In a column for Newsweek, a retired U.S. Army general who is an expert in military procurement made the Pentagon's case that President Joe Biden's multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan is not only a good thing for the country, but desperately necessary to support America's armed forces.
According to Gen. John Adams (Ret.), "As the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must recognize the strategic importance of maintaining specific U.S. industries that are critical to our national and economic security. As part of President Biden's Build Back Better Agenda, we must support domestic manufacturing industries like aluminum and steel that produce the raw materials necessary to rebuild America's infrastructure."
Noting that he previously authored a report on the U.S. military's dangerous reliance on materials from foreign nations, he wrote, "If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that America must maintain control over critical supply chain such as pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and critical metals such as steel and aluminum. COVID has disrupted global supply chains on a wide range of goods, from automobiles to semi-conductors, as well as hindered global transportation networks."
Focusing on the need for aluminum in particular, Adams asserted that the jobs and infrastructure that would be created by Biden's American Jobs Plan would be a source of relief for Pentagon officials.
"There will be no Building Back Better without the supply chains needed to support infrastructure investment and sustain our defense industrial base. When it comes to rebuilding America's infrastructure, U.S. aluminum and steel have an essential role to play in rebuilding America. Under President Biden's leadership, we can create tens of thousands of new good paying middle-class-inclusive manufacturing jobs and use "Made in America" raw materials to rebuild America," he wrote.
You can read more here (subscription may be required).
Stories Chosen For You
Imagine, several months from now, a pregnant woman in Texas traveling to New York to obtain an abortion. When she's about to fly back, a friend phones to warn her there's an arrest warrant waiting for her, because police in her home state used a "keyword warrant" to monitor everyone in their area who'd searched a particular term online — say, "abortion clinics in New York" — and then obtained a "geofence warrant" to track her to a Planned Parenthood facility in Manhattan. The woman becomes part of a population the U.S. hasn't seen in recent history: an internally-displaced person, unable to travel home under threat of arrest and prosecution.
Or imagine a woman in the Deep South, who in her last weeks of pregnancy, delivers a stillborn fetus at home, and, when she's taken to the hospital, encounters a nurse who suspects she'd tried to end the pregnancy herself and calls the police. When prosecutors take on the case, they obtain not just her medical records — evidence of the outcome — but her online search history as well: what they cast as evidence of "intent." Thanks to information handed over by internet providers — that the woman once searched for information about abortion medication and miscarriages — she is charged with second-degree murder, and faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted.
That latter scenario already happened, several years ago in Mississippi. The former, says civil rights attorney Albert Fox Cahn, is not just a potential threat but an imminent reality if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks, as forecast in Justice Samuel Alito's leaked draft majority opinion earlier this month.
On Tuesday morning, Cahn's organization, the nonprofit privacy organization Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), released a new report, "The Handmaid's Trail: Abortion Surveillance After Roe," laying out in blunt terms how digital and other surveillance technologies could be employed if the coming SCOTUS ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health makes abortion immediately illegal in numerous states.
"[R]epealing a half century of reproductive rights won't transport Americans back to 1973," Cahn and his co-author on the report, Eleni Manis, write. Rather, "it will take us to a far darker future, one where antiquated abortion laws are enforced with cutting edge technology." What they envision is that the computers and smartphones of anyone who's pregnant and seeking an abortion — or who suffers a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or stillbirth — could be turned into repositories of evidence for police, prosecutors and even individual bounty-hunters hoping to collect a cash reward for proving someone has had an illegal abortion.
For years, pregnant patients have been subjected to a wide array of surveillance through both routine and novel means by government, corporate and private entities. Pregnant patients at hospitals face "suspicionless" drug testing when they go for prenatal checkups while patients of clinics that offer abortion services may encounter anti-abortion activists who photograph them and license plates. These days, they also face the prospect of anti-abortion geofencing: when activists pair cell phone location data with commercial advertising databanks to text them anti-abortion messages while they're sitting in abortion clinic waiting rooms. If they seek out or stumble upon one of the anti-abortion pseudo-clinics known as crisis pregnancy centers, in person or online, chances are anything they say will be added to the massive database CPC networks maintain.
Outside of such medical (or "medical") settings, commercial retailers and big tech companies have already fine-tuned their predictive capabilities so well that they can figure out an internet user is pregnant before they've even told their family. And while the goal of that sophisticated technology is financial — to target expectant parents just when they're about to start spending a lot of money — Cahn and Manis warn that "such commercial lists now will become evidence for those individuals whose pregnancies don't come to term."
There's already precedent for that. As civil rights attorney Cynthia Conti-Cook wrote in a 2020 article in the University of Baltimore Law Review, "Digital evidence fills a gap for prosecutors keen on prosecuting women for their pregnancy outcomes. When medical theories fail to explain why some outcomes happen, prosecutors can now sift through an accused person's most personal thoughts, feelings, movements and medically-related purchases during their pregnancy, even if there is little evidence supporting the conclusion that their conduct caused the pregnancy to end."
But the re-criminalization of abortion, say Cahn and Manis, will lead to even wider use of digital technologies to prosecute both abortion seekers and those who help them.
Some of the technology is familiar: obtaining people's search histories, shopping records, emails, chats or texts to prove they were discussing or seeking information about abortion, or even just that they were pregnant. "When purchasers pay with a credit card, an online account, or with an in-store loyalty card," the report notes, "everyday purchases — medication, pregnancy tests, prenatal vitamins, menstrual products — can become circumstantial evidence."
Others are less well-known. Law enforcement can use "keyword warrants" that would "cast digital dragnets, identifying large numbers of potential abortion seekers" by requiring technology companies to turn over information about anyone in a geographic area who has searched online for particular terms. They can also obtain "geofence warrants" that require those same companies to give information about all people who were in a particular place at a particular time. Both types of warrants have already been used in other contexts.
"Geofence warrants were first introduced in 2018 and since then have expanded so dramatically that they are now the majority of all warrants that Google receives in the U.S.," said Cahn. A 2021 advocacy campaign by a coalition of civil rights groups, including S.T.O.P., compelled Google to release information that shows that this type of inquiry accounted for more than 10,000 warrants the company responded to in 2020.
To date, keyword warrants are less common, but Cahn says they were used in one case where police demanded that Google identify everyone who had searched for a particular address, using that information as part of their investigation.
Broadly speaking, these types of warrants, as well as technology like facial recognition software, says Cahn, have been justified as a necessity for addressing threats like terrorism. But their application has not been neutral. "We've found that facial recognition was used more to target Black Lives Matter protesters than to target those responsible for the insurrection on Jan. 6," said Cahn. "There's profound discrimination in how these tools are deployed."
What's more, Cahn said, geofence warrants simply aren't effective for most police work — they're good at casting "broad digital dragnets" but bad at identifying whether someone actually is a likely suspect. However, he said, they could easily prove to be a "terrifying tool" that enable "authoritarian efforts to target health care, to target protest, to target houses of worship. It's very easy to see the potential for abuse."
In light of that threat, S.T.O.P.'s report calls for a number of measures to address these issues, primarily in "rights-protective" states unlikely to outlaw abortion. Some states offer limited protections already. Massachusetts, for instance, bans geofencing near abortion clinics, but is the only state in the country to have done so. Illinois prohibits the sharing of some biometric data, although data related to abortion is not yet included in its provisions.
But more, the report holds, is needed. First, from companies like Google or Apple, which may voice public support for abortion rights but nonetheless could be key to undermining those rights through their information collection and warehousing practices.
"If a company doesn't have individualized locations in a database that can be searched by a geofence, one can get all the warrants they want and you're not going to give over any data," said Cahn. "It's a design choice whether Google wants to put their users at risk of this type of search."
Likewise, he said, states must act. "This is already happening. We already see electronic surveillance being used to target pregnant people. The only question is how quickly anti-abortion policing ramps up to these search tactics."
Two first-in-the-nation bills are currently under consideration in New York that could offer substantially more protection. One would ban both geofence and keyword warrants as well as prohibiting law enforcement from buying geolocation data from commercial companies. A second would prohibit police from creating fake social media accounts that allow them to pose as friends or medical providers in order to trick people seeking abortions into identifying or incriminating themselves.
Law enforcement agencies must also reassess their participation in inter-agency information sharing agreements, Cahn said. Current data sharing agreements require local police to share information with their counterparts in other states, which could easily enable the tracking and prosecution of abortion seekers from red states who travel to other parts of the country to get an abortion.
Such agreements have always caused tension, Cahn said, "because it's meant that so-called immigration sanctuary jurisdictions are actually giving information to ICE in some cases. But now, if you're part of an inter-agency information sharing agreement, and you are honestly a pro-choice jurisdiction, you can't in good faith remain when you know the people receiving that data are going to use it to arrest pregnant people."
For years, Cahn said, civil rights groups have fought the use of surveillance technologies like geofence warrants, arguing that certain types of information should be off-limits as policing tools. For just as long, he said, many lawmakers have been "comfortable enabling these types of abuses when different communities were being targeted."
"Now we know the targets will include pregnant people," he said, and "we'll see people who once felt very far removed from the threat of mass surveillance being intimately targeted."
"It is very much that incremental expansion of government authority," he said. "We ignore it and we ignore it. And then suddenly, we and our families and those dearest to us are in the crosshairs."
This week marks the second year since George Floyd was murdered by a police officer kneeling on his neck as the public gathered, filmed and begged the officer to stop.
This week, the Justice Department is issuing a directive for federal agents to act when they witness things like this in public, The Washington Post reported Monday evening.
Attorney General Merrick Garland changed existing rules about any law enforcement under the DOJ to intervene if they witness use of excessive force or mistreating people in custody. The directive was posted on their website Monday.
“It is the policy of the Department of Justice to value and preserve human life,” Garland wrote in a four-page memo. “Officers may use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively gain control of an incident, while protecting the safety of the officer and others.”
It's the first time the DOJ has changed the use-of-force policy in 18 years. Officers must “recognize and act upon the affirmative duty to intervene to prevent or stop, as appropriate, any officer from engaging in excessive force or any other use of force that violates the Constitution, other federal laws or department policies on the reasonable use of force.”
It will apply to U.S. Marshals, the FBI, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The DOJ can't make requirements to local law enforcement, that would take an act of Congress to stop police violence.
Read the full report at The Washington Post.
Maddow chides Republicans for avoiding Jared Kushner's self-dealing allegations while attacking Hunter Biden
The final segment of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Monday evening was about the recent report in the New York Times that Jared Kushner and former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spent an unusual amount of time in the Persian Gulf over the course of just four years in Trump's office.
Maddow showed photos of the past three secretaries of the U.S. Treasury Department and noted that among the three, which held the positions over Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Collectively, those men went to the Persian Gulf states a total of eight times over ten years. Mnuchin, by contrast, over four years went to the Gulf states at least 18 times, and that doesn't count informal meetings with Gulf state leaders while they were in the U.S.
Both Mnuchin and Kushner, who went to the Middle East fewer than a dozen times, both started investment firms with significant contributions from those same countries. Meanwhile, Kushner made at least three trips to Saudi Arabia during the first year of the Trump administration. One of Kushner’s trips was actually kept secret. Kushner scored $2 billion from the Saudis, even after investors told them it wasn't a good idea.
These trips, among other things, are raising ethics questions about the two gentlemen's self-dealing while working for the White House and on the tax-payer dime. It's unknown the degree to which Kushner and Mnuchin were using their positions in the U.S. government to ensure they have a plan for a post-White House money-making scheme.
These questions surface amid allegations from Republicans that Hunter Biden used his father's name, which he shares, to get a paid position on boards. Hunter Biden, however, has never worked in government, the White House, the Vice President's office, or for his father's U.S. Senate office. Trump welcomed his family into the White House as advisers despite nepotism laws.
Ali Velshi, who was filling in for Lawrence O'Donnell on Monday, told Maddow that cases about Kushner and Mnuchin are difficult to prove.
"The stench thing, you know, there used to be a day when that kind of stuff just led to shame?" Velshi asked. "It certainly kept you out of political life later. But that's not there anymore either. Whether you can prove or not prove quid pro quo, that — absence of the revolving door that you described is compelling."
"Well, the shame issue here, I think is compelling, Ali, because obviously, the Republicans, particularly Trump partisans, are aware that it is shameful to use government service or family connection to government service, to make a private gain for yourself, and have private business gain," said Maddow. "Because they use this as a way to try to attack President Biden's family, for example, all the time. They know that this is something that is shameful and terrible, and that nobody should ever want to do, and they try to pin all sorts of stuff with that kind of a category on all sorts of Democrats. They know it's wrong. But when they do it, they're assuming that if we bring it up, that their shame isn't operable."
"It's a strange phenomenon," Velshi noted.
See the exchange below or at this link.
Hunter Biden never served in government -- but Jared Kushner certainly did youtu.be