Bans of Discord: Yet another Travel Ban from Trump

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We learned this weekend about a new travel ban issued by Donald Trump. The new ban is more restrictive and it bars entry into the United States to migrants from North Korean and Venezuela. CNN created a helpful snapshot of the travel ban:

Restrictions by Country
North Korea and Syria Entry as immigrants and nonimmigrants suspended.
Chad, Yemen and Libya Entry as immigrants and nonimmigrants on some business and tourist visas suspended.
Somalia Entry as immigrants suspended, and nonimmigrants traveling to the United States to face enhanced screening and vetting requirements.
Iran Entry as immigrants and as nonimmigrants suspended, except under valid student and exchange visitor visas – with enhanced screening and vetting requirements.
Venezuela Entry of certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members as nonimmigrants on some business and tourist visas suspended.

The current ban is much more thorough and precise. Questions and deep concern remain despite these virtues.

Why did Trump extend his travel ban to people from North Korea? The restriction on North Korea seems curious because only about 110 North Koreas were granted visas in the last fiscal year. Why isn’t Iraq listed as a restricted country?

Troubling Responses

Responses to the new travel ban have been swift and troubling. Venezuela’s foreign ministry sees the ban as a form psychological terrorism. They said:

These types of lists, it is worth underlining, are incompatible with international law and constitute in themselves a form of psychological and political terrorism


One country of particular interest is Somalia. While is it correct to say that terrorists have permeated Somalia, it is necessary to consider humanitarian crisis there. The State Department issued a travel warning for Somalia “because of widespread terrorist and criminal activity” in the country. Despite this fact, the humanitarian crisis must be considered when crafting policy.

The entire country of Somalia is on the brink of famine. Severe drought has destroyed large swathes of land. Six million people urgently need food. Livestock suffer as a result of famine and this is evidenced by the numerous goat and sheep carcasses you find on the roadsides. The Somali people are not to blame for their situation. Children are suffering from measles as well.

How should we respond to these people? A blanket travel ban is not the answer. We need nuanced policy for countries like Somalia so that we can reduce the terrorist threat and offer aid to the suffering.

Will the benefits outweigh the cost of this travel ban?


The Enduring Impacts of Trump’s Travel Ban


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It is important to keep the everyday reality of refugees in view when we consider whether to support Trump’s travel ban. The Intercept has a great article on how Trump’s ban has impacted refugees. It’s important for us to consider the travel ban since Trump asked for a “larger” and “tougher” travel ban after the recent London terrorist attack.

Embassies in Jordan and Ethiopia have documented accounts of the impact of Trump’s travel ban on refugees. Recall that the travel order bars travel from seven Muslim-majority nations. Syrian migrants receive the harshest treatment because they are banned from the US indefinitely.

The Intercept obtained a memo from the US Embassy in Addis Ababa, dated February 6, 2017 and it described the catastrophic impact of the Trump’s travel on 150 refugees from Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan. Addis Ababa is the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. These refugees were being processed for entrance into the US when the ban was issued. The State Department paid a visit to a transit camp in Addis Ababa only to be confronted with the horrific state of the refugees. One such instance involves an 8-year-old boy who lost 90 percent of his vision due to glaucoma.

A number of refugees were devastated because they had printed visas in hand but the ban barred them from entering into the US to join the rest of their family. Some refugees have been waiting for over a year to travel to the US including a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, who had never met his father.

Around 27,686 refugees are sheltered in Jordan and their fate is uncertain.

The Guardian reports that Trump’s travel ban hits women the hardest. Displaced women become vulnerable to sexual abuse, labor and sex trafficking. Gender-based violence escalates under these conditions.

Children escape war-torn countries and arrive at intensified horror at their new shelter. Child marriage “more than doubled over the already high pre-war marriage rates.” Women and children find themselves caught in trafficking nets as they escape their countries. Not only this, one hundred orphans can’t unite with their new adopted parents.

What is particularly worrisome is that these women and children are the victims of those who are supposed to protect them, the military and other officials in uniform. Rape is so widespread amount these smuggling routes that “women report that traffickers are now in the business of reproductive health, injecting women with contraceptives to avoid pregnancy en route.”

A result that is missed in discussions about the travel ban has to do with its relationship to terrorists. Jihahist groups celebrated the travel ban because they think it substantiates their claim that the US is at war with Islam. One posting on a pro-Islamic State channel called the Trump ban a “blessed ban.” The goal of these terrorists organizations is to create a cleavage between Muslims in Western countries so they will defect from their country and join them in their terrorist efforts. Yes, the travel ban is being used as a recruiting tool for terrorists group.

It is easy to talk about refugees as an abstract class when you don’t take the time to investigate their plight in detail. This blog post in meant to help publicize the dire conditions refugees endure and encourage readers to take action to stop these atrocities.

The Validity of the Trump “Dossier”


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The website Just Security posted an analysis of a “dossier”, a term used by most news outlets, which contains explosive claims about Donald Trump and his ties to Russia. Christopher Steele is a former British intelligence officer and the author of the dossier. Fusion GPS is a Washington, D.C.-based research firm that funded Steele’s investigation. The 35-page document was initially dismissed as incredible and tabloid level work by mainstream news outlets. Donald Trump called the dossier “fake news” and “phony stuff.”

The dossier chronicles secret meetings, the Russian hacking, and even “salacious sex acts.” Surprisingly, the contents of the document are slowly being validated. John Sipher was a member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service. He analyzed the dossier using his intelligence expertise and he rated the document as “generally credible.” This blog post will quote his analysis at length:

Recent revelations of Trump campaign connections to Russia have revived interest in the so-called Steele Dossier. The dossier is composed of a batch of short reports produced between June and December 2016 by Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based firm specializing in commercial intelligence for government and private-sector clients. The collection of Orbis reports caused an uproar when it was published online by the US website BuzzFeed, just ten days before Donald Trump’s inauguration. Taken together, the series of reports painted a picture of active collusion between the Kremlin and key Trump campaign officials based on years of Russian intelligence work against Trump and some of his associates. This seemed to complement general statements from US intelligence officials about Russia’s active efforts to undermine the US election. The greatest attention was paid to the first report, which conveyed salacious claims about Trump consorting with prostitutes in Moscow in 2013. Trump himself publicly refuted the story, while Trump associates denied reported details about their engagement with Russian officials. A lot of ink and pixels were also spent on the question whether it was appropriate for the media to publish the dossier. The furor quickly passed, the next news cycle came, and the American media has been largely reluctant to revisit the report over the months since.

Almost immediately after the dossier was leaked, media outlets and commentators pointed out that the material was unproven. News editors affixed the terms “unverified” and “unsubstantiated” to all discussion of the issue in the responsible media. Political supporters of President Trump simply tagged it as “fake news.” Riding that wave, even legendary Washington Post reported Bob Woodward characterized the report as “garbage.”

For professional investigators, however, the dossier is by no means a useless document. Although the reports were produced episodically, almost erratically, over a five-month period, they present a coherent narrative of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. As a result, they offer an overarching framework for what might have happened based on individuals on the Russian side who claimed to have insight into Moscow’s goals and operational tactics. Until we have another more credible narrative, we should do all we can to examine closely and confirm or dispute the reports.

Many of my former CIA colleagues have taken the Orbis reports seriously since they were first published. This is not because they are not fond of Trump (and many admittedly are not), but because they understand the potential plausibility of the reports’ overall narrative based on their experienced understanding of both Russian methods, and the nature of raw intelligence reporting. Immediately following the BuzzFeed leak, one of my closest former CIA colleagues told me that he recognized the reports as the obvious product of a former Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) officer, since the format, structure, and language mirrored what he had seen over a career of reading SIS reports provided to CIA in liaison channels. He and others withheld judgment about the veracity of the reports, but for the reasons I outline further below they did not reject them out of hand. In fact, they were more inclined for professional reasons to put them in the “trust but verify” category.

So how should we unpack the so-called Steele dossier from an intelligence perspective?

I spent almost thirty years producing what CIA calls “raw reporting” from human agents. At heart, this is what Orbis did. They were not producing finished analysis, but were passing on to a client distilled reporting that they had obtained in response to specific questions. The difference is crucial, for it is the one that American journalists routinely fail to understand. When disseminating a raw intelligence report, an intelligence agency is not vouching for the accuracy of the information provided by the report’s sources and/or subsources. Rather it is claiming that it has made strenuous efforts to validate that it is reporting accurately what the sources/subsources claim has happened. The onus for sorting out the veracity and for putting the reporting in context against other reporting – which may confirm or deny the new report – rests with the intelligence community’s professional analytic cadre. In the case of the dossier, Orbis was not saying that everything that it reported was accurate, but that it had made a good-faith effort to pass along faithfully what its identified insiders said was accurate. This is routine in the intelligence business. And this form of reporting is often a critical product in putting together more final intelligence assessments.

In this sense, the so-called Steele dossier is not a dossier at all. A dossier suggests a summary or case history. Mr. Steele’s product is not a report delivered with a bow at the end of an investigation. Instead, it is a series of contemporaneous raw reports that do not have the benefit of hindsight. Among the unnamed sources are “a senior Russian foreign ministry official,” “a former top-level intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin,” and “a close associate of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump.” Thus, the reports are not an attempt to connect the dots, but instead an effort to uncover new and potentially relevant dots in the first place.

What’s most relevant in the Orbis reports?

Let me illustrate what the reports contain by unpacking the first and most notorious of the seventeen Orbis reports, and then move to some of the other ones. The first 2 ½ page report was dated June 20, 2016 and entitled “Company Intelligence Report 2016/080.” It starts with several summary bullets, and continues with additional detail attributed to sources A-E and G (there may be a source F but part of the report is blacked out). The report makes a number of explosive claims, all of which at the time of the report were unknown to the public.

Among other assertions, three sources in the Orbis report describe a multi-year effort by Russian authorities to cultivate, support and assist Donald Trump. According to the account, the Kremlin provided Trump with intelligence on his political primary opponents and access to potential business deals in Russia. Perhaps more importantly, Russia had offered to provide potentially compromising material on Hillary Clinton, consisting of bugged conversations during her travels to Russia, and evidence of her viewpoints that contradicted her public positions on various issues.

The report also alleged that the internal Russian intelligence service (FSB) had developed potentially compromising material on Trump, to include details of “perverted sexual acts” which were arranged and monitored by the FSB. Specifically, the compromising material, according to this entry in the report, included an occasion when Trump hired the presidential suite at a top Moscow hotel which had hosted President and Mrs. Obama, and employed prostitutes to defile the bed where the President had slept. Four separate sources also described “unorthodox” and embarrassing behavior by Trump over the years that the FSB believed could be used to blackmail the then presidential candidate.

The report stated that Russian President Putin was supportive of the effort to cultivate Trump, and the primary aim was to sow discord and disunity within the U.S. and the West. The dossier of FSB-collected information on Hillary Clinton was managed by Kremlin chief spokesman Dimitry Peskov.

Subsequent reports provide additional detail about the conspiracy, which includes information about cyber-attacks against the U.S. They allege that Paul Manafort managed the conspiracy to exploit political information on Hillary Clinton in return for information on Russian oligarchs outside Russia, and an agreement to “sideline” Ukraine as a campaign issue. Trump campaign operative Carter Page is also said to have played a role in shuttling information to Moscow, while Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, reportedly took over efforts after Manafort left the campaign, personally providing cash payments for Russian hackers. In one account, Putin and his aides expressed concern over kick-backs of cash to Manafort from former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which they feared might be discoverable by U.S. authorities. The Kremlin also feared that the U.S. might stumble onto the conspiracy through the actions of a Russian diplomat in Washington, Mikhail Kalugin, and therefore had him withdrawn, according to the reports.

In late fall 2016, the Orbis team reported that a Russian-supported company had been “using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.” Hackers recruited by the FSB under duress were involved in the operations. According to the report, Michael Cohen insisted that payments be made quickly and discreetly, and that cyber operators should go to ground and cover their tracks.

Assessing the Orbis reports

What should be made of these leaked reports with unnamed sources on issues that were deliberately concealed by the participants? Honest media outlets have reported on subsequent events that appear to be connected to the reports, but do not go too far with their analysis, concluding still that the dossier is unverified. Almost no outlets have reported on the salacious sexual allegations, leaving the public with very little sense as to whether the dossier is true, false, important or unimportant in that respect.

While the reluctance of the media to speculate as to the value of the report is understandable, professional intelligence analysts and investigators do not have the luxury of simply dismissing the information. They instead need to do all they can to put it into context, determine what appears credible, and openly acknowledge the gaps in understanding so that collectors can seek additional information that might help make sense of the charges.

Step One: Source Validation

In the intelligence world, we always begin with source validation, focusing on what intelligence professionals call “the chain of acquisition.” In this case we would look for detailed information on (in this order) Orbis, Steele, his means of collection (e.g., who was working for him in collecting information), his sources, their sub-sources (witting or unwitting), and the actual people, organizations and issues being reported on.

Intelligence methodology presumes that perfect information is never available, and that the vetting process involves cross-checking both the source of the information as well as the information itself. There is a saying among spy handlers, “vet the source first before attempting to vet the source’s information.” Information from human sources (the spies themselves) is dependent on their distinct access to information, and every source has a particular lens. Professional collectors and debriefing experts do not elicit information from a source outside of the source’s area of specific access. They also understand that inaccuracies are inevitable, even if the source is not trying to mislead. The intelligence process is built upon a feedback cycle that corroborates what it can, and then goes back to gather additional information to help build confidence in the assessment. The process is dispassionate, unemotional, professional and never ending.

Faced with the raw reports in the Orbis document, how might an intelligence professional approach the jumble of information?

The first thing to examine is Christopher Steele, the author of the reports, and his organization Orbis International. Are they credible?

Steele was the President of the Cambridge Union at university, and was a career British intelligence officer with service in Moscow, Paris and Afghanistan prior to work as the head of the Russia desk at British intelligence HQS. While in London he worked as the personal handler of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko. He was a respected professional who had success in some of the most difficult intelligence environments. He retired from SIS in 2009 and started Orbis Business Intelligence along with a former colleague. Prior to his work on the Russian dossier for Orbis, he was best known for his investigation of the world soccer association (FIFA), which provided direct support to the FBI’s successful corruption case. Steele and Orbis were also known for assisting various European countries in understanding Russian efforts to meddle in their affairs.

Like any private firm, Orbis’ ability to remain in business relies on its track record of credibility. Success for Steele and his colleagues depends on his integrity, reliability, and the firm’s reputation for serious work. In this regard, Steele is putting his reputation and his company’s continued existence on the line with each report. Yes, as with anyone operating in the murky world of intelligence, he could be duped. Nonetheless, his reputation for handling sensitive Russian espionage operations over the years suggests that he is security conscious and aware of Russian counterintelligence and disinformation efforts. His willingness to share his work with professional investigative agencies such as the FBI and the British Security Service also suggest that he is comfortable opening his work to scrutiny, and is seen as a serious partner by the best in the business.

The biggest problem with confirming the details of the Steele “dossier” is obvious: we do not know his sources, other than via the short descriptions in the reports. In CIA’s clandestine service, we spent by far the bulk of our work finding, recruiting and validating sources. Before we would ever consider disseminating an intelligence report, we would move heaven and earth to understand the access, reliability, trustworthiness, motivation and dependability of our source. We believe it is critical to validate the source before we can validate the reliability of the source’s information. How does the source know about what he/she is reporting? How did the source get the information? Who are his/her sub-sources? What do we know about the sub-sources? Why is the source sharing the information? Is the source a serious person who has taken appropriate measures to protect their efforts?

One clue as to the credibility of the sources in these reports is that Steele shared them with the FBI. The fact that the FBI reportedly sought to work with him and to pay him to develop additional information on the sources suggest that at least some of them were worth taking seriously. At the very least, the FBI will be able to validate the credibility of the sources, and therefore better judge the information. As one recently retired senior intelligence officer with deep experience in espionage investigations quipped, “I assign more credence to the Steele report knowing that the FBI paid him for his research. From my experience, there is nobody more miserly than the FBI. If they were willing to pay Mr. Steele, they must have seen something of real value.”

Step Two: Assessing the Substantive Content

As outsiders without the investigative tools available to the FBI, we can only look at the information and determine if it makes sense given subsequent events and the revelation of additional information. Mr. Steele did not have the benefit of knowing Mr. Trump would win the election or how events might play out. In this regard, does any of the information we have learned since June 2016 assign greater or less credibility to the information? Were the people mentioned in the report real? Were their affiliations correct? Did any of the activities reported happen as predicted?

To a large extent, yes.

The most obvious occurrence that could not have been known to Orbis in June 2016, but shines bright in retrospect is the fact that Russia undertook a coordinated and massive effort to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election to help Donald Trump, as the U.S. intelligence community itself later concluded. Well before any public knowledge of these events, the Orbis report identified multiple elements of the Russian operation including a cyber campaign, leaked documents related to Hillary Clinton, and meetings with Paul Manafort and other Trump affiliates to discuss the receipt of stolen documents. Mr. Steele could not have known that the Russians stole information on Hillary Clinton, or that they were considering means to weaponize them in the U.S. election, all of which turned out to be stunningly accurate. The U.S. government only published its conclusions in January 2017, with an assessment of some elements in October 2016. It was also apparently news to investigators when the New York Times in July 2017 published Don Jr’s emails arranging for the receipt of information held by the Russians about Hillary Clinton. How could Steele and Orbis know in June 2016 that the Russians were working actively to elect Donald Trump and damage Hillary Clinton? How could Steele and Orbis have known about the Russian overtures to the Trump Team involving derogatory information on Clinton?

We have also subsequently learned of Trump’s long-standing interest in, and experience with Russia and Russians. A February 2017 New York Times article reported that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials in the year before the election. The New York Times article was also corroborated by CNN and Reuters independent reports. And even Russian officials have acknowledged some of these and other repeated contacts. Although Trump has denied the connections, numerous credible reports suggest that both he and Manafort have long-standing relationships with Russians, and pro-Putin groups. In August 2017, CNN reported on “intercepted communications that US intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort…to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects” including “conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.”

We learned that when Carter Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, he met with close Putin ally and Chairman of the Russian state oil company, Igor Sechin. A later Steele report also claimed that he met with Parliamentary Secretary Igor Divyekin while in Moscow. Renowned investigative journalist Michael Isikoff reported in September 2016 that U.S. intelligence sources confirmed that Page met with both Sechin and Divyekin during his July trip to Russia. What’s more, the Justice Department obtained a wiretap in summer 2016 on Page after satisfying a court that there was sufficient evidence to show Page was operating as a Russian agent.

While the Orbis team had no way to know it, subsequent reports from U.S. officials confirmed that Washington-based diplomat Mikhail Kalugin was an undercover intelligence officer and was pulled out of the Embassy and sent home in summer 2016.

The Orbis documents refer repeatedly to Paul Manafort’s “off-the-books” payments from ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian party, and Russian concerns that it may be a vulnerability that could jeopardize the effort. According to the Orbis report, the Russians were concerned about “further scandals involving Manafort’s commercial and political role in Russia/Ukraine.” And, indeed, there have been further scandals since the Orbis reports were written. Those include Manafort being compelled in June 2017 to register retroactively as a foreign agent of a pro-Russian political parties in Ukraine, and Mueller and New York Attorney Generals’ reported investigation of Manafort for possible money laundering and tax evasion linked to Ukrainian ventures.

We do not have any reporting that implicates Michael Cohen in meetings with Russians as outlined in the dossier. However, recent revelations indicate his long-standing relationships with key Russian and Ukrainian interlocutors, and highlight his role in a previously hidden effort to build a Trump tower in Moscow. During the campaign, those efforts included email exchanges with Trump associate Felix Sater explicitly referring to getting Putin’s circle involved and helping Trump get elected.

Further, the Trump Administration’s effort lift sanctions on Russia immediately following the inauguration seems to mirror Orbis reporting related to Mr. Cohen’s promises to Russia, as reported in the Orbis documents. A June 2017 Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff described the Administration’s efforts to engage the State Department about lifting sanctions “almost as soon as they took office.” Their efforts were halted by State Department officials and members of Congress. Following the inauguration, Cohen was involved, again with Felix Sater, to engage in back-channel negotiations seeking a means to lift sanctions via a semi-developed Russian-Ukrainian plan (which also included the hand delivery of derogatory information on Ukrainian leaders) also fits with Orbis reporting related to Cohen.

The quid pro quo as alleged in the dossier was for the Trump team to “sideline” the Ukrainian issue in the campaign. We learned subsequently the Trump platform committee changed only a single plank in the 60-page Republican platform prior to the Republican convention. Of the hundreds of Republican positions and proposals, they altered only the single sentence that called for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military. The Trump team changed the wording to the more benign, “appropriate assistance.”

Consider, in addition, the Orbis report saying that Russia was utilizing hackers to influence voters and referring to payments to “hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.” A January 2017 Stanford study found that “fabricated stories favoring Donald Trump were shared a total of 30 million times, nearly quadruple the number of pro-Hillary Clinton shares leading up to the election.” Also, in November, researchers at Oxford University published a report based on analysis of 19.4 million Twitter posts from early November prior to the election. The report found that an “automated army of pro-Trump chatbots overwhelmed Clinton bots five to one in the days leading up to the presidential election.” In March 2017, former FBI agent Clint Watts told Congress about websites involved in the Russian disinformation campaign “some of which mysteriously operate from Eastern Europe and are curiously led by pro-Russian editors of unknown financing.”

The Orbis report also refers specifically to the aim of the Russian influence campaign “to swing supporters of Bernie Sanders away from Hillary Clinton and across to Trump,” based on information given to Steele in early August 2016. It was not until March 2017, however, that former director of the National Security Agency, retired Gen. Keith Alexander in Senate testimony said of the Russian influence campaign, “what they were trying to do is to drive a wedge within the Democratic Party between the Clinton group and the Sanders group.” A March 2017 news report also detailed that Sanders supporter’s social media sites were infiltrated by fake news, originating from “dubious websites and posters linked back to Eastern Europe,” that tried to shift them against Clinton during the general election. John Mattes, a former Senate investigator who helped run the online campaign for Sanders, said he was struck by Steele’s report. Mattes said, Steele “was writing in real time about things I was seeing happening in August, but I couldn’t articulate until September.” It is important to emphasize here that Steele’s source for the change in plan was “an ethnic Russian associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump [who] discussed the reaction inside his camp.”

A slew of other revelations has directly tied many of the key players in the Trump campaign – most notably Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, and Michael Flynn – who are specifically mentioned in the Orbis reports to Russian officials also mentioned in the reports. To take one example, the first report says that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was responsible for Russia’s compromising materials on Hillary Clinton, and now we have reports that Michael Cohen had contacted Peskov directly in January 2016 seeking help with a Trump business deal in Moscow (after Cohen received the email from Trump business associate Felix Sater saying “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putin’s team to buy in on this.”). To take another example, the third Orbis report says that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was managing the connection with the Kremlin, and we now know that he was present at the June 9, 2016 meeting with Donald Trump, Jr., Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, who has reportedly boasted of his ties to ties and experience in Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence. According to a recent New York Times story, “Akhmetshin told journalists that he was a longtime acquaintance of Paul J. Manafort.”

The Orbis reports chronicle, and subsequent events demonstrate, that the Russian effort evolved over time, adapting to changing circumstances. When their attack seemed to be having an effect, they doubled down, and when it looked like negative media attention was benefiting Ms. Clinton, they changed tactics. The Orbis reports detail internal Kremlin frictions between the participants as the summer wore on. If the dossier is to be believed, the Russian effort may well have started as an anti-Clinton operation, and only became combined with the separate effort to cultivate the Trump team when it appeared Trump might win the nomination. The Russian effort was aggressive over the summer months, but seemed to back off and go into cover-up mode following the Access Hollywood revelations and the Obama Administration’s acknowledgement of Russian interference in the fall, realizing they might have gone too far and possibly benefitted Ms. Clinton. However, when Trump won, they changed again and engaged with Ambassador Kislyak in Washington to get in touch with others in the Trump transition team. As this process unfolded, control of operation on the Russian side passed from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to the FSB, and later to the Presidential Administration. It should be noted in this context, that the much-reported meetings with Ambassador Kislyak do not seem to be tied to the conspiracy. He is not an intelligence officer, and would be in the position to offer advice on politics, personalities and political culture in the United States, but would not be asked to engage in espionage activity. It is likewise notable that Ambassador Kislyak receives only a passing reference in the Steele dossier and only having to do with his internal advice on the political fallout in the U.S. in reaction to the Russian campaign.

Of course, to determine if collusion occurred as alleged in the dossier, we would have to know if the Trump campaign continued to meet with Russian representatives subsequent to the June meeting. As mentioned, in February, the New York Times, CNN, and Reuters, reported that members of Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian officials in the year before the election, according to current and former American officials. Subsequent reports cite receipt of intelligence from European security agencies reporting on odd meetings between Trump associates and Russian officials in Europe. And, perhaps the best clue that there might be something to the narrative of meetings in summer 2016 was former CIA Director John Brennan’s carefully chosen phrase in front of the Senate intelligence committee about the contacts – “frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.” This period will likely be the one most closely scrutinized by FBI investigators.

In retrospect, there is even some indication that the salacious sexual allegations should not be dismissed out of hand. Efforts to monitor foreigners and develop compromising material is completely consistent with Russian M.O. I am certain that they have terabytes of film and audio from inside my apartment in Moscow. Putin himself is known to have been implicated in several sex stings to embarrass his rivals, to include the famous broadcast of a clandestinely-acquired sex video to shame then Prosecutor General Yuriy Skuratov.

Perhaps more intriguing, the most explosive charge in the Steele document was the claim that Trump hired prostitutes to defile a bed slept in by former President Obama. The important factor to consider is that Trump did not engage with the prostitutes himself, but instead allegedly sought to denigrate Obama. If there is anything consistent in what we have learned about President Trump, it seems that his policies are almost exclusively about overturning and eradicating anything related to President Obama’s tenure. In this sense, he is akin to the ancient Pharaohs, Byzantine and Roman Emperors like Caligula, who sought to obliterate the existence of their predecessors, even destroying and defacing their images. Is it inconceivable that he would get some satisfaction from a private shaming of the former President?

Separate Orbis reports also asserted that Trump himself engaged in unorthodox, perverted sexual behavior over the years that “has provided authorities with enough embarrassing and compromising material on the Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.” While it is not worth serious exploration, the notion that Trump might be involved with beautiful young women as alleged in the reports doesn’t seem to be much of a stretch. His private life is well documented and litigated, such that it doesn’t seem wholly out-of-bounds to tie the reports about his activity in Russia with his history of undue interest in young women. Again, there is no means to independently confirm the information and the media shouldn’t try. An intelligence professional or investigator cannot shy away, however, and should try to ascribe some level of confidence in the information as part of the process of validating the various sources and the overall credibility of the reporting. If the specific reports prove untrue, it would cast doubt on other reporting from that source.

Please read the rest of the article here.

Israeli Spies and Throwaway Stories

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A story was published months ago that received media attention and then was discarded from our national consciousness. I want to mention it here to amplify the gravity of the situation. A few months ago a number of news outlets reported on a leak from Donald Trump that may have fatal consequences.

An Israeli spy infiltrated ISIS in an effort to gain intelligence and ultimately defeat the criminal organization. The spy has already gained valuable information about an ISIS plot to bring down passenger planes with a bomb hidden in a laptop. The target country of this plot is none other than the United States. Trump leaked classified information about the spy to Russian officials. Trump’s leak may have put this spy in grave danger. Here is how ABC News put it:

The life of a spy placed by Israel inside ISIS is at risk tonight, according to current and former U.S. officials, after President Donald Trump reportedly disclosed classified information in a meeting with Russian officials last week.

The spy provided intelligence involving an active ISIS plot to bring down a passenger jet en route to the United States, with a bomb hidden in a laptop that U.S. officials believe can get through airport screening machines undetected. The information was reliable enough that the U.S. is considering a ban on laptops on all flights from Europe to the United States.

The sensitive intelligence was shared with the United States, officials say, on the condition that the source remain confidential.

“The real risk is not just this source,” said Matt Olsen, the former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and an ABC News contributor, “but future sources of information about plots against us.”

ISIS has already taken credit for blowing up a Russian airliner two years ago, killing more than 200 people, claiming the bomb was hidden in a soft drink can. The White House National Security Adviser says that justifies President Trump’s disclosures to the Russians.

“And so this was the context of the conversation in which it was wholly appropriate to share what the threat was as a basis for common action and coordination,” said General H.R. McMasters on Tuesday.
When pressed by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, McMaster would not say if Trump disclosed classified information. Trump said in a pair of tweets Tuesday he had the “absolute right” to share “facts” with the Russians.

But many in the counter-terrorism community say what the President did was a mistake.

Here is how the Military Times describes the situation:

Meeting Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to Washington in the Oval Office last week, Trump shared intelligence about an Islamic State threat involving laptops carried on airplanes, according to a senior U.S. official who wasn’t authorized to talk about the sensitive material and spoke on condition of anonymity.

U.S. and Israeli officials have tried to allay concerns. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters that Trump’s disclosure was “wholly appropriate.” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted that the allies will continue to have a “deep, meaningful and unprecedented” security relationship.

But some of the people who’ve spent years safeguarding that relationship say there will be consequences.

Trump made “two very serious mistakes,” former CIA director John Brennan said Thursday at a financial industry event in Las Vegas.

“We shared a lot of sensitive intelligence about terrorism operations that were planned against the Russians,” he said. “But we shared it through intelligence channels, and you also make sure that the language of what you are sharing is not going in any way compromise your collections systems. Mr. Trump didn’t do that.”

Shabtai Shavit, former chief of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, told The Associated Press that his “gut feeling is that anyone who belongs to the professional club is very angry.” Danny Yatom, another ex-Mossad boss, told an Israeli radio station that if reports were accurate, Trump likely caused “heavy damage” to Israeli and American security.

Bar-Joseph, the writer, said: “I won’t say they won’t share secrets anymore, but when it comes to the most sensitive information, there will be a second thought.” Of Trump, he added, “If you can’t count on the president, who can you count on?”

Both nations gain much from the exchange of information.

Israel may withhold intelligence from the US as a result of the leak. Donald Trump is a danger to the nation.

The Senate Healthcare Bill Receives a Significant Catholic Rebuke

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Donald Trump revive the healthcare issue by railing against Mitch McConnell. On August 24th Trump tweeted, “The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearing Repeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed!”  On September 8th Yahoo News said Trump raised the issue again in a tweet. I’ve criticized Republican healthcare policy on multiple occasions. I want to address the issue from a different angle.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to the Senate in response to their healthcare bill. The letter contains moral principles governing healthcare policy. I think there are some good things in the letter. Here is the letter in its entirety:

June 27, 2017

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator:

On June 22, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) outlined initial concerns about the health care reform “discussion draft” developed by the Senate, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (“BCRA”). It was noted at the time that “it is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the BCRA unacceptable as written.”

As the Senate began discussing health care reform, the USCCB provided moral principles to guide lawmakers in their deliberations.1 On balance, the BCRA does not honor these moral obligations in a number of areas, even while trying to provide some very key protections for the unborn:

1. Affordability: The BCRA’s restructuring of Medicaid will adversely impact those already in deep health poverty. At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a “per capita cap” on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable. The BCRA also connects yearly increases to formulas that would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis indicates that an additional 22 million people will be without insurance over time. This loss of coverage will be devastating.

Many people are forced to use their resources to address immediate needs. The revised BCRA draft now includes a “waiting period” penalty for those who do not maintain continuous coverage for a short time in the previous year. This will leave these individuals and families without coverage when they need it most.

2. Access for all: All people need and should have access to comprehensive, quality health care. Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not provide access for all people which is truly within their means. In many places, older and lower-income people will pay more than under current law because of decreased levels of tax credit support and higher premiums. Immigrants need quality care as well, but their access is not improved in the BCRA.

3. Respect for life: The Bishops value language currently in the legislation recognizing that abortion is not health care by attempting to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortion or plans that cover it. Safeguards pertaining to the use of tax credits for plans that include abortion face steep challenges in the coming days. Even as is, the bill needs to be strengthened to fully apply the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in any health care bill.

4. Honoring conscience rights: Unfortunately, no conscience protections are extended by the BCRA for patients, insurers, purchasers, sponsors, and providers.

The BCRA is a slight improvement in limited ways. Overall, however, those enhancements do not overcome the BCRA’s failure to address the needs of the poor. Lawmakers can address the very real problems of the Affordable Care Act by more narrow reforms, and in a unified way. Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation’s health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good. For the sake of persons living on the margins of our health care system, we call on the Senate to reject changes intended to fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people.


Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane
Bishop of Venice
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Justice
and Human Development

Here is a list of some of the Catholic Senators:

Susan Collins (Maine)
John Hoeven (North Dakota)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Jim Risch (Idaho)
Michael Rounds (South Dakota)
Marco Rubio (Florida)
Dan Sullivan (Alaska)
Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
Patrick J. Toomey (Pennsylvania)

Will Catholic Republicans heed their church’s directive? Why isn’t there more opposition to the Senate Healthcare bill?

Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 5)

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Allow me to end this series with yet another egregious act by Arpiao. There were 400 sex-crime cases that were insufficiently investigated or not investigated at all by Arpaio’s office.

The New York Times:

Sheriff Arpaio, the top law enforcement official in sprawling Maricopa County, is perhaps best known for his hard-nosed treatment of prisoners and his aggressive raids aimed at illegal immigrants. But it is his department’s approach to more than 400 sex-crimes cases that has Sheriff Arpaio in trouble.

His deputies failed to investigate or conducted only the sketchiest of inquiries into hundreds of sex crimes between 2005 and 2007, investigations by Arizona law enforcement agencies have shown. Many of those cases involved molested children.

The cases were first raised by The East Valley Tribune in 2008 but resurfaced in the news media earlier this year and in a recent article by The Associated Press, which prompted Sheriff Arpaio to defend himself at a news conference. “If there were any victims, I apologize to those victims,” he said on Monday, vowing to hold deputies accountable.

… Many of the cases originated in El Mirage, a working-class suburb of Phoenix, where the Police Department was disbanded in 2005 and the Sheriff’s Department was called in to provide policing. But when the Police Department was reformed in 2007, officials discovered that dozens of sensitive cases, many filed by illegal immigrants, had not been adequately investigated or investigated at all.

… activists converged on the Town Hall in Guadalupe, a predominantly Latino neighborhood where sheriff’s deputies conducted a high-profile raid in 2008. Randy Parraz, who is leading an effort to oust the sheriff, urged the Town Council to adopt a resolution calling for Mr. Arpaio’s resignation. But town officials put off the matter and instead allowed residents to vent.

One young woman said her cousin has tried with no success to get deputies to investigate the molestation of her three daughters. “The person who did it is still out there,” she said. “We see him all the time.”

Subsequent efforts to investigate the cases have proven fruitless as many of the victims have moved, or no longer wish to cooperate with the authorities.

I’ll stop here. I could continue to give details of Arpaio’s legal violations and negligence for weeks. The case against the former sheriff is light years away from penalization for “doing his job.” Donald Trump has done this country a grave disservice by pardoning Sheriff Arpaio.

Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 4)

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The Legal Case Against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

In our last blog we itemized the questionable practices of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). It’s time to lay out the legal case against MCSO. We will quote directly from Judge Snow’s ruling:

1. Mere unauthorized presence in this country, without more, is not a criminal offense. It is true that use of unauthorized methods of entry into this country generally constitutes at least misdemeanor or petty criminal violations of federal immigration law. See, e.g., 8 U.S.C. § 1325 (2005) (making it a federal misdemeanor to enter or attempt to enter the United States at “any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers.”). However, aliens may enter the country legally, but become subject to removal either by staying longer than authorized or otherwise acting in excess of their authorization. Although a number of such aliens are here without or in excess of authorization, they have only committed a civil, as opposed to a criminal, violation of federal law. As the Supreme Court recently explained “[a]s a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States. If the police stop someone based on nothing more than possible removability, the usual predicate for an arrest is absent.” Arizona v. United States, ___ U.S. ____, ____, 132 S. Ct. 2492, 2505 (2012) (citing INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032, 1038 (1984)). (pg. 109)

2. This Court preliminarily enjoined the MCSO on December 23, 2011 from detaining persons based only on a suspicion that they were in this country without authorization in the absence of additional facts. The MCSO appealed the preliminary injunction to the Ninth Circuit. In affirming the preliminary injunction, the Ninth Circuit reiterated these principles:

We have long made clear that, unlike illegal entry, mere unauthorized presence in the United States is not a crime. See Martinez-Medina v. Holder, 673 F.3d 1029, 1036 (9th Cir. 2011) (“Nor is there any other federal criminal statute making unlawful presence in the United States, alone, a federal crime, although an alien’s willful failure to register his presence in the United States when required to do so is a crime, and other criminal statutes may be applicable in a particular circumstance.”) (citation omitted); Gonzales v. City of Peoria, 722 F.2d 468, 476–77 (9th Cir. 1983) (explaining that illegal presence is “only a civil violation”), overruled on other grounds by Hodgers-Durgin, 199 F.3d 1037. The Supreme Court recently affirmed that, “[a]s a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” Arizona v. United States, 132 S.Ct. at 2502. (pgs. 109-110)

3. In affirming this Court’s preliminary injunction, not only did the Ninth Circuit establish that the MCSO has no power to arrest such persons under such circumstances, it made clear that the MCSO has no power to detain them to investigate their immigration status. It is the existence of a suspected crime that gives a police officer the right to detain a person for the minimum time necessary to determine whether a crime is in progress. “[P]ossible criminality is key to any Terry investigatory stop or prolonged detention. . . . Absent suspicion that a ‘suspect is engaged in, or is about to engage in, criminal activity,’ law enforcement may not stop or detain an individual.” Ortega-Melendres II, 695 F.3d at 1000 (quoting United States v. Sandoval, 390 F.3d 1077, 1080 (9th Cir. 2004).

In the absence, then, of any reasonable suspicion of a possible crime, there is no basis on which the MCSO can make an investigative detention—let alone an arrest— based only on the belief that someone is in the country without authorization. See also Arizona v. Johnson, 555 U.S. 323, 326 (2009) (holding that an investigatory stop is justified at its inception only when an officer “reasonably suspects that the person apprehended is committing or has committed a criminal offense”). (pg. 111)

4. The LEAR policy requires the arrest of the subject encountered by the MCSO. As Sheriff Arpaio testified, the MCSO continues to arrest all persons that it comes across that it believes to be unauthorized aliens. When the MCSO finds some aliens that it cannot charge with a violation of state law, it turns them over to ICE (and has done so consistently without problem). Of course, his testimony highlights the fact that once such persons come into the custody of the MCSO, they are not free to leave and are hence under arrest. His testimony in this respect is supported by the similar testimony of a number of other MCSO witnesses. Chief Sands, Deputy Rangel, and others testified that such persons are taken into custody first, and only those that cannot be charged on state charges are then turned over to ICE. Such persons are investigated and apprehended upon the prerogative of the MCSO and not at the direction of ICE. And such apprehensions occur despite the lack of any authority on the part of the MCSO to investigate or arrest for civil immigration violations. (pg. 113)

5. The MCSO’s LEAR policy is not authorized by Arizona v. United States, 8 U.S.C. § 1357(g)(10), or any other case or statute. The policy is further in excess of the MCSO’s constitutional authority because the policy’s focus on removable aliens as opposed to aliens who have committed criminal offenses violates the strictures against unreasonable seizures set forth in the Fourth Amendment.89 The Court therefore concludes as a matter of law that when MCSO detains a vehicle’s occupant(s) because a deputy believes that the occupants are not legally present in the country, but has no probable cause to detain them for any other reason, the deputy violates the Fourth Amendment rights of the occupants. See Arizona, 132 S. Ct. at 2509 (“Detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns.”) (citation omitted). The Court further concludes, as a matter of law, that the MCSO has violated the explicit terms of this Court’s preliminary injunction set forth in its December 23, 2011 order because the MCSO continues to follow the LEAR policy and the LEAR policy violates the injunction. See Ortega-Melendres v. Arpaio (Ortega-Melendres I), 836 F. Supp. 2d 959, 994 (D. Ariz. 2011). The MCSO is thus permanently enjoined from enforcing its LEAR policy with respect to Latino occupants of motor vehicles in Maricopa County. (pg. 114-115)

6. The MCSO’s use of Hispanic ancestry or race as a factor in forming reasonable suspicion that persons have violated state laws relating to immigration status violates the Fourth Amendment. “The Fourth Amendment prohibits ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’ by the Government, and its protections extend to brief investigatory stops of persons or vehicles that fall short of traditional arrest.” United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273 (2002) (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 9 (1968)). However, the Fourth Amendment is satisfied if an officer’s action is supported by “reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal activity may be afoot.” United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 30). (pg. 115)

During a so-called “Terry stop,” an officer’s reasonable suspicion that a person may be involved in criminal activity permits the officer to stop the person for a brief time and take additional steps to investigate further. Terry, 392 U.S. at 24. Under Ninth Circuit law, the race of an individual cannot be considered when determining whether an officer has or had reasonable suspicion in connection with a Terry stop, including for immigration investigation. See, e.g., Montero-Camargo, 208 F.3d 1122 (9th Cir. 2000); (Doc. 530 at 23 ¶ c). Nevertheless, analysis under the Fourth Amendment, including that relating to reasonable suspicion, is wholly objective, and “[s]ubjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis.” See Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 813 (1996). (pg. 115-116)

7. While the en banc Ninth Circuit also affirmed the convictions, it emphasized that the defendants’ Hispanic appearance was not a proper factor to consider in determining whether the Border Patrol agents had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicles. Id. In so holding, the Ninth Circuit noted that for reasonable suspicion to exist, the totality of the circumstances “must arouse a reasonable suspicion that the particular person being stopped has committed or is about to commit a crime.”90 Id. at 1129 (citing United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 418 (1981) (emphasis in original). The court went on to note that:

[t]he likelihood that in an area in which the majority—or even a substantial part—of the population is Hispanic, any given person of Hispanic ancestry is in fact an alien, let alone an illegal alien, is not high enough to make Hispanic appearance a relevant factor in the reasonable suspicion calculus. As we have previously held, factors that have such a low probative value that no reasonable officer would have relied on them to make an investigative stop must be disregarded as a matter of law.

Id. at 1132; see also Gonzalez-Rivera, 22 F.3d at 1446. (pg. 118)

Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 3)

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A law suit was eventually filed against Arpaio. In, Melendres v. Arpaio, a federal district court found that Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) engaged in unlawful discrimination against Hispanic people. Let’s review some the court’s findings of fact in this case. Again, I will quote relevant portions directly from Judge G Murray Snow’s ruling:

1. ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of the Department of Homeland Security] trained HSU [Human Smuggling Unit] officers that it was acceptable to consider race as one factor among others in making law enforcement decisions in an immigration context. (pg . 36)
2. The evidence demonstrates that the MCSO specifically equated being a Hispanic or Mexican (as opposed to Caucasian or African-American) day laborer with being an unauthorized alien. (Exs. 308 (MCSO news release asserting that the only sanctuary for illegal alien day laborers is in Mexico), 310 (MCSO news release asserting that despite the anticipated arrest of many “illegal aliens” the MCSO is not engaged in racial profiling.), 311; see also Doc 453 at 150 ¶¶ 28–30 (the MCSO acknowledging that the Sheriff and MCSO deputies believed the overwhelming number of illegal aliens in Maricopa County are from Mexico and South America).) In his testimony Sheriff Arpaio acknowledged that he would not investigate Caucasians for immigration compliance because it would not have occurred to him that they were in the country without authorization. (Tr. at 441:22–442:3.) For the totality of all of the MCSO operations in which it targeted and arrested day laborers, Chief Sands could not identify a single instance in which the MCSO arrested a day laborer who was not Hispanic on any charge. (Doc. 530 at 1 ¶ 84.) Similarly, there is no evidence that undercover officers directed patrol officers during day labor operations to stop vehicles that had picked up day laborers that were not Latino. Thus, the Court concludes as a matter of fact that MCSO officers, who believed that Latino day laborers were unauthorized, centered day labor operations in locations where specifically Latino day laborers assembled, and where MCSO deputies perceived they had a higher likelihood of encountering persons present in the country in violation of immigration laws. The logistics of such operations, together with other evidence introduced at trial, show that the MCSO used this combination of race and work status in determining where to locate operations in which it would target vehicles for pretextual enforcement of traffic regulations to investigate immigration status.

However, several MCSO witnesses testified that the locations for these operations were selected in response to complaints about day laborers being involved in other illegal activity, and not principally to enforce immigrations laws against Hispanics. While the Court recognizes that a single law enforcement operation can serve multiple purposes, and that law enforcement officials are entitled to considerable deference in locating and conducting their operations, the Court does not credit such testimony because, among other reasons, there are in the record some direct connections between a citizen complaint regarding Hispanics and Latinos congregating in a certain area and an MCSO enforcement action. (pgs. 43-44)

3. The MCSO used race as one factor among others in making law enforcement decisions during saturation patrols. (pg. 67)
4. The MCSO used race as a factor in determining whom to investigate and arrest during the small-scale patrols without high arrest ratios. (pg. 68)
5. During large-scale patrols, participating MCSO deputies were instructed to not racially profile and were obliged to book all criminal offenders. Yet arrest records show a disproportionate number of arrests of persons with Hispanic surnames. (pg. 71)
6. In sum, a remarkably high percentage of arrests during the large scale patrols were of people with Hispanic surnames. These results occurred while the MCSO claimed to be operating under a policy that forbade racial profiling and required deputies to arrest all criminal offenders. In light of the arrest numbers, the Court finds that either the MCSO was in fact not operating under those policies during the large-scale saturation patrols or MCSO’s policy forbidding racial profiling nevertheless permitted the consideration of race as a factor in executing the operations. (pg. 74)
7. Some MCSO deputies claim to conduct identity checks on all vehicle occupants. Due to MCSO policy that allows officers to consider race in determining whether to initiate an immigration investigation, vehicle occupants who are Latino are more likely to have their identity checked as a matter of operational procedure and policy. (pg. 96)
8. The MCSO never made an evaluation to determine whether its saturation patrols were being implemented with racial bias. (pg. 99)
9. After the revocation of its 287(g) status, the MCSO erroneously trained all of its 900 deputies that they could enforce federal immigration law. The MCSO further erroneously trained its deputies that unauthorized presence in the country, without more, was a criminal as opposed to an administrative violation of federal immigration law. The MCSO operated under that misunderstanding during most of the period relevant to this lawsuit. (pg. 101)
10. In following its LEAR policy, the MCSO continues to use race as an indicator of unauthorized presence. (pg. 106)

Yes, deputies of the MCSO “permitted the consideration of race as a factor in executing the operations.”

Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 2)

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Did the DOJ give specific examples of discriminatory policing? Let’s quote directly from the DOJ’s findings:

1. MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office ] deputies target Latino drivers. A statistical analysis of MCSO’s traffic stops made since the initiation ofMCSO’s immigration enforcement program-which is dominated by the use of pre textual stops-shows that MCSO’s enforcement practices have a discriminatory impact on Latino drivers. We had a leading expert on measuring racial profiling through statistical analysis examine MCSO traffic stops. The expert found that Latino drivers were between four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers. Overall, the expert concluded that this case involves the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he has ever personally seen in the course of his work, observed in litigation, or reviewed in professional literature. (pg. 6)
2. MCSO’s HSU, which purportedly focuses on interdicting both human smugglers and their victims, engages in unlawful conduct in its attempts to enforce immigration-related laws. HSU deputies stop, detain, and/or arrest Latino drivers without adequate cause. When we reviewed all of the traffic-related incident reports generated by HSU from March 2006 to March 2009, we found that roughly 20% of the reports contained information indicating that the stops, almost all of which involved Latino drivers, were conducted without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Further, HSU’s enforcement actions rarely result in human smuggling arrests. During our interviews, an HSU deputy stressed that his unit conducts a “ton of stops” and he estimated the “hit rate” (success rate as measured by frequency of smuggling arrests) to be at 10% to 15%. Accordingly, 85% to 90% of the vehicles HSU stops purportedly based on suspicion of immigration violations have, at most, committed a traffic violation. Pretextual stops motivated by racial bias, or that are the result of a policy targeting a protected group, are impermissible. The typical characteristic ofHSU’s enforcement efforts is, therefore, the targeting and harassment of Latino drivers rather than the effective enforcement of immigration law, an element ofMCSO’s overall pattern of discrimination against Latinos in Maricopa County. (pgs. 6-7)

A. Here is an example of such practices: B.B., a legal resident of the United States, and his 12 year-old son, a U.S. citizen, are both Latino. In May 2009, a group ofMCSO deputies conducted a raid of a house neighboring B.B.’ s home that the deputies suspected of being a “drop house” for human smuggling. At some point during the raid, two of the MCSO deputies involved entered AA’s home after obtaining consent to enter. Without obtaining consent to search, the deputies searched the home without a warrant. Although they found no evidence of criminal activity in the house, the MCSO deputies proceeded to handcuff both B.B. and his son with plastic zip-ties and remove them from their ‘ home. The deputies directed both to sit on the sidewalk next to approximately ten other individuals who had been removed from the neighboring house. MCSO released B.B. and his son without any citation after detaining them with restraints for more than an hour. (pg. 7)

The reader might concede that these are egregious cases, but still wonder if there is evidence of direct criminal activity performed by Arpaio. Let’s continue to quote directly from the DOJ’s findings:

Sheriff Arpaio also received a letter in May 2008 complaining that police had not stopped day laborers in Mesa “in order to determine whether these day laborers are here under legitimate circumstances” although the writer of the letter “believe[d] that they were in the country illegally.” Sheriff Arpaio marked the quoted sections of the letter, believing them to be “intelligence,” and forwarded the letter to Chief Sands. Sheriff Arpaio later testified that being a day laborer is not a crime. Sheriff Arpaio then received a similar letter later that month stating that Mesa needed “a sweep … terribly” and accusing specifically Latino members of MCSO and the Mesa Police Department of negligence in pursuing “illegals.” Sheriff Arpaio directed that a thank you letter be written, noted that “I will be going into Mesa,” and forwarded the letter to Chief Sands. Chief Sands later testified that he assumed that the letter’s author correlated undocumented persons with “dark-complected people.” Despite the bias evident in both letters, MCSO conducted crime suppression operations in Mesa on June 26-27, 2008, and on July 14,2008. (Emphasis Mine) (pg. 8)

How else was Chief Sands supposed to implement the demands contained in the letter sent by Sheriff Arpaio? Arpaio failed to give guidelines for the execution of the letter. This is a textbook case of racial profiling. Chief Sands equated “dark-complected people” with undocumented immigrants in a police sweep!

The DOJ’s findings continue:

Sheriff Arpaio’s own actions have helped nurture MCSO’s culture of bias. For example, Sheriff Arpaio has frequently distributed racially charged constituent letters, annotating the letters with handwritten notes that appear to endorse the content of the letter, circulating the letters to others on the command staff, and/or saving the letters in his personal file. Many of these letters contain no meaningful descriptions of criminal activity-just crude, ethnically derogatory language about Latinos. For example, Sheriff Arpaio received a letter asking him to do a “round-up” at 29th Street and Greenway in Phoenix. The letter justified the requested police action by asserting that “[i]fyou have dark skin, then you have dark skin. Unfortunately, that is the look of the Mexican illegals who are here illegally.” Instead of ignoring the request to focus on “dark -skin[ ned]” people, Sheriff Arpaio, believing that the letter was relevant “intelligence,” passed it on to a member of his command staff with a note instructing him to “[h]ave someone handle this.” Labeling as “intelligence” a letter explicitly equating skin color with law-breaking and instructing a subordinate to address it are striking examples of how Sheriff Arpaio has promoted a culture of bias in his organization and clearly communicated to his officers that biased policing would not only be tolerated, but encouraged. (Emphasis Mine) (pg. 10)

Sheriff Arpaio disseminated a letter that requested a “round-up” of people with “dark skin.” This is just a small sampling of the negative racial practice Maricopa County deputies engaged in under Arpaio’s watch.

Should we Pardon Apario and Trump? (Part 1)

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Donald Trump pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Trump recently held a rally in Phoenix, Arizona. At that rally Trump said “Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Apparently, Trump thinks Joe Arpaio was simply doing his job. Sheriffs are supposed to abide by, and enforce the Constitution of the United States. Courts exist to determine if any law was broken.

Did Arpaio simply do his job? Did the court rule against Arpaio simply for doing his job? Was Trump justified in offering a pardon to rectify a wrong done by a court?

The Department of Justice 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into civil rights violations by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) in June of 2008 and they presented their findings to the county attorney in a document dated December 15, 2011. Quotes in this section will draw directly from this document.

Investigators reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documentary evidence, toured jails, and interviewed over 400 people, including 150 former and current jail inmates. If that isn’t enough, they interviewed over 75 jail employees, “including the Sheriff, the Chief of Enforcement, the Chief of Patrol, the Administrative Investigative Commander, the Sergeant heading MCSO’s Criminal Employment Squad, and the Lieutenant heading MCSO’s Human Smuggling Unit [HSU].” [Emphasis Mine]

The investigation concluded that MCSO had a pattern of unconstitutional policing and “through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Latinos; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO’s policies or practices, all in violation of Section 14141.” (pg. 2)

Evidence of use of excessive force against Latinos was also uncovered. (pg. 2) Investigators expanded their investigation because they received allegations that MCSO failed to investigate a large number of sex crimes. (pg. 2)

This blog series will be a thorough examination of the misdeeds of the MCSO and Arpaio.