Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Last Call For Free Of Charge

FBI Director James Comey gave Republicans and Bernie Sanders supporters the bad news today that the agency is not formally recommending charges against Hillary Clinton over her email server. Ian Millhiser explains why charges aren't forthcoming:

Clinton, like her two most recent predecessors Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, maintained at least two email accounts: one specifically set up to receive classified information and the other for other communications. Clinton’s non-classified email was hosted on a private server (as opposed to Powell’s non-classified email address, which was an AOL account), while the classified email could only be accessed if Clinton complied with a byzantine array of security rules. 
Clinton says that the emails she received at her non-classified address “were not marked classified,” although she acknowledges that “there are disagreements among agencies on what should have been perhaps classified retroactively.” Government officials also confirm that “none of the emails the State Department redacted, or any other emails made public, contained classification markings at the time they were sent.” Although the FBI determined that 110 emails did contain classified information. 
This matters because of a legal concept called mens rea. As a general rule, most crimes require prosecutors to prove that an individual acted with a particular state of mind before they can be convicted of a specific crime. Most federal laws dealing with classified information require someone to “knowingly” violate that law in order to sustain a conviction. Thus, Clinton cannot be charged with transmitting or receiving classified information based on that fact alone. She had to have acted with knowledge that specific information was classified when it was transmitted. There is little, if any, evidence that Clinton possessed this state of mind.

Stupid? Sure. Criminal? Nope. And nearly impossible to prove.

But apparently people are worried that this might be worse than the raging orange anti-semite racist Islamophobe the other team is running.

It’s hard to read Comey’s statement as anything other than a wholesale rebuke of the story Clinton and her campaign team have been telling ever since the existence of her private email server came to light in spring 2015. She did send and receive classified emails. The setup did leave her — and the classified information on the server — subject to a possible foreign hack. She and her team did delete emails as personal that contained professional information. 
Those are facts, facts delivered by the Justice Department of a Democratic administration. And those facts run absolutely counter to the narrative put forth by the Clinton operation: that this whole thing was a Republican witch-hunt pushed by a bored and adversarial media. 
Now for the key question: How much do the FBI findings hurt her campaign? 
Clinton did avoid indictment, a ruling that would have effectively ended her campaign or left it so badly weakened that there would have been a major move within Democratic circles to replace her as the nominee. 
That said, campaigns aren’t governed by the ultimate legality of what Clinton did or didn’t do. So, while dodging an indictment is a good thing — she isn’t under criminal investigation and remains a candidate — it’s a far different thing from being cleared (or even close to it) in the court of public opinion.

Umm, Hillary Clinton has been triend in the court of public opinion since Whitewater, guys. The notion that large swaths of voters are going to be affected by this narrative is next to zero (unlike an actual indictment.)

So no, barring Loretta Lynch indicting, it's not going to happen, kids.

Russian To Judgment

WaPo's Josh Rogin argues that while President Obama may have painfully learned his lesson about trying to negotiate with Republicans who only want to see him obliterated from history, he still hasn't gotten around to figuring out that Vladimir Putin is just as untrustworthy and far, far more dangerous.

The United States cannot afford to write off the U.S.-Russia relationship. There is truth to the argument that the world’s most pressing problems, including Islamic extremism, cannot be solved without some Russian involvement. But Washington cannot ignore Russia’s increasingly horrendous behavior. Russia’s dangerous military maneuvers near U.S. ships are now regular occurrences. Russian harassment and intimidation of U.S. diplomats across Europe is at an all-time high. Russian government cyberespionage and propaganda campaigns have run amok. 
“The fact is, they are engaged in a new global Cold War against the U.S.,” said Samuel Charap, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “There’s absolutely no question about that. We have this festering wound on the relationship that nobody on the U.S. side is spending much time trying to fix.” 
The United States has complicated relationships with lots of problematic countries. China, for example, is internally repressive and externally aggressive, but there’s no thought of cutting off relations with Beijing. Similarly, the policy of isolating Russia as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine has limits. Russia was determined not to cave to sanctions, and if the recent vote in the French senate is any indication, the sanctions regime will not last forever. 
“Putin is a very smart, sophisticated political animal,” said [former Ukranian PM Arseniy] Yatsenyuk. “He can wait and wait for a quite long and extensive period of time. He knows how the Western powers act.” 
The United States must establish a new relationship with Russia that is intellectually honest about Moscow’s actions and intentions while preserving whatever cooperation is possible. That may mean finding an endgame to the Ukraine sanctions before they crumble under their own weight. But it also means pushing back more against Russian provocations and raising the cost for Putin when he acts out on other fronts.

And again, that's a great idea on paper, but "raising the cost" for Putin is kind of hard to do when you need him more than he needs you.  He's perfectly fine walking away from coopoeration in Syria, continuing to hit Ukraine, and conducting a cyberspace Cold War, and frankly there's not a hell of a lot we can do to stop him without friends to back us up.

Ol' Vlad has already made most of our friends offers that they can't refuse either.  He's a smart guy and as smart as Obama is, he's outmanuvered Obama in the President's second term time and time again.

Hopefully Clinton can do a bit better, but I doubt it.  I do know that Trump will do Putin's heavy lifting for him, and Sanders would be too busy muttering about class warfare to realize Putin was taking him to the cleaners on a daily basis.

It's not looking good to "reset" the Russian relationship anytime soon, guys. He's holding most of the cards and more importantly he's willing to play them without constraint.

The Right To Connect

The United Nations has passed a resolution calling for the world's nations not to restrict internet access to citizens and affirming access as a basic human right in 2016, something that's really, really not going over well with the more repressive regimes on the planet.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has passed a non-binding resolution condemning countries that intentionally disrupt citizens' internet access. The resolution builds on the UN's previous statements on digital rights, reaffirming the organization's stance that "the same rights people have offline must also be protected online," in particular the freedom of expression covered under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The resolution was passed by consensus last Friday, but was opposed by a minority of authoritarian regimes including Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia, as well as democracies like South Africa and India. These nations called for the UN to delete a passage in the resolution that "condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to our dissemination of information online." 
Resolutions like this are not legally enforceable, but put pressure on governments and give credence to the actions of digital rights advocates around the world. The UN's decision to target internet shutdowns is particularly relevant, as governments have started freely using this method as a means of controlling citizens in what appear to be even minor matters. 
Just in the last month social media sites have been throttled in Turkey after a terrorist attacks on Istanbul's airport; mobile internet has been shut down in Bahrain and India following local protests; and social media has been blocked in Algeria simply to stop students cheating on school tests. According to digital rights group Access Now, there were at least 15 internet shutdowns in 2015 around the world, and at least 20 just in 2016 so far.

Frankly, when you count the populations of China, India, Russia and the other countries that opposed the resolution, that's not a "minority" at all, it represents the governments of more than half the world's population.  That stuff matters, guys.  Many of us here in the states take access to the internet for granted.

Internet blackouts like this are only getting worse in the post-Arab Spring world and I'm betting they will continue for some time.  Internet is always the first casualty of a crackdown, it seems.


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