Archive for May, 2015

It’s like Pandora’s Box with these control freaks. If they get something and don’t have the authority to do so, well heck, we got it, so we keep it. Sigh…

If NSA surveillance program ends, phone record trove will endure

The National Security Agency will mothball its mammoth archive of Americans’ telephone records, isolating the computer servers where they are stored and blocking investigators’ access, but will not destroy the database if its legal authority to collect the material expires on schedule this Sunday, officials said Thursday.

The NSA’s determination to keep billions of domestic toll records for counter-terrorism and espionage investigations adds another note of uncertainty to a debate that pits the Obama administration’s national security team against opponents who argue the government data trove violates Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.

The political and legal dispute will come to a head Sunday when the Republican-led Senate returns to work a day early to seek a resolution — hours before the law used to authorize the controversial NSA program, and several other key counter-terrorism provisions, expires at 11:59 p.m.
Senate dispute over NSA data collection threatens to shut other spy programs
Senate dispute over NSA data collection threatens to shut other spy programs

The final eight hours — starting at 3:59 p.m. Sunday — will see a flurry of activity at U.S. phone companies and at the NSA as engineers take down servers, reconfigure monitoring software and unplug hardware from the main pipeline of telephone data traffic, according to several senior administration officials.

If the Senate stalemate pushes past 7:59 p.m., holes in the incoming data will begin to appear — and will grow — until nothing is collected after midnight, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” one official said. “We have not had to confront addressing the terrorist threat without these authorities. And it’s going to be fraught with unnecessary risk.”

At that point, even if the Senate acts, the officials said it could take three or four days to go back to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court, for a legal order to restart the system and to reboot the complex data transfer networks at the telephone companies and at the NSA headquarters at Ft. Meade, Md.

Any Senate action short of approving legislation that already has passed the House will result in a gap in the NSA archive of so-called metadata — records that show the time, date and numbers called, but not the contents — of virtually every domestic phone call.

Letting the bulk collection program go dark even for a few days is “playing national security Russian roulette,” said another official, and “hoping that we don’t have an instance where the FBI needs [the data] to do a national security investigation.”

If lawmakers vote before 8 p.m. Sunday, the NSA could reverse the shutdown and prevent a gap, the officials said. But that last-hour possibility appears unlikely.
We’re in uncharted waters. We have not had to confront addressing the terrorist threat without these authorities. And it’s going to be fraught with unnecessary risk. – Obama administration official

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is running for the GOP presidential nomination and who has fought the NSA domestic program and filibustered to stop it, told supporters in a fundraising letter Thursday that he was determined to “relegate the NSA’s illegal spy program to the trash bin of history, where it belongs.”

Administration officials have stepped up their own alarms. On Wednesday, Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch said a failure to act would cause “a serious lapse in our ability to protect the American people.”

The provision in the law used to authorize the NSA’s bulk collection program is one of three legal authorities set to expire. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials say all three are vital to tracking potential terrorists in the United States.

The bulk collection of U.S. phone records was started in secret after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was specifically authorized by the FISA court starting in 2006, and was revealed to the public in 2013 in documents leaked by renegade former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch said a failure to act would cause “a serious lapse in our ability to protect the American people.”


President Obama vowed to change the NSA program after Snowden’s disclosures sparked an uproar, and the White House has embraced the so-called USA Freedom Act, which passed the House on May 13 by a bipartisan vote of 338 to 88.

The measure would shift the burden of holding the data back to the telephone companies, and require them to configure their systems so the NSA could access the data. It also would require the government to get a court order to search the records for phone numbers linked to suspected terrorists at home and abroad. It sets a six-month transition period for the changes to take effect.

Lynch and James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, assured House leaders in a letter this month that the bill “preserves the essential operational capabilities of the telephone metadata program and enhances other intelligence capabilities needed to protect our nation and its partners.”

But the Senate debate hit a roadblock when Paul and others, including Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, argued that the NSA program should simply expire, and efforts to pass the House bill foundered in disarray Saturday before the lawmakers decamped for a weeklong holiday recess.

At that point, the NSA put planning teams on “hot standby” and started working through telecommunications engineering to prepare for shutting down the networks that now connect investigators to the phone records, according to one senior official involved in the planning.

The NSA contacted telephone companies to explain their plans and discuss how to help the private companies stop the automatic provision of calling records.

They also have sought to configure monitoring software so officials can’t access the archive. If they do, alerts will trigger and features will block the delivery of off-limits information.

“You can’t make a mistake on this,” said one of the officials. “This is the most regulated thing that we do at NSA.” If the authority lapses, he added, the agency would “lock it down with the same certainty with which we operate.”

The NSA won’t wipe the collected data off its servers, officials said, but will lock all doors into the system. Investigators could use the trove only if Congress acts and the FISA court approves new searches.

In addition to cutting off the phone searches, the expiration of the law would end the “roving wiretap” authority that lets FBI agents keep up with suspected terrorists or spies who switch “burner” phones to evade surveillance.

Another authority set to expire is the “lone wolf” provision that lets the FBI apply to the court for permission to conduct wiretaps on a target they think is engaged in a terrorist activity but who isn’t linked to a specific terrorist group.

That authority hasn’t been used, but it becomes more valuable every time Islamic State militants use the Internet to urge supporters to launch independent attacks, said one senior domestic security official.

“As we face a decentralized and increasingly dispersed terrorism threat, and one where [Islamic State] is extolling actors to conduct opportunistic attacks, this is not a tool that we want to see go away,” the official said.

Counter-terrorism officials would be facing “a big roll of the dice” if the authorities are allowed to expire, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

“It is rare” for Republicans and Democrats to reach a “reasonable compromise” like the reform bill that passed the House, he said. “It would be a terrible shame for the Senate to squander that work.”



Here is a link to a pdf that gives a very good explanation of several areas of concern with the EPA’s self-expanding Waters of the United States rule. For those who want some more background and some solid problems to familiarize themselves with on the topic, this is a helpful paper.

Our thanks to the author, Daren Bakst and for their work!

‘Unprecedented Land Grab’: ‘I Will Not Allow It’

A new regulation has set up the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seize control of even the smallest body of water on private land, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) says he “will not allow it.”Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works (EPW), warns that the EPA’s final rule on the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) represents an “unprecedented land grab” of private property – and he won’t stand for it:

“This makes it more important than ever for Congress to act.  Last month, I stood with a bipartisan group of Senators to unveil S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, to rein in EPA’s attempt to use the Clean Water Act to expand federal control over land and water.  Sen. Dan Sullivan, Chairman of the Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife Subcommittee, held a legislative hearing on the bill last week that underscored the importance of keeping the focus of the Clean Water Act on clean water and called out EPA’s attempt to use the rule as a tool for habitat protection. The EPA has set themselves up to increase federal control over private lands, and I will not allow it. 

“Our committee is planning for a markup on S. 1140 this summer, as we continue our work to halt EPA’s unprecedented land grab and refocus its job on protecting traditional navigable waters from pollution.”

Likewise, Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt vows to use “all available legal options” to stop the “egregious power grab by the EPA to expand its regulatory reach”

“This is an egregious power grab by the EPA and an attempt to reach beyond the scope granted to it by Congress. This rule renders the smallest of streams and farm ponds subject to EPA jurisdiction. This means that the first stop for property owners is the EPA, which may deem the property owners’ waters subject to the EPA’s unpredictable and costly regulatory regime. It would be a terrible blow to the private property rights of Americans. The rule also displaces states from their historic regulatory role under the Clean Water Act. My office will pursue all available legal options to defend the interests of the state and all Oklahoma property owners.”

Under the final rule, EPA has decided that it can regulate isolated wetlands and ponds in farmer’s fields by designating them “regional treasures.”

We’ve fought against this particular agency overreach and expansion of authority through the rule making process for more than a decade. The EPA has been trying to get authority over every type of water including puddles for a long, long time. They were denied actual legislative authority to expand their powers, but that doesn’t seem to matter any more. Lawsuits are sure to begin…but until it is overthrown, enjoined, or otherwise stopped, they have legalized their power grab. Here’s an article about it:

President Obama asserts power over small waterways

By Timothy Cama – 05/27/15 10:05 AM EDT

The Obama administration asserted its authority Wednesday over the nation’s streams, wetlands and other smaller waterways, moving forward with one of the most controversial environmental regulations in recent years.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers said they are making final their proposed waters of the United States rule, which Republicans and many businesses have long panned as a massive federal overreach that would put the EPA in charge of ditches, puddles and wet areas.

“We’re finalizing a clean water rule to protect the streams and the wetlands that one in three Americans rely on for drinking water. And we’re doing that without creating any new permitting requirements and maintaining all previous exemptions and exclusions,” EPA head Gina McCarthy told reporters Wednesday.

McCarthy and other Obama officials sought to emphasize that the rule is about increasing clarity for businesses and helping make it easier to determine which waterways are subject to the pollution rules of the Clean Water Act.

“This rule is about clarification, and in fact, we’re adding exclusions for features like artificial lakes and ponds, water-filled depressions from constructions and grass swales,” she said

“This rule will make it easier to identify protected waters and will make those protections consistent with the law as well as the latest peer-reviewed science. This rule is based on science,” she continued.

With the Wednesday action, the Obama administration is doubling down on an effort that has sustained repeated attacks from congressional Republicans hoping to overturn the regulations.

In doing so, the administration is fulfilling what it sees as a responsibility to protect the wetlands, headwaters and small water bodies that can carry pollution to the larger waterways that are more clearly protected by the Clean Water Act, like bays and rivers. Officials said the rule is necessary after a pair of Supreme Court decisions in the last decade called into question Clean Water Act protections for some small tributaries, streams and wetlands that were previously covered.

Brian Deese, Obama’s top environmental adviser, said the rule is “is an important win for public health and for our economy,” and sought to paint its opponents as fighting clean water.

“The only people with reason to oppose the rule are polluters who want to threaten our clean water,” he said.

McCarthy said the regulation will result in a modest increase in the federal government’s jurisdiction, amounting to less than a 3 percent growth.

Responding to criticisms from farmers, ranchers, developers, manufacturers and others, she took time to list what is not covered by the waters of the United States rule.

“It does not interfere with private property rights or address land use,” she said. “It does not regulate any ditches unless they function as tributaries. It does not apply to groundwater or shallow subsurface water, copper tile drains or change policy on irrigation or water transfer.”

She said the rule specifically does not interfere with agriculture, nor roll back any of the existing exemptions for farmers, ranchers or foresters.

Those have been some of the most vocal opponents of the rule since it was proposed in March 2014, saying that the EPA wants to insert itself into their businesses.

While critics are unlikely to be pleased by the new rule, the EPA’s supports applauded it.

“The Obama administration listened to all perspectives and developed a final rule that will help guarantee safe drinking water supplies for American families and businesses and restore much-needed certainty, consistency, and effectiveness to the Clean Water Act,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

Environment America said the rule is an important step toward protecting drinking water for the one in three Americans whose drinking water was not sufficiently protected before.

“Our rivers, lakes, and drinking water can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,” Margie Alt, executive director of Environment America, said in a statement. “That’s why today’s action is the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.”

The House has voted multiple times to overturn the rule in its draft form. Senate Republicans have taken a different strategy, with a bill to overturn the rule and give the EPA specific instructions and a deadline to re-write it.

Sheriff resigns, pleads guilty to fraud and embezzlement

Christian County Sheriff Joey Kyle has agreed to spend a year in jail after pleading guilty Wednesday to embezzling county funds and helping in a fraud scheme.

As part of the plea agreement, Kyle, 53, has resigned as sheriff and will pay more than $50,000 restitution to Christian County before going to federal prison for one year and a day.

The plea agreement, announced Wednesday, comes five months after federal investigators subpoenaed Kyle’s credit card spending records and campaign finance information, along with county audit reports and records involving purchases the county made at six businesses dating back to 2011.

Kyle was seen walking into the federal courthouse at about 2 p.m. County commissioners announced not long after that Kyle had resigned and they would soon be scheduling a special election to replace him.

Kyle was stoic during the court appearance and gave curt responses. He declined to comment after the hearing.

Tammy Dickinson, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a news release that Kyle abused his position.

“This elected sheriff stole taxpayers’ money and treated the county coffers as his own personal piggy bank,” Dickinson said. “Sheriff Kyle took money that was supposed to be for firearms and other supplies needed by his deputies.”

The plea agreement says Kyle submitted phony invoices to the county for things that were never actually purchased.

Kyle allegedly received money from EDI Plus gun store in Nixa and then submitted invoices to the county in matching amounts. The county money then went back to EDI Plus to cover for the money given to Kyle.

The plea agreement also says Kyle received more than $20,000 to help promote an investment fraud scheme for an individual allegedly cheating investors.

The plea agreement says Kyle used his high-ranking position to give credibility to the scheme. Kyle also allegedly shared in the profits of the scheme and hid the money in his law enforcement training company, Five Rivers Management, LLC.

The Missouri Secretary of State filing names Kyle as the registered agent of Five Rivers Management.

Marty Brickey – a Christian County reserve deputy and one of Kyle’s largest campaign contributors – was indicted earlier this month on 30 federal charges in connection with a $14.5 million investment fraud scheme.

The indictment says Brickey duped people into investing in the production of video games that never went to market. It’s unclear at this point if Brickey is the individual Kyle admitted helping commit fraud.

Christian County coroner Brad Cole has been named the interim sheriff in Christian County. Cole said he was told the news a little after 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

“I’m just trying to get some things taken care of and get to work doing what needs to be done,” Cole said.

Cole said he does not anticipate being in the position long before a new sheriff is chosen at a special election.

Wednesday’s plea agreement says Kyle must also turn over all property that was purchased with county funds, including firearms, ammunition, vehicles, equipment, preserved food (meals-ready-to-eat) and other supplies.

Kyle also has to forfeit to the government a money judgment of more than $70,000, according to the government.

Kyle was charged with one count of embezzling from Christian County and one count of participating in a money-laundering scheme.

Kyle issued the following letter of resignation:

“To the citizens of Christian County, It is with great sadness that I come before you today to tender my resignation as your Sheriff. Events beyond my ability to control have lead to this decision. The employees of the Sheriff’s Office have performed wonderfully these last six and one half years and they continue to do so. Please give them your continued support in the coming days.”

Previous News-Leader reporting has revealed that federal investigators scrutinized at least $82,000 of credit card spending by the sheriff and $444,000 worth of spending between the county and six local businesses – EDI Plus, APT, Ozark Body Works, Ozark Tire, Richard Crites and Fiocchi.

As part of its investigation, the FBI also requested copies of 46 checks written from the county to EDI Plus gun store in Nixa. The purchases paid for with the checks total more than $173,000.

The sheriff’s office was criticized in 2013 when a private audit found an issue with the reporting of personal purchases made with the county-issued credit card.

A state audit in 2010 found that documentation in the sheriff’s office regarding receipts, bills and permits was not adequately kept, resulting in at least $1,720 missing.

Kyle spent 18 years as a Springfield police officer. He was a member of a special operations team trained in rescuing hostages, executing search warrants and using weapons beyond standard issue police firearms.

Kyle also served in the U.S. Navy and is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. Kyle’s law enforcement career began in Scott County. He served as a Christian County deputy and a Republic police officer before being elected sheriff in 2008 and re-elected in 2012.

The Missouri Deputy Sheriffs Association named Kyle “Sheriff of the Year” in 2011.

Attempts to reach Kyle and his attorney on Wednesday were not successful.

Kyle declined to comment to the News-Leader, but he did give an exclusive interview to the Christian County Headliner in which he referenced the recent death of his wife as part of the explanation for why he committed the crimes.

Kyle told the Headliner his family had some financial struggles in dealing with his wife’s medical expenses. Kyle’s wife, Andi, died of cancer in October.

Steve Eidson, owner of EDI Plus, declined to comment on Wednesday, saying he needed more information.

A news release from prosecutors says that EDI Plus was awarded a contract by the county to provide equipment – including firearms and ammunition – for the sheriff’s department from 2011 to 2014.

From Jan Farrar…Something those of us who are Pro-Life might be interested in:

The license plate on my car is a special Missouri plate that says “Choose Life”. Wouldn’t it be a great testimony for someone who is
looking for direction in their life to find themselves in a place where they see a license plate and the “Choose Life” message?

I recently joined the Board of Directors for the Choose Life of Missouri effort to encourage others to be a silent witness for life with a “Choose Life” license plate! Please consider the life-affirming gesture of getting a “Choose Life” license plate for your car. If you have questions, reply to this email, and we can work through them together.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth a million, click here for more information:

We don’t often get an opportunity to be a witness to another person, but with the “Choose Life” license plate, we can witness every day! It is worth

Thank you and Godspeed,

Jan Farrar

The Mountain Grove Property Rights Coalition will be meeting from 6pm to 8pm at the Sunnyside Cafe in Mountain Grove on May 28th.

“Usually, we have skipped a May meeting because so many are involved too heavily in getting in their hay at this time, but we believe that we have some information that needs to be shared and want to give folks an opportunity to learn about it this month,” says Bob Parker, co-chair of the PRC.

Topics of this month’s meeting will include the new DNR draft plan on non-point pollution, a brief overview of the legislative session, and some information on the Muslim Brotherhood and the pertinence of that issue for those in our area at this time.

Doreen Hannes, also co-chair of PRC says, “As many have probably noticed, there is a shift in our focus towards more preparation oriented issues. While our concerns are still focused on private property and protecting the rights of people to have the use and enjoyment of their property, and on governmental accountability, there is no denying the fact that we now must be more focused on our ability to keep our property and to help ourselves and our neighbors get through upsets and/or disasters of any type. In order to remain civil in these types of incidents, we must have sufficient resources and sufficient relationships with our neighbors.”

The meetings are free to the public and anyone with an interest in preserving private property rights is invited to attend. The Sunnyside has a buffet and a full menu and people are encouraged to come a bit early and enjoy the food in the new new smoke free environment.