Twitter Bad, Government Worse

Townhall.com 1/17/2018 12:01:00 AM – Bob Barr When it comes to the Internet, people often take for granted “free” access to online products and services, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter.  We tend to think that our use alone of such services, bolstering metrics like their “daily average user” figures, is what allows them to generate greater ad revenue. Yet, as undercover journalist James O’Keefe revealed this week in a Project Veritas investigation of Twitter, this is pure delusion; proving, once again, that if something is free, you’re the product. As with much of O’Keefe’s work the findings, while revealing, are not shocking since the targets of his investigations become “targets” because they are suspected of engaging in unethical (or illegal) dealings. So, for example, to hear Twitter engineers and security experts talk of unfettered access to personal correspondences (called “direct messages” or “DMs” for short), and essentially how nothing transmitted across the platform is private or erasable, confirms what we have known all along about online privacy — there is none; particularly on platforms that make their money harvesting data from its users. “So, what happens is like, you like, write something or post pictures on line, they never go away,” Pranay Singh, a Direct Messaging Engineer for Twitter, tells an undercover investigator for Project Veritas. “Because even after you send them, people are like analyzing them, to see what you are interested in, to see what you are talking about.” “And they sell that data,” Singh adds; in a not-so-shocking revelation. So what exactly do Twitter employees see? Everything. Private conversations, lurid photos, clicked links, and location data are just...

Outrageous Prosecutorial Misconduct Comes Home to Roost in the Cliven Bundy Case

Townhall.com Bob Barr 1/10/2018 12:01:00 AM – Bob Barr There is an old Latin proverb, “Fiat justitia, ruat caelum,” which means, roughly translated, “Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.”  On Monday, January 8, 2018, the heavens fell on the United States Department of Justice.  More specifically, on that day a United States District Court Judge, Gloria Navarro, dismissed the criminal charges that had been pending against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons, and a third defendant, for nearly four years. What made this action especially significant is not simply that the judge dismissed the charges, but that she did so with prejudice, meaning the federal government cannot later retry the defendants. Such steps by a federal judge – dismissing charges and doing so with prejudice – are not routine, but they are unusual; not so significant, perhaps, as to warrant special attention by persons not directly involved. What happened in the Bundy case, however, is that important. Monday’s announcement in the federal courtroom in Las Vegas should concern every American who carries with him or her an understanding of, and appreciation for, the rule of law.  The judge’s findings should frighten every American.  Why?  Because they document and confirm how easily any one of us could wind up like Cliven Bundy — the victim of overzealous, dishonest and vindictive government employees; including, most disturbing, those within the Department of Justice. What makes the Judge’s ruling so important, are the reasons underlying the decision.  In her ruling, Judge Navarro found that the government (including the United States Attorney’s office in Nevada and the FBI, among others) not only...

Russia’s “Breadbasket” Is Not Part of America’s Vital National Security Interest

Townhall.com Bob Barr 1/3/2018 12:01:00 AM – Bob Barr “Make America Great Again.” The phrase became ubiquitous during the 2016 presidential election as both a branding tagline and rallying cry for Donald Trump’s campaign. It quickly came to symbolize an “America-first” attitude in solving the country’s problems; rebuffing the rampant “anti-exceptionalism” demonstrated by the previous administration. Now, “MAGA” (as it is often abbreviated) appears to guide Trump’s every domestic and foreign policy decision; even when its applicability may not be clear. Just last month, the Administration approved plans to sell sophisticated Javelin anti-tank missiles to the Ukraine, bolstering that government’s ongoing conflict against pro-Russian separatists. The move is a dramatic shift in U.S. policy in the civil conflict, as the previous administration refused to offer Ukraine anything other than “non-lethal” aid. As expected, Russia condemned the move as an intentional provocation that could easily escalate tensions not just within the region, but between Russia and the U.S. as well. Western experts, too, question the military effectiveness of the decision, and believe poking the “Russian bear” may have been Washington’s true motive. “This idea doesn’t flow from a policy or strategy,” Michael Kofman, an expert on Ukraine, told the Washington Post in August of last year, referring to the then-proposed deal for Javelins. According to Kofman, tank battles are increasingly rare; and while they might prove a factor in skirmishes yet to come, the arms deal is more likely meant as a political message to Putin. “The Ukrainians want the U.S. to provide them with a weapon as a meaningful signal in Kiev and the Kremlin,” Kofman noted. It as well may...