Politics

Civil Liberties Advocates: Proposed AUMF Gives President “Blank Check” War Powers

On Monday, Senators Bob Corker and Tim Kaine led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing legislation which would replace the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) with a new authorization which critics fear would allow the U.S. President to launch wars around the world with little oversight. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Jeff Flake, Chris Coons, Todd Young, and Bill Nelson. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to debate, amend, and vote on the legislation beginning next week.

“There have been a number of efforts over the years to update these authorities, and while there is still work ahead, I am pleased that we have reached an agreement on a product for the committee to consider,” Corker stated.

The introduction of a new AUMF comes on the heels of strikes against Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government. Corker applauded Trump for his choice to launch strikes against Syria, but cautioned, “Going forward, it is imperative that the administration engage directly with Congress and clearly communicate its plan to the American people.”

According to the Unites States Constitution, the only way the Congress can declare war is through an AUMF or a declaration of war. Politicians are wary of directly voting to support sending more troops into danger or being on record supporting potentially disastrous military conflicts. Rather than voting on a new AUMF every time the U.S. decides to launch or join a conflict abroad (such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Syria), the last three administrations have used the AUMF from 2001 and 2002 to justify their interventions. The 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were passed to authorize the use of military force in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks and to target Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

“If we’re going to ask our troops to risk their lives in support of a mission, then we need to at least have the courage to show we are behind them,” Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, stated.

Corker and Kaine’s resolution is attempting to force a vote on a new AUMF which will explicitly outline the war powers delegated to the president. According to the legislation, the new AUMF would authorize the executive to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against al-Qaida, the Taliban, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and designated “associated forces.” The “associated forces” include the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the East African terrorist group al-Shabab, the Syria-based Nusra Front, the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb. In addition, the legislation would require Congress to review the AUMF every four years, and “does not provide authority for military action against any nation state.”

The legislation would grant the president the freedom to “immediately use force against a new associated force or in a new country” so long as the Congress is notified within 48 hours. Despite requiring the president to report to Congress within 48 hours of an attack (or if the president wants to designate a new organization as “associated forces” with known terror groups) it does not include any mechanism for enforcing the requirement.

The American Civil Liberties Union is among the critics of the legislation who fear that President Trump and future administrations are being granted authorization to launch wars wherever they choose, whenever they choose. The ACLU recently sent a letter to all senators strongly opposing this new AUMF, warning that the president “would get a blank check from Congress to go to war virtually anywhere on the planet.”

The ACLU wrote:

The Corker AUMF would cause colossal harm to the Constitution’s checks and balances, would jeopardize civil liberties and human rights at home and abroad, would lead to a breathtakingly broad expansion of war without meaningful oversight, and would represent a sharp break from adherence to international law, including the United Nations Charter.If enacted, a Corker AUMF could cause fundamental damage to the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights for a generation or longer.

While we share the frustration of many senators with expansive presidential claims of war authority based on the 2001 AUMF and the 2002 AUMF, the proposed Corker AUMF would cause far greater problems, and unless the courts would invalidate it as unconstitutional, it would be exceedingly difficult to curtail its damage.The ACLU, along with other human rights, civil liberties, and religious organizations will make stopping a Corker AUMF from becoming law an exceedingly high priority, given the likelihood of long-term global damage if enacted.

The ACLU noted that the Corker AUMF would give the Executive Branch of the U.S. government the power to declare war and grant all future presidents the authority to “engage in worldwide war, sending American troops to countries where we are not now at war and against groups that the President alone decides are enemies.”
The solution to these problems seems apparent: force the politicians to hold a vote authorizing each and every conflict the United States military is currently embroiled in. This would allow the American public to learn about the true depth of U.S. military expansion, as well as place them on the record either supporting or standing against war. Since that option is not on the table, another option would be to repeal the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs and force Congress to hold a new vote on the use of military force. However, the proposed AUMF appears to grant the president and Executive Branch the ultimate power to decide who is considered “associated forces” and to continue interventions throughout the entire world.

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House Hacking Suspects’ Father Transferred Data To Pakistani Government, Ex-Partner Claims

(DCNF) FAISALABAD, Pakistan — The father of Imran Awan — an IT aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz who investigators concluded made “unauthorized access” to House servers — transferred a USB drive to a Pakistani senator and former head of a Pakistani intelligence agency, the father’s ex-business partner, Rashid Minhas, alleged.

Minhas told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Imran Awan’s father, Haji Ashraf Awan, was giving data to Pakistani official Rehman Malik, and that Imran bragged he had the power to “change the U.S. president.”

Asked for how he knew this, he said that on one occasion in 2008 when a “USB [was] given to Rehman Malik by Imran’s father, my brother Abdul Razzaq was with his father.”

“After Imran’s father deliver (sic) USB to Rehman Malik, four Pakistani [government intelligence] agents were with his father 24-hour on duty to protect him,” he said. Minhas did not say what was on the USB.

TheDCNF traveled to Pakistan for this story and interviewed numerous residents who interacted with Imran, and they confirmed that he does travel that country with a contingent of armed Pakistani government officials and routinely brags about mysterious political power.

The House Office of Inspector General charged in Sept. 30, 2016 that data was being funneled off the House network by the Awans as recently as September 2016 — shortly before the presidential election.

Nearly Imran’s entire immediate family was on the House payroll working as IT aides to one-fifth of House Democrats, and he began working for the House in 2004.  The inspector general, Michael Ptasienski, testified this month that “system administrators hold the ‘keys to the kingdom’ meaning they can create accounts, grant access, view, download, update, or delete almost any electronic information within an office. Because of this high-level access, a rogue system administrator could inflict considerable damage.”

WATCH:

 

Minhas said “Imran Awan said to me directly these words: ‘See how I control White House on my fingertip…’ He say he can fire the prime minister or change the U.S. president,” Minhas said. “Why the claiming big stuff, I [didn’t] understand ’till now.”

“I was Imran father’s partner in Pakistan,” Minhas said, in two land deals in Pakistan so big that they are often referred to as “towns.” In 2009, both men were accused of fraud, and Haji was arrested but then released after Imran flew to Pakistan, “allegedly… exerting pressure on the local police through the ministry as well as the department concerned,” according to local news. Minhas and multiple alleged victims in Pakistan also told TheDCNF Imran exerted political influence in Pakistan to extricate his father from the case.

Minhas is now in U.S. federal prison for additional fraud, and TheDCNF could not confirm whether Minhas’ claims about the USBs are true. But Minhas said the DOJ or FBI never interviewed him about the Awans, an indicator the potential for espionage may not have been explored extensively. The probe involves money allegedly disappearing to Pakistan and Minhas was, prominently, their business partner there.

He is also one of many people with past relationships with the Awans who have said they believe they are aggressive opportunists who will do anything for money. And parts of Minhas’s story correlate with observations elsewhere. Haji’s wife, Samina Gilani — Imran’s stepmother — said in court documents that Imran used his IT skills to wiretap her as a means of exerting pressure on her.

Haji would frequently boast that Imran’s position gave him political leverage, numerous Pakistani residents told TheDCNF. “My son own White House in D.C.,” he would say, according to Minhas. “I am kingmaker.”

Sen. Malik is a former intelligence agent who served as director of the Federal Investigation Agency from 1993 to 1996. From 2004 to 2007, he was chief of security for former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. In 2013, he became an adviser to Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani, and served as Interior Minister until 2013, a capacity in which he interfaced with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He now serves in the Pakistani Senate.

Sen. Malik denied any relationship with the parties allegedly involved, saying “I am hearing their names for the first time. I am in public and people always do name-dropping.” Chris Gowen, an attorney for Imran, said Minhas’s contentions were “completely and totally false.”

House Sergeant-At-Arms Paul Irving banned the Awans from the congressional network on Feb. 2, 2017 after the IG report alleged that the Awans were making “unauthorized access” to House servers. They logged in using members of Congress’s personal usernames and logged into servers of members for whom they did not work, the IG report said. After some members fired them, they still kept accessing their data, an IG presentation charged.

The behavior mirrored a “classic method for insiders to exfiltrate data from an organization,” and “steps are being taken [by the Awans] to conceal their activity,” it said.

In the months before the election, the epicenter of the cyberbreach was the server of the House Democratic Caucus, a sister group of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Authorities said they believe Imran secretly moved all the data of more than a dozen House members’ offices onto the caucus server.

The server may have been “used for nefarious purposes and elevated the risk that individuals could be reading and/or removing information,” an IG presentation said. The Awans logged into it 27 times a day, far more than any other computer they administered.

Imran’s most forceful advocate and longtime employer is Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who led the DNC until she resigned following a hack that exposed committee emails. Wikileaks published those emails, and they show that DNC staff summoned Imran when they needed her password.

Democrats have blamed the DNC hack for former Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential race.

Soon after the IG report, the entire House Democratic Caucus server was physically stolen, three government officials said, in what authorities took as evidence tampering. Then-Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra has refused to discuss the incident except to say that he would cooperate with authorities.

The Awans began selling their assets during the same time period. In January 2017 they took out a loan intended for home improvement, falsely claimed a medical emergency in order to cash out their House retirement account, and wired $300,000 overseas, according to an FBI affidavit.

Imran was arrested at Dulles Airport in July 2017 trying to fly to Pakistan with a wiped cell phone and a resume that listed his address as Queens, New York, prosecutors said. Imran and his wife, Hina Alvi, were indicted in August on bank fraud charges, with prosecutors contending in court filings that shortly before moving the money, the couple had likely learned that authorities were closing in on them for their other activities.

Yet Imran and Hina have not been charged with unauthorized access to congressional data, despite an analysis of server logs by House investigators that determined that unauthorized access by Imran and Hina occurred. Three other suspects – Abid Awan, Jamal Awan and Rao Abbas – have faced no charges. Abid’s wife, Ukraniane-born Nataliia Sova, was also on the payroll but left before the Awan family was banned.

The separation between the legislative and executive branch has complicated the prosecution. Congressmen have refused to publicly address the IG’s findings, and Wasserman Schultz’s brother is a prosecutor in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which is handling the case.

Two months after the ban, Capitol Police found that Imran was in the building and left a laptop with username RepDWS in a phone booth along with a note that read “attorney client privilege,” according to a police report.

Wasserman Schultz hired a private lawyer to block prosecutors from looking at the computer. Imran’s attorney then said the laptop should not be looked at unless he withdraws his claim of attorney-client privilege. Their next court date is May 4.

The suspects worked for foreign affairs committee members such as Ted Lieu of California and for intelligence committee members Joaquin Castro of Texas, Andre Carson of Indiana, and Jackie Speier of California. All have ignored repeated requests for comment.

Imran appeared to still have a backdoor into the congressional network as late as August 2017 through the email account 123@mail.house.gov, according to civil court filings. Instead of Imran’s name, the email address was associated with the name Nathaniel Bennett, an intelligence specialist for Carson.

Minhas said “Last time I seen Mr. devil Awan in Pakistan 2010 about him and his father commit fraud with me and other landlords in Faisalabad.” Minhas and Haji Awan acquired a large tract of farmland from elderly farmers to turn into a housing development, but allegedly failed to pay them. When the farmers filed charges, Imran tried to have the elderly victims arrested by claiming they beat and “tortured” him, and used political influence to have police drop the charges against his father, according to a detailed 2009 article in Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

Minhas said that was Sen. Malik’s influence. “The way he used his resources through Congress to call U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and Pakistani officials, it was so bad,” Minhas said. “What the hell Rehman Malik was doing” being involved in a local case?

The alleged scam Minhas and Haji ran was not the only one for either. Minhas is now in federal prison in Minnesota for swindling money from American Muslims.

Awan Town in Lahore, Pakistan, where Imran Awan's wife Hina Alvi lived / Wajid Al Sayed

Awan Town in Lahore, Pakistan, where Imran Awan’s wife Hina Alvi lived / Wajid Al Sayed

According to court documents, Minhas stole $700,000 from American Muslims by using their faith against them. He set up travel agencies that sold cheap tickets to the Hajj, the obligatory trip to Mecca. But instead of providing the tickets, he sent buyers letters saying “Allah didn’t invite you. That’s why you guys didn’t go,” as one victim recounted in court papers. “So, he blamed the whole thing on God, not on his thing what he did to us.”

Prosecutors said “he used the travel agency down in Falls Church, Va., as a stalking horse to make it appear to his customers that he was doing what he was supposed to be doing, knowing all along that he wouldn’t get those visas.”

Minhas lived in Chicago at the time, while Imran ran a car dealership in Falls Church on top of his $165,000-a-year job in Congress. But no connection between Imran and the travel agency was apparent.

The Awans’ car dealership business partner Nasir Khattek said in sworn testimony that the automobile business — called Cars International A, or CIA — used false bookkeeping and took $100,000 from Ali Al-Attar, an Iraqi government official who is wanted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Minhas has been in prison since 2014. He said his brother, Abdul Razzaq, witnessed one handoff of a USB between the elder Awan and Malik in 2008. He said his brother has since died.

Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, then a House member, inexplicably paid the elder Awan $116 in late 2007 to be his “systems administrator,” according to payroll records, even though he did not have any computer training and said on insurance documents that he worked as a religious figure.

Imran told Laurel Everly, a tenant of one of his family’s numerous Virginia rental homes, that Imran sometimes performed his job administering congressional servers from Pakistan.

Several people, including Imran’s stepmother Gilani, said Imran used his job as a congressional IT administrator to exert pressure, particularly among foreigners and immigrants.

Minhas said the Awans also defrauded him. “My brothers brought all customers and investors. I stay in Pakistan March 2006 to August 2006 and sold about 79 percent town name Gulshan-e-Moin (sic), after sold that town end of 2006, we purchased another land and sold 40 percent land to Faisalabad Agriculture University staff.

“In 2007 Awan family showed me dirty blood in their body, and from 37 acres they only transfer 1000 square feet oh yes only 1000 square feet in my name, and I was third 34 percent partner.”

Even with Minhas out of the picture and the Awans in full control of the land business, multiple people said Imran and his family have continued to defraud them in Pakistan. The land was subdivided and a portion sold to the faculty of the Faisalabad Agriculture University to build a housing complex for professors.

Dr. Zafar Iqbal, a faculty member and the group’s president, told TheDCNF in an interview on his front porch that the group paid Haji for the land, but he never turned over the deed, and they have been fighting him and Imran for it for years.

In January 2017, Haji died and Imran traveled to Pakistan, where the association members cornered him, Dr. Iqbal said. Imran cautioned them that he “has got powerful political connections in Pakistan and in the U.S,” Dr. Iqbal said, adding that he had seen the government agents protecting him. Imran promised to either refund their money or get them the deeds.

But Imran “pulled another trick,” Dr. Iqbal said. “He’s such type of person.”

Wajid Ali Syed reported from Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Written by:Luke Rosiak and Wajid Ali Syed Follow Luke on Twitter. Send tips to luke@dailycallernewsfoundation.orgPGP key.

 

This article was republished with permission from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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Comey’s memos on President Donald Trump revealed

Former FBI Director James Comey’s 15-page memo reveals several alleged conversations between the former FBI director and the President from Comey’s perspective

(INTELLIHUB) — Former FBI Director James Comey revealed his version of a conversation he claims to have had with President Donald Trump in a 15-page memo drafted by the former FBI director back in January 2017.

In the memo which Comey emailed to Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, FBI General Council James Baker, and FBI Chief of Staff James Rybicki on 7 Jan. 2017, Comey claims he told President Trump during a conversation they had at the White House how the Russians allegedly had tapes of the president involved with prostitutes in a Ritz Carlton Presidential Suite back in 2013 and claims that the president admitted that ‘there were no prostitutes.’

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On page 2 of the memo, Comey wrote:

He said something about him needing to be the type of guy who didn’t need to “go there” and laughed (which I understood to be communicating that he didn’t need to pay for sex).

Additionally, Comey claims the President then tried to recount the time period to himself but didn’t add anything.

“He said that he always assumed that hotel rooms he stayed in when he travels are wired in some way,” Comey wrote. “I replied that I do as well.”

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You can read the full memo here.

Featured Image: DonkeyHotey/Flickr
©2018. INTELLIHUB.COM. All Rights Reserved.

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Disputed Report Claims Mattis Told Trump to Ask Congress Before Syria Strikes

Trump administration officials are reportedly saying that U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis attempted to convince President Donald Trump to seek congressional approval before carrying out strikes on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime following a chemical weapons attack that some administration officials allege were carried out by Assad’s forces.

According to unnamed “military and administration” sources cited by The New York Times, President Trump allegedly rejected Mattis’ advice regarding congressional approval, preferring instead to carry out a rapid show of force to punctuate his tough talk against the Assad regime. However, New York Times sources claim that Sec. Mattis, who warned that an escalation with Syrian-allied Russia could spark a wider war, successfully convinced Trump to limit the strikes to three, two-minute low-profile 105 missile midnight strikes on suspected chemical weapons production facilities, in an effort to save face while avoiding casualties to Russian troops embedded with Syrian forces.

The Hill notes that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Sec. Mattis denied the report.

“Reports that Secretary Mattis urged the president to seek congressional approval before last week’s strikes in Syria are categorically false. As Secretary Mattis explained to Congress in yesterday’s all-member briefs, the president appropriately ordered the strikes under his constitutional authorities,” Press Secretary Sanders claimed in a statement.

“I have no idea where that story came from. I found nothing in it that I could recall from my own last week’s activities,” Sec. Mattis said as he addressed reporters following a meeting with Qatar’s defense minister.

The New York Times report also claimed that newly-hired national security adviser John Bolton has weakened Mattis’ influence over President Trump.

“Until this month, Mr. Mattis had a buffer at the White House in the former national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who often deferred to the defense secretary, a retired four-star Marine general. The arrival of Mr. Trump’s new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, means that buffer is gone,” wrote New York Times reporter Helene Cooper.

She added, “Administration and congressional officials said the hawkish Mr. Bolton is not expected to defer to the defense secretary; already, neoconservative members of the Republican foreign policy establishment have started to air concerns that Mr. Mattis is ceding strategic territory to Iran and Russia in Syria.”

[Related: Russia Accuses UK of Masterminding Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria]

In a Monday congressional hearing over the strikes, Sec. Mattis defended Trump’s strikes after-the-fact by claiming a rationale for them that foreign policy analyst Benjamin Haas at the New York University School of Law publication Just Security said “loosely resembled self-defense.”

“We have forces in the field, as you know, in Syria, and the use of chemical weapons in Syria is not something that we should assume that, well, because he didn’t use them on us this time, he wouldn’t use them on us next time…Protection of our forces—I don’t think we have to wait until they’re under chemical attack when the weapons are used in the same theater we’re operating in,” Mattis said to members of Congress.

Just Security’s Haas claimed that Mattis’ rationale for a Constitutional basis for the strikes was “profoundly flawed” because the U.S. has no evidence that Assad is planning an imminent chemical weapons attack on U.S. troops located in the theater.

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Reality Check: Is Your Personal Data Safe Online?

The Facebook scandal involving personal data mishandled by Cambridge Analytica has raised concerns over the privacy of the information we share on our social media accounts.

Some countries have gone as far as to legislate Internet data privacy with laws granting the “right to be forgotten.”

Yet Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says we don’t need such regulations here in the states. Is he right?

This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

It’s an unsettling thought: your personal data, being manipulated on a global scale. Where you live, what kind of car you drive, how many children you have, what food you eat, how much you money you earn, what clothes you wear, how you exercise, the list goes on and on.

While other countries are tightening laws on Internet privacy and how corporations can use your data, such as the UK’s data protection law with its “right to be forgotten,” the United States seems to be stuck in the 1980s on the issue.

In California, privacy is a right in the state constitution. “Privacy” was added to the state’s “inalienable rights” by the legislature in 1972.

And though California has been a leader in privacy, the last meaningful update to the state’s privacy laws was in the 1980s, long before today’s technology.

For context, Census data shows that in 1989, 15 percent of American households owned a computer.

Today, according to Pew Research, 77 percent of Americans have a smartphone—a computer in their pocket or purse.

And in 2015, those smartphone owners used about 27 smartphone apps per month, according to Statista.

Just think about all of the information you give to the apps on your smartphone. Do you read their terms of use?

You know you don’t. And yet, a California-based group called the Californians for Consumer Privacy has raised concern about how our information is collected and sold.

From that group came the California Consumer Privacy Act. The act is intended to not only hold major corporations making $50 million per year or more responsible for their consumers’ data, but also giving Californians the right to know where and to whom their data is being disclosed or sold, and if their data is being properly protected.

There’s nothing in California today that allows users see what data has been collected on them. And data is being collected everywhere you go.

From the checkout at Target, to your Facebook account, browsing the Internet or even just walking on a city street—credit cards are being swiped, messages are being shared, and cameras are recording.

So are the rules of how businesses use your data fair and respectful of your privacy?

One of the key aspects of the California Consumer Privacy Act is a right of action against companies that store data but have not taken reasonable steps to secure that data. That means consumers can sue companies that didn’t protect their data.

What exactly “reasonable steps” means needs to be fleshed out in the courts, but there are plenty of examples of companies that didn’t take “reasonable steps” until after data was compromised.

From December 19, 2013, “Target says hackers breached its system and stole 40 million credit card numbers.”

From September 18, 2014, “Almost immediately after word broke that Home Depot had been hacked, security experts were noting that the breach was likely even worse than the massive Target that had preceded it.”

From October 2, 2014, “JP Morgan just revealing that an August data breach could affect 76 million households.”

From February 5, 2015, “One of America’s largest health insurers, Anthem, this morning confirmed a massive data breach. Reports say hackers may have stolen up to 80 million records. No credit card or medical information is in danger, but Social Security numbers, birthdays and addresses may have been compromised.”

What you need to know is that when we provide information to a corporation, we establish a relationship.

We believe the corporation will use our information for the purpose of their service. Once your information is outside of the intended use, it’s nearly impossible to control it.

And third party sharing of your data allows it is be used, shared and disseminated without any control on your part. Big data is powerful force in the United States. But should big data be allowed to do whatever it wants with your information. If not, how do we, as the public, get some control back?

Let’s talk about that, right now, on social media, while someone collects our data.

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