Friday, September 28, 2018

The Risk of Sanctions - Pushing Iran Over the Brink

Updated August 2019

With this recent announcement from the United States Department of State:

...and this Twitter response from the intended recipient of the sanctions:

...a look back at American - Iranian history since 1979 is particularly pertinent given that Washington appears to be adding fuel to the long-simmering diplomatic dispute between the two nations.

Thanks to the National Security Archive and its Freedom of Information Act requests, we can look back in time to see how previous administrations in the United States handled the "Iran problem".  While he Trump Administration has taken a very aggressive (and single-handed) approach to reimplementing sanctions against Iran for its alleged breaches of the JCPOA nuclear agreement, history shows that many of America's partners in the West have expressed concerns about the implementation of an overly heavy-handed approach to Iran, concerns that are quite apparent in a series of recently released classified documents.  It is important to note that significant portions of many of these documents are redacted, however, from the unredacted portions, we can still get a sense of the split between Europe, some of the Gulf States and the United States when it came to the American-led increase in sanctions against Iran.

When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he inherited a decade and a half of diplomatic vacuum with Iran as well as a sense of deep animosity and layers of sanctions.  In 1996, it was suspected that Iran was involved in the attack on the Khobar barracks in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 Americans and wounded over 350 Americans, Saudis and people from other nations.  Intelligence indicated that the bombing was spearheaded by Hezbollah al Hijaz, a Saudi Shi'a group with ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard.  The Clinton Administration moved towards military retribution against Iran but came to the conclusion that even small military operations could trigger a full-scale war.

Since 1984, sanctions have become a key part of America's approach to Iran with five administrations imposing sanctions; Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama.  In March 1995, Clinton banned all U.S. participation in Iranian petroleum development after Conoco signed a $1 billion contract to develop Iran's hydrocarbon reserves.  In May 1995, Clinton also broadened the sanctions to include a total ban on trade and investment.  In 1996 under the Clinton Administration, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) with the goal of pressing foreign companies to cease investing in Iran's oil and gas sector, a major source of income for Iran.  These sanctions were not always viewed positively by America's partners with some nations expressing great concerns about the potential negative impacts as well as the possibility of unintended consequences that could come back to "bite America in the butt".

In the release of formerly classified documents from the National Security Archive, we can see a cross section of how United States allies were concerned about the backlash from over-sanctioning Iran.  Here are some examples:

1.) Document 4 - Cable from the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi to the Secretary of State dated June 13, 1995 outlining a conversation held between State Department personnel and an official from the UAE expressing concerns about pushing Iran "over the brink":

2.) Document 8 - Cable from the Secretary of State to the American Embassies in Tokyo and Canberra dated January 11, 1996 outlining the American position that exerting pressure against Iran using sanctions is intended as a supplement to diplomatic dialogue, not an alternative:

Here is a section looking at what America wants from its allies and explains its planned use of ILSA:

3.) Document 9 - Cable from American Embassy in Paris to the Secretary of State dated March 15, 1996 briefing State on France's support for critical dialogue with Iran (i.e. maintaining relations while raising issues of concern with Iran).  This document suggests that there was very little support in Europe for American sanctions and that "it would be very dangerous to isolate Iran totally":

4.) Document 10 - Cable from the American Embassy in Bonn, Germany to the Secretary of State dated March 26, 1996 outlining Germany's concerns about increased use of sanctions by the United States and how it prefers the use of critical dialogue:

5.) Document 12 - Letter from the Canadian Ambassador to the Under Secretary of State dated August 7, 1996 outlining Canada's concerns about the implementation of ISLA and its potential negative repercussions:

There are two things that we can learn from the release of 20 year old diplomatic cables from the Department of State regarding Iran:

1.) The repeated use of economic sanctions against Iran has accomplished almost nothing and the use of tougher sanctions against Iran's leadership and its people has not been backed by Europe and other nations in the Middle East who are gravely concerned about war breaking out in their corner of the world should Iran's political and religious leaders feel that they are being backed into a corner.

2.) The Trump Administration could well learn from the diplomatic failures of the past.  It is interesting to see how Washington's approach to Iran over the past six  has changed very little over the past 25 years proving the old adage that some people are doomed to repeat the same mistakes that they've made in the past, expecting different results every time.

The one thing that Washington has repeatedly ignored over the last seven decades is the fact that Iran is a sovereign state, a nation that has the right to make its own decisions whether Washington agrees with them or not.  Given the growing ties between Russia, China and Iran, further interference in Iran's affairs will only serve to feed the growing divide between the nation that has become used to being the world's sole superpower for the last three decades and the nations that are moving closer to equalizing the geopolitical and military playing field. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the Surveillance State

While the American media focuses on the allegations of sexual impropriety of a young Brett Kavanaugh, there is one specific concern about this potential Supreme Court Justice and one of his legal beliefs that should concern all Americans, particularly those of us that are concerned about retaining what little privacy that we have from the prying eyes of the surveillance state. For the purposes of this posting, I will keep the details of the legal case to a minimum, focussing instead on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's legal opinions.

Here is the case in question:

Here is a quote from the background of the case from EPIC and from the original decision:

"On June 5, 2013, the Guardian first published an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which required Verizon to produce all domestic telephone call detail records to the National Security Agency ("NSA") on an ongoing basis. This collection was not based on any particularized suspicion of wrongdoing, all call records were collected in bulk from Verizon every day. Specifically, the FISA order required that Verizon turn over “all call detail records or 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.” According to the news article, this order "showed...that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk - regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.  In response to this disclosure, the government confirmed the authenticity of the April 25, 2013 FISC order and, in this litigation and in certain public statements, acknowledged the existence of a "program" under which "the FBI obtains orders from the FISC pursuant to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act directing certain telecommunications service providers to product to the NSA on a daily basis electronic copies of "call detail records".

Here is additional background from EPIC:

"Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in 1978 following the discovery by the Church Committee of decades of domestic surveillance by the Intelligence Community. The Act prohibited domestic surveillance except with the approval of a newly created court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Under the FISA, the FISC could only grant orders if the government established probable cause to believe that the target of surveillance was foreign powers or agents of a foreign power.

However, Congress modified the FISA in the 2001 USA PATRIOT and the 2006 Patriot Act Reauthorization. Specifically, Congress authorized the FBI in Section 215 to apply for a FISC order compelling businesses to produce "tangible things" relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism. Section 215 provided that businesses who received these orders could challenge them in the FISC. We now know that the FISC has since 2006 issued orders that require major telephone companies, like Verizon, to provide all telephone call detail records to the NSA."
The Plaintiffs in this case were both Verizon Wireless customers, the first was named Larry Klayman, founder of Freedom Watch and another gentleman named Charles Strange, the father of Michael Strange , a cryptologist technician for the NSA who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan in 2011 who filed two complaints as follows:

1.) Klayman I filed on June 6, 2013 

2.) Klayman II filed on June 12, 2013

The suit was brought against the NSA, the Department of Justice, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., NSA Director General Keith Alexander, U.S. District Judy Roger Vinson, Verizon Communications and its CEO.  The suit alleges that the U.S. federal government with the participation of private companies is conducting a "secret and illegal government scheme to intercept and analyze vast quantities of domestic telephonic communications".  Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that the Government has violated their individual rights under the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution and that it exceeded its statutory authority under FISA.  In Klayman II, two additional members were added, private investigators Michael Ferrari and Matthew Garrison and several defendants were added including Facebook, Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, YouTube, AOL, PalTalk, Skype, Sprint, AT&T and Apple. 

On December 16, 2013, U.S. Federal Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that the bulk collection of American telephone metadata likely violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which provides that people have the "right to be secure in their persons, houses paper and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures..." and that Warrants shall be issued "upon probable cause".  Here is a direct quote from his decision:

"...the almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is beyond anything that could have been conceived..."

In later developments, D.C. Circuit Courtt Justice Kavanaugh wrote a solo concurrence as shown here:

Let's pick out the salient points:

"Even if the bulk collection of telephony metadata constitutes a search the Fourth Amendment does not bar all searches and seizures. It bars only unreasonable searches and seizures. And the Government’s metadata collection program readily qualifies as reasonable under the Supreme Court’s case law. The Fourth Amendment allows governmental searches and seizures without individualized suspicion when the Government demonstrates a sufficient “special need” – that is, a need beyond the normal need for law enforcement – that outweighs the intrusion on individual liberty. Examples include drug testing of students, roadblocks to detect drunk drivers, border checkpoints, and security screening at airports.  The Government’s program for bulk collection of telephony metadata serves a critically important special need – preventing terrorist attacks on the United States. 

In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program. The Government’s program does not capture the content of communications, but rather the time and duration of calls, and the numbers called. In short, the Government’s program fits comfortably within the Supreme Court precedents applying the special needs doctrine.

In sum, the Fourth Amendment does not bar the Government’s bulk collection of telephony metadata under this program..." (my bolds)

When reading through Judge Brett Kavanaugh's solo concurrence, it is very apparent that he strongly believes that government has the right to snoop into our private affairs because they have a "special need" to do so, at the cost of our personal liberty.  Given that this gentleman will remain on the Supreme Court for the remainder of his life, we can be assured that, should another case of this type appear before the Supreme Court during his tenure, he will be voting in favour of state-sanctioned surveillance of hundreds of millions of Americans, Fourth Amendment be damned.  There is one thing that we can be certain of; our civil liberties will continue to be eroded.

How Washington Justified American Aid to Egypt

While the United States is distracted with Donald Trump, Russia and the Kavanagh hearings, it is business as usual (more or less) at the U.S. Department of State.  As you will see in this posting, when it comes to its allies in the Middle East, Washington is willing to bend its own rules to ensure that its partners retain their military capabilities and that the United States retains its strategic advantage in the region.

Let's start by looking at some background.  Back in August 2017, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cancelled $95.7 million in military and economic aid to Egypt and delayed an additional $195 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds because of Egypt's questionable track record on civil liberties and human rights in general.  Under American law, Egypt receives $1.3 billion in annual FMF funding of which $195 million is held back until the Egyptian government can prove that it is making progress on human rights and democracy issues.  One of the key issues that led to the cancellation and delay is the recent law that restricts NGO activity in Egypt to developmental and social work and introduces jail time for up to five years for non-compliant organizations.  Organizations must receive permission from the Egyptian government to carry out and publish the results of studies and will be subjected to fines of up to $55,000 for violations.

The United States has long backed Egypt.  Between 1946 and 2016, the United States provided Egypt with $78.3 billion in aid (not adjusted for inflation) with all aid being appropriated and authorized by Congress.  All U.S. military aid to Egypt is designated to finance the procurement of weapons systems and services from U.S.-based defense contractors, yet another way that tax dollars flow more-or-less directly from taxpayers' wallets to the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex.    Here is how the flow of military aid from the United States to Egypt works:

Here is a table showing the history of military and economic aid granted to Egypt:

For fiscal 2019, President Trump is requesting a total of $1.381 billion oil foreign assistance, the same amount as in previous years.

Despite the flow of aid, there have long been concerns about human rights in Egypt.  According to the Department of State's own report on Egypt's human rights record from 2017, we find the following:

"The most significant human rights issues included arbitrary or unlawful killings by the government or its agents; major terrorist attacks; disappearances; torture; harsh or potentially life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; including the use of military courts to try civilians; political prisoners and detainees; unlawful interference in privacy; limits on freedom of expression, including criminal “defamation of religion” laws; restrictions on the press, internet, and academic freedom; and restrictions on freedoms of assembly and association, including government control over registration and financing of NGOs. LGBTI persons faced arrests, imprisonment, and degrading treatment. The government did not effectively respond to violence against women, and there were reports of child labor.

The government inconsistently punished or prosecuted officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in government. In most cases the government did not comprehensively investigate human rights abuses, including most incidents of violence by security forces, contributing to an environment of impunity...

The government, at times, used excessive force to disperse both peaceful and nonpeaceful demonstrations. On July 16, security forces killed one protester on Warraq Island, near Cairo, reportedly due to suffocation from tear gas. The Ministry of Interior and press reporting claimed protesters attacked security forces with rocks and birdshot. A local resident claimed police fired birdshot as well as tear gas at protesters....

At year’s end the government had not held accountable any individual or governmental body for state violence after 2013, including the deaths of hundreds of civilians during the 2013 dispersals of the sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in Cairo and Nahda Square in Giza."

With that background and keeping in mind that aid to Egypt must be certified before it is granted, let's look at the most recent developments.  On August 21, 2018, Secretary of State Pompeo signed national security waivers which allowed the spending of the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) designated for Egypt.  This includes $1 billion for the current 2018 budget year and the aforementioned $195 million that was appropriated for 2017 as well as the $195 million from fiscal 2016 that was held back by Rex Tillerson as I noted above.  Here is the signed determination/waiver:

Here is the memorandum of justification for the waiver noting that the memo clearly states that "the overall human rights climate in Egypt continues to deteriorate":

Here are the highlights:

1.) Egypt continues to restrict the right of peaceful assembly and freedom of association

2.) Violence against women remains a serious problem

3.) Increased restrictions on freedom of expression

4.) a public meeting of more than ten people can only take place after notifying the Ministry of the Interior

5.) the Egyptian government restricts peaceful public assemblies by arresting activists in advance of planned protests

6.) there is increased harrassment and arrest of LGBTI individuals

7.) the laws restricting the activities of NGOs remains in place

8.) there are reports of large numbers of political prisoners and detainees

9.) Egypt remains deficient in providing guarantees of fair trials and there is excessive use of detention without bail as well as prolonged periods of detention prior to trial (in some cases exceeding five years)

That said, here's the justification for continuing to use taxpayers' dollars to fund a country that is obviously in breach of human rights:

"The Secretary of State has determined that it is important to the national security interests of the United States to waive the certification requirement....with respect to 15 percent of foreign military financing assistance withheld...for Egypt.  The United States seeks a stable and prosperous Egypt that supports regional peace and efforts to combat terrorism.  As the most populous Arab state and guarantor of Suez Canal security, Egypt contributes to regional security."

It is blatantly obvious that Washington cares little about human rights issues among its allies.  With the most recent examples of military aid going to Saudi Arabia, it is clear that Washington is more concerned about its vision of American hegemony and global security than it is about the misery that the regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia inflict on their citizens.  It is apparent that the current Secretary of State has blinders on when it comes to human rights issues.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Five Eyes, Encryption and Your Privacy

A recent intergovernmental meeting in Australia received almost no coverage by the mainstream media, a factor that plays into the hands of the governments involved.  During this meeting, the five governments involved issued a statement that should send chills down the collective spines of those of us who really care about our privacy and who are increasingly concerned about how the state is advancing its efforts to know everything about us.

For those of you who are not aware, during the last week of August 2018, a meeting was held between the Five Eyes pact nations; the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  Five Eyes or FVEY was established in March 1946 by the United Kingdom and the United States as the UKUSA agreement with the mandate to share all signals intelligence (SIGINT).  In the aftermath of the Second World War when Britain had successfully cracked Germany's Enigma cipher and the United States had cracked Japan's Purple cipher, it became increasingly apparent that the developing Cold War would require further intelligence cooperation.  Canada joined the alliance in 1948 and New Zealand and Australia joined in 1956, creating a global intelligence sharing organization.   Here is a quote from an article on Five Eyes from the Journal of Political Sciences and Public Affairs about the duties of the Five Eyes member nations:

"The Five Eyes alliance allows its member nations to share the collection and analysis burden of global threats. Precise assignments are not publicly known, but research indicates that Australia monitors South and East Asia emissions. New Zealand covers the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. The UK devotes attention to Europe and Western Russia, while the US monitors the Caribbean, China, Russia, the Middle East and Africa.  This collaboration has allowed its members to concentrate on distinct areas that they would not have the resources to do otherwise. Governments across the Western world have responded and adapted, further integrating formerly separate intelligence capacities. As the technological barriers between information systems and previously stove-piped databases continue to fall, the sharing of data has become not merely possible, but routine.”

Here are the government organizations from each member state that are responsible for intercepting intelligence information of various types:

1.) United States: The National Security Agency (NSA) at Ft. Meade, Maryland, is the United States’ predominant SIGINT agency and therefore interacts with Five Eyes’ member agencies the most. In addition to the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) both contribute to, and draw resources from, Five Eyes member agencies. The CIA is the predominant collector of human intelligence (HUMINT), and the FBI is in charge of counter-terrorism investigations.

2.) Canada: Canada’s intelligence community is much smaller than that of the United States. However, Canada’s professionalism and unique geography continue to make it an ally as valuable now as during the Cold War. The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is Canada’s SIGINT agency; the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is the HUMINT agency.

3.) Australia: Australia does not have an intelligence culture at the same level as the US. Due to its relative geographic isolation, it maintains a stronger intelligence community than Canada. Australia has been a large contributor toward the continued collaboration of intelligence among Five Eyes. Besides Five Eyes; Australia, New Zealand, and the United States are bound by the ANZUS collective security agreement established in 1951, further integrating defense intelligence.  Access to partners’ intelligence is a huge multiplier to the capabilities and effectiveness of our intelligence agencies.  Australia’s primary SIGINT agency is the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) is the foremost HUMINT agency, and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) is the country’s main security, counterintelligence and counter-terrorism agency.

4.) New Zealand: The core New Zealand Intelligence Community (NZIC) comprises GCSB, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), and parts of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC).  The GCSB, Government Communications Security Bureau, has two main functions: information assurance and obtaining foreign signals intelligence. The NZSIS is New Zealand’s HUMINT collection agency. The parts of the DPMC that work alongside the rest of the NZIC are the National Assessments Bureau (NAB) which collates and analyzes information on foreign countries, and the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination (ODESC) which coordinates all agencies in security situations.

5.) United Kingdom: The United Kingdom’s primary SIGINT agency is the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ); the main HUMINT agency for threats outside the country is the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6), and its domestic security intelligence service is the Security Service (MI5). 

With that background on Five Eyes, let's look at the most recent developments from the meeting held in Australia on August 28 and 29, 2016.  In the official communique issued by the Five Country Ministerial (FCM) at the end of the meeting, we find the following:

"We, the Homeland Security, Public Safety, and Immigration Ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States met on the Gold Coast, Australia, on August 28-29 2018, to discuss how we can better collaborate to meet our common security challenges. We reaffirmed that the close and enduring five country partnership, developed following the Second World War, remains fundamental to the security and prosperity of our nations...

The internet and digital technologies are increasingly central to contemporary life and to the social and economic development of our societies. Global connectivity enables faster communication, better access to services, and new ways to conduct business and share news and information. We affirmed our vision for a free, open, safe, and secure internet, which is fundamental to our economic growth and prosperity.

Just as the internet provides many benefits, it also provides opportunities for people to carry out crimes and spread illicit content.  Terrorism, child sexual abuse and exploitation, violent extremism, and coercive acts of interference and disinformation are enduring concerns of government. The anonymous, instantaneous, and networked nature of the online environment has magnified these threats and opened up new vectors for harm.  Governments have a responsibility to protect those within our borders against both physical and digital threats, and to ensure that the rule of law prevails online, as it does offline. We have a responsibility to tackle these challenges in a coordinated and effective way.

While senior digital industry representatives did not accept our invitation to participate in discussions on pressing issues regarding the illicit use of online spaces, we reiterated the need for digital industry to take more responsibility for content promulgated and communicated through their platforms and applications.  We agreed to a Joint Statement on Countering the Illicit Use of Online Spaces, outlining our communities' high expectations of digital industry companies, with a focus on countering online child sexual abuse and exploitation, and violent extremist and terrorist material. We called for the further development and expansion of capabilities to prevent upload of illicit content, and to execute urgent and immediate takedowns. We reiterated the importance of industry investment in human and automated detection capabilities, underscoring the need for major companies to set industry standards and to help smaller companies deploy these capabilities to their platforms, including through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). And we called for increased efforts to counter foreign interference and disinformation conducted via online platforms." (my bolds)

So, what do the Five Eyes propose to reduce the risk of online terrorism, child sexual abuse and exploitation, violent extremism and coercive acts of interference and disinformation (all the rage since the 2016 American election)?  Here's their answer:

Here are some key quotes:

"Privacy laws must prevent arbitrary or unlawful interference, but privacy is not absolute.  It is an established principle that appropriate government authorities should be able to seek access to otherwise private information when a court or independent authority has authorized such access based on established legal standards.  

Governments should recognize that the nature of encryption is such that that there will be situations where access to information is not possible, although such situations should be rare...

The principle that access by authorities to the information of private citizens occurs only pursuant to the rule of law and due process is fundamental to maintaining the values of our democratic society in all circumstances – whether in their homes, personal effects, devices, or communications. Access to information, subject to this principle, is critical to the ability of governments to protect our citizens by investigating threats and prosecuting crimes. This lawful access should always be subject to oversight by independent authorities and/or subject to judicial review."

Note the use of "...privacy is not absolute..." and how the five governments use the threats of terrorism, organized crime and child sex offenders as the "stick" to put fear into the hearts of a non-thinking public.

This is a groundbreaking technological change.  Basically, Five Eyes are calling on technology companies to build back doors into their products so that law enforcement (aka "The State") will always be able to access encrypted data.  While the Five Eyes statement appears rather benign on the surface by politely asking tech companies to voluntarily submit to this "suggestion", however, this sentence appears at the end of the Statement of Principles:

"Should governments continue to encounter impediments to lawful access to information necessary to aid the protection of the citizens of our countries, we may pursue technological, enforcement, legislative or other measures to achieve lawful access solutions."

While many among us feel that we aren't doing anything wrong  we have nothing to hide.  With that sentiment in mind, I would ask that you watch this video interview of Edward Snowden and see how you feel about "The State" demanding that your encrypted communications be accessible to the intelligence structure of the Five Eyes member states at their whim:

Monday, September 24, 2018

Voting for War

In a recent vote, the United States Senate proved that it can act with a single-minded purpose when it comes to one issue; war.  On a recent vote taken on September 18, 2018, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve House Resolution 6157 as you will see in this posting.

As background, H.R. 6157 formally entitled "An Act making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, and for other purposes." can be summarized as follows:

"Provides FY2019 appropriations to the Department of Defense (DOD) for military activities. Excludes military construction, military family housing, civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers, and nuclear warheads, which are all considered in other appropriations bills.

Provides appropriations to DOD for:

Military Personnel;
Operation and Maintenance;
Research, Development, Test and Evaluation; and
Revolving and Management Funds.
Provides appropriations for Other Department of Defense Programs, including:

the Defense Health Program,
Chemical Agents and Munitions Destruction,
Drug-Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities, and
the Office of the Inspector General.
Provides appropriations for Related Agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System Fund and the Intelligence Community Management Account.

Provides appropriations for Overseas Contingency Operations/ Global War on Terrorism.

Sets forth requirements and restrictions for using funds provided by this and other appropriations Acts."

Since we will be throwing around a lot of billions in this posting, let's help put the concept of a billion dollars into perspective that we can better understand.  Here is a graph from FRED showing median household income in the United States:

The United States Bureau of the Census reports that median household income for 2017 was $61,372.  In 2017, it would have taken a median American household 16,294 years to earn $1 billion.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, in 2015, to be in the top one percent of earners in the United States, a family would need a minimum income of $421,926.  It would take this family 2370 years to earn $1 billion.

With that in mind, let's look at some details on how the Senate proposes to spend the $716 billion defense budget (including the use of the emergency Overseas Contingency Operations funds totalling $80 billion):

Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Airforce Personnel - $44.051 billion

Army Operation and Maintenance - $40.634 billion

Navy Operation and Maintenance - $47.296 billion

Marine Corps Operation and Maintenance - $6.372 billion

Air Force Operation and Maintenance - $40.775 billion

Aircraft Procurement - Army - $4.89 billion

Missile Procurement - Army - $3.16 billion

Procurement of Weapons/Tracked Vehicles - Army - $4.515 billion

Procurement of Ammunition - Army - $2.283 billion

Procurement of Aircraft - Navy - $20.083 billion

Procurement of Weapons - Navy - $3.78 billion

Shipbuilding and Conversion - Navy - $23.993 billion as shown on this table:

Procurement - Marine Corps - $2.801 billion

Aircraft Procurement - Air Force - $15.772 billion

Missile Procurement - Air Force - $2.615 billion

Space Procurement - Air Force - $2.224 billion

There are also budgeted expenses for research, development, testing and evaluation which includes maintenance, rehabilitation, leasing and operation of facilities and equipment as listed here:

Army - $10.812 billion

Navy - $18.992 billion

Air Force - $40.897 billion

Defense-wide - $24.049 billion

In looking through the line items in the defense appropriations bill, I couldn't help but think about the tens of billions of dollars that are flowing directly from the wallets of taxpayers into the coffers of the American defense business and from there, into the pockets of each company's Named Executive Officers.

With these budgeted items in mind, let's look at how the Senate voted on these expenditures as part of the overall Defense Appropriations Act.  Overall, H.R. 6157 was passed with a margin of 92 yeas to 8 nays.

Here are the yeas

Here are the nays:

You will notice, perhaps rather surprisingly given the current state of political polarization in Washington, that all of the Democratic Senators voted yea along with all but 7 Republicans and 1 Independent.  I find it rather surprising that the Democrats who have demonized Donald Trump at every turn have voted in favour of the this extremely bloated defense budget, putting even more military might into the hands of a President and Commander-in-Chief that they seem to despise and who they are demonizing because of his alleged collusion with Russia.  But, then again, as we found out just prior to the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, both the House and the Senate seem quite willing to swallow the narrative when it comes to both arming the military and fighting the next war.