US Special Operations Forces are assisting the Philippine military in its battle against ISIS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

US Special Operations Forces are assisting the Philippine military in its battle against ISIS-affiliated fighters, the US Embassy in Manila said Saturday.

The forces have been deployed at the request of thePhilippine government, the embassy said.
The Philippine armed forces have been fighting the ISIS-linked Maute militants for control of the city of Marawi in the southern Mindanao region.
Dozens of Philippine troops and militants have been reported killed in fighting, including more than a dozen marines Friday.
Both the US Embassy and the Pentagon said they couldn’t give specifics on the nature of the American support for “security reasons.”
The Pentagon noted that US Special Operations Forces “have been providing support and assistance in the southern Philippines for many years, at the request of several different Filipino administrations.”
The number of troops there ranges between 50 to 100 at any given time, the Pentagon said.
“As we have in the past, we routinely consult with our Filipino partners at senior levels to support the Duterte administration’s counterterrorism efforts,” the embassy said, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The United States is a proud ally of the Philippines, and we will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries, including on counterterrorism issues.”

A ‘temporary setback’

At least 13 Philippine marines were killed and 40 others wounded Friday during fighting with Maute militants in Marawi, the Philippine military said Saturday.
The fatalities occurred during a clearing operation over a 14-hour period.

"Save Marawi City" T-shirts are sold in Manila to help victims of the fighting.

The deaths bring the toll in the three-week Marawi campaign to 58 Philippine troops and at least 140 extremist militants, according to the state-run Philippine News Agency.
“This temporary setback has not diminished our resolve a bit,” said Marine Col. Edgard Arevalo, a military spokesman.
“It instead primed up our determination to continue our prudent advances to neutralize the enemy, save the innocent lives trapped in the fight, and set the conditions for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi.”

Fighting the militants’ message online

The fight against the Maute militants is proceeding on social media as well as the ground.
The Philippine military has called on Facebook to close 63 accounts linked to Maute militants engaged in the fighting.
At a press conference Friday in Marawi, Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera said the military had uncovered accounts used by militants that focus on “spreading propaganda messaging and misinformation.”
Without confirming the request from the Philippines, a Facebook spokesman said the company has “well-established law enforcement channels for governments to contact us about emergencies.”
He said that Facebook removes any account tied to “groups or people that engage in terrorist activity, or posts that express support for terrorism.”
The request to Facebook comes just before the military’s goal of liberating Marawi by June 12 — the country’s Independence Day.
The government is also using TV to counter the militants’ message.
The state-run People’s Television Network aired a program Friday called “Countering Violent Extremism.
It explored the root cause of such extremism and offered suggestions on how to confront radicalization.
The government said it is preparing infrastructure repairs in Marawi once the region is cleared.
“We assure you that the President is deeply concerned for the city, the region and the island’s well-being and is very hands-on to ensure that normalcy will be restored at the soonest possible time and serve people’s aspirations for a comfortable life for all,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said, speaking on a radio program.

Prime Minister May Forced To Form New Government With Help From DUP Party

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to form a government that will provide “certainty” and guide the country through Brexit, just hours after voters delivered her party a huge blow at the polls.

May, who visited Buckingham Palace to meet with Queen Elizabeth II Friday, said she would work in particular with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which she described as her “friends and allies”

UK Election 2017 results

326 Seats needed for majorityData:PA
Party Seats Change
Conservative 318 -12
Labour 261 +31
Scottish National Party 35 -19
Other 35
649/650 Seats declared*Scotland
Promising to move towards a Brexit deal, enabling Britain to exit the European Union, May said the new government would “be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.”
Brexit talks — due to start in 10 day’s time — may be delayed and the Prime Minister’s personal authority undermined by the shock result, which left the Conservatives short of a working majority by just eight seats.
It’s an embarrassing turn for May who called the snap election three years earlier than required by law, convinced by opinion polls that seemed to place her in a strong position.
In a night of high drama across the UK, her party shed seats to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, which surpassed expectations.

‘Catastrophic’ results

For May, who called the snap election in April, the failure to gain a large majority already has critics sniping.
George Osborne, the former finance minister who stepped down at the election, told ITV that the results were “catastrophic” for his party. Anna Soubry, a Conservative MP, said May would have to consider her position.
Meawhile, Corbyn said the early results showed May had lost her mandate and called for her to resign.
“People have said they have had quite enough of austerity politics,” he said, repeating his campaign promises to push for better funding for health and education.

Upsets elsewhere

After the result was declared in her constituency of Maidenhead, May gave a faltering speech. “At this time more than anything else, this country needs a period of stability,” she said, suggesting she would attempt to form a government even if her party loses its majority.
There were upsets elsewhere in the UK: In Scotland. the Scottish National Party was on course for significant losses. The former leader, Alex Salmond, lost his seat, as the Conservative Party made some rare gains in Scotland.

Theresa May: What you need to know

Theresa May: What you need to know
The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat Party did not make its hoped-for inroads. Former leader Nick Clegg, a former Deputy Prime Minister, lost his Sheffield Hallam seat. Tim Farron, the current leader, retained his seat with only a narrow majority.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, one of May’s closest allies, barely held onto her seat of Hastings and Rye, after a recount put her just over 300 votes ahead of the Labour candidate.
May experienced a gradual slide during the campaign period, in which a wide gap between the Conservatives and Labour narrowed.
Predictions of Conservative success became more modest as the party’s campaign faltered following a series of missteps.
May was criticized for making a number of U-turns on social welfare and she came under fire for a controversial proposal on who should pay for the cost of care for the elderly, a policy that became known as the “dementia tax.”
Her opponents also took issue with her refusal to take part in a televised debate with other party leaders.
The Prime Minister called what she thought would be a Brexit-focused election, but the issue was quickly overshadowed by security as two deadly terror attacks, in Manchester and London, struck during the campaign period.
The attacks only put May under more scrutiny for national security decisions she made during her tenure as Home Secretary, a role she held for six years in the government of her predecessor, David Cameron.
The attacks triggered a heated debate on whether the police are well-enough resourced to deal with terror threats. Police numbers across the UK were cut by 20,000 under May’s watch as Home Secretary.

LGBT group says it was barred from a Pride parade because it supports Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

An LGBT group says it was barred from a Pride parade because it supports Trump

Story highlights

  • Group says organizers had a problem with its float
  • Charlotte Pride says it reserves the right to deny permission

(CNN) An LGBT group says it was denied a float at a gay pride parade in Charlotte, North Carolina, because it supports Donald Trump.

Deplorable Pride’s entry would have had all the hallmarks of a pride parade float: drag queens, patriotic colors and even Uncle Sam.
But it would also display something different — Trump’s campaign message, “Make America Great Again” — and feature a dancer dressed as Melania Trump.
And that, says Deplorable Pride, is what organizers had a problem with.
“The LGBT community is known for including everyone,” Derek Van Cleve, co-founder of the group, told CNN. “Pretty sad that the organizers for this parade have decided not to include both parties.”
Three weeks after it sent in its application, the group received a rejection email regarding the August festival and parade, Van Cleve said.
“This message is to confirm that we have received your application for entry in the 2017 Charlotte Pride Parade,” the message read. “Unfortunately, we are not able to approve your application.”

Van Cleve says it’s clear why his group wasn’t allowed to participate: “It was politically motivated.”
Charlotte Pride didn’t immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
But in a written statement to FOX 46 Charlotte, the organization said it “reserves the right to decline participation at our events to groups or organizations which do not reflect the mission, vision and values of our organization.”
“In the past, we have made similar decisions to decline participation from other organizations espousing anti-LGBTQ religious or public policy stances.”
Deplorable Pride says it’s now raising money to host an event of its own: the Deplorable Pride Ball.
‘”If Charlotte Pride is not going to include us, we’ll do our own thing,” Van Cleve said. “And have fun doing it.”

Iran Foreign Minister: “Trump’s Comment After Tehran ISIS Attacks Are Repugnant”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Iran has slammed US President Donald Trump’s response to Wednesday’s twin terror attacks in Tehran as “repugnant”, as the death toll from the ISIS-claimed assaults rose to 16.

“Repugnant WH (White House) statement & Senate sanctions as Iranians counter terror backed by US clients. Iranian people reject such US claims of friendship,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted Thursday.
Zarif was responding to President Trump’s statement following the bombings that said, “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people who are going through such challenging times.”
It then added, “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.”
Six attackers mounted simultaneous gun and suicide bomb assaults on Iran’s Parliament building and the tomb of the republic’s revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini in one of the most audacious assaults to hit Tehran in decades.
All six of the attackers, who all died in the assault, have been identified. Five of them had previously fought with ISIS in Mosul and Raqqa, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
The five men were associated with “Takfiri groups” — a term referring to extremist Sunnis — and left Iran after joining ISIS, the statement said.
The men entered Iran last year under the command of a man known as “Abu Ayesha.” They intended to carry out attacks at religious sites but were thwarted after key members of their cell were apprehended. Abu Ayesha was killed at the time, according to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry.
The armed assailants, apparently dressed as women, attacked the parliament buildings on Wednesday morning equipped with assault rifles, handguns and suicide vests, killing security guards and ordinary people before taking hostages in the upper floors of the building.
Security forces then laid siege to the parliament for several hours. Three of the gunmen were shot dead in an exchange of gunfire, while another blew himself up.
In the attack at the mausoleum, one suicide bomber blew himself up while the second one was killed in a gunfight, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The ISIS media wing, Amaq, claimed “fighters with the Islamic State” carried out the assault. It was the first time that ISIS, a Sunni Muslim group fighting Iranian-backed militias in Syria, has claimed responsibility for an attack in Iran and the choice of locations were also highly symbolic.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said Thursday it will soon release the names and pictures of the gunmen involved in the terrorist attacks, all of whom were killed on Wednesday, Tasnim reported.

Iran envoy reacts to terror attacks in Tehran

Iran envoy reacts to terror attacks in Tehran
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps vowed revenge for the attack, which it says was supported by Saudi Arabia, and tied it to the visit of President Trump to Saudi Arabia in May.
The Revolutionary Guards’ accusation comes at a time of heightened Saudi-Iranian tensions following a regional rift with Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar this week and has blocked several of the country’s media outlets. The rift was over comments allegedly made by Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Al Hamad Al Thani hailing Iran as an “Islamic power” and criticizing Trump’s policy toward Tehran.
The Emir’s alleged comments appeared on Qatar’s official news agency, but Qatar said the website was hacked and the report fabricated by the culprits.

North Korea’s Insane Dictator Fires Off 4 More Missiles

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

North Korea fired four anti-ship missiles into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula Thursday, according to US and South Korean military sources.

South Korea’s joint chiefs said the projectiles were believed to be surface-to-ship missiles and were launched near the eastern port city of Wonsan.
The missiles flew about 200 kilometers (124 miles), South Korea’s military said in a statement, adding the US military was undertaking a more detailed analysis.
“Our military has strengthened surveillance and alertness readiness in cases of additional provocation by North Korean military and is maintaining all readiness posture while we are tracking and monitoring related situation,” the statement read.
The official tells CNN that the Pentagon is not expected to release the typical statement about tracking the launches because these were not ballistic missile capable of posing a long-range threat.
North Korean state media has made no mention of the reported launches.
This is the fourth missile test since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May. The preceding test came at the end of May when North Korea fired what it claimed was a new type of ballistic missile. That projectile also was fired from Wosnan. Japanese and South Korean monitors said it flew 248 miles (400 kilometers) over the Sea of Japan, also know as the East Sea.
South Korea’s new government has suspended the deployment of a controversial US missile defense system that strained relations with China and angered North Korea.
Thursday’s launch is the first since the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed new sanctions last week.
The resolution slapped even more sanctions on North Korea and condemned the regime’s continued proliferation of its nuclear and ballistic program.
The sanctions extend a travel ban and asset freeze on high-level North Korean officials and state entities that deal with the program, according to the resolution.
China has called on Pyongyang to suspend its testing while calling on the US to stop military exercises on and near the Korean Peninsula, which North Korea sees as a threat to its sovereignty.

Forbes: Eric Trump charity money went to Trump business

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND FORBES MAGAZINE)

Forbes: Eric Trump charity money went to Trump business

 Story highlights
  • Eric Trump held a charity golf tournament for children’s cancer research each year
  • A Forbes report alleges his foundation shifted money from the tournament into the Trump Organization

Washington (CNN) Eric Trump is pushing back against a Forbes report released Tuesday that alleges his Eric Trump Foundation shifted money from a charity golf tournament for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital into the Trump Organization.

The annual Eric Trump Foundation golf invitational took place each year from 2007 to 2015 at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, New York. President Donald Trump’s second eldest son told the magazine that use of the golf course was free, and much of the merchandise, drinks and entertainment was comped.
“We get to use our assets 100% free of charge,” he told Forbes.
But, per the Forbes report, “in reviewing filings from the Eric Trump Foundation and other charities, it’s clear that the course wasn’t free — that the Trump Organization received payments for its use, part of more than $1.2 million that has no documented recipients past the Trump Organization.”
Two people directly involved told Forbes that in 2011 Donald Trump “specifically commanded that the for-profit Trump Organization start billing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit Eric Trump Foundation.”
According to IRS tax filings, the costs for the golf invitational from 2007 to 2010 were approximately $50,000 per year. In 2011, that jumped to about $142,000. The 2012 golf invitational cost the foundation $59,000. Costs in 2013 again jumped to $230,000, and $242,000 in 2014, and $322,000 in 2015, its final year. It’s unclear why the costs went up and how much of that money went to the Trump Organization.
A spokesperson for Eric Trump slammed the story as “shameful” and “truly disgusting,” highlighting the foundation’s work raising over $16.3 million for St. Jude children with an expense ratio of 12.3% and the construction of a $20 million ICU.
“Contrary to recent reports, at no time did the Trump Organization profit in any way from the foundation or any of its activities,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“While people can disagree on political issues, to infer malicious intent on a charity that has changed so many lives, is not only shameful but is truly disgusting. At the end of the day the only people who lose are the children of St. Jude and other incredibly worthy causes,” the statement said.
The spokesperson did not respond to CNN’s request to provide an explanation for the rising costs.
Trump also fired back via Twitter to a designer who wrote that Trump stole from children with cancer.
“I have raised $16.3 million dollars for terminally ill children at @StJude with less than a 12.3% expense ratio. What have you done today?!” he wrote Tuesday evening.
At the end of 2016, Trump stepped aside from all direct fundraising efforts for his eponymous organization, which was subsequently restructured and renamed.
“While I resigned with a heavy heart, it was a voluntary decision to enact these measures during the tenure of my father’s presidency in order to avoid the appearance or assertion of any impropriety and/or a conflict of interest,” Trump wrote in a letter on the foundation’s website.

Former FBI Director’s Comey’s Congressional Testimony: First Stone Of Trump Impeachment?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Fired FBI Director James Comey aimed a dagger blow at Donald Trump Wednesday, saying the President had demanded his loyalty, pressed him to drop a probe into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn and repeatedly pressured him to publicly declare that he was not under investigation.

Comey magnified the political crisis engulfing the White House by releasing his opening statement ahead of a blockbuster appearance on Capitol Hill on Thursday. The dramatic document sketched a stunningly detailed account of Comey’s intimate meetings with the President, included direct quotes from Trump and revealed the former FBI chief’s discomfort with the President’s behavior.
The testimony appeared to bolster the case of Trump critics who believe that the President may have obstructed justice and abused his power in his dealings with Comey, who he later fired.
Comey said that Trump asked him to drop FBI investigations into Flynn centering on his calls with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition, which eventually led to his dismissal as national security adviser after it emerged he had lied about the conversations to Vice President Mike Pence.
He wrote that Trump said: “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
“I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.'” Comey wrote, describing a private meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, then added: “I did not say I would ‘let this go.'”
Comey said in his testimony that he understood the President to be requesting that he drop the investigation into Flynn. But he says he did not understand Trump to be referring to the wider Russia investigation.
“Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.”
Trump critics contended that this encounter appears to be tantamount to an inappropriate pressure on the FBI by the President, an allegation that if proven could have dire consequences for Trump’s presidency itself.
“There is a criminal investigation going on of one of the President’s top associations … he gets fired, he is under investigation and the President brings in the FBI Director and says ‘please stop your investigation,'” said CNN’s senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
“If that isn’t obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is,” Toobin said.
But Republicans were quick to seize on the document as well, arguing that it supported Trump’s claims that the former FBI chief had told him three times that he was not personally being investigated in the Russia probe.
The testimony was posted without notice on the website of the Senate Intelligence Committee, instantly electrifying Washington, which has been on edge for days ahead of Comey’s planned testimony.
The dramatic intervention was classic Comey: the towering FBI chief, branded a “showboat” by Trump, has a reputation for theatrical public coups, and his move will only intensify the anticipation for his appearance on Thursday.
Comey described a March 30 phone call in which he said Trump stressed “the cloud” of the Russia investigations was “interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated.”
But Comey determined that to offer such an assurance would be unwise, not least because it would have to be corrected should the situation change.
The former FBI chief also wrote a revealing description of Trump’s efforts to win his loyalty during their first dinner in January.
Trump, Comey wrote, told him, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” during their first dinner in January. Comey said in the statement, “I didn’t move, speak or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed.” Comey replied, “you will always get honesty from me.” He said the President responded, “that’s what I want. Honest loyalty.”
The former FBI director wrote that he had nine separate conversations with Trump, three of which were in person and six were on the telephone. By comparison, he said he spoke twice with President Barack Obama, and never on the telephone. He said that after meeting Trump he immediately begin to write notes about his conversations with Trump, a practice he didn’t adopt before.
Comey offered intimate details of his encounter with Trump in an apparent attempt to create added authenticity to his account.
He said they dined alone on January 27 in the Green Room of the White House at a small oval table and were waited upon by two navy stewards.
He wrote that his instincts told him that the one-on-one setting and the tone of the conversation meant that Trump was seeking to get him to ask to remain in his job, in an attempt to “create some sort of patronage relationship.”
“That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch,” Comey wrote. He added that he wrote a memo about the meeting and shared it with the senior leadership of the FBI.
Reaction to Comey’s dramatic testimony was swift, reflecting the political tsunami that is raging over the Russia issue and that has often seemed about to swamp Trump’s administration.
Republican Sen. John McCain told CNN’s Manu Raju that he found the testimony “disturbing.”
Rep Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Comey’s testimony “confirms a host of troubling allegations concerning the President’s conduct.”
But Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union played down the impact of Comey’s testimony.
“This is one man’s account of a conversation, it is a set of notes, it’s exactly what we expect from James Comey. … He is a grand-stander, he likes to be the honest man, he is going to play that role on Thursday,” Schlapp said, reflecting the emerging GOP attack against the former FBI director as someone who cannot resist the spotlight.
Schlapp told CNN that only the judgment of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller will establish the facts of whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia’s effort to hack the election.
He also said it was “absolutely human nature to want to know you are a subject and Donald Trump was told from the very beginning of this that he was not.”

Eric Trump: Democrats Who Oppose His Father are Quote “Not Even People”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Washington (CNN) Eric Trump said Democrats who support the probe into his father’s campaign and Russia are “not even people” and he has “never seen hatred like this.”

He also shared harsh criticism of the Democratic Party as a whole.
“They’re imploding,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Tuesday night, adding: “They have no message. You see the head of the (Democratic National Committee), who is a total whack job.”
Trump’s “not even people” remark quickly evoked comparisons on social media to Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment made about President Trump’s supporters during the 2016 campaign.
Trump — one of President Donald Trump’s five children — also said Democrats are obstructing the current administration.
“They lost the election that they should have won because they spent seven times the amount of money that my father spent. They have no message so what do they try and do? They try and obstruct a great man, they try and obstruct his family, they come after us viciously, and its truly, truly horrible,” Trump said.
Trump is currently helping run the family business with his brother, Donald Trump Jr., while their father serves as president.
Here’s the full Eric Trump quote in context:
I’ve never seen hatred like this, and to me they’re not even people. It’s so, so sad, I mean morality is just gone, morals have flown out the window we deserve so much better than this as a country. You know it’s so sad. You see the democratic party — they’re imploding. They’re imploding. They have no message. You see the head of the DNC who is a total whack job. There’s no leadership there. And so what do they do? They become obstructionists because they have no message of their own. They have no solid candidates of their own. They lost the election that they should have won because they spent 7 times the amount of money that my father spent. They have no message so what do they try and do? They try and obstruct a great man, they try and obstruct his family, they come after us viciously, and its truly, truly horrible.

Two Terrorist Attacks In Terhan Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Tehran, Iran (CNN) Multiple attacks have hit the Iranian capital of Tehran, according to state media.

Hostages are being held in the Iranian parliament, where at least three people were injured after an attacker stormed the building, state-run Press TV reports.
In another incident, a woman was arrested after a bomb attack and shooting spree wounded two people at the Ayatollah Khomeini mausoleum south of the city Wednesday, the semi-official Fars news agency reports.
The news agency reported that another attacker is currently surrounded by security officers.
Terrorist attacks in Iran are rare, particularly in the highly-controlled capital where tourist and government sites are tightly policed.

Symbolic attack

Iran’s parliament, also called the Islamic Consultative Assembly or Majlis, has 290 members. It has female members and has representatives for religious minorities including Christians, Zoroastrians and Jews.
It is currently unclear how the attacker or attackers entered the parliament building, which is highly fortified, with multiple security checkpoints.
Gun ownership is tightly controlled in Iran, meaning those who carried out the attacks on the parliament and the shrine likely had to smuggle their weapons into the country.
The location of the second attack is extremely symbolic, targeting the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder and first supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He led the revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979 and was Iran’s leader for 10 years.
The mausoleum is located around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the parliament.
TERRORISM IS RARE
Terrorist attacks in Iran are rare, but the country — with its largely Shiite population — has been involved in military actions against Sunni terrorist groups such as ISIS, who regard Shiites as apostates.
Last year, Iran’s government said it thwarted “one of the biggest plots” by terror groups targeting Tehran and other major cities during the month of Ramadan. This year’s holy month started almost two weeks ago on May 26.
The last major attack in Iran was in 2010 when a Sunni extremist group carried out a suicide attack against a mosque in Sistan-Baluchistan killing 39 people. Kurdish groups have carried out small scale attacks against Iranian security forces in the north-west of the country.

 It’s a tough time to work in national security and have opinions, or even a conscience

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) It’s a tough time to work in national security and have opinions, or even a conscience. On Monday, a 25-year-old federal contractor named Reality Leigh Winner was arrested for allegedly leaking a top-secret NSA document to The Intercept.

The apparent document, dated a month ago, contains shocking details about an alleged Russian cyberattack on a supplier of US voting software, as well as malicious emails sent to voting officials in an attempt to hack their computers. Unlike previous reports, this one, if accurate, was far more overt in what it revealed, leaving little doubt that the attacks were coordinated by the GRU, the Russian state’s military intelligence unit. Winner was charged under the Espionage Act for the leak, and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Jill Filipovic

Depending whom you ask, Winner is either a criminal or a whistle blower. If she is indeed the person behind the leak, then perhaps she’s both: someone who felt an understandable moral obligation to release information that is in the public interest, but who also broke the law.
Her case is an important one to follow, and the sloppy missteps by The Intercept offer important lessons for journalists who receive leaked documents and outlets that publish them. But it shouldn’t eclipse the bigger picture: that while low-level leakers like Winner become the subjects of large-scale public prosecutions, our own President has a nasty habit of spewing highly classified and sensitive information to boost his own ego and impress his audience.
Beyond this, that same President has time and again complained about and may even have obstructed a thorough investigation into whether a hostile foreign power interfered in our elections.
There are good reasons to have laws against leaks — the intelligence community needs to be able to do its job, which means protecting its sources and keeping some information out of public view. But over the past two decades, our national security apparatus has grown to a monstrous size, while it has also become less transparent and more difficult for public watchdogs to check in on.
Leaks have long been a regular feature of American government, and they are rarely prosecuted, because, as Malcolm Gladwell details in an essential New Yorker article on national security whistle blowing, their very existence is often beneficial to the administration in charge. Even the Obama administration, which was more aggressive in prosecuting leakers than any before it, didn’t bother tracking down the source of, let alone seeking punishment for, the overwhelming majority of leaks.
This administration is a wild card, and the President dis-comfortingly unpredictable. He has vowed to prosecute more leakers, and Winner may just be paraded as a threat to other would-be purveyors of classified intelligence. Which is why the conversations and reporting on this case must maintain crucial context — that leaks are common, but prosecutions are not, which suggests the administration is seeking to make a bigger point here. Its message: Leakers will be particularly targeted if the intelligence they give journalists suggests that Russia helped Trump win the election.
This is especially rich, by the way, given that Trump himself disclosed classified intelligence to the Russians, compromising our relationships with some of our most important allies.
All of which makes this leak more understandable: Winner, if she was the leaker, had in her hand a document clearly tying the Russian military intelligence apparatus to direct meddling in the American presidential election, and reasonably believed the administration in power would like to bury it.
She made the mistake of believing the site she anonymously leaked the document to would be careful to not make her identifiable; instead, The Intercept all but gave her away, and she was arrested almost immediately after the story was published. This kind of amateur-hour screw up may, unfortunately, scare others away from coming forward with vital information that sheds light on the darkest corners of our recent history.
Now, the impulse will be to focus on Winner: Did she break the law? Could she have conscientiously blown the whistle any other way? What are her politics and motivations?
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This will certainly be the emphasis from the Republican Party, whose members are eager to weasel out of the position they’ve put themselves in, claiming to be aggressive defenders of the nation while looking away from the growing mound of evidence that our elections were compromised, that members of the Trump campaign, and possibly even the administration, may have been involved, and that the leader of their party is trying to squelch any probes.
We shouldn’t take the bait and get distracted by what Winner tweeted about or whose Twitter feeds she followed. Instead, we should retrain our gaze on the issues at hand: A loose-lipped President who is obstructing justice; a hostile foreign power interfering with our democratic system; and a craven, mealy mouthed majority party in Congress doing absolutely nothing because, hey, their guy won, and that seems to matter more than the integrity and security of the United States.
One leak is the least of our problems.