Sunday, September 26, 2021

Last Call For The Good Package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., may not bring the bipartisan infrastructure bill to the House floor Monday as she had previously committed to, she said Sunday.

"I'm never bringing to the floor a bill that doesn't have the votes," Pelosi told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos, adding it could be Monday.

"You cannot choose the date," Pelosi said. "You have to go when you have the votes in a reasonable time, and we will."

Pelosi had previously agreed to put the bipartisan infrastructure bill on the floor to be considered by Sept. 27, after moderates in her caucus demanded a vote.

Still, she said of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, "Let me just say, we're going to pass the bill this week."

House progressives have warned leadership they will not vote on the bipartisan bill until the larger $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill is also ready for a vote. Pelosi acknowledged, "In order to move forward, we have to build consensus."

Pelosi said the price tag for that larger bill could drop in negotiations with concessions.

"I know the budget committee passed a resolution calling for $3.5 trillion, but it sounds like you acknowledge that the final number is going to be somewhat smaller than that," Stephanopoulos pressed.

"Yeah, I mean, that seems self-evident," Pelosi responded.
Now, she still plans to have the votes for something later this week.
There is actual hope as she's mostly there.

Two of the nine House centrists who demanded Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) bring the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to the floor by Monday are now publicly promising to vote for the separate $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: By explicitly announcing their support for a big package targeting climate change and expanding the social safety net, Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Filemon Vela (D-Texas) are trying to convince progressives to vote for the infrastructure bill this week. 
Nonetheless, the two lawmakers also make it clear the House needs to vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill as soon as possible. 
“We support swift passage of the president’s $3.5 trillion reconciliation package,” they write in a joint statement obtained by Axios. “The bipartisan infrastructure framework would, on average, deliver $1.2 billion per congressional district.” 
“However, the idea that denying passage of the Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure bill [BIF] somehow exercises 'leverage' over some of our more fiscally conservative members is wholly misguided."

Between the lines: It’s unclear how many of the nine centrists who forced Pelosi to schedule the vote by Sept. 27 are actually on board for a big spending bill.
So we're still at the tender mercies of President Manchin and Vice-President Sinema now.  This all reminds me of Obama's stimulus package, which was pared down mightily thanks to Presidents Collins, Snowe, and Lieberman.
But what form will the final bill take?
Nobody knows right now.

Operation Plug The Leak

I absolutely hate to say this, but for once, Double G was actually correct. Why yes, the Trump regime did want the CIA to kidnap WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from London's Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been hiding for years, and some of then CIA Director Mike Pompeo's ghouls wanted to outright assassinate him.

In 2017, as Julian Assange began his fifth year holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London, the CIA plotted to kidnap the WikiLeaks founder, spurring heated debate among Trump administration officials over the legality and practicality of such an operation.

Some senior officials inside the CIA and the Trump administration even discussed killing Assange, going so far as to request “sketches” or “options” for how to assassinate him. Discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration, said a former senior counterintelligence official. “There seemed to be no boundaries.”

The conversations were part of an unprecedented CIA campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its founder. The agency’s multipronged plans also included extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among the group’s members, and stealing their electronic devices.

While Assange had been on the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies for years, these plans for an all-out war against him were sparked by WikiLeaks’ ongoing publication of extraordinarily sensitive CIA hacking tools, known collectively as “Vault 7,” which the agency ultimately concluded represented “the largest data loss in CIA history.”

President Trump’s newly installed CIA director, Mike Pompeo, was seeking revenge on WikiLeaks and Assange, who had sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape allegations he denied. Pompeo and other top agency leaders “were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7,” said a former Trump national security official. “They were seeing blood.”

The CIA’s fury at WikiLeaks led Pompeo to publicly describe the group in 2017 as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” More than just a provocative talking point, the designation opened the door for agency operatives to take far more aggressive actions, treating the organization as it does adversary spy services, former intelligence officials told Yahoo News. Within months, U.S. spies were monitoring the communications and movements of numerous WikiLeaks personnel, including audio and visual surveillance of Assange himself, according to former officials.

This Yahoo News investigation, based on conversations with more than 30 former U.S. officials — eight of whom described details of the CIA’s proposals to abduct Assange — reveals for the first time one of the most contentious intelligence debates of the Trump presidency and exposes new details about the U.S. government’s war on WikiLeaks. It was a campaign spearheaded by Pompeo that bent important legal strictures, potentially jeopardized the Justice Department’s work toward prosecuting Assange, and risked a damaging episode in the United Kingdom, the United States’ closest ally.

The CIA declined to comment. Pompeo did not respond to requests for comment.
I think Mike Pompeo needs to testify to Congress about this, and then enjoy a nice vacation in his own small room for eight or nine years. 

I have my problems with Assange, he's definitely a Russian disinformation asset, willing or otherwise, and he should be rounded up and allowed to alk his heart out about his Fancy Bear friends in the GRU, but sending the CIA to assassinate him is something entirely else.

I'm way more interested in seeing Pompeo answer for that. As Marcy Wheeler notes, there's historical context here, and it's long and complex.

As to the discussions of kidnapping Assange, both the UK and NSC nixed those ideas, though White House Counsel lawyer John Eisenberg (who is presented as the hero of the Yahoo story, and who was a national security lawyer at DOJ during the Bush Administration when such things did get approved) worried that CIA would do it without alerting him and others, and so pressed DOJ to indict Assange if they were going to.

There's a lot here to absorb, and a lot here to probe. Add it to the list, I guess.

Sunday Long Read: Neighborhood Watch(ing You)

During the Trump years, Amazon partnered with police and fire departments across the country to distribute Ring doorbell camera systems to hundred of thousands of home, especially to help the elderly and single women protect themselves.  Now critics say Amazon and police departments have a suburban surveillance network millions strong, with no oversight, and rife with civil liberties abuses.

A few hours before dawn in early May of last year, four police officers were dispatched to an address that they had come to know: the home of Gemma Smith in Cape Coral, Fla. (Her name has been changed because of the sensitivity of the crimes described.)

There, they arrested the man who had broken into and entered the home: Smith’s ex-boyfriend of almost 15 years, the father of her young daughter and, for most of their relationship, the perpetrator of her physical and emotional abuse. It was the second time in six months that officers in the city of almost 200,000 people on Florida’s southwest coast had responded to a call that Smith’s ex-boyfriend had violated an order of protection.

Her ex claimed to have entered through a window. But thanks to a new tool in their arsenal, the police could show otherwise. As part of a program to combat domestic violence, Smith had been loaned an Amazon Ring doorbell camera. The video showed the suspect letting himself into her home with a key that, until then, she didn’t know he had.

The deputies on the scene confiscated the key, and Smith sent them the Ring camera footage, which they used to press charges for burglary and violation of the injunction.

When Ring launched eight years ago with a crowdfunding campaign, the market for home surveillance cameras and video doorbells barely existed. Now Ring has it cornered: In 2020, the company sold an estimated 1.4 million devices globally—as much as the next four competitors combined, according to a report by the business intelligence company Strategy Analytics. Many consumers are drawn in by Ring’s central marketing pitch: that the cameras can reduce crime by making it easy to keep an eye on people’s front porches, driveways, and—often—passersby. The company’s acquisition by Amazon in 2018 has further expanded Ring’s reach, as have its close partnerships with law enforcement agencies.

As a result of these partnerships, police forces around the country are awash in Ring cameras. Ring gave free devices to individual officers as well as entire departments from 2016 to January 2020, often in exchange for promoting the cameras and their accompanying social network and app, Neighbors by Ring. Until June 2021, the company also provided a special Neighbors portal that let law enforcement request access to footage from Ring owners, even if they had not posted it publicly.

Today, more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. use the Neighbors app, along with more than 360 fire departments. Ring’s partnerships with many police forces give the participating departments a “much wider system of surveillance than police legally could build themselves,” as Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the chair of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, wrote in a June 2020 letter to Amazon.

Despite the company’s focus on police partnerships, it’s unclear how much the cameras actually help in deterring or solving crimes. After its first pilot project in an upscale neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2015, Ring said the presence of its cameras had reduced burglaries in the neighborhood by 55 percent from the previous year, but the figure could not be replicated by independent analysis.

Meanwhile, civil liberties groups have raised concerns about how Ring’s cameras and app may lead to racial profiling, excessive surveillance by police, and a loss of privacy—not just for the consumers who purchased the cameras and opted in to Ring’s privacy policies, but also for every passerby caught on a camera.

As these doorbell cameras have become more widespread, law enforcement agencies have experimented with using them in more targeted ways, including to address one of the most intimate and complicated of crimes: domestic violence.

That was how there came to be a Ring video doorbell mounted next to Gemma Smith’s front door. A program started in Cape Coral in 2019, designed in close collaboration with Ring, offered video doorbells free to domestic violence survivors “as an additional resource for them to feel safe in their residence and potentially assist in the prosecution of their offenders,” according to Cape Coral Police Department documents obtained through a public records request. Ring helped start similar programs elsewhere. Shortly after Cape Coral’s pilot began, two initiatives were launched in Texas, with the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) and the Sheriff’s Office for Bexar County, which surrounds the city.

There is a logic to these programs. After all, who would be more concerned about a potentially dangerous visitor at their door than someone who had just left an abusive partner?

But some domestic violence experts are concerned that these initiatives inject a combination of potentially dangerous factors into the lives of those they are supposed to protect: law enforcement that doesn’t always listen to survivors; a technology company with a patchy record on privacy and transparency; and programs launched without much department oversight—or input from experts on domestic violence.

Technologies such as Ring cameras “make the process of intervening in domestic violence more convenient, maybe more efficient,” says Laura Brignone, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the intersection of technology and violence against women. “But they don’t necessarily make it better.”


My problem with Amazon Ring is the same with Amazon Echo: you're giving surveillance data to one of the most powerful and corrupt corporations on earth in exchange for a bit of comfort. I guarantee you Amazon -- and your police department -- are using this data in ways you don't consent to, and they've been doing it for years. Your local cops have a nice little local surveillance network set up watching the front doors of millions of homes, and you're paying them for the privilege.

Don't buy or use these devices, don't give them as gifts, don't don't don't. Even if you agree to it, your neighbors certainly don't, and it's not fair to them.

It's not just about you and your family, and it never was.

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