With the steady stream of controversies swirling around the White House, there has been little attention given a highly disturbing report that the Obama Administration engaged in previously undisclosed and violations of the Fourth Amendment. Just a few days from the 2016 election, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) reportedly raised a highly unusual alarm over the creation of “a very serious Fourth Amendment issue” by possibly unconstitutional surveillance conducted under President Barack Obama. If true, this should be given equal attention to the other stories crowding our front pages and cable coverage. The Obama Administration has a well-documented history of abuse of surveillance and stands as one of the most antagonistic administrations toward privacy in our history. Indeed, if true, many of the former Obama officials currently testifying against the Trump Administration were responsible for a far broader scope of abusive surveillance programs.
If Sami Adel Ammar, 22, is a criminal hacker, you have to hand it to him: he was modest. Ammar is a student at the University of Central Florida and is accused of going into the computer system to change his “F” grade to a “B.” While the B is a modest grade, the F was a stand out and the professor noticed when it went missing on his grade roster.
We have previously discussed the worrisome affinity that President Donald Trump has appeared to show toward authoritarian figures like Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now the Department of Foreign Affairs has reportedly released a transcript of the call between Trump and its blood-soaked president Rodrigo Duterte. The transcript shows Trump heaping praise on Duterte specifically for his crackdown on drugs — the very program that has made him an international pariah over its extrajudicial murders of suspects. Thousands have been reported murdered under Duterte’s reign of terror for criminal suspects. The White House has not denied the accuracy of the transcript. Duterte is now threatening to remove any semblance of a democratic system and declare martial law over the entire island.
There has been a chorus of commentators saying that the invocation of the Fifth Amendment by former national security advisor Michael Flynn leaves only immunity as the unlikely option for Congress. This was stated repeatedly on CNN last night. (I was supposed to go on Anderson Cooper and I was going to correct that view but the terrible massacre in England obviously took priority in coverage). The fact is that there is an obvious option: move to hold Flynn in contempt. The case law is not a clear cut as commentators have suggested on the “act of production doctrine.” Moreover, Congress has an institutional interest in pushing back on such invocations if it does not view the production as testimonial.
This morning’s news is again filled with a new and troubling disclosure out of the Trump White House. Various news organizations are reporting that President Donald Trump spoke to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers about the Russian investigation and asked them to publicly deny evidence of cooperation between his campaign and Russia. I was on Morning Joe today and once again cautioned about declaring a prima facie case of obstruction (as many have done on CNN and other networks) in the absence of facts satisfying the elements for that crime. While it is obviously something of a buzz kill, there still is not sufficient evidence (even if these accounts are true) to support an indictment.
For those of us who have long wondered where ISIS and other terrorist groups find people willing to commit atrocities of unspeakable brutality, one answer appears to be white supremacists willing to trade one extremist lifestyle for another. That is what Devon Arthurs, 18, is accused of doing when he gave up a life as a neo-Nazi and became a radical Muslim. He then proceeded to kill two of his roommates, 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk, for blasphemy after they mocked Islam.
In Kentucky, Leah Ann Vick, 26, probably does not want her case to go to a jury. She is accused of stealing $26,000 . . . . from the Girl Scouts. Notably, the theft was in cookies and the Girl Scouts are not sure if she kept the cookies or sold them on the side. Either way, the aggravating element of alleging stealing from the venerable charity is enough to guarantee more time on sentencing.