Wednesday, December 30, 2015

U.S. Spy Net on Israel Snares Congress


President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs.

But behind the scenes, the White House decided to keep certain allies under close watch, current and former U.S. officials said. Topping the list was Israeli Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu.
The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time, captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the deal to Capitol Hill.

The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That raised fears—an “Oh-s— moment,” one senior U.S. official said—that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.
White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky. So, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. “We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ ” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”
Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations—to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.
Before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed much of the agency’s spying operations in 2013, there was little worry in the administration about the monitoring of friendly heads of state because it was such a closely held secret. After the revelations and a White House review, Mr. Obama announced in a January 2014 speech he would curb such eavesdropping.

In closed-door debate, the Obama administration weighed which allied leaders belonged on a so-called protected list, shielding them from NSA snooping. French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders made the list, but the administration permitted the NSA to target the leaders’ top advisers, current and former U.S. officials said. Other allies were excluded from the protected list, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of NATO ally Turkey, which allowed the NSA to spy on their communications at the discretion of top officials.

Privately, Mr. Obama maintained the monitoring of Mr. Netanyahu on the grounds that it served a “compelling national security purpose,” according to current and former U.S. officials. Mr. Obama mentioned the exception in his speech but kept secret the leaders it would apply to.
Israeli, German and French government officials declined to comment on NSA activities. Turkish officials didn’t respond to requests Tuesday for comment. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA declined to comment on communications provided to the White House.
This account, stretching over two terms of the Obama administration, is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former U.S. intelligence and administration officials and reveals for the first time the extent of American spying on the Israeli prime minister.
Taking office

After Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials gave his national-security team a one-page questionnaire on priorities. Included on the form was a box directing intelligence agencies to focus on “leadership intentions,” a category that relies on electronic spying to monitor world leaders.
The NSA was so proficient at monitoring heads of state that it was common for the agency to deliver a visiting leader’s talking points to the president in advance. “Who’s going to look at that box and say, ‘No, I don’t want to know what world leaders are saying,’ ” a former Obama administration official said.
In early intelligence briefings, Mr. Obama and his top advisers were told what U.S. spy agencies thought of world leaders, including Mr. Netanyahu, who at the time headed the opposition Likud party.
Michael Hayden, who led the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency during the George W. Bush administration, described the intelligence relationship between the U.S. and Israel as “the most combustible mixture of intimacy and caution that we have.”

The NSA helped Israel expand its electronic spy apparatus—known as signals intelligence—in the late 1970s. The arrangement gave Israel access to the communications of its regional enemies, information shared with the U.S. Israel’s spy chiefs later suspected the NSA was tapping into their systems.
When Mr. Obama took office, the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, Unit 8200, worked together against shared threats, including a campaign to sabotage centrifuges for Iran’s nuclear program. At the same time, the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies targeted one another, stoking tensions.
“Intelligence professionals have a saying: There are no friendly intelligence services,” said Mike Rogers, former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Early in the Obama presidency, for example, Unit 8200 gave the NSA a hacking tool the NSA later discovered also told Israel how the Americans used it. It wasn’t the only time the NSA caught Unit 8200 poking around restricted U.S. networks. Israel would say intrusions were accidental, one former U.S. official said, and the NSA would respond, “Don’t worry. We make mistakes, too.”
In 2011 and 2012, the aims of Messrs. Netanyahu and Obama diverged over Iran. Mr. Netanyahu prepared for a possible strike against an Iranian nuclear facility, as Mr. Obama pursued secret talks with Tehran without telling Israel.

Convinced Mr. Netanyahu would attack Iran without warning the White House, U.S. spy agencies ramped up their surveillance, with the assent of Democratic and Republican lawmakers serving on congressional intelligence committees.
By 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies determined Mr. Netanyahu wasn’t going to strike Iran. But they had another reason to keep watch. The White House wanted to know if Israel had learned of the secret negotiations. U.S. officials feared Iran would bolt the talks and pursue an atomic bomb if news leaked.
The NSA had, in some cases, spent decades placing electronic implants in networks around the world to collect phone calls, text messages and emails. Removing them or turning them off in the wake of the Snowden revelations would make it difficult, if not impossible, to re-establish access in the future, U.S. intelligence officials warned the White House.
Instead of removing the implants, Mr. Obama decided to shut off the NSA’s monitoring of phone numbers and email addresses of certain allied leaders—a move that could be reversed by the president or his successor.
There was little debate over Israel. “Going dark on Bibi? Of course we wouldn’t do that,” a senior U.S. official said, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname.
One tool was a cyber implant in Israeli networks that gave the NSA access to communications within the Israeli prime minister’s office.
Given the appetite for information about Mr. Netanyahu’s intentions during the U.S.-Iran negotiations, the NSA tried to send updates to U.S. policy makers quickly, often in less than six hours after a notable communication was intercepted, a former official said.
Emerging deal

NSA intercepts convinced the White House last year that Israel was spying on negotiations under way in Europe. Israeli officials later denied targeting U.S. negotiators, saying they had won access to U.S. positions by spying only on the Iranians.

By late 2014, White House officials knew Mr. Netanyahu wanted to block the emerging nuclear deal but didn’t know how.
On Jan. 8, John Boehner, then the Republican House Speaker, and incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed on a plan. They would invite Mr. Netanyahu to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress. A day later, Mr. Boehner called Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, to get Mr. Netanyahu’s agreement.

Despite NSA surveillance, Obama administration officials said they were caught off guard when Mr. Boehner announced the invitation on Jan. 21.
Soon after, Israel’s lobbying campaign against the deal went into full swing on Capitol Hill, and it didn’t take long for administration and intelligence officials to realize the NSA was sweeping up the content of conversations with lawmakers.
The message to the NSA from the White House amounted to: “You decide” what to deliver, a former intelligence official said.
NSA rules governing intercepted communications “to, from or about” Americans date back to the Cold War and require obscuring the identities of U.S. individuals and U.S. corporations. An American is identified only as a “U.S. person” in intelligence reports; a U.S. corporation is identified only as a “U.S. organization.” Senior U.S. officials can ask for names if needed to understand the intelligence information.

The rules were tightened in the early 1990s to require that intelligence agencies inform congressional committees when a lawmaker’s name was revealed to the executive branch in summaries of intercepted communications.
A 2011 NSA directive said direct communications between foreign intelligence targets and members of Congress should be destroyed when they are intercepted. But the NSA director can issue a waiver if he determines the communications contain “significant foreign intelligence.”
The NSA has leeway to collect and disseminate intercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakers if, for example, foreign ambassadors send messages to their foreign ministries that recount their private meetings or phone calls with members of Congress, current and former officials said.
“Either way, we got the same information,” a former official said, citing detailed reports prepared by the Israelis after exchanges with lawmakers.
During Israel’s lobbying campaign in the months before the deal cleared Congress in September, the NSA removed the names of lawmakers from intelligence reports and weeded out personal information. The agency kept out “trash talk,” officials said, such as personal attacks on the executive branch.
Administration and intelligence officials said the White House didn’t ask the NSA to identify any lawmakers during this period.
“From what I can tell, we haven’t had a problem with how incidental collection has been handled concerning lawmakers,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He declined to comment on any specific communications between lawmakers and Israel.
The NSA reports allowed administration officials to peer inside Israeli efforts to turn Congress against the deal. Mr. Dermer was described as coaching unnamed U.S. organizations—which officials could tell from the context were Jewish-American groups—on lines of argument to use with lawmakers, and Israeli officials were reported pressing lawmakers to oppose the deal.
“These allegations are total nonsense,” said a spokesman for the Embassy of Israel in Washington.
A U.S. intelligence official familiar with the intercepts said Israel’s pitch to undecided lawmakers often included such questions as: “How can we get your vote? What’s it going to take?”
NSA intelligence reports helped the White House figure out which Israeli government officials had leaked information from confidential U.S. briefings. When confronted by the U.S., Israel denied passing on the briefing materials.
The agency’s goal was “to give us an accurate illustrative picture of what [the Israelis] were doing,” a senior U.S. official said.
Just before Mr. Netanyahu’s address to Congress in March, the NSA swept up Israeli messages that raised alarms at the White House: Mr. Netanyahu’s office wanted details from Israeli intelligence officials about the latest U.S. positions in the Iran talks, U.S. officials said.
A day before the speech, Secretary of State John Kerry made an unusual disclosure. Speaking to reporters in Switzerland, Mr. Kerry said he was concerned Mr. Netanyahu would divulge “selective details of the ongoing negotiations.”

The State Department said Mr. Kerry was responding to Israeli media reports that Mr. Netanyahu wanted to use his speech to make sure U.S. lawmakers knew the terms of the Iran deal.
Intelligence officials said the media reports allowed the U.S. to put Mr. Netanyahu on notice without revealing they already knew his thinking. The prime minister mentioned no secrets during his speech to Congress.
In the final months of the campaign, NSA intercepts yielded few surprises. Officials said the information reaffirmed what they heard directly from lawmakers and Israeli officials opposed to Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign—that the prime minister was focused on building opposition among Democratic lawmakers.
The NSA intercepts, however, revealed one surprise. Mr. Netanyahu and some of his allies voiced confidence they could win enough votes.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The problem of our time - ignorance or indifference?

 In your opinion ... what is the greatest  problem of our time? Ignorance or indifference?

 I don't know and I don't care.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Republican Divide on Syria

Global View Columnist Bret Stephens and Editorial Board Member Mary Kissel discuss the Republican divide on Syria, the NSA and Kerry's capitulation to Russia.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Richard Landes: Lethal, own goal journalism

Richard Landes’s speech begins at 6:44 into the video:

Islamic Jihad: Symptom of a Western Cause

As someone specializing in Islamic jihadism, one would expect I’d have much to say immediately after jihadi attacks of the sort that recently occurred in San Bernardino, or Paris, or Mali, with a total of about 180 dead. Ironically I don’t, as such attacks are ultimately symptoms of what I do deem worthy of talk: root causes. (What can one add when a symptom of the root cause he has long warned against occurs other than “told you so”?)

So what is the root cause of jihadi attacks? Many think that the ultimate source of the ongoing terrorization of the West is Islam. Yet this notion has one problem: the Muslim world is immensely weak and intrinsically incapable of being a threat.

That every Islamic assault on the West is a terrorist attack -- and terrorism, as is known, is the weapon of the weak -- speaks for itself.

This was not always the case. For approximately one thousand years, the Islamic world was the scourge of the West. Today’s history books may refer to those who terrorized Christian Europe as Arabs, Saracens, Moors, Ottomans, Turks, Mongols, or Tatars[i], but all were operating under the same banner of jihad that the Islamic State is operating under.

But today, the ultimate enemy is within.

The root cause behind the non-stop Muslim terrorization of the West is found in those who stifle or whitewash all talk and examination of Muslim doctrine and history; who welcome hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants while knowing that some are jihadi operatives and many are simply “radical”; who work to overthrow secular Arab dictators in the name of “democracy” and “freedom,” only to uncork the jihad long suppressed by the autocrats (the Islamic State’s territory consists of lands that were “liberated” in Iraq, Libya, and Syria by the U.S. and its allies).

So, are Western leaders and politicians the root cause behind the Islamic terrorization of the West? Close, but still not the right answer.

Far from being limited to a number of elitist leaders and institutions, the Western empowerment of the jihad is the natural outcome of postmodern thinking -- the real reason an innately weak Islam can be a source of repeated woes for a militarily and economically superior West.

Remember, the reason people like French President Francois Hollande, U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are in power -- three prominent Western leaders who insist that Islam is innocent of violence and who push for Muslim immigration -- is because they embody a worldview that is normative in the West.

In this context, the facilitation of jihadi terror is less a top-down imposition and more a grassroots product of decades of erroneous but unquestioned thinking. (Those who believe America’s problems begin and end with Obama would do well to remember that he did not come to power through a coup, but that he was voted in -- twice. This indicates that Obama and the majority of voting Americans have a shared, and erroneous, worldview. He may be cynically exploiting this worldview, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s because this warped worldview is mainstream that he can exploit it in the first place.)

Western empowerment of the jihad is rooted in a number of philosophies that have metastasized into every corner of social life, becoming cornerstones of postmodern epistemology. These include the doctrines of relativism and multiculturalism on the one hand, and anti-Western, anti-Christian sentiment on the other.

Taken together, these cornerstones of postmodern, post-Christian thinking hold that there are no absolute truths, and thus all cultures are fundamentally equal and deserving of respect. They hold that if Western people wants to criticize a civilization or religion, they must instead look “inwardly” and acknowledge their European Christian heritage as the epitome of intolerance and imperialism.

Add to these a number of other sappy and silly ideals: Truth can never be uttered because it might “hurt the feelings” of some (excluding white Christians, who are free game); if anything, the West should go out of its way to make up for its supposedly historic “sins” by appeasing Muslims until they “like us”; etc.

All together, we have a sure recipe for disaster -- which is the current state of affairs.
Western people are bombarded with these aforementioned “truths” from the cradle to the grave, from kindergarten to university, from Hollywood to the newsrooms, and now even in churches. So they now are unable to accept and act on a simple truism that their ancestors well knew: Islam is an inherently violent and intolerant creed that cannot coexist with non-Islam (except insincerely, in times of weakness).

The essence of all this came out clearly when Obama, in order to rationalize away the inhuman atrocities of the Islamic State, counseled Americans to get off their “high horse” and remember that their Christian ancestors have been guilty of similar, if not worse, atrocities.

But he had to go back almost a thousand years for his examples; he referenced the Crusades and Inquisition. That both events have been completely distorted by this warped postmodern worldview -- which portrays imperialist Muslims as victims -- did not matter to America’s leader. And worse, it did not matter to most Americans. The greater lesson was not that Obama whitewashed modern Islamic atrocities by misrepresenting and demonizing Christian history, but that he was merely reaffirming the mainstream narrative that Americans have been indoctrinated into believing.

And thus, aside from the usual ephemeral and meaningless grumblings, his words -- as with many of his pro-Islamic, anti-Christian comments and policies -- passed along without consequence.

Once upon a time, the Islamic world was a superpower, and its jihad an irresistible force to be reckoned with. Over two centuries ago, however, a rising Europe, which had experienced over a thousand years of jihadi conquests and atrocities, defeated and defanged Islam.

As Islam retreated into obscurity, the post-Christian West slowly came into being. Islam didn’t change, but the West did. Muslims still venerate their heritage and religion which impels them to jihad against the Western “infidel,” whereas the West learned to despise its heritage and religion, causing it to be an unwitting ally of the jihad.

Hence the current situation: the jihad is back in full vigor, while the West -- not just its leaders, but much of the populace -- facilitates it in varying degrees.

This situation is not easily remedied, for to accept that Islam is inherently violent and intolerant is to reject a number of cornerstones of postmodern Western thinking. In this context, nothing short of an intellectual/cultural revolution -- where rational thinking becomes mainstream again -- will allow the West to confront Islam head-on.

But there is some good news. First, the eyes of more and more Western people are being opened to the true nature of Islam. That this is happening in spite of generations of pro-Islamic indoctrination is a testimony to the growing severity of the threat.

Yet it still remains unclear whether objective thinking on Islam will eventually overthrow the current narrative of relativism, anti-Westernism, and asinine emotionalism.

Simply put, celebrating multiculturalism and defeating the jihad is impossible.

However, if such a revolution ever does take place, the Islamic jihad will be easily swept back into the dustbin of history. For the fact remains: Islam is terrorizing the world, not because it can, but because the West allows it to.


 "The Muslim world is immensely weak and intrinsically incapable of being a threat".  – except  Iran, that is 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Our Immigration Laws Should Screen Out Islamists, Not All Muslims

by ANDREW C. MCCARTHY December 12, 2015 

I appreciate being held in “(otherwise) . . . considerable esteem” by Charles Krauthammer. Not only is the feeling mutual; from my end, I would even omit the “otherwise.” That said, I am dismayed by his specious response to my legal analysis of Donald Trump’s proposed moratorium on Muslim immigration to the United States. I am personally disappointed that Charles has distorted my position, portraying me as a Trump apologist. But that is almost beside the point. His rebuke is counterproductive to the defense of our national security — about which Krauthammer and I both care deeply — because it makes solving a vexing problem that much more difficult.

Dr. Krauthammer fails to address the substantive legal points I made. Instead, I get the back of his hand for explaining that I focused mainly on the “final form” of Trump’s moratorium proposal — the retreat to a temporary ban on foreign Muslims, after Trump initially suggested such a ban on all Muslims. Charles finds this “hilarious” because, he concludes, I am taking Trump’s policymaking process seriously – “as if Trump’s barstool eruptions are painstakingly vetted, and as if anything Trump says about anything is ever final.”


As Dr. K must know (since it is quite apparent from the post he attacks), I am not a Trump supporter, much less a Trump apologist. I confess to not being Trump-obsessed: I just don’t think he is going to be the nominee and life is too short to get that whipped up about him. As I’ve pointed out, I don’t believe even the Republicans are daft enough to nominate a man who has donated more money to Hillary Clinton and the racketeering enterprise also known the Clinton Foundation than most Democrats have combined.

I have, however, noted the candidate’s erratic nature on a few occasions. And in the very post that Krauthammer pretends to address, I intimated doubt that Trump knows much about either immigration law or Islam. But to sum up, I don’t care, even a little bit, about Donald Trump. If it’s possible, I care even less about his policymaking process.

I do, however, care very much about our immigration policy. I want it to enable us, within the bounds of the law, to exclude sharia-supremacist Muslims while admitting pro-Western Muslims who revere our constitutional culture of liberty. The former are the breeding pool for jihadism; the latter have been valuable in disrupting jihadist cells and could, if empowered, be valuable in marginalizing treacherous Islamist outfits like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Charles accuses me of “tarting up” Trump’s proposed “ban” (again, it’s actually a moratorium) in “constitutional and statutory livery.” Inexplicably, he fails to tell readers that I prefaced this “tarting” by stating, “I am against a categorical ban on Muslim immigration[.]” The point of my post was not to defend Trump’s proposal but to justify my own proposal, which is plainly stated in the first lines of my post: Reject a categorical ban but mandate that “Muslim immigrants should be examined about Islamic supremacism and . . . adherents to that counter-constitutional ideology should be denied admission.”

This can be done legally, but it requires a grasp of the pertinent principles. Charles may be right that developing a taxonomy of Trumpian policy refinements would be a hilarious waste of time. But I have no interest in that. I am trying to persuade Americans about what we should do, which obliges me to outline what the law allows us to do.

I differentiated the “final form” of Trump’s proposal (which addresses aliens outside the United States) from the original (which addressed all Muslims, including American citizens and lawful permanent residents) because it is a salient constitutional distinction. The distinction hearkens back to the shameful aspect of FDR’s Japanese internment during World War II: the failure to distinguish Americans of Japanese descent, whose detention was unconstitutional and a blight on our history, from Japanese aliens, whose detention was lawful (we can debate whether it was unwise). That is why I wrote that Trump’s original proposal “would be lawless, and recklessly so.”

In crafting a sound policy, we have to respect the rights of American Muslims. That means we must not use the imperative of formulating sensible immigration protocols as a pretext to address a different challenge: Islamic-supremacist activism by American Muslims. This is a significant problem and it is exacerbated by the influx of Islamists from abroad. But it is not, strictly speaking, an immigration problem.

Since Dr. K has seen fit to play amateur lawyer, let me reciprocate by playing amateur shrink. I suspect that his loathing of Trump’s bull-in-a-China-shop approach to politics is undermining his usually unparalleled discernment of the glass that actually does need breaking.

In New Jersey a few years back, a Muslim immigrant was serially raping his Muslim immigrant wife, who was in the process of divorcing him. When the wife sought a protective order in court, the husband countered that, under Islamic law, there is no such thing as marital rape — the wife was required to submit sexually on demand. Reprehensibly, the state judge accepted this explanation and refused to grant the protective order. Thankfully, he was reversed on appeal.

Under sharia, the rapist’s argument was valid. As the Islamic-law manual Reliance of the Traveller explains (in section m5, “Conjugal Rights”): “It is obligatory for a woman to let her husband have sex with her immediately when (a) he asks her (b) [they are] at home, and (c) she can physically endure it.”

The judge’s ruling in favor of the rapist was despicable because the laws of the United States and of New Jersey would not abide so sordid a principle. In our society, it is our laws that govern.

It must be acknowledged, though, that when it comes to sharia principles that are anathema to our law, the licensing of marital rape is hardly singular. That practice stems from the sharia concept that women are chattel — a lower caste than Muslim men with starkly inferior legal rights. Sharia also systematically discriminates against non-Muslims, Muslim apostates, and homosexuals. It rejects free speech, economic liberty, privacy, and due process. It denies people the right to govern themselves as they see fit. It promotes jihad — holy war — to establish, protect, and expand sharia-governed territory.

There is no point in elaborating further on these counter-constitutional principles. I’ve done that several times, and it cannot be credibly disputed that classical sharia holds these tenets. Nor can it be credibly disputed that millions of Islamist Muslims adhere to them — just as millions of non-Islamist Muslims do not.

There are two points, though, that cry out to be made.

First, there has to be a way of separating Islamists from non-Islamists and barring the former from our country. The Constitution, as Justice Robert Jackson sagely observed, is not a suicide pact.

Second, whatever one might think of Islam, the sharia principles mentioned above — involving matters of sexual battery, law, finance, combat, and politics — are not religious tenets. They are principles of a totalitarian political ideology. Despite their Islamic veneer, these principles cannot be analyzed as if they were just religious. If Karl Marx had written that Allah told him the workers must control the means of production, that would not have converted Communism into a sacrosanct corpus of religious belief.

Aliens have no right to immigrate to the United States, and the Constitution empowers our government to exclude classes of aliens. There is no constitutional impediment to banning Islamists — i.e., sharia supremacists, proponents of an anti-Constitutional governing framework — from entering, let alone settling in, our country.

Although the Constitution would not prohibit a religious test, what I am proposing homes in on political ideology, not religion. The authentically spiritual aspects of Islam deserve the safeguards our system affords to religious belief and practice. No sensible person wants to exclude Muslims over these aspects of their faith. To the contrary, I am talking about adherents of a hostile political ideology that nurtures violent jihadism, our most immediate national-security threat.

Our immigration law has always required aliens to provide assurances of fidelity to our constitutional principles. And in the past we have barred the admission of political ideologues hostile to our Constitution. It is obviously possible for our government to do this again — this time, to vet aliens for adherence to Islamic supremacism.

For such an immigration policy to work, however, it is essential to reaffirm the legal principle that I am advocating and that Charles is pooh-poohing: Namely, that the burden of proof is on the alien to demonstrate that he is fit to enter our society, and not on the government to show that the alien is unfit or lying about his fitness.

Charles Krauthammer’s brilliance justifies the great influence he has on policymakers and the public debate. I concede that when he rejects an idea out of hand, that typically has a powerful impact on my own thinking. Thus, I am not in a very good position to complain about the certainty that thoughtful people will dismiss my argument simply because Charles has dismissed it.

Still, I respectfully submit that he is wrong.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Rubio would beat Clinton, Trump would not

RealClearPolitics - Election 2016 - General Election: Rubio vs. Clinton

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The ‘It’s Impractical Because They’ll Lie’ Objection to Trump’s Proposal Is Meritless

The Corner


Denunciation abounds in the analysis of Donald Trump’s call for a temporary suspension of immigration into the United States by Muslims. As I argued in a column yesterday, I am against a categorical ban on Muslim immigration, but I believe Muslim immigrants should be examined about Islamic supremacism and that adherents to that counter-constitutional ideology should be denied admission.

Consequently, I am hearing one of the same objections lodged against Trump’s sweeping proposal, namely: It is impractical because immigrants will lie about their religious affiliation.

This contention borders on the frivolous. I was sorry to see Charles Krauthammer rely on it last night – even if it was fodder for a few much needed laughs as Dr. K evoked the “George Washington cherry-tree standard of not telling a lie to an infidel immigration officer,” and Chris Stirewalt quipped that maybe, as an assurance that they were not Muslims, would-be immigrants could be forced to eat a ham sandwich. Funny … but also suggestive of basic misconceptions about immigration law.

While many commentators acknowledge that aliens have no right to enter the United States, they miss the legal significance of this fact: In federal admission proceedings, the burden of proof is on the immigrant. It is the alien who must demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the examining official, that he or she is not subject to exclusion under any provision of the immigration law. It is not up to the government to prove that the alien should not be admitted – or, as relevant here, to prove that the alien is lying.

Because the decision about whether to admit an alien into the country is left to the government’s discretion, the alien loses if the examiner is not satisfied. The legal theory that immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility is based on the central government’s being sovereign, particularly at the border. An alien has no judicially enforceable right to enter over the sovereign’s objection. So while an alien, in trying to satisfy his burden of persuasion, may offer to eat a ham sandwich, it is highly unlikely that a government examiner would try to force him to do so.

In many circumstances, Charles would be right to point out that Islamists and other Muslims could defeat proposed regulations simply by lying. For example, when it was alleged that Trump had proposed a Muslim registry, I pointed out that this suggestion was not only illegal – because it would subject Muslim Americans to discriminatory investigation – but impractical because some Muslims would simply defy the registration requirement and dare the Justice Department to prosecute them.

A registration requirement, however, would be saliently different from exclusion under the immigration laws. In the registry situation, we are dealing with Muslims who already have significant rights under American law (i.e., citizens and legal aliens), such that the government has the burden of establishing both the lawfulness of the requirement and a person’s noncompliance with it. By contrast, an alien who has no right to be present in the United States in first place has no legal cards to play. It is up to the alien to convince the examiner that he should be admitted; if he cannot do this, he is not allowed to enter. The government does not have to justify shutting the door on him.

Two last points.

1. Both my column and yesterday’s National Review editorial point out that applicants for immigration have long been required to provide assurances of fidelity to American constitutional principles – and during the Cold War, assurances that they were not adherent to the ideology of our enemies. These mandates are worthwhile not only for what we learn from the applicants but as an expression of what we expect – and what we reject – as a nation.

Of course, it is always possible that people will lie – just as they may lie about all manner of information our law requires disclosure of. That is not a good reason to forgo disclosure requirements. It is a felony punishable by five years’ imprisonment to lie on government forms or to government agents conducting a legitimate investigation. Many people are prosecuted for such offenses. Besides serving as a demonstration of national seriousness that could discourage immigration fraud, such prosecutions would provide a basis for swift deportation after any prison sentence has been served.

2. I contend, as do the editors and Mark Krikorian, that there is nothing unconstitutional about Trump’s proposal. (I’m referring to the proposal in its final form. As originally floated, the proposal of “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” would have included Muslim American citizens and lawful permanent resident aliens. That would be lawless, and recklessly so). It is probably true, as Jim Geraghty suggested yesterday, that a majority of the Supreme Court would hold Trump’s proposal unconstitutional, but if so the justices would be doing politics, not law – something for which the Court has become notorious.

Were that to happen, I assume it would be based on some newfangled right of aliens outside the United States not to be discriminated against on religious grounds. Let’s put aside the contention in my column that Islam is not merely a religion but a political ideology (with its own governing system, societal framework, and legal code – sharia). If the “constitutional” objection here is religious discrimination, the simple answer, as Mark Levin and I discussed last night, would be a moratorium on all immigration across the board.

Would that be overkill? Of course it would. That is one reason why the actual Constitution does not require it – it grants the government broad discretion to make categorical distinctions. But if the choice we were stuck with was overkill or the continuation of business as usual – with the government neither enforcing the laws nor competently screening out likely threats to the United States – I would overkill every time. The advocates of “comprehensive immigration reform” keep telling us the system is broken. When a broken system endangers lives, the commonsense response is to shut it down until it has been repaired – and the shut down provides a powerful incentive to get on with the repair work.

Trump’s Muslim Immigration Ban Should Touch Off a Badly Needed Discussion


Donald Trump’s rhetorical excesses aside, he has a way of pushing us into important debates, particularly on immigration. He has done it again with his bracing proposal to force “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

I have no idea what Mr. Trump knows about either immigration law or Islam. But it should be obvious to any objective person that Muslim immigration to the West is a vexing challenge.

Some Muslims come to the United States to practice their religion peacefully, and assimilate into the Western tradition of tolerance of other people’s liberties, including religious liberty — a tradition alien to the theocratic societies in which they grew up. Others come here to champion sharia, Islam’s authoritarian societal framework and legal code, resisting assimilation into our pluralistic society.

Since we want to both honor religious liberty and preserve the Constitution that enshrines and protects it, we have a dilemma.

The assumption that is central to this dilemma — the one that Trump has stumbled on and that Washington refuses to examine — is that Islam is merely a religion. If that’s true, then it is likely that religious liberty will trump constitutional and national-security concerns. How, after all, can a mere religion be a threat to a constitutional system dedicated to religious liberty?

But Islam is no mere religion.

As understood by the mainstream of Muslim-majority countries that are the source of immigration to America and the West, Islam is a comprehensive ideological system that governs all human affairs, from political, economic, and military matters to interpersonal relations and even hygiene. It is beyond dispute that Islam has religious tenets — the oneness of Allah, the belief that Mohammed is the final prophet, the obligation of ritual prayer. Yet these make up only a fraction of what is overwhelmingly a political ideology.

Our constitutional principle of religious liberty is derived from the Western concept that the spiritual realm should be separate from civic and political life. The concept flows from the New Testament injunction to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.

Crucially, the interpretation of Islam that is mainstream in most Muslim-majority countries does not accept a division between mosque and state. In fact, to invoke “mosque” as the equivalent of “church” in referring to a division between spiritual and political life is itself a misleading projection of Western principles onto Islamic society. A mosque is not merely a house of worship. It does not separate politics from religion any more than Islam as a whole does. There is a reason why many of the fiery political protests that turn riotous in the Middle East occur on Fridays — the Muslim Sabbath, on which people pour out of the mosques with ears still burning from the imam’s sermon.

The lack of separation between spiritual and civic life is not the only problem with Islam. Sharia is counter-constitutional in its most basic elements — beginning with the elementary belief that people do not have a right to govern themselves freely. Islam, instead, requires adherence to sharia and rejection of all law that contradicts it. So we start with fundamental incompatibility, before we ever get to other aspects of sharia: its systematic discrimination against non-Muslims and women; its denial of religious liberty, free speech, economic freedom, privacy rights, due process, and protection from cruel and unusual punishments; and its endorsement of violent jihad in furtherance of protecting and expanding the territory it governs.

Let’s bear in mind that permitting immigration is a discretionary national act. There is no right to immigrate to the United States, and the United States has no obligation to accept immigrants from any country, including Muslim-majority countries. We could lawfully cut off all immigration, period, if we wanted to. Plus, it has always been a basic tenet of legal immigration to promote fidelity to the Constitution and assimilation into American society — principles to which classical sharia is antithetical.

So why isn’t that the end of the matter? Why is Trump being vilified? Why isn’t he being hailed for speaking truth and refusing to bow to political correctness?

Because Islam is more complex in practice than in theory.

In our non-Muslim country, there is no point in debating what the “true” Islam says or whether Muslims are at liberty to ignore or reform classical sharia. There may not be a true Islam. Even if there is one, what non-Muslims think or say about it is of little interest to Muslims. Our job, in any event, is to preserve the Constitution and protect our national security regardless of how Islam’s internal debates are ultimately resolved — if they ever are.

With that understanding, it is simply a fact that many Muslims accept our constitutional principles and do not seek to impose sharia on our society. They have varying rationales for taking this position: Some believe sharia mandates that immigrants accept their host country’s laws; some believe sharia’s troublesome elements are confined to the historical time and place where they arose and are no longer applicable; some think sharia can evolve; some simply ignore sharia altogether but deem themselves devout Muslims because they remain Islamic spiritually and — within the strictures of American law — culturally.

For those Muslims, Islam is, in effect, merely a religion, and as such it deserves our Constitution’s protections.

For other Muslims, however, Islam is a political program with a religious veneer. It does not merit the liberty protections our law accords to religion. It undermines our Constitution and threatens our security. Its anti-assimilationist dictates create a breeding ground for violent jihad.

If we continue mindlessly treating Islam as if it were merely a religion, if we continue ignoring the salient differences between constitutional and sharia principles — thoughtlessly assuming these antithetical systems are compatible — we will never have a sensible immigration policy.

I have no idea what, if anything, Donald Trump knows about sharia. I do know that it’s a system we must account for if we are going to succeed in welcoming pro-Western Muslims who will be a boon to our society while excluding Islamic supremacists who want to destroy it.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The edited/censored Letter to the Editor

The published letter:

While Donald Trump is definitely not my choice for US president, his latest statement on Muslim immigration has a precedent in US history. During the Cold War, Communist Party members needed a special waiver to enter the US.


The actual letter sent: 

While Donald Trump is definitely not my choice for US president, his latest statement on Muslim immigration has a precedent in US history. During the Cold War, Communist Party members needed a special waiver to enter the US. Islam is a religion as well as an ideology and the purpose of Political Islam is to through stealth jihad and Sharia Law overthrow the government of the US. 

Mladen Andrijasevic 
Be'er Sheva 

It is precisely the third sentence of the letter that the Jerusalem Post letters editor chose to ignore which is essential.   The crux of the whole argument is that Islam is a political ideology as well as a religion, and this fact is being ignored by virtually everyone in their reaction to Trump’s statement. After all, Ayatollah Khomeini said: " Islam is politics or it is nothing."