TSA Shutdown? Yes, please

Regular readers of this blog know that I absolutely loathe the Transportation Security Administration. It’s a monstrous, unconstitutional abomination that should not exist in any society that considers itself “free.” What’s more, it is demonstratively unable to meet its primary purpose: detecting and intercepting potential threats to travelers.  Perhaps the ongoing “shutdown” of the Feral Government will give Americans — and the TSA Employees themselves — a chance to rethink how ‘essential’ this function really is:.

Nobody wants to work for an employer who holds off on cutting paychecks until a more convenient moment, and that’s just what the federal government is doing during its “shutdown”—a spectacle that almost seems crafted to demonstrate how easy it is to live without the leviathan in Washington, D.C.

Understandably, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees are no more enthusiastic about working when their paychecks are delayed than is anybody else on the planet. That’s why they’ve been calling-in sick in increased numbers—some to seek temporary work elsewhere in order to pay their bills—as the more-theater-than-reality “government shutdown” drags on.

Not that there’s any point to all of that [TSA] groping beyond the purely recreational aspect. Undercover investigators were able to smuggle weapons and explosives past TSA agents 95 percent of the time, according to a 2015 Homeland Security Investigator General report. Maybe that’s because agents are relying on dowsing rods or Spidey sense—they’re certainly not depending on the expensive equipment they make travelers and baggage file through.

“Because TSA does not adequately oversee equipment maintenance, it cannot be assured that routine preventive maintenance is performed or that equipment is repaired and ready for operational use,” The Inspector General office also noted.

“Security theater” is what security expert Bruce Schneier, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of government, calls most of what the TSA does. They’re “measures that make us feel safer without improving security… I’ve repeatedly said that the two things that have made flying safer since 9/11 are reinforcing the cockpit doors and persuading passengers that they need to fight back. Everything beyond that isn’t worth it.”

But, isn’t this an opportunity for us all? Given that the world is a better place when TSA employees and other government minions don’t do their jobs, and some are already seeking alternative employment, what a great opportunity to shut down their agencies, shrink the government, and make everybody’s lives a little better!

If it isn’t worth it, why pay for it?

Especially when the cost is measured in civil liberty as much as it is in dollars. It’s long past time we reevaluate just how “essential” large parts of the Feral Government really are. We pay for more government than we should want, and yet get less return on those payments than we need.  As for the “shutdown,” let’s keep a little perspective:

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Christians in the crosshairs

The Supreme Court ruled in June, by a vote of 7-2, that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had violated the First Amendment rights of the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop after he refused to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding. The owner, Jack Phillips, repeatedly made clear he was not denying service in general based on sexual orientation. Rather, he was refusing to participate (by creating a custom cake) in a ceremony that ran contrary to his Christian beliefs.
Phillips was subjected to a lengthy six-year process of hearings and appeals before receiving vindication from the Supreme Court, which strongly rebuked the Colorado Commission for clear “religious hostility” to Christian beliefs. While this was a judicial victory for Phillips, the phrase “the process is the punishment” is appropriate here.

End of story, right? Wrong.

Just as the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, a caller to the cakeshop requested a special cake celebrating a gender “transition.” It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that Phillips politely declined that order as well. The result? The Colorado Commission has initiated the same type of proceedings that were invalidated in the previous case! On that basis of that fact, Phillips’ attorney has filed suit against the Commission in Federal Court. The result of that action is still pending, but it’s safe to say the Supreme Court’s view of the Commission’s bias has been confirmed.

This is by far not the only example of Christians being targeted. The wholly misnamed “Military Religious Freedom Foundation has demanded the removal and arrest of an Air Force General assigned to Edwards Air Force Base in California. Why? Because he’s had the audacity to do things like ask people to pray for wisdom for his leadership. He also shares his beliefs and experiences with other Christians via a personal website. This is only the latest crusade by the MRFF to create a military environment where one can only have beliefs if they keep them wholly to themselves. That’s far from religious freedom. The group should go by the name “freedom FROM religion foundation,” because that’s what their track record shows as its goal.

Vocal atheists still like to laugh at the idea Christians are persecuted in the United States. Granted, American Christians have yet to be subjected to the level of cruelty inflicted on their brothers and sisters in other countries. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a pronounced and growing hostility to the Gospel. That official hostility is the wellspring from which persecution can grow.  The seeds are already sprouting in America.

Christians in the U.S. do not have a special immunity from the schemes of the Ruler of this Present Darkness. Only vigilance and vigorous defense can protect the unusual freedoms we’ve enjoyed through our history. As the fabric of the Surveillance State model becomes tighter and tighter, we need to understand there will soon be no middle ground or choice of apathy. We will all either profess Jesus as our Lord, come what may, or else deny Him at our eternal peril.

Watch and pray, brothers and sisters. And seek discernment how you can engage, for the battle already rages around you.

Stop looking to government to save you

Because it’s plain that is its last priority.  Our nation’s Federal law enforcement has now spent over a year investigating politically charged claims that President Trump somehow colluded with Russia to “steal” the election away from Hillary Clinton.  (After all, how else to explain the anointed one’s failure to ascend to the throne?)

But apparently that same apparatus had no resources to spare when told specifically and repeatedly about the threat posed by Nikolas Cruz.  More than FIVE MONTHS before the troubled young man shot up a school on Wednesday, a YouTube channel owner alerted the FBI to online comments Cruz made under his own name about wanting to be a “professional school shooter.”  Today the FBI admitted it was also given very specific threat information about Cruz SIX WEEKS ago… and did NOTHING:

‘The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,’ said the FBI in a  statement on Friday.

The agency went on to state that this information, which came in over their Public Access Line, should have been classified as ‘a potential threat to life’ and the Miami field office notified about the information.

Those protocols were not followed however for reasons that are still not clear, and on Wednesday Cruz shot dead 17 people.

Maybe too many agents were busy trying to trap Trump associates.  Maybe they were all busy sending thousands of text messages to their lovers.  The truly cynical part of me can no longer dismiss the possibility some in our government allow such things to happen because the public then willingly surrenders more of their rights in an elusive quest for security from Uncle Sam.  Whatever the reason, Florida Governor Rick Scott is right to call for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray.  But accountability shouldn’t stop at that mostly symbolic gesture.  EVERY agent who was privy to the information that citizens had provided should be fired and prosecuted for gross dereliction of duty resulting in loss of life.

We’re constantly told we need a perpetual surveillance society, and that if we “see something, say something.”  But what good does it do to surrender our rights to privacy and accept an Orwellian panopticon if those in authority fail in their part of the devil’s bargain and refuse to protect us?

And the Left wants us to give up even more of our rights by disarming?  I think not.  In fact, it’s plain the opposite needs to occur: more citizens need to arm and train themselves.  At the same time pundits are praising the willingness of Coach Aaron Feis to give his life shielding students, they’re asking what needs to be done to prevent such tragedies.  It shouldn’t be so hard to connect the dots: train and arm willing teachers so schools stop being inviting soft targets.  No teacher who is willing to risk their life for their kids as Coach Feis did should have to face an attacker unarmed.  I saw this graphic online recently and it speaks for itself:

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Nothing in the above list is more precious than our children — our future.  The utter failure of the FBI in this case reinforces the adage that “when seconds count, the police are just minutes away.”  We have a God-given right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,” and that includes the right to defend those things.  We may delegate some of that authority to police agencies, but one of the first things I learned as a military officer is that while you can delegate authority, you cannot delegate responsibility.  All of us, as citizens and parents, are ultimately responsible for the defense of our families and communities.  That responsibility means facing head-on the fact there is evil in this world that requires the average person to be prepared to confront it at any moment.

It also includes the responsibility to punish those we empower to act on our behalf, but who fail to do so.  There MUST be a revival of accountability — and personal responsibility, including self-defense — in this country!

The Nunes memo

President Trump agreed to the declassification of the House Intelligence Committee memo.  What follows is the text, with certain information and names highlighted in red:

*************************************************************************************

January 18, 2018

To: HPSCI Majority Members
From: HPSCI Majority Staff
Subject: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Purpose

This memorandum provides Members an update on significant facts relating to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle. Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.

Investigation Update
On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a U.S. citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. §,1805(d)(l)), a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the FISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Then-DAG Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.

Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the FISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard—particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the FISC’s rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

1) The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

2) The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News—and several other outlets—in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington D.C. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations—an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September—before the Page application was submitted to the FISC in October—but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.

b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling—maintaining confidentiality—and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.

3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files—but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.