Australian Immigration Minister Wants Tougher Citizenship Test – A Quiz on English Grammar Skills Won’t Do Much Dutton

Source: AAP

The Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is calling for a debate to tougher up the test for immigrants seeking citizenship. He wants more attention on whether they are willing to learn English, have their kids educated and a means of assessing their likelihood of receiving welfare. OK, so let’s break this down a bit. First of all, there’s already a test in Australia as there are in other countries. There’s also a perception by some politicians that terrorism is linked to immigrants and their unwillingness to integrate into society. Call this for what it is – BS. It comes across as another lame attempt by a politician to pander for votes from anywhere they can. It also comes across as an example of a politician that is supposed to know something and support their portfolio and instead has an alternate agenda of being hostile to it. How do we see this? Well look at what Dutton is presupposing about immigrants based on his test requirements: immigrants have no desire to learn English, won’t educate their kids, and they go on welfare. But wait! Dutton doesn’t just want a “trivia” kind of test, he wants one focusing on Australian “values.” So instead of a useless trivia test, he wants a useless and imaginary “values” test. How do you define Australian values exactly? Well, Dutton seems to know, you define them as he defines them which would be according to a well-off, white, Australian male who appears fearful of immigration and is an Immigration Minister. All of this isn’t new, and neither is his xenophobia, disguised as concern for a useless test (of whatever kind). It also appears to demonstrate how some politicians seem to think they know much about terrorism and immigration when they don’t. Canada has politicians spouting similar nonsense. Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, a pediatrician turned expert on immigration and culture, also wants a test for Canadian “values.” Leitch can imagine and pretend with the best of them! Here’s a test, give these tests to the domestic population and see how well they score (especially on English proficiency). Countless immigrants have entered Canada over the years with poor English skills and helped build the country. Any child of immigrants from Europe over the decades can ask their parents about how well they spoke English when they arrived. Did the parents of these children of immigrants, who are now second, third or fourth generation Canadians, understand Canadian “values” when they first arrived?”

This is all about a mixture of fear of immigration and a fear that’s been propagated since 9/11 that immigrants bring terrorism. Looking or testing for radicalization has nothing to do with whether or not an immigrant can tell you how many seats there are in the House of Commons and it’s not something limited to immigrants. Social isolation, interests in extremism, relationship with family and friends, these are better indicators of whether someone is moving toward something they shouldn’t and it’s best left to intelligence experts and analysts not politicians who have either no ability or interest in creating good policy and instead need some issue to make needless noise come out of themselves. My dog barks too when strangers come to the door but is quite happy to see them when they come in, xenophobic and racist politicians take note.

U.S Expels Russians over Alleged Hacking in the “age of computer” (Updated Dec. 31)

Photo: AP

Media are reporting that President Obama has expelled Russian diplomats and their families over the hacking allegations giving them 72 hours to leave the country. 35 in total have been ordered to leave the U.S. Along with the expulsion of the diplomats the President ordered sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and FSB and other entities. We saw this coming for some time as Obama warned that the U.S. would retaliate though we don’t know if more of a response is coming in an unofficial capacity. It would have to fall to Trump to carry that out (unlikely).

Still, the President was right to take action and a public one at that, at least as an initial step. It serves as a means of embarrassing the Russian leadership further and if the Russians try and reply with bravado saying they don’t care about the expulsions, it will further drive Russia into isolation because it sends the message they don’t care about diplomacy with the world’s superpower. Of course, Putin has little option other than to feign outrage at this point while hoping a Trump presidency means a reboot. Originally this blog entry stated there was little Putin could do and that’s exactly what he ended up doing on Dec. 30 – nothing. What could he do? If he retaliated it would have put his “pal” Trump in an awkward spot. Trump put himself in an awkward spot, calling Putin’s inaction as a “smart move” and praising him. Really? Praising the Russian leader after allegations of hacking a U.S. election? No praise for your security services Trump that discovered it? The GOP need to hold Trump to stay the course in whatever way they can. Obama has just made it more difficult for Trump to change course on Russia without looking foolish. Speaking of foolish, this was Trump’s statement Wednesday night about the White House taking action against Russia:

“I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind the security we need.”

No Donald, “in the age of computer” we do know what’s going on and that’s what intelligence agencies in the U.S. have been trying to tell you. This kind of reply about a foreign power possibly interfering in a U.S. election speaks volumes, not only for the ridiculousness of it (“we have speed” in the “age of computer?”), but because he seems to be trying, still, not to come down hard on Russia. Why? Did he know? Or does he have business we don’t know about? The Putin as being “smart” for not retaliating only adds to the suggestions that Trump knew about the hacking or has a much closer relationship (or is planning one if you also take his political appointments into account) than we have previously imagined. Guess we will find out soon enough. In the meantime folks, watch yourselves out there in the “age of computer.”

View article here

Will Trump have his daily intel briefings as President? History lessons could also serve him well.

Photo: AP

Trump has claimed he won’t be briefed by intelligence on a daily basis and instead will read reports if he needs them. Why does the President need regular contact with his intelligence services? A few reasons, which include: having a healthy working relationship with them and to actually know something about what is happening in both the U.S. and around the world. History set the precedent for these regular briefings. Go back to the Kennedy Administration and one of the biggest CIA blunders in history, the Bay of Pigs. The President didn’t have regular contact with intelligence and the result was a complete disaster for everyone involved. Regular briefings helped resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis and in a peaceful way.

With Trump’s regular twitter spasms, one can’t help but wonder if he will continue to run his mouth on international affairs without being briefed on them. He would certainly end up looking quite foolish and on a regular basis. Trump however may surprise people and not in a good way. The Trump populist strategy was just that, a strategy, a deliberate attempt to make himself appear as more connected to the people and not like a “traditional politician.” It won him the White House and his decision to not have briefings may again be a strategy designed to deliberately give him the appearance of distance from his intelligence agencies in order to deny his knowledge of their activities. History again tells us why this is a bad idea, take any number of examples from the Cold War. Perhaps in addition to regular intelligence briefings, Trump should also have regular history lessons. It might help him avoid making history for the wrong reasons. One can hope.

Trump wants to boost U.S. nuclear arsenal but is that all we should be concerned about?

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

During the U.S. election, there was plenty of chatter about how dangerous it would be for Trump to have control of America’s nuclear arsenal. Over and over again we were reminded by the Clinton campaign and others about how dangerous this would be. While Trump is certainly temperamental, I seriously doubt he’s unstable enough to start firing off nuclear missiles like they were bottle rockets. Besides, there is a military in the United States that I have a feeling would not be OK with firing nuclear weapons around. Much more concerning and rarely mentioned is Trump getting a hold of the largest intelligence network ever created. Trump has the ability to enrich himself and his family with access to intelligence, he also has the ability, if he sacks his opponents in the community, to make dissent virtually impossible in the U.S. Trump doesn’t need the nuclear codes, much more valuable is the ability to stay in power once he gets in power. For years, people who were concerned about the capabilities of U.S. intelligence had warned that new powers and new surveillance laws shouldn’t be created with the assumption that whomever was in charge would be a reasonable person but rather to consider that someone unreasonable and a tyrant might one day use such powers to benefit themselves. And here we are, with a big unknown in Trump.

Way back in the 1970s Senator Frank Church told the American public on NBC that the surveillance capabilities at that time were such that should a dictator ever take hold, resistance would be impossible. That was in the 1970s, how about now? We should consider the intelligence services as a potent weapon, one that could be used for defense sure, but one that could equally be used against the domestic population. Where’s the kill switch for the NSA’s network? Should there be one? Should there be more safeguards? These are the questions we should be asking. If you can use the intelligence services to benefit yourself, you’ll always have those nuclear codes.

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German Terror Suspect was previously under surveillance, in and out of jail, and scheduled for deportation

Getty Images

Media are reporting that the terror suspect, Anis Amri, in the recent German truck attack was in and out of jail and had been under surveillance for several months before the attack. German intelligence services will no doubt face tough questions over their handling of the case because while they seem to have been aware that Amri was a security risk they were unable to figure out what exactly he may have been planning. Cases like this one demonstrate that while surveillance can help identify a possible security threat, good analysis is still of critical importance. Collecting all kinds of data only goes so far. It’s still too early to tell if German intelligence did fall short but it will be a difficult few months for them, to say nothing of the criticism Merkel will face. As one of the seemingly last outspoken liberal voices in the EU, Merkel has been facing a resurgent right-wing presence in the EU and even in Germany. This attack won’t make things easier for her given that media is reporting Amri was a Tunisian asylum seeker. The alt-right will no doubt paint all with the same brush and Merkel will likely find it harder to maintain a rational and sensible policy when it comes to refugees and migrants.

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Intelligence Community Refusing to Brief Congress on Alleged Russian Hacks

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Republican members of Congress are claiming that intelligence agencies are not briefing Congress about the alleged Russian cyber attacks that occurred during the U.S. election. The CIA raised the alarm about alleged Russian hacking but it now finds itself in a similar spot as FBI director James Comey who during the election went back and forth on investigating Clinton about her emails. The CIA is faced with a President-Elect that benefited from these alleged hacks (though he likely would have won anyway) and is doubting the claims, a Democratic Party that wholly endorses the findings and a Republican party that is not as united over Trump winning as they might like to be. The CIA risks being accused of playing politics over the issue and that’s exactly what is starting to happen. They are in a sensitive spot. Ultimately, to clear themselves of allegations of playing favorites, they should be speaking to Congress about the alleged hacks. There’s really no easy way out of the situation but at least by briefing Congress the CIA can try and minimize the accusations of partisanship that are plaguing the community.

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U.S. Plans on Taking Action For Russia’s Alleged Hacking

(Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Barack Obama announced today that the U.S. would respond to alleged Russian hacking at a time of its choosing while President-elect Trump continues to play politics over the issue, completely missing the point that regardless of the fact he was the beneficiary of the alleged hacking, the allegations of Russia meddling in U.S. elections is a major breach of security. On this issue it’s the U.S. intelligence services that should be getting recognition for their efforts if the allegations can be proven. They’ve publicly demonstrated their commitment to maintaining the integrity of U.S. democracy regardless of political stripe and that deserves to be noticed. It is presently President-Elect Trump that is creating a feud with the nation’s intelligence community and mainly because they are doing the job the nation expects of them. A concern going forward is how much control Trump will try to wield over the intelligence community. History has far too many examples of how badly things can go when governments have tried to have their security services slavishly obey their policy directives.

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The Canadian PICNIC Wiretapping Program

How long has Canada and its American and U.K. allies been involved in wiretapping? According to new declassified documents, longer than you might think.

Read about it here:
Story by The Canadian Press

Download some of the PICNIC docs here.

In the file you will find 3 documents from the collection I am working from. One is the details of the agreement with Bell for the RCMP to continue wiretapping. A letter from the RCMP about the program and a draft letter for the Prime Minister to give to Bell Canada. And third is a letter from Peter Dwyer formerly of MI6 discussing wiretapping and revealing how the U.S. and U.K. have also been secretly doing it.

What makes PICNIC new?

For years we have had a limited understanding of wiretapping in the Cold War and even beyond. There have been sporadic mentions of wiretapping pre-1970s in the McDonald Commission volumes but nothing extensive or substantial. I spoke at length with Martin Friedland who prepared a report on The Official Secrets Act for the McDonald Commission (which led to the creation of Canada’s civilian intelligence agency CSIS) and he too was quite surprised at this find. What makes it new is not that wiretapping occurred in the Cold War, but that the federal government was deeply involved in the creation of a wiretapping program against potential subversives.

This 178 page file documents how the government planned to hide it from the public, how it could fool Parliament to keep it hidden, and this extended right up to the Prime Minister. The pdf you can download on this site is a sample of this larger file. The documents summarize the agreement with Bell Canada to construct a surveillance network that the RCMP would pay rent for and also reveal that the U.S. and U.K. were doing wiretapping and all of this was designed to be hidden from the public and the courts. None of this has ever been uncovered. What we don’t know is how large it became and on this issue I think it’s best for all scholars in this field of history to cooperate and coordinate on getting the remaining documents out into the public so we can properly assess Canada’s wiretapping history. The secret order 3486 also could be interpreted as a founding document of sorts for signals intelligence in peacetime in Canada and we have a whole other issue with the Privy Council Office refusing to discuss it.

UPDATE: 3486 has been released! Read it and download your own copy Here

In development is a database on what I have regarding PICNIC. All files I have will be made public. Check the site for more updates.

Do you know where historians can find out more about this program? Do you know of archival sources we should request to see? Let us know.

CBC’s The National on PICNIC

Appearance on CBC The National

CBC's The National segment on Canadian wiretapping

Posted by Dennis Molinaro on Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Canadian PICNIC Wiretapping Program

Read and watch more about Canada's secret and decades long wiretapping program

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