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Hard Astarboard » Uncategorized

June 13, 2012

The Tribulations of Eric Holder

To be blunt, even though he or she is a presidential appointee, there’s a reason an A.G. has to be confirmed by Congress: a U.S. Attorney General is there to serve the American People, to serve Justice; Not to function as a tool, a political hack for the president.

What Wolf would call “the president’s butt-boy”.

But that’s what this specimen (Eric Holder) has turned out to be, just a despicable creature serving the whims of a president whose ambitions for this country are the direct opposite of what the founding fathers intended, what the Constitution lays out.

Now Congress is calling him to task for his sorry performance, his betrayal of the American People, his reticence where embracing the truth is concerned.

Attorney General Eric Holder is used to being treated as a punching bag on Capitol Hill.

But the ire directed his way on Tuesday topped even the normal pummeling.

There was the old standby — Holder’s response to the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal — and a new flurry of criticism over his refusal to appoint an independent counsel to investigate leaks of national security secrets.

Republicans unleashed a two-front attack on the attorney general. They assailed him during a regularly scheduled oversight hearing, where he faced new calls for his resignation, and on the Senate floor, where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced a resolution, urging a special counsel for the leak probe.

Several GOP senators tried to weave the Fast and Furious and leak-related stories into a common narrative. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) linked the two as he called for the first time for Holder to step down.

“There has been zero accountability at the Department of Justice. … The leaking of classified information represents a major threat to national security, and your office faces a clear conflict of interest, yet you will not appoint a special counsel,” Cornyn told the attorney general. “Meanwhile, you still resist coming clean about what you knew and when you knew it with regard to Operation Fast and Furious. You won’t cooperate with the legitimate congressional investigation, and you won’t hold anyone — including yourself — accountable.

“It is more with sorrow than regret and anger that I would say that you leave me no alternative than to join those who call upon you to resign your office,” Cornyn said, joining three other Republican senators and several dozen House members who have called on Holder to go. “Americans deserve an attorney general who will be honest with them. They deserve an attorney general who will uphold the basic standards of political independence and accountability. You have proven time and time again, sadly, that you’re unwilling to do so. … You have violated the public trust, in my view.”

Bravo, Mr. Cornyn! Talk about hitting the nail squarely on the head…

Holder said he has no plans to quit.

“I don’t have any intention of resigning. I heard the White House press officer say yesterday that the president has absolute confidence in me. I don’t have any reason to believe that, in fact, is not the case.”

Of course not: A weasel like the guy occupying the Oval Office at the moment undoubtedly treasures a co-weasel who so completely covers his every political whim, legal, moral or otherwise to both.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also linked the day’s two primary GOP critiques of Holder, arguing he was complicit in a kind of selective transparency being practiced by the Obama administration.

“You’ve got one program called Fast and Furious that’s been an embarrassment to the administration, and it’s been like pulling teeth to get information about Fast and Furious: who knew what and when. And when you have programs on the national security front that seem to show the president as a strong leader, you can read about it in the paper,” Graham said. “I’m very disturbed about the inability to get information regarding programs that are embarrassing and the tendency of this administration to tell the whole world about things that are good.”

Double Bravo, Mr. Graham!

Who would have thought dreamed, less even than a generation ago, that the American People would ever actually vote in an Administration as dangerous to the future of our country as the present one?

Third world country? Communist country? Lived in one that was both, don’t want to do it again here, too, thank you!

Where the parties within the Obama Administration who are leaking, or behind the leaking of national security secrets are concerned, up to and including the president, Hard Astarboard completely agrees with this man.

What they are doing, purely to glorify the Obama Administration for political gain is, purely and simply, TREASON.

by @ 11:45 am. Filed under Uncategorized

June 5, 2012

No Leader to Follow Anymore

There was once a time when the United States of America led the world not only economically, but in the pursuit of freedom and justice, as well. Despite criticism from one country or another or from liberals within, we injected ourselves into situations where our might was needed to defend the freedom of victims of conquering dictatorships (nazis, communists…), not only or always militarily, but we were there playing some decisive role.

Of course, that kind of thing requires leadership, and for a country to lead, its leaders must be able to lead.

That said, enter Saddam Barack Hussein (Obama), a leader who doesn’t lead or, if what he does is said to be leading, then it is from the Lemming school of leadership.

Yes, FORWARD!…off a cliff.

From Oliver North, his column appearing in Guns and Patriots

The once highly touted Arab Spring has become the Arab Summer — scorching hot, unbearably dry and very brutal and bloody. Last weekend, as Americans prepared to celebrate Memorial Day and commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, Bashar Assad unleashed tanks, artillery and his Quds force-trained shabiha militia to kill more than 100 Syrian civilians — most of them women and children. Though the atrocities and carnage in Syria continue, little but bluff and bluster is produced by the United Nations and the Obama administration.

Ah, yes, the infamous “bluff and bluster”, Obama hallmarks and as for the U.N., well, we all know about the U.N.

In the aftermath of the May 25 massacre, 11 nations — the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Turkey — expelled Syrian diplomats from their capitals. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon — on a visit to Turkey, Syria’s neighbor and former ally — told the Alliance of Civilizations in Istanbul, “The U.N. did not deploy in Syria just to bear witness to the slaughter of innocents. … We are not there to play the role of passive observer to unspeakable atrocities.”

But that’s exactly what the 300 U.N. “observers” in Syria have become in the six weeks since they were deployed in support of Kofi Annan’s so-called Syrian peace plan. Worse, the vicious Assad regime and its principal backers in Russia and Iran know that this is all hollow rhetoric. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — vying for the title of “The Most Traveled U.S. Secretary of State in History” — ought to know it, too.

This is all a little too much, watching as our “fearless leader” and the rest of the world’s “powers that be” do nothing but make noise while events and the opportunity to shape them in a nondestructive way pass them by; Those powers that be, that is, who aren’t actually looking to profit politically or economically from the gradual demise of the United States and the west, or from lending their tacit support to leaders like Assad when they commit the kinds of atrocities with which any civilized man or woman should take umbrage.

Of course, Osama Obama takes great pride in having been “the only senator to vote against the Iraq war from the beginning”; If he didn’t give a good gahoot about the inhumanities the Husseins were inflicting on their people, why should he care about the massacres the Syrian government is perpetrating on its own civilians.

Worse yet, while Assad is hanging onto control (ownership) of Syria, other Arab nations that have managed to succeed in dumping their leaders, like Egypt, are now looking at very good odds that their new leaders will be Muslims of the militant variety who would think nothing of using their countries as staging areas for terrorist acts against the west and westerners abroad, especially Americans.

Yes, Assad would fit right in with that bunch, as he does with Iran.

No, “O”, don’t do anything concrete, just stand there watching while the Arab world, wherein lies the potential for the exportation of a whole lot of future misery for the United States and some of our allies, reshapes itself into our worst nightmare.

But back to Hillary (ous) diplomacy:

In Copenhagen, on “a weeklong diplomatic trip to Europe’s capitals,” she said the Obama administration is “committed to preventing a civil war in Syria” and baldly claimed that she is “pushing” the government in Moscow to help: “I have been telling them their policy is going to help contribute to a civil war.” That kind of talk is unlikely to produce a favorable outcome in Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, no matter how many times President Barack Obama pushes the “reset button.”

After 15 months of butchery — and 13,000 dead civilians (the U.N. says it’s 10,000) — it ought to be clear to all that the U.N. can’t “prevent” a civil war in Syria; it already has started. Toothless sanctions, such as last week’s decision by the Obama administration to bar the Syria International Islamic Bank from doing business in the U.S., won’t stop the fighting. And no one, particularly the 22.5 million people living in Syria under the sanguinary Assad regime, should expect any help from Russia or Iran.

Moscow will do all in its power short of war to keep its Mediterranean naval installation at Tartus, Syria, in “friendly” hands. Tehran, striving for regional hegemony while it builds nuclear weapons, must have an ally in Damascus to keep open its supply lines for arms and materiel to Hezbollah — Iran’s proxy for what it repeatedly describes as a coming “fire that will destroy the Zionist regime.”

When asked about a U.N. resolution for military action — like the support given rebels in their effort to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi — Clinton said, “Every day that goes by makes the argument for it stronger.” She knows better. The Russians and the Chinese would veto such action in the U.N. Security Council before it could be written.

What a joke we have in the current administration!

****************

By the way, His Majesty was here in New York yesterday, presumably to panhandle more campaign money (”Change…change…change”, as he used to say).

What a mess, trafficwise and what an expense to new York taxpayers for all that police deployment.

He was staying at the waldorf, of course, which was shielded by an unbroken line of Sanitation dump trucks. It would have been more fitting had they simply deployed garbage trucks!

by @ 10:59 am. Filed under Uncategorized

June 4, 2012

It’s beginning to look a lot like…the Kremlin?

This one caught my eye this morning and my first thought…

Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s attorney general and David Axelrod, his top political adviser had to be separated after squaring up during a furious row over attempts to impose White House operatives in the justice department.

…was what Seth or Wolf would have remarked after a gruff laugh.

I could just hear Seth chuckling, “That would be something to see, those two pansies going at it with limp wristed little slaps.” or Wolf, with his patented sardonic grin: “Two of Saddam Hussein Obama’s pet fairies (that isn’t the word he’d use) havin’ a cat fight! Man, I’d of loved to see that!”

God, I miss those two (not the president’s pair of matched wussies, but Seth and Wolf. I wish they’d get home already!)

He writes that Mr Holder and Mr Axelrod were separated by Valerie Jarrett, a White House adviser and confidante to Mr Obama. Ms Jarrett “pushed her way between the two men, her sense of decorum disturbed, ordering them to ‘take it out of the hallway’,” says Klaidman.

Anyway, back to It’s beginning to look like…the Kremlin:

The argument is said to have erupted over attempts to add a political official to the staff of Mr Holder, who has presided over a handful of political and public relations blunders since taking office in 2009.

attempts to add a political official to the staff of Mr Holder

Like a Zampolit in the Soviet military!

In the Obama organization, huh? It’s funny how the communist fruit never falls far from the tree!

Speaking of Obama and his Kommissars

Pastors meeting in Washington have been warned about political activities that could jeopardize their churches’ tax-exempt status.

IRS regional manager Peter Lorenzetti told the Faith Leaders Summit that prohibited activities include endorsing or opposing candidates, campaigning for them, or making contributions to their campaigns.

However,

But pastors are free to do any of those things as private citizens, according to Congressman G.K. Butterfield. The North Carolina Democrat, a former judge, said, “You simply cannot do it in your capacity as the pastor of the church and give the implication that the church is endorsing the candidate.”

Lorenzetti said churches can distribute voter guides that educate about political issues without favoring a particular candidate.

A couple of the comments below the linked article sum up our stance at Hard Astarboard, as well.

One Robert LaCoe:

I’ll bet it only applies to non-Muslim, non-black churches. Why did Holder just brief black pastors on how to influence the vote in their church. We have the most crooked regime in history in the Kremlin on the Potomac.

and one Stan Mason:

Jeremiah Wright clearly endorsed Obama in the last election. Remember his famous “Hillary ain’t never been called a N****” speech? Why didn’t Obama’s former church lose their tax-exempt status?

It appears that King Barack Hussein Obama considers it perfectly acceptable to use the power of his office to implement whatever double standards and heavy handedness he deems necessary to prolonging what he obviously considers not his term in office, but his reign.

Did I say, “It’s beginning to look a lot like…the Kremlin?”

by @ 11:21 am. Filed under Uncategorized

May 18, 2012

Regulation and More Regulation

The Left: If it moves, regulate it. If it doesn’t move, regulate it anyway. Control, micromanage, apply every dollar of taxpayer funds available (or not, just keep the spending going!)

There’s an informative Op-Ed in today’s Washington Times on-line by Representative Jeb Hensarling (R, Texas) about the Dodd Frank Act and what it means in the Real World as opposed to the one occupied by today’s Democrats and their liberal mentors.

The news of J.P. Morgan Chase’s recent trading loss has raised the cry of “I told you so” from proponents of the almost 2-year-old Dodd-Frank Act. They say the law’s Volcker rule would have prevented such a loss and that without more regulation, financial institutions will continue to make poor investment decisions.

As an opponent of Dodd-Frank and one of many who have warned against the politicization of our economy, the threat of future bailouts and attempts by the government to eliminaterisks, I also wish to say, “I told you so.”

Within Dodd-Frank’s 2,300 pages are provisions allowing the government to designate certain financial firms “systemically important financial institutions” - otherwise known as “too big to fail” (TBTF). The law then empowers the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to seize a troubled TBTF firm for the purpose of winding it down. In doing so, the FDIC can borrow up to the book value of the institution from taxpayers, an amount that could be astounding, as Bank of America, Citigroup and J.P. Morgan are all $2 trillion institutions.

Because private financial firms such as J.P. Morgan inevitably will blunder regardless of their size or sophistication, designating any firm TBTF is bad policy and worse economics. It causes erosion of market discipline and risks further bailouts paid in full by hardworking Americans. It also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, helping make firms bigger and riskier than they otherwise would be. Look no further than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their taxpayer-funded bailout to the tune of nearly $200 billion.

Unfortunately, Dodd-Frank codifies TBTF into federal law. Since its passage, the big banks have become larger and the small banks have become fewer. As a nation, we would do well to rethink TBTF’s fundamental premise before it’s too late.

Even if some conclude that certain financial firms are indeed TBTF, it begs the question whether Washington is even competent to manage their risk. A review of the federal government’s track record in this area does not inspire confidence. The Federal Housing Administration’s poor risk management has left it severely undercapitalized. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. has an unfunded obligation of $26 billion. Even the National Flood Insurance Program is $18 billion underwater (pun intended). Then we have Fannie and Freddie.

Yes, then we do.

We have said here before that one of the greatest shortcomings of “progressives” is that they never learn from mistakes: “It failed the first ninety nine times, so it’s got to work the hundredth!”

Of course, as most of us already realize, regulating, along with its partner, taxing, are hand in glove activities for the left, and any mishap of any kind, even one caused by them, provides them with an excuse to pass legislation applying more rules, thereby creating more bureaucracy as people must be brought in as permanent staff to monitor compliance and churn out additional idiocy in order to justify their stuffed salaries, pensions and overblown benefits.

Anyway, the entire Op-Ed is here.

May 3, 2012

Ann on the GOP Establishment and truths re immigration

Yes, still a third post today, I am really feeling my proverbial oats…

The latest Ann Coulter column, Deport the GOP Establishment, addresses a couple of highly addressable situations, such as:

On no issue is the elite/American divide so great as on immigration. For decades, a majority of Americans have wanted to decrease immigration. Not just illegal immigration — all immigration.

Nearly three times as many Americans support reducing immigration as want it to stay the same, according to Gallup polls. A grand total of 5 percent of the population want to increase legal immigration — 10 times less than want to decrease it. I myself would like to deport the people responsible for our current immigration policies.

Me, too! :-)

Our official policy is to turn away scientists in order to make room for illiterate Pakistani peasants who will drop out of high school to man coffee carts until deciding to plot a terrorist attack against the United States. That’s this week’s immigration poster boy, Najibullah Zazi.

Zazi’s own step-uncle said of him: “He was a dumb kid, believe me.” Our immigration officials said, WELCOME, ZAZI!… Oops, sorry Swedish scientists and nuclear engineers — no room for you.

In February, Zazi pleaded guilty in a plot to bomb the New York City subway.

One of his co-conspirators, Zarein Ahmedzay, was welcomed from Afghanistan to America because he was willing to do a job no American would: drive a cab. Where are you going to find an American with a driver’s license?

This week, a third accomplice, Adis Medunjanin, was convicted in the subway conspiracy. Medunjanin came from Bosnia and became an American citizen — a priceless gift to The New York Times, which was then able to begin its article on his convictions: “An American citizen was convicted of a host of terrorism charges on Tuesday …”

For this we can thank the late, lamented Teddy Kennedy, who altered our immigration laws in 1965 to ensure massive immigration from the Third World while severely limiting the number of Europeans who could come here.

****Interruption: At 5th Avenue and Central Park North (110th Street) in Manhattan lies Duke Ellington Circle, a small traffic circle that includes a statue, high on a platform, of Duke Ellington standing beside a piano.

Until I saw the commemmoration plaque, I had no idea Duke’s full name was Edward Kennedy Ellington.

Thank God the great musician came first, and wasn’t named after the late Teddy K! ****

Democrats look at immigration as a way to increase their voter rolls, and Republicans look at immigration as a way to get cheap labor for big business. Any Americans who disagree with our all-Third World immigration flow are called “racists.”

This is why Democrats and establishment Republicans are desperate to talk Mitt Romney into flip-flopping on his immigration positions. He’s with Americans.

In a novel thought, Romney proposes that we grant citizenship to people who would make America a better place, repeatedly saying that he would like to “staple a green card” to the diplomas of foreigners who receive Ph.D.s in math or the hard sciences. He may be the first national politician in two generations who thinks we should use legal immigration to get our average up.

Read the entire column…

by @ 1:55 pm. Filed under Great Commentary, Uncategorized

April 23, 2012

So it begins…

Yes, a third post today, albeit as brief as the second.

Egypt has terminated its contract to supply natural gas to Israel, ending a joint venture that was a cornerstone of the peace process between the neighboring states.

Ampal, an Israeli partner in the East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) joint venture that operated the pipeline between the two countries, announced Sunday night that Egyptian suppliers notified EMG that they were terminating the gas supply. A spokesman for EMG could not be reached, and the company would not confirm that it had it had ended its contract.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz expressed “great worry” about reports of the Egyptian termination. His office said cancellation would set a “dangerous precedent that darkens the peace treaties and the atmosphere of peace between Israel and Egypt.”

An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it would be the “final bit that breaks the camel’s back” in the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Yeah, the “Arab Spring” the mainstream media and our liberals praise so very heartily is now on the verge of getting into full swing.

Read on.

by @ 11:24 am. Filed under Uncategorized

February 7, 2012

A Fairness Quiz? For Obama?

In today’s Wall Street Journal, from Stephen Moore, there is a “Fairness Quiz” for the president.

President Obama has frequently justified his policies—and judged their outcomes—in terms of equity, justice and fairness. That raises an obvious question: How does our existing system—and his own policy record—stack up according to those criteria?

Is it fair that the richest 1% of Americans pay nearly 40% of all federal income taxes, and the richest 10% pay two-thirds of the tax?

Is it fair that the richest 10% of Americans shoulder a higher share of their country’s income-tax burden than do the richest 10% in every other industrialized nation, including socialist Sweden?

Is it fair that American corporations pay the highest statutory corporate tax rate of all other industrialized nations but Japan, which cuts its rate on April 1?

Is it fair that President Obama sends his two daughters to elite private schools that are safer, better-run, and produce higher test scores than public schools in Washington, D.C.—but millions of other families across America are denied that free choice and forced to send their kids to rotten schools?

Is it fair that Americans who build a family business, hire workers, reinvest and save their money—paying a lifetime of federal, state and local taxes often climbing into the millions of dollars—must then pay an additional estate tax of 35% (and as much as 55% when the law changes next year) when they die, rather than passing that money onto their loved ones?

Read On…

What the %#@&*% are these liberals doing to this great country, and when will they decide they’ve done enough!?

by @ 10:45 am. Filed under The President, Uncategorized

January 30, 2012

SPOT ON, from Allen West

If only every state had someone like this man representing its right thinkers.

Bravo, and Bravo again!

by @ 8:19 am. Filed under American Patriotism, The Truth, Period!, Uncategorized

June 30, 2010

Independence Day

Sunday is July 4th, Independence Day.

As I’ll be travelling east on a small piece of business after the weekend and the interval in-between will be pretty well taken up by preparations (prepping my maritime home for my absence) for the trip, which will be of indeterminate length, and on Sunday, of course, a few old comrades and I will be celebrating the birthday of the Declaration of Independence with a get-together including the usual old war stories, steak, shots and brewskies.

So, to commemmorate the 4th with a dose of related political commentary thrown in, I’ve decided that Newt Gingrich’s 2010 tribute says everything that needs to be said.

This Sunday, July 4th, we will once again celebrate our nation’s founding, marking the day in 1776 that the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence was intended to be an official statement explaining why the 13 American colonies had declared their independence from Great Britain. In the years following its passage, however, this statement of principles about the rights of man grew to mean much more.

America became the only country in history founded, as Leo Strauss explained, “in explicit opposition to Machiavellian principles,” by which he meant crass, power politics. Instead, America was founded on a set of clearly expressed “self-evident” truths. Thomas Jefferson said the Declaration was “intended to be an expression of the American mind,” and indeed, no document since has so succinctly and so eloquently spelled out the spirit of America.

Our country has evolved out of the timeless truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence to develop a distinct character and set of values that distinguishes us from even other Western democracies.

This holiday, it is worth taking a look at how several key phrases from the Declaration of Independence have served as definitional statements about the aspirations of America, and how those words of our Founding Fathers’ have affected America in the 234 years since they were written.

To continue:

“…all men are created equal”

The Founding Fathers who authored the Declaration were the first people in the history of the world ever to express our natural equality as a principle of government in such an unqualified way. Though neither the Constitution that followed nor the Founders personally quite fulfilled the promise of those words, it has since been the project of our country to accomplish them.

America came though to recognize that we are not all literally equal—we are born with different capabilities and attributes, and to different stations in life—the words of the founders capture the truth that we must treat each other as equals. We are “created equal” in the sense that all men (and, we now recognize, all women) have the same natural rights, granted to them by God. We are all the same under the law.

…the same natural rights, granted to them by God.

“…endowed by their Creator”

The core contention of the Declaration of Independence and the principle of natural rights upon which America was founded is that there is a higher moral order upon which the laws of man must be based. The Declaration asserts the existence of “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” which had a clear meaning in 18th Century England and America. It referred to the will of God as displayed by the natural order of the world.

John Locke, who was widely read by the leaders of colonial America, wrote in his Second Treatise on Government: “Thus the law of nature stands as an eternal rule of all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men’s actions, must … be conformable to the law of nature, i.e., to the will of God.”

William Blackstone, who was arguably the single greatest influence on the creation of the American legal system, wrote in Commentaries on the Laws of England, “As man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should at all points conform to his maker’s will.”

“…the pursuit of happiness”

Here again we see the influence of the English and Scottish enlightenment on the Founding Fathers. For writers such as John Locke and Francis Hutcheson, the term “happiness” meant something close to “wisdom and virtue.” It did not mean hedonism or other shallow pleasures as the term is too often confused to mean today.

It is also essential to note that the Declaration does not say that we have a right to have happiness provided to us. It says we have the right to pursue happiness – an active verb. As I point out in jest to audiences in my speeches, the Declaration says nothing about a right to redistribution of happiness. It says nothing about happiness stamps. It does not say some people can be too happy and that government should make them less happy out of a sense of fairness.

The above emphasis is mine. Perhaps at least one or two “progressives” might be able, as John Hancock said upon signing his bold signature on the Declaration of Independence, of King George, to read those passages without having to put on their spectacles. Hopefully so that the words register!

A bedrock belief of American conservatism is a respect for the established traditions and values of American culture. Conservatives believe from the time the first colonists landed in Jamestown, America took on a unique culture and set of values that have set us apart from our European cousins: a belief in natural rights, strong religious faith and values, the importance of the work ethic, and a spirit of community that manifests itself in a belief in limited government and strong civic participation. It is this set of beliefs – truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence – that have made America so successful, and they deserve to be protected.

The modern Left – what I describe in my book To Save America as a “secular-socialist machine” – is using every lever of power at its disposal to dismantle our unique American civilization and replace it with a secular, bureaucratic culture in which government is big, citizens are small, and our rights are defined by the state rather than endowed by our Creator. Equality under the law is being discarded in favor of equality of results; consent of the governed is being subverted by an increasingly overbearing federal bureaucracy and imperial judiciary; and the pursuit of happiness is being undermined by a redistributive welfare state that kills the can-do, entrepreneurial spirit of America.

This July 4th, I hope you will take time to read the Declaration of Independence and consider the truths about our rights and freedoms contained within. I hope you will take time to appreciate the sacrifices made by the founding generation and generations since to secure our liberty.

But most of all, I hope you will take time to appreciate the greatness of America and how hard we must be willing to work to preserve that which makes it so special.

Happy Independence Day.

Your friend,
Newt

And from Hard Astarboard (Seth, Wolf and I) as well, Happy Independence Day.

by @ 12:56 pm. Filed under Uncategorized

June 29, 2010

Esssspionage

Spy vs Spy?

Nah, more like Counterspy vs Spy.

Federal authorities arrested 10 people suspected of carrying out long-term “deep-cover” assignments in the U.S. for Russia that involved integrating into American society as married couples, infiltrating “policy-making circles” in Washington, and recruiting government and business sources.

The arrests occurred after federal agents intercepted messages from intelligence officials in Moscow calling on the defendants to “search and develop” intelligence ties in the United States.

The suspects were taken into custody in New York, New Jersey and Virginia on Sunday as part of a multiyear investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

See that? I’d be willing to bet that there are a whole lot of “progressives” out there who would refer to the guys and gals who catch spies for a living as “cold war anacronisms”, paranoids looking for enemy spooks under rocks.

Well, like they say, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in New York said the deep-cover operation began in the 1990s, and terrorism scholars say the case shows that Cold War-style espionage schemes are not a thing of the past.

The complaint, written by FBI agent Amit Kachhia-Patel, said covert agents working for the SVR, successor to the Soviet-era KGB as the Kremlin’s intelligence organ, assumed false identities and lived in the United States on long-term, deep-cover assignments. It said they hid all connections between themselves and Russia, even while acting at the direction and under the control of the SVR.

Known as “illegals,” the complaint said the undercover Russian agents were told in a message: “You were sent to USA for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house, etc. — all these serve one goal: fulfill your main mission, i.e. to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in U.S. and send intels [intelligence reports] to [Center].”

Court documents show that at least one message sent back to Moscow from the defendants focused on turnover at the highest levels of the CIA and the 2008 U.S. presidential elections. Numerous messages intercepted by U.S. investigators were listed in the court documents, including what was described as a private conversation involving an unnamed former legislative counsel for Congress.

However, countries, including friendly ones, spy on each other all the time, not so much as a means for being prepared in case they go to war with one another where non-hostile or friendly relations are concerned, but to arm their diplomats with facts and figures, verbal “ammunition” to be utilized in the event that ones friend and ally is running a bluff in trade negotiations and other bargaining table venues.

This doesn’t mean that the spying itself doesn’t have to be complicated.

A shadowy money man for a Russian spy ring whose members were assigned a decade or more ago to infiltrate American society has been captured overseas, authorities said Tuesday. He was the last of 11 suspects named in a huge bust that threatens to tear recently mending relations between the U.S. and Russia.

The 11th suspect, using the name Christopher Metsos and purporting to be a Canadian citizen, was arrested at the Larnaca airport in Cyprus while trying to fly to Budapest, Hungary, police in the Mediterranean island nation said. He was later released on bail.

Metsos, 54, was among those named in complaints unsealed Monday in federal court in Manhattan. Authorities in Cyprus said he will remain there for one month until extradition proceedings begin.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Farbiarz on Monday called the allegations against the other 10 people, living in the Northeast, “the tip of the iceberg” of a conspiracy of Russia’s intelligence service, the SVR, to collect inside U.S. information.

Each of the 10 was charged with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the U.S. attorney general, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison upon conviction. Two criminal complaints outlining the charges were filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

Most of the suspects were accused of using fake names and claims of U.S. citizenship while really being Russian. It was unclear how and where they were recruited, but court papers say the operation goes back as far as the 1990s.

Russia’s foreign ministry acknowledged Tuesday that those arrested included Russian citizens but insisted they did nothing to hurt U.S. interests.

The ministry still angrily denounced the arrests as an unjustified throwback to the Cold War, and senior lawmakers said some in the U.S. government may be trying to undercut President Barack Obama’s warming relations with Moscow.

“These actions are unfounded and pursue unseemly goals,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement earlier Tuesday. “We don’t understand the reasons which prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to make a public statement in the spirit of Cold War-era spy stories.”

The timing of the arrests was notable, given the efforts by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev to reset U.S.-Russia relations. The two leaders met last week at the White House after Medvedev visited high-tech firms in California’s Silicon Valley, and both attended the G-8 and G-20 meetings over the weekend in Canada.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin mentioned the arrests during a meeting at his home with former President Bill Clinton, who was in Moscow to speak at a conference.

“I understand that back home police are putting people in prison,” Putin said. “That’s their job. I’m counting on the fact that the positive trend seen in the relationship will not be harmed by these events.”

Intelligence on Obama’s foreign policy, particularly toward Russia, appears to have been a top priority for the Russian agents, prosecutors said. Obama was asked Tuesday about the arrests as he spoke to reporters in Washington about the economy, but he declined to answer.

Dead drops, brush passes, invisible ink, burst transmissions and all that good stuff.

The 38-year-old son of one of the arrested couples, Vicky Pelaez and Juan Lazaro, said Tuesday outside their home in Yonkers that he didn’t believe the allegations.

“This looks like an Alfred Hitchcock movie with all this stuff from the 1960s. This is preposterous,” Waldomar Mariscal said. Of the charges, he said, “They’re all inflated little pieces in the mosaic of unbelievable things.”

The FBI said it had intercepted a message from SVR’s headquarters, Moscow Center, to two of the 10 defendants describing their main mission as “to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US.” Intercepted messages showed they were asked to learn about a wide range of topics, including nuclear weapons, U.S. arms control positions, Iran, White House rumors, CIA leadership turnover, the last presidential election, Congress and the political parties, prosecutors said.

The court papers allege some of the ring’s members lived as husband and wife; used invisible ink, coded radio transmissions and encrypted data; and employed Hollywood methods like swapping bags in passing at a train station.

The court papers also described a new high-tech spy-to-spy communications system used by the defendants: short-range wireless communications between laptop computers — a modern supplement for the old-style dead drop in a remote area, high-speed burst radio transmission or the hollowed-out nickels used by captured Soviet Col. Rudolf Abel in the 1950s to conceal and deliver microfilm.

Behind the scenes, they were known as “illegals” — short for illegal Russian agents — and were believed to have fake back stories known as “legends.”

In spring 2009, court documents say, conspirators Richard and Cynthia Murphy, who lived in New Jersey, were asked for information about Obama’s impending trip to Russia that summer, the U.S. negotiating position on the START arms reduction treaty, Afghanistan and the approach Washington would take in dealing with Iran’s suspect nuclear program. They also were asked to send background on U.S. officials traveling with Obama or involved in foreign policy, the documents say.

“Try to outline their views and most important Obama’s goals (sic) which he expects to achieve during summit in July and how does his team plan to do it (arguments, provisions, means of persuasion to ‘lure’ (Russia) into cooperation in US interests,” Moscow asked, according to the documents.

Moscow wanted reports that “should reflect approaches and ideas of” four unnamed sub-Cabinet U.S. foreign policy officials, they say.

One intercepted message said Cynthia Murphy “had several work-related personal meetings with” a man the court papers describe as a prominent New York-based financier active in politics.

In response, Moscow Center described the man as a very interesting target and urged the defendants to “try to build up little by little relations. … Maybe he can provide” Murphy “with remarks re US foreign policy, ‘roumors’ about White house internal ‘kitchen,’ invite her to venues (to major political party HQ in NYC, for instance. … In short, consider carefully all options in regard” to the financier.
The Murphys lived as husband and wife in suburban New Jersey, first Hoboken, then Montclair, with Richard Murphy carrying a fake birth certificate saying he was born in Philadelphia, authorities said.

The complaint says Metsos traveled to the United States to pay Richard Murphy and others using clandestine — and sometimes bizarre — methods.

Metsos was surreptitiously handed the money by a Russian official as the two swapped nearly identical orange bags while passing each other on a staircase at a commuter train station in New York, Metsos said.

After giving some of the money to one of the defendants, Metsos drove north and stopped his car near upstate Wurtsboro, N.Y. Using data from a global-positioning system that had been secretly installed in his car, agents went to the site and found a partially buried brown beer bottle. They dug down about five inches and discovered a package wrapped in duct tape, which they photographed and then reburied.

Two years later, video surveillance caught two unnamed secret agents digging up the package.

On Saturday, an undercover FBI agent in New York and another in Washington, both posing as Russian agents, met with two of the defendants, Anna Chapman at a New York restaurant and Mikhail Semenko on a Washington street corner blocks from the White House, prosecutors said. The FBI undercover agents gave each an espionage-related delivery to make. Court papers indicated Semenko made the delivery as instructed but apparently Chapman didn’t.

The question is, were these guys caught because the SVR is not as good as its predecessor, KGB, or have our counterintelligence skills gotten better?

by @ 3:47 pm. Filed under Uncategorized