State Senator Elbert Guillory: Why I chose to become a Republican

June 18, 2013

Oh, this is a good video that’s going to tick off a lot of Democrats:

(Transcript at Real Clear Politics)

First, welcome to the party, Senator. I love what you have to say.

Second, I hope your political body armor is strong, because the last thing your former colleagues in the Democratic party will tolerate is a minority politician wandering off the reservation. Especially as you’re the first Black Republican in the Louisiana legislature since Reconstruction. Just ask Allen West or Tim Scott or Susanna Martinez or… You get the idea.

BTW, I hear US Senator Mary Landrieu might need a challenger.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

FISA warrants: Gotta take issue with Morning Jolt, just a little bit

June 18, 2013

One of the lesser controversies wrapped in the broader NSA surveillance controversy has been the role of the secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It’s the FISA court that approves warrants for accessing the data swept up by the NSA (and other clandestine stuff). Some writers have raised the objection that the process for the FISA court granting a warrant lacks any recourse for challenge by those questioning the government’s case. A good example of this is seen in today’s Morning Jolt, the National Review newsletter written by Jim Geraghty:

Remember, in a FISA court, there is no equivalent of a defense attorney speaking on behalf of the person being investigated. It is not an adversarial court. Nobody speaks for you, Joe Citizen. The government makes its case, and the judge either says, “okay,” or “no, I’m not convinced.” Take a guess at how that works out . . .

Jim makes a good point that the FISA court has approved the vast majority of warrant requests, making one suspicious of the extent of real judicial oversight, but how is the process all that different from the that of getting a warrant by a judge in a “normal” court? I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t recall representatives of the accused having a role. As I remember, the investigators go before a judge or other magistrate, present their probable cause, and the judge says yes or no. There’s no defense advocate challenging the government’s argument here, either. Their chance to challenge search warrants and exclude the information collected comes during the actual trial process.

Now, maybe this is what Jim and other critics have in mind — that defense counsel might have no chance to challenge information gathered under a FISA warrant, because it’s secret. With that I would somewhat agree, though I’ve also been an advocate of special counter-terrorism courts that were designed to handle classified or secret testimony and evidence, which might mean limiting the defense’s options. It’s not an issue that’s at all clear cut, and I think former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy makes an strong case in his book Willful Blindness that our normal civilian courts are poorly equipped to handle sensitive information. Call me agnostic.

But, as far as the issuance of FISA warrants goes… Based on my understanding, I don’t see the scandal. There may be a problem, perhaps it’s something we want to change, but the lack of a defense attorney at the warrant hearing doesn’t raise my outrage flag.

So, to any legal types reading this, what am I missing?

PS: Jim is a great political reporter, and heartily recommend his newsletter.

You’re not being hacked, @SharylAttkisson. You’re being haunted.

June 18, 2013

How else would you explain computers mysteriously turning on and off? It’s gotta be ghosts:

CBS News announced on Friday that the computer of investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s computer had registered multiple breaches, a disclosure that prompted a great deal of speculation about just who was responsible for the misbehavior. In a short segment today on “CBS This Morning,” Attkisson lent a personal touch to the story.

The primary takeaway? That Attkisson’s hardware sort of “woke up” in the middle of the night. When asked how the hacking manifested itself, she said, “One example was the computers began turning themselves on and then back off again during the night.”

Creepy, huh?

They’re heeeerre!

Okay, so, maybe not ghosts. Probably someone much more mundane, in fact. Someone with some very specific interests:

“The intruders did have access to personal information including passwords to my financial accounts and so on, but didn’t tamper with those, so they weren’t interested in stealing my identity or doing things to my finances. So people can decide on their own what they might have been trying to do in there,” Attkisson said.

These were computers Attkisson used mostly for work. And what was she working on last Fall?

Stories about Benghazi and Operation Fast and Furious. Hmmm…

Back to the WaPo article (first quote), Erik Wemple contacted a former NSA operative who found government intrusion hard to believe:

Cedric Leighton, a former deputy director of training at the National Security Agency (NSA), cautions against reaching too many conclusions on the sophistication of the intruder(s). “It’s sloppy work (1) in the realm of hackerdom,” says Leighton. “If you’re going to do something like that, you try not to leave anything behind. You try to make sure that you don’t do anything different than what the user is doing.”

Noting the time of the intrusion, Leighton speculated about Chinese hackers. But Attkisson works mostly on domestic investigations; why would a Chinese hacker be interested in her work? You’d think they’d be more interested in reporters who cover the military or tech beats, for example. Just some bored kid in Shanghai who saw her on TV and thought it would be cool to hack her machines?

Nah. I don’t think so. And neither does Attkisson, it seems:

ATTKISSON: I have attorneys at CBS who are helping us through this. I also have personal counsel.

O’REILLY: And so, all your counsels are saying, “Don’t say anything.” Just maybe you have the same counsel that the attorney general and Ed Muller has?

No, it’s a joke. Bad joke. Sorry. So, all of your counsels are saying, “Don’t accuse anybody right now.”

ATTKISSON: Well, they’re just telling us what we can say, more than anything right now, which is, you know, what you basically heard, that there has been an intrusion of the computer, this is not phishing, this is not malware.

This is not ordinary, as someone asked me, old boyfriend trying to look through my files. They know it’s not that.

O’REILLY: No. This is big.


O’REILLY: Yes. But in order to go after somebody, you’ve got to have the suspicion. And I assume you have a suspicion.

You don’t have to tell me. I don’t want to get your lawyers mad. But I assume you have a suspicion.

ATTKISSON: Well, I think I know. But I am just not prepared to go into that. So, we’re continuing our investigation.

In other words, she was working on stories not at all complimentary to the government, her computers are hacked –no financial or other personal data stolen–  and she and her employers think they have a pretty good idea who did it.

And I’ll bet they’re not Chinese.

She and CBS were smart to retain their own counsel; with the government apparently willing to intimidate the children of whistleblowers, they’ll want to have all their legal ducks in a row before going public with any accusations.

(1) The basic idea being that US government couldn’t be this clumsy, could it? Well… Given their inability to ferret out the Tsarnaevs before they bombed the Boston Marathon, or their willful blindness that lead to fatal political correctness regarding Major Hasan, or their mind-boggling incompetence in granting a top security clearance to Edward Snowden, let’s just say it’s not that hard for me to believe they could leave a trail marked by flashing neon signs.

Reminds me in fact of a scene from S*P*Y*S, a 1974 espionage comedy starring Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould. When someone tries to blow them up, they’re convinced their own employers, the CIA, did it. Their boss denies it, but they won’t have it (going from memory): “No, it wasn’t the KGB! They don’t screw up! This was screwed up! It had to be us!”

Sounds plausible to me.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)