Q&A: Texas Commissioner Explains How the Lonestar State Became ‘Ground Zero’ for Border Crisis

Josh Siegel /

More than three years ago, Todd Staples, Texas commissioner of agriculture, officially put his stamp on an issue seemingly unrelated to agriculture: illegal immigration.

After rural landowners reached out to him over the years, sharing stories of how illegal immigrants — specifically, drug cartels and other criminals — trespass farms and ranches, Staples spearheaded the creation of a website meant to spotlight the problem.

The creation of the Texas Department of Agriculture website in March 2011, called Protect Your Texas Border, is just one example of how Staples, a Republican and former Texas legislator, has worked to secure his state’s border with Mexico.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal, Staples talked about the consequences of the current border crisis in the Rio Grande Valley, and recommended solutions to fix it.

Q: As the Texas commissioner of agriculture, why did you get involved with issues related to illegal immigration?

A: Landowners reached out to me—landowners who were facing the daily threats and being chased off their property, who had real tangible stories [about how illegal immigration is affecting them]. At the time, the president [Barack Obama] and Janet Napolitano [then-secretary of Homeland Security] were saying the border was safer than ever. We wanted to tell the real story.

Q: In 2011—before the border crisis in Texas became well known to the public—you commissioned a strategic military assessment, produced by retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey and retired Army Major Gen. Robert Scales, about border security in the state. What did the report find?

A: We wanted to bring to light very serious, deadly threats occurring on our border. We knew no one was listening to Texas. We wanted to remove it from the political world, so we got a nonpartisan pair of generals who come from different political administrations, who spent their time protecting the border across the world. In general, the report showed that drug cartels are exploiting our porous border and infiltrating gangs in America. Texas has become operation ground zero for this activity and our rural communities are caught in the crossfire.

Q: What is causing the current crisis with unaccompanied minors and women with children from Central America?

A: In June 2012, when the president announced DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], I issued a press release the same day that said this piecemeal approach will be a greenlight from the president that it’s acceptable to disregard our border and flout our laws. I said it would only exacerbate the problem.

Today we are seeing it in full force. The 2008 law [the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act] has definitely played a part in the problem. But the president has authority under the law [through its “exceptional circumstances” provisions] to act on his own to accelerate some of the minors’ cases. The president has to enforce current law. And to people who say the children are coming because of violence in their home countries, I would say, why would they take a 1,700-mile trek in the hands of the scum of the earth if it’s as simple as leaving deplorable conditions?

Q: Why are the Central Americans coming to Texas, and not other border states?

A: A lot of it falls at the door of the Department of Health and Human Services [the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement is charged with housing the unaccompanied children at detention centers until it can unite the children with family or a sponsor in the United States, before they appear in immigration court to determine their status]. Texas has 30 of those shelters [detention centers]. California has three of them. So if are you sending unaccompanied minors, you are sending them to the Lonestar State, where the infrastructure is there to take care of those kids.

Q: How has the unaccompanied children issue, and the Border Patrol resources that have been diverted to respond to it, impacted “normal” traffic at the border?

A: The drug cartels are using the issue as shelter. The Border Patrol has to make sandwiches and pass out juice rather than stop the cartels. There’s continued misinformation coming out from federal officials, falsely proclaiming the border is secure. Everyone on ground knows this the farthest thing from the truth.Transnational criminal organizations are taking advantage of it.

Q: Border Patrol has recently reported a slowdown in apprehensions at the Texas border. Is that sustainable?

A: You cannot establish a trend with one week. I hope the surge of resources to the border is working. I hope they [people thinking of crossing illegally] realize there has been an increase in manpower. The thing about cartels is that they are very smart. They lay low for a while to take advantage of bigger gain opportunities and distract you from putting resources where they need to be.

Q: What solutions would you recommend to secure the border?

A: Texans have already stepped up, and we’re not waiting on the dysfunctional federal government. That’s why my agency helped fund Operation Drawbridge, where we buy cameras and coordinate with landowners to place them in strategic locations along the border. As of the end of June, the Drawbridge project has detected more than 90,300 criminal exploitations of the Texas-Mexico border, and has directly resulted in the apprehension of more than 44,200 people and more than 70 tons of narcotics.

But Congress still has to act. For one, not reforming the 2008 law sends the message that we are not serious. We need an immediate deployment of better technology and surveillance along the southern border. The National Guard should be activated immediately [Texas Gov. Rick Perry did so Monday]. We need an immediate deployment of additional immigration judges. We need to stop DACA. And we need to classify drug cartels as a terrorist threat, to cripple them financially. We have to have an effective show of force to show there is only one way to enter America and that’s through legal means.

This Circuit Court’s Obamacare Decision Could Have Huge Consequences - Daily Signal

This Circuit Court’s Obamacare Decision Could Have Huge Consequences

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery /

Today the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a blow to the Obama administration, ruling that the language of the Obamacare law only established federal subsidies for individuals enrolling in state-run health care exchanges, not for individuals enrolling in federal-run state-level health care exchanges.

Since 27 states have opted not to run their own exchanges, this ruling has significant implications for the practical implementation of Obamacare.

Section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code (enacted as part of Obamacare) allows the IRS to make subsidies available to residents who buy health insurance through a state-run exchange. While lawmakers assumed every state would open an exchange, 27 states chose not to do so. In those states, the federal government established exchanges, and the IRS claimed it could extend the subsidies to individuals purchasing insurance through the federally-run exchanges.

In a 2-1 decision, the D.C. Circuit determined that the IRS’s “interpretation” violated the plain language of Section 36B: the law “unambiguously restricts the Section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges established by the State.” The government argued that it was “standing in the state’s shoes” when it opened exchanges in 27 states, but as the court noted “section 36B plainly distinguishes Exchanges established by states from those established by the federal government.”

The IRS’s revision of Section 36B “significantly increases the number of people who must purchase health insurance or face a penalty.” Further, since the employer mandate’s penalties depend on the availability of credits, this expansion “exposes employers [in states without state-run exchanges] to penalties and thereby gives the employer mandate broader reach.”

The government urged the court to look to the broader goal of Obamacare—near-universal coverage for all Americans—that would be impossible without these subsidies (in addition to the nondiscrimination requirements applying to insurers and the individual mandate to purchase insurance). Yet the court was unpersuaded. In the face of unambiguous statutory text, “there must be evidence that Congress meant something other than what it literally said” in order for the court to depart from the statute’s plain meaning. The government failed to meet this burden, and the court was unwilling to overstep its bounds.

A dissenting judge argued that the court bought the challengers’ “myopic construction” of Section 36B without “regard for the overall statutory scheme,” and defied the will of Congress.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled on this same issue today. That court found the language of Section 36B is ambiguous and allowed the IRS “interpretation” to stand. A concurring judge helpfully pointed out that when Section 36B says ““[E]stablished by the State” this “indeed means established by the state – except when it does not…”

The judicial branch must respect the separation of powers, and it is for Congress—not the courts or the executive branch—to create the laws. The D.C. Circuit recognized that the IRS’s attempt to rewrite the law (which is the Obama administration’s signature move) was improper:

“Within constitutional limits, Congress is supreme in matters of policy, and the consequence of that supremacy is that our duty when interpreting a statute is to ascertain the meaning of the words of the statute duly enacted through the formal legislative process.”

The D.C. Circuit stayed its decision pending rehearing by the full D.C. Circuit. These cases address only one of many problems with the unaffordable, unworkable, and unfair Obamacare. The consequences of this decision will mean higher costs for individuals who purchase insurance through federally-run exchanges. The Obama administration announced it will appeal to the full D.C. Circuit. Given the split between two federal appellate courts, Obamacare may be heading back to the Supreme Court next term.

Jeb Hensarling Slams Export-Import Bank Supporters for Seeking ‘Special Privilege’ - Daily Signal

Jeb Hensarling Slams Export-Import Bank Supporters for Seeking ‘Special Privilege’

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery / Philip Wegmann /

The chairman of the House Financial Service Committee scolded the leaders of Boeing and National Association of Manufacturers for their lobbying efforts to preserve the Export-Import Bank.

In a letter to Boeing chief executive James McNerney and National Association of Manufacturers chief executive Jay Timmons, Rep. Jeb Hensarling characterized the reauthorization debate as a decision between subsidy and opportunity.

“I respect your constitutional right to petition your government for the redress of grievances,” Hensarling wrote. “I just wish you had used the occasion to petition for opportunity instead of special privilege.”

>>> The Not So ‘Small’ Businesses Ex-Im Bank Boosts

A vocal opponent of the 80-year-old institution, the Texas Republican alerted industry executives that he’s eager to help by easing the burden of government regulation and taxation, but not by enabling more subsidies.

“Fundamentally, there are only two ways for public policy to increase competitiveness: opportunity or subsidy. I stand ready to help on the former not the latter,” Hensarling said.

The letter follows reports that Boeing and other Ex-Im supporters have increased their Washington lobbying efforts. The bank faces a Sept. 30 reauthorization deadline.

As chairman of the Financial Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over Ex-Im, Hensarling will oversee the bank’s future. In yesterday’s letter, Hensarling renewed his opposition.

>>> Export-Import Bank Creates Unfair Playing Field For American Business

Chartered by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934, the bank was designed to bolster U.S. exports. Conservatives contend the bank has now become an institution of corporate welfare, while supporters maintain that Ex-Im supports American jobs and small business.

Boeing responded to Hensarling’s letter by calling the bank “vital.” A spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers told Reuters it was “committed to manufacturers, their families and the communities they serve and protecting them by making sure the Ex-Im Bank is reauthorized.”

Hensarling ended his letter by inviting both McNerney and Timmons to “come by and see me” if they express interest in supporting Hensarling’s vision for growth.

“If you’re promoting policies for taxpayer subsidies and special privileges,” Hensarling wrote, “a meeting would probably not not prove to be a good use of your time.”

>>> Read the letter from Hensarling to McNerney and Timmons:

From Miami to Minnesota, Protests Call Attention to Border Crisis - Daily Signal

From Miami to Minnesota, Protests Call Attention to Border Crisis

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery / Philip Wegmann / Eric Boehm /

Along East 7th Street in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn., more signs are in Spanish than English, advertising everything from used cars to groceries.

That backdrop certainly made Larry Dalin’s sign stand out.

Holding a placard that read, “In Mexico, illegals are jailed,” Dalin was a lone sentry outside the Mexican Consulate on Friday afternoon, part of a national protest against illegal immigration and the Obama administration’s response to the ongoing crisis at the nation’s southern border.

Though he may have been alone at the protest, Dalin’s frustration is embodied by other Americans. He’s 58, unemployed for more than a year and facing bleak job prospects after a career in manufacturing. His frustration boiled over after hearing stories of undocumented and unaccompanied children being allowed into the country during the past several weeks.

>>> Border Crossings Stop After Texas Man Takes Security Into His Own Hands

Even though he was stationed outside the Mexican Consulate, Dalin’s frustration was directed at the U.S. government.

“The whole thing has been created by the [Obama] administration,” he said. “In Mexico, it’s illegal to be an illegal … but in the United States, they give them a new car and a cell phone. Or at least a drivers’ license.”

Dalin didn’t know it, but in the largely immigrant community in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, he would have found dozens of people who agreed with his point of view.

With bright yellow Gadsden flags waving in the bright Florida sun behind him, James Schafer said the sudden influx of immigrants was bad news for the country’s future.

>>> Texas Sending National Guard to Border Is Good First Step, But a Long-Term Solution Still Needed

“The law is not being enforced, and it’s putting too much of a strain on the resources of the country,” he said. “It’s going to break the United States.”

This weekend’s protests were organized by Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, a political action committee that supports candidates who fight to limit illegal immigration. After organizing more than 300 protests during the weekend, the group said on Monday it would plan more protests in states with primary elections in the coming months.

“It is clear that the surge of illegal immigrants on our borders coming for the immigration reform amnesty promised by Obama and some Republicans has brought a great change in public views on this issue,” said William Gheen, president of ALIPAC.

Read more on Watchdog.org.

Oklahoma Man Struggles to Cancel Health Plan for Three Months Due to Obamacare Delay - Daily Signal

Oklahoma Man Struggles to Cancel Health Plan for Three Months Due to Obamacare Delay

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery / Philip Wegmann / Eric Boehm / Natalie Johnson /

David Emanuel wanted to cancel his private insurance plan with BlueCross BlueShield after he became eligible for Medicare, but was told nothing could be done until HealthCare.gov consented to the change. The 65-year-old Oklahoma man spent three months entangled in bureaucracy. He shared his story with KJRH-TV in Tulsa, Okla., which was picked up by the Washington Free Beacon.

Ten Ways the U.S. Should Respond to Russia’s Role in Plane Crash - Daily Signal

Ten Ways the U.S. Should Respond to Russia’s Role in Plane Crash

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery / Philip Wegmann / Eric Boehm / Natalie Johnson / Nile Gardiner / James Carafano / Dakota Wood / Luke Coffey /

Evidence is mounting that Russian-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine were responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane, with the loss of 298 lives. This was an act of barbarism by separatists who are armed, funded, and trained by Moscow. It follows from Russia’s illegal invasion, occupation, and annexation of Crimea and its attempts to dismember eastern Ukraine through fighting a proxy war against Kiev.

Moscow must be held to account for its role in this atrocity, which further underscores that the Russian reset is dead, as well as for its actions on the ground in Ukraine. The United States should respond by establishing a new long-term strategy to deal with a hostile and aggressive Russian regime, one that protects its vital interests against the irresponsible and illegal actions of Moscow while strengthening the NATO alliance. The U.S. should pursue the following actions as part of that strategy.

1. Withdraw from New START

New START is a fundamentally flawed treaty that dramatically undercuts the security of the U.S. and its allies. It is an extraordinarily good deal for the Russians, as it significantly limits Washington’s ability to deploy an effective global missile defense system. It does nothing at all to advance U.S. security while handing Moscow a significant strategic edge.

2. Be Prepared to Isolate Moscow Diplomatically

Washington should be prepared to expel Russia’s ambassador to Washington and deny American visas to all Russian government officials and their family members if Moscow continues to facilitate acts of aggression in Ukraine and refuses to accept responsibility for its involvement in the Malaysian Airlines atrocity.

The U.S. could enforce a 25-mile travel restriction on officials assigned to the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York. Similar restrictions could be imposed on Russian officials assigned to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington, D.C.

3. Exclude Russia from the G20 Summit in Australia

Moscow should be treated as even more of a pariah on the world stage. Russia has already been suspended from the G8. The U.S. should rethink future Russian participation in the G20, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Community of Democracies.

In the immediate term, the U.S. should work with Australia to exclude Russia from the upcoming G20 summit to be held in Brisbane, Queensland, in November. Washington should also work with allies in Europe to pressure FIFA, the soccer’s world governing body, to withdraw the World Cup from Russia, where it is due to be held in 2018.

4. Increase Military Cooperation with NATO Allies

In light of recent Russian aggression, the Department of Defense should prioritize U.S. training missions in Central and Eastern Europe. The Pentagon and NATO should immediately begin to review and update contingency defense plans. These plans should deliver a suitable, credible, and actionable conventional defense of NATO member nations.

The U.S. should temporarily deploy military assets necessary for protection of its allies in Central Europe and boost the number of U.S. military training facilities, including in Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltics.

5. Uphold the Missile Defense Commitment in Europe

Central and Eastern European countries view NATO’s ballistic missile defense system as a fundamental part of the alliance’s defense. It is essential that the Administration uphold missile defense commitment to America’s allies in Europe, especially after its loss of credibility following the abrupt cancellation of the third site in 2009.

6. Reverse the Closure of U.S. Bases in Europe

President Obama should halt base closings in Europe and pledge a firm commitment to America’s military presence across the Atlantic. It is time for NATO to scrap the 1997 agreement with Russia, which limits the basing of NATO assets in Central and Eastern Europe. This would demonstrate U.S. commitment to transatlantic security and offer more opportunities for joint military training.

7. Provide Assistance to the Ukrainian Government

Ukraine does not enjoy the security guarantees afforded to NATO allies, but the U.S. has several military options available that do not include the immediate deployment of American forces into Ukraine. The U.S. military and its allies have the ability to provide the legitimate, democratically elected government of the country appropriate assistance to restore the stability of the country and ensure public safety.

The U.S. should buttress Ukraine’s military planning and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities so that the best possible picture of this rapidly evolving crisis can be assembled and appropriate actions determined and implemented as effectively as possible. For example, it is appropriate for the U.S. to deploy teams of military planners to work with Ukraine’s general staff. Supplies, equipment, or small arms should be sent only with some measure of confidence that the materials would help stabilize Ukraine’s situation and not simply fall into Russia’s hands or those of Russian loyalists.

8. Pressure NATO Allies to End Military Cooperation with Russia—Especially Spain and France

Some NATO members continue to provide Russia with military support. Spain allows the Russian navy use of its ports, and France is selling two amphibious assault ships to Russia. French and Spanish support to the Russian navy weakens NATO’s opposition to Russian aggression against Ukraine and projects an image of a divided alliance.

The U.S. government should make it clear at the highest levels that it views any support to the Russian navy in terms of equipment sales and port access as completely unacceptable in light of Russian aggression.

9. Lift Restrictions on Energy Exports to Europe

President Obama should back the lifting of restrictions on the export of natural gas and other forms of energy to U.S. allies in Europe. Much of Russia’s power in Central and Eastern Europe is the result of its control of energy supplies and distribution systems. Reducing energy dependence on Russia would dramatically weaken the economic grip Moscow has on parts of Europe and reinforce the position of NATO allies.

Diminishing Russia’s economic leverage over the region should be a key component of America’s response. This could largely be accomplished simply by liberalizing global energy markets. The U.S. has antiquated and unnecessary restrictions on exporting liquefied natural gas and crude oil, and lifting these restrictions should be a priority.

10. Expand the Target List of Russian Officials Under the Magnitsky Act

The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act denies U.S. visas to and places financial sanctions on Russian officials and individuals guilty of human rights violations. Currently, only 30 people linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have been sanctioned.

The Obama Administration needs to go significantly further. Washington should implement a greater range of targeted sanctions aimed directly at Russian officials responsible for violating Ukrainian sovereignty, including freezing financial assets and imposing visa bans.

Send a Clear Message

The U.S. should send a clear message to the Kremlin that its actions in Ukraine are unacceptable. Putin’s actions in recent months have made it impossible to consider Russia a responsible nation or suitable partner for the U.S.

(Crossposted from Heritage.org)

Single Mother Arrested for Carrying Gun to Protect Her Children - Daily Signal

Single Mother Arrested for Carrying Gun to Protect Her Children

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery / Philip Wegmann / Eric Boehm / Natalie Johnson / Nile Gardiner / James Carafano / Dakota Wood / Luke Coffey / Jordan Richardson /

A mistake could separate a single mother from her children and send her to prison for three years. Her crime? Unlawfully possessing a gun in New Jersey that she could legally possess and carry in her home state of Pennsylvania.

Shaneen Allen, a single mother with two children, planned to spend the weekend celebrating her son’s birthday in New Jersey. Along with the supplies for the party, she made sure to pack her .380 handgun for protection. Having been robbed twice before in the same year, Allen bought the gun in Pennsylvania just one week before her drive.

While en route to her destination, a New Jersey police officer pulled her over for a traffic violation. “I was bringing a cake and the dog to the hotel room to surprise him. That’s what I was doing out there and I got pulled over at 1:00 in the morning because I was sleepy and swerved,” Allen explained.

She voluntarily informed the officer she was transporting a concealed weapon and showed him the Pennsylvania license allowing her to do so. It had no effect on the police officer.

Allen was arrested for unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of hollow-point bullets. Although it was legal for her to possess and carry the gun in Pennsylvania, strict gun laws in New Jersey made possession of the handgun there a crime. She was arrested despite the fact she had no prior criminal history and honestly believed she could travel with the gun.

If Allen is convicted of illegal possession of a weapon she would be subject to the mandatory minimum of three years in prison. “I’m very much worried because I have two kids who depend on me,” Allen said. “I’m doing this all by myself. It’s just me.”

Because Pennsylvania has reciprocity with 30 different states (the policy where the laws of one state are recognized in another), but not New Jersey, many unsuspecting citizens could be entangled in the criminal system for innocent behavior. This discrepancy raises the question of whether law-abiding citizens should be criminally punished for honestly believing they were acting within the bounds of the law.

Stories like Shaneen Allen’s should encourage meaningful dialogue about the need for reform in the criminal law. While efforts exist to enact a federal law mandating reciprocity among the 50 states, a simpler and less cumbersome solution would entail a mistake of law defense for those like Allen trapped by an ever-expanding criminal code.

Paul J. Larkin Jr. of The Heritage Foundation asserts that situations like these point toward the need for a mistake of law defense. He writes:

Properly defined and applied, a mistake of law defense would be a valuable addition to the criminal law today. It would exculpate morally blameless parties for conduct that no reasonable person would have thought was a crime. The defense would ensure that no one could be convicted of a crime when criminal liability was unforeseeable.

If the mistake of law defense were available to individuals like Shaneen Allen, persons who reasonably believed the gun they carried was legal could exercise a valuable defense against criminal charges. Consider: The average person could reasonably believe that a Pennsylvania driver’s license allows her to drive in all 50 states, so the same reasonable person could believe that a concealed carry permit would be treated in the same way. Should not the criminal law make allowances for such honest mistakes?

For Shaneen Allen, it would make all the difference in the world. “I just want people to know … mistakes happen,” she stated. “I just hope that everything turns out OK for me and my kids because I’m all they have.”

We all make mistakes. No one acting reasonably should go to prison for an honest mistake of law. All that the courts need to do to stop that from happening is to have the courage to adopt the mistake of law defense.

Q&A: What Kind of Missile Likely Shot Down Malaysian Plane? - Daily Signal

Q&A: What Kind of Missile Likely Shot Down Malaysian Plane?

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery / Philip Wegmann / Eric Boehm / Natalie Johnson / Nile Gardiner / James Carafano / Dakota Wood / Luke Coffey / Jordan Richardson / Rebecca Buchheit / Michaela Dodge /

Last Thursday, a Boeing 777 hurtled to the ground near the village of Hrabove in Eastern Ukraine resulting in the death of 298 civilians. The U.S. has confirmed that the airliner was shot down by a missile. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN it was “pretty clear” that Russia had played a role in the plane’s crash. An adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister claimed that Russian-backed separatists shot the airliner out of the sky with a surface-to-air-missile launched from a Buk-M2E system. What is a surface-to-air missile? How does it operate? Heritage expert Michaela Dodge answers these questions and more.

There is speculation that the MH17 was shot down by a Surface-to-Air missile (SAM).  Can you explain what a SAM is and a little about its history?

Surface-to-air missiles are launched from the ground to destroy airborne targets, like airplanes or other relatively short range missiles. These systems were developed during the Second World War and have improved dramatically since.

How does a SAM operate?

The system consists of an interceptor, radar, and command and control architecture. Its attributes depend on the size of the interceptor, its mobility, and range. In general, the heavier the interceptor, the more capability and range it has. The weight, however, limits the range of the interceptor.

Anton Herashchenko,an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, claimed that the SAM was launched from a Buk-M2E system.  Can you explain the capabilities of this system?

The Buk-M2 system (depending on the model, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization designator is “Gadfly” for older models and “Grizzly” for newer models of the system, while Department of Defense designator is “SA-11” for older models and “SA-17” for newer models of the system) is a Soviet/Russian medium-range air defense system that first entered into service in 1979. The latest deployed version of the system was upgraded in 1990s.

The Buk-M2 missile battery consists of two transporter erector launchers and radar vehicles and a transporter erector launcher vehicle. The system’s interceptor range is around 20 miles. Depending on the type of radar the system uses, it can track flying objects between 200 feet to 15.5 miles altitude.

Could a SAM launched from the Buk-M2E system reach the height at which the MH17 was flying (33,000 ft)?

Yes, it can.

What are the implications for the conflict between Kiev and Moscow if the airliner was brought down by Russian backed separatists?

The downing of an airplane by the Russian backed separatists in Ukraine constitutes a serious escalation of hostilities between the two countries. The failure of the United States and our allies in Europe to enact serious retaliation against Russia for their blatant violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity has allowed the crisis in Ukraine to fester with deadly and tragic consequences. Rather than vacationing, President Obama should address the issue head on, provide assistance to the Ukrainian government and there should be serious ramifications for Moscow.

How should the U.S. respond?

The U.S. should carefully examine evidence of the Russian involvement in the crash. The U.S. must continue to press for an international independent investigation of the crash, pressure the anti-Ukrainian government opposition group into providing safe access to international inspector team, and press for a full cooperation of all parties. Furthermore, it should provide the Ukrainian government with electronic countermeasures to protect its airplanes from further attacks.

Obama should make a public statement recognizing that his administration’s policies towards Russia have failed, that the Russian reset is dead, and that the United States must enact a new strategy for dealing with Russia that recognizes Russia as a strategic competitor and destabilizing influence in the region, rather than viewing Russia as a partner to be placated. Obama must again underscore America’s commitment to our NATO allies, allies in the region, and to the transatlantic alliance.

Obama Wants $4.3 Billion to Solve Border Crisis. But He Plans to Spend Only $25 Million This Year. - Daily Signal

Obama Wants $4.3 Billion to Solve Border Crisis. But He Plans to Spend Only $25 Million This Year.

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery / Philip Wegmann / Eric Boehm / Natalie Johnson / Nile Gardiner / James Carafano / Dakota Wood / Luke Coffey / Jordan Richardson / Rebecca Buchheit / Michaela Dodge / David Inserra / Romina Boccia /

The Congressional Budget Office has released its score on how President Barack Obama’s$4.3 billion emergency request on immigration will be spent. The big news? The CBO score confirms that the president’s $4.3 billion emergency request is not warranted. CBO reports that only $25 million of the president’s request would be spent in fiscal year 2014 and the remaining funds would not be spent until the next fiscal year or in the out-years.

Congress is currently debating how to allocate the nearly half-trillion dollars ($492.4 billion) in non-defense discretionary spending that lawmakers authorized in the Ryan–Murray budget deal for fiscal year (FY) 2015. If Congress chose to support the Obama Administration’s approach to dealing with the surge in unaccompanied minors, there is no reason why Congress could not do so within the current Budget Control Act (BCA)cap. Congress has already lifted the cap by $9.2 billion from its original FY 2015 level established by the BCA and could allocate some of the spending increase toward the administration’s border efforts.

Congress should use the appropriations process to properly prioritize spending needs, including for border security. Obama is instead asking Congress to circumvent its already inflated spending cap by exploiting the “emergency” loophole. But this is an “emergency” that White House officials reportedly knew about for years now, but decided to ignore.

More important than funding that will not be spent until next year are policy changes that will address the heart of the current crisis. Without clear and concise enforcement of U.S. immigration law, the current crisis will only grow worse. Instead of more funding, the first steps to solving this crisis are rescinding or defunding administrative amnesty programs like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and clarifying existing law to allow Obama to remove these minors in an expedited manner. Such changes will restore integrity to the immigration system and send a clear message that coming to the U.S. illegally will not be tolerated.

Obama claims that because of a 2008 anti-human trafficking law, his hands are tied. First of all, the president already has the authority to remove these children in rapid fashion already. Second, even if he didn’t, Obama has not requested this authority and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other congressional Democrats don’t want to provide this authority either.

If more resources are truly needed on the border at this moment, then the National Guard should be considered as a way to quickly and temporarily support DHS’s efforts. Ultimately though, stopping the flood of children at our borders requires better immigration enforcement policies and a president that is willing to enforce the law.

 

The U.S. Needs to Do More to Protect Americans From Another 9/11 - Daily Signal

The U.S. Needs to Do More to Protect Americans From Another 9/11

Josh Siegel / Elizabeth Slattery / Philip Wegmann / Eric Boehm / Natalie Johnson / Nile Gardiner / James Carafano / Dakota Wood / Luke Coffey / Jordan Richardson / Rebecca Buchheit / Michaela Dodge / David Inserra / Romina Boccia / Rebecca Buchheit /

Just one year after Sept. 11, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, was formed to prepare an account of the circumstances surrounding the worst terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. In 2004, the complete report laid out 41 recommendations. Many have since been implemented. However, there is still work to be done. When Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reveals the report card for the past decade today, three areas must be addressed.

First, Congressional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security should be reformed. Ten years ago the 9/11 commission recommended “unifying and strengthening congressional oversight…” but political motivations have kept congressional leadership stalling. Currently, DHS has to report to over 100 committees,subcommittees and caucuses. Proposed reform could reduce this number to six. Less time in congressional hearings is more time that DHS officials can spend actually doing their job and protecting our nation.

Furthermore, the U.S. should stop senseless security measures that are unworkable and add little value for the resources they consume. These include a national biometric exit program and a 100 percent interview requirement for all visa applicants. Such programs demand enormous investments with little return in combating terrorist travel or enforcing U.S. immigration laws. Existing tools are sufficient for tracking foreigners exiting the country and compliance with U.S. immigration laws. Visa interviews should be based on “risk,” thus focusing on classes of persons, states, and individuals of greatest concern.

Finally, the U.S. government needs a cybersecurity strategy focusing not just on technology but on a comprehensive approach. The internet has become an invaluable tool for global terrorism to spread propaganda, gather intelligence, fundraise, recruit, plan operations, and conduct cyber-criminal activities. As such, the U.S. government must have a sustained equivalent counterinsurgency strategy for cyberspace that includes collecting intelligence, integrating government and civilian action and building host-nation cybersecurity, among other components. A legislative initiative is needed that gets all the pieces exactly right, ensuring that civil liberties, privacy, and economic prosperity are maintained while securing America’s digital infrastructure.

At the same time, merely expanding federal regulatory powers is not the solution. Due to the dynamic and fast-moving nature of cybersecurity, regulation is often too slow and may actually hinder security by building a culture of mere compliance with regulations and a false sense of security against enemies who are agile, motivated and clever. To win the battle for cyberspace, cyber strategy must become much more multifaceted.

Over the past decade, progress has been made to unify and strengthen the ability of the U.S. to protect the homeland from terrorist attacks. Between September 2001 and April 2013, 53 of the 60 Islamist-inspired terrorist plots against the homeland were thwarted due in large part to the concerted efforts of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence. However, on April 15, 2013 two explosions went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds more. Progress has been made, but much work remains if such attacks are to be avoided in the future.