US discussion – Thursday

If there’s news or issues from the USA worth discussing today you can do it here.

Tough guidelines on deporting illegal US immigrants

Donald Trump is following through on his promise to get even tougher than Barack Obama on deporting illegal immigrants.

BBC: US unveils sweeping orders to deport illegal immigrants

The Trump administration has issued tough guidelines to widen the net for deporting illegal immigrants from the US, and speed up their removal.

Undocumented immigrants arrested for traffic violations or shop-lifting will be targeted along with those convicted of more serious crimes.

All 11 million or so undocumented foreigners in the US could be affected.

But the plan leaves in place Obama-era protections for immigrants who entered the US illegally as children.

Fox News: DHS secretary orders immigration agent hiring surge, end to ‘catch-and-release’

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly moved Tuesday to implement a host of immigration enforcement changes ordered by President Trump, directing agency heads to hire thousands more officers, end so-called “catch-and-release” policies and begin work on the president’s promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“It is in the national interest of the United States to prevent criminals and criminal organizations from destabilizing border security,” Kelly wrote in one of two memos released Tuesday by the department.

The memos follow up on Trump’s related executive actions from January and, at their heart, aim to toughen enforcement by expanding the categories of illegal immigrants targeted for deportation.

The memos cover a sprawling set of initiatives including:

  • Prioritizing criminal illegal immigrants and others for deportation, including those convicted or charged with “any criminal offense,” or who have “abused” any public welfare program
  • Expanding the 287(g) program, which allows participating local officers to act as immigration agents – and had been rolled back under the Obama administration
  • Starting the planning, design and construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall
  • Hiring 10,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and officers
  • Hiring 5,000 Border Patrol agents
  • Ending “catch-and-release” policies under which illegal immigrants subject to deportation potentially are allowed to “abscond” and fail to appear at removal hearings

It’s unclear what timelines the secretary is setting for some of these objectives, and what budgetary and other constraints the department and its myriad agencies will face.

In pursuing an end to “catch-and-release,” one memo called for a plan with the Justice Department to “surge” immigration judges and asylum officers to handle additional cases.

This is attempting to fulfil campaign promises, but risks major disruption of families and communities and could impact significantly on companies relying on immigrant labour.

 

Trump v. US ‘intelligence’ agencies

I’m sure it’s been said before that US Intelligence is an oxymoron. They have somewhere around 20 intelligence agencies for a start (including the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and components of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the armed forces), with conflicting jurisdictions, and with rivalries and a lack of systems that prevents comprehensive consolidation of intelligence.

US intelligence agencies have long clashed with their democracy, notably in the Nixon era. Recently Director James Comey inserted the FBI into the presidential election, quite possibly swinging the result.

There have been controversial claims by multiple intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the presidential election, and that Donald trump’s campaign team had ongoing contact with Russian interests.

And now that Trump is president things seem to be getting worse, with ongoing leaks from intelligence agencies that conflict with and and undermine the presidency.

There are some claims that intelligence agencies won’t tell Trump things for fear of their methods being passed on to Russia.

Salon covers much of this in Trump vs. the Deep State: This death match of American political power will forever change history -President Trump escalates his battle with the U.S security apparatus.

The firing of Gen. Michael Flynn has popularized the concept of the “Deep State” across the political spectrum.

Breitbart’s Joel Pollak attacks the disloyal “Deep State #Resistance” to President Trump, while conservative pundit Bill Kristol defends it.

“Obviously [I] strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics,” Kristol tweeted Tuesday. “But if it comes to it, [I] prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

Glenn Greenwald is more even-handed: “Trump presidency is dangerous,” the Intercept columnist tweeted Wednesday. “CIA/Deep State abuse of spy powers to subvert elected Govt is dangerous.”

And the conflict is deepening. The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump wants to bring in Wall Street billionaire Stephen Feinberg “to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies.”

The idea is reportedly provoking “fierce resistance” from intelligence officials who fear it “could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview.”

They describe ‘Deep State’:

The Deep State is shorthand for the nexus of secretive intelligence agencies whose leaders and policies are not much affected by changes in the White House or the Congress. While definitions vary, the Deep State includes the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and components of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and the armed forces.

The leaders of these agencies are generally disturbed by Trump’s cavalier treatment of their intelligence findings and particularly worried about contacts between Trump’s entourage and Russian intelligence officials.

There are known facts plus many claims and accusations that are at least partially unsubstantiated.

As Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire noted, the undisputed facts are accumulating:

  • Multiple U.S. intelligence services believe that Russian operatives, at Putin’s directions, tried to help Trump get elected. The FBI is investigating contacts between Russian officials and at least three people connected to Trump’s presidential campaign: Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone.
  • There were “continuous” contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian intelligence officials. At least some of the claims made in a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence official have been confirmed, though none of the more salacious details.
  • Trump has had many financial dealings with Russian oligarchs, as shown in an investigation by the American Interest.

As a result, the intelligence agencies are withholding sources and methods from the president out of fear they will leak to foreign powers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Senior officials are also leaking the results of the ongoing investigation into Trump to reporters at The Washington Post, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The leaking of classified information, which Trump welcomed during the 2016 campaign, is indeed a felonious violation of the law, although it has been standard procedure for Washington power players since the passage of the National Security Act in 1947.

It is a serious threat to US democracy, and a serious threat to Trump’s presidency:

Vanity Fair calls the crisis of Trump’s presidency Watergate 2.0. The historical analogy is apt because the Watergate scandal that engulfed President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s was also a struggle between the White House and the intelligence agencies. But today’s crisis is more accurately described as Trump vs. the Deep State.

It is the death match of American political power and it will determine the fate of Trump’s troubled presidency.

It could be said that Trump is a serious threat to his presidency and to the US, but his clash with ‘Deep State’ is particularly ugly, and is likely to make more of a mess of US democracy.

More on ‘Deep State’:

High Court: Dotcom and co-accused eligible for extradition

The High Court has just released a decision saying that Kim Dotcom cannot be extradited for copyright infringement, but there are grounds for extradition on “general criminal law fraud provisions”.

NZ Herald: Kim Dotcom and co-accused eligible for extradition to US, says High Court

In the High Court finding released today, Justice Murray Gilbert upheld a decision by the District Court that there were grounds for the quartet to be extradited,

But the judge has also supported an argument made by Dotcom’s legal team that he and his former Megaupload colleagues cannot be extradited on copyright infringement grounds.

He said that was because “online communication of copyright protected works to the public is not a criminal offence in New Zealand”.

He said it meant the accused could not be extradited to the US on copyright grounds.

Instead, Justice Gilbert said there were “general criminal law fraud provisions” which covered the actions of the accused and they could be extradited on that basis.

He said he agreed with District Court judge Nevin Dawson that there was enough information to make the decision based on accepting a “record of the case” put forward by the US which detailed the evidence it claimed to hold against the Megaupload accused.

Dotcom’s lawyer is claiming a victory.

Dotcom’s lawyer Ron Mansfield claimed victory from the ruling, saying the case was no longer the “largest criminal copyright case”.

“As we have said all along, there is no such offence under our Copyright Act. We were right.”

That may be so, but if Dotcom can be still be extradited that is hardly a victory.

And it probably won’t be the last attempt to prevent extradition. I presume there are appeal steps yet to come.

NZ Herald has an interview with Dotcom on this: Kim Dotcom legal saga: Extradition to US over Megaupload still on cards but he claims court ruling is a ‘major victory’

US discussion – Monday

If there’s news or issues from the USA worth discussing today you can do it here.

Controversial US ambassador pick for NZ

Some dismay and concern is being expressed about the person put forward as next US ambassador to New Zealand.

Stuff: ‘It’s an insult!’ Backlash against Trump’s pick for diplomatic post to New Zealand

Donald Trump’s pick to be the next United States ambassador to New Zealand has been labelled an “insult”.

Scott Brown, a former US Senator, is being vetted to become Trump’s representative in New Zealand, according to reports in the Boston Globe.

The 57-year-old supports torture, posed nude for a photoshoot, and was named as having groped and made sexually inappropriate comments towards former Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros. Brown denies the allegations.

Former US intelligence advisor Paul Buchanan said Brown’s appointment was an “insult”.

“It just shows you what importance we have to the Trump Administration.”

Buchanan said Brown’s support of waterboarding was “very troubling.”

Buchanan said Brown is “not the brightest bulb”, and while he could grow into the job, he was “pretty much useless as a Senator.”

He said that the Senator’s appointment would come as a reward for supporting Trump, because he knows nothing of New Zealand.

Brown has previously said he wants to come here to cycle, but that’s about it, Buchanan said. “It’d be an extended holiday. New Zealand deserves a little bit better, certainly better than this guy.”

‘A little bit better’ may be in short supply.

Brown lost his Senate position in 2014 and has been a contributor for Fox News.

Details at Wikipedia: Scott Brown (politician)

Many picks for ambassadorial positions in the US seem to be personal, political and paybacks rather than diplomatic.

US discussion – Sunday

If there’s news or issues from the USA worth discussing today you can do it here.

US discussion – Saturday

If there’s news or issues from the USA worth discussing today you can do it here.

US discussion – Thursday

If there’s news or issues from the USA worth discussing today you can do it here.

US discussion – Wednesday

If there’s news or issues from the USA worth discussing today you can do it here.