Saturday, April 15, 2017

No Sanctuary From Trump

Trump's executive order threat to remove federal funding from sanctuary cities, made public last month by AG Jeff Sessions, is now going before a judge in California.  Both San Francisco and neighboring Santa Clara County, home of San Jose, are taking the order to court to get an injunction

A Trump administration lawyer told an apparently skeptical federal judge Friday that President Trump’s executive order against so-called sanctuary cities, such as San Francisco, doesn’t deprive them of federal funding — at least not yet — but merely encourages them to follow immigration laws.

“There’s been no action threatened or taken against the cities,” Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler said at a hearing in San Francisco on a lawsuit by San Francisco and Santa Clara County. He said Trump, in a Jan. 25 order that spoke of withholding federal funds from cities and counties that refused to cooperate with federal immigration agents, was just using a “bully pulpit” to advocate compliance.

But U.S. District Judge William Orrick III said Attorney General Jeff Sessions has publicly identified San Francisco as a sanctuary city, and Trump has also criticized the city’s immigration policy.

In the first legal test of Trump’s executive order, Orrick is considering San Francisco and Santa Clara County’s request for an injunction that would halt enforcement of the order against more than 300 cities and counties nationwide. After a 70-minute hearing in his San Francisco courtroom, Orrick said he would issue a ruling “as soon as I can.”

Readler had argued that the two counties lacked standing — the right to challenge the executive order — because they faced no prospect of immediate harm. But Orrick noted that San Francisco has received as much as $2 billion a year in federal funding, and Santa Clara County $1.7 billion.

That's a lot of damage at stake.  The question is whether or not local governments can sue at all.  The Trump regime of course says no, but it's pretty easy to conclude that the removal of billions of dollars in funds from a city or county would do lasting and immediate harm.

There's also the question of the order forcing local law enforcement into immigration enforcement activities.

But administration officials have also demanded that cities and counties hold immigrant detainees after their scheduled release dates when immigration officials want to take them into their custody for possible deportation.

San Francisco and Santa Clara County say any such prolonged confinement would be unconstitutional, a position shared by many other local governments that the administration has defined as sanctuary cities. Readler told Orrick the administration was issuing only requests, not orders, to keep immigrants in custody, and that local compliance was “voluntary.”

But Orrick said Sessions has classified local governments that fail to go along as sanctuary cities, meaning they are covered by Trump’s order.

At one point in the hearing, Orrick said he was inclined to conclude that the local governments faced the prospect of financial harm, a prerequisite for allowing them to continue challenging Trump’s order. To issue an injunction, he would also have to find a likelihood that the order exceeded the president’s legal authority.

So we'll see.  I expect an injunction will come at some point, if not in California than in New York, Washington State, Hawaii, or Minnesota.  Flordia and Texas stand to lose a lot of money from this too, so you can bet cities like San Antonia and Miami will be watching this very closely.  After all, the Trump regime doesnt have a very strong record so far in the courts.

Bordering On Ridiculous

Meanwhile, along the US-Mexico border, as the Trump regime grows its deportation force those who give aid to the undocumented on both sides of the border aren't chancing a border crossing and those who are already here are too scared to come out and take help any longer.

In the 35 years Gilda and Juan Francisco Loureiro have been running a shelter in northern Mexico for undocumented immigrants, they’ve never seen a week like this one.

The shelter, called Albergue San Juan Bosco, is perched on a steep hillside looking over the busy border town of Nogales, Mexico. Its walls are painted bright turquoise and tangerine, and its wide-open double doors look west over low hills and Highway 15. Since they opened it, upward of 1 million people have slept there on their way to the U.S. But on the day I visited, it was almost empty.

It didn’t used to be this way, Gilda and Juan Francisco, known as Paco, explained. In the decades since they opened the space to give migrants a place to shower and sleep before crossing the border, the shelter—with separate rooms full of bunkbeds for men and women—would regularly house 100 migrants per night. Sometimes, that number would hit 300 or more, and Gilda and Paco would pull out thin mattresses to fit everyone on the floor.

But today, those mattresses are neatly stacked in a closet, untouched. And the shelter is almost empty—no women travelers, and fewer than a dozen men. That’s despite the fact that April, with its mild weather, should be the busiest time of year for migrants. The place is all but dead. Gilda and Paco have never seen anything like it.

They can only think of one explanation: President Donald Trump.

Trump hasn’t yet made good on his bombastic campaign trail promises. The wall is still just a twinkle in his eye, and the deportation force hiring sprees haven’t happened yet. ICE agents have conducted raids targeting undocumented immigrants, but they aren’t actually that different in scale from raids that happened during the early years of the Obama administration.

But the symbolism of Trump in the Oval Office and the threat of extended detention has already deterred many migrants. Migrants are scared, explained Jose, a young Honduran man staying at the San Bosco shelter in hopes of getting to the U.S. They might be less scared in the future, he said, but for now they’re waiting.

The Trump administration seems to have figured this out.
In a speech on the Arizona side of the border the day before, Attorney General Jeff Sessions noted that the number of people caught illegally crossing the border had dropped by 72 percent from December 2016 to March 2017.

“This is no accident,” Sessions told an audience of reporters and Customs and Border Protections officials.

The Trump regime's climate of constant fear is working to depress new immigrants, but it's also working to depress US tourism from across the globe, even our neighbors are looking elsewhere for vacations and visits.

Demand for flights to the United States has fallen in nearly every country since January, ­according to Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes more than 10 billion daily airfare price quotes to derive its data. Searches for U.S. flights from China and Iraq have dropped 40 percent since Trump’s inauguration, while demand in Ireland and New Zealand is down about 35 percent. (One exception: Russia, where searches for flights to the United States have surged 60 percent since January.)

The result could be an estimated 4.3 million fewer people coming to the United States this year, resulting in $7.4 billion in lost revenue, according to Tourism Economics, a Philadelphia-based analytics firm. Next year, the fallout is expected to be even larger, with 6.3 million fewer tourists and $10.8 billion in losses. Miami is expected to be hit hardest, followed by San Francisco and New York, the firm said.       

The administration’s travel ban deals a blow to an industry that has only recently recovered from a $600 billion loss following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“In the aftermath of 9/11, at first people didn’t feel safe coming here, and then they didn’t feel welcome,” said Jonathan Grella, an executive vice president at the U.S. Travel Association. “Our industry still refers to that as ‘the lost decade.’ There is a very real risk that that could happen again.”

Fear is the only tool Trump knows how to use, and it's going to cost our economy thousands of jobs, millions of tourists and billions of dollars.  But you elected him toe "Make America Great Again" folks. 

And now we all pay the price for your ignorance.

Going After The Spies

It seems that our good friends in Russia are bound and determined to destroy America's counterintelligence capability so that they can continue to pull the strings unopposed, as second-order Snowden fallout has arguably reached its highest level yet.  Nick Weaver at Lawfare Blog:

The Shadow Brokers are back. Back in August, the group released a large number of stolen tools purportedly hacked from “the Equation Group,” which is near-unanimously believed to be the NSA. In addition to the released files, Shadow Brokers announced an “auction” for the sale of an addition batch of NSA tools. At the time, it seemed the auction was more publicity stunt than money-making endeavor and that suspicion was confirmed last week, when they released the password for the auction tools for free.

The “auction” file materials were underwhelming, but today those wiley and sarcastic (and probably Russian) hackers dumped the really amazing stuff: operational notes from the NSA’s active targeting of banks in the Middle East and the NSA’s collection of Microsoft Windows exploitation tools. This may well be the most damaging dump against the NSA to date, and it is without question the most damaging post-Snowden release.

The operational notes on the NSA’s program extracting SWIFT data from Middle Eastern banks appear to date from September 2013, so this represents post-Snowden stolen data. The material is almost certainly legitimate—a spot check of data shows a large amount of consistency. This details exact targets, such as particular systems in to leverage access into the SWIFT systems of client banks, and sql queries designed to extract, in bulk, transactions of interest. Any access NSA maintained is now as good as eliminated, since this provides a detailed roadmap to how the NSA accessed this critical information.

So yes, the NSA's tools to get into Windows machines have now been blown wide open and given to a planet full of hackers to be used against everyone else.  Fun!  Weaver does ask the right question though.

The real mystery here is why the Shadow Brokers released this data. Ordinarily, a hostile intelligence service wouldn’t tip their hand by showing that they had obtained this information but there are some clear strategic benefits to that kind of signalling. Releasing the vulnerabilities themselves goes a step further. It ensures not only that the NSA is unable to use the Windows 0-days against targets, but that you aren’t either. It is a matter of short time before these tools are patched, and thus unavailable to anyone. These are tremendously valuable tools to just burn that way, so it does make one wonder (and worry): what exactly is the intended payoff here? 

The obvious answer is that both Putin and Trump have a massive enemy in the American intel community.  Crippling the NSA's cyber operations like this only helps the Russians, since the NSA are, or were, the top dogs at using cyber exploits like this.  Leveling the playing field through scorched earth only helps everyone who's not the NSA, and it has the added benefit of letting them know what the consequences are of leaking say, plans for North Korea or more info on Trump's Russian connections.

There's no mystery here, this is payback, plain and simple.  My guess is that it's payback for this story.

As Syrian president Bashar al-Assad called videos of last week’s chemical attack a “fabrication,” a piece of propaganda promoted by a Russian cyber operation and bearing the hashtag #SyriaHoax has gained traction in the United States, analysts tell ABC News.

Following the chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians on Tuesday, Al-Masdar News, a pro-Assad website based in Beirut, published claims that "something is not adding up in [the] Idlib chemical weapons attack." Its author cited "holes" in the accounts provided by the "Al-Qaeda affiliated" White Helmets leading to the conclusion that "this is another false chemical attack allegation made against the government."

That hoax story was promoted by a network of Russian social media accounts and ultimately picked up by popular alt-right personalities in the United States, including Mike Cernovich, one of the leading voices in the debunked 'Pizzagate' conspiracy theory. Cernovich popularized its new hashtag -- #SyriaHoax -- and sent it soaring through cyberspace. According to Trends24, within hours of the retaliatory missile strike President Donald Trump launched on Thursday night, #SyriaHoax was the No. 1 trending Twitter topic in the United States.

J.M. Berger of The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague, who studies propaganda and social media analytical techniques, said #SyriaHoax is "a clear example of a Russian influence campaign" designed to undermine the credibility of the U.S. government.
"The point of an influence campaign is to get people involved who wouldn't otherwise be involved," Berger said. "A lot of people in the alt-right would not necessarily characterize themselves as being pro-Russian, but they're receiving influence from this campaign."

Hours after the #SyriaHoax story was pinned on Russia, we got the Shadow Broker NSA tools leak.  You do the math.

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