Headlines: February 11, 2020
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The Washington Post on Tuesday published a massive investigation into the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s nefarious dealings entitled, “The intelligence coup of the century.” In it reporters explain that a Swiss company named Crypto AG for years built encryption devices and sold them to governments around the world including Iran, India, Pakistan and Latin American nations. But it turns out that the CIA, in collaboration with a German Intelligence agency, had been working with Crypto AG to allow the devices to be hacked so that they could be spied on. The Washington Post explained that as part of its joint reporting project with a German media outlet, “The decades-long arrangement, among the most closely guarded secrets of the Cold War, is laid bare in a classified, comprehensive CIA history of the operation.” The report explains, “how the United States and its allies exploited other nations’ gullibility for years, taking their money and stealing their secrets.” Specifically, “From 1970 on, the CIA and its code-breaking sibling, the National Security Agency, controlled nearly every aspect of Crypto’s operations — presiding with their German partners over hiring decisions, designing its technology, sabotaging its algorithms and directing its sales targets…Then, the U.S. and West German spies sat back and listened.”
In other news, New Hampshire voters head to the polls on Tuesday for the second primary race of the year. Unlike the Iowa process, New Hampshire relies on a traditional election, which is likely to make results available quicker. Candidates have been crisscrossing the state hoping to make their case to voters including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren whose poll numbers have slipped in recent weeks. Warren has struggled to distinguish herself from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and touted her accomplishment of creating and leading the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who has been increasing from single digit to double digit poll numbers, has been contrasting herself from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying she won’t beat his campaign spending but can beat him in a debate. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, fresh from his declaration of victory in Iowa has high hopes and former Vice President Joe Biden has all but given up on New Hampshire, heading to South Carolina where he hopes the primary race coming up in that state will buoy his flagging candidacy.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump on Monday held a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, clearly aimed at attempting to make Democrats nervous. Among the things he touted to rile up his base was his impeachment acquittal at the Senate. He also brought up House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to which chants of “lock her up” emerged from the crowd. Trump also urged his supporters to try to sabotage the Democratic race in New Hampshire by voting in the party’s open primary and choosing “the weakest” candidate for him to take on in the November general election. Additionally, according to AP, “Advisers hoped that Secret Service moves in downtown Manchester to secure the area for the president’s arrival would also make it harder for Democratic candidates and their supporters to transverse the state’s largest city in the hours before the primary’s first votes are cast, according to Trump campaign officials not authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly.”
In other news, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is reportedly turning over information about Joe Biden to the Justice Department in the on-going campaign to sully Biden’s candidacy that provoked Democrats to impeach Trump. Attorney General William Barr announced the DOJ’s receptiveness to Giuliani’s information gathering despite the fact that the President’s personal lawyer is not acting in any official capacity except to serve as an election campaigner for his client. But Barr, whose own partisanship toward Trump has come under intense criticism, justified his move saying he, “has the obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant.” At a press conference Barr explained he had set up an intake process for receiving Giuliani’s information. GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who has also fiercely defended Trump, is apparently part of the project to cast doubt on Biden’s ethics. House Judiciary Committee chair Jerrold Nadler has demanded more information about the DOJ’s contacts with Giuliani.
Federal prosecutors on Monday asked a judge in the case against Trump’s confidante Roger Stone, to sentence Stone for 7-9 years. Stone was convicted on 7 felony charges of trying to obstruct Congress’ investigations into Trump. But after Trump denounced his friend’s possible sentencing as “horrible and very unfair,” and a “miscarriage of justice!” the DOJ backed off from its own initial recommendation of 7-9 years of prison. The move once more confirms that under Attorney General Barr, the Justice Department has turned into what is essentially a publicly-funded private law firm whose sole client is the President.
Also doing the President’s bidding on immigration, the DOJ this week filed lawsuits against jurisdictions using the term “sanctuary” including the state of New Jersey and a County in Washington state. Sanctuary cities and states have law enforcement who refuse cooperation with federal immigration enforcement citing issues of public safety and trust. In a speech to the National Sheriffs’ Association on Monday Barr announced the suits. The move comes a week after the Department of Homeland Security prevented New York’s residents from enrolling in a program like Global Entry that help speed up travel times. DHS’s reasoning was based on New York’s sanctuary status. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Senior Homeland Security officials made clear that, should more states adopt similar policies, they would face similar consequences.”
In financial news, a district court judge has approved a massive telecom merger between Sprint and T-Mobile, rejecting a lawsuit brought by Attorneys General of 13 states and the District of Columbia. The judge’s decision affirms an earlier ruling by the DOJ and the Federal Communications Commission to approve the mega-merger of the two companies who would have a whopping 100 million customers together. The New York Times explained that opposition to the merger was based on the fact that, “the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint would reduce competition in the telecommunications industry, lead to higher cellphone bills and place a financial burden on lower-income customers. Once the merger is complete, the great majority of the nation’s wireless users would become customers of three major providers.”
A new United Nations report has laid out in clear terms that massive global inequality is threatening democracies all over the world. The report cites known solutions to the problems such as strengthening safety nets, redistributing wealth, and protecting workers, but that governments have failed to make the necessary changes. In what is a damning indictment of capitalism, the UN report cites that even those in the top tiers of society will eventually lose out. In its assessment of the report, the Washington Post explained it this way: “In the end, the trouble with capitalism may be that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
And finally, one of the many democracies under threat is India where Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been accused of using nationalist Hindu-supremacist ideology to foment sectarian violence. Modi’s party the BJP, just suffered a major loss in legislative elections in the capital New Delhi. The results are a backlash against a new citizenship law proposed by Modi and his party that appears designed to disenfranchise non-Hindus.