Friday, March 13, 2015

Cruising the Web

Charles Krauthammer observes that Hillary Clinton did the equivalent of what Nixon might have done to save his presidency.
She burned the tapes.

Had Richard Nixon burned his tapes, he would have survived Watergate. Sure, there would have been a major firestorm, but no smoking gun. Hillary Rodham was a young staffer on the House Judiciary Committee investigating Nixon. She saw. She learned.

Today you don’t burn tapes. You delete e-mails. Hillary Clinton deleted 30,000, dismissing their destruction with the brilliantly casual: “I didn’t see any reason to keep them.” After all, they were private and personal, she assured everyone.

How do we know that? She says so. Were, say, Clinton Foundation contributions considered personal? No one asked. It’s unlikely we’ll ever know. We have to trust her.
So why does this story matter?
The point of regulations is to ensure government transparency. The point of owning the server is to ensure opacity. Because she holds the e-mails, all document requests by Congress, by subpoena, by Freedom of Information Act inquiries have ultimately to go through her lawyers, who will stonewall until the end of time — or Election Day 2016, whichever comes first.

It’s a smart political calculation. Taking a few weeks of heat now — it’s only March 2015 — is far less risky than being blown up by some future e-mail discovery. Moreover, around April 1, the Clinton apologists will begin dismissing the whole story as “old news.”

But even if nothing further is found, the damage is done. After all, what is Hillary running on? Her experience and record, say her supporters.

What record? She’s had three major jobs. Secretary of state: Can you name a single achievement in four years? U.S. senator: Can you name a single achievement in eight years? First lady: her one achievement in eight years? Hillarycare, a shipwreck.

In reality, Hillary Clinton is running on two things: gender and name. Gender is not to be underestimated. It will make her the Democratic nominee. The name is equally valuable. It evokes the warm memory of the golden 1990s, a decade of peace and prosperity during our holiday from history.

Now breaking through, however, is a stark reminder of the underside of that Clinton decade: the chicanery, the sleaze, the dodging, the parsing, the wordplay. It’s a dual legacy that Hillary Clinton cannot escape and that will be a permanent drag on her candidacy.

You can feel it. It’s a recurrence of an old ailment. It was bound to set in, but not this soon. What you’re feeling now is Early Onset Clinton Fatigue. The CDC is recommending elaborate precautions. Forget it. The only known cure is Elizabeth Warren.

Meanwhile Jeffrey Lord ponders the similarities between Hillary Clinton and Richard Nixon.
In both cases the instant it was understood in the media and on Capitol Hill — and in Mr. Nixon’s case in the precincts of the Watergate Special Prosecutor — that tapes or email were out there the demand rose for their release. Nixon, at first adamant about ever releasing them, was quickly buried under a mass of bad press and actual subpoenas. He resisted, fired the special prosecutor (setting off the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre” firestorm), then, on April 29, 1974 went on television to announce he had resolved the problem. He had listened to the tapes, with what he deemed the relevant portions now transcribed in leather bound volumes (that were stacked neatly to his left on-camera.) That night he said he would hand over the transcriptions to investigators. There was no mention of what was already known — there was an eighteen-and-a-half minute gap.

As with Mrs. Clinton — whose emails are being sought by the Benghazi Committee and the Associated Press thus far — there was an immediate uproar. No one believed the transcriptions were complete, and the fact that Nixon himself decided what was relevant launched a media and political outcry.

For those who recall the furor, the Clinton press conference over her emails this week was, there is no other word for it, Nixonesque. So forthwith a comparison of the Nixon April 1974 speech on his Watergate tapes with Mrs. Clinton’s UN press conference. The similarities — from the rationale, to the demand for privacy, to the insistence that both Nixon and Clinton alone would be the final judge of what the public should see — are startling if not surprising.
Read through the excerpts that Lord provides from Nixon's speech and note the startling similarities.

Don't put your confidence in Hillary's claim about how secure her server is.
Stirred by the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, a determined band of hackers, IT bloggers, and systems analysts have trained their specialized talents and state-of-the-art software on, the domain under which Clinton established multiple private email accounts, and uncovered serious lapses in security, according to data shared with Fox News.

The findings call into question Clinton’s confident declaration, at a hastily arranged news conference in New York on Tuesday, that “there were no security breaches” in her use of a private server. One prominent figure in the hacker community, bolstered by long experience in the U.S. intelligence community, has undertaken to build a virtual “replica” of Clinton’s server configuration in a cyberlab, and has begun testing it with tools designed to probe security defenses. This individual has shared details of the Clinton system not disclosed publicly but legally obtainable.

Among other things, outside experts have managed to trace the most recent location of Clinton’s server – something she did not specify during her news conference and a subject of much speculation, as the server’s physical placement would provide early clues about whether the data stored on it was adequately secured against compromise by private-sector hackers and foreign intelligence services.
I'm not quite comfortable with a news organization pairing up with hackers to report on how easy it would be to breach her server's security. Just by publishing such a story, there is now more of an incentive for other hackers to get to work. But that incentive existed already. I bet the hackers got to work as soon as this story broke. And the analysts have already identified lots of weaknesses within the system.
Perhaps most concerning, private analysts determined that has been running an older model of Microsoft Internet Information Services, or IIS – specifically version 7.5, which has been documented to leave users exposed on multiple fronts. The website, which bills itself as “the ultimate security vulnerability datasource,” is awash with descriptions of serious security vulnerabilities associated with version 7.5, including “memory corruption,” “password disclosure vulnerability,” and the enabling of “remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service.”

The cyberlab technician who discovered the Clintons’ use of version 7.5 marveled at “the vulnerabilities the Clintons are ignoring” in an email to Fox News. “This is a big deal and just the thing real-world hackers look for in a target and will exploit to the max,” the source said.

“Several of these vulnerabilities have been known since 2010 and yet HRC is running official State comms through it.”

Coupled with the earlier disclosure, first reported by Bloomberg, that the Clinton system used a commercial encryption product with “a default encryption certificate, instead of one purchased specifically for Ms. Clinton’s service,” these latest revelations suggest a complacent approach to server security on the part of the secretary and her aides.
Her aides keep referring to how the site was protected by the Secret Service as if a physical infiltration was all they had to worry about.

Hillary's secret server and email mess are going to cost the taxpayers millions.
If Clinton had used her departmental e-mail account -- as she insisted her employees do during her tenure -- the messages would already be in the government’s electronic records management system and could be redacted and released as part of the regular Freedom of Information Act process, Pompeo said.

“Remember, this challenge was created when a government employee decided not to use the government system,” he said. “This is another reason that the directive secretary Clinton gave to all State Department employees to use the official system actually did matter.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's state and foreign operations subcommittee, told us Monday he would demand to know exactly how much Clinton’s decision to run her e-mail service out of her Chappaqua, New York, home would cost. “This is just one more ramification of Secretary Clinton working outside the system and playing by her own rules," he told us. “I’m going to be asking the State Department how many man hours of work this will require, how much money it will cost and whether or not they think they should pay for it.”

Alec Gerlach, a State Department spokesman, told us staff members would take several steps to minimize the expense of reviewing and releasing the e-mails, although he said there was no firm idea exactly how much it will cost.

“The department has an existing infrastructure to review documents for FOIA release,” he said. “Given the considerable public interest in these documents, and in order to proceed in a manner that is less resource-intensive and more economical, the department plans to review the 55,000-page collection one time and to publish the documents to our public FOIA website for use by all requesters and interested parties.”
Then there are the FOIA lawsuits that the State Department will have to pay for.

And now we learn from Time's cover story on Hillary the extremely lax method which her people used to try to figure out which of her emails were State Department business and which were private.
For more than a year after she left office in 2013, she did not transfer work-related email from her private account to the State Department. She commissioned a review of the 62,320 messages in her account only after the department–spurred by the congressional investigation–asked her to do so. And this review did not involve opening and reading each email; instead, Clinton’s lawyers created a list of names and keywords related to her work and searched for those. Slightly more than half the total cache–31,830 emails–did not contain any of the search terms, according to Clinton’s staff, so they were deemed to be “private, personal records.”

This strikes experts as a haphazard way of analyzing documents. Jason R. Baron, a former lawyer at the National Archives and Records Administration who is now an attorney in the Washington office of Drinker Biddle & Reath, says, “I would question why lawyers for Secretary Clinton would use keyword searching, a method known to be fraught with limitations, to determine which of the emails with a address pertained to government business. Any and all State Department activities–not just communications involving the keywords Benghazi or Libya–would potentially make an email a federal record. Given the high stakes involved, I would have imagined staff could have simply conducted a manual review of every document. Using keywords as a shortcut unfortunately leaves the process open to being second-guessed.”
Ya think? I can't imagine a complete list of key words that would exactly distinguish government from private emails. What if she used an abbreviation for a country or misspelled a country or a name and it didn't trigger the key word search. We now are supposed to take Hillary Clinton's word that this slipshod method of searching her documents was sufficient. Please.

Conor Friedefsdorf in The Atlantic compares what Hillary said in her press conference about thoroughly going through her emails to pull out the ones dealing with State Department business and what was actually done.
To review, she asserted 1) a thorough investigation that included "going through" roughly 60,000 emails; 2) a standard of erring on the side of disclosing "anything" that could "possibly" be viewed as work related; 3) a "thorough" process robust enough to warrant "absolute confidence" in its results; 4) a process to turn over emails that could plausibly be characterized as "unprecedented."

Nearly everyone listening to these assurances came away with the impression that a person or team of people went through those 60,000+ emails and sorted them into two categories: work or personal. On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart mocked the notion that sorting through tens of thousands of emails was more "convenient" than maintaining both work and personal email accounts. Most criticism of the approach focused on the fact that Hillary Clinton confidantes, rather than neutral arbiters, were making the judgment calls about these 60,000+ emails.

But it turns out that no one was "going through" each email to sort work from personal correspondence or to error on the side of disclosure when the line was blurry.
Well, yeah. Using a key word search is a ludicrous method for identifying those particular emails. Friedersdorf just laughs at the idea that this was the sort of "thorough" process that Hillary tried to pretend was used.
Here is a made up email to illustrate the point:
To: Bill Clinton

From: Hillary Clinton

Subject: Ugh

Assume you saw the latest. This could blow up in our faces if we don't get out in front of it ... and frankly, the WH isn't helping matters much. I'm tempted to reverse course but wonder if it would affect your latest ask. What does SB think?
A keyword search would not flag messages where (for example) official business is rendered in pronouns, "White House" is rendered as an abbreviation, and "Sidney Blumenthal" is rendered in shorthand. Or consider an email that concerns Benghazi, but that was typed on a smart phone in a moment of distraction, causing an unintententional misspelling: "Benhgazi." A key-word search would miss that email. The process described would label it a "private, personal record."

As for creating a list of names, that would doubtless flag a lot of relevant work emails, but no busy professional remembers the name of every person who emails them for work over a multi-year period encompassing tens of thousands of messages.

And those problems apply even if we assume that Team Clinton made an earnest effort to use search terms that would flag all relevant emails, while it could be the case that they knew what they hoped to hide and crafted the search accordingly. Had the technology existed in an earlier era Richard Nixon's attorneys presumably wouldn't have included "Watergate" or "burglary" in the search terms.

This revelation ought to harm Hillary Clinton insofar as it shows her earlier statements to be misleading. It also suggests what question she ought to be asked next: What list of names and key words were included in the email-archive search? It's easy to imagine search terms that would suggest an earnest effort at identification, the shortcomings of the method notwithstanding, and equally easy to imagine search terms so self-evidently inadequate or with such glaring omissions that, like the private server itself, they suggest that official business was being hidden.
I imagine that humorists could have a lot of fun compiling lists of search terms that the Clinton camp could have used to avoid finding anything of real significance. Or the terms that could have been used to avoid the keyword search that they might have known would be happening at some point.

James Robbins writes in USA Today that everyone should just relax about the Tom Cotton open letter.
The Cotton letter is more a message to Obama than the Iranian leadership. The White House appears to be doing an end-run around the Senate's treaty confirmation power, and the letter notes that this places the agreement in future jeopardy. Perhaps Obama is trying to avoid the SALT II Treaty debacle that plagued Jimmy Carter. But a better approach would be to negotiate a deal with Iran that could attract bipartisan Senate support.

President Obama prefers to go it alone. On Monday, he said that he would make the case to the American people only after an agreement was signed – uncomfortably echoing the famous line about Obamacare that it had to be passed to find out what was in it. But remember what President-elect Obama said in November 2008 regarding the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement being negotiated by the George W. Bush administration: "It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval — yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration must submit the agreement to Congress or allow the next administration to negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq."

This week's flap over the Cotton letter echoes last week's eruption over the speech by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Critics charged that the invitation to speak was unprecedented, perhaps illegal, maybe treasonous. Netanyahu spoke. Now everyone has moved on.

The Cotton letter is not the end of the world either.
And the Daily Caller recalls John Kerry's adventures in free-lancing foreign policy as a senator in a direct challenge to President Reagan.

Democrats can blame Obama for why they have such a weak field.

Heather Wilhelm points out something that many analysts keep forgetting. Bill and Hillary Clinton are not the same people.
Here’s the thing: Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton. This might seem like an obvious point, but it’s often glossed over in the press coverage of Hillary’s would-be candidacy. Here’s NBC’s Chuck Todd, recapping this week’s train derailment, ahem, press conference: “There's one other important thing to remember about the Clinton Way: With just one big exception—in 2008 against Barack Obama—they win. Just look at the most recent NBC/WSJ poll. Bill Clinton is the most popular political figure in America with a 56 percent to 26 percent fav/unfav rating, and wife Hillary is just behind him at 44 percent to 36 percent.”

First of all, 44 percent doesn’t exactly make you the Beatles. Second of all, who is this “they” we speak of? Why do people keep referring to Bill and Hillary Clinton as if they are one conjoined unit, as opposed to people who probably hate each other and would likely try to drop hot irons on each other’s heads, “Home Alone” style, if they knew no one was watching? Is Hillary just an appendage of her philandering husband? What kind of anti-feminist nightmare is this? It’s also amusing to note that “the one big exception” to the Clinton winning streak, “in 2008 against Obama,” was—wait for it—a Hillary presidential bid. The winning “Clinton way,” alas, might be all about that Bill.

The only thing Hillary has going for her, really, is her Woman Card, which she plays repeatedly and shamelessly. Unfortunately for her, there’s another woman in the room: Elizabeth Warren, a purist progressive who’s not knee-deep in scandal-flecked mud 23 out of every 24 hours. Clinton, in short, is not inevitable.

Could I be wrong? Could Clinton snag the Democratic nomination, thanks to connections, money, and a general lack of sanity in the universe? Sure. It’s certainly possible. But if that’s the case—and if they manage to refrain from tossing up someone equally crazy—Republicans should rejoice.

The Obama administration just doesn't trust Hillary. Does anyone?
So that is the position Clinton finds herself in today. Republicans are after her for more information, Democrats are nervous about defending her, and the administration colleagues who are in the best position to vouch for her won't even say they believe what she has told them. Clinton may escape this mess, but she'll have to do it on her own.

David French has a good example of how scientists these days reach "scientific consensus." They just ignore or shut up those with whom they disagree.

Jonathan Tobin points out how Obama is starting to treat Egyptian leader el-Sisi rather like he has treated Netanyahu.
In a Middle East where Islamist terror groups and the Iranian regime and its allies have been on the offensive in recent years, the one bright spot for the West in the region (other, that is, than Israel) is the way Egypt has returned to its old role as a bulwark of moderation and opposition to extremism. The current government led by former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has clamped down on Hamas terrorists and has been willing to deploy its armed forces to fight ISIS in Libya while also clamping down on a Muslim Brotherhood movement that seeks to transform Egypt into another Islamist state. Yet despite this, the Obama administration is unhappy with Egypt. Much to Cairo’s consternation, the United States is squeezing its government on the military aid it needs to fight ISIS in Libya and Sinai terrorists. As the Israeli government has already learned to its sorrow, the Egyptians now understand that being an ally of the United States is a lot less comfortable position than to be a foe like Iran.

The ostensible reason for the holdup in aid is that the Egyptian government is a human-rights violator. Those concerns are accurate. Sisi’s government has been ruthless in cracking down on the same Muslim Brotherhood faction that was running the country until a popular coup brought it down in the summer of 2013. But contrary to the illusions of an Obama administration that hastened the fall of Hosni Mubarak and then foolishly embraced his Muslim Brotherhood successors, democracy was never one of the available options in Egypt.

The choice in Egypt remains stark. It’s either going to be run by Islamists bent on taking the most populous Arab country down the dark road of extremism or by a military regime that will keep that from happening. The obvious Western choice must be the latter, and Sisi has turned out to be an even better ally than Washington could have dreamed of, as he ensured that the Brotherhood would not return to power, took on Hamas in Gaza, and even made public calls for Muslims to turn against religious extremists.

But rather than that endearing him to the administration, this outstanding record has earned Sisi the Netanyahu treatment. Indeed, like other moderate Arab leaders in the Middle East, Sisi understands that President Obama has no great love for his country’s allies. Besotted as he is by the idea of bringing Iran in from the cold, the American government has allied itself with Tehran in the conflicts in both Iraq and Syria. He also understands that both of those ongoing wars were made far worse by the president’s dithering for years, a stance that may well have been motivated by a desire to avoid antagonizing Iran by seeking to topple their Syrian ally.

But those issues notwithstanding, one of the major changes that took place on President Obama’s watch was a conscious decision to downgrade relations with Cairo, a nation that his predecessors of both parties had recognized as a lynchpin of U.S. interests in the region. The current weapons supply squeeze is not only a blow to the efforts of a nation that is actually willing to fight ISIS and other Islamist terrorists; it’s a statement about what it means to be an American ally in the age of Obama....

This is, after all, a time when the administration is going all out to make common cause with Iran, an open enemy that is currently the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. President Obama is pursuing a diplomatic arrangement that will strengthen the Iranian regime and guarantee the survival of a nuclear program that moderate Arabs see as being as much of a threat to them as it is to Israel or the West.

The Egyptians understand that Washington isn’t interested in their friendship. Nor is the administration particularly supportive of Cairo’s efforts to rein in Hamas or to fight ISIS. Indeed, the Egyptians are now experiencing the same sort of treatment that has heretofore been reserved for the Israelis. That’s especially true in light of the arms resupply cutoff against Israel Obama ordered during last summer’s war in Gaza.

Despite flirting with Russia, Egypt may, like Israel, have no real alternative to the United States as an ally. Perhaps that’s why Obama takes it for granted. But if the U.S. is serious about fighting ISIS as opposed to just talking about it, Washington will have to start treating Egypt and its military as a priority rather than an embarrassment.

The Republican Party should give Aaron Schock the heave ho. He's just one scandal after another. Such a sleaze shouldn't be allowed to continue in Congress.

Meanwhile, things might be going Marco Rubio's way. Roger L. Simon thinks that Rubio is the one who benefits from the Hillary email scandal. Jennifer Rubin points to seven reasons why supporters think that he has a good chance of winning the nomination.
1. His strong suit is foreign policy and the 2016 election may be the most focused on foreign policy in our lifetime. He knows his stuff and can deliver his message with crispness and passion.

2. He is the most dynamic speaker in the GOP. Period.

3. The worse Hillary Clinton looks, the more the GOP may appreciate the contrast he provides — young, endearing, not wealthy, no sense of entitlement. At CPAC when he said, “America doesn’t owe me anything. But I have a debt to America that I’ll never be able to repay,” it was about as far from the Clintonian imperiousness as one can get.

4. He has something to say on domestic policy other than cutting marginal rates. As others have noted, his expansive agenda very much rooted in reform conservatism makes him the most intellectually creative Republican out there.
I've always liked Rubio and he'd probably be my pick right now. I keep picturing a debate stage with Rubio and Clinton side by side. The contrast between the old and the new would be as impressive as it was in 2008 between McCain and Obama without all that mystical nonsense that so hyped up Obama's campaign that year.

And people today are just as desiring of change as they were in 2008. And Hillary, despite her lack of a Y chromosome, does not represent change. She didn't in 2008 and she certainly doesn't eight years later.