Web Research Links for the Week of 2/5/24

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9th Circuit: FBI Illegally Raided Hundreds of Safe Deposit Boxes – by Ken Silva – https://www.activistpost.com/2024/02/9th-circuit-fbi-illegally-raided-hundreds-of-safe-deposit-boxes.html – “The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the FBI acted unlawfully in March 2021, when it raided hundreds of renters’ safe deposit boxes in Beverly Hills, conducted criminal searches of them all, and attempted to permanently keep everything in the boxes worth more than $5,000—all without charging any box renter with a crime… The 9th Circuit’s Tuesday decision stems from an investigation the FBI opened into US Private Vaults, or USPV—a company that, unlike typical banks, provided safe deposit boxes to customers without requiring identification. The FBI had been investigating individual USPV customers, but determined the “real problem” was USPV, which they believed served as a “money laundering facilitator.”.. Accordingly, the FBI raided the entire USPV vault in 2021… Even though the warrant authorizing the raid only permitted the FBI to open boxes to identify their owners and safeguard the contents, agents rummaged through hundreds of boxes, ran currency they found in front of drug-sniffing dogs, and made copies of people’s most personal records, according to the Institute for Justice, which filed a lawsuit on behalf of multiple non-criminal USPV customers… The Justice Department then filed a massive administrative forfeiture claim to take more than $100 million in cash and other valuables, again, without charging any individual with a crime, the IJ added… Among the FBI’s victims were Paul and Jennifer Snitko, who used their USPV box to store legal documents, watches with sentimental value, hard-drive backups, coins, and gold jewelry. The Snitkos used USPV because there was a waiting list to obtain a safe deposit box at their local bank… Another FBI victim was Joseph Ruiz, who stored $57,000 in cash in his box and used USPV because he was concerned that ‘the COVID pandemic would make it impossible for [him] to withdraw [his] funds from a bank account.’.. Initially refusing to give the victims their property back, the FBI changed course and returned the stolen valuables after the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in June 2021… A district court initially ruled that the FBI didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment with the conduct described above, but the 9th Circuit reversed that ruling on Tuesday… Judge Milan D. Smith, writing for the court, likened the FBI’s actions to the abuses that motivated the Bill of Rights… ‘The government failed to explain why applying the inventory exception to this case would not open the door to the kinds of “writs of assistance” the British authorities used prior to the Founding to conduct limitless searches of an individual’s personal belongings,’ he said… ‘It was those very abuses of power, after all, that led to adoption of the Fourth Amendment in the first place.’.. Jennifer Snitko said she felt validated by the court’s decision… ‘We knew that what the FBI did to us and so many others was wrong and today’s decision is a validation,’ she said in a press release from IJ… ‘It took courage for Paul and I to be among the first people to stand up publicly and call out the government but we are proud to have fought for our rights. This is a good day for our country and the principle that the government’s power to search our property has limits’.”The border deal is out. What now? – It’s not even clear the border deal can pass the Senate – by Theodoric Meyer and Leigh Ann Caldwell – https://s2.washingtonpost.com/camp-rw/ – “Good morning, Early Birds. We wonder whether the reaction to the border security bill would’ve been different if Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs had written it. Tips: earlytips@washpost.com. Was this forwarded to you? Sign up here. Thanks for waking up with us… The bipartisan border security bill is finally out, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has scheduled the first procedural vote for Wednesday… But the bill immediately ran into a wall of opposition from top House Republicans and some senators in both parties… Senators released the bill — which would be the most significant immigration package in decades if it passed — last night after months of negotiations between Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). Republicans had demanded policy changes to make it harder for migrants to enter the United States in exchange for supporting more aid to Ukraine, along with military aid for Israel and Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Gaza… House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has been under tremendous pressure from his fractured and unruly conference to reject it, especially since former president Donald Trump started pushing for the bill to fail. Members on the right immediately derided the bill, calling it “a sell-out,” “TRASH,” an “amnesty bill” and a “complete betrayal.”  – Republican leadership followed suit, all but killing the bill’s chances in the House… If this bill reaches the House, it will be dead on arrival,” Johnson wrote on X on Sunday, claiming it was “even worse than we expected.” – Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 4 House Republican, slammed the bill as “an absolute non-starter.” – “Let me be clear: The Senate Border Bill will NOT receive a vote in the House,” Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) wrote on X… “I, for one, think it is a mistake to send this bill to the House without a majority of the Republican conference,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who was supportive of the border negotiations, told our colleague Liz Goodwin and Leigh Ann… Schumer called the bill “one of the most necessary and important pieces of legislation Congress has put forward in years.” President Biden said he strongly supported it… Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a top supporter of sending more aid to Ukraine, signaled support for the deal Sunday, but few other Republicans backed it publicly. (The $118 billion bill includes $14 billion for Israel and $60 billion for Ukraine.) – “The Senate must carefully consider the opportunity in front of us and prepare to act,” McConnell said… What’s in the bill – The 370-page bill includes a variety of changes to the immigration system… It would raise “the standard for migrants to qualify to apply for asylum and increases the capacity for detaining them,” Liz and Leigh Ann write… It “also encourages quicker resolutions to asylum cases at the border and creates a new expedited removal authority to speedily remove migrants who don’t qualify for asylum.”
“The bill includes a trigger mechanism that would allow the border to be effectively shut down to migrants if crossings have been particularly high for several days in a row. (A number of migrants would still be able to qualify for asylum at ports of entry.)”
“That ‘border emergency’ provision, which expires in three years, would automatically kick in when crossings reached 5,000 per day for several days, but a president could choose to use the tool at a lower number, 4,000 per day. The legislation also scales back the Biden administration’s use of parole at the ports of entry and provides for the hiring of new Border Patrol and asylum officers.” – “This is a very comprehensive attempt to deal with the reality we are seeing today at the border,” Theresa Cardinal Brown, senior adviser for immigration and border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, wrote in an email to The Early after reviewing the text. “It tries to balance a lot of things while managing the system a lot better. It puts the processes in the hands of the experts — asylum officers — a​nd hopefully that means getting Border Patrol back to doing its job of protecting the border from threats.” – Some Republican lawmakers have focused their attacks on the threshold of 5,000 migrants per day, arguing that the bill would effectively greenlight that many unauthorized arrivals. Lankford called the idea “absurd and untrue” on Sunday night… Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute who led the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service during the Clinton administration, said setting the threshold at 5,000 per day was rooted in the capabilities of the current immigration system… The system “can capably process 5,000 people a day and make decisions on [which migrants] should pass the screening to be able to come into the country and finish a claim for asylum and also screen out those who are ineligible,” Meissner said… Attacks from both sides – Republicans aren’t the only ones deriding the bill… While it would enact many policy changes favored by Republicans and doesn’t include top Democratic immigration priorities such as the Dream Act, most Senate Democrats are expected to support it… But even a handful of Democratic defections could matter. As the number of Democratic senators who support the bill falls, more Republicans would need to vote for it to overcome a filibuster.”Targeting Iran (Here we go again… and again) – from Mickey Z – https://mickeyz.substack.com/p/targeting-iran-here-we-go-again-and

“As soon as I heard the details of Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7, 2023, I started to connect the dots as to how the U.S. would use these developments as a pretext to attack Iran soon. (The Home of the Brave™ loves a good pretext.) – Now that things have moved further in that direction, I’d like to once again remind readers to PLEASE be wary of ALL media narratives — even when they seem to “prove” you right… I’d also like to share an article I wrote way back in 2007 when the U.S. was (wait for it) threatening Iran because it was allegedly manufacturing nuclear weapons. My 17-year-old article was called “Targeting Iran (Here We Go Again)” and is reprinted directly below: Since quoting Marx makes a radical writer appear more serious, I’ll start this piece about Iran with a bit of Marxism — from Duck SoupAmbassador Trentino: “I am willing to do anything to prevent this war.” – President Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho): “It’s too late. I’ve already paid a month’s rent on the battlefield.” – Now I’m not trying to imply the reasons America goes to war are this frivolous but, um… WMDs? Saddam Hussein connected to 9/11? Spreading democracy?  – Even Harpo would be laughing out loud… The U.S. has a long history of conjuring up dubious rationales to wage war — and this goes for those on both sides of the proverbial aisle. During the 2004 presidential campaign, for example, Senator Kerry declared: “The United States of America never goes to war because we want to; we only go to war because we have to.” – Can someone ask Harpo to quiet down? – “He started it” or “She hit me first.” It’s an excuse we all learn in childhood. By portraying oneself as the target — or potential target — of an unprovoked sneak attack; all bases are covered… As George W. Bush explained on March 17, 2003, the night he gave Hussein a final ultimatum, “The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat, but we will do everything to defeat it.” – More (Groucho) Marx: “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” – Our history books and newspaper headlines portray an ever-benevolent [sic] U.S. as minding its own business yet incessantly aroused by surprise events and unprovoked threats that test its celebrated patience, e.g. the sinking of the Maine, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and too many others to detail here… Now we have Iran — a nation with the audacity to make decisions without first asking for U.S. permission. We are faced with the spectacle of America — the only nation to have used nuclear weapons on civilians — warning the world about how nuclear weapons might, well, be used on civilians… We can’t allow just anyone (except maybe our allies) to acquire such technology. Right? We can’t let the Chinese arm men so evil they might, well, use nuclear weapons on civilians. Right? – Before you know it, Iran will be using depleted uranium and white phosphorous, abusing prisoners, setting up interrogation centers in Eastern Europe, spying on its own people, fixing elections at home and abroad, and all that evil stuff. Right?As (Groucho) Marx explained:  Reminder #1: All of the above was written SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO. The parasites keep using the same playbook… Reminder #2: Every single government on earth is run by diabolical liars who use relentless propaganda to manipulate the masses. They love it when we voluntarily restrict ourselves to hive minds… Stop convincing yourself that the “side” you’ve been conditioned to prefer is somehow the only trustworthy player on the planet… In other words, keep yer guard up…”Why the US sent the CIA chief to handle Israel-Hamas negotiations – William Burns’ trip says something about how the competence of Antony Blinken and his State Department is viewed – by Bradley Blankenship – https://www.rt.com/news/591485-cia-israel-hamas-burns/ – “US President Joe Biden has deployed overseas his CIA Director William Burns, who served as secretary of state and deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama, to try and broker a deal between Israel and Hamas… Details of what exactly Burns discussed with high-level diplomatic and intelligence officials from Egypt, Qatar, and Israel are unknown at this time. It is reported, however, that Israel’s latest proposal would see a 60-day pause in combat in return for the staggered release of more than 100 captives still held by Hamas, with women and children first, then civilian men, military members, and the remains of hostages who died in captivity… While, indeed, the CIA chief’s met with peers from the intelligence community, his attendance displays something that reflects poorly on the state of US diplomacy, and implies a lack of savoir faire at the State Department… It should be noted that the US government has many different offices, bureaus, and departments that compete against one another for funding and clout. For decades, the CIA and the State Department had tried to stay apart. It has been noted, for example, by CIA founding member Miles Copeland Jr. that the State Department was originally averse to some of its covert activities, such as agents using diplomatic credentials as cover. During the Cold War, Copeland said, the State Department not only refused to take part in CIA activities but did not even want to be informed about them, as in the case of the coup d’etat in Syria in the 1960s… In modern times there has been a convergence between these two agencies, and others, too, which reflects the priorities of successive administrations. Under President George W. Bush, Colin Powell, a military man, became the first Secretary of State to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff while in that role. This showed that Powell, Washington’s head diplomat, was to be intimately involved in the American war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan… During the administration of former President Donald Trump, he promoted Mike Pompeo from CIA director to Secretary of State. The Trump administration’s foreign policy style thus shifted to a much more aggressive and subversive approach, emulating how the CIA conducts its business. This was particularly aimed at undermining the resurgence of China, as well as ratcheting up tensions with Russia… In contrast, President Joe Biden enlisted William Burns, a long-time diplomat, as his CIA director. According to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, this pick was because of Burns’ reliability, experience, and honesty – traits becoming of a diplomat. Biden apparently did not want someone who’d gained their professional experience from the CIA to head the spy agency, probably because such people are prone to what Pompeo described as lying, cheating, and stealing... The fact that the director of the CIA is getting so intimately involved in negotiations between Israel and Hamas, having already been a part of the November agreement that led to the release of Palestinian and Israeli hostages and to a week-long ceasefire, may perhaps be worrying. It could be interpreted that the US is not actually interested in real diplomacy but rather in trying to threaten Hamas leaders into surrendering on behalf of West Jerusalem… While that may indeed be the case, since the Israeli government is committed to a total military victory in Gaza and the Biden administration is backing West Jerusalem almost unconditionally, it says more about the fact that the State Department lacks the requisite leadership and know-how to handle this situation… As Burns has been managing negotiations between Israel and Hamas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up a West Africa trip that analysts believe was an attempt by Washington to shore up transatlantic trade in light of instability in the Middle East. He also stuck to the same tired script with regard to China, invoking ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ and unfair labor and trade practices. Meanwhile, protesters sat outside Blinken’s Arlington, Virginia home demanding a ceasefire in Gaza – apparently unaware that he’s not even the one leading diplomatic efforts currently… A lack of leadership on behalf of Blinken at this defining moment in the conflict in Gaza, as American soldiers die in the Middle East and international trade is threatened by Houthi attacks on ships that use the Suez Canal, is apparent. The fact that the CIA has had to step in at this juncture demonstrates the sorry state of US diplomacy, underscoring the gradual but inevitable decline of American soft power.”

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