FBI still does not have warrant to review new Abedin emails linked to Clinton probe

Michael Isikoff reports: When FBI Director James Comey wrote his bombshell letter to Congress on Friday about newly discovered emails that were potentially “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, agents had not been able to review any of the material, because the bureau had not yet gotten a search warrant to read them, three government officials who have been briefed on the probe told Yahoo News.

At the time Comey wrote the letter, “he had no idea what was in the content of the emails,” one of the officials said, referring to recently discovered emails that were found on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Weiner is under investigation for allegedly sending illicit text messages to a 15-year-old girl.

As of Saturday night, the FBI was still in talks with the Justice Department about obtaining a warrant that would allow agency officials to read any of the newly discovered Abedin emails, and therefore was still in the dark about whether they include any classified material that the bureau has not already seen. [Continue reading…]

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The newly discovered emails that were neither written to or by Hillary Clinton

Newsweek reports: The disclosure by the Federal Bureau of Investigation late on Friday, October 28 that it had discovered potential new evidence in its inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s handling of her personal email when she was Secretary of State has virtually nothing to do with any actions taken by the Democratic nominee, according to government records and an official with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke to Newsweek on condition of anonymity.

The revelation that the FBI has discovered additional emails convulsed the political world, and led to widespread (and erroneous) claims and speculation. Many Republicans proclaimed that the discovery suggests Clinton may have broken the law, while Democrats condemned FBI Director James Comey for disclosing this information less than two weeks before the election, claiming he did it for political purposes.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, said the development showed his opponent had engaged in corruption “on a scale we have never seen before,’’ while Clinton called for the FBI to release all of the information it has, saying the American people have a right to know everything.

The truth is much less explosive. There is no indication the emails in question were withheld by Clinton during the investigation, the law enforcement official told Newsweek, nor does the discovery suggest she did anything illegal. Also, none of the emails were to or from Clinton, the official said. Moreover, despite the widespread claims in the media that this development had prompted the FBI to “reopen” the case, it did not; such investigations are never actually closed, and it is common for law enforcement to discover new information that needs to be examined. [Continue reading…]

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James Comey stands tall, and alone, in a tight corner in Clinton email mess

The Daily Beast reports: Former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch insisted there was nothing improper about their little chat when their planes chanced to be in Phoenix and he strode across the tarmac to her plane.

“I did see President Clinton at the Phoenix airport as he was leaving and spoke to myself and my husband on the plane,” Lynch said afterwards. “Our conversation was a great deal about grandchildren, it was primarily social about our travels and he mentioned golf he played in Phoenix.”

The fact remained that the former president had met in private with the country’s top law enforcement official when the Department of Justice was actively investigating his wife in a criminal matter. His wife being Hillary Clinton, who could quite possibly be our next president.

Lynch then could have simply recused herself from the probe, as prosecutors have in the past. She did not.

And, say some who know FBI Director James Comey, this left him in what he felt was an untenable situation.

Comey had essentially come to the end of the investigation and he had concluded that there was insufficient cause to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime. The usual protocol called for him then to refer the findings to the attorney general and let her make the prosecutorial decision.

But the attorney general had been sitting on a plane with the target’s husband less than two weeks before. And for Lynch now to announce that Hillary Clinton had been cleared would call into question the integrity of all involved, including Comey and the FBI.

Comey decided that he had to present the results directly to the public. He did so, insisting that the evidence did not establish the intent he said was necessary to bring criminal charges. He made clear that he felt Hillary Clinton had been reckless and irresponsible and that she had shown terrible judgment.

“He wasn’t going to indict, but he was going to scold,” a former federal prosecutor said on Saturday. “Scolding in the first degree has never quite made it.”

Along with their surprise at Comey’s break with protocol, some veteran agents were outraged by the decision itself. Few of them are Hillary fans. And all of them had learned from their first days the importance of treating classified materials properly. They viewed it as the highest arrogance to ignore the strictures to which they adhere. [Continue reading…]

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Vladimir Putin’s campaign to seduce, subvert and screw over Western democracies — including ours

The Daily Beast reports: The golden domes would look at home on Moscow’s Red Square. There are five of them, onion-shaped and glistening in the sun, each one bearing a cross — potent symbols of the Russian Orthodox Church. But here in front of them flows the Seine River. Behind them rises the Eiffel Tower. Down the street is the French foreign ministry, known as the Quai d’Orsay.

That much you can see.

What French and other Western intelligence agencies have been concerned about as they watched the building go up over the last six years is what you don’t see when you look at the just-inaugurated Holy Trinity Cathedral and Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center.


French journalist Nicolas Hénin in his new book La France Russe notes that the building abuts an apartment used (at least until recently) by the French Secretary General of Defense and National Security, as well as the mail service of the French presidential palace.

An inter-ministerial note on the state of France’s intelligence agencies cited by Hénin observed that the cathedral domes, made of composite materials, could hide sophisticated listening devices, and since the “cultural center” enjoys diplomatic immunity, there’s no obvious way to get inside to look.

According to other sources, the French are now employing active countermeasures, just in case, and several Western embassies and enterprises have checked to make sure there is no line of sight contact between them and the domes.

It’s a strange spectacle, an obvious outpost of Mother Russia, even if all its aspects are benign, which was assumed to be the case when then-President Nicolas Sarkozy approved its construction in 2010. But since then, “benign” has become a word hard to associate with the Kremlin. So when Russian President Vladimir Putin was supposed to open the center here this month, the current French president, François Hollande, said he wouldn’t attend, and if he talked to Putin at all, his office declared, it would be about war crimes in Syria. Putin decided to postpone his visit more or less indefinitely.

Perhaps this seems like crazy neo-Cold War paranoia. High-tech spookery hiding behind onion domes on the Left Bank? Yet almost anything seems possible at a time when Putin has been using every conceivable means at his disposal to extend Russian influence and disrupt or discredit Western democracy in Europe, and, indeed, in the United States.

If there is a new cold war chill, it’s coming from the east. [Continue reading…]

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Justice officials warned FBI that Comey’s decision to update Congress was not consistent with department policy

The Washington Post reports: Senior Justice Department officials warned the FBI that Director James B. Comey’s decision to notify Congress about renewing the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was not consistent with long-standing practices of the department, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

FBI officials who work closely with Comey on Thursday contacted attorneys at the Justice Department. Their message: Comey intended to inform lawmakers of newly discovered emails potentially connected to the Clinton email investigation.

Justice officials reminded the FBI of the department’s position “that we don’t comment on an ongoing investigation. And we don’t take steps that will be viewed as influencing an election,” said one Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the high-level conversations.

“Director Comey understood our position. He heard it from Justice leadership,” the official said. “It was conveyed to the FBI, and Comey made an independent decision to alert the Hill. He is operating independently of the Justice Department. And he knows it.”

Comey’s decision less than two weeks before the presidential election has stunned former and current law enforcement officials and rocked the Clinton campaign, which appeared to be coasting to victory. [Continue reading…]

Simon Tisdall writes: Comey’s move is either extremely naive or extremely cynical. FBI investigations are routinely conducted behind closed doors. Only when a decision to prosecute has been taken, based on persuasive evidence, is an inquiry made public or suspects named.

For a respected, ostensibly independent figure like the FBI director to tip his hand at this extraordinarily sensitive moment amounts to an overtly political, partisan act. Since it must be assumed that Comey is no fool, it must also be assumed that he knew what he was doing.

A less damning explanation is that he was clumsily attempting to save the FBI (and himself) further criticism from the Republican right, which denounced his earlier investigatory efforts as a pro-Hillary cover-up. But if that is the case, why did Comey not have a confidential word with the relevant congressional oversight committees? Nobody could then subsequently accuse him of a cover-up. And he would not have triggered the firestorm in which the FBI’s impartiality is again being questioned, and this time from the left. [Continue reading…]

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Carl Bernstein: No way HRC emails ‘bigger than watergate’ — or close

Politico reports: To Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton’s new email review by the FBI was “bigger than Watergate.”

“No way” says journalist Carl Bernstein, who was part of the team that uncovered the Watergate scandal that ultimately brought down the Nixon presidency.

“No way HRC emails ‘bigger than watergate’ -or close. Watergate was about a criminal Potus & 48 aides/co-conspirators found guilty,” Bernstein wrote in a tweet Saturday.

“Not to minimize her reckless and mendacious handling of email-server matters –but altogether different league than watergate,” he continued in a follow-up tweet. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports: we know a lot about the Watergate scandal from the 1970s, thanks to the dogged, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting of The Washington Post’s Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. The scandal began with a burglary of the Democratic National Committee office at the Watergate complex and led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, and the criminal convictions and guilty pleas of dozens of people involved in the massive campaign of sabotage and espionage on behalf of Nixon’s reelection effort and the ensuing coverup.

The key here is that there were clear violations of law that led to criminal convictions of aides and co-conspirators. In total, 69 people were charged with crimes, and 48 people pleaded guilty.

Here’s a list of some of the major figures who were implicated in the Watergate scandal, including the 1972 burglary and the following coverup. All were found guilty except for Nixon, who was pardoned. [Continue reading…]

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‘I live in a lie’: Saudi women speak up

Mona El-Naggar reports: “We’re not allowed to even go to the supermarket without permission or a companion, and that’s a simple thing on the huge, horrendous list of rules we have to follow.” — DOTOPS, 24

“The male guardianship makes my life like a hell!! We want to hang out with our friends, go and have lunch outside. I feel hopeless.” — JUJU19, 21

“I don’t mind taking my dad’s approval in things he should be a part of. These very strong social bonds you will never, ever understand.” — NOURA

These are three of the nearly 6,000 women from Saudi Arabia who wrote to The New York Times last week about their lives.

We had put a call-out on our website and on Twitter in conjunction with the publication of “Ladies First,” a Times documentary I directed about the first Saudi elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for local office.

Saudi Arabia is an incredibly private, patriarchal society. While I was making the film, many women were afraid to share their stories for fear of backlash from the male relatives who oversee all aspects of their lives as so-called guardians. We wanted to hear more about their fears, their frustrations, their ambitions.

Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest rates of Twitter use, and our posts rocketed around. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring.

Most of the responses focused on frustration over guardianship rules that force women to get permission from a male relative — a husband, father, brother or even son — to do things like attend college, travel abroad, marry the partner of their choice or seek medical attention. Some women talked about the pride they had in their culture and expressed great distrust of outsiders. But many of them shared a deep desire for change and echoed Juju19’s hopelessness. [Continue reading…]

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As Earth warms, the diseases that may lie within permafrost become a bigger worry

Scientific American reports: This past summer anthrax killed a 12-year-old boy in a remote part of Siberia. At least 20 other people, also from the Yamal Peninsula, were diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease after approximately 100 suspected cases were hospitalized. Additionally, more than 2,300 reindeer in the area died from the infection. The likely cause? Thawing permafrost. According to Russian officials, thawed permafrost — a permanently frozen layer of soil — released previously immobile spores of Bacillus anthracis into nearby water and soil and then into the food supply. The outbreak was the region’s first in 75 years.

Researchers have predicted for years that one of the effects of global warming could be that whatever is frozen in permafrost — such as ancient bacteria — might be released as temperatures climb. This could include infectious agents humans might not be prepared for, or have immunity to, the scientists said. Now they are witnessing the theoretical turning into reality: infectious microorganisms emerging from a deep freeze.

Although anthrax occurs naturally in all soil and outbreaks unrelated to permafrost can occur, extensive permafrost thaw could increase the number of people exposed to anthrax bacteria. In a 2011 paper published in Global Health Action, co-authors Boris A. Revich and Marina A. Podolnaya wrote of their predictions: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back, especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”

And permafrost is indeed thawing — at higher latitudes and to greater depths than ever before. In various parts of Siberia the active layer above permafrost can thaw to a depth of 50 centimeters every summer. This summer, however, there was a heat wave in the region, and temperatures hovered around 35 degrees Celsius — 25 degrees warmer than usual. The difference possibly expanded or deepened the thaw and mobilized microorganisms usually stuck in rigid earth. Although scientists have yet to calculate the final depth, they postulate that it is a number that has not been seen in almost a century. Permafrost thaw overall could become widespread with temperatures only slightly higher than those at present, according to a 2013 study in Science. Heat waves in higher latitudes are becoming more frequent as well. [Continue reading…]

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Academics get paid for writing rubbish that nobody reads

Daniel Lattier writes: Professors usually spend about three to six months (sometimes longer) researching and writing a 25-page article to submit an article to an academic journal. And most experience a twinge of excitement when, months later, they open a letter informing them that their article has been accepted for publication, and will, therefore, be read by…

an average of 10 people.

Yes, you read that correctly. The numbers reported by recent studies are pretty bleak:

– 82 percent of articles published in the humanities are not even cited once.

– Of those articles that are cited, only 20 percent have actually been read.

– Half of academic papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, peer reviewers, and journal editors.

So what’s the reason for this madness? Why does the world continue to be subjected to just under 2 million academic journal articles each year?

Well, the main reason is money and job security. The goal of all professors is to get tenure, and right now, tenure continues to be awarded based in part on how many peer-reviewed publications they have. Tenure committees treat these publications as evidence that the professor is able to conduct mature research.

Sadly, however, many academic articles today are merely exercises in what one professor I knew called “creative plagiarism”: rearrangements of previous research with a new thesis appended on to them.

Another reason is increased specialization in the modern era, which is in part due to the splitting up of universities into various disciplines and departments that each pursue their own logic. [Continue reading…]

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Rashida Jones: The only scary thing about Syria’s refugees is that they’re just like us

Rashida Jones writes: Immigration has become an unavoidable part of our global conversation. In part, because since 2011, the war in Syria has perpetuated a devastating refugee crisis, many fleeing the country by any means possible, putting a strain on many countries all over the world. We’ve all seen the pictures: a child trying to flee war, washing ashore in Turkey, dead. Rescued children who survived an air strike in Aleppo, covered in ash and blood. Babies rescued from the rubble. Unfortunately, as long as the war continues, heartbreaking photos of people enduring and escaping war will permeate our media.

Like a lot of us, I have been confused but concerned by the present discussion surrounding refugees. Here’s what I knew, probably similar to what you all know: we are witnessing the largest global refugee crisis in history. There is an ongoing civil war in Syria that has displaced 13.5 million people. All over the world, there is philosophical and practical conflict over borders: Do we close them, do we open them, how much, how many, etc.? And the U.S. has recently welcomed the last of its promised 10,000 Syrian refugees to our soil. Oh, yeah, and there is pretty dangerous propaganda floating around that all refugees are terrorists. Perpetuated by many unnamed international politicians, including a presidential candidate whose name rhymes with Cronald Blump.

What else did I know? I knew that the passing of the Brexit was partially inspired by the false promise of blocking entry for refugees, immigrants, and anyone who falls into the “other” category. I knew that the European countries that opened their borders have struggled with the influx of refugees. I knew that the European countries that closed their borders have struggled with bad international P.R. for being inhumane.

As a descendant of black slaves and Jewish immigrants, it’s inherently hard for me to understand why it’s acceptable for a closed-borders, anti-foreigners viewpoint to be influencing policy and popular opinion. But I try to understand. If I’m being generous, I guess I could speculate that people worldwide are scared? Scared of what they don’t know, scared of what’s next, scared of losing their comfortable lives, of having to find a way to cohabit with people whose culture, language, and religious orientation is unfamiliar. And, yes, they are irrationally scared of inviting in violent extremism. Of course we all understand the instinct to protect what is ours, but at what cost to our humanity? [Continue reading…]

 

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Whatever they reveal, the new Weiner emails probably won’t hurt Clinton — tribalism still reigns

Jamelle Bouie writes: Could the mere mention of “emails” change perceptions toward Clinton? When the news first broke, conservative commentators were sure that this would change the shape of the election. “This is not good for Team Clinton,” said Josh Kraushaar of National Journal. One vocal commentator, Matt Mackowiak, insisted that this “must be very serious” and that the uncertainty of it all was “politically lethal.”

At this stage, we have no idea how this development will shape the last 11 days of the presidential race. Tens of millions of Americans have already voted in battleground states like North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Nevada. Given the effect of past email news, it’s possible this will turn off independent or undecided voters from Clinton. It’s also possible that her negatives are already baked in and won’t budge. And it’s possible, perhaps likely, that it won’t matter at all.

Everyone agrees that American politics is more partisan and more polarized than it’s ever been. But not everyone grasps why that’s important. It’s not just Congress and the ability of our institutions to make progress and accomplish their goals. It’s also our elections.

The folk theory of American democracy is that citizens deliberate on the issues and choose a candidate. That is false. The truth, as political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels describe in Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, is that voters are tribalistic. Their political allegiances come first, and their positions and beliefs follow. We’ve seen this with Donald Trump. Support for free trade is a longstanding belief within the GOP, but Trump is a major opponent, slamming most of the trade deals of the past 30 years. You would think that this would depress his support among Republican voters. It didn’t. Instead, those voters changed their views of trade. Their beliefs followed their affiliations, not the other way around. [Continue reading…]

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FBI Director James Comey ‘did the self-protective thing. Was it the right thing?’

Jane Mayer writes: On Friday, James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting independently of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sent a letter to Congress saying that the F.B.I. had discovered e-mails that were potentially relevant to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private server. Coming less than two weeks before the Presidential election, Comey’s decision to make public new evidence that may raise additional legal questions about Clinton was contrary to the views of the Attorney General, according to a well-informed Administration official. Lynch expressed her preference that Comey follow the department’s longstanding practice of not commenting on ongoing investigations, and not taking any action that could influence the outcome of an election, but he said that he felt compelled to do otherwise.

Comey’s decision is a striking break with the policies of the Department of Justice, according to current and former federal legal officials. Comey, who is a Republican appointee of President Obama, has a reputation for integrity and independence, but his latest action is stirring an extraordinary level of concern among legal authorities, who see it as potentially affecting the outcome of the Presidential and congressional elections.

“You don’t do this,” one former senior Justice Department official exclaimed. “It’s aberrational. It violates decades of practice.” The reason, according to the former official, who asked not to be identified because of ongoing cases involving the department, “is because it impugns the integrity and reputation of the candidate, even though there’s no finding by a court, or in this instance even an indictment.”

Traditionally, the Justice Department has advised prosecutors and law enforcement to avoid any appearance of meddling in the outcome of elections, even if it means holding off on pressing cases. One former senior official recalled that Janet Reno, the Attorney General under Bill Clinton, “completely shut down” the prosecution of a politically sensitive criminal target prior to an election. “She was adamant—anything that could influence the election had to go dark,” the former official said.

Four years ago, then Attorney General Eric Holder formalized this practice in a memo to all Justice Department employees. The memo warned that, when handling political cases, officials “must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality, and nonpartisanship.” To guard against unfair conduct, Holder wrote, employees facing questions about “the timing of charges or overt investigative steps near the time of a primary or general election” should consult with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: Senior law enforcement officials said that it was unclear if any of the emails [referred to in Comey’s letter to Congress] were from Mrs. Clinton’s private server. [Continue reading…]

James Comey wrote in his letter to FBI employees: … given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression. In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood… [Continue reading…]

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