DISINFORMATION – Tearing us apart

April 19, 2019

“Russia, if you’re listening…”

Then-candidate Donald Trump uttered these words at a Florida campaign rally in July 2016 as a preface to an attack on how the Obama Justice Dept. had handled former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal. With those words, he also inadvertently widened an open door which subjected his own political campaign to an FBI investigation.

If you haven’t done so thus far, the release of the Mueller reports makes this an excellent opportunity to familiarize yourself with the terms “Crossfire Hurricane” and “Mid Year Exam.” These are the FBI code names for investigations the Bureau undertook in 2016 against Trump and then-candidate Hillary Clinton. You might also want to peruse the Washington Post article linked below. Four excellent Post reporters, Robert Costa, Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett, wrote in May 2018 that a Cambridge University retired professor (now known as Stefan Halper) acted in the role of agent provocateur in initiating meetings with Carter Page, Sam Clovis and George Papadopoulos.

trump memes.pngAt these meetings, Halper stated that he knew of Russia’s involvement in different aspects of the presidential election, and was asking those with ties to the Trump campaign if they were also aware. One example: In September 2016, Halper asked Papadopoulos if he knew that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

These conversations over summer 2016 are critical, because Halper was seeking verification from some in the Trump camp about information which LATER appeared in a dossier that another British citizen with close ties to the Bureau, Christopher Steele, presented to the FBI. Somehow Halper had knowledge of the dossier’s contents many months prior to its becoming publicly known in January 2017. (Incidentally, none of these approached were aware of the details which Halper had fed them.)

From where did Halper obtain his information? For whom did he work? Who paid Steele for his dossier? What are their backgrounds prior to 2016?

These are key questions, as the answers help the public better understand the motivations behind the FBI probe into the Trump campaign. My look into this (admittedly not extensive) takes me to this conclusion: By November 2016, those at the highest levels of our government began a disinformation campaign (DI for short) to convince key members of the media and others that there was collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and Russia. This campaign grew in intensity and pace, even as evidence proved the DI was untrue.

This sounds alarm bells for us all. Implicit behind the Mueller Report is this: It now appears that the FBI and others in the Obama Administration intelligence community orchestrated an effort to spy on a candidate for president, accuse the sitting president of crimes, and launch a 22-month long Special Prosecutor probe into something it knew did not happen.

John Solomon, executive vice president for thehill.com, devoted extensive investigative time in 2018 to unearthing text messages exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok, former Chief of the Counterespionage Section and Lisa Page, legal counsel.

Here is one of Strzok’s texts to Page about evidence of Russia collusion with the Trump campaign in May 2017: “You and I both know the odds are nothing. If I thought it was likely, I’d be there no question. I hesitate in part because of my gut sense and concern there’s no big there there.” (Emphasis added.)

Later in his column, Solomon astutely points out the ramifications of these facts:

How concerned you are by this conduct is almost certainly affected by your love or hatred for Trump. But put yourself for a second in the hot seat of an investigation by the same FBI cast of characters: You are under investigation for a crime the agents don’t think occurred, but the investigation still advances because the desired outcome is to get you fired from your job. Is that an FBI you can live with?”

DI is the real enemy

With “Russia, are you listening…” Trump unwittingly provided high-level officials in the Justice Department, who (as evidenced in multiple Congressional hearings) were operating under political motivations, the opportunity to conduct surveillance (or spying, you choose your preferred word) on his campaign for the presidency.

What’s more tragic are the ramifications for our democracy when we allow campaigns of disinformation to dominate the national agenda.

What’s a DI campaign, you might ask?

The New York Times’ Adam Ellick, Adam Westbrook, and Jonah Kessel have crafted an excellent primer on disinformation and fake news, one which focuses on decades of Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Union, running DI campaigns worldwide against the United States. Anyone who’s concerned about fake news or other forms of dishonesty being used against the general public to influence public and thought-leader opinion should take some time and watch their excellent work, a video series titled Operation Infektion. A link to it is here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/opinion/russia-meddling-disinformation-fake-news-elections.html

The three-part video series runs about 50 minutes. If you care at all about whether our democracy should debate and discuss key issues based upon a common set of facts, invest the time.

One of the former Soviet Union spies in Operation Infektion provides this definition of DI:  “To change the perception of reality … so no one is able to come to sensible conclusions.”

Another source in the video calls it deliberately distorted information, secretly leaked into communication process to deceive and manipulate us.

The Operation Infektion video series chronicles what it names “The Seven Commandments of Fake News” but let’s simplify this a bit. There are three elements common to all DI campaigns. The first is to base the “main point” of the campaign behind some truth, no matter how small it might be.

For Donald Trump, his “call out” about Clinton’s e-mails in 2016 created a kernel of thought that – just maybe – Trump had a campaign connection to Russia. What’s truly ironic about “Russia, if you’re listening…” is that, in fact, the Mueller report states that Russia did obtain e-mails and other information about Hillary Clinton and employed it in 2016.

The second key step: Create a false narrative. Operation Infektion points out how Soviet agents did this over and over again during the Cold War. A main example in the video series is the false allegation that the U.S. military “created” the AIDS virus to kill African Americans and gays (these are the terms used in the video). They track this falsehood from its origins to its airing on a “CBS Evening News” story several years later. The New York Times reporters document numerous other examples of false narratives, including that the CIA was involved in assassinating President Kennedy.

The third – and most important step – widely disseminate and publicize the false narrative that’s been created. The more traction the false story receives, the better.

how to spot

This is courtesy Sage Publishing. See details below in the blog.

During the Cold War, common techniques would be to get the false story to appear in third-world media with lower professional standards than U.S. journalists. But once the story runs anywhere, the DI campaigners were dedicated to getting other media outlets to repeat it. The US military/AIDS virus story first appeared in a newspaper in India, and later in publications in Europe. Next, two East Germany biologists “authenticate” the story with “scientific proof” of the falsehood. Finally, the story appears on a CBS Evening News broadcast.

As Step Three unfolds, the public is confused and divided. That is the antithesis of democracy. Having intelligent and reasoned discourse is possible only if we agree upon a basic set of facts. DI campaigns intent to completely dissolve that possibility. It’s why they are so dangerous.

What is especially distressful is the powerful, even intoxicating combination of Step Three and social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms serve to exponentially spread a DI campaign’s reach.

Here is an example: In downtown Houston in May 2016, groups called the “Heart of Texas” and “Save Islamic Knowledge” hold opposing rallies, right across Travis Street from each other. A reporter covering the rallies noted that organizers of each side didn’t even show up at the event. Upon investigation, it turned out that both organizations sprang from the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian perpetrators are among those whom Robert Mueller indicted as part of his investigation. Their “campaigns” were spread using social media.

One of the Operation Infektion journalists, Adam Ellick, himself a victim of a DI campaign in Pakistan, says this: “What I never imagined is that we’d be seeing this kind of  toxic disinformation here at home in the (United) States.”

This – DI’s growing influence – is the real tragedy behind the Mueller investigation. It is especially disconcerting to realize that much of the so-called “witch hunt” really stems from the DI playbook which Ellick, Westbrook, and Kessel explain in great depth in their Operation Infektion video series.

Even more disconcerting: Russia’s activities to influence the 2016 presidential election began in early 2014. Why didn’t the Obama Administration take steps to prevent it from happening?

Why is it that – instead – elements of our government apparently began their own DI campaign in late 2016 against (then) President-elect Trump?

Just as disconcerting is this: Will 2020 be worse than 2016?

It’s not “Game Over” — what we can do

Contrary to President Trump’s Game of Thrones-like meme, posted on Twitter on April 18, nothing is really over. Political battles over the Mueller report will continue unabated. Divisions will deepen. The body politic will remain ill, primarily stemming from social media viral infections which unknowing people will spread. Tens of thousands of Texans “shared” posts — never knowing their source — from the Russian trolls whom (of course) were neither “Heart of Texas” or “Save Islamic Knowledge” in 2015 and 2016.

One thing we can all do — and it’s simple really — is to stop spreading fake news. My friends at Sage Publishing gave me permission to share a graphic they produced months ago. Look it over. Understand it. Utilize it as your guide so you don’t unknowingly contribute to the problem.

If you see phony stories posted on social media, take the time to report them. All major social media sites now respond very quickly to users who “flag” stories as being fictitious.

Finally, recognize what this writer ascertained a couple of years ago: It will take a concerted effort from the government, media, social media, and others to minimize the harmful effects of DI on our democracy. The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine and other nations are all taking active steps 24/7 to counter Russian DI efforts aimed at them. Let’s hope that sooner, rather than later, our leaders also choose to take strong action against disinformation.

Kerezy is associate professor of media & journalism studies at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, and is also affiliated with Unified Strategies Public Relations (USPR). These are his views alone, and do not reflect the opinion of Cuyahoga Community College or any other groups with which Kerezy is affiliated.

REFERENCES

Robert Costa, Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett, Washington Post, (2018)  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/secret-fbi-source-for-russia-investigation-met-with-three-trump-advisers-during-campaign/2018/05/18/9778d9f0-5aea-11e8-b656-a5f8c2a9295d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.343078897cb3

Smith, Lee (media columnist at The Tablet) (2018)      https://thefederalist.com/2018/05/25/code-name-crossfire-hurricane-evidence-fbis-russia-cover-story/

Solomon, John (2018) https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/397902-opinion-one-fbi-text-message-in-russia-probe-should-alarm-every-american

Glenn, Mike (2018)  https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/gray-matters/article/A-Houston-protest-organized-by-Russian-trolls-12625481.php

Chen, Adrian (2016) https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-propaganda-about-russian-propaganda

Attkisson, Sharyl, “The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote” (2017)

Pacepa, Miha and Rychlak, Ronald, “Disinformation:  Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism” (2013)

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Some odds and ends

April 13, 2019

As we approach Holy Week, Easter, and beyond, some miscellaneous items have been running through my mind. Just wanted to share them with anyone who might be reading. In no particular order, they are:

  1. GOOD STEWARDSHIP — For those who are around my age (early ’60s) how are we doing with the talents, time and treasure we’ve been given? Are we helping others and giving back, or are we still, perhaps, a little too absorbed with self “stuff” (adding to the bank account or retirement account, not volunteering, etc.)?

One way in which I’ve strived to be a good steward for many decades is with respect to the environment. Back in 1981, an old friend David Douglass and I co-wrote a grant proposal to obtain funds from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources. The proposal was accepted, and Cleveland gained its first-ever glass, aluminum, and newspaper recycling program as a result. That program began in 1982, and was based behind the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. store on West 110 Street and Lorain Avenue.

Today I still strive to be environmentally aware. My wife Kathy and I recently purchased a Toyota Prius Prime vehicle. It is a small, four-passenger car. What makes it unique is its combination gas-electric power system, a PHEV, for “Plug In Electric Vehicle.”  With some training (meaning this old dog had to learn new tricks), one can run such a vehicle a lot on just the battery.

Big deal? Well, on battery alone, this car has zero tailpipe emissions. When it’s fully charged, I can go 28-32 miles (depending on conditions) just on the battery.  Because it also has a gasoline engine (and a “tank” range of about 500 miles) one can drive this vehicle for short or long distances without every worrying about running out of electricity.

Not everyone has my situation. I’m fortunate in that I can charge my vehicle at a high-capacity charging station at Cuyahoga Community College’s Advanced Automotive Technology Center. But I’ll take 430+miles per gallon whenever possible. That saves on fuel costs, but — more importantly — saves on the environment as well.

Take a look at the little number just below and a little to the right of the big “0 MPH” on this photograph of my odometer, taken earlier this month:

20190407_112252

431.4 miles per gallon! Photo taken April 7, 2019

If this interests you, I’d suggest you do an internet such using the letters “PHEV” and see what you find. You will probably uncover a lot of vehicles (with an average price in the low $30,000 range) which can save you at least $1,000 a year on gasoline and save on the environment as well.

2.  PRAYER — The older I get, the more I acknowledge the many blessings God has bestowed on me in my lifetime. One of those blessings is getting to know the staff and managers at Moody Radio Cleveland, WCRF 103.3 FM and “everywhere” via the internet. It’s on my “listen to” list every day, and has been for decades.

Also, nearly 15 years running, I’ve been fortunate to belong to the Pause For Prayer team at Moody. I recorded five, two-minute prayers which will run on the radio next week, Holy Week, from April 15-19.  If you’re interested, you can see information about Pause for Prayer and a link to Moody Radio Cleveland’s “live stream” below as well.

Many thanks to Paul Carter at Moody Radio Cleveland, who records the Pause for Prayer segments and “cleans up” my speaking as well!

Link to “Tune In” for Moody Radio Cleveland:  https://tunein.com/radio/Moody-Radio-Cleveland-1033-s3342/

3. HELPING OTHERS — One way I’ve been fortunate over the past 11 years has been to coach high school speech and debate. I began by founding the program at Brecksville-Broadview Hts in 2008, and in 2013-14 I moved to Revere High School. It was a pleasant surprise to us recently at Revere when, on viewing the National Speech and Debate Association’s rankings of “strength” of programs, Revere is No. 13 in Ohio.

Assisting teens to learn how to think critically, communicate and lead effectively, and live humanely in evermore-challenging times is far more important to me than “Ws” in a debate round or “1” rankings in a speech round.

I gave a brief “The Revere Way Ahead” talk about our annual banquet on April 3. A few parents have asked me about some of the pictures and memes in that speech. There is a link to those below. So help yourself if you wish to “see” what about 80 parents and students saw and heard earlier in the month.

Revere way ahead 2019 banquet

I have informed the Revere Schools that I plan to step way as head adviser for the program in 2019-2020. I hope to be involved in a “hand off” capacity in the coming year, and then take a back seat when a new adviser comes in to head up the Revere program.  If you have a speech or debate background and this interests you, you can apply by e-mailing Revere HS principal Phil King at pking@revereschools.org and letting him know.

 


Journalism: critical Disinformation: obvious

March 26, 2019

PARMA, Mar. 26 — What’s the proper role of journalism in a democracy in 2019? How critical is accuracy in an era when speed is valued over truth, where we all receive “news” from a feed into our cell phones, and hundreds of millions of news “stories” get retweeted or reposted on social media sites every day?

That’s the question every scholar, every advocate for civic discourse, every professional organization dedicated to journalism, and every leading public official should be asking today. To say that journalism is failing our democracy would be the year’s greatest understatement.

hume.png

Brit Hume, Fox News, formerly ABC News

Brit Hume has been a journalist for more than 50 years. He began with UPI and newspapers (including the Baltimore Sun) in the 1960s, researched and wrote for Jack Anderson, was subjected to illegal CIA surveillance under Richard Nixon, reported for 23 years for ABC News — including several as chief White House correspondent — and became Fox News’ first “Special Report” evening anchor in 1998. Last night (March 25) Hume described media coverage of the Robert Mueller’s special prosecutor investigation into President Donald Trump as the “worst journalistic debacle my lifetime.”

Here’s a link to that broadcast segment:

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2019/03/25/brit_hume_no_soul_searching_for_media_they_have_moved_on_to_following_democratic_party_script.html

Hume is adding on to what many, both on the “right” and “left” sides of the political spectrum, are saying. It’s a message journalists should heed, if they’re willing to look, listen, and honestly evaluate their own practices and standards. Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept calls out the media for its “recklessly reckless behavior over the past three years.” Greenwald cites Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi, who in a blog post wrote this:

Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a “reckoning for the media.”

Links to both stories are just below:
https://theintercept.com/2019/03/25/watch-a-contentious-constructive-debate-on-the-media-and-political-humiliation-from-the-mueller-report/

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million

matt t.png

Matt Tiabbi, Rolling Stone

The journalism profession has brought about incalculable harm to itself as a result of its tilt against all things Trump from 2015 until today. Perhaps the only strategy which might save the profession would be a reconstitution of a national commission to re-examine the role of journalism in a democracy, something akin to the Hutchins Commission of the mid-1940s.

There are steps which journalism organizations and newsrooms across the U.S. could take – today – which could help restore some public faith and confidence in their news gathering operations. But let’s save that for the future.

There is a secondary, yet obvious, issue which our nation and its journalists must address. Some people –or a combination of people and organizations– let loose upon the American public and its government a deliberate and intentional campaign to DISINFORM us about Donald Trump and the “C” word, collusion, with respect to the 2016 Presidential election.

Taibbi and John Solomon, an investigative reporter and executive vice president for video for thehill.com, have both reported extensively on pieces and parts of the disinformation process. 

Taibbi called out President Obama’s Justice Dept. for “stove-piping,” an all-too-common Washington DC practice of a government official “feeding” a story to a reporter, then using the resulting story as “confirmation” that something is true. Taibbi pointed out how writer Michael Isikoff’s September 23, 2016 Yahoo News story became a reference in a Justice Dept. application for a FISA surveillance warrant. (Two years after the fact, Isikoff admitted that his own story was largely untrue, according to Taibbi.)

Solomon’s columns in www.thehill.com have documented a pattern of misleading and misinformation going back to the summer of 2016. He points out how the now-infamous Steele Dossier, which FBI officials up to and including former FBI Director James Comey, used as gospel, came about. BOTH the FBI and the Democratic National Committee were paying former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, but the resulting “work product,” Steele’s Dossier, contained a large amount of fictitious material. (Later in the process, the FBI removed Steele from its payroll.)

solomon.png

John Solomon, thehill.com

As both Taibbi and Solomon reported, it was the Steele Dossier and the stove-piping practices which combined to concoct a popular belief in the Washington establishment in January 2017 that, somehow, Donald Trump has been “compromised” by Russia.

From there we all understand the story.

Solomon, however, stayed true to journalism at it roots. He has kept digging for the truth. Last September he reported that in May 2017, the FBI knew it could NOT provide evidence of any collusion between Russia or Russian agents and the Trump campaign or the Trump organization. See the link below for specific details.

https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/406881-lisa-page-bombshell-fbi-couldnt-prove-trump-russia-collusion-before-mueller

What it all means: Persons and/or groups developed a “narrative” or a story about Russia collusion with/for Trump and fostered that story upon the American people. Solomon wrote:

Text messages show contacts between key FBI and DOJ players and The Washington Post, The Associated Press and The New York Times during the ramp-up to Mueller’s probe.

And that means the news media — perhaps longing to find a new Watergate, to revive sagging fortunes — were far too willing to be manipulated by players in a case that began as a political opposition research project funded by Clinton’s campaign and led by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who despised Trump.

Finally, Page’s statement signals that the nation’s premier intelligence court may not have been given a complete picture of the evidence — or lack thereof — as it approved an extraordinary surveillance intrusion into an American presidential nominee’s campaign just weeks before Election Day.

Disinformation – a deliberate attempt to present one story instead of the truth to the American public – was well underway long BEFORE Robert Mueller became appointed as a special prosecutor in May 2017. How did that happen? Who was behind it? Were laws broken in the process?

If journalists were seeking to redeem themselves, they would be hot on the trail to seek answers to those questions.    Don’t hold your breath.

Nazi Germany Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels supposedly said, “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

We now live in an age where Disinformation Campaigns are commonplace. The Mueller special prosecutor investigation proves this is the real truth.


Border Security, Terrorism, Congress & AUMF

January 27, 2019

CLEVELAND,  JAN. 27, 2019 – As Commander in Chief of our armed forces, President Trump could sign an Executive Order today mandating greater security on our 1,954-mile border with Mexico. Congress has already approved the enabling legislation. It’s called AUMF, or Authorization of the Use of Military Force, two bills which passed Congress in 2001 and 2002.

Here is the 61-word rationale, in the first of the two bills, which became laws just days after the terror attacks against the U.S. on 9-11 (ALL CAPS added):

That the President is authorized to use ALL NECESSARY AND APPROPRIATE FORCE against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to PREVENT ANY FUTURE ACTS OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

Under this law, three different presidents, Bush, Obama and Trump, have conducted wide-ranging military operations all over the globe to battle terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military personnel have been deployed in combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Aerial drone strikes have killed terrorists in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somali, Pakistan and other countries. In 2014, President Obama’s White House issued a statement explaining AUMF was the basis for using military power against ISIS. In 2018, the Trump White House stated that, “The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) authorizes the United States to use force against al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces and against ISIS.”

motpqaumf1aIf the Commander in Chief, as defined under our Constitution. can send military might halfway around the world to fight terror, the same can be done on own border to thwart the same enemies.


First: Terror forces are exploiting the US-Mexico border

Is terror on our border with Mexico? Are Al-Qaeda, ISIS and their allies using Mexico as a base for possible terror operations against the US? The evidence – and the track record even before President Donald Trump began this current campaign – certainly says yes.

Christian Science Monitor staff writer Warren Richey documented a dozen salient examples in “Are terrorists crossing the US-Mexico border? Excerpts from the case file.” Richey  focused on terrorists by names and act . One terrorist came into the US from Mexico and raised significant money here for the terrorism  group  Hezbollah before he was caught and deported. Another, Adnan El Shukrijumah, was atop the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list for more than a decade. In 2004, US consulate officials in Ciudad Juarez received a tip stating that he was one of “suspect Arab extremists who have been smuggled through Mexico to the United States/Mexico border. “

El Shukrijumah was a serious terror threat, personally selected by 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to plan and carry out terror attacks against the U.S. and elsewhere. He had lived in Brooklyn and South Florida, but disappeared after the 9-11 attacks.

El Shukrijumah was the masterminded behind the thwarted terror plot involving suicide bombers on the NY Subway System in 2009. Eventually he found his way to Pakistan. In 2014, a raid by the Pakistani military in a tribal area near the Pakistan-Afghan border killed El Shukrijumah.

Another terrorist Richey named, Ahmed Dhakane, ran a human smuggling operation based in Brazil that specialized in moving migrants from Somalia and other parts of East Africa into the US via Mexico. Richey writes that many of Dhakane’s clients were supporters or members of Al Shabab or associated Somali terror groups – and at least three of them made it into the US, according to federal court documents. One of Dhakane’s clients, nicknamed “Al Qaeda,” made it to California. The Christian Science Monitor published Richey’s article  on January 15, 2017, more than two years ago and before Trump’s inauguration.  

Additionally, for years there have been unsubstantiated reports of terrorism camps operating in Mexico territory. US government policy has been taking active steps to counter the threats.

And for a long time:  This problem has existed for decades.  One 2006 National Counterterrorism Center intelligence report stated: “Terrorists could try to merge into SIA smuggling pipelines to enter the U.S. clandestinely. … Al Qaeda and other groups sneak across borders in other parts of the world and may try to do so in the US, despite risks of apprehension or residing in the US without proper documentation.”

SIA is an acrostic for “Special Interest Aliens.” According to report from the Center for Immigration Studies, titled “Terrorist Infiltration Threat at the Southwest border” hundreds of people on terrorism watch lists are CAUGHT each year trying to get into the US from Mexico. Here’s an excerpt:

Bits and pieces of the puzzle have surfaced anyway. Occasional information leaks, government reports, and Freedom of Information Act requests over time suggest that hundreds of SIAs, perhaps ranging to the low thousands (depending on changing country of interest lists), have been annually apprehended at the southern border since 9/11.31 One set of SIA apprehension data reflecting September 2001 through 2007 showed that nearly 6,000 SIAs from 42 countries had been apprehended at the border.32  

In reading and research for this post, I’m convinced that in years past there has been a concerted effort by the US government to underestimate the seriousness of the terrorism threat from our southern border. It might have been due to a desire to prevent panic, or to spur Mexico to take greater action, or some combination of these and other factors. But the Center for Immigration Studies report (replete with data and charts) has ample documentation of the severity of this problem.

Here’s one example we never knew: In June 2016 Department of Homeland Security Jef Johnson Secretary wrote a three-page memo to top law enforcement officials about the threat. The subject heading was:  “Cross-Border Movement of Special Interest Aliens.

Second: Mexico can’t control narco-terrorism

In the current trial of Mexico drug cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, testimony revealed that former Mexico president Pena Nieto asked for $250 million, and then ended up taking a $100 million bribe. If true, it’s just the latest in a mountain of evidence which indicates that the government of Mexico cannot bring the drug lords to justice, and cannot control crime- and terror-related activities within its own borders.

According to the Congressional Research Service report, titled “Mexico: Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking Organizations” (July 2018) Mexico saw 29,000 murders in 2017. In the current election cycle, crime bosses and drug lords killed 114 candidates and politicians in Mexico, an overt effort to intimidate and stop office holders from opposing them.

Just as alarming is a paragraph in the Congressional Research Service report. It reads:

In addition, several analysts have raised concerns about severe human rights violations involving Mexican military and police forces, which, at times, have reportedly colluded with Mexico’s criminal groups. Notably, the Mexican armed forces injured or killed some 3,900 individuals in their domestic operations, between 2007 and 2014, with the victims labeled as “civilian aggressors.” However, the high death rate (about 500 were injuries and the rest killings) indicates the lethality of the encounters with Mexican military and official reports did not sort out in published statistics how many of the military’s victims were armed or were mere bystanders. (Significantly, these statistics did not continue to be made public after 2014)

To be more succinct, Mexico’s law enforcement and military are at times in collusion with the drug lords and crime groups, much to the detriment of the country’s own population. So despite large sums of U.S economic aid ($152.6 million in 2018 alone, with more than $100 for counter-narcotics and police support) Mexico is unable to control the narco-terrorism and other crime cartels operating in its country.

Third: Congress and Constitution

If these two factors were not enough, President Trump could also point to the obvious – Congress’ inability to take action on a serious threat to U.S. security. The just passed 35-day partial government shutdown is just the latest in a lengthy list of examples how Congress has failed to act in areas of national security. Despite the Transportation Security Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard being negatively impacted, Congress was unable to pass legislation to keep these essential government services operating.

Two months ago, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came to Cleveland to be the guest speaker at the Cuyahoga Community College Foundation’s Scholarship Luncheon.  Gates penned a terrific memoir about his tenure as Secretary of Defense, under Presidents Bush and Obama, titled “Duty.”  It contains a terrific explanation of how the US has gone about fighting the Global War on Terror. With respect to Congress, Gates says this:

While American politics has always been a shrill, partisan and ugly business going back to the Founding Fathers, we have rarely been so polarized and so unable to execute even the basic functions of government, much less tackle the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. I believe that this is due to the incessant scorched-earth battling between Congress and the president .. but even more so to the weakening of the moderate center of both parties in Congress. … Now moderation is equated with lacking principles, and compromise with “selling out.”

It’s hard to assess what’s worse here: The ramification behind Gates’ words, or the fact that he penned them in 2014, as matter have only gotten worse in Washington since then.

Finally, our Constitution and past practice have made it abundantly clear that as Commander in Chief of the armed services, our President has greater authority.  Article II, Section 2 of our Constitution invests military power solely with the President.  Constitutional scholars agree that one of the most important Commander In Chief duties of the nation’s chief executive is to protect the US: States, territories, and its people, from attack.

President Jefferson didn’t ask Congress before sending Navy frigates, sailors, and Marines to the “shores of Tripoli” to deal with the Barbary Pirates in 1801. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln freed all the slaves in territories in rebellion against the U.S. through the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln (an attorney by profession) researched the Constitution and knew he did not have civilian authority to make such a proclamation. But as Commander In Chief, according to Article II, Section 2, Lincoln could free the slaves. Therefore, he proceeded in that manner.

Conclusion

The U.S. has spent more than $2.8 TRILLION just on the Global War on Terror, according to Fortune magazine. Another estimate is that we have spent more than $7.6 TRILLION on both homeland security (defending ourselves at home) and in global military operations

And we have paid for this war with the sacrifice of precious blood for the cause of freedom. More than 7,000 military personnel have died fighting against terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere since 9-11.

If President Trump cited AUMF, used his Commander in Chief authority, and signed an Executive Order authorizing $10 billion for border security, it would most certainly – at the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court – be upheld. The evidence clearly and overwhelmingly supports such a strategy.

As Congress and the courts have given consent to many or all the actions taken thus far under AUMF, then certainly an expenditure of $10 billion or less to would also pass Constitutional muster.

Kerezy does not teach political science or law. He is an associate professor of journalism/mass communications at Cuyahoga Community College. He also studied AUMF in his role as speech/debate coach at Revere (OH) High School in the winter of 2018.

 

SOURCES

AUMF:   https://www.congress.gov/107/plaws/publ40/PLAW-107publ40.pdf

Justification:  https://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/what-the-aumf-is-and-why-you-should-care-2018/
Legal authority to engage military against ISIS:  https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1301198/is-war-powers-theory-background-statement.pdf   Also, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/us/politics/isis-syria-american-troops.html
ISIS & other terrorists in Mexico
https://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2017/01/jihadists-train-plan-u-s-attack-mexican-border-state-nuevo-leon/

https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2017/0115/Are-terrorists-crossing-the-US-Mexico-border-Excerpts-from-the-case-file
State of affairs in Mexico

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-mexico-el-chapo/el-chapo-paid-former-mexican-president-100-million-bribe-trial-witness-idUSKCN1P92OS

https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R41576.pdf

 

Congress and Constitution

Gates, Robert “Duty” (2014) page 582

https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/commander-chief-president

 

Conclusion:
http://fortune.com/2018/09/11/war-terror-spending-debt/

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/the-cost-of-war-3356924
Miscellaneous:

https://cis.org/Report/Terrorist-Infiltration-Threat-Southwest-Border

https://repository.law.umich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2379&context=articles

(Author’s note: Significant is a paragraph here from Professor Monica Hakimi at the University of Michigan Law School.  Hakimi is opining about possible US intervention in Syria in an article titled, “Defensive Force against Non-State Actors: The State of Play” in the 2015 issue of International Law Studies. She wrote:  “Nevertheless, a few basic guidelines can be distilled from the practice: the majority of States has affirmatively endorsed defensive operations against non-State actors in States that actively harbor or support those actors, or lack control over the areas from which they operate.”)


Through many dangers …

January 3, 2019

Family and friends know that I’m undergoing surgery on Tuesday. It’s a minor procedure called fundoplication. Sounds like a possible video game title, doesn’t it? Well, not quite …

john half croppedFor about 15 years now, I’ve been battling to overcome gastroesophageal reflux disease, known as GERD. At times I’ve had some success, but despite diet modifications, losing a lot of weight years ago, and even running a couple of half marathons, I simply can’t shake the disease.

As I learned more and more about the potential long-term effects of the GERD/acid reflux medication, I became increasingly convinced that surgery was a better solution for me. My GI specialist, Dr. Natin Davessar, has been a steady partner and an excellent guide for me as he’s helped me better understand GERD and its ramifications.

The surgical procedure isn’t lengthy or complicated, but the recuperation is both. So I’ll need to be a good patient and rely heavily on my sweet partner in life, Kathy Johnson Kerezy, as I recover.

John Kennedy was president when I had my last in-patient surgery for removal of my tonsils. My last “overnight” stay in the hospital was back in 1979 in Indiana. This wasn’t an easy decision. Faith and trust in the surgeon, Dr. Christopher Towe, the surgical unit at University Hospitals Parma Medical Center, my family, and — of course — first and foremost in God, propelled my decision.

optimistic.pngA guiding Bible verse for me these past two weeks is from Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” My  friend Doug Back, my fellow “founding dads” of the Cuyahoga Valley Church Knights groups, and many others have me bathed in prayer right now.

I’m asking God to lead me through this minor surgery, and any other medical situations stemming afterward. I still have a lot of teaching at Cuyahoga Community College ahead. There is a great group of speech and debate students I’m coaching at Revere Schools. I hope to keep making a positive impact for others I encounter for as long as the Lord allows.

So mark me with the “feeling optimistic” emoji as I enter the final days of preparation for surgery. I close with the words which John Newton, slave ship captain turned advocate for the abolition of slavery, penned back in 1790: “Through many dangers toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”


Has the fire consumed us?

September 3, 2018

CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH, Sept. 3, 2018 — More than 220 years ago, George Washington warned his country about the dangers of political faction. In his Farewell Address, Washington cautioned against the “baneful effects” of factions, calling them “A fire not to be quenched.” He wrote. “It demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

As we pause today in gratitude to our nation’s workers for their hard work and ingenuity, it’s apparent to many that partisan factions have in fact consumed every aspect of daily life. Sports? Check. Media and entertainment? Check. Religion? Check. Family relations? Check. Government and law enforcement? Sadly, check.

Journalism? Huge checkmark goes here too. While a few media outlets still strive for balance and objectivity, the vast majority are now easily classified as “left” or “right” in how they report and in the narratives they employ. Here is a chart which Sharyl Attkisson https://sharylattkisson.com/, long-time CBS News investigative reporter who’s now on Sinclair Broadcasting with a Sunday news analysis show named “Full Measure” has developed.

Suggestion: Refer to this chart whenever you are reading or following stories about government and politics. It will enable you to better evaluate the source and detect possible bias.

Thwarting the peaceful transition of power

What differentiates the U.S. from other nations? One shining aspect of our democracy is the peaceful transition of power from one duly- elected candidate to another, from one political party to another. As Nicandro Iannacci of the National Constitution Center recalls the words from Ronald Reagan about this in his first inaugural address:  “… few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every 4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”

Now, enter Donald Trump’s and Russia “collusion” into this equation. The question of what Trump did with respect to Russia in the 2016 election received an amazing high level of media coverage in January 2017 in the weeks prior to and just after Trump’s inauguration. In hindsight, stories about possible Trump-Russia collusion had a sense of apophenia in their approach.  Apophenia is a tendency to see patterns or shapes in random situations. Many in our divided public couldn’t accept the fact that Trump had won the electoral vote, and there must be some unique or unparalleled reason for it.

Ready-made to explain why, almost on cue, came charges of Russian tampering with the 2016 Presidential elections and possible Trump collusion with Vladimir Putin. It “fit” almost perfectly, since all it would have taken is a shift of about 50,000 or so votes in a handful of states to change the electoral vote outcome.

Within his first 120 days of being in office, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and then found himself subject of a Special Prosecutor’s investigation headed up by a former FBI director, Comey’s predecessor, Robert Mueller. Mueller’s mandate: To investigate Russian interference in the elections, and to look for any connections between those and the Trump campaign. Conspiracy would be a more precise term than collusion for what Mueller is seeking, by the way.

Trump and his supporters quickly reacted with cries of “witch hunt” and pointed out the double standard of the FBI’s investigative process. Tens of millions of dollars were donated to the Clinton Foundation from numerous international sources, including Russians. Hillary Clinton and her team were recklessly disobeying laws and protocols with securing their own e-mail communication, and the FBI looked the other way.

Almost lost in this titanic tug-of-war is this: For the first time in our democracy, one partisan side refused to go along with the peaceful transition of power. In 1960 Republican Richard Nixon could have litigated questionable vote tallies in Illinois and elsewhere, but chose to place country over politics. In 2000, Democratic candidate Al Gore could have continued to battle Florida, but put aside further fighting for the good of the country.

The opposite took place in 2016-2017. First there was a concerted effort to persuade Electoral College electors to not cast their votes for Trump. Next, rather than accept a Trump presidency, we saw boycotts of the inauguration, witnessed counter demonstrations, and heard calls of “Impeach 45” from Democratic Congressmen, all in January 2017. These same partisans saw the slightest shred of Russian involvement in the 2016 elections (unconnected to Trump) as a pattern of conspiracy – apophenia.

This non acceptance of an election’s outcome has but one parallel in nearly 230 years of our nation choosing its President under our Constitution. That was in 1860-61, when South Carolina and six other states seceded from the Union in response to Abraham Lincoln’s election. Next there came the Civil War.

A DISinformation Campaign

It is with this perspective need to enter a brief look at both Christopher Steele and his Steele dossier, and top FBI officials Peter Strozk and Lisa Page.

Steele is a former British spy (MI6) with numerous contacts to top Russian intelligence agents, including current FSB and SVR (Russian federal security and spy) members. He was in essence “double dipping” in 2016, being paid by both the FBI and Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm which (for this project) had as its client the Democratic National Committee.

Steele produced a dossier, or a collection of documents about Trump and the2016 election, which alleged (among many other things) conspiracy between members of Donald Trump’s election team and Russian agents. Rather than repeating all these allegations, look at the dossier (largely un-redacted) which the media outlet BuzzFeed published last year. A link to it is below. Judge for yourself.

As a stand-alone, Steele’s dossier seems to contain damning information against Donald Trump and its campaign. But it’s just a small part of a much bigger picture. While Steele was composing and sharing his dossier with the FBI, high-level Bureau members Peter Strozk and Lisa Page were focused on exonerating Hillary Clinton of any wrongdoing and ensuring that Clinton would end up winning the November presidential election. This is according to a Washington Post story which examined thousands of text messages which the two (who were having an affair) exchanged. Strozk interviewed Hillary Clinton as part of the e-mail investigation, examined Russian involvement in the election and – until removed – was on Special Prosecutor William Mueller’s team as well.

Here are two agents’ texts, quoted  verbatim from the Washington Post:

Aug. 8, 2016

Page: “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!”
Strzok: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.”

 

Aug. 15, 2016

Strzok: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s (Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe) office — that there’s no way he (Trump) gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

 

Later, after Trump’s election but before the inauguration, Steele leaked portions of his dossier to media members. Later still came Mueller and the Special Prosecutor. Here’s another text message:

May 18, 2017, shortly after the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III

Strzok: “For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business. I unleashed it with [the Clinton investigation]. Now I need to fix it and finish it.”

If one looks at the actions which Strozk, Steele, Bruce Ohr, and others in the FBI took, it is strikingly reminiscent of a DISINFORMATION campaign.

Not misinformation. We know that many are making efforts to misinform us. But as authors Ion Pacepa (a defector from Romania) and Professor Ron Rychlak explain in their book “Disinformation,” a disinformation campaign takes a kernel of truth, wraps a false narrative around that kernel, and then widely disseminates that narrative to deliberately discredit someone or something.

If we “connect the dots” as to what transpired within the FBI from June 2016 to May 2017, what we see is a high-level effort to draw attention away from Clinton and to discredit Trump, so much so as to make it  severely difficult or impossible for the latter to govern.

That is a horrible assessment of where our FBI was sitting only a short time ago. This is light years removed from the peaceful transition of power prescribed in Article I, Section 4 and Article II, Section 1 of our Constitution. It’s more reminiscent of “Seven Days in May” instead.

Just three years ago …

I predicted in this blog that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination for President.  Here is a link to that posting:

Friends questioned my sanity then. They don’t now, because some of them also understand how the public has an almost toxic reaction to the media. According to Pew Research, trust in the media hit an all-time low in 2017-18. Only 21 percent of the public has a lot of trust in national news organizations. Twenty-nine (29) percent have little or no trust in them.

What’s worse – younger adults pay no attention to the news. Research indicates a large percentage of those under 25 pay attention only to whatever stories pop up on their “most popular” feed from the social media services they most frequently use. Many are reading or watching no news at all.

What’s probably worst of all is that few executives in the free press, either on the editorial or the publishing/advertising side, seem to fully comprehend the long-term detrimental effects of a knock-down, drag-out war between the Fourth Estate and the current occupant of the Oval Office. There will be no winners if this continues, and the biggest loser is our democracy.

A link to the Labor Day 2015 blog, predicting Trump’s victory, is here: https://jkerezy.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/media-memo/

Why journalism still matters

Larry Nassar might still be abusing gymnasts today if it wasn’t for the outstanding investigative reporting of Marisa Kwiatowski, Mark Alesia and Tim Evans  of the Indianapolis Star.  This trio of reporters poured through thousands of pages of court records and interviewed dozens of Dr. Nassar’s victims. Finally they found one person — Rachael Denhollander  — willing to go “on the record” and be publicly quoted for the story.

After that, the floodgates to the ultimate disinfectant, the sunshine of truth, poured out. Nassar will now spend the rest of his life in prison for his crimes. A link to the New York Times story about this trio of reporter’s work is below.

There are tens of thousands of horrible criminals and wrong-doers in our nation and beyond. There are crimes to be uncovered, corruption that needs to be rooted out, and victims whose stories need to be told.

That’s why journalism matters, perhaps more than ever, in an age where we receive only snippets of stories from cell phone feeds and make snap judgements on meaning.

Depth matters. Verification of sources and stories matters. Quality reporting and editing matters. Journalism matters.

 

SOURCES FOR THIS BLOG POST

Sharyl Attkisson’s chart

https://sharylattkisson.com/2018/08/28/media-bias-a-new-chart/

Peaceful transition of power

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/nothing-less-than-a-miracle-the-constitution-and-the-peaceful-transition-of

To read the Steel dossier:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3259984-Trump-Intelligence-Allegations.html

Strozk and Page

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/06/14/how-the-two-rogue-fbi-officials-explain-their-text-messages-about-trump/?utm_term=.c4f722c0c23b

Disinformation

Pacepa and Rylchlak, “Disinformation,” pages 96-96 Copyright 2013 NWD books, Washington, DC

Pew Research (great read by the way)

http://www.journalism.org/2018/06/18/distinguishing-between-factual-and-opinion-statements-in-the-news/pj_2018-06-18_fact-opinion_0-11/

Indianapolis Star – Larry Nassar

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/25/business/media/indy-star-gymnastics-abuse.html

 


A complaint

April 30, 2018

I will be mailing this letter to the White House Correspondents Association later today.

April 30, 2018
Margaret Talev, President
White House Correspondents Association (WHCA)
600 New Hampshire Avenue, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20037
Dear Ms. Talev

Hate has no place in the United States, especially among privileged journalists who cover the White House.

So why was hate on such full display for the world to see at the White House Correspondents Association’s 2018 Annual Dinner? Who was responsible for selecting Michelle Wolf to speak at this dinner? Who vetted her remarks? Is the WHCA now sanctioning vile personal attacks and hate speech? Has it turned itself into charter members of the Donald Trump Haters Club?

I earned a master’s degree in journalism 40 years ago this spring. I’ve lauded some of the outstanding investigative reporting and editing which reporters have done since then. I’ve been moved to tears at stories which have exposed injustices and wrong doing. There is much to cheer about whenever we discuss the practice of journalism in this country.

But your organization demeaned the profession and all who labor in it with how you treated a key representative of the President of the United States on Saturday, April 28.

Additionally, a tenet of the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics is to minimize harm. The code reads: “Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.” Did Ms. Wolf’s routine on Saturday night help accomplish this?

You owe an apology to Mrs. Sanders and to the President of the United States. If you don’t see it, you are really out of touch with how the American public sees journalism. You should make amends immediately.

I’m accustomed to divisiveness. I worked in Washington DC briefly in the ‘80s (I was press secretary to a U.S. Senator), but the tone and tenor of what your association did on Saturday causes me and a lot of others great distress. Build bridges, not walls. If you want to defeat hate, never go about it by practicing hate.

Sincerely,

 

John Kerezy, Ed.S., MA, APR
Program Coordinator and Associate Professor, Journalism and Mass Communications

cc:           Sarah Sanders, White House Press Secretary
Jennifer Greer, President, AEJMC

Opinions are personal, not those of Cuyahoga Community College