Monday, October 17, 2016

Homeland Security to Review Use of Private Prisons

photograph courtesy of Bob Jagendorf/wikimedia commons
On the heels of the United States Department of Justice announcing that it will end future use of private for-profit prisons based on the failure of these prisons to deliver promised efficiencies and safe conditions, the Department of Homeland Security has recently announced that it too will review its use of private prisons.  With Homeland Security using private prison facilities as immigration detention centers, the profit motive for private prisons has inspired a wave of crimmigration laws in recent years.  Once again, this review is bad news for private for-profit prison giants Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the the GEO Group as federal contracts for prisoner warehousing is a large part of their business and profit model.

According to the Wall Street Journal: "The Department of Homeland Security will review whether private prison operators will continue to run immigration and customs enforcement’s immigration detention centers, the latest sign that the federal government is turning away from using these private contractors.  The move comes 11 days after the Justice Department said it planned to eventually stop using private facilities and operators to house federal prisoners.  Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday that he directed an internal council to determine whether the use of private immigration detention centers should be eliminated."

As federal contracts have increasingly made up a larger and larger portion of the GEO Group and CCA's revenue, a future finding by Homeland Security that it will end its reliance on private prison facilities would be a devastating blow to those companies and shareholders that seek to profit off of the incarceration business.  Again, according to the Wall Street Journal:  "Since 2001, GEO and Corrections Corp. have become increasingly reliant on federal government revenue to drive results. In 2015, just over half of Corrections’ revenue came from various federal government agencies. For GEO, that figure was 45%." 

Stock prices for both companies dropped (even further) on the news of the Homeland Security review.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trump Treason?

For example, recently more allegations that Trump committed serious crimes surfaced. Newsweek ran a story by renown investigative journalist Kurt Eichenwald that Trump violated the US embargo against Cuba in the 1990s, as shown in its cover, above. Given ever increasing findings and allegations of pervasive legal violations throughout Trump's adulthood, these new allegations threatened the political viability of Trump's candidacy. At a certain point even Trump faces political extinction for unlawful wrongdoing. In any event, apparently the Russians concluded it could hurt Trump's chances and they hacked Newsweek
According to author Kurt Eichenwald: "Hackers attacked, took site down. Lots of IP addresses involved. Main ones from Russia." We cannot know for certain if Russia is behind this cyber attack. However, the FBI already announced that it is investigating a number of attempts to hack into state election systems and it is looking into "what mischief is Russia up to in connection with our elections." Further, according to Time:  "[the] U.S. intelligence community has 'high confidence' that Russian intelligence services were in fact responsible" for the DNC hack earlier in the summer. Finally, the intelligence agencies apparently briefed Trump on this fact and yet he insists on deflecting responsibility from Putin and Russia. Russia has a long history of interfering with elections in other nations. Even GOP senators privy to classified information now openly proclaim that Russia is directly attacking our democracy and trying to hack the election on behalf of Trump.

The entire (16 agencies) US Intelligence Community says:
The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. . . .These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.
In other words: our top intelligence agencies consisting of patriotic Americans of all political stripes is outing Vladimir Putin for trying to corrupt our democracy and hack our presidential election. In fact, a key Putin ally today stated that if America does not vote Trump we face nuclear war. This is a serious threat to our democracy and an act of war, pure and simple.

And Donald Trump, for mysterious reasons, seems to be taking the Russian sideFor the first time in history, a candidate for the White House appears to flirt with possible treasonous behavior under federal law (as well as possible violations of other national security laws), by helping to cover-up these attacks. Indeed, he seemingly parrots Russian propaganda.

Obviously, only a jury can convict Trump of any crime, and thus far the Department of Justice refrains from any type of public criminal investigation. Nevertheless, the disturbing facts emerging this past few weeks raise serious questions of just what is going in this election as a result of the Trump "bromance" with Vladimir Putin.
18 USC section 2381 defines treason as follows:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
The courts long ago applied this provision to aiding "enemies" even without a formal declaration of war, during the Civil War. Still, in order to be an enemy, there must be "open hostility" with the United States. So, Russia may or may not be an enemy for purposes of this statute, but the hacking of our democracy seems openly hostile to me. That could suffice in the eyes of the law given the manifest and grave dangers cyber-warfare may pose. And, during WWII, the statute was applied to seemingly innocuous conduct such serving as a broadcaster of enemy propaganda

Trump's misconduct could constitute "aid and comfort." First, Trump actually invited the Russians to hack Hillary emails. Second, he seems intent on spreading Russian disinformation to cover up Putin's hacks. If Trump continues to invite hacking against his political opponents, and assist in misleading the voting public regarding the source of these cyber-attacks, then he is aiding in such attacks and violates the above statute.  Professor Laurence Tribe at Harvard Law articulated this view even before the recent evidence of increasing hacking attempts emanating from Russia. Treason is no joking matter, and it carries the death penalty because loyalty to the US is the least demand made upon a US citizen.

Why is Donald so over-the-top pro-Russian? Even his own VP candidate, Mike Pence disagrees with his extreme pro-Russian views. It seems the only thing constant about Trump's campaign is its unfailing support for all things Putin and Russian.

In the end, perhaps this is a political question rather than a criminal matter. Nevertheless, the American people deserve an explanation and all should withhold their votes from Trump until one is forthcoming. He needs to fully disclose all elements of his relationship with Russia and its oligarchs. Until then it could not be clearer that a vote for Trump is a vote for Vladimir Putin, and his neo-imperial agenda to restore the Soviet Empire.

Trump is simply determined to help Putin however and wherever possible, and Putin seems willing to do whatever takes to elect Trump. Why?