GOP candidate issues ‘terrorist hunting permits’ to donors

As reported by the Press-Enterprise:

Congressional candidate Paul Chabot is sending donors a little something special in the mail: a “Terrorist Hunting Permit.”

The yellow cardboard square reads: “Valid for: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram. No bagging limit, no tagging required.”

The permits are being sold to those who donate $99.17 to Chabot’s campaign via his website,

“Terrorism is out of control. I call the assault on our police officers — these are domestic terrorists,” Chabot said Thursday. “Terrorism in general is completely out of control around the world, and in our country as well.”

Republican candidate Chabot is running in the 31st Congressional District for the second time against …

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Political correctness at TSA checkpoints doesn’t fly

tsaThere is a crisis in airport security on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the United States, the Department of Homeland Security argued with the airline industry over whose fees were more responsible for the insanely long lines at TSA checkpoints. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson called on the airlines to drop their fees for checked baggage this summer so flyers would bring fewer carry-on bags. The airlines said the TSA should drop its $85 fee to sign up for the speedier TSA PreCheck program.

In Europe, terrorism appears to have claimed an EgyptAir A320 that took off from Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris and vanished from radar over the Mediterranean Sea.

It’s likely that both the unreasonable delays at U.S. airports and the loss of the EgyptAir plane were caused by the same thing: the politically correct insistence that every passenger is equally likely to be a terrorist.

Since the 9/11 attacks, airport security has focused on two things: knowing who’s on the plane, and knowing what’s in the luggage.

The problem in the U.S. is caused by too much of the second, and the EgyptAir incident may have been caused by not enough of the first.

This spring, as thousands of Americans missed their flights due to TSA backups, the European parliament was still debating whether to allow the collection and sharing of airline reservation data by adopting a Passenger Name Record directive.

The Council of the European Union finally adopted the PNR in April. But the 28 member nations of the EU have two years to implement it. France had been planning to begin testing of the system this summer.

Why did Europe wait so long to start a PNR system? French Prime Minister Manuel Valls pressed hard for …

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Effort to thwart terrorism must start at the U.S. border

border fence mexico immigrationNearly 15 years after the 9/11 attacks, we are still debating what to do to fight terrorism.

Following the attacks in Brussels, President Obama called for bringing the killers to justice, Donald Trump called for waterboarding captured terrorists, and Hillary Clinton called for increased surveillance and interception of communications.

Ted Cruz wants proactive policing in Muslim communities to uncover radicalism, Bernie Sanders wants the international community to come together, and John Kasich wants heads of state to assemble teams to examine vulnerabilities and close security gaps.

Cruz would try “carpet bombing” ISIS territory and Trump would use overwhelming military power against the Islamic State.

Trump also would control the borders more tightly, an idea derided by Clinton, who said America doesn’t “hide behind walls.”

We’ll see.

There are problems with every approach. Overwhelming military force leaves unanswered the question, “And then what?” Will we permanently station U.S. troops to hold the territory and protect the innocent population from the seething rage of rival factions? It’s an option some have supported in the past. Others have waited in line for six hours to rally for candidates who are against it.

The plan to bring terrorists to justice suffers from two major problems. Arresting a terrorist seems only to create a job opening in the organization. And U.S. courts are not friendly to secret intelligence sources or coerced confessions. It’s easy to sneer at “reading terrorists their Miranda rights,” but our justice system protects the rights of the accused, and if we weaken those protections, we all will be at greater risk of wrongful convictions.

Military tribunals are an option for captured foreign terrorists, but Obama wants to close the prison at Guantanamo, which may complicate the process.

Increased surveillance of communications and “pro-active policing” risk further violating the rights of innocent Americans. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures and requires the government to get a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment survived the Civil War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War. Are we going to lose it in a war against terrorists?

It’s a great idea to have international cooperation and to close security gaps. We’ve been trying to do that for a lot longer than 15 years.

That leaves border control. There is room for improvement on that.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, recently held a hearing on the use of asylum claims to avoid deportation. It has long been U.S. policy to allow immigrants, particularly women and children from Central America, to stay in the United States if they assert that they have a credible fear of persecution at home.

In the past, many asylum seekers who entered the U.S. illegally were held in custody until their cases were heard in court, but in 2009 Obama changed that policy. Now anyone who says the magic words “credible fear of persecution” is released and given permission to work in the U.S.

Last year, hundreds of immigrants from Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan, Iran and Syria who were caught entering the U.S. were able to stay in the country by saying those magic words.

“Dangerous criminals and potential terrorists are gaming the system without consequence,” DeSantis said. “These numbers illustrate vulnerabilities throughout our immigration system.”

We could probably tighten that up pretty quickly. But first we need a president who thinks it’s a problem.

ISIS claims Brussels attacks that kill at least 30

As reported by Rueters:

Islamic State claimed responsibility for attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital on Tuesday which killed at least 30 people, a news agency affiliated to the group said.

The Amaq agency said suicide bombers from the group, strapped into explosive belts, had staged both attacks. Belgian media said police were hunting one attacker who had survived.

The coordinated assault triggered security alerts across Europe and drew global expressions of support, four days after Brussels police had captured the prime surviving suspect in Islamic State’s attacks on Paris last November.

A witness said he heard shouts in Arabic and shots shortly before two blasts struck a packed airport departure lounge at Brussels airport. …

Read the full story here

An Apple a Day Keeps Nationalism Away

AppleTaking a bite out of crime took on a whole new meaning for the iPhone producing giant Apple, finding itself under pressure from the FBI to help with the San Bernardino terrorism investigation. The G-Men want Apple to digitally crack open a seized iPhone found in the possession of the Islamist terrorist murderer Syed Farook. The problem for the feds is that the software installed on the device wipes the phone clean if a passcode attempt is entered more than 10 times unsuccessfully. To change that, apple would have to provide new custom code (even if intended only for this one phone), thus potentially redefining the security capability of the system for all users permanently.

Advocates for cracking the phone have said that Apple should do it, claiming it’s their patriotic duty to help crack the phone, but this oversimplification misses the point that programming can be reverse engineered to allow other phones to be opened the same way. This raises questions about the responsibilities versus the rights of Apple from a product liability standpoint and for the future for information technology providers.

They say all publicity is good publicity, and for Apple an opportunity to use public attention to its advantage is rarely missed. That’s partly why they so quickly came forward, in an orchestrated fashion, with their statements refusing the request.

They gain the perception of solidarity with their customers by looking like they are standing up to government pressure.

The feedback they have received says a lot about the public distrust of government, given the growing concern over terrorism. Is this the healthy fear of government that Jefferson referenced when writing about preferring dangerous freedom, or is it a cynical backlash against an incurably ineffective government that is overstepping our liberties?

The real story here isn’t just about iPhone security or patriotism, it’s about the interplay between government officials and a large multinational corporation. It’s about a society at the intersection of conflicts of technology, privacy and government. It’s illustrative of the pressures building between consumers and citizens, governments and multinational corporations, and the public versus private split in a connected world.

The globalized economy is among the largest growing contradiction of capitalism, one that puts national borders and governments in a race for relevance against forces they can no longer fully control. Both governments and multinational corporations are becoming increasingly defined by exchange driven relationships.

In the best case scenario, multinationals see governments as generating taxes from the business operations within defined borders, a cost of doing business that generates revenue drawn from transactions through their shared spheres of influence. Governments theoretically provide security, stability, a functioning legal framework, important infrastructure, and most of all, access to well established markets. Without a sound marketplace and ready purchasers, multinationals would struggle to connect with the right consumers in a predictable way.

The friction comes not only between countries and companies, but between countries at odds with non-state actors, leaving companies in the middle. Events may arise that see a national government’s agenda directed against a rival state, and in so doing jeopardize the wellbeing of a resident company and its brand. Form the company’s perspective, it may no longer be possible to remain loyal to one country without jeopardizing their business position with others.

Consider that Apple is the most valuable brand in the world. At $536 billion the market cap dominates most other tech companies by a wide margin. With sales of $234 billion, its revenue producing activities are greater than the total national economy of New Zealand, or Slovakia, or Ecuador. Apple operates 481 retail stores across 18 different countries. Their online services are available to consumers in 39 different countries. It employs some 92,000 workers with an additional supply chain that creates economic value employing factory workers, technicians, developers, programmers, producers of every type, across every industry involved in the creation and management of its products. This is a staggering amount of positive human output from vendors and allies of Apple. But all this does not a national company make.

In the brave new world of the global economy, we are familiar with transnationalism, but we relegate its true impact to the subconscious. We are comforted in our belief that an American company is one that has historical ties to America.

But increasingly how can a company remain tied to any one country the way we that individually pledged citizens do? Loyalty is to production, profitability, investor return, and progress as arguably it should be. So why then do we personify companies, and what reason should we have to think they would behave any different than we would when pressured?

In the strictest sense a corporation is a legal person. But that is not at the same as a legal citizen. Well run corporations operate by evaluating economic factors and conduct cost benefit analysis devoid of emotionalism. Can it be said that Apple is an American Company? What does that really mean? Are they exercising rights or responding to governance that does not fully apply?

Is a company’s national identity found in its incorporation? Is its perceived nationality determined by their corporate headquarters geography? What of the employees it hires, when they are comprised from among several different countries? Does a majority of their workforce having citizenship in one country or another make them definitively loyal to one country over another?

“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” said Marshall McLuhan, as such the world that shapes us also defines us. The economics of globalization are inseparable from their influence on culture. The spirit of entrepreneurship has doubtlessly benefitted from interaction with international market opportunities, but what we have gained in innovation, lower costs, and greater prosperity, we have partly lost in identity, community, and fidelity to the intangibles that make us American’s. This question of nationalism, and therefore corporate loyalty is a multidirectional question that affects both companies and citizens.

The story of the Apple iPhone hack isn’t simple. It’s not about whether Apple is patriotic, it’s about whether corporate citizenship is a meaningful concept and whether it applies in a substantive way.

The nostalgia for a simple binary world of American Corporations and foreign corporations is fading. What does a Patriotic American company, grounded in American values and traditions even look like in a globalized world? How can we reasonably expect companies who represent shareholder interests to trust an anti-prosperity equality obsessed government with detailed functionality of products that define a brand?

The people are searching for answers, and the Apple issue is but one of many fissures in our collective understanding of ourselves. The “Make America Great Again” rhetoric, whatever you may think of its standard-bearer, the phrase encapsulates an indisputably brilliant insight reflecting this paradigm. It plays to a unifying concept running counter to meaningless, ever changing policy nuance and word bending. The empty promises of the old politics just won’t do anymore. It reflects a passion for a simpler time, a place we used to call home.

A country that was indivisible, united, and was one nation under God. That was the time of great things, when citizens were called forward to sacrifice their lives to protect their families at home and save the world, preserving a free future.

The greatest generation ran America’s companies transitioning from war production and leading the world, carrying American ideals forward as exemplars of our way of life. Such times have passed and the winds of change may be blowing ever counter to those ideals.

There remains though, deep with many of our people a longing for a connection to the ordered liberty that a limited and healthy government gave us. That government of the people, for the people, and by the people is under attack from many different directions.

Big government redistributionist, (self-describing as progressives) have pushed a perpetual entitlement debt encumbrance that will burden future generations with restrained growth and reduced opportunity. The left’s prescription has been and always will be for the necessity of freedom sacrifices. Excellence, wealth creation, and the risk taking leaders of the economy create naturally occurring inequalities. These (according to their thinking), must be slain to appease an insatiable appetite for fundamental fairness, a self-righteous construct of their own imaginations. As true believers, (even though they know a rising tide lifts all boats) they prefer to run such aground rather than allowing unequal ships to set sail. As Churchill said “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. We must continue to confront and defeat this ideology at home and abroad.

Whether Apple ultimately decides to assist the FBI with its investigation remains to be seen. Whether their decision ends up being right or wrong is becoming harder to know. But what is knowable is that the government that fails to protect us from terrorism fails not because of Apple, but because of its own lack of commitment to serious citizenship and preserving the integrity of our boarders. Apple didn’t give a special visa waiver to the terrorist black widow bride, and it doesn’t continue to allow thousands upon thousands of unknown’s to pour into our country daily.

Our national future may be slipping beyond our control. Empty promises lead to failed institutions. Runaway spending, the entitlement culture, empty pursuits of consumerism, these are the forces proliferating under weakened national identity. Multinational corporate complexity won’t fit into a neatly packaged red white and blue box anymore. Forces of our own creation have changed our people into consumers first, and citizens second, where there are markets first and nations as an afterthought.

One day when our country and all that it stood for is gone, a future generation may discover a time when prosperity was not confused with blatant consumerism. A time where the type of people leading companies and countries were leaders who “more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!”

FBI Overreach in Pursuit of Apple Compliance

appleThe Apple-FBI saga playing out in a very public way is a classic case of overreach by a law enforcement agency. The FBI is putting extraordinary (and unprecedented) pressure on Apple following the horrific San Bernadino shootings. The U.S. government has filed a motion in court to compel Apple to re-engineer its operating system so that the FCC can investigate whether the shooter used his iPhone to communicate or plan with other potential co-conspirators.

Forcing Apple to crack open its own code might appeal to some people clamoring for a quick fix for the ever-increasing threat of terrorism in our country. Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes and the government’s move is an extraordinary threat to civil liberty. It also won’t solve the larger problem. A backdoor won’t stop terrorism, but it will weaken smartphone security systems with no likelihood of any real public benefit. The public, and policymakers, should support Apple’s public resistance to the FBI’s pressure tactics. The FBI’s proposal is dangerous for at least these four reasons:

It Won’t Stop Terrorism

The FBI wants Apple to build a post-incident forensic investigation tool to unpack what may have happened. But that will not actually deter or prevent terrorism. Terrorists will simply switch to using encrypted phones from other countries.

It Will Open Security Loopholes

If the government is allowed to force Apple to provide a backdoor to its operating system, it will weaken security for all U.S. consumers on a go-forward basis This will not force committed terrorists to think twice, but instead could make Apple’s operating system vulnerable to the hacking of consumer data on a large scale given the way this story is playing out publicly as the hacking community will be awaiting the court decision with baited breath.

It Sets A Terrible International Precedent

If the courts force this technology mandate on Apple, it’s also making this technology available to the rest of the world. That means rogue regimes and dictatorships interested in cracking down on the communications and online interests of its citizens will have access to the same security busting technology as the U.S. government. Limiting security on iPhones could put regular citizens, journalists or freedom fighters, who are often on the frontlines of fights against oppression, in peril.

It Encourages Malware

What the FBI is requesting is as akin to introducing a dangerous virus into Apple’s operating system. The FBI is demanding that Apple create malware by reformulating its software. Backdoor access not only creates access for the government but it creates a flaw that black hat hackers will attempt to exploit. There’s a good chance this will create unintended consequences for Apple and its operating system, which could create a myriad of issues for millions of iPhone users.

Terrorism is a serious problem and one we, as a country, must face head-on. But we need to approach the situation in a way that yields results without creating new vulnerabilities. Knee-jerk reactions, like the one we’re seeing from the FBI are certainly not the answer. They only harm civil liberties and create new problems down the line. We need to hold true to our societal principles, including a right to privacy or we risk handing the terrorists their first real victory by causing us to subvert our values for a gamble that evidence collected after this attack might prevent future attacks.

Tim Sparapani is founder of the consulting firm SPQR Strategies and senior policy counsel for CALinnovates. He was the first director of public policy at Facebook and was senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union. He is on Twitter: @TimSparapani.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Apple headed for showdown over San Bernardino shooter’s phone

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Apple’s refusal to help the FBI access information from the retrieved cell phone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook sets up a long-brewing confrontation between Silicon Valley and members of Congress including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior senator.

Apple’s rejection of a court order demanding the company unlock the phone represents a pivotal crossroads in a growing debate over digital privacy versus security and is likely to determine whether law enforcement can access data that increasingly is being encrypted.

The outcome of the battle also will have implications not only for the growing use of cell phones in business transactions but for the ability of foreign governments such as China to pry into the personal lives of their citizens, analysts of the dispute said. …

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Iraqi Refugee Arrested in CA on Terror Charge

Terror suspect

Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab — Facebook

Two Iraqi refugees, one in California, have been arrested on joint terrorism-related charges.

“From his pictures on Facebook, Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab looks like any other millennial with a wardrobe of Nike sneakers, Ray-Ban sunglasses and flannel shirts. But federal officials say the 23-year-old was living a double life — one as a refugee starting a new life in America and another as a young man anxious to return to the Middle East to fight in the Syrian Civil War,” the Daily Mail reported. “The Iraqi-born Palestinian man was arrested Thursday in Sacramento, California on charges he was plotting to travel to Syria to join the al-Nusra Front terrorist organization.”

Under the radar

As the New York Times reported, Jayab’s alleged partner in the scheme, 24-year-old Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, “was arrested in Houston and charged with three counts of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State, according to a statement from the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.”

“Prosecutors said that Mr. Jayab entered the United States from Syria as a refugee in October 2012, living in Arizona and Wisconsin before settling in Sacramento. Mr. Hardan, who lives in Houston, entered the United States as a refugee in 2009 and was granted legal permanent residence status in 2011, according to law enforcement.”

“Prosecutors allege Al Hardan was coordinating efforts with another Iraqi refugee living in California, Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab,” the Associated Press reported. “The two men communicated through Facebook messenger from April 2013 to October 2014 and talked about getting weapons training and eventually sneaking into Syria to fight alongside the terrorist group,” according to prosecution witness Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Herman Wittliff.

In custody

While Al Hardan’s family has been evicted from their apartment, “Al-Jayab remains jailed in Sacramento, California,” the AP added. “Authorities say Al-Jayab fought twice in Syria, including with a group later affiliated with the Islamic State between November 2013 and January 2014.”

Hardan was denied bond by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes. Based on details relayed by Wittliff, he ruled “there would be a serious risk that the Iraqi refugee would flee if released from federal custody,” reported Fox News. According to the channel, Wittliff “said that in addition to Al Hardan wanting to set off bombs at the two Houston malls, including the popular Galleria mall, the Iraqi man was also learning how to make electronic transmitters that could be used to detonate improvised explosive devices. Al Hardan wanted used cellphones — a collection of which were found in his apartment — to detonate the devices, Wittliff said.”

Fueling national fears

The arrests have fueled election-year concern, especially among Republicans, that U.S. screening processes have not been adequately tightened amid the rise of ISIS and the recent waves of Mideast migration it has caused. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a consistent critic of President Obama’s border and security policies, took the opportunity to press home the point. “I once again urge the president to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.

And Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, currently pushing a bill that would mandate additional procedures, tied Hardan and Jayab to the broader security situation in a statement. “While I commend the FBI for their hard work, these arrests heighten my concern that our refugee program is susceptible to exploitation by terrorists. The president has assured us that individuals from Iraq and Syria receive close scrutiny, but it is clearly not enough,” he concluded, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“McCaul introduced the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act last year, which calls for Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks in addition to initial Homeland Security screenings for all ‘covered aliens,’ or refugees with ties to Iraq or Syria. The bill passed 289 to 137 in the House in November.”

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After closing all schools, LAUSD finds threat not credible

As reported by the L.A. Daily News:

It was a tale of two cities, with New York officials shrugging and Los Angeles officials quaking.

The threat came via email to Los Angeles Unified School District board members. It named schools. It talked about bombs and guns. It came less than two weeks after San Bernardino — just about 60 miles east of downtown — was rocked by a massacre that killed 14 and was linked to international terrorism. It came less than two weeks after an American casualty in the Paris terrorist attack was buried in Downey.

It was enough.

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines decided to close more than 900 schools, an unparalleled act at the nation’s second largest district. More than 700,000 students were suddenly given the day off and many parents were given to juggling anxiety, both for the threat and their disrupted workday. …

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California’s Gun Sales Break Records

As reported by the Contra Costa Times:

Amid a new round of debate over gun control, Californians have already bought a record number of firearms in 2015, including major spikes in sales on Black Friday and the days after the San Bernardino attacks, an analysis of new federal and state data show.

Firearms purchases in California triggered 1.51 million federal background checks in the first 11 months of the year, breaking the previous annual record of 1.47 million set last year.

And December typically brings even more firearms purchases than any other month, whether for holiday gifts or getting ahead of new gun restrictions the new year might bring.

The gun dealers’ holiday season got off to a rousing start. State data requested by this newspaper show that sales transactions spiked on …

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