NM Senator offers bill to see who flies south for the winter with Trump


One month of Trump’s R&R cost taxpayers more than a year of Obama

❝ New Mexico’s Senator Tom Udall just introduced an important bill with a funny name: the MAR-A-LAGO Act, or the, Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act.

❝ Mar-A-Lago is President Trump’s self-described “Winter White House,” and it’s been the focus of a lot of attention since Trump took office. His weekly trips cost taxpayers $3 million each weekend he attends and he’s not just going alone. Trump infamously held an open air situation room meeting in front of his club members and the press as he monitored a North Korea missile test while dining on the patio…

So…Sen. Tom Udall, along with other members of Congress, introduced the well-named MAR-A-LAGO Act to require Trump’s White House to disclose who is meeting with Trump behind the closed doors of Trump’s secretive Winter White House.

❝ “It’s simple: the American people have a right to know who has access to the president and who has leverage over this administration,” said Udall.

No doubt True Believers in Trumpism will maintain their habit of ignorance, following every statement, every order as direction from a primitive god. The rest of us – the majority of those who voted, the majority of the whole nation IMHO, want to know what is going on? Especially since we’re picking up the tab.

Public outcry over USDA removal of animal welfare documents precedes lawsuits

❝ The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a statement this morning regarding the removal of animal welfare reports from its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website…

Lies and bullshit. When you click through to the article you’ll find exactly what you expect. The 2016 date is correct only because that’s when the USDA bureaucrats owned by puppy mill lobbyists made their most recent try at hiding licensing and inspection info. Before this one. And turned down by Obama.

❝ This morning, Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports the use of animals in scientific labs, also weighed in on the issue. In a blog post, the organization says it has “considerable concerns about the wealth of information that has been removed from the USDA website in the last week.” The post continues, “When information is hidden … the public wonders what is being hidden and why, and researchers must devote even more resources to combatting the public perception that they are not transparent.” The group has uploaded some of USDA’s past reports on its website.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today put USDA on notice that it intends to use legal tools to force the agency to restore tens of thousands of documents on animal welfare that it removed from its website on Friday.

❝ In this letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the animal welfare organization reminded the government that under the terms of a 2009 legal settlement with HSUS, USDA had agreed to make public some of the records it has now scrubbed from its public database. HSUS, its lawyers write, “is exercising its rights under [the 2009 settlement] and intends to take further action unless USDA agrees to reconsider this bizarre reversal of the agency’s longstanding policy” of making inspection records and others publicly available.

The animal organization’s letter notes that under the terms of the 2009 settlement, the two parties, HSUS and USDA, now have 30 days to settle their differences. After that, HSUS can ask the court to reopen the lawsuit.

You can look at this coverup as the latest in Trumpublicans unwillingness to allow transparency. Licensing and inspection records are requisite in most publically-funded agencies. In this case, there are state and city agencies that require the access previously available by a click to update their own records on animal care, animal sales.

Trump, like most of today’s Republicans, feels profit takes priority over transparency, honesty, common decency.

The Feds secretly subpoenaed the chat app Signal earlier this year

❝ Earlier this year, Open Whisper Systems was served with a federal subpoena for records on its users, according to documents published today. Prosecutors were seeking data on two suspects who used Signal, an encrypted chat app produced by Open Whisper. Unfortunately for the government, Signal keeps only minimal logs on users, so the vast majority of the requested information was unavailable.

❝ The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Open Whisper Systems in the fight, has published a number of court filings related to the the request. Portions of the filings are redacted and much about the subpoena is still secret — including the case number, the date it was served, and the details of the underlying case — but it’s clear that the government sought detailed information on the users including subscriber name, payment information, and associated IP addresses.

It’s also clear that almost none of that information was ultimately produced. One of the phone numbers named by the government did not correspond to a Signal account, and logs on the other number showed only when the user first signed up for the service and when they most recently logged in.

❝ Crucially, the request was filed under gag order, and Open Whisper was only able to publish the documents after a significant legal fight. That has become standard practice for such requests, although many legal scholars believe widespread use of the tactic presents a threat to free speech.

Not that the Department of Justice or any US government I can recall – liberal or conservative – cares a rat’s ass about Constitutional rights when the secret police boffins declare an event to be a question of national security. The creeps get to redefine the rules governing themselves. No democracy, no oversight, no transparency.

Amnesty for tax evaders in India uncovers hidden billion$

❝ A tax evasion amnesty in India has prompted tens of thousands of people to declare more than $9.5 billion in undeclared income and assets…All were offered immunity from prosecution in return for paying tax, a surcharge and a penalty…It is estimated that the government could raise nearly $4.5 billion from the scheme.

❝ The government contacted about 700,000 suspected tax evaders earlier this year, urging them to declare hidden income and assets…They were told they would not be pursued by the authorities if they came clean and paid a penalty…

The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says that despite the huge numbers, the amount declared is only a fraction of the country’s undisclosed earnings.

It does not account for money stashed in Swiss banks and overseas tax havens which some government investigators believe amounts to around $500 billion…

❝ In a series of tweets on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the amnesty “successful”, saying it was “a great contribution towards transparency and growth of the economy”.

The government says the money raised will be spent on public welfare.

Looks like many of the corporate barons of India’s economy still take 19th Century thieves as their role model. Something often true of their class, globally. Not as easy to getaway with as it obviously has been in India.

Republican transparency — Trump prohibits volunteers from saying anything bad about him, forever!

❝ Corey Lewandowski is a CNN contributor even though he’s subject to a nondisclosure agreement legally prohibiting him from criticizing Trump, his family, or any of his businesses. Suffice it to say Trump’s former campaign manager has lived up to his end of the bargain — Lewandowski basically serves as a paid Trump campaign source during his CNN appearances.

On the other side of the spectrum, Trump recently filed a $10 million lawsuit against former senior campaign consultant Sam Nunberg for allegedly violating that same NDA. As ThinkProgress previously wrote, Trump accused Nunberg of “leaking information to the New York Post about a public fight and romantic affair between two other Trump campaign staffers in May.”

❝ Both Lewandowski and Nunberg were high-ranking Trump staffers, and it’s somewhat understandable Trump wants to prevent the sort of sensitive information they’re privy to from going public. But on Thursday, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that even online volunteers who merely want to phone bank for Trump must sign that same more than 2,200 word NDA, even though most of them will never meet Trump or his family.

❝ The agreement…legally prohibits volunteers from disclosing Trump’s confidential information in perpetuity…And also prohibits them from saying anything bad about Trump — forever.

❝ With litigation being settled in private arbitration.

The openness of our prospective populist dictator is just about what I’d expect.

Spy chiefs briefed 8 Congress-drones a year ago on hacking of Democrats — didn’t tell DNC “because it was a secret”

U.S. intelligence officials told top congressional leaders a year ago that Russian hackers were attacking the Democratic Party, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, but the lawmakers were unable to tell the targets about the hacking because the information was so secret…

The material was marked with additional restrictions and assigned a unique codeword, limiting access to a small number of officials who needed to know that U.S. spy agencies had concluded that two Russian intelligence agencies or their proxies were targeting the Democratic National Committee, the central organizing body of the Democratic Party…

Our spy professionals decided the DNC didn’t need to know.

The alleged hacking of the Democrats and the Russian connection did not become public until late last month when the FBI said it was investigating a cyber attack at the DNC…

The congressional briefing was given last summer in a secure room called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, to a group of congressional leaders informally known as the “Gang of Eight,” the sources said.

The group at the time included four Republicans: Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, and Senator Richard Burr and Representative Devin Nunes, the House and Senate intelligence committee chairs. Their Democratic counterparts were: Senator Harry Reid and Representative Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Adam Schiff of the intelligence committees…

A bipartisan group of professional politicians who couldn’t care less about transparency, security.

The attack on the DNC later led the hackers to other party organizations, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which raises funds for House candidates, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and other groups…

One of the sources said the Clinton campaign first detected attacks on its data system in early March, and was given what the source described as a “general briefing” about it by the FBI later that month. The source said the FBI made no mention of a Russian connection in that briefing and did not say when the penetration first took place.

According to a memo obtained by Reuters, interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile said on Thursday she was creating a Cybersecurity Advisory Board “to ensure prevent future attacks and ensure that the DNC’s cybersecurity capabilities are best-in-class.”

Better update security on your own. Obviously you can’t count on our bought-and-paid-for government spies to offer any help.

The Pentagon wages war on transparency, accountability, truth and American taxpayers

…The United States is on track to spend more than $600 billion on the military this year — more, that is, than was spent at the height of Pres. Ronald Reagan’s Cold War military buildup and more than the military budgets of at least the next seven nations in the world combined.

And keep in mind that that’s just a partial total. As an analysis by the Straus Military Reform Project has shown, if we count related activities like homeland security, veterans’ affairs, nuclear warhead production at the Department of Energy, military aid to other countries and interest on the military-related national debt, that figure reaches a cool $1 trillion.

The more that’s spent on “defense,” however, the less the Pentagon wants us to know about how those mountains of money are actually being used. As the only major federal agency that can’t pass an audit, the Department of Defense is the poster child for irresponsible budgeting.

It’s not just that its books don’t add up, however. The Pentagon is taking active measures to disguise how it is spending the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars it receives every year — from using the separate “war budget” as a slush fund to pay for pet projects that have nothing to do with fighting wars to keeping the cost of its new nuclear bomber a secret.

Add in dozens of other secret projects hidden in the department’s budget and the Pentagon’s poorly documented military aid programs, and it’s clear that the Defense Department believes it has something to hide…

An entrenched bureaucracy is determined not to provide information that might be used to bring its sprawling budget — and so the institution itself — under control. That’s why budgetary deception has become such a standard operating procedure at the Department of Defense.

As corrupt as Congress is, as deliberately deceptive and hypocritical most residents of the White House have been for decades, the Pentagon can give lessons to the world of thieves. RTFA for example after example of crooked deals designed to siphon away taxpayer dollars.

Our military-industrial complex makes the Mafia look like streetcorner gangbangers who just dropped out of high school. They have been stealing for so long, untouched and impervious to oversight, they limit the number of illegitimate zeros added to contracts to how much ink is left in the pen.

Federal court backs up Senate decision to hide the full CIA torture report

A federal appeals court has rejected a lawsuit calling for the full release of a U.S. Senate report detailing the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation and detention program following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against the American Civil Liberties Union, which sought access to the more than 6,000-page document, often referred to as the “Senate torture report.”…

When the report was released in 2014, only a 500-page executive summary was made public. It said the CIA misled the White House and public about torture of detainees. Some captives were deprived of sleep for up to 180 hours, at times with their hands shackled above their heads, and the report recorded cases of simulated drowning or “waterboarding” and sexual abuse, including “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration” without any documented medical need.

I wonder what the response would be to a national referendum calling for “rectal feeding” of some of our elected officials?

The ACLU sued under the Freedom of Information Act in 2013 to obtain the full report prior to its release. Congressional documents are exempt from the law, but the ACLU said the Senate Intelligence Committee relinquished control when it transmitted the report to the White House and other agencies, which are subject to freedom of information requests.

The appeals court on Friday upheld a lower court’s decision in favor of the government.

Transparency becomes less and less a standard, a priority, for the government of the United States. Keep on rocking in the Free World!

“Governments can reduce our dignity to that of tagged animals” — not said by Hillary or Trump

‘I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone like you.” Those were the first words Daniel Ellsberg spoke to me when we met last year. Dan and I felt an immediate kinship; we both knew what it meant to risk so much – and to be irrevocably changed – by revealing secret truths.

One of the challenges of being a whistleblower is living with the knowledge that people continue to sit, just as you did, at those desks, in that unit, throughout the agency; who see what you saw and comply in silence, without resistance or complaint. They learn to live not just with untruths but with unnecessary untruths, dangerous untruths, corrosive untruths. It is a double tragedy: what begins as a survival strategy ends with the compromise of the human being it sought to preserve and the diminishing of the democracy meant to justify the sacrifice…

A single act of whistleblowing doesn’t change the reality that there are significant portions of the government that operate below the waterline, beneath the visibility of the public. Those secret activities will continue, despite reforms. But those who perform these actions now have to live with the fear that if they engage in activities contrary to the spirit of society – if even a single citizen is catalysed to halt the machinery of that injustice – they might still be held to account. The thread by which good governance hangs is this equality before the law, for the only fear of the man who turns the gears is that he may find himself upon them.

Hope lies beyond, when we move from extraordinary acts of revelation to a collective culture of accountability within the intelligence community. Here we will have taken a meaningful step towards solving a problem that has existed for as long as our government.

Not all leaks are alike, nor are their makers…There are authorised leaks and also permitted disclosures. It is rare for senior administration officials to explicitly ask a subordinate to leak a CIA officer’s name to retaliate against her husband, as appears to have been the case with Valerie Plame. It is equally rare for a month to go by in which some senior official does not disclose some protected information that is beneficial to the political efforts of the parties but clearly “damaging to national security” under the definitions of our law…

If harmfulness and authorisation make no difference, what explains the distinction between the permissible and the impermissible disclosure?

The answer is control. A leak is acceptable if it is not seen as a threat, as a challenge to the prerogatives of the institution. But if all the disparate components of the institution – not just its head but its hands and feet, every part of its body – must be assumed to have the same power to discuss matters of concern, that is an existential threat to the modern political monopoly of information control, particularly if we’re talking about disclosures of serious wrongdoing, fraudulent activity, unlawful activities…

RTFA. Please. Edward Snowden provides historical context and constitutional validation for transparency our government is scared crapless about enabling – even by an act of courage.