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.
In a stinging defeat for the Trump Administration, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has upheld an injunction on the Trump Administration’s immigration order. The Fourth Circuit is widely viewed as one of the most conservative circuits and has proven the most deferential to national security powers by the Executive Branch. Indeed, the government often openly forum shops in pushing national security cases through the Eastern District of Virginia and ultimately the Fourth Circuit. The 10-3 vote is an impressive victory for the challengers and now sets the case for the long-awaited petition to the Supreme Court. The court did not spare the rhetorical bite, observing that the order “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination.”
We previously discussed the alarming breach of an intelligence sharing agreement with the U.K. after U.S. officials released details given to them from British intelligence on the Manchester bombing, including the identity of the bomber. Now, British police have stopped sharing information with U.S. authorities after a series of leaks to American media. In the meantime, after Trump’s rational odd denial that he mentioned Israel in his giving highly classified intelligence to the Russians, Israel has acknowledged it was indeed their intelligence and they had to implement a “fix” and “clarify” their position with the U.S. on intelligence sharing after Trump’s disclosure. Update: Trump denounced the leaking of the information. Some have noted that the statement was rather belated and others have noted that it is equally ironic (given Trump’s personal disclosure of the highly classified Israeli intelligence to the Russians). Nevertheless, Trump is right to call for the FBI to investigate the leaking of the shared intelligence.
This week President Donald Trump again made headlines in denying that he ever mentioned Israel in his giving highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians. (The problem is that no one suggested that he had and the later statement appeared to reaffirm to the world that Israel was the source of the human intelligence from a spy inside ISIS. News accounts suggested that Israel might have been the source but no one suggested that Trump said it was Israel to the Russians). Now the Trump Administration is accused of leaking British intelligence to U.S. media in the aftermath of the massacre in Manchester. The British were reportedly irate and made a formal complaint over the violation of core protocols and protections for intelligence sharing. This is a very serious complaint and further undermines the core relationships that we rely on in the sharing of national security information. It should result in an immediate congressional investigation to determine what happened.
It appears that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has found relief from the pesky protesters of Western democracies. He gave an almost breathless account of how he didn’t spot nary one protester in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, just tranquil silence of the Saudis. It could be that the Trump Administration found a country unanimously and enthusiastically supportive of its policies. It could also be that protests are generally unlawful in the Kingdom. The Saudis however are famous for public demonstrations of a different kind from beheadings to the image above of festive hangings.
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.
Last weekend we featured two articles (HERE and HERE) describing a controversy involving the forced use of chemical herbicides on an organic farm that according to County officials was out of compliance in controlling noxious weeds that were threatening neighboring farms and crops.
The 2,000 acre organic farm in North Central Oregon is facing what could be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides to eradicate weed growth.
I attended the public hearing held at the Sherman County seat located in Moro, Oregon. Due to a very high volume of interest expressed by residents and those outside the community, the venue was changed from the County Courthouse to a gymnasium at the Sherman County High School. There was a great deal of uncertainty manifest in this hearing with strongly held opinions on many sides and one can say with near certainty that the publicity generated caused turmoil in this small community. In fact, the concern was so great, that a number of law enforcement officials were dispatched to the area to provide security to address a worry that things might get out of hand. But in the end the two sides reached an agreement that precludes the forced use of herbicides–and offered both a carrot and stick for both parties to strongly consider.