Breaking News: Another Weekend, Another Mass Shooting in Texas

As of now there are at least 5 dead and 21 wounded and/or otherwise injured in a mass shooting spree in Odessa, Texas. The shooter was killed by the responding law enforcement officers and was a white male in his mid 30s. According to police reports to the news media, he attacked the cop who pulled him over for a traffic stop and after shooting the officer he hijacked a mail truck, took off, and went on a spree shooting.

As always, this will be a fast moving story and details are likely to change as today moves into tomorrow.

Open thread!

 








The President’s Operational Security Failure

I want to just follow on to Cheryl’s post about the President’s operational security failure on Twitter earlier today. What the President did today, despite his standing outside the White House and saying to a reporter that he had a right to tweet out the imagery, was not declassification of the geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) imagery that he tweeted out. If that had been the case, then the original classification markers would be visible, they’d be struck through, and there would be a time and date stamp along with standardized language that the imagery had been declassified as of X time today. Instead, as you can see in the image in Cheryl’s post, there is a black rectangle in the upper left hand corner, which is most likely covering the classification code. In this case that is most likely TS/SCI/NOFORN – Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information/No Foreign Distribution. Though it could just as easily be UNCLASS/FOUO  – Unclassified/For Official Use Only. We know some of the provenance of the GEOINT the President tweeted, because everyone in the Intel Community began scrambling to cover their tuchases, which the President had exposed and hung way out the window for everyone to see. The President received the imagery during a briefing earlier today.

What Cheryl described is clearly what happened here. The President had someone on his staff, most likely his caddie Dan Scavino, who is currently serving as the Assistant to the President-Director of White House Social Media Communications and tweets as/for the President, bring an unsecure smart phone into a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF) and take a picture of this classified information so he could tweet it out. Whomever took the picture, either at the President’s direction or their own initiative because they realized what they were doing was sketchy, placed a black bar over the classification markings, then loaded the image up so it could be tweeted out. Bringing an unsecure phone into a SCIF and taking pictures of anything in the SCIF is the type of thing that gets one suspended, one’s clearance stripped, and one prosecuted for stealing classified information.

As I stated above, this is not actually declassification. Here’s Brad Moss, whose law practice focuses on national security, clearance, and classification issues:

So what we have here is data spillage (emphasis mine):

Data spillage is the transfer of classified or sensitive information to unaccredited or unauthorized systems, individuals, applications, or media. A spillage can be from a higher level classification to a lower one. The data itself may be residual (hidden) data or metadata. Spillage may result from improper handling of compartments, releasability controls, privacy data, or proprietary information.The trend towards increased information sharing has weakened access controls, giving users without a need-to-know access to large volumes of sensitive or classified data. Malware that propagates via removable media has increased the risk of large data transfers outside the network. The risk of data spillage is a problem largely because of inadequate end user security awareness, unmanageable networks, and poorly implemented data policies.

The bigger issue is that anyone who has a clearance (hello!) and encounters this information (hello!) is, unlike the President, potentially liable for accessing compartmented information that they do not have a need to know. Unlike the President, no one else in the US has an Office of Legal Council memo from 1973 that places them above the law.

If you’re wondering how this could be the case, how someone with a clearance who was just scrolling through Twitter, reading Balloon Juice, or watching the news when this comes up can get in trouble, but the President can just put classified information out there, claim he has the right to do it, even if it hasn’t been formerly and properly declassified, and he faces no jeopardy and the rest of us with clearances do, it is because THE RULES WERE NOT CONCEIVED OF AND WRITTEN WITH THE CURRENT PRESIDENT IN MIND!!!!! NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM!!!! The assumption was, based on historic performance of previous presidents, that NO FUTURE PRESIDENT WOULD BE THIS STUPID AND CARELESS!!!!

As Cheryl indicated, what the President tweeted out was the good stuff. No one is supposed to know we have that good of resolution wherever and whenever we want. And because the Iranians and others – friends and foes alike – know when the test failed, combined with the shadows and other static imagery in the GEOINT, they’ll be able to work out where we were looking from.

This is not just a major Operational Security (OPSEC) failure by the President, it is also a major counterintelligence (CI) breach by the President.

As we have been since November of 2016, we are off the looking glass and through the map!

Open Thread!

* Just a quick note, because I was actually getting caught up on the news shortly after the President tweeted this out, I saw it. I then sent an email to my company’s security officer to inform him that I’d seen data spillage, that it was inadvertent, and provided the context. This was done to cover myself.








A Much Needed Forceful Statement From Justin Herdman, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio

Justin Herdman, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, made a blunt, powerful statement today regarding white supremacy and those who adhere to it.

This guy gets it!

Perhaps he can explain it to the President?

Open thread!








The Goal Is To Hold the Line

Those Who Seek to Control Others Know Power, Those Who Seek to Control Themselves Know the Way*

— Lao Tzu; The Tao Te Ching

There’s been a lot of sturm and drang in the comments recently, not just today, about all is lost, there’s no way out, we’re doomed. This has often been married to doom and gloom about the primary, the differences between the candidates, and whether idealism, incrementalism, or pragmatism is the way to win the 2020 election. How about we all just step back, take a deep breath, and focus on the actual fight that is the 2020 campaign. That fight has five components:

  1. Winning the presidential election
  2. Keeping the majority in the House
  3. Winning back the majority in the Senate
  4. Holding the governors’ mansions and state legislatures currently in Democratic hands
  5. Flipping as many governors’ mansions and state legislatures as possible

The fourth and fifth components are important to set the conditions for a more representative redistricting after the 2020 census. The first three are important for other reasons. Maintaining the Democratic majority in the House is a necessary, but not sufficient requirement to return the US back to a solid political and economic footing. Retaking both the presidency and the Senate are both necessary and sufficient requirements to actually being able to do so. If the Democrats retake the presidency, but don’t retake the Senate, the next president will be a lame duck before her or his hand ever comes off the bible at the inauguration. No one they nominate, for political or judicial or diplomatic appointments, will ever get a vote. Nor will any legislation that passes a Democratic majority House, other than, perhaps, continuing resolutions to keep the government running at a previous year’s top line budget number. Right now the only way to reverse the damage that has been done, and to ensure that we get good policy on the climate and the environment, on immigration, on healthcare, on the economy including trade, and on criminal justice is to not just be able to pass laws through both chambers of Congress, but to have a Democratic president to sign that legislation and her or his political appointees in place to administer the executive branch agencies and fill judicial vacancies.

The only good news out of Senator McConnell’s court packing scheme, and that’s what it was a decades long strategy to achieve a Republican majority in the Senate and a Republican president to fill the vacancies that McConnell abused the Senate to keep vacant, is that almost every judicial vacancy that McConnell has filled was a judgeship that was held by a judge appointed by a previous Republican president. Retaking the Senate stops this before McConnell can replace the last batch of Bush 41 judicial appointees still serving, as well as the older Clinton and Bush 43 judicial appointees who will begin to retire. And it also stops him from replacing the next three Supreme Court judicial vacancies, vacancies that are likely to come open over the next several years whether we’d like them to or not. And yes, I fully expect that even as I write this, McConnell and members of the White House Counsel’s Office and Leonard Leo are working on Justice Thomas to get him to retire next year to both prevent a potential Democratic president from being able to replace Thomas after 2021 and to once again put the Supreme Court majority in play as a successful campaign strategy to both reelect the President and maintain a Republican majority in the Senate.

That reality recognized, this is all in our hands. We have the ability, we have the power to elect a Democratic president in 2020 and a Democratic majority in the Senate, as well as maintain the Democratic majority in the House. This is what the 2020 election is all about. And yes, it is about healthcare, immigration, climate, environmental, economic, foreign, defense, criminal justice, and trade policy, but it isn’t actually about whether to take an incremental approach versus a revolutionary approach. Or something in between. It isn’t really about a choice between VP Biden or Senator Warren or Senator Harris or Senator Sanders or any of the other Democratic primary candidates. The simple reality we face as Americans is that nothing positive, not a single damn thing, is possible on healthcare, immigration, the climate, the environment, the economy, foreign policy, defense policy, criminal justice, and/or trade policy if the President is reelected and if the Senate remains in Republican hands. The real issue right now isn’t whether VP Biden’s healthcare plan is too incremental or whether Senator Sanders is too idealistic and therefore unrealistic and improbable. And that either of them have the ability to deactivate Democratic voters because they’re not having their ideological pleasure centers tickled. At the Federal level, the real issue is electing a Democrat president with a Democratic majority Senate and maintaining the Democratic House. That’s it. Almost any of the Democratic primary candidates is acceptable given this reality. And even a one seat Democratic majority in the Senate is as well.

This is all doable. It is within not just the realm of possibility, but also probability and plausibility. But it is only doable if we both recognize the actual strategic objectives we’re trying to achieve and don’t give in to despair. One of the ways that tyrannies are able to subvert democracies, regardless of whether it is a democratic-republic like the US or a parliamentary democracy or any of the variations in between, is by exhausting the citizenry. Exhaustion and despair are the means to that end. The President, Senator McConnell, their trusted agents, their surrogates, and their supporters want everyone strung out, worn out, and so stressed out they can’t respond effectively. Americans are tired, they’re upset, they’re angry. Even the President and his supporters are angry and they’re getting everything they claim to want. They are the sorest winners in history. How about we give them something to actually be sore about!

It is within our power to turn this around. And to do so at the ballot box, which is the easiest way to do it. Trust me, you don’t want me to have to write the post about how to deal with this the hard way! The ways and means to do this are registering voters and getting out the vote and staying as calm and focused as possible. This means that the Democrats in Florida need to get their acts together and mobilize the Puerto Rican community in Florida. Both those who have been there for a long time and those who have arrived since Maria devastated the island. Do actual, real outreach. Get them registered. Get them motivated. Stay in regular contact. Remind them who has their back, who recognizes them as fellow Americans, and who doesn’t. Similar efforts need to take place, tailored to the demographic realities of each state, in each state to ensure the broad, multi-generational, ethnically and religiously diverse coalition that is the Democratic Party turns out to vote in such large numbers than no amount of shenanigans, no matter who is behind them, can thwart the will of the majority.

The fight right now is to elect a Democratic president, a Democratic majority in the Senate, maintain a Democratic majority in the House, maintain all the Democratic governors and state legislatures, and flip as many to the Democrats as possible. And the battlespace for the presidential election is the Electoral College, no matter how much we’d all like to see it placed in the dustbin of history.

We can do this. We can save ourselves. No one else will. But to do so we must stay focused, we must pace ourselves, we must not give in to despair and frustration and infighting. Because the alternative is simply unacceptable.

Open thread!

* Also translated as “Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power” and “He who knows others is learned, He who knows himself is wise”, as well as several other variants depending on which translation one is referencing.



Rise And Kill First! Israel Strikes Iranian Military and Militia Targets in Syria

If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first.

Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berakoth

Rise and kill first is adapted from a saying in The Babylonian Talmud, quoted above, that provides the self defense justification if someone breaks into one’s home to kill them. It is also considered to be an unofficial motto, at least, of Israel’s security services, specifically its assassination teams. Which is also the focus and title of Ronen Bergman’s excellent history of Israel’s targeted assassination program. So it should be no surprise that Bibi quotes it in his tweet from earlier today announcing Israeli strikes against Iran’s Quds Force, other Iranian military and militia elements, and, based on some reports, Hezbullah militia elements. It is Bibi’s way of trying to ground what he is doing in Judaic law, which lends an element of religious warfare to today’s strikes, as well as within Israel’s history of striking before it can be struck. And I have no doubt that the Iranians received both of the messages Bibi was transmitting with the final sentence in that tweet.

The closeness of today’s strike to Israel’s upcoming election has not gone unnoticed by Bibi’s unauthorized biographer Anshel Pfeffer.

I’ve seen references on social media that Israeli drones have been brought down over Beirut by Hezbullah, but it isn’t a trusted source so take it as RUMINT for the time being. Noga Tarnopolsky has reported that the Israeli Air Force is flying extended/extra combat air patrols and that the Iron Dome missile defense system has been activated in the north of Israel, including the Golan Heights.

As was the case the last several times that Netanyahu ordered strikes, remember he is both the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, the question will be whether for the time being these are one and done strikes or they begin a pattern of either Iranian-Israeli tit for tat and escalation or if cooler heads prevail. Given that Bibi is fighting not just for his political life, but to be able to leverage his control of the Israeli government to make the investigations into him and the charges against him go away, I would expect to see more strikes. Especially because the Iranians know this. And they know they can provoke him into attacking to prove he’s the best choice in the upcoming Israeli elections to keep Israel safe. The Quds Force commander, Major General Qassem Suleimani, is the best strategist indigenous to the region. I think he’s trying to goad Bibi into overreacting. Into doing something so over the top, so strategically risky that it backfires and blows back not just on Bibi, but also on Israel and Bibi’s US patron: the President. If this is, indeed, Suleimani’s strategy, then it is a risky one. But also one for the potential for great reward.

This could, and likely will, get much worse before it gets better.

Open thread.