American Elephants

Spying, Collecting Phone Records, Data-Mining. Do You Trust Your Government? by The Elephant's Child

The big flap today comes from the Guardian’s (UK) article on the federal government’s secret gathering of millions of U.S. phone records. The administration calls the practice a “critical tool” in combating terrorism and insists that such actions don’t compromise American’s civil liberties.

The information acquired does not include the content of any communication or the name of any subscriber,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said aboard Air Force One. “It relates exclusively to call details, such as a telephone number or the length of a telephone call. The information … has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terror threats.”

Earnest added, “The president welcomes discussion of the tradeoff between security and civil liberties.”

Funny, I thought that since the president killed bin Laden, there wasn’t any more terrorism.  That seemed to be the drift of the comments on Benghazi and of his foreign policy speech.

I love the hypocrisy. When Bush announced the Patriot Act in 2001, the howling from the Democrats was loud and prolonged. Remember the fuss about the possibility that they might look at what books you checked out of the library? The Patriot Act was quite public, hence the uproar, and specifically designed to intercept calls from America to or from numbers in terrorist areas. And they would be interested if someone under suspicion was checking out bomb-making instructions. I didn’t think it was a big deal then, and I don’t think it’s a big deal now.

In the light of the revelations about the IRS targeting, these things garner a little more suspicion. Now we learn the NSA and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.

The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.

Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

The authorization for PRISM, according to Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) as members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as it is written, doesn’t seem to have enough protections for innocent American citizens. The Administration’s handling of the program is particularly ham-handed. It is ridiculous for programs to be revealed by the Guardian and The Washington Post “according to top-secret documents” at a time when trust in government is dropping precipitously. Horrible public relations.

Oddly, this is making the front page at the same time as the news that Google is hiring the Obama Campaign’s data-mining whiz kids to do some work for Google, but also to form a permanent group to do data-mining type work for the permanent Democrat campaign. If you ever wondered why, when you were doing a Google search, the information from a trusted right-of-center source couldn’t be found till you get to page 48 or 62, now you know. I forget who it was that explained that these techie people only understand Moore’s Law and are utterly clueless about capitalism and politics and the free market.

Google is a major American corporation involved in the information business, already operating in questionable territory with their Google street views photographing everyone’s home, aerial views, organizing the information they gather in politicized ways. That they would go into the business of political campaigns for Democrats and only Democrats is troubling. That doesn’t seem right. Not the fact that it is just for Democrats, but that a retail information business would politicize all their information. That’s going way too far. What do you think?

Fort Hood Was a Large-Scale Attack on the United States by The Elephant's Child


Major Nidal Malik Hasan proposes to defend himself in the trial where he stands accused of murdering 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009. He plans to argue that he acted in defense of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — the Taliban.  He will defend not only himself, but the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, as a “Soldier of Allah” when he opened fire on dozens of American citizens and soldiers, killing and maiming as many as he could while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” He killed 13, including a pregnant soldier, and wounded 32 others in his rampage against soldiers being processed to be deployed to Afghanistan. In other words, he committed an act of terror on behalf of an enemy of the United States.

Sort of puts paid to that bit about it being only “workplace violence” doesn’t it?

On May 23, in a major national security speech, just a month after the April 15  Boston Marathon bombing, President Obama credited his administration for “(changing) the course of the war against al Qaeda.”He added “There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States and our homeland is more secure.”

Because the administration insisted on calling this “incident” workplace violence, those wounded have been denied the benefits that would accrue to a soldier injured in an act of terror or a battle overseas. Staff Sergeant Shawn Manning was shot six times by Hassan. The “workplace violence” designation has cost him almost $70,000 in benefits.

Kimberly Munley was one of two police officers who confronted Hasan when he opened fire, and was shot 3 times. Her partner Sgt. Mark Todd fired the five bullets that brought Hassan down. She was invited to sit next to First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2010 State of the Union speech, but that sort of thing is just for show. She said “betrayed is a good word” to describe her feelings after being laid off from her job with the base’s civilian police force.  The victims have been neglected. Major Hasan, on the other hand, has received all of his pay as a military psychiatrist, while in prison.

President Barack O’Blameless ended the threat of terrorism by authorizing the Seals to go after Osama bin Laden. They even made a movie about his triumph. But dang, these unpleasant things like Benghazi and Boston and now Syria keep popping up and are really hard to completely ignore. “Workplace Violence” just doesn’t cover it.

Remember the Men of D-Day, June 6, 1944 by The Elephant's Child

……………………………………………………………………………….(click to enlarge)

Major Werner Pluskat in his bunker overlooking Omaha Beach had heard nothing from his superiors. He was cold, tired and exasperated. He felt isolated. He couldn’t understand why there had been no reports from either regimental or division headquarters. …Once more he swung the artillery glasses over to the left, picked up the dark mass of the Cherbourg peninsula and began another slow sweep of the horizon. The same low banks of mist came into view, the same patches of shimmering moonlight, the same restless white flecked sea.

Behind him in the bunker his dog Harras, was stretched out asleep. Nearby , Captain Ludz Wilkening and Lieutenant Fritz Theen were talking quietly. Pluskat joined them. “Still nothing out there,” he told them.” I’m about to give it up. But he walked back to the aperture and stood looking out as the first streaks of light began to lighten the sky. He decided to make another routine sweep.

Wearily, he swung the glasses over to the left again. Slowly he tracked across the horizon. He reached the dead center of the bay. The glasses stopped moving. Pluskat tensed, stared hard.

Through the scattering thinning mist the horizon was filling with ships — ships of every size and description, ships that casually maneuvered back and forth as though they had been there for hours. There appeared to be thousands of them. Pluskat stared in frozen disbelief, speechless, moved as he had never been before in his life. At that moment the world of the good soldier Pluskat began falling apart. He says that in those first few moments he knew, calmly and surely, that “this was the end for Germany.”      Cornelius Ryan: The Longest Day

ADDENDUM:  The Greatest Generation is passing into history. The youngest who turned 18 in 1943 will be 88 years old in 2013. Honor them, for they saved the world at enormous cost.  Think too, of those on the home front who built the ships and planes and made the materials that won the war. They built the arsenal of Democracy.

They were slogging, unglamorous men that no one envied. No battle ensigns flew for them no horns or bugles sounded. But they had history on their side.

Piper Bill Millin Pipes the Invasion Forces Ashore by The Elephant's Child

Reposted from 2010

Bill Millin, Lord Lovat’s personal piper, is pictured here ready to jump from the ramp of the landing craft into the icy water of Sword beach on June 6, D–Day, 1944.  Lord Lovat is thigh-deep in the water just to the left of Bill Millin’s arm.  As the Telegraph obituary says: “As the Cameron tartan of his kilt floated to the surface he struck up with Hieland Laddie.  He continued to pipe even as the man behind him was hit, dropped into the sea and sank.

Millin said “I was so relieved of getting off that boat after all night being violently sick.  When I finished, Lovat asked for another tune.  Well, when I looked round — the noise and people lying about shouting and the smoke, the crump of mortars, I said to myself  “Well, you must be joking surely.” He said “What was that?” and he said “Would you mind giving us a tune?” “Well, what tune would you like, Sir?” “How about The Road to the Isles?” “Now, would you want me to walk up and down, Sir?” “Yes, That would be nice.  Yes, walk up and down.”

And that’s what Bill Millin did, walked up and down the invasion beach at water’s edge, blasting out a series of tunes.  Bodies of the fallen were drifting to and fro in the surf.  Soldiers were trying to dig in and, when they heard the pipes, many of them waved and cheered — though one came up to Millin and called him “a mad bastard.”

For many soldiers, the piper provided a unique boost to morale.  “I shall never forget hearing the skirl of Bill Millin’s pipes” said One, Tom Duncan, many years later.  “It is hard to describe the impact it had.  It gave us a great lift and increased our determination.  As well as the pride we felt, it reminded us of home and why we were there fighting for our lives and those of our loved ones.”

After the Great War the War Office had banned pipers from leading soldiers into battle after losses had become too great. “Ah, but that’s the English War Office,” Lovat told Millin.  You and I are both Scottish and that doesn’t apply.”  Millin was the only piper on D-Day.

Millin died on August 17, 2010 aged 88.  He piped the invasion forces on to the shores of France, unarmed apart from the ceremonial dagger in his stocking.  The mayor of Colleville-Montgomery, a town on Sword Beach , has offered a site for a life-size statue of Millin opposite the place where he landed on D-Day. His pipes are in the Scottish War Museum.

Bill Millin’s personal account of D-Day is found here, and the Telegraph’s obituary is here. Millin has been justly famous in all accounts of the D-Day invasion, especially his courageous march across Pegasus Bridge at the crossing of the Orne.  This may have been the last time that a Scottish piper led Scottish troops into battle.

%d bloggers like this: