Big Brother Arrives: China Bans People With “Bad Social Credit” From Planes, Trains

Two years ago, we reported that various cities throughout China are currently piloting a “social-credit system” that will assign a “personal citizen score” to every single person based on behavior such as spending habits, turnstile violations and filial piety.

Hangzhou’s local government is piloting a “social credit” system the Communist Party has said it wants to roll out nationwide by 2020, a digital reboot of the methods of social control the regime uses to avert threats to its legitimacy.

More than three dozen local governments across China are beginning to compile digital records of social and financial behavior to rate creditworthiness. A person can incur black marks for infractions such as fare cheating, jaywalking and violating family-planning rules. The effort echoes the dang’an, a system of dossiers the Communist party keeps on urban workers’ behavior.

In time, Beijing expects to draw on bigger, combined data pools, including a person’s internet activity, according to interviews with some architects of the system and a review of government documents.

Input data for the social credit system comes from a variety of government sources.

We warned at the time that this ‘score’ could be used to blacklist citizens from loans, jobs, or travel, for example.

Algorithms would use a range of data to calculate a citizen’s rating, which could then be used to determine all manner of activities, such as who gets loans, or faster treatment at government offices or access to luxury hotels.

So, imagine our shock, following China’s massive censorship efforts over the last few weeks surrounding Xi’s successful push to become emperor for life, when China said this week it will begin applying its so-called social credit system to flights and trains and stop people who have committed misdeeds from taking such transport for up to a year.

As Reuters reports,  people who would be put on the restricted lists included those found to have committed acts like spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights, as well as those who used expired tickets or smoked on trains, according to two statements issued on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website on Friday.

China has flagged plans to roll out a system that will allow government bodies to share information on its citizens’ trustworthiness and issue penalties based on a so-called social credit score.

However, there are signs that the use of social credit scoring on domestic transport could have started years ago.

In early 2017, the country’s Supreme People’s Court said during a press conference that 6.15 million Chinese citizens had been banned from taking flights for social misdeeds.

President Xi Jinping’s plan, based on the principle ‘once untrustworthy, always restricted’, will come into effect on 1 May…

The system is designed to automatically provide “green lanes” for faster access to government services for “well-behaved” citizens while levying travel bans and other punishments on those who get out of line. 

Former FBI Agent: To Preserve His Integrity, Mueller Must Step Aside

Authored by Kenneth Strange, op-ed via The Hill,

It was painful to witness. One of our own – a deputy FBI director no less – was fired barely a day or two away from retirement and a certain pension. And now Andrew McCabe faces possible federal charges for lying to other federal agents, charges that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller knows all too well and is wielding with great effect in the Russian collusion case.

Still, I wonder about Mueller. McCabe, Peter Strzok and James Comey all are public servants who former FBI Director Mueller mentored, supervised or knew well. It has got to be hugely disappointing for Mueller to stand by and watch the people who he managed, who worked for and were loyal to him, and who he was fond of become a part of this train wreck. As a former supervisor, Mueller is accountable for those people he supervised — for the good and the bad. How does he feel about it? We don’t know. He remains mute.

We all know about Mueller’s stellar career in the military, in the Department of Justice and with the FBI. Mueller played a key role in enhancing the FBI’s image at a seminal moment in bureau history. And he should be and has been lauded for his courage and tireless service to the country. Everyone I know at the bureau and at the DOJ has had good things to say about Mueller. More importantly, the consensus among law enforcement and beyond is that Bob Mueller is a man of unquestionable integrity.

But that was then and this is now. 

Mueller’s first mistake was in having Strzok as part of his “dream” team of lawyers and investigators. I thought Mueller would have been a better judge of character. It also begs the question why Strzok would be selected to work on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion case. It should have been one or the other – that’s common sense. 

In fairness to Mueller, when he discovered that Strzok, one of his favorite investigators, was involved in conduct unbecoming an FBI agent, he acted immediately and removed him from his team. But Mueller kept that news quiet and away from the public for several months. That, in itself, seems out of character for Mueller.

While Peter Strzok still lurks in the basement of the Hoover Building, the optics could not be worse for Mueller and his impartial investigation. His team has worked diligently and for long hours to find “the goods” on an array of unsuspecting and discrete individuals. It would be a shame to have their good work impugned by those who would accuse Mueller of a conflict of interest — that he is perceived as too close to the same people who initiated the allegation of Russian collusion.

As it stands now, the credibility of the special’s counsel’s investigation is steadily eroding. The longer it goes on with Mueller, the man behind the curtain, the less effective the investigation and its results.

Mr. Mueller, show the American people what my colleagues in law enforcement already know — that you are a man of great wisdom and integrity. Do the honorable thing and recuse yourself from the Russian collusion investigation. The DOJ requires a special prosecutor without ties to Jim Comey, Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok. The investigation will get done; don’t worry about that. Your team will see to it. 

Mr. Mueller, are you listening? You restored public confidence in the bureau.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called you a “great American.” You are still thought of highly. Step aside with dignity and let the investigation play itself out without any further controversy about you, the FBI and your team. The American people deserve no less.

*  *  *

Kenneth Strange served the FBI as a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Newark, New Jersey and as Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General in Los Angeles. He is presently the vice president of business development for an international investigative services company.

Top US General Says American Troops Should Be Ready To Die For Israel

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…” This is the oath of enlistment that every American military service member or federal employee takes upon entry into government service (with slight variation for commissioned officers).

With the largest joint U.S.-Israeli air defense exercise ever conducted having recently concluded, which involved over 2,500 American service personnel, and in the midst of heightened Israeli involvement in the Syrian war, we find ourselves asking…

Are US troops ready to fight and to die for America’s Israel’s defense? …We think not, but there are US generals out there enthusiastically promoting the idea.

Brig.-Gen Zvika Haimovitch, the head of the IDF’s Aerial Defense Division and US Air Force 3rd AF Commander Lt. Gen. Richard Clark. Image source: Jerusalem Post.

Earlier this month, in the midst of the 9th annual 12-day massive joint exercise named “Juniper Cobra” which was hailed in Israeli media as the largest of its kind, simulating a “battle on three fronts” (namely, Syria-Lebanon-Gaza Strip) US Third Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Richard Clark spelled out just such a scenario wherein US troops could be asked to fight and to die for defense of America Israel – even to the point of being placed under Israeli commanders responsible for battlefield decision making. 

While major joint military exercises involving significant troop deployments are nothing new for the US and its allies (Juniper Cobra itself has been conducted annually for nearly a decade), Lt. Gen. Clark’s words to Israeli media are truly precedent setting and shocking, especially as he is among the highest ranking military officers in the US armed forces.

It is well worth reading the alarming scenario Gen. Clark laid out while speaking to the Jerusalem Post in its entirety:

“The United States and Israel enjoy a strong and enduring military-to-military partnership built on a trust that has been developed over decades of cooperation,” said USAF Third Air Force commander Lt.-Gen. Richard Clark, who also serves as the commander for the deploying Joint Task Force – Israel.

“The Juniper Cobra exercises continue to strengthen this relationship, providing us with the opportunity to bolster interoperability and develop seamless integration with our Israeli partners.”

According to Clark, the US and Israeli troops will work side-by-side under each other’s relevant chain of command.

But this is where Clark pushes far across the normative “military-to-military partnership” characteristic of joint drills with other allied nations. He says that US troops should be prepared to die for the Jewish State:

“As far as decision-making, it is a partnership,” he continued, stressing nonetheless that “at the end of the day it is about the protection of Israel – and if there is a question in regards to how we will operate, the last vote will probably go to Zvika [Brig.-Gen. Zvika Haimovitch, head of the IDF’s Aerial Defense Division].”

Washington and Israel have signed an agreement which would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war and, according to [Israeli commander] Haimovitch, “I am sure once the order comes we will find here US troops on the ground to be part of our deployment team to defend the State of Israel.”

And those US troops who would be deployed to Israel, are prepared to die for the Jewish state, Clark said. “We are ready to commit to the defense of Israel anytime we get involved in a kinetic fight there is always the risk that there will be casualties. But we accept that – as every conflict we train for and enter, there is always that possibility,” he said.

And it appears that both military leaders are in agreement on this point – that they are ready and willing to put US troops in harm’s way in pursuit of Israeli defense policy.

Disturbingly, Clark acknowledges willingness for life-and-death battlefield decisions impacting American soldiers to be placed in the hands of the Israeli chain of command in saying: “if there is a question in regards to how we will operate, the last vote will probably go to [Israeli General] Zvika.”

While in more stable times in the Middle East, Clark’s words might possibly be dismissed as hyperbole and misplaced enthusiasm for “the mission” – his words come as Israel is already actively involved on two fronts: Gaza and Syria. And according to many analysts and reports, including one recently leaked internal Israeli defense memo, Israel is ramping up for devastating engagement along a third front as Tel Aviv continues to view Lebanese Hezbollah to its north as the prime threat to Israeli security.

Should broader war break out between Israel, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria, will US troops who find themselves working closely with the IDF be forced to obey the commands of Israeli generals, even to the point of death? We can’t find anything in the oath of enlistment or the Constitution [federal statute in 10 U.S.C. 502, and based in Article VI of the Constitution] that requires US citizens or soldiers to defend and fight for a foreign nation.