The new effort to seize personal data at the borders and entries is a bad, bad idea. It does no good.

Here’s where Rand Paul and his friends either stand up or shut up. Anything less and he’s just another poser, trying to gain fame with words not deeds.

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It’s his time. Do the right thing.

It has now become horrifyingly apparent our intelligence agencies have been politicized- period.  As Mark Levin read an article from Lee Smith, dealing with the Obama administration spying on Congress and the Jewish lobby trying to stop his Iran nuclear deal, I think everyone suddenly realized their own “ah shit” moment.

It’s over. We know, they know, we know they are now a weapon- against us. I believe it is, by and large, against the will of the people in the intel community. Although others argue against that saying there is now an ideological bent influencing the people inside the intel agencies. If that is true, then it is even worse than we thought.  What if a tech sitting at a desk listened to Flynn and HE decided it was his duty to tell Rice, because he agrees with Obama’s agenda?  That is getting real close to East German Stasi thinking.

A great movie to watch in order to grasp what it is like to live in a world like that is “The Lives of Others.”

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Listening to everything, waiting for you to criticize your government.

So how do we address this and still keep our capability to find terrorists?  Which, by the way, is the actual goal.  If Trump were a true patriot, he would be tasking his people to go and find the documents proving that Obama spied on Congress in the Iran deal. If so, let Paul have the data and let Congress fix this before it gets worse.  He needs to hurry up because sadly, it is about to get worse.

The Department of Homeland Security will continue searching the mobile phones and electronic devices of travelers at U.S. airports, the agency’s leader said as lawmakers of both parties questioned whether the anti-terrorism tool is unlawfully intrusive.

DHS Secretary John Kelly, speaking Wednesday to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said such searches are valuable in the fight to keep terrorists out of the U.S. and that they affect a fraction of the 1 million people who enter the country every day.

The electronics searches are “not routine; it’s done in a very small number of cases,” the retired Marine general told lawmakers. “If there’s reason to do it, we will do it. Whether it’s France, Britain Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Somalia, it won’t be routinely done at a port of entry.”

Kelly appeared before the panel to announce that the number of undocumented immigrants apprehended at the border last month reached a 17-year low since President Donald Trump took office.

Critics of the searches say they discourage visitors from coming to the U.S. and amount to an invasion of privacy that could ensnare innocent Americans who traveled abroad. Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, pointed to multiple media accounts of law-abiding citizens whose electronics were searched without a warrant.

The practice is increasing: U.S. Customs and Border Protection says it processed more than 390 million arrivals in fiscal 2016 and performed 23,877 electronic media searches, or 0.0061 percent of the total. A year earlier 4,764 electronic media searches were conducted on 0.0012 percent of the 383 million arrivals.

Current standards allow border agents to search phones and other electronics of anyone whose statements appear to betray inconsistencies, and Kelly said agents have used searches to nab pedophiles as well as suspected terrorists. Failure to comply could result in devices being seized by federal authorities and the person not being admitted to the U.S.

In a recent conversation with my MENSA bright buddy, who is a veteran intel law enforcement officer and an advocate of good policing, I took the position that anyone coming to America had no right to privacy.

My friend pointed out this rule applied to AMERICAN citizens returning to America.  Worse, he pointed out the issue of what criteria is being used to discern who is to be stopped and who is not.  Right now, if you are single white middle-aged male traveling alone you fit the profile of a pedophile… or just a businessman traveling alone.  Suddenly, you are pulled aside and you are told you can either give up your passwords and devices, or get your property seized and searched- without a warrant.  Because somebody- but not you- did crime. Think about that!  All because you fit a profile, taught to people with limited skills and talents, by a trainer, who may also have limited skills and talents, but has the blessing of the bureaucracy. That’s  a lot of power concentrated in a small area! (Even Kelly uses the “it’s for the good of the children” argument in his testimony, always a “tell” that someone is on thin ice with a policy. Think gun control.)

I lived this life for a generation.  Trust me, we are just regular guys and gals with the same intelligence and abilities as you. And you know you, right?  That is why we are overseen by judges and courts, and controlled by due process. It’s just in case we get it wrong, which we do on more than one occasion. By removing the probable cause requirement and replacing with an overreaching administrative rule- which is becoming how our government seems to be acting lately- you have allowed limited skills people, with limited guidance and training, make decisions beyond their Constitutionally  recognized limits.  In America, the law says the police are prevented from signing their own warrants, and for good reason.   Yet, at the border they do exactly that.

Do I want bad guys and terrorist caught? Absolutely.  What many don’t want is being seized, without probable cause, due to the acts of others.   My buddy calls it “lazy policing.”  The authorities seize data, look for anything  ever said or done that is a violation of any number of offenses and sends that data over to the appropriate agency.  You say so what? I’m not a criminal.  My answer is how do you know?

Now turn to the argument made by Kelly that it will stop terrorists. The question I ask, as  a veteran cop, is this- how? You may catch the dumbest terrorist ever, who tweets to his buddies some idiot comment about a pending attack as his plane taxis in to the gate. But you will not catch the smart terrorist, who simply creates a fake history or has none.  They are not stupid people. Do you think the TSA guy at the border can recognize a fake history? What is the policy if the guy comes into Customs and says “I have no phone, no FaceBook and no computer.” Does he get in? So all a terrorist has to do is memorize his handler’s phone number and buy a burner when he gets here and he’s good to go.

But even if you catch someone with a phone history showing he visited a Muslim website how does that exclude him for entry, and who makes that decision? Some middle management guy from the TSA, who took a class in terrorist identification? I was that “guy.” So was my buddy and hundreds like us.

And if the Muslim complains, what do you think will happen? Does he get sent back to his home nation, and who pays? Does he get detained? Does he end up wandering the airport like Tom Hanks because nobody has figured out the next step?  Or does he get free press and he gets in anyway through some judge’s order.  History has shown it is door number four. Why? Because bad policy leads to bad law.

And what if you complain?  History shows you may end up being tucked into a room and harassed or even arrested.

Worse, to avoid “profiling” like right after 9/11, is the TSA going to demand data from every third or fifth random traveler? Tall people today, short people tomorrow? What is the criteria?  Imagine the explanation for the warrantless search. “Look pal, what can I say, we don’t want to piss off the Muslims so we picked you to prove we aren’t profiling, so give up your phone.”  Wait, what??!

So what has Kelly accomplished?  Nothing, other than grabbing up your data, without warrant, and shoving that data into the growing database  that can be, and has been, politicized as a weapon. (Imagine if your wife sent you a “I miss you” pic. Now the NSA has it. Or your mistress? How much is that worth in blackmail if you hold a position unfavorable to any current administration?)

From Lee Smith article we have learned that not only has that been done, but it has been done to Congress. (Which makes you think about why Corker suddenly shifted his position.) So what do you think they are willing to do to you?

In a December 29, 2015 article, The Wall Street Journal described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. The Journal reported that the targeting “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

Despite this reporting, it seemed inconceivable at the time that—given myriad legal, ethical, political, and historical concerns, as well as strict National Security Agency protocols that protect the identity of American names caught in intercepts—the Obama White House would have actually spied on American citizens. In a December 31, 2016, Tablet article on the controversy, “Why the White House Wanted Congress to Think It Was Being Spied on By the NSA,” I argued that the Obama administration had merely used the appearance of spying on American lawmakers to corner opponents of the Iran Deal. Spying on U.S. citizens would be a clear abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance system. It would be a felony offense to leak the names of U.S. citizens to the press.

Increasingly, I believe that my conclusion in that piece was wrong. I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.

“At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,” says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. “The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”

This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. The administration got the drop on its opponents by using classified information, which it then used to draw up its own game plan to block and freeze those on the other side. And—with the help of certain journalists whose stories (and thus careers) depend on high-level access—terrorize them.

Once you understand how this may have worked, it becomes easier to comprehend why and how we keep being fed daily treats of Trump’s nefarious Russia ties. The issue this time isn’t Israel, but Russia, yet the basic contours may very well be the same.

In arguing with my friend about access, and starting to lose badly, I pointed out this was a reaction to the San Bernardino attack and the rubber stamping of finance visas.  He agreed there are exceptions and this is one. If you want to come here on a visa that is beyond simply a business or a tourist visa, say like a student visa or a finance visa, you must be willing to give up everything and wait.  And your “sponsor” must do the same.

So in the San Bernardino shooting, both the husband and the wife could apply, give up their info, and then allow for time to be vetted.  Now that gets back to policy – Obama’s was to let them in regardless of a shady history, hopefully Trump is different. And capability -can our government exercise enough resources and talents to uncover a terrorist who is actually trying to hide? That is a question that may never be answered, though history doesn’t give us much hope. But it removes the issue from a random search through an administrative rule to a more identifiable set of circumstances that can be limited and reviewed.

But let’s get back to  grabbing up personal data. At first I was in favor.  Coming here is not a right, but a privilege.  Don’t like it, don’t come.  However, my buddy pointed out nothing occurs in a vacuum and a ruling like this will cause other nations to respond in kind. Also, it creates a problem for people coming here for a legitimate reason. What if you are a businessman from Korea or Indonesia or Brazil, who wants to buy an American product? So you come to visit the plant where it is produced to see if it is a viable operation.  You arrive at Customs and  you have to give them passwords to your account that exposes your entire business dealings?  How long before you don’t come here and find another manufacturer.

Then we have the issue of another country retaliating and suddenly Americans traveling abroad are being forced to give up their passwords and data, put into that database (and maybe shared back to the NSA).  How long before nobody travels?

So what is the answer?  The first thing we must accept is we aren’t going to catch all of them.  Bad guys get away all the time in exchange for our citizens having freedom from an intrusive government. The option is letting the government have total access to your life. As my friend illustrated.  “What is being asked here is basically this.  The government says let me have the keys to your house and your safe and all your passwords to your accounts. Trust us that we will never use any of them to violate your rights, but on occasion we may walk in and check things out to make sure everybody is on the level.  Would you agree to that?” 

The answer, of course, is no.

And here is where those like Rand Paul just have to throw the yellow flag and say enough.  Make violations of our privacy, without cause, a real crime with real penalties. Make the guy thinking about doing it think twice, because the last guy who did it found himself in a fed pen eating baloney sandwiches with his new best friend Gerome, who finds him cute.

Trust me, no bureaucrat wants his career path to take that sudden hard left turn. They will reign themselves in.

…The law is written to protect the political operatives, but they cannot function alone.  So the way to solve this is simply make it a mandatory jail sentence for any bureaucrat to assist in the crime.  That way when some political idiot like the guy in “Office Space” walks by with a cup of coffee and says “Hey, could you unmask this for me?”  the cubical dwelling middle management bureaucrat will nod his head to an empty chair and say, “Fred, who used to sit over there, helped once.  He is coming up for parole in about three years.  He writes and says being a girlfriend for a 300lb guy named “Tiny” isn’t all that bad.  But I think he’s lying…soooo no!” …

That will cure a lot of this.

 

 

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