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TBR News September 29, 2018

Sep 29 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. September 29, 2018:” Herewith an email sent to Senator Flake of Arizona in response to his actions at the Kavanaugh hearing:

‘Sir:

I rarely write to anyone in Congress but I have found your conduct in the

aforementioned matter to be an outstanding example of what American citizens ought to expect from their elected representatives.

I note that it is rumored that you are considering running for the Presidency and I believe, firmly, what is desperately needed in the Oval Office is character, not family money.

An example of character, in my considered opinion, can be clearly seen in the personas of George Washington, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan.

The current occupant of the White House is a disgrace to the nation but one can say that the only positive effect he has upon the general public is to act as a unifying factor for disparate social and political groups.

I note that Judge Moore was defeated in a very conservative state and with the full support of President Trump by organized groups of black women.

And from my many emails, your actions are applauded by even larger groups of American women.

In general, morals and ethics are excellent norms but seldom effective American political techniques.

You, sir, from your voting record alone, would seem to be the sole exception.

Should you choose to run for the Presidency, I am certain that, given the rising public anger, you would be a success.

Most sincerely.
Christian Juers”

 

The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 35
  • Kavanaugh: Trump orders FBI inquiry after Republicans vote to advance nomination
  • The Unbearable Dishonesty of Brett Kavanaugh
  • How to Hunt a Lone Wolf
  • Facebook using phone numbers submitted for security purposes to target ads

 

Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 35

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Oct 27, 2017

“It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: There was no common agreement on this subject at the time Trump spoke. Special counsel Robert Mueller had made no determination one way or another, and congressional investigators had not either. Early in the same month, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said: “Collusion: the committee continues to look into all evidence to see if there was any hint of collusion.”

Trump has repeated this claim 18 times

“Wacky & totally unhinged Tom Steyer, who has been fighting me and my Make America Great Again agenda from beginning, never wins elections!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Trump is entitled to his general opinion of Steyer, the billionaire Democratic political donor, but he is factually incorrect that Steyer “never wins elections.” Steyer backed the successful 2013 campaigns of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, among numerous others. Steyer failed as often as he succeeded in the 2016 election, as only four of the eight candidates he backed were elected, but he did far better than “never” winning.

  • Oct 28, 2017

“While not at all presidential I must point out that the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close. Sad!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Michael Moore’s one-man Broadway show was a disappointment at the box office, but it was not “forced to close” earlier than scheduled as Trump suggested. As the theatre publication Playbill pointed out, it ended on schedule: “Moore’s Broadway debut in The Terms of My Surrender was billed as a limited engagement that was already scheduled to end October 22…It was reported in May — when the show was announced — that it would play a 12-week limited engagement.”

“JFK Files are released, long ahead of schedule!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The government documents on the assassination of John F. Kennedy were not released ahead of schedule at all. A law that took effect on Oct. 26, 1992 gave the government 25 years to release the files, creating a deadline of Oct. 26, 2017. Trump released more than 2,800 files on the deadline date itself. At the request of U.S. intelligence agencies, he also withheld an additional 300 files for further review.

  • Oct 30, 2017

“Report out that Obama Campaign paid $972,000 to Fusion GPS.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The report, from The Federalist, does not say that. According to the conservative website, Obama’s campaign paid $972,000 to the law firm Perkins Coie. Separately from that, Perkins Coie has paid money to Fusion GPS to conduct research into Trump — but there is no indication that the Obama campaign paid Fusion GPS itself. The author of the Federalist article merely alleged that the payments to Perkins Coie “raise significant questions” about “whether (the Obama campaign) was funding Fusion GPS.”

“Report out that Obama Campaign paid $972,000 to Fusion GPS. The firm also got $12,400,000 (really?) from DNC!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Law firm Perkins Coie, not research firm Fusion GPS, was paid more than $12 million by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign for work on the 2016 election. Perkins Coie paid some amount of money to Fusion GPS for research into Trump, but Trump is confusing two different entities.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Manafort’s indictment, brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, alleges that he was engaged in criminal activity through 2016, when he served as Trump’s campaign chairman — “before, during and after he was campaign chairman,” the Associated Press noted. While most of the criminal activity is alleged to have occurred before Manafort joined the campaign, and as far back as 2006, it is simply false to claim it all happened “years ago.”

  • Oct 31, 2017

“But so many other things are happening, including bringing back $4 trillion back into the United States. And that money is going to be put to work in our country, for our people, creating our jobs and factories and plants.” And: “I think the number could be higher than $4 trillion. It’s been $2.5 trillion for so long. Everyone said, $2.5 trillion. But it’s gotten, obviously, a lot bigger. They just kept saying $2.5 trillion. I think the number is going to be well over $4 trillion.”

Source: Remarks to business leaders at meeting on tax reform

in fact: Trump’s “$4 trillion” estimate is unsupported by any experts. The U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation released an estimate of $2.6 trillion in August 2016, and experts said they were not aware of a massive jump in the following 12 months. An October 2017 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) also pegged the number at $2.6 trillion, while Goldman Sachs pegged it at $3.1 trillion the same month. “There’s no world in which it’s $4 trillion,” ITEP senior policy analyst Richard Phillips said in November. “I do not know of anyone who increased the estimate so much recently,” Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, said in August. “Like many things, I assume he made this up on the fly,” said another expert on the subject, who requested anonymity, when Trump made an estimate of $5 trillion in August.

Trump has repeated this claim 32 times

“We were at 3.2 (per cent GDP growth) last quarter.”

Source: Remarks to business leaders at meeting on tax reform

in fact: Second-quarter GDP growth was 3.1 per cent, not 3.2 per cent; Trump habitually adds the additional 0.1 per cent.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times

  • Nov 1, 2017

“‘Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems’ said Col.Tony Shaffer.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Trump was misquoting Shaffer, whose sentence on Fox News did not single out Schumer. He actually said: “So we have to look at every aspect of every individual to make sure that we’re not importing Europe’s terror problem.”

 

“We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery is not a Democratic creation. As the Associated Press reports: “It had bipartisan support, breezed through the Senate on an 89-8 vote and was signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush.”

“ISIS is being decimated. They’re being decimated. But they’ve quickly moved to other places in the world, like Africa and others, and we’re there to meet them. This has never happened.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: While Trump has adjusted U.S. tactics, it is false to say the U.S. had never before confronted ISIS outside Iraq and Syria; Obama also did so. A May 2016 CNN story began: “President Barack Obama is increasingly calling upon Special Operations forces to carry out so-called ‘small wars’ across the Middle East and Africa to challenge both ISIS and al Qaeda in places where the U.S. maintains a footprint beyond Syria and Iraq.”

“Again, we’re the highest-taxed nation, just about, in the world. We need tax cuts.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The U.S. is far from the highest-taxed nation in the world. While its corporate tax rate is near the top, it is below the average of developed OECD countries when other taxes are included.

Trump has repeated this claim 28 times

“As part of our push to renew our prosperity, I’ll also be making a very historic trip on Friday, as I said. Our visit will take us to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines. You remember the Philippines — the last trip made by a president that turned out to be not so good. Never quite got to land.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: This is a highly misleading description of what happened with Obama’s planned meeting with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last year. Trump suggests that Obama was on a plane seeking to visit the Philippines until Duterte denied him entry. In fact, the two leaders were supposed to meet elsewhere, at an international summit in Laos, and it was Obama who called off the meeting after Duterte insulted him.

Trump has repeated this claim 3 times

“Finally, our plan will bring back trillions of dollars from offshore — trillions. We have, in my estimation, $4 trillion that will come pouring back into our country that will be put to work and will be spent by our companies that could never get the money back for many years.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Trump’s “$4 trillion” estimate is unsupported by any experts. The U.S. Joint Committee on Taxation released an estimate of $2.6 trillion in August 2016, and experts said they were not aware of a massive jump in the following 12 months. An October 2017 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) also pegged the number at $2.6 trillion, while Goldman Sachs pegged it at $3.1 trillion the same month. “There’s no world in which it’s $4 trillion,” ITEP senior policy analyst Richard Phillips said in November. “I do not know of anyone who increased the estimate so much recently,” Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, said in August. “Like many things, I assume he made this up on the fly,” said another expert on the subject, who requested anonymity, when Trump made an estimate of $5 trillion in August.

Trump has repeated this claim 32 times

“With Mexico, as an example, we have a trade deficit of $71 billion — that’s NAFTA.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico is not that large. Counting trade in goods alone, the deficit was $64 billion in 2016, $60 billion in 2015, $55 billion in 2014 and $54 billion in 2013, according to U.S. government data; it has not exceeded $67 billion since 2007. Further, the deficit is properly assessed counting both goods and services. When trade in services is included, the 2016 deficit was $56 billion. This year’s total deficit may be bigger — the goods deficit was already $47 billion at the end of August — but when services are included, it is still highly unlikely to approach $70 billion.

Trump has repeated this claim 34 times

“Under our plan, we’ll go from being one of the highest-taxed nations in the world to one of the lowest.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: The U.S. is far from the highest-taxed nation in the world. While its corporate tax rate is near the top, it is below the average of developed OECD countries when other taxes are included.

Trump has repeated this claim 28 times

“Right now, other countries are so far below us. And then when you wonder, you see all these companies leaving, one after the other — they leave — that’s not going to be happening. And I must tell you, I’ve stopped it even before this. But we’re going to be stopping it in full.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Trump has not stopped companies from leaving the country.

Trump has repeated this claim 7 times

“This week, the House Ways and Means Committee will unveil a historic tax plan that will create new jobs, higher wages — which hasn’t happened in many years and now it’s starting to happen, I’m happy to tell you.”

Source: Remarks at Cabinet meeting

in fact: Wages have been rising since 2014. As PolitiFact reported: “For much of the time between 2012 and 2014, median weekly earnings were lower than they were in 1979 — a frustrating disappearance of any wage growth for 35 years. But that began changing in 2014. After hitting a low of $330 a week in early 2014, wages have risen to $354 a week by early 2017. That’s an increase of 7.3 percent over a roughly three-year period.” FactCheck.org reported: “For all private workers, average weekly earnings (adjusted for inflation) rose 4% during Obama’s last four years in office.”

Trump has repeated this claim 25 times

 

Kavanaugh: Trump orders FBI inquiry after Republicans vote to advance nomination

Move comes after Republican senator Jeff Flake threatened to oppose nomination without further examination of allegations

September 28, 2018

by Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington

The Guardian

Donald Trump has directed the FBI to launch a supplemental investigation into the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, after an extraordinary display of 11th-hour drama at the Senate judiciary committee vote to advance his confirmation on Friday.

Trump said in a statement that the updated investigation into his nominee for America’s highest bench “must be limited in scope” and “completed in less than one week”. However, he later suggested in a tweet that it was only a matter of time before Kavanaugh was appointed.

Senate Republicans voted to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination despite a last-minute change of heart by a Republican senator, who broke ranks and called for an FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations that have roiled the judge’s confirmation process.

Moments before the Senate judiciary committee voted 11-10, along strict party lines, to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor for the full chamber’s consideration, Senator Jeff Flake announced he would support a “limited” FBI investigation and threatened to oppose Kavanaugh if there was no further examination of the allegations against him.

“I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to and not more than one week in order to let the FBI do an investigation,” Flake said at the hearing on Friday.

Following Flake’s insistence, the Senate judiciary committee later said it was formally requesting that the Trump administration instruct the FBI to conduct a supplemental background investigation that would be “limited to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today”.

The decision marks a reversal for the administration, which had argued that Kavanaugh had already been vetted.

The remarkable turnaround came hours after Flake announced his support for Kavanaugh despite dramatic testimony on Thursday that saw the Supreme Court nominee and Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor who accused him of sexual assault, deliver dueling testimony on Capitol Hill.

Flake, who had been regarded as a crucial swing vote, reversed course after he was confronted by two survivors of sexual assault in an elevator shortly before Friday’s committee vote.

The confrontation with Flake could be seen in TV footage blocking the Arizona senator from closing the elevator door. Through her tears, one woman said she had been a victim of sexual assault, and begged Flake to look her in the eye. She said: “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me.”

The gripping exchange appeared to have had an impact on Flake, who subsequently sat stone-faced in the committee room in anticipation of the vote. As his Republican colleagues took turns declaring their support for Kavanaugh, Flake abruptly left the room to engage in private discussions with Democrats on the committee.

Nearly an hour of tense, closed-door deliberations followed, pushing the vote past its scheduled time. As members exited and re-entered the room several times, seeking to make sense of what was transpiring behind-the-scenes, Flake finally re-emerged before the committee and voiced support delaying a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh pending a FBI investigation.

“We can have a short pause and make sure the FBI can investigate,” he said.

During Thursday’s hearing, Ford recounted how Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when the two were teenagers in the early 1980s. Kavanaugh vehemently denied the charge from Ford, who testified to lawmakers under oath that she was “100%” sure he assaulted her.

According to her lawyer, Ford welcomed the FBI investigation, but said “no artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed on it”.

Kavanaugh said he had done “everything” the Senate had asked of him and “will continue to cooperate.”

Thursday’s emotionally charged hearing underscored not only the potential ramifications of sending Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, where he would play a role in shaping decades’ worth of policy, but also the societal impact of the #MeToo movement and recourse for victims of sexual assault.

It remains unclear if Republicans possess the necessary votes from the full chamber to confirm Kavanaugh. With a narrow 51-49 seat majority in the Senate, Republicans can afford to lose just one vote.

Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two of the Senate’s prominent Republican women, have remained undecided on Kavanaugh. Both senators on Friday afternoon expressed support for a limited FBI investigation following the committee’s announcement that it would seek one.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Friday, Trump said he had not considered an alternative to Kavanaugh. But he did not escalate pressure on Senate Republicans to rally behind his nominee, stating: “They have to do what they think is right.”

Also earlier in the day, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, had dismissed calls for a new FBI investigation, telling reporters Kavanaugh had already “been through six separate background investigations by the FBI”.

Kavanaugh is a darling of the conservative right in America but his path to the Supreme Court has been hit by a series of sexual assault allegations from three women.

Democrats have called for Kavanaugh to withdraw as more accusers have come forward. Following Kavanaugh’s fiery testimony on Thursday, several Democrats voiced concerns over his suitability for the historically independent Supreme Court.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the judiciary committee’s top Democrat, said the judge had been “aggressive and belligerent”.

“I have never seen someone who wanted to be elevated to the highest court in our country behave in that manner,” she said.

Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, lamented the committee was no longer independent.

He said: “We are an arm, and a very weak arm, of the Trump White House.”

Red-state Democrats facing tough re-election battles in November, some of whom crossed over the aisle last year to confirm Trump’s other Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, also appeared to feel the heat. At least two of them, Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, announced they would vote against Kavanaugh on Friday.

“As I have made clear before, sexual assault has no place in our society,” Donnelly said in a statement.

“When it does occur, we should listen to the survivors and work to ensure it never happens again. That should not be a partisan issue.”

Joe Manchin, a vulnerable Democrat up for re-election in West Virginia, endorsed Flake’s position.

Meanwhile, there were signs the remarkable testimony had registered negatively with at least two organizations whose endorsement Kavanaugh had earlier received.

The American Bar Association, which previously gave Kavanaugh its highest rating of “well qualified”, asked the Senate judiciary committee and the full Senate to delay the vote until the FBI could do a full background check.

The Unbearable Dishonesty of Brett Kavanaugh

September 29 2018

by Briahna Gray and Camille Baker

The Intercept

Many of us who watched Thursday’s Senate hearing spent much of the time cataloguing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s lies. After hours of testimony, during which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford answered questions about her alleged sexual assault, the financing behind her lie-detector test, and whether she was really afraid of flying, viewers were treated to more hours of testimony from Kavanaugh, a federal judge who struggled to give a single straight answer.

Kavanaugh strained credulity when he argued before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the “Devil’s Triangle” — a phrase that appeared on his high school yearbook page — referred to a drinking game, a definition which, before Thursday, you’d have a hard time finding anywhere. (It actually refers to a sex act involving two men and a woman). He also unabashedly claimed that the term “boof” is a reference to “flatulence,” rather than other butt stuff, and that “ralph,” which means to vomit — implicitly from the overconsumption of alcohol — was a reference to Kavanaugh’s weak stomach.

Kavanaugh claimed references to “Renate Alumnius” in his yearbook were allusions to his friendship with classmate Renate Schroeder Dolphin, and not, as many understood, a sexist smear about her promiscuity. (Dolphin told the New York Times days before the hearing: “I can’t begin to comprehend what goes through the minds of 17-year-old boys who write such things, but the insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue.”) Kavanaugh even claimed to not really know Ford at all, despite her testimony that she “went out with” one of his close friends — someone whose name appeared in his now notorious calendar 13 times.

Kavanaugh’s choice to lie about things that are easily disproved speaks to a kind of hubris, or entitlement, that befits someone of his pedigree. He insinuated that he was of drinking age during the summer of 1982 because, back then, in Maryland, 18 year olds could legally imbibe. With artful wording, he testified that drinking was “legal for seniors,” even though it was decidedly illegal for him — a rising senior who wouldn’t turn 18 until the following year. At other moments, he claimed ignorance about the consequence of plainly relevant evidence — railing against the suggestion that his high school yearbook, a totem to debauchery and sexual frustration, could be relevant to the issue of whether he committed blacked-out sexual assault in high school. “Have at it, if you want to go through my yearbook,” he told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., with disdain. As though the inquiry itself was made in bad faith.

In fact, Kavanaugh dissembled about whether he ever drank to excess at all  — an incredible claim given the contents of his yearbook; his friend Mark Judge’s damning memoir, which is titled “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk;” and the sheer number of  times Kavanaugh mentioned “beer” during Thursday’s hearing. Although he admitted in his opening statement that “sometimes I had too many beers,” when pressed on how much was too much, he was evasive again: “I don’t know. You know, we — whatever the chart says, a blood-alcohol chart.”

Perhaps most gallingly, when Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked Kavanaugh whether he had ever blacked out — just after she empathetically offered that her own father had struggled with alcoholism — he turned on her and shot back: “I don’t know, have you?” (Kavanaugh later apologized to Klobuchar.)

He even tried to play off Judge’s memoir as “fictionalized” — this despite the book’s title page, which reads: “This book is based on actual experiences.” No lie, it seems, is too small for Kavanaugh.

Among the most consequential of Kavanaugh’s false claims, and the one Senate Democrats pushed back against the least, was his assertion that all of the witnesses who could corroborate Ford’s testimony denied it ever happened.

In true Kavanaugh fashion, that’s not quite right.

Ford testified that in addition to Kavanaugh, at least four other people were in the house on the night of the alleged assault: Mark Judge, who Ford alleges witnessed the assault; and P.J. Smyth, Leland Ingraham Keyser, and an unnamed boy — all of whom Ford said were downstairs when the alleged assault occurred.

Nine times during Thursday’s hearing, Kavanaugh claimed that four of the teenagers, including himself, made statements affirming that Ford’s version of events didn’t happen.

In an exchange with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Kavanaugh argued, “But the core of why we’re here is an allegation for which the four witnesses present have all said it didn’t happen.” Later, in an exchange with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., the nominee claimed, “The witnesses who were there say it didn’t happen.”

But, apart from Kavanaugh, who denied the allegations, none of the named witnesses said the allegations didn’t happen. Rather, they stated that they did not recall the house party, or have personal knowledge of the alleged sexual assault.

Kavanaugh specifically argued that Judge had “provided sworn statement saying this didn’t happen.” But in Judge’s letter to the Judiciary Committee, sent on September 18, he wrote that he has “no memory of this alleged incident,” does “not recall the party described,” and “never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.” (On Thursday, after the conclusion of Kavanaugh’s testimony, Judge followed up with a second letter, stating that he did “never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes.”)

Moreover, Keyser’s statement, issued by her lawyer over the weekend, says only that she “does not know Mr. Kavanaugh, and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford.” Not that the event “didn’t happen.”

Further complicating matters, Ford testified that after Keyser submitted her September 19 statement, she texted Ford “with an apology and good wishes.” And last weekend, the Washington Post reported that Keyser believes Ford’s allegations — hardly the refutation Kavanaugh claimed.

Smyth’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee stated only he has no personal knowledge of what’s alleged to have occurred between Kavanaugh and Ford. “I am issuing this statement,” he wrote, “to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct [Ford] has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

Importantly, having “no recollection” of the night in question, or no “knowledge” of the alleged events is not the same as saying it didn’t happen — especially since Ford never alleged that anyone but Kavanaugh and Judge witnessed the assault. So why would a judge, someone presumably familiar with the implications of what it often means when a witness avers they “do not recall,” so grossly mischaracterize the nature of those statements?

Kavanaugh’s apparent willingness to perjure himself over accusations of underage drinking or sexual innuendo — which, alone, don’t necessarily bear on his suitability for the bench — is troubling both because of what it implies about his integrity, and because of what it suggests about his reasoning as an adjudicator.

How should we judge someone who, during his testimony, repeatedly misrepresented facts and dissembled when pressed for detail? Should we understand these moments as lies, or as misinterpretations rooted in substandard analytical rigor? And given the importance of the position at hand, which is worse?

Some of this may seem like parsing hairs, but the law, in large part, is parsing hairs. Easy questions don’t make it to the Supreme Court. Slam dunk cases settle out. Outside of constitutional issues, the Supreme Court only agrees to hear cases that are so subject to interpretation, they’ve been inconsistently decided between states or federal circuits. Analytical precision, therefore, is a big part of the job.

That being the case, it was concerning to hear a federal judge clamor for “due process” as he sidestepped an opportunity to call witnesses, hear evidence, or have his name cleared by a federal investigation. How should we view a federal judge who seems not to understand, or who for political reasons ignores, that he is not, in fact, on trial, but at a job interview? Who, either due to a lack of understanding or a surfeit of political ambition, emotes as though the stakes were that of a criminal proceeding where the high burden of proof would militate in his favor? Do we want a justice who artfully aims for what’s “technically” true (and misses often), or one whose integrity is, well, unimpeachable?

“Due process” means fair treatment under the law — that an accused person has notice of the proceedings being brought against them and an opportunity to be heard before the government takes away their life, liberty, or property. The fundamental goal of due process is to prevent the state from depriving people of their most precious freedoms. But Kavanaugh isn’t threatened with any of those deprivations. He’s not facing jail time, a fine, or any confiscation of personal goods. The stakes are these: whether he will go from sitting on the bench of the second most prestigious court in the land, to the first.

What matters, then, is whether Kavanaugh is of sufficiently fit character to fairly and ethically interpret the law. Thursday’s hearing, perhaps as much as the allegations against him, has thrown that into serious doubt.

A primary question here, and one that has largely been skipped over by the general public, is why, precisely, Kavanaugh’s past behavior, up to and including Thursday’s hearing, has any bearing on his ability to serve on the Supreme Court. What behavior would we consider disqualifying as a matter of principle? What qualities are non-negotiable in the nation’s top jurists — women and men whose decisions directly affect the lives of over 300 million citizens, and billions across the world who are often beholden to the toxic effects of domestic policy?

We would argue that honesty is key to administering justice.

A Supreme Court judgeship is a lifetime appointment. And as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., recently pointed out, members of the Supreme Court are asked to make dozens of decisions every year directly relating to the life, liberty, and happiness of Americans — half of whom are women, and all of whom deserve jurists who possess a baseline level of integrity.

As Blumenthal, the Connecticut senator, said at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Friday meeting, Kavanaugh’s character and fitness give ample reason to vote “no.”

How to Hunt a Lone Wolf

Countering Terrorists Who Act on Their Own

March/April 2017 Issue

by Daniel Byman

Foreign Affairs

In the last two years, “lone wolf” jihadists seemed to emerge as the new face of terrorism. In December 2015, husband and wife Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik attacked a Christmas party held by Farook’s employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, killing 14. In June 2016, Omar Mateen killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida—the deadliest attack on U.S. soil since 9/11. And in July, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a truck through a Bastille Day celebration in Nice, killing 86 people.  The attacks by the San Bernardino killers, Mateen, and Bouhlel followed an increasingly common pattern: the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) claimed credit for them, but the perpetrators appear to have planned and executed their operations alone.

Analysts traditionally define a lone wolf as a terrorist who is not part of a group or directed by an outside organization. In reality, few lone wolves truly act alone: Farook and Malik were a married couple, and some security officials believe that Bouhlel had been in contact with suspected extremists in his neighborhood. Nevertheless, the label is important: terrorists who act without external guidance pose a different threat, and call for a different policy response, than do those who are directed by an extremist group.

Lone wolves are an old problem, but in recent decades, the number of attacks by them has grown. And it won’t fall anytime soon: ISIS has embraced the tactic, and recent successes may well inspire copycats. And although lone wolves usually kill few people, they have an outsize political impact. In both the United States and Europe, they are fueling Islamophobia, isolating Muslim communities, and empowering populist demagogues.

Although lone-wolf attacks are hard to prevent, governments in the West can do several things to make them less likely and to prepare for those that do occur. First, they should work to keep lone wolves isolated. Terrorists are far more likely to succeed if they can coordinate with others, especially if they have the help of an organized group, such as ISIS. Second, governments should build strong relationships between Muslim communities and law enforcement agencies. The friends, family, and neighbors of would-be terrorists are more likely than the security services to know if something is amiss, so governments must gain their trust. This will mean giving security officials the flexibility to intervene in ways that do not involve jail sentences, such as by allowing them to supervise individuals without arresting them. Third, governments should direct security services to monitor and infiltrate jihadist social media accounts, and encourage private companies to shut them down, to identify individual terrorists and disrupt their communications. Finally, and most important, governments should try to discredit the ideology embraced by lone wolves. Yet doing all these things would only reduce the lone-wolf threat, not end it. It is impossible to stop every violent individual from picking up a gun and shooting.

It is impossible to stop every violent individual from picking up a gun and shooting.

AN OLD PROBLEM

Today, the lone wolves who get the most attention are Islamist extremists, but since the threat began, such attackers have emerged from fanatical movements of all stripes. In 1995, the white supremacist Timothy McVeigh launched the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil before 9/11 when he bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 and wounding hundreds more. In 2010, James Lee, who mixed environmental activism with anti-immigrant sentiment, took three people hostage in Maryland. Dylann Roof, a white supremacist, murdered nine African American parishioners at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

Groups usually encourage lone wolves when they are too weak to carry out organized attacks themselves. In 1983, the American white supremacist Louis Beam called for “leaderless resistance” to the federal government. Traditional groups with tight command and control “are easy prey for government infiltration, entrapment, and destruction,” Beam wrote, so small groups and individuals should work independently. Over a decade ago, the jihadist fighter and theorist Abu Musab al-Suri encouraged lone-wolf attacks for the same reason. He pointed out that jihadists had lost hundreds of fighters when they confronted U.S. forces in large groups during the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The solution, Suri argued, was to rely on “single operations . . . carried out by individuals or small groups.”

Beam and Suri’s logic is catching on. In 2012, the sociologist Ramon Spaaij found that from 1970 to 2010, the number of lone-wolf attacks per decade grew by 45 percent in the United States and by over 400 percent across 14 other developed countries, although the absolute numbers remained low. And since ISIS gained strength in 2014, the West has seen another increase. In July 2015, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed five people at a military recruitment center and a U.S. Navy Reserve base in Tennessee. In September 2016, lone wolves executed two separate plots. Ahmad Khan Rahami allegedly planted two bombs in New York City and one in New Jersey—one went off in Manhattan but did not kill anyone. On the same day in Minnesota, Dahir Adan stabbed and injured ten people at a mall. And in November, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a legal permanent resident of the United States who was a refugee from Somalia, rammed his car into a group of his fellow students and faculty and staff members at Ohio State University and stabbed several more before a security guard shot him dead. Europe has seen even more attacks, with strikes in Tours, Lyon, and Copenhagen. Both the United States and Europe saw roughly twice as many successful lone-wolf attacks in 2015 and 2016 as they did from 2011 to 2014.

Although the overall trend is clear, experts struggle to identify precise numbers, as the boundary between lone wolves and coordinated attackers is unclear. When it comes to affiliation with a group, terrorists exist on a spectrum. At one end lie established organizations. The 2015 Paris attacks, for example, in which terrorists killed 130 people, involved a relatively large network of individuals operating in Belgium and France. ISIS fighters had trained many of them in Syria, and the group’s leadership coordinated the operation. At the other end of the spectrum lies someone such as Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber, who killed three people and injured more than 20 others during a 17-year campaign of mail bombings. Kaczynski lived alone, had no ties to any organized group, and formulated his own agenda.

Individuals such as the San Bernardino killers or Mateen lie closer on the spectrum to the Unabomber than to the Paris attackers, but they were not totally isolated. Although such attackers act alone, they all still feel some connection to a broader cause. The lectures of the U.S.-born al Qaeda ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki inspired the San Bernardino killers, for example, and although they had no direct contact with ISIS, during the attack they pledged loyalty to the group’s leader (whose name they had looked up on the Internet only that day). Closer to the organized end of the spectrum was Nidal Hasan, who in 2009 killed 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, in Texas. Hasan drew inspiration from Awlaki’s teachings but also exchanged e-mails with the preacher, in which the two discussed jihad (although they did not plan any particular attack).

THE NEW NORMAL?

The increase in lone-wolf attacks has been driven in part by ISIS’ embrace of the tactic. For most of its history, ISIS focused on Iraq and Syria. It did call for attacks in the West in 2014, but most of its propaganda urged supporters to immigrate to the areas under the group’s control, where they could defend and expand the state and live life as virtuous Muslims under ISIS’ just rule. In early 2016, however, an ISIS spokesman declared that “the smallest action you do in the heart of [the West] is dearer to us than the largest action by us and more effective and more damaging.” ISIS made this shift because attacks by the U.S.-led coalition have shrunk its territory in Iraq and Syria and eroded its ability to carry out large-scale operations. The group is short of funds and having a tougher time recruiting foreigners. Like all terrorist groups, ISIS needs victories to inspire new recruits and maintain morale among the existing cadre. Lone-wolf attacks can provide at least a few victories.

New technologies have also contributed to the lone-wolf phenomenon. Back when Beam and other white supremacists were urging individuals to carry out attacks, they were trying to promote their ideas and give their effort overall coherence by disseminating a few printed tracts. The Internet, particularly since the rise of social media, has put that process on steroids. Now even small groups can spread their ideas far and wide. Young Muslims all over the West need only search Google to read or listen to the words of ideologues such as Awlaki.

Perhaps most worrisome, lone-wolf attacks seem to be entering the broader cultural imagination in the West, providing a template to violence-prone misfits who might otherwise not have acted on their murderous impulses. Put another way: people who might not have the means, opportunity, or even desire to actually join a terrorist organization might nevertheless come to see lone-wolf attacks as an appealing way to express their rage. Consider that many recent lone-wolf attackers were not longtime adherents to radical ideas. Rather, they seem to have been people who were searching for meaning in their lives and who found it by committing spectacular violence in the name of a movement—without having invested the time and energy it would have taken to actually join the movement in a more committed way or having borne the associated risk.

PROS AND CONS

As Beam, Suri, and other proponents of lone-wolf attacks have argued, governments find it fiendishly difficult to stop them. To break up most terrorist plots, officials monitor communications to identify and locate the associates of known suspects. Lone wolves, however, have few previous connections to known terrorists and rarely communicate with them.

Lone wolves are also cheap. They are usually untrained, and they finance themselves, so a group can take the credit for free. The wider a group spreads its ideology, the larger the supply of cheap attacks. Lone wolves also allow a terrorist group to claim responsibility for violence that the larger public would otherwise have ignored. In Lyon in 2015, Yassin Salhi, a delivery driver, beheaded his boss before trying to blow up gas canisters at a processing plant. Farook, one of the San Bernardino attackers, worked at the county health department whose Christmas party he and his wife targeted. In both cases, had the attackers not pledged loyalty to ISIS, law enforcement and the media might have described the attacks as workplace violence, not terrorism. Once officials attributed the acts to ISIS-linked terrorists, media attention—and thus the psychological impact—went through the roof.

Finally, lone wolves frighten people because they can strike anywhere. The 9/11 attacks targeted the symbols of U.S. financial, military, and political power; for many, the attacks struck at their identity as Americans but did not affect their personal security. A massacre at a nightclub or an office party, by contrast, hits much closer to home.

Despite these advantages, most terrorist organizations have shied away from lone wolves. Groups avoid them partly because they often fail. The high death tolls of the attacks by Mateen and Bouhlel were unusual. Most lone wolves kill only a few people, if any, before police neutralize them. The Tsarnaev brothers, who in 2013 killed three people with primitive bombs at the Boston Marathon, were typical.

Lone-wolf attacks mostly flop because the perpetrators are untrained in violence. The terrorism scholar Thomas Hegghammer has found that the involvement of someone with prior combat or terrorist experience both dramatically improves the odds of a plot’s succeeding and makes the attack deadlier. By using untrained militants, groups risk damaging their reputations with repeated failures.

Another problem is that group leaders do not control lone wolves, who might adopt tactics that hurt the broader cause. Violence without a strategy terrifies, but it can also backfire. McVeigh’s attack, for example, discredited other far-right movements: McVeigh claimed he was dealing a blow to a tyrannical government, but the death of 19 children and three pregnant women in the bombing made it hard for other antigovernment zealots to defend him. The fact that many lone wolves suffer from mental illness makes this lack of discipline even more likely. Unfortunately, ISIS seems to be ignoring these constraints. It has so far accepted, and actually encouraged, lone-wolf violence committed in its name—a surprising turn even considering the low standards of terrorist groups.

THE ILLIBERAL INTERNATIONAL

Lone-wolf attacks are having a far more powerful impact than their relatively modest death tolls might suggest. In the United States and Europe, they are encouraging Islamophobia, shattering good relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, and even threatening liberal democracy itself.

A report published last year by the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University found that “Islamophobic political vitriol intensified” in the period following the San Bernardino attack. After the Orlando shooting, a Gallup poll found that almost 40 percent of Americans favored then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. And the effects weren’t just rhetorical: according to the FBI, anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States rose by 67 percent from 2014 to 2015. In Europe, refugees have faced a similar backlash. A recent Pew poll indicated that 59 percent of Europeans feared that the presence of refugees would increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks in the EU. In the first four months of 2016, arsonists carried out 45 attacks on refugee camps in Germany. And in northern Italy, far-right protesters have repeatedly torched prayer rooms in refugee camps.

Such Islamophobia can begin a vicious cycle. When public opinion turns on Muslim communities, they tend to withdraw into themselves, trust law enforcement—and the wider society—less, and risk turning into breeding grounds for radicals. For instance, for four months following the Paris attacks, a network of friends, family, and petty criminals helped Salah Abdeslam, one of the perpetrators, evade a massive international manhunt while hiding in his hometown of Molenbeek, in Belgium. Groups such as ISIS often highlight discrimination and hostile rhetoric and use decisions such as the French government’s ban on wearing the Islamic veil in public places as proof that the West is at war with Islam.

Meanwhile, demagogues have exploited the fear of Muslims in order to undermine public confidence in government, call for draconian security measures, reject refugees fleeing violence, and turn societies against religious minorities, particularly Muslims. Far-right movements are growing stronger in several European countries. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, has long played on public fear of Muslim foreigners to win support for turning his country into what he has termed an “illiberal state,” arguing that the community, not the individual, should lie at the center of politics. To that end, he has centralized power, restricted media freedom, and undermined the independence of the judiciary. In December 2016, Austria came close to electing Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party to the presidency, and anti-immigrant far-right parties have emerged from the political fringes in France and the United Kingdom. In the latter, anti-immigrant sentiment played a major role in the decision to leave the European Union. In the United States, Islamophobia and fear of terrorism—despite few attacks or fatalities on U.S. soil since 9/11—fueled the rise of Trump and other anti-immigrant politicians. Trump’s calls for establishing a Muslim registry, renewing the use of torture, and monitoring mosques as a matter of course all contradict the U.S. principles of freedom of religion and respect for human rights.

FIGHTING BACK

Governments can reduce the number of lone-wolf attacks, even though official efforts cannot stop them completely. One of the best ways to do so is to keep lone wolves lonely: the less they interact with potential coconspirators, and especially with groups that can give them direction and training, the less dangerous they will be. Officials must therefore focus on gathering intelligence, arresting suspected cell leaders, and destroying terrorist command centers with drone strikes. If leaders cannot reach out to potential followers, they cannot train terrorists or organize them into groups large enough to conduct major attacks. Better lone wolves than wolf packs.

It is also important to try to make lone-wolf attacks less lethal. The United States has programs that limit the possession of explosives to only those with a legitimate need, making it far harder for terrorists to build bombs. Taking a similar approach to semiautomatic weapons would be sensible. Unfortunately, gun control—even in the context of counterterrorism—seems to be a political nonstarter.

Intelligences services should also work to identify lone wolves ahead of time. On this front, ISIS’ heavy reliance on social media makes the group vulnerable. Monitoring social media can help officials spot potential attackers without previous connections to other terrorists, as online operatives may encourage them or they may post their intentions online. One of the two Islamist terrorists who last July killed a priest in a church in northern France, for example, reportedly announced his intention to do so well in advance on social media.

To hinder ISIS’ recruitment, the U.S. government should continue to press companies such as Facebook and Twitter to tighten restrictions on accounts linked to the group, monitoring users more regularly and suspending their accounts when necessary. In 2015 and 2016, as ISIS’ reliance on social media became a public concern, several companies, including Twitter, suspended accounts linked to ISIS. Companies bristle when they perceive government censorship, but in reality, the government is simply asking them to abide by their own terms of service, which often place tight restrictions on potentially illegal activity.

ISIS will adapt to suspensions by creating new accounts and taking to new forms of communication, but the new means of communication will often fall short of the old ones. Although ISIS had tens of thousands of accounts on Twitter, for example, it used only a small fraction of them to spread most of its propaganda. Suspending these accounts can set back recruitment. A recent study by the terrorist social media analysts J. M. Berger and Heather Perez found that ISIS’ Twitter presence declined from 2014 to 2016 in part because of Twitter’s efforts to shut down its accounts.

Governments can also plant disinformation in ISIS’ network. The group is already highly suspicious of infiltrators—it has rejected or even executed foreign fighters on suspicion of spying—so officials should exploit this paranoia by playing up the presence of moles and the likelihood of defections. Law enforcement should also carry out offensive cyberattacks on extremist sites. These attacks could alter the sites so that they pass on false contact information, present distorted propaganda, or otherwise sow confusion, or they could simply take the sites down.

Countering ISIS’ broader message is also important, albeit exceptionally difficult. In theory, doing so could hurt the group’s fundraising and recruitment. In practice, however, government efforts are often cumbersome, cautious, and ineffective. The best voices are those of former recruits or others with firsthand experience with the group, not those of officials. The former can talk credibly about the dismal conditions in areas controlled by ISIS, the killing of jihadists, and other problems that run counter to the group’s propaganda.

One imperative—and the one governments are least likely to heed in the aftermath of an attack—is to build support within Muslim communities for official counterterrorism efforts. If a community has good relations with the police and the rest of society, it will have fewer grievances for terrorists to exploit and its members will have stronger incentives to point out malefactors in their midst. In the United States, law enforcement could achieve better results by increasing their engagement with Muslim communities. In particular, officials should base their relationships with Muslim communities on more than just fighting terrorism. They should address crime and anti-Muslim harassment and help immigrants access social services. In addition, they should work with community leaders in advance on plans to protect their communities from the Islamophobic violence that often follows jihadist terrorist attacks. Situating terrorism in a broader context of public safety is more effective than isolating it, as Muslim communities rightly fear that law enforcement will focus only on terrorism while ignoring anti-Muslim crimes.

In addition, U.S. law enforcement must recognize the remarkable diversity of American Muslims, among whom ethnicity, sect, and tradition all vary widely. Different communities may have different concerns, different leaders, and different news sources. Local governments should take care to hire diverse police forces and train their members in cultural awareness.

A culture of greater resilience would also help. Despite the relatively low number of terrorism-related deaths on U.S. soil since 9/11, public fear of terrorism remains high. During his presidency, Barack Obama tried to highlight the United States’ many counterterrorist successes. Trump and other politicians should do the same and make Americans aware of the low risk, rather than attempting to exploit people’s fears for political gain.

These measures, alone or in combination, would not stop all lone wolves. But they would allow law enforcement to catch more of them and reduce the lethality of those attacks that go undetected. Most of all, they would diminish the political impact of lone-wolf attacks—and thus make the phenomenon as a whole less dangerous.

 

Facebook using phone numbers submitted for security purposes to target ads

September 28, 2018

RT

Facebook has confirmed it uses phone numbers, provided to them by security-conscious users for two-factor authentication on their accounts, to target the same individuals with advertising.

The tech giant’s confession follows a report in Gizmodo based on research carried out at Northeastern and Princeton universities which uncovered the deceptive practice.

“We use the information people provide to offer a better, more personalised experience on Facebook, including ads,” a Facebook spokesperson explained, adding that users can opt out of this by not using phone-number-based two-factor authentication.

However, the option to enable the security technique, which provides a second layer of authentication to help keep accounts secure without providing your phone number, was only introduced in May. Before then, people who handed over their phone number for the security feature were unwittingly drawn into a privacy and security trade-off.

The revelation that the company has been using information, explicitly provided for security purposes, for targeted advertising has outraged many and further damages user trust in the social network.

Researchers also found evidence of the corporation using shadow contact information to target individuals with ads – something they had previously denied doing. This is data, such as a phone number, that has not been provided by the user to Facebook but is collected from their friends’ contacts list and shared with advertisers.Lead author on the paper, Giridhari Venkatadri, said this was the most surprising finding, that Facebook was targeting ads using information “that was not directly provided by the user, or even revealed to the user.” Facebook did not dispute any of the researchers’ findings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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