Tag: Barack Obama

Well What Do You Know. Obama May Have Spied on Trump………

And thousands of other Americans as well, as is revealed in a recent FISA court decision excoriating the practices of the NSA under the Obama administration:

U.S. intelligence agencies conducted illegal surveillance on American citizens over a five-year period, a practice that earned them a sharp rebuke from a secret court that called the matter a “very serious” constitutional issue.

The criticism is in a lengthy secret ruling that lays bare some of the frictions between the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and U.S. intelligence agencies obligated to obtain the court’s approval for surveillance activities.


The document, signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, said the court had learned in a notice filed Oct. 26, 2016, that National Security Agency analysts had been conducting prohibited queries of databases “with much greater frequency than had previously been disclosed to the court.”

It said a judge chastised the NSA’s inspector general and Office of Compliance for Operations for an “institutional ‘lack of candor’ ” for failing to inform the court. It described the matter as “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, and is a constitutional bedrock protection against intrusion.

Parts of the ruling were redacted, including sections that give an indication of the extent of the illegal surveillance, which the NSA told the court in a Jan. 3 notice was partly the fault of “human error” and “system design issues” rather than intentional illegal searches.


Data captured from both upstream and downstream sources are stored in massive databases, available to be searched when analysts need to, often months or as much as two years after the captures took place.

The prohibited searches the court mentioned involved NSA queries into the upstream databanks, which constitute a fraction of all the data NSA captures around the globe but are more likely to contain the emails and phone calls of people in the United States.

Federal law empowers the NSA and CIA to battle foreign terrorist actions against the United States by collecting the electronic communications of targets believed to be outside the country. While communications of U.S. citizens or residents may get hoovered up in such sweeps, they are considered “incidental” and must be “minimized” – removing the identities of Americans – before broader distribution.

The court filing noted an NSA decision March 30 to narrow collection of “upstream” data within the United States. Under that decision, the NSA acknowledged that it had erred in sweeping up the communications of U.S. citizens or residents but said those errors “were not willful.” Even so, the NSA said it would no longer collect certain kinds of data known as “about” communications, in which a U.S. citizen was merely mentioned.

The NSA announced that change publicly on April 28, two days after the court ruling, saying the agency would limit its sweeps to communications either directly to or from a foreign intelligence target. That change would reduce “the likelihood that NSA will acquire communications of U.S. persons or others who are not in direct contact with one of the agency’s foreign intelligence targets.”

The court document also criticized the FBI’s distribution of intelligence data, saying it had disclosed raw surveillance data to sectors of its bureaucracy “largely staffed by private contractors.”

This is a particularly scathing ruling when one considers the generally lackadaisical approach to the 4th amendment taken by the FISA court.

There is a reason why I call Barack Obama, “Worst Constitutional law professor ever.

This is why we need checks and balances.

Almost, but Not Quite a Stopped Clock Moment

The reliably wrong “Very Serious Person” (VSP) Matthe Yglesias,  is justified in his condemnation of Obama’s $400,000 payday Wall Street speech, but his statement that this, “Will undermine everything he believes in,” is wrong on a number of levels.

First, there is no way to determine what any public figure truly believes, so couching this in those terms is wrong, and second any examination of the Obama administration would lead one to conclude that his public acts had the effect of pleasing and protecting the “Malefactors of Great Wealth”, (Timothy Geithner, anyone?) and this action is consistent with his behavior while in office.*

The revolving door, and people cashing in after their time in his administration, were a fixture in his two terms of office, and this, along with his policies, are entirely consistent with his paid speaking gig.

I agree with Yglesias that it’s sleazy as hell, but I tend to find it consistent with his actual behavior, and not at odds with what he did as President.

*Note the difference between Yglesias comment and mine.  I talk about the effects, and do not imply that I know the the inner dialogue of Obama and his Evil Minions.

Good Point

Marcie “Emptywheel” Wheeler gives us a bright side to the Trump administration:

I have a confession.

There’s something I like about the Trump Administration.

It’s the way that his unpopularity taints long-standing policies or practices or beliefs, making people aware of and opposed to them in a way they weren’t when the same policies or beliefs were widely held under George Bush or Barack Obama. Many, though not all, of these policies or beliefs were embraced unquestioningly by centrists or even avowed leftists.

I’ve been keeping a running list in my mind, which I’ll begin to lay out here (I guess I’ll update it as I remember more).

  • Expansive surveillance
  • The presumption of regularity, by which courts and the public assume the Executive Branch operates in good faith and from evidence
  • Denigration of immigrants
  • Denigration of Muslims
  • Denigration health insurance

As an example, Obama deported a huge number of people. But now that Trump has expanded that same practice, it has been made visible and delegitimized.

In short, Trump has made things that should always have been criticized are now being far more widely so.

It’s true.  Obama’s war on whistle-blowers is unprecedented, he was the deportation president, he terrorized half a dozen with drone strikes, and he expanded surveillance beyond Dick Cheney’s wildest dreams.

The so-called left never had an objection to what Obama was doing, but now, even the far right is wondering about things like the surveillance state.

Obama normalized a lot of bad things, and now Trump is abnormalizing those same excesses.

It’s kind of like watching your mother-in-law going over a cliff in your brand new car.

Tweet of the Day

Net wealth of poor families went from around 0 to minus $15k
(US CBO) https://t.co/xGhuTTn6Yz pic.twitter.com/dmOPME74u6

— Branko Milanovic (@BrankoMilan) February 20, 2017

This might explain why so many people were unmoved by Hillary Clinton’s message that things are fine as well as the relative hostility of people in the lower half of the income distribution to Barack Obama.

When Barack Obama approved Timothy Geithner’s policy of using HAMP to “Foam the Runway” for the banks, in so doing they reduced a significant proportion of the populace to penury.

H/t naked capitalism

Quote of the Day

McConnel’s obstructionism and Trump’s birtherism were obnoxious but they didn’t destroy Obama’s agenda. Failure to push for card check, Medicare for all, voter registration, prosecuting Wall Street fraud and war crimes, new trade deals, authorizing the extra-judicial murder of US citizens, and overthrowing the government in Guatemala, Ukraine, and Libya were the real disasters.

James F.

He also notes that, “In 2008, Obama was really popular and he had the support of his own party. Obama failed to ram through his agenda because he refused to rally the people who put him into office.”

There is a saying in politics, that Republicans fear their base, and Democrats hates their base.

Obama is a fairly strong argument for the final clause in that statement.

Obama Just put the Lie to the Clinton’s Red Baiting

In his final Presidential press conference, Barack Obama said that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked:

Three U.S. Intelligence Agencies (CIA, NSA and FBI) claim that IT-Systems of the Democratic National Committee were “hacked” in an operation related to the Russian government. They assert that emails copied during the “hack” were transferred by Russian government related hackers to Wikileaks which then published them.

President Obama disagrees. He says those emails were “leaked”.

Wikileaks had insisted that the emails it published came from an insider source not from any government. The DNC emails proved that the supposedly neutral Democratic Party committee had manipulated the primary presidential elections in favor of the later candidate Hillary Clinton. This made it impossible for the alternative candidate Bernie Sanders to win the nomination. Hillory Clinton, who had extremely high unfavorable ratings, lost the final elections.

Here is President Obama in his final press conference yesterday (vid @8:31):

First of all, I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks, generally. The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether Wikileaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.

The DNC emails “that were leaked” – not “hacked” or “stolen” but “leaked”.

One wonders if this is a parting shot is primarily aimed at the involved Intelligence Agencies led by James Clapper and John Brennan. Or is dissing Hillary Clinton and her narrative the main purpose?

Dissing Hillary is the main purpose.

If Obama weren’t thoroughly in the pocket of Clapper and Brennan, he would have fired them when they lied to and spied on members of Congress.

More importantly, it indicates that the DNC email leaks were an inside job, not the work of the GRU (read the reports, the FSB may have gotten into the DNC, but they did not redistribute the results, basic spycraft).

I’m Cynical, so My Question is, “What’s Obama’s Vig?”

I gotta figure that the news that Barack Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning sentence is more about Barack Obama than it is about Chelsea Manning:

President Obama on Tuesday commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama’s administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures.

The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.

At the same time that Mr. Obama commuted the sentence of Ms. Manning, a low-ranking enlisted soldier at the time of her leaks, he also pardoned Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who pleaded guilty to lying about his conversations with reporters to F.B.I. agents investigating a leak of classified information about cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear program.

The two acts of clemency were a remarkable final step for a president whose administration carried out an unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaks of government secrets. Depending on how they are counted, the Obama administration has prosecuted either nine or 10 such cases, more than were charged under all previous presidencies combined.

My guess is that this has something to do  Obama’s quest for legacy.

He does not want Manning’s suicide to be in his historical footnotes, and for the speaking circuit, he needs to get along with former military speakers, and he could not pardon Cartwright without commuting Manning.

It is completely out of character for Obama though.

Barack Obama, Shut the F%$# Up

Barack Obama has a sad, because it’s all liberal’s fault that Obamacare is unpopular.

Yeah, I guess the fact that he killed the public option and spent the entire process fellating big insurance and big pharma, giving people rate increases, narrow networks, and balance billing had nothing to do with this:

President Barack Obama said on Friday that criticism from the left wing of his own Democratic Party helped feed into the unpopularity of Obamacare, his signature healthcare reform law.


But Obama also said Liberals like former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders had contributed to the program’s unpopularity.

During Sanders’ campaign for the presidential nomination, he proposed replacing Obamacare with a government-run single-payer health insurance system based on Medicare, the government plan for elderly and disabled Americans.

“In the ‘dissatisfied’ column are a whole bunch of Bernie Sanders supporters who wanted a single-payer plan,” Obama said in the interview.

“The problem is not that they think Obamacare is a failure. The problem is that they don’t think it went far enough and that it left too many people still uncovered,” Obama said.

“They” are right.

If you had been more interested in a good policy than you had been to check off a box on your Presidential legacy, the program would have been better, less expensive, and more universal, and far less unpopular.

You improved on the status quo, but you did so in a way calculated to make minimum changes and to keep the malefactors of the US health insurance system in the driver’s seat, because ……… markets.

What’s more, your program was structured in a way to make it as opaque and politically unpopular as possible.

Look in the mirror, dude.

Same as It Ever Was………

It appears that ground troops are back in combat in Iraq:

U.S. forces assisting Iraqi troops to retake Mosul from Islamic State are embedding more extensively, a senior commander said on Friday, a move that could accelerate a two month-old campaign which has slackened after quick initial advances.

More than 5,000 American service members are currently deployed in Iraq as part of an international coalition that is advising local forces in a bid to recapture the third of the country the jihadists seized in 2014 when Iraq’s army and police dropped their weapons and fled.

Coalition advisors were initially concentrated at a high-level headquarters in Baghdad but have fanned out over the past two years to multiple locations to stay near advancing troops.

Now, as Iraqi forces controlling around a quarter of Mosul – Islamic State’s last major stronghold in Iraq – proceed deeper into the northern city and encounter fierce counter-attacks that render progress slow and punishing, U.S. troops are stepping up their involvement.


“We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree,” he [U.S. Army Colonel Brett G. Sylvia, commander of Task Force Strike] said. “That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”

Obama said that he would get us out of Iraq.

Not so much.

Tweet of the Day

Democrats in the Obama years pic.twitter.com/Wy3v74cQhi

— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) December 19, 2016

As much as I hate the hacks at Morning Joe, they are right.

Barack Obama was a catastrophe for the Democratic party.

So was Bill Clinton. (lost the house for the first time in nearly 40 years)

So was Jimmy Carter. (Lost the Senate for the first time in over 20 years)

We need to stop electing people who spend all their time pretending to be Republicans.

Worst Constitutional Law Professor Ever? Maybe He’s Just a F%$#ing Idiot.

Barack Obama has spent most of the last 8 years expanding the powers of the Presidency, because, after all his motives are virtuous.

This is, of course is the very antithesis of the reasoning of the founding fathers, who endeavored to create a system where the bulwark against tyranny DIDN’T depend on the good intentions of those holding power.

I put Obama’s relentless quest for more executive power down to hypocrisy and narcissism.

I may have been wrong, maybe he’s just an idiot.

Obama has just expanded his powers as Commander-in-Chief when he knows that Donald Trump will be succeeding him:

The Obama administration is giving the elite Joint Special Operations Command — the organization that helped kill Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs — expanded power to track, plan and potentially launch attacks on terrorist cells around the globe, a move driven by concerns of a dispersed terrorist threat as Islamic State militants are driven from strongholds in Iraq and Syria, U.S. officials said.

The missions could occur well beyond the battlefields of places like Iraq, Syria and Libya where Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has carried out clandestine operations in the past. When finalized, it will elevate JSOC from being a highly-valued strike tool used by regional military commands to leading a new multiagency intelligence and action force. Known as the “Counter-External Operations Task Force,” the group will be designed to take JSOC’s targeting model — honed over the last 15 years of conflict — and export it globally to go after terrorist networks plotting attacks against the West.

The creation of a new JSOC entity this late in the Obama’s tenure is the “codification” of best practices in targeting terrorists outside of conventional conflict zones, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss administration deliberations. It is unclear, however, if the administration of President-elect Donald Trump will keep this and other structures set up by Obama. They include guidelines for counterterrorism operations such as approval by several agencies before a drone strike and “near certainty” that no civilians will be killed. This series of presidential orders is known as the “playbook.”

Essentially, this will put JSOC on a direct channel to the White House, making it easier for the White House to initiate such actions with only the barest review from the rest of the military or from the Pentagon bureaucracy.

Obama just stood this up, and he’s going to be handing it to Donald Trump.

This is so stupid on so many levels that it buggers the mind.