isn't about encryption, it's about conscription. And I wish people would understand this a little bit better. It's unprecedented for the government to be telling a private company what products it can create and what features it has to include in those products. As Tim Cook pointed out, where does this stop? What if the government said, "We want to have a feature on the iPhone that enables the FBI to turn on the iPhone camera, to turn on the iPhone microphone, anytime we want? Would that also be OK?" So, I hope this isn't going to happen. It's sort of odd have to be championing the world's richest corporation in its fight with the government.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, they're asking the Apple to write a program, which would then create a backdoor.
BARRY EISLER: Exactly. And it won't be unique to this one phone. It would be something that the government could use against any phone. And even if you think that the U.S. government—it's OK for the government to be able to break the encryption of anybody's phone, even if you trust the U.S. government and think the U.S. government has never lied anyone, never abused its powers, even if you believe anything like that, what backdoor is accessible to the U.S. government would also be accessible to whatever is the American enemy du jour—could be the Chinese government, Russia, Iran, and, of course, not just to state actors, but also to criminal groups and hackers. A vulnerability in a phone is not accessible to just one actor. It becomes vulnerable to everyone.
AMY GOODMAN: But he killed 14 people, he and his wife.
AMY GOODMAN: And they just want access to see if there's other plans. I mean, who knows what would be?
BARRY EISLER: So this is another thing the government is typically good at. It tries to find the most attractive fact pattern it can to use as the thin edge of a wedge that it can then use in other less obvious fact patterns. And I see this again and again. People don't remember that well now, but José Padilla—I'm sure you guys remember—the so-called dirty bomber, I mean, José Padilla was accused of trying to create a radiological bomb and detonate it in Chicago, and a whole lot of people were going to die. And so, to keep us safe from that kind of thing, the government arrested him, held him on a Navy ship, offshored him—no due process, no charges, no trial, no access to a lawyer. It was unprecedented. But they were careful to choose what for them was an attractive fact pattern, before doing something so unprecedented. They picked a scary-looking guy and accused him of doing scary things. And people didn't protest the way they would have if they had chosen someone a little bit different.
So it's the same thing here. They're not doing this in the name of, I don't know, preventing someone from shoplifting or something like that. They've chosen a very attractive fact pattern so that they can say the talking points that you were just parroting, which is like, "Come on, this is just to keep us safe from the really scary people who want to kill us all in our beds," and who indeed did kill a lot of people in San Bernardino.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, to what extent do you think that accounts for public opinion? Because a recent Pew [Research] Center poll found that 51 percent of Americans think Apple should comply with the FBI and unlock the iPhone of one of the perpetrators of the attacks, and only 38 percent said that the FBI should not, and the rest had no opinion.
BARRY EISLER: Yeah, which is not actually—which is not a bad response to anyone who thinks that Apple is doing this as some sort of publicity stunt. I mean, for the moment, anyway, more people think that Apple should comply than think that it shouldn't. I think the fact that so many people, actually, that 38 percent, think it's a really bad idea for Apple to be forced to do this is, in part, a tribute to the educational value of the Snowden revelations and all the journalism that's been built on them, because I'm pretty sure—can't really conduct this experiment, but I'm pretty sure that if it hadn't been for Snowden's revelations, the public would be focusing entirely on the keep-us-safe-from-the-terrorists aspect of this whole thing, and not on the but-this-is-going-to-destroy-privacy aspect.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, interestingly, Apple has made the iCloud available. It's not like they haven't done that. I mean, there have been many requests of these different phone manufacturers to get access to the iCloud.
AMY GOODMAN: And, I mean, the government can't just get access to it; they have to get permission.
AMY GOODMAN: So they're making a distinction between the actual physical phone—
AMY GOODMAN: Apparently they turned off the iCloud at some point—
AMY GOODMAN: —so it's what's remained on that phone since the point they turned it off.
BARRY EISLER: Right. So, the idea here is that some of your data is not accessible even by the company that created the product. It's on your local device, and no one else should have access to it but you. Apple has, in fact, complied with the government in the government's request to turn over data to which it has access. Maybe people might like that, they might not like it. My own feeling is, look, as long as it's pursuant to a warrant and it's not secret and it's out in the open, I can live with it. But the notion that now Apple is going to crack encryption that its users have come to rely on to keep their data private is—is an entirely new thing.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to turn to comments made by Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft. He was asked about the ongoing dispute between Apple and the FBI, and said it was important to strike a balance between privacy and government access. Gates was speaking to Bloomberg.
BILL GATES: The extreme view that the government always gets everything, nobody supports that; having the government be blind, people don't support that. ... I do believe that—that with the right safeguards, there are cases where the government, on our behalf, like stopping terrorism, which could get worse in the future, that that is valuable, but striking that balance. Clearly, the government's taken information historically and used it in ways that we didn't expect, going all the way back, say, to the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. So, I'm hoping now we can have the discussion. I do believe there are sets of safeguards where the government shouldn't have to be completely blind.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Bill Gates speaking to Bloomberg News. Your response?
BARRY EISLER: It's interesting. He's so close to an epiphany. He talks about J. Edgar Hoover. Maybe he knows about COINTELPRO. He acknowledges that the government has abused powers that it's been given in the past. And so, you think he's going in a certain direction with this, and then he just comes up with this platitude, which is we have to strike a balance. Like who doesn't think that we shouldn't strike a balance? It's just meaningless. There's no one who would say, "I don't think we need a balance. I think it's just one or the other." So, I don't know. Maybe it's not a coincidence that Microsoft is a fading technology company and Apple is a premier one.
AMY GOODMAN: Microsoft has said that in the past, that 80 tech companies have cooperated—I mean, WikiLeaks has said that 80 tech companies in the past have cooperated with the NSA, the National Security Agency, including Microsoft.
BARRY EISLER: Yeah, so much of the—of Snowden's revelations were about this very thing. And the fact that the public knows about corporate cooperation with the government now is in part, I think, what has emboldened Apple to push back, because, again, if we didn't know about these things, I would expect that Apple would be quietly cooperating. There would be no cost to their doing so. But they realize now that there's a significant constituency among their customers that wants robust privacy features in Apple products, and to please those customers, Apple realizes that in this public battle with the FBI, it can't just roll over and serve the FBI; otherwise, it might turn into the next Microsoft.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.