Trump Muzzles Federal Employees; Reporters Start Asking For Leaks

from the we'll-see-how-this-goes... dept

Reports started coming out this morning that the new Trump Administration had told the EPA that it needed to stop doing anything publicly without first getting approval from the White House (in addition to freezing grants and contracts). According to a memo that was sent around to EPA staff:

If you can’t read that, the key parts say:

  • No press releases will be going out to external audiences.
  • No social media will be going out. A Digital Strategist will be coming on board to oversee social media. Existing, individually controlled, social media accounts may become more centrally controlled.
  • No blog messages.
  • The Beach Team will review the list of upcoming webinars and decide which ones will go forward.
  • Please send me a list of any external speaking engagements that are currently scheduled among any of your staff from today through February.
  • Incoming media requests will be carefully screened.
  • No new content can be place on any website. Only do clean up where essential.
  • List servers will be reviewed. Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.

Why yes, such messages may end up in the press.

Of course, it quickly became clear that this was not just for the EPA. The USDA received similar marching orders. Same with the Department of Health & Human Services and possibly others as well, including the Department of Commerce, being told it can’t even publish the basic research it releases for US companies.

It’s possible to say that this is just the Trump administration hitting the pause button to figure out what’s going on before moving forward again, but many in these agencies are quite worried that they’re going to be muzzled for political reasons. Most of the people working in these agencies are civil servants, not political appointees, and their work is not at all political. The press releases and blog posts are generally to release new findings, research and data from taxpayer funded studies. This shouldn’t be controversial or reviewed for political motives.

Of course, this kind of thing is hardly unprecedented. For many years, we wrote about the ridiculousness of then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gagging Canadian scientists from talking about factual research that was politically inconvenient (including a study on fish stock). This kind of gagging on “politically sensitive” but factual science was only lifted last year once Justin Trudeau came into office. Of course, just a few months before that, the UK similarly started muzzling scientists to stop them saying anything the politicians didn’t like.

One hopes the Trump administration will not be putting in place similar policies.

Of course, if that is the plan, it should be a huge boon for investigative journalists. And they’re already hunting for sources. As the reports on the gag order came out this morning, lots of reporters stepped up on Twitter with notes on how to contact publications with information:

So, perhaps this kind of gag order will lead to a golden age of whistleblowing. Unfortunately, it may also lead to further crackdowns on whistleblowers. Once again, as we’ve explained over and over again the past few years, the Obama administration was the most aggressive and proactive in cracking down on whistleblowers and the press, and they’ve now handed off that power and precedent to the Trump administration, which will have a pretty big opportunity to use it.

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Comments on “Trump Muzzles Federal Employees; Reporters Start Asking For Leaks”

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159 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Compared to OBAMA who threw in jail the most whistle blowers in history. More then every other President Combined. Pretty funny for supposedly being the most open. That’s been as laughable as Obama getting the 2009 Nobel Piece Prize after barley being in office.

Nobel Committee Asks Obama “Nicely” To Return Peace Prize

http://www.thefinaledition.com/article/nobel-committee-asks-obama-nicely-to-return-peace-prize.html

Fake news or not, he made the award meaningless and a joke. Well they clearly gave it to someone way, way to early in the hope for things Obama said in speeches that didn’t come true.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Badlands

In apparent defiance of this muzzling policy, someone at Badlands National Park (@BadlandsNPS) began tweeting facts about climate change today, sending several tweets before apparently being stopped. (The tweets have since been deleted.) Just documented, factual information about an issue that impacts our national parks (as it does everywhere else).

Someone risked their job to do this.

The least we can do is have their back.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Badlands

So we should, what, just give up?

There will be other elections. And in the meantime, there are many ways to exert pressure on elected leaders beyond the ballot box. Go to a rally, make a donation, volunteer, write your Congressman — there are a lot of ways to make your voice heard.

Trump doesn’t seem like a very good listener. But a third of the Senate and all of the House is up for reelection in two years. And that’s before we get into state and local offices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Badlands

All of the big candidates sucked something bad
Hillary: only president with a bodycount…unrelated to war or duels, known for lying through her teeth on various matters
Sanders: would have bankrupted the us on social programs
Trump: big business in the big chair
the question at the polls could have been “which horrible venereal disease do you want” and the result would have been something similar

Bob says:

Re: Badlands

There’s an empirically observable fact that everyone’s missing in this discussion about climate change.

Focusing a lot of advertising dollars on awareness of one’s carbon footprint in pursuit of justifying a tax payable to the U.N., and lets be honest here, is about the most evil thing we’ve seen since the Socialist Party in Germany and their death camps.

It takes a very special kind of mentally insane person to genuinely believe a tax is going to save the world.

It’s not until you put the mentally insane in institutions, clean up the messes left behind by their psychological warfare (AKA propaganda if you prefer less scientific terms), destroy the credibility of the advertisers and the UN, then put together a group of researchers with real integrity backed by money with real integrity, that you can get something done. And those researchers are out there, and they’ve been surrounded by biased opinion in an echo chamber for decades.

Otherwise, people will gravitate to what they always have done; do it bigger and better until catastrophe strikes.

Lets see some solid research, then lets make some solid policies.

Trump seems to be following through as best he can with what he ran on. Give him a shot and the benefit of the doubt for a few months. There are a lot of sacred cows in government that need to be slaughtered.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Hm

EPA. Department of Health & Human Services. Department of Commerce.

While I’m not in favor of Trump’s gag order, I do kind of wonder if I’d even notice if all of those agencies just disappeared from the face of the earth.

Of course, those who work for them, or are persecuted, or subsidized, by them, would notice.

But the rest of us? Maybe at the margin, a little. Mostly I think they just suck up tax money and turn it into hot air. At best.

sigalrm (profile) says:

Re: Hm

You may think you don’t care about HHS. But consider that the operating divisions for HHS include, but are not limited to:

  • Administration for Children and Families,
  • Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality,
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,
  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC),
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicade Services (CMS)
  • Food & Drug Administration (FDA),
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH),
    and more.

more here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/agencies/orgchart/

These all roll up under HHS, and are presumably all subject to this gag order, given HHS as the parent organization.

US Department of Commerce? Yeah. That includes:

  • NOAA,
  • NIST,
  • The Patent and Trademark Office,
    and more.

Also all presumably under a gag order.

More here: https://www.commerce.gov/sites/commerce.gov/files/media/files/2015/docorgchartfinal.pdf

One or two of those might be important.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hm

Agreed. Of the 10 divisions you listed, I agree at least 2 (NOAA and NIST) earn their keep. I have a soft spot for the CDC too.

Most of the rest we’d be better off without (I have a deep familiarity with some of them).

Every cabinet-level department, no matter how worthless or even counterproductive, is so sprawling that it has a few good programs worth keeping.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Hm

“those who sell contaminated food, water or medications, or who pollute the air, can confidently expect to be sued for it. And to lose big.”

Yeah sure – like that has happened in that past … even when they lose big in court they never pay. Has Exxon paid the fines for their valdez incident yet? Did BP pay any of the fines levied upon them?

How quickly we forget, or maybe some never knew to begin with.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Hm

Hmm. What does that word imply? It certainly doesn’t imply that those agencies that ostensible purpose is to keep us safe actually get the job done.

Not weighing in on the broader debate about the overall utility of the various agencies, but it’s a mistake to accept the claims of any entity (whether government agency, company, private group, etc.) about what it does as evidence that it actually does those things, does them effectively, and does them without causing or exacerbating other problems. Beyond that, it’s plain silly to assume that if the Agency of Good X didn’t exist that we wouldn’t have Good X.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Hm

Since no one in this thread has stated that what happened in Flint is the reason to "abolish" the EPA, one needn’t look further than your post for examples of inferences to which one might sarcastically refer as iron-clad logic.

Someone mentioned Flint as a counter to the suggestion that there are other mechanisms for dealing with certain problems than simply the government agencies whose names or ostensible missions is to deal with those problems. I don’t think there is any logically fallacy in pointing out that Flint doesn’t really illustrate the point. Especially since Flint is an example of municipal and state government agencies not doing the job they were supposed to. To think that federal agencies are immune from such failings is, IMO, folly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Hm

OldMugWump said:
1) EPA. Department of Health & Human Services. Department of Commerce.
While I’m not in favor of Trump’s gag order, I do kind of wonder if I’d even notice if all of those agencies just disappeared from the face of the earth.

to which Thad replied:
That would depend on how quickly the contaminated food, water, air, and medications killed you.

OldMugWump then said:
We live in a highly litigious era.
That has costs. But it also has benefits, the largest of which is that those who sell contaminated food, water or medications, or who pollute the air, can confidently expect to be sued for it. And to lose big.
It’s not a winning business strategy – regulations or no.

Then Wendy Cockcroft said:
OldMugwump, I’ve got one word for you: Flint.
I’ll just leave that there.

Hmm. What does that word imply? It certainly doesn’t imply that those agencies that ostensible purpose is to keep us safe actually get the job done.

then freedomfan:
Not weighing in on the broader debate about the overall utility of the various agencies, but it’s a mistake to accept the claims of any entity (whether government agency, company, private group, etc.) about what it does as evidence that it actually does those things, does them effectively, and does them without causing or exacerbating other problems. Beyond that, it’s plain silly to assume that if the Agency of Good X didn’t exist that we wouldn’t have Good X.

to which AC replied:
The city of Flint successfully hid their nefarious activity from the US government (EPA) for an extended period of time and therefore the entire EPA should be abolished – got it. What an amazing display of iron clad logic.

…. agreed – no one claimed that Flint was the reason to abolish the EPA

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Hm

Randian nonsense. Here’s a good explanation of why you’re wrong:

…the dirtiest companies must spend the most on politics if they are not to be regulated out of existence, so politics comes to be dominated by the dirtiest companies. It applies across the board. Banks designing dodgy financial instruments; pharmaceutical companies selling outdated drugs; gambling companies seeking to stifle controls; food companies selling obesogenic junk; retail companies exploiting their workers; accountants designing tax-avoidance packages: all have an enhanced incentive to buy political space, as all, in a fair system, would find themselves under pressure. The system buckles to accommodate their demands.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hm

That has costs. But it also has benefits, the largest of which is that those who sell contaminated food, water or medications, or who pollute the air, can confidently expect to be sued for it. And to lose big.

Which I’m sure will come as a huge relief to anyone who’s still alive after there’s an outbreak and no Center for Disease Control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Hm

“While I’m not in favor of Trump’s gag order, I do kind of wonder if I’d even notice if all of those agencies just disappeared from the face of the earth.”

I looked at the EPA’s budget a while back. Almost all of it is spent on superfund sites. From that I would surmise that the EPA’s primary function is to externalize cleanup costs for corporate pollution into the public tax budget.

IOW, the EPA is a federally paid nanny that wipes asses for the most reckless and irresponsible corporations in the country. And sometimes they get to do science and environmental protection work too.

I’m not knocking them BTW. I’m just saying that cutting them puts a large degree of civil liability back on some very large companies.

The EPA ain’t going anywhere folks.

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Hm

OldMugwump wrote:

EPA. Department of Health & Human Services. Department of Commerce.
While I’m not in favor of Trump’s gag order, I do kind of wonder if I’d even notice if all of those agencies just disappeared from the face of the earth.

I’m 46 years old and have lived in Los Angeles most of my life. I remember the 1970s when we regularly had days where it was unsafe to run and play outside due to smog.

Now?
I can literally look out my window and see the positive effects of the existence of the EPA.

But this of course is anecdotal.

Fortunately, you don’t have to take my word for it. We have science*! http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/03/150304-los-angeles-smog-children-health-environment/

*Funded in part by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the NIH, which is also subject to the Trump administration’s gag order

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Hm

There are SMART things that can be done and have been done to clean the air and then there’s getting on your knee’s with a manual tooth brush scrubbing that last little bit of crap. That will make almost zero difference and increase costs onto the consumers in much higher energy bills, and for what?

By the way, C.A.R.B, the California version of the Federal EPA with even stronger standers, have done really DUMB things in the past like requiring MTBE into the gas to supposedly make it cleaner burning. Even though warned by experts before hand, still did it. That crap got into the water supply and lest a bad taste in the water and polluted the water ways. They finally stopped that crap. Yet you put all your faith into them to do the right thing.

http://www.wnd.com/1997/07/3114/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MTBE_controversy

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Hm

The police are always right or fully justified in any action they take against citizens.

Civil forfeiture is a perfectly apt way to control criminal behaviour as it only affects criminals.

Political campaign contributions are the best way to support all politicians because this can never be abused.

etc, etc, etc.

You example of smog is a furphey. For everything a government might get right, it gets magnitude of orders more things wrong. Until governments (politicians, judges, civil servants and law enforcement, etc) are open and are actually responsible to the citizenry then there will always be problems and abuses. Anything that they actually get right is a gift horse.

Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hm

The EPA is the only group tasked with enforcing those laws on clean air etc. Shut the EPA down and some states would have only civil suits as the only way to stop firms from breaking the law.

In addition many parts of the law are highly technical and require a lot of science to bring a suit. Science the common man does not have access to.

It would become open season on ignoring air scrubbers and dumping waste, because firms would no there is no more cops to check.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hm

Private parties should not have to sue polluters in court. Why should the public have to expend their personal resources to enforce the laws? Isn’t that was taxes are for? Aren’t conservatives for letting people keep their own resources?

I suppose we could just get rid of all local police. If you get robbed, you could find out for yourself who did it, and sue them. If if a member of your family is murdered, you could figure out for yourself who did it, and sue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Trump's Amerika

Most of the people working in these agencies are civil servants, not political appointees, and their work is not at all political.

When truth is the enemy, all statements not approved in advance are counter revolutionary and must be suppressed for the good of the state.

I’m not at all shocked or surprised by this policy except in that it took until today to leak. You should be looking for the suppression of "fake" or "irresponsible" news outlets next.

Rapnel (profile) says:

(kshchskt) This is the captain speaking, obviously (krschkt) Captain Jones, not captain obvious (krscht) Right, anyway (kcht) we’re experiencing some pre-turbulence turbulence right now and the tower (kschkt) The tower says we’re in for a rough ride (kchtskt) (..awkward delay..) (kchsst) So please stay in your seats with your seat belts fastened and please let the pretty stewardess kiss you goodbye. But not really, the pretty one is my wife. (kcht) Good luck next time and thank you for flying We Deserve This Airlines and we hope you’ll fly with us the next time you feel like visiting Not Giving One Fuck About What Happens in Reality Island (kcht) Enjoy the rest of the flight (krchst)

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Most people say Obamacare should be repealed

This is one of those "alternative facts" Trump supporters are into, isn’t it?

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2017/01/19/For-first-time-Affordable-Care-Act-more-popular-than-not/5961484833759/

According to a CNN/ORC poll released Thursday, 49 percent of those surveyed said they liked the Affordable Care Act, versus 47 percent who said they disliked it

That’s more people who like it than don’t. And that’s "dislike", by the way, not "want to repeal"; the number who want to repeal is lower than the number who dislike.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Considering the State of the Union, you are correct that most people didn’t vote for this President. But you should be more careful, since those who didna vote, didna vote for Hilary either.

What was the actual turnout? If only 40% actually voted and all of those voted for Trump, then you would still be correct and completely wrong at the same time.

If you aren’t willing to cast a vote, you don’t have the right (as a legitimate, bona fide right) to complain. If you did, then you do have a legitimate, bona fide right to complain.

If you won’t pick up the responsibility, then you don’t have the privileges that goes with it.

Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Your vote does not count. If you live in Cali, Oregon, or Washington then your going to vote for Clinton in the last election. If you live in most lesser populated states your voting for Trump. Why? Because demographics say you are.

Only a few states have swing electoral power, only a few people have any real power over our current process. Because of that your vote does not really do any good in today’s world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Wrong, completely wrong. your vote always counts, it may not be part of the winning group, but it always counts. However, if you don’t vote, it never counts.

If the number of no-voters actually did vote, the results obtained will be different and may be the opposite of what is currently expected.

It is a privilege and a responsibility to cast your vote. So man up and vote (or if you are a woman, woman up and vote).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Gerrymandering is a later stage symptom of problems in the voting system. it also reinforces existing problems with voting rules.

Ultimately the State Governments must be banned from writing federal Voting Laws.

It Only takes (1) one Rouge State Governor/Legislature Set to put in place a Gerrymander on that states federal seats.

This usurps the rights of Citizens in the Nation that live in that State to self-determination.

So States write state voting laws, Federals write Federal voting laws. Every citizen only needs to understand 1 set of consistent rules. State residents retain the enjoyment of their states voting rules.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You don’t understand Gerrymandering. If you did then you would know how it works and that what you have said is incorrect.

I know of one state in Australia that the incumbent left-wing party used gerrymandering to great effect to ensure that they remained in power. However, the demographics changed over time (a few short years, where their voting base moved location for work purposes) and they lost power and the following right-wing party kept the gerrymander in place to maintain rule. That left-wing party over subsequent decades complained about the injustice of the gerrymander and blamed the ruling right-wing party of being the originator of it.

The current system of voting in the USA should devolve to a gerrymander. If you actually want this to change, you need to change how you vote.

Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Unlike other parts of the world, many people in the US don’t have the ability to just move to undo gerrymandering. Even if people moved in 10 years the lines will follow. For the most part the goal has been to make as many districts 99% democratic voters as you can to limit total number of seats democrats actually get. This results in large population centers being single districts while rural areas can be cut up in a 60/40 split favoring republicans. This has been done so well that republicans are often only weak at the primary level and the party mantra of the “true republican” allows for more and more extreme candidates to push out the sane republicans.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

You misunderstand, the party that created the gerrymander situation lost power because economically their power base had to move because jobs moved.

Secondly, you could always arrange for a direct proportional representation system but this has the side effect of creating even more politicians. Then each politician directly represents a specific number of people and his vote has that same value. Pollie A represents 100,000 people he gets 1 vote. Pollie B represents 200,000 people, he gets 2 votes. If he direct support base falls below 10,000 he’s no longer able to represent anyone.

Select base level representation based on population size. The moon is a harsh mistress.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"... and stay tuned for the hourly RealNews, the only Officially Sanctioned news agency on air..."

Given the first possible reason I can think of for such a gag-order is to keep the agencies from releasing anything that might be ‘inconvenient’ to the administration, either what they’re doing or what they’re saying, I’d say that after a move like this assuming they’re going to be lying through their teeth in the near future at the very least would probably be a safe bet.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

This is a temporary measure until the press officers (political officers, for any Russians here) are appointed. Look at the last Republican presidency for examples.

Like the guy who Bush II appointed as press officer of NASA for having previously worked in the Bush II/Cheney election campaign. He immediately set about ensuring that NASA didn’t contradict creationism or climate denial.

He ordered the NASA website designer to add the word "theory" after every occurrence of the phrase Big Bang, because it was a religious issue. He declared NASA climate scientists dishonest, while lying on his NASA résumé about having a college degree.

Other political appointees at the National Park Service removed any Grand Canyon literature that contradicted young-Earth creationism and replaced it with creationist literature and plaques.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

When something is elevated to the status of being an actual theory in science, that means it has been pretty thoroughly scrutinized. It cannot be contradicted by any existing facts, and it must have predictive power.

For example the Theory of Relativity explained facts that could not be reconciled at the time. It also made predictions that could be and were tested at the time, and predictions that could not be tested until later. Despite how unintuitive relativity is, it is the best model of large scale reality that we have. Without relativity GPS would not work to make your in car navigation possible.

The theory of Quantum Mechanics explains existing observations and makes predictions. It is also weird. Without it we would never have had the transistor which is based on a quantum understanding of P-N junctions.

The Big Bang is a theory. But it explains all observable facts. The Big Bang would be the most brilliantly bright event in the universe. So why don’t we see the brilliant bright light all over the universe today? We do! But it’s the cosmic microwave background radiation. As per the big bang, space is still stretching, and as space stretches, all those 13.7 billion year old waves of bright light have been stretches as the space stretches. That names all those waves longer, and therefore lower frequency. Therefore no longer visible light but microwaves. And all of the math works out perfectly. And there is way more than this to back up the big bang.

If you want to have an alternate creation belief, fine. But it probably should include the big bang. If Adam and Eve cut down a tree, would the tree trunk have rings indicating years of growth? I believe it would, because the entire universe would have a back story full of things that happened just yesterday, last week, and 13.7 billion years ago. But that’s not science. Not any more than my claim that the entire universe was created by my cat last Thursday, and it has a back story that includes all of our memories prior to last Thursday. (And all TechDirt posting history.)

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

There are observations that are CONSISTENT with the theory. That doesn’t mean it’s been proven, just that it hasn’t been disproven. For the record, I don’t believe the universe or the Earth are 4000 years old or whatever nonsense the religious crazies claim, I just have this thing about mainstream science proclaiming all their theories as if they were laws when all they really have are consistent observations and not proof. They make good models, and will do until a better model is found. The problem is that they actually believe their models are the truth when they are only models.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Nothing is ever “proven.” What we have in the case is two competing theories:

a) “The Big Bang theory”, backed by overwhelming evidence. Many different kinds of evidence, from many different sources, peer reviewed by many different scientists.

b) The invisible magic sky fairy did it. No evidence.

Very often a new model is an improved version of the old model, not a replacement. We still teach the Bohr model of the atom in grade 9. A more current, more detailed model gets taught in grade 12. Which doesn’t so much replace the Bohr atom as build on it.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Presidential Authority

They’re part of the executive branch, so he does have the authority to do so. However, he will have trouble if he tries to fire people. In general, civil service employees at or below the pay level of GS-15 cannot be fired on a presidential whim. Those above that pay level can be and are political appointees. People at GS-15 are senior employees who know how the system works and have access to information before their politically appointed bosses do. Combine that with the gag order and leaks of "censored" information will probably become quite common. (Censored here referring to information that Trump’s administration tries to prevent being published.)

shanen (profile) says:

Re: Re: How to politicize the civil service

Nice theory, but in practice the so-called Republicans have worked hard to politicize the civil service. Rather early to say for #PresidentTweety, but the big dick Cheney was a master of twisting the rules. (Rumsfeld was also pretty good at being bad, but Cheney was the master.) President Obama inherited a federal bureaucracy that had already been twisted and I’m sure the process will only accelerate now.

A few examples? Since it was hard to directly fire people for political reasons, they focused on encouraging the “wrong people” to quit. Obvious methods are by preventing promotions or by assigning them to unpleasant work under unpleasant bosses.

On the hiring side, they focused strongly on getting the right people into the filtering process. Again, the hiring process is supposed to be non-political, but as long as you have a good supply of applicants you’re always looking for reasons to eliminate candidates. Much easier when you know what you want, and they did.

P.S. I briefly worked for the federal civil service, but never seriously considered it as a career. Sort of a disclaimer?

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: Re: Presidential Authority

Manabi wrote:

They’re part of the executive branch, so he does have the authority to do so. However, he will have trouble if he tries to fire people. In general, civil service employees at or below the pay level of GS-15 cannot be fired on a presidential whim.

Except… "House Republicans this week reinstated an arcane procedural rule that enables lawmakers to reach deep into the budget and slash the pay of an individual federal worker — down to $1 — a move that threatens to upend the 130-year-old civil service."
From:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/house-republicans-revive-obscure-rule-that-could-allow-them-to-slash-the-pay-of-individual-federal-workers-to-1/2017/01/04/4e80c990-d2b2-11e6-945a-76f69a399dd5_story.html?utm_term=.943d63c2323d

Anonymous Coward says:

If do they do leak anything via Wikileaks, they better use a VPN to do so. Wikileaks does use a database backend that the Feds can break into to get the metadata and trace down any leaker.

I do believe that is how they Bradley/Chelsea Manning, in a way where the fourth amendment would not get in the way. They could break into the MySQL database backend, and get the data they needed, and Wikileaks would never know the Feds were there, because MySQL keeps no logs.

Also, breaking into the backend also means the Feds can ignore the fourth amendment, because they circumvent having to get a warrant.

So if you are affected by this, and intend to leak anything to the press, better get yourself a VPN, so that if the Feds break into the database backend on WikiLeaks, or wherever you post, the metadata they get will only show the IP address of the VPN. Just make sure the VPN, itself, you use does not keep any logs.

Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No sane person would leak anything with out being damm sure it won’t come back to him. Tor from a pulblic library or using an open wifi connection with someone else’s laptop (a kids I hope) is the minimum here.

Any real leaks will be done with private key encryption or more.

Many news outlets are setting up processes for just this

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

No matter what computers you want to use, after you have posted the leak, you will then want to wipe the hard disk clean with KillDisk, then reinstall the operating system all all your programs, so that if your computer is examined, they will not get any evidence.

I like to take road trips all over North America, and I do this with my laptops, before crossing the border into either Canada or the USA, so anything else I don’t know about that might get me denied entry and/or put in the local jail cannot be recovered. And unlike EE, KillDisk does not leave any “telltale” evidence of its use.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you are traveling all the time wouldn’t be easier to just have a prepared clean hard-disk just before you leave the US swap out your US local Hardrive, put in your “Clean” disk,
if some agency confiscates your stuff, well you know your clean, you only face the hard slog of having your property restored to you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not good enough. Take an oxy-acetylene torch to the disk drive and melt the platters to totally unusable and unrecognisable material. Buy a brand new disk and then format and install your new o/s, etc. Change any parts that leave identifying information around and destroy these as well. So perhaps, just buy/build a new computer for your use.

All disk-erasure software leaves behind evidence to allow recovery. The techniques have been know for at least a decade, if not two.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Spamgourmet

But the logs on MediaWiki, the software that Wiki-like sites, like WikiLeaks and Wikipedia use, do record the IP address of where a post was made from, and will be in the database. This is why anyone who posts to WikiLeaks needs to use a VPN, to hide their IP address, so your “Spamgourmet” will not do much good there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That’s how they "fix" things – just ignore them.

You really weren’t expecting republicans to work on anything were you?

They’ve gotten so lazy over the last 8 years doing absolutely nothing, that they’ve become exactly the welfare, do-nothing bums that they and their followers can’t stand.

Expect more of the same from this welfare republican congress. Perhaps making them take drug tests in order to serve would stimulate them a bit.

John85851 (profile) says:

Is this normal?

*It’s possible to say that this is just the Trump administration hitting the pause button to figure out what’s going on before moving forward again*
Is it really “possible” to say this? Did Obama or Bush II do this? If not, then I don’t think it’s a “pause button” as it is “censoring” and “controlling the message”.

Apollo (profile) says:

You mentioned Obama once. Congratulations! You win a Pulitzer!

I am proud of you people. You had an article attacking Trump, but you did make a half ass attempt at being ‘fair’ by mentioning Obama precisely once, at the very end of your article,

…by which point of course most of your readership gotten bored/jittery-from-opiod withdrawal/triggered and went straight to commenting about “science” and how this and that, and then patted themselves on the back on how knowledgeable they all were, and stupid poo poo head trump is dum dum.

However, none of this matters. I did CTRL + F and searched for Obama, and there it was! Good Job.

I congratulate you!

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