The Inspector General Report Is a Huge Blow to the FBI’s Credibility. Why Is It Being Treated Like Vindication?

“the report by Michael Horowitz found 17 “serious performance failures” relating to warrants obtained by the FBI through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendment (FISA) courts for the purposes of monitoring Page. The FISA warrant, which was reauthorized three times, contained false and misleading information about Page. It omitted that he had previously disclosed his Russian contacts to a government agency; it overstated the government’s confidence in the Christopher Steele dossier and ignored Steele’s own doubts about one of his sources; it declined to mention that Page had said he and Paul Manafort had “literally never met”; and in general it ignored information that rendered unlikely the theory that Page was a Russian asset.
These are alarming failures. They undercut the government’s position that FISA courts are a sufficient guardian of Americans’ civil liberties, and that the FBI is capable of responsibly exercising the vast powers granted to it. No one should feel confident that a court would block the FBI from engaging in surveillance, even if the information was flawed or faulty.”

3 Winners and 3 Losers From Today’s North America Trade Deal Announcement

“the USMCA is an agreement that will increase barriers to trade across North American borders and will impose more managed trade. All trade deals are a form of managed trade, of course, but relative to the standards set by NAFTA, the USMCA seems like a step backward.

The main way the USMCA reduces free trade is in the so-called “rules of origin” that will apply to cars built in North America. In order to cross borders tariff-free, 75 percent of the value of materials within a car or truck will have to be produced in North America. Additionally, 40 percent of the steel used in auto production will have to come from U.S. steel plants. The deal also gives the U.S. government the ability to impose quotas on imported cars from Canada and Mexico. That combination of protectionism and increased federal power over the decisions of private businesses is a major black mark against the deal.”

“The intended consequence of several components of the USMCA is to encourage businesses to shift production from Mexico into the United States.”

“the unintended consequence of those new rules might be a reduction in manufacturing across all of North America. When it comes to cars, for example, companies might find it cheaper to simply pay the 2.5 percent import tax rather than comply with the new standards to be able to trade duty-free.”

Bipartisan House Agriculture Bill Is a Win for Both Farmers and Immigrants

“”I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally,” said President Donald Trump during his 2019 State of the Union address. But migrants need a way to do that. At present, those opportunities are few and far between: A low-skilled immigrant from Mexico would have to wait an average of 131 years to successfully immigrate to the U.S.

“If we want illegal immigration to end, Congress has to guarantee farmers a better way to follow the law,” writes Daniel Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute.”

“While some worry that these visas displace American workers, U.S. farmers are required by law to offer H-2A positions first to people who can already legally work in the U.S. They seldom find enough takers. The Cornell Farmworker Program found that dairy farmers rely on undocumented workers because they cannot identify a sufficient amount of U.S.-born employees to fill the positions. This might explain why approximately 50 percent of all farmworkers are undocumented immigrants, according to the Department of Agriculture.”

The extraordinary danger of being pregnant and uninsured in Texas

“From 2012 through 2015, at least 382 pregnant women and new mothers died in Texas from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the most recent data available from the Department of State Health Services; since then, hundreds more have likely perished. While their cases reflect the problems that contribute to maternal mortality across the United States — gross medical errors, deeply entrenched racism, structural deficiencies in how care is delivered — another Texas-size factor often plays a significant role: the state’s vast, and growing, problem with health insurance access.

About one in six Texans — just over 5 million people — had no health insurance last year. That’s almost a sixth of all uninsured Americans, more than the entire population of neighboring Louisiana. After trending lower for several years, the Texas rate has been rising again — to 17.7 percent in 2018, or about twice the national average.”

“Texas has the highest rate of uninsured women of reproductive age in the country; a third were without health coverage in 2018, according to a State Health Services survey. In some counties, mainly along the Mexico border, that estimate approaches 40 percent.”

“How Texas came to have the worst insurance gaps in the country is no mystery: It was an accumulation of deliberate policy choices by state lawmakers going back decades, driven largely by an aversion to government-mandated insurance and a desire to keep taxes low.”

National Security Surveillance Apologists Are Starting to See the Light

“Horowitz himself acknowledged Wednesday that this was the first time anybody in the Office of the Inspector General had delved into the contents of a specific FISA warrant application. When Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R–Tenn.) asked him how frequently he found mistakes in these warrant applications, he explained to her that his office had only in the past done “high-level” reviews of the process. None of us outside the FBI can say, with the information we have right now, how typical this behavior is. We do know that while the FISA court has approved nearly all surveillance warrants (99 percent of them), the court has inquired and received additional information or changes to the warrant applications about a quarter of the time.

The good news from Horowitz’s report is that the inspector general is not going to wait for either Congress or Attorney General William Barr to decide what to do in a highly politicized environment. The Office of the Inspector General will audit the FBI to determine how well the warrants against those 232 other Americans will withstand this sort of scrutiny.

Next year we’ll see how serious Sasse and Graham are about FISA reform. An extension of PATRIOT Act surveillance authorities was shoved into a stopgap spending bill passed (primarily by Democrats) in November. That extension expires in March. At that point, Congress will have to decide whether it really wants to reform how secret surveillance is used against Americans or if it just cares how it affects Donald Trump.”