Full text of James Mattis resignation letter to Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Treat allies with respect: Full text of James Mattis resignation letter to Trump

In devastating note stressing importance of America’s alliances, Pentagon chief tells US president he should pick a defense secretary ‘whose views are better aligned with yours’

Part of US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' resignation letter to President Donald Trump is photographed in Washington, on December 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Part of US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation letter to President Donald Trump is photographed in Washington, on December 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

The full text of the resignation letter US Defense Secretary James Mattis submitted to President Donald Trump on December 20, 2018.

Dear Mr. President:

I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong US global influence.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.

I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.

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(Commentary) Is It Possible, That I Could Wrong

Is It Possible, That I Could Wrong

Who would say such a thing about themselves, and believe it? Their Ego’s must be like a Ball and Chain for those around them! Do you know such a person in your daily life? Have you been blessed to have had one in your close Family Tree? It’s not possible that it could be you, or even me, is there? Ego’s strike down so many good people caring about only the weight of their Meddles, drowning in their own lust. To me these few lines above are supposed to be what I think, yet is it possible that I could be wrong?

We have Politicians and their Lawyers who spread more Manure than some Farmers do with their hay. Folks these Politicians are supposed to be Public Servants, our Servants, not the other way around.  Look around yourself, do you have any such kind Souls that you know of, are they good people? I take some YouGov polls, in some of them they ask if you are affiliated with some Political Parties or are you one of those Independents. For the first time in my life I voted a straight Democratic, the reason I did this is simple, two men, President Trump and Mitch McConnell. But then again, these are just my thoughts, sort of anyway. But remember, sometimes I am wrong.

Everyone has a base down inside them, don’t they? What I mean is a line that a person tells themselves that this point or that point is too much. Beyond this my whole life would most likely change with about a 98% chance of death yet is not 2% better than none? Now the World fills back up with people without any Moral center. Society through their ignorant Politicians create more and more Saddam Hussein, Mr. Stalin and Osama Bin Laden. Everyday it seems that more and more people are joining these hate groups, it seems like it’s a Pipeline from Hell. As long as a society can calm down its lust for rage and blood after watching T.V.’s bloody thrills. Yet it will be a Human experience if we humans could not realize that some humans just love to hate, when you try to help them, they saturate your brain. If you are thinking, is it possible that just maybe the old man with gray beard may be totally wrong!

Today, Ms. Penny Marshall Died

Today, Ms. Penny Marshall Died
Today, Ms. Penny Marshall died
I’m 62 and she was  just 75
Wouldn’t have ever thought that
Ms. Penny could be that much older
75 May seem old to a child, not I
Diabetes took another Bright Light away
Cancer, Mrs. Stevens, Bewitched at 60
We lived with Mr. Munster and Mr. Spock
Then of Course Elvis, way back in August of 77
A smile comes to my brain when I think of them
I never met any of these folks
Never walked in the same circles
On TV they gave me a smile in life
Life is only as dark as we allow us make it
Ms. Penny, Your Missed, for now, good night

Syria: ISIS Leaves behind a Thousand Children with 100 Accents + 500 Wives

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

ISIS Leaves behind a Thousand Children with 100 Accents

Monday, 29 October, 2018 – 07:15
Kurdish officials say they are holding at least 500 women and 1,200 children from 44 nationalities in three camps across northeast Syria. AFP file photo
London – Asharq Al-Awsat

On a small hill in the flat brush lands of northeastern Syria lies the Roj camp for displaced people. With its white tents and red soil, it looks much like the scores of other refugee settlements in the region.

Shut away in a corner, however, behind a chain-link fence and under supervision by female Kurdish militia guards, are some inhabitants who are very different, The Sunday Times reported.

They are the women and children of the “caliphate”: ISIS brides who came from across the world to live under a so-called “Islamic state.” It did not go so well.

Kurdish officials say they are holding at least 500 women and 1,200 children from 44 nationalities in three camps across northeast Syria. Most of the women’s native countries are unwilling to take them back. The Kurd’s do not want to keep them.

According to the report, as ISIS imploded, these women and children were thrown into the strange limbo of camp life, waiting among displaced Syrians for their fate

Here a visitor can see all the bizarre combinations of lives turned upside down in the “caliphate”: an English-speaking boy in a Spider-man costume whose father was American, he thinks. A teenage girl who joined ISIS at 13, married two fighters and had been widowed twice. A smiling Dutch woman with her blonde children, who could have stepped out of a Vermeer painting.

The tents hum with dozens of different languages — Syrian Arabic words mixed with Dutch, English and Swedish in a hundred accents and dialects.

While the women are not really in prison, they are under guard. Internet access is heavily restricted, as is communication with family and officials.

Even if they wanted to leave, there would be few chances of escape across the flat savanna. The women are all intent on survival. Of the hundreds who joined ISIS, they are the ones who made it out — holding on through the paranoid horror of the fall of Raqqa and escaping, often across minefields or through intense fighting, with their children.

Whatever their reasons for joining ISIS they know that the stories they tell the officials here could decide the rest of their lives.

During several visits by The Sunday Times, the European women held in these camps were overwhelmingly friendly, erudite and polite.

They all said they regretted joining ISIS. Many claimed they had been tricked into coming to Syria by their partners.

Those who did not insisted they had simply been attracted by a life of piety under ISIS.

Their dress has changed now they are beyond ISIS rule. None wore the face-covering niqab. All claimed they remembered Europe fondly. They even shook hands with male members of staff from The Sunday Times.

Most of them were lying through their teeth. They had joined ISIS at a time when videos had been posted online that showed captive journalists and aid workers being beheaded. Although they may not have fought, they were members of the militant group and supported its foul ideology.

For officials, as well as visitors, it can be almost impossible to piece together which parts of their stories are true. That is a task that interrogators will be faced with should British ISIS members return to the UK.

 

 

New York Times: China, Russia listening to Trump’s cell phone calls

New York Times: China, Russia listening to Trump’s cell phone calls

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump continues to make calls via cell phone despite intelligence that China and Russia listen in, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The Times report, citing current and former officials, said Chinese spies have listened to Trump’s iPhone calls and that the President’s aides had told him Russian spies were listening regularly.
Trump’s cell phone use has been noted throughout his tenure, and security experts have raised concerns in the past. CNN noted in April that after John Kelly became chief of staff, Trump made more calls through the White House switchboard, but by the time of the April report, the President had begun to make more calls through his cell.
The New York Times report said the officials raising an alarm about Trump’s refusal to stop making unsecured calls were doing so out of frustration.
Those officials told the Times that China was seeking to use its findings on Trump to help the country in its trade dispute with the US and that the Chinese had noted Trump’s conversations with Stephen Schwarzman, head of The Blackstone Group, and Steve Wynn, a Las Vegas figure who established major investments in Macau, a gambling hub in China. Wynn stepped down as finance chair for the Republican National Committee last January following allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied.
China, in turn, has begun using its own businessmen to try to influence people friendly with those Trump talks to, according to the New York Times report, hopes the information will make it to the President.
An attorney for Wynn told the Times that Wynn was retired and declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for Blackstone said Schwarzman “has been happy to serve as an intermediary on certain critical matters between the two countries at the request of both heads of state.”
Schwarzman spokeswoman Christine Anderson told CNN she had no additional comment.
As the report noted, Trump indicated to the Wall Street Journal this week that he had discretion about information transmitted through his phone.
“I actually said don’t give it to me on the phone,” Trump said of information on the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “I don’t want it on the phone. As good as these phones are supposed to be.”

Brain Games: 12 Proverbs And Philosophy From My Old Mind: To Yours

Brain Games: 12 Proverbs And Philosophy From My Old Mind: To Yours

 

1) Here in the 21st century how many Christians still observe the day given as Christ’s Birthday, as His Birthday? Yet, it seems that so few choose to walk in His principles. So, is it easier to keep this Holiday, or His Birthday than it is to keep His Commandments? Or, in this modern age are His words of no matter because we judge ourselves by our own righteousness?

 

2) America, if we the people give up the Liberty of the Second Amendment believing that the Government will protect us in our times of peril then we will most certainly lose our freedom, our God-given rights, our Country, and our lives.

 

3) Where you have liberty and all of the basic human rights given to you by God Himself, then you have a Country worth fighting for. If you do not have these things then you do not have a Country, all you have is labor and death to leave to your children and their children.

 

4) We should all work each day as though we will grow old. Yet each night we should bow our knees and pray that we do not die on the morrow.

 

5) Does anyone really own the title to a piece of land? Remember, the Lord gives and if He wishes, the Lord has every right to take away. All things belong to the Lord for they were His before us and they will be His after even the thought of us is gone. Yet no free people can tolerate a Government that puts themselves upon God’s Throne. Governments do not give freedom to the people. It is the people who allow the Government to exist, not the other way around!

 

6) A free people’s rights come from the laws of God, not from inside the D.C. Beltway!

 

7) What will be the American History of 2018 that is left to the future generations, if indeed there be any? Is this generation truly nothing but Donkey dung or Elephant manure? For what good or what freedom can come from the mouth’s of two Domesticated Beasts who’s master is a Dragon?

 

8) If the people are allowed to have no freedom of choice by their Government then the people’s only free choice is to remove that Government!

 

9) We have all heard the old saying about their being too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. Yet if the labor of multitudes of Indians go only to behoove a small number of Chiefs, these few Chiefs will grow to consider the many who made them what they are as nothing but parasites not even worthy of their crumbs!

 

10) As death draws us near to our bed what is it that we hope for or believe? Did we leave God’s Light in the eyes of our children or the love of freedom upon their hearts? Or, will the memory of us be forgotten once the dirt is shoveled upon our face?

 

11) If “We The People” are so ignorant as to send Lawyers to be in “Our Congress” how can we expect anything except double talk as they fill their pockets at the people’s expense?

 

12) If a person in your country seeks a position of power and they request you have confidence in them, consider their request if you wish. Yet make sure of two things. Make sure that their feet are bound with chains to your country’s Constitution, and their heart to the Constitution of ‘The’ Creator. For if either one is not bound as such, the people will know only misery, poverty, and an early death!

 

(I hope that you liked at least some or even one of these and if not, I hope that they at least made you either smile, or think. Good night, and God bless.)

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians’ Frantic Tweeting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Immunity Backs Lebanese Politicians’ Frantic Tweeting

Wednesday, 19 September, 2018 – 09:15
Beirut – Sanaa el-Jack
Taking to Twitter in service of their own ends, Lebanese politicians use the platform to expose secrets previously kept exclusive to political echelons. But unlike the average citizen, Twitter-active politicians enjoy immunity.

Maj. Gen. Jamil al-Sayyid said that posting on Twitter was a simple daily habit he practiced with no expectations whatsoever for his account to pick up a following of over 300,000.

“In the past, I was obsessed with the notion of expression, and made frequent contacts with televisions and newspapers to convey my stances,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“But with Twitter, it’s like I have my own radio podcast, television broadcast and a newspaper right at home. It takes one sentence to make an impact,” he added.

In another muscle flexing Twitter spat, Environment Minister Tarek Khatib scolds Lebanese journalist Charles Ayoub over the latter’s prodding around affairs of the caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil.

In an Arabic tweet, Khatib tells Ayoub that his “harassment of great warriors will not take him any higher, and that Gebran Bassil will not stoop down to his level and grant him the privilege of response.”

“You need a mental hospital,” Khatib slams Ayoub.

Sociology Professor Dr. Talal Atrissi deplored double standards practiced in Lebanon that see to politicians getting off scot-free with blasting rivals, while the average citizen is dragged into investigations.

A politician posts whatever comes to his mind on Twitter with minimal accountability.

Unlike interviews and debates that are moderated by journalists, social media does not constrain the politician, Atrissi criticized.

“The Lebanese see Twitter as an escape, and simply don’t care about filtering what they say because they do not personally know the reader or responder,” he added.

“But if we assume that politicians are leaders and a role model for the public, then hearing an official cursing and using denigrate language makes way for others doing the same,” Atrissi said on the poorly, at times rudely, phrased tweets.

Atrissi remarked that a politician is responsible whenever he or she speaks, explaining that an elected representative is not an ordinary person that can act freely and in an unbalanced manner.

On social media, Lebanese politicians have not been shy in expressing hostility, brazenly lambasting their rivals.

“The issue with Lebanese behavior is facing each other edgily and aggressively on Twitter– as if there is hostility harbored against anyone who is not me,” Atrissi added.

“We need a lot of time to change this culture of resentment, through deliberate steps that contribute to eliminating provocation.”

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Politically Correct: The Acidic Evil That Is American Politics

Good evening folks, tonight I wish to speak with you about a subject matter that is not near or dear to my heart, it is called political correctness. This subject matter touches each and every one of us on a regular basis in our daily lives. In its simplest form political correctness is the attempt to avoid offending anyone at anytime regardless of the subject matter. I believe that when most of us hear the term political correctness it is not a smile that crosses our face, it is more likely to be a disgusted frown. Today if a person says anything about a subject matter when it may in any way shed a light of truth on the events of today, if that truth in the slightest degree has any measure of negatives then you will be labeled as a hater. There was a time in this country when people were allowed to be honest in their speech but unfortunately that is not the case these days. Now if you say anything about anyone person or persons even if you are speaking the total truth to the best of your knowledge, you have become a hater or some kind of a bigot whom is very likely to be sued in court because you dared to be honest. In the past we could describe a dirty old man in simple terms/truths, these days political correctness (stupidity) airbrushed the truth stains away so that you don’t offend that dirty old man. These days that person is a sexually focused chronologically gifted individual. Laziness is now referred to as motivationally deficient. I am now no longer short being only five feet eleven and three-quarters inches tall, I am vertically challenged because I didn’t make it to at least six feet. It is comforting to know that I didn’t really have trouble with algebraic equations in college, I simply had a memory deficiency.

 

We could all just sit back in our Lazy Boy recliners with a glass of Jose Cuervo in one hand and a big blunt in the other and just sit back and laugh at American politicians and media talking heads as they spout this stupidity. The scary part of this is that what we the people call stupidity/political correctness, some of the fore mentioned people cultivate this ignorance as their personal gospel. This ignorance is a gospel of re-education and it does show via the ignorance and apathy we see and hear when today’s streamlined, bought and paid for politicians open their mouths. Today at almost all of our college campuses as well as the secondary and primary schools this re-education propaganda is widely referred to as diversity education. This ignorance that our politicians and the media push down our throats tries to please everyone all of the time and to never offend anyone any of the time. This is a nice story line if it were in a small child’s fantasy or Fantasy Island handbook but in the real world it is simply poison. Most all of us adults know that political correctness if allowed to play out and to become the laws of the land, we are all doomed to be the laughing-stock of the whole world. Today if people dare attempt to speak the truth about real world issues they are branded as haters or we are people with stone-age ideologies. Truth is that when people do dare to speak the truth on real issues what you say will most likely offend some people whom do not happen to agree with you. When we are cultivated away from the truth and told we can’t say such things isn’t this the same thing as saying to advance in our society today that you must either be and idiot, or an habitual liar?

 

For those who might think that this mental disease is a spin-off of the 1960’s and 70’s hippy drug culture then you need to crack open some college level history books and increase your knowledge on this subject matter. My friends, political correctness has been around and practiced through other cultures around the world far longer than any of us have been alive. Political correctness is really nothing more than cultural Marxism in some professors views and I can’t say that I disagree with them. If we compare the basic tenets of political correctness with classical Marxism the parallels of the two are very obvious. When Marxist Communists take over a country such as Russia, China, North Korea or Cuba the personal freedom of speech ceases to exist.

 

I leave you tonight with just one last observation, isn’t it amazing how much Russia and her politics have turned to look more like our politicians rhetorical babbling? Or, is it more correct to say that our government is starting to look more like the Russia of President Putin or even that of Germany of the mid 1930’s in that free honest intelligent conversation can be construed as a hate crime? Is political correctness in places like D.C., Hollywood and New York City going to be a nail in America’s coffin? Time will tell us all what the truth is but I totally have my doubts that anyone alive today will live long enough to see that day. Friends, good night, stay well, God Bless.

Republican Senator Don’t Care That Judge Kavanaugh Lied Under Oath At Least Twice

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HUFFINGTON POST)

 

Sen. Leahy: Withheld Emails Show Brett Kavanaugh May Have Perjured Himself

“There is simply no reason they can’t be made public,” Leahy said.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Wednesday that emails being withheld by Senate Republicans show that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh may have lied under oath during his prior confirmation hearings in 2004 and 2006.

The Democrat claimed that six emails from Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House may contradict testimony Kavanaugh gave when being confirmed for his federal judgeships. But according to Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has labeled the emails as “committee confidential,” meaning they can’t be released to the public.

“There is simply no reason they can’t be made public,” Leahy said during confirmation hearings Wednesday.

Sen. Patrick Leahy

@SenatorLeahy

We have discovered evidence that Judge Kavanaugh misled the Senate during his 2004 and 2006 hearings. Truthfulness under oath is not an optional qualification for a Supreme Court nominee. Watch as I question him here: https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/nomination-of-the-honorable-brett-m-kavanaugh-to-be-an-associate-justice-of-the-supreme-court-of-the-united-states-day-2 

Nomination of the Honorable Brett M. Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of…

United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary

judiciary.senate.gov

Leahy’s assertion shined a bright light on the fact that committee Republicans are rushing the judge’s nomination through without disclosing a huge number of documents related to his work in the White House counsel’s office under Bush.

Grassley only requested between 10 and 15 percent of the documents from Kavanaugh’s time in Bush administration, and only 7 percent ― 457,000 documents ― have been provided to the committee. Of the documents that have been turned over, Grassley is refusing to publicly release 189,000. The committee asked for no records from Kavanaugh’s time as White House staff secretary.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

CHIP SOMODEVILLA VIA GETTY IMAGES
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) questions Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The six emails in question related to a scandal from 2002 and 2003 in which a Republican Judiciary Committee staffer named Manny Miranda stole emails from the committee’s Democrats that included strategy memos about how they would question Bush’s judicial nominees.

Leahy alleged that Kavanaugh, in his role preparing those judicial nominees for their confirmation hearings, knew he had received these stolen emails from Miranda detailing the Democrats’ strategy on the nomination of Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Kavanaugh claimed in both his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings that if he did receive those documents, he “never knew or suspected” that they were stolen.

Under tough questioning by Leahy on Wednesday, Kavanaugh stated that what he said in 2004 and 2006 was “100 percent accurate.” Leahy’s line of questioning first focused on three emails that are available to the public, then later alluded to the six emails that are not.

Leahy brought up an email sent on July 19, 2002, from Miranda to Kavanaugh and another Bush official that, according to the senator, asked “why the Leahy people were looking into financial ties between two special interest groups and Priscilla Owen.”

Kavanaugh proceeded to read the email and concluded, “I don’t really have a specific recollection of any of this, senator, but it would have not have been unusual [to say] … ‘The Leahy people are looking into this and the Hatch people are looking into that.’”

Then Leahy asked about a January 2003 email.

“Mr. Miranda forwarded you a letter from me and other Judiciary Democrats to then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle,” the senator said. “The letter was clearly a draft. It had typos and it wasn’t signed. Somebody eventually leaked its existence to Fox News.”

Judge Brett Kavanaugh reads from an email sent to him when working at the White House while answering questions from Sen. Pat

WIN MCNAMEE VIA GETTY IMAGES
Judge Brett Kavanaugh reads from an email sent to him when working at the White House while answering questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy.
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“Here’s the thing,” Leahy continued. “You had the full text of my email in your inbox before anything was said about it publicly. Did you find it at all unusual to receive a draft letter from Democratic senators to each other before any mention of it was made public?”

Kavanaugh pointed out that the only reply he made to this particular email was asking, “Who signed this?” According to Kavanaugh, this meant that he did not realize that the document was a draft and, therefore, remained oblivious that the document had been stolen.

Leahy then wanted to know if Miranda ever asked Kavanaugh to meet outside of the White House or the Capitol.

“I can’t rule that out,” Kavanaugh answered.

Leahy continued, “Did he ever hand you material separately from what would be emailed back and forth?”

“I don’t know the answer to that, senator,” Kavanaugh said before hemming and hawing about how sometimes the Democrats and Republicans on the committee worked together.

After his failure to remember whether he met with or received documents by hand from Miranda, Leahy asked Kavanaugh about another specific email. This was the first allusion to confidential emails the committee was not disclosing to the public.

“When you worked at the White House did anyone ever tell you they had a mole that provided them with secret info?” Leahy asked.

Kavanaugh said he didn’t “recall the reference to a mole.”

Leahy got more specific: “You never received an email from a Republican staff member with information claiming to come from spying?”

“I’m not going to rule anything out,” Kavanaugh said, echoing previous denials. “If I did, I wouldn’t have thought the literal meaning of that.”

“Wouldn’t that surprise you that you got an email saying that they got that from somebody spying?” Leahy pressed.

Kavanaugh, realizing that Leahy was talking about a document without revealing it, responded with his own question: “Well, is there such an email, senator?”

This led Leahy to turn to Grassley: “We’d have to ask the chairman what he has in the confidential material.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) shouts at Leahy as he questioned the lack of disclosure of Kavana

WIN MCNAMEE VIA GETTY IMAGES
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) shouts at Leahy as he questioned the lack of disclosure of Kavanaugh’s documents.

Grassley responded angrily that all of the documents that the committee has made public from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House counsel’s office are publicly available online. Leahy replied that the email he referenced is marked “committee confidential.” Grassley, angrily yelling, declared that 80 percent of the emails the committee got from the archives are available to the public.

Leahy replied to both Kavanaugh and Grassley: “I’m concerned because there is evidence that Mr. Miranda provided you with materials that were stolen from me. And that would contradict your prior testimony. It’s also clear from public emails … that you had reason to believe that materials were obtained inappropriately at the time.”

“Mr. Chairman, there are at least six documents that you consider committee confidential that are directly related to this, including three documents that are already public,” Leahy added. “These other six contain no personal information. No presidential-act-restricted material. There is simply no reason they won’t be made public.”

Grassley said that he would produce the documents Leahy referenced: “He’s going to get what he wants. And I think there’s five of them.”

Is Russian social media giant VKontakte sidestepping the GDPR?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Is Russian social media giant VKontakte sidestepping the GDPR? One user is trying to find out.

As if revealing their users’ personal data to Russian authorities wasn’t bad enough, VKontakte may now run in serious trouble in Europe // Martinsson Serg, CC2.0

Russian social media network VKontakte has been having a bad few months. Multiple platform users have been prosecuted for their posts, and the company has been publicly shamed for its lack of transparency regarding how it shares user data with law enforcement authorities.

Now, VKontakte (VK) is facing a new privacy-related challenge: Kristian Shinkevich, a Belarussian activist living in Poland, is demanding that VK give him all the personal data that it has pertaining to him. The company has yet to comply. And in the meantime, it has suspended his access to the account.

Shinkevich first began wondering about VK’s data collection practices after he faced legal threats for participating in a demonstration in Belarus. Shortly thereafter, he was expelled from his university, where he says an administrator told him that the school had access to all their students’ VKontakte data, including which posts they had liked. In his case, this would have revealed his involvement with demonstrations.

Between this, and the fact that other Belarussian activists have been arrested for VKontakte posts promoting protests (an indication that authorities in Belarus also monitor activity on the social network), Shinkevich found himself wanting to know more about VK’s data collection practices.

So he looked to the European Union’s newly-instituted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of policies aimed at standardizing the handling of personal information by companies and organizations. Under the GDPR, any company that processes the personal information of EU subjects must comply with certain rules regarding the protection and transfer of such data.

Another provision stipulates that EU subjects have a right to access the personal information that companies retain about them, and that they have a right to know how this information is used.

Although Shinkevich is a citizen of a non-EU state, Belarus, he is entitled to request this information under the GDPR, as an EU resident (or “subject”, as described in the GDPR) in Poland. Additionally, despite the fact that VKontakte is a Russian company, it must still comply because it is providing services to EU subjects abroad and handling their information.

Noncompliance would give EU authorities the power to levy a fine of either 20 million euros or 4 percent global gross revenue, depending on which is higher.

When Shinkevich filed a request to VKontakte Support to get access to all the data VKontakte had collected about him, he received the requested file. He described what he found on Facebook:

Today I have received the file, and that’s freaking serious.

They store:
1. the whole name and surname changes history
2. groups and public pages I’ve managed
3. name of files uploaded, from which IP address, city, links to the deleted files, moreover, even simple voice messages from deleted conversations are there
4. complete list of files I’ve removed from my page, their exact address, name, date added, direct link – no matter that they all have been removed – voice messages, PDF documents etc.
5. adresses [sic] of pictures from Saved Photos album (protected). Direct links can be opened without being logged in
6. complete history of conversations, including removed, up to 27.06.2018 20:43:51 (the first message is dated 01.09.2016 21:40:30), with all the attachments including removed ones.
7. complete history of phone number ever linked to the account
8. history of password retrieval requests
9. all the comments and posts from my page timeline, including ones removed about 1-2 years ago (the section is titled “Messages posted on the user’s wall”)

This file is about 1,5 Mbytes but it has al [sic] the history of my activity on VK since 2016 (when my page was created).

Shinkevich was not surprised by what the file contained — but he was surprised at what it lacked. “I am pretty sure that what they have sent me is not the whole information, and they have much more,” he wrote on Facebook.

Indeed, VKontakte’s privacy policy indicates (in section 4.2.1) that the company processes a wide range of information about users and their activities, including but not limited to information about the “user’s operating system, type of a browser, geographic position, the Internet provider, contacts, data obtained accessing the camera, microphone and similar devices.” The policy does not clearly define how this data is treated after being processed. VK’s terms of service (7.2.5) indicate that “the Site Administration has the right to keep archive copies of the user Content for an indefinite period.”

Do these and other types of information qualify as “personal data”? It depends on where you ask the question. While Russian Federal Law 152 defines personal information as any information directly or indirectly related to a specific individual, the GDPR has a very specific breakdown of this wide interpretation. But as the terms of the GDPR apply to all companies providing services to EU subjects, VKontakte is required by law to follow these terms when dealing with customers in the EU.

When Shinkevich asked VKontakte for the rest of the information, it evaded his request. The company later blocked his access to his account at the end of July. His page is still online, but he cannot log in to it or reset his password.

When Russian news aggregator TJournal reached out to VKontakte, they said:

We didn’t block the user’s page. Access was restricted after the user changed several key parameters, including first name, last name, gender, and so on. Such activity is considered suspicious and could be proof that the account was sold or given to another person.

Restricting access to the page isn’t in any way related to the user’s GDPR information request.

Shinkevich has since filed a complaint with Poland’s personal data security service and has taken the controversial step of advocating that VKontakte be blocked in Poland.  He joins a growing number of voices urging users to stop using VKontakteand delete their pages.

Last year, VKontakte’s total revenue was over $200,000,000.If found in violation of GDPR, their fine would be ten percent of that amount. With upwards of two million EU users, the social network could soon pay a hefty price if it doesn’t address privacy concerns.