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...

To the Congress: Don’t panic and ditch our constitutional rights in the name of fighting terrorism

By Bob Barr | Fox News December 27, 2017   The well-known fable of Chicken Little tells the story of a chicken who gets hit on the head by an acorn falling from a tree and then panics – breaking into a run and telling all the animals she meets that “the sky is falling.” Much the same is happening today in Washington, with national security “hawks” telling us disaster will befall our country unless Congress passes sweeping legislation that compromises important privacy rights of all Americans. The legislation causing this alarm would allow the federal government to have the continued ability to gather and access electronic data on Americans abroad and at home without a warrant. So far, Congress has dealt with this important constitutional issue by doing what it does best – kicking the can down the road. But early in the new year – possibly as soon as Jan. 19 – Congress will be required to make a decision with enormous consequences. The decision will determine whether, in this age of digital internet communications, the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution means anything at all. The expansive surveillance power up for renewal in Congress derives from an obscure but important provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that’s known as Section 702. Not a very memorable name. Most Americans have never heard of it. The panicked national security hawks wail like Chicken Little that the loss of Section 702 will bring disaster. They say our foreign intelligence capability to detect and thwart acts of terrorism will “go black” if the powers the government...

Trump Should Order Sessions to Drop Bundy Prosecution

Townhall.com Bob Barr 12/27/2017 12:01:00 AM – Bob Barr There are many resolutions the federal government should be making for the New Year; with cutting spending at or near the very top of the list. With Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress (for the time being at least), resolutions this year actually could amount to more than just empty words on a quickly-forgotten list.  There is one resolution, in fact, that would be easy to implement, would require no help from any Democrat or slippery Republican in the Senate, and that would signal to the country that President Trump truly intends to reinvigorate the sense of justice at the Department of Justice. Trump should immediately direct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to halt the lengthy and unfair prosecution of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.  The nearly four-year old prosecution of Bundy, his sons, and a number of their many supporters, has been more than a prosecution.  It has been a crusade; begun under former Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014, continued all this past year by an interim career prosecutor in Las Vegas, and abetted by a federal judge appointed by Obama and whose animus toward Bundy is palpable. The dispute between Bundy and the federal government goes back decades; rooted in the long-standing effort by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to force the cattle rancher to pay Uncle Sam more than $1 million in disputed “grazing fees.”So intense has been the desire by BLM to squeeze money out of Bundy, that the agency was able to obtain a court order to seize his cattle (and in so doing, strangle...

Rep. Barr: Intelligence in the Age of Trump

Merion West December 21, 2017 This is a president who openly and personally attacks the leaders and employees of the agencies in the Intelligence Community. In turn, some of them respond by attacking him, and on it goes. Despite Henry Stimson’s naïve and dangerous attitude against intelligence gathering, reflected in his pre-World War II statement that, “gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail,” intelligence gathering always has been an accepted and vital component of our nation’s conduct of military and foreign affairs. This was recognized clearly by George Washington, who during his service as Commander in Chief of the Colonial forces during our War for Independence, relied often upon secret writings secured by a handful of brave colonial spies in his decision-making. Washington also punished severely those who betrayed that trust. Four factors more than any other reside at the heart of a country’s successful foreign intelligence apparatus: cunning, training, patience and trust.  These are the factors on which a credible intelligence product is built. America’s top policy makers, including ultimately the president himself, rely on these in making choices affecting the lives of the country’s men and women and perhaps the nation’s very survival. The contemporary world in which massive amounts of data are gathered continually from technology, including from insect-sized drones to phenomenally-sophisticated satellites circling the planet, can go only so far in equipping those decision-makers with credible information on which to assess intentions of their foreign counterparts.  Technology provides facts; the other half of the equation—intentions—ultimately comes from human intelligence in both collection and analysis. Yet, whatever the source of the information offered to our commander-in-chief, the value of that product...