Congress readies for Mueller report to be delivered on CDs

If there weren’t enough obstacles already standing between Congress and the results of the special counsel’s multiyear investigation, lawmakers are expecting to need an optical drive to read the document.

A Justice Department official told the Associated Press that a CD containing the Mueller report would be delivered to Congress tomorrow between 11 and noon Eastern. At some point after the CDs are delivered, the report is expected to be made available to the public on the special counsel’s website.

Any Congressional offices running Macs will likely have to huddle up with colleagues who still have a CD-capable drive. Optical drives disappeared from Apple computers years ago. With people increasingly reliant on cloud storage over physical storage, they’re no longer as popular on Windows machines either.

Tomorrow’s version of the report is expected to come with a fair amount of detail redacted throughout, though a portion of Congress may receive a more complete version at a later date. The report’s release on Thursday will be preceded by a press conference hosted by Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. If you ask us, there’s little reason to tune into that event rather than waiting for substantive reporting on the actual contents of the report once it’s out in the wild. Better yet, hunker down and read some of the 400 pages yourself while you wait for thoughtful analyses to materialize.

Remember: No matter what sound bites start flying tomorrow morning, digesting a dense document like this takes time. Don’t trust anyone who claims to have synthesized the whole thing right off the bat. After all, America has waited this long for the Mueller report to materialize — letting the dust settle won’t do any harm.

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I asked the US government for my immigration file and all I got were these stupid photos

“Welcome to the United States of America.”

That’s the first thing you read when you find out your green card application was approved. Those long-awaited words are printed on fancier-than-usual paper, an improvement on the usual copy machine printed paper that the government sends to periodically remind you that you, like millions of other people, are stuck in the same slow bureaucratic system.

First you cry — then you cry a lot. And then you celebrate. But then you have to wait another week or so for the actual credit card-sized card — yes, it’s green — to turn up in the mail before it really kicks in.

It took two years to get my green card, otherwise known as U.S. permanent residency. That’s a drop in the ocean to the millions who endure twice, or even three times as long. After six years as a Brit in New York, I could once again leave the country and arrive without worrying as much that a grumpy border officer might not let me back in because they don’t like journalists.

The reality is, U.S. authorities can reject me — and any other foreign national — from entering the U.S. for almost any reason. As we saw with President Trump’s ban on foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations — since ruled unconstitutional — the highly vetted status of holding a green card doesn’t even help much. You have almost no rights and the questioning can be brutally invasive — as I, too, have experienced before, along with the stare-downs and silent psychological warfare they use to mentally shake you down.

I was curious what they knew about me. With my green card in one hand and empowered by my newfound sense of immigration security, I filed a Freedom of Information request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to obtain all of the files the government had collected on me in order to process my application.

Seven months later, disappointment.

USCIS sent me a disk with 561 pages of documents and a cover letter telling me most of the interesting bits were redacted, citing exemptions such as records relating to officers and government staff, investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes, and techniques used by the government to decide an applicant’s case.

But I did get almost a decade’s worth of photos taken by border officials entering the United States.

Seven years of photos taken at the U.S. border. (Source: Homeland Security/FOIA)

What’s interesting about these encounters is that you can see me getting exponentially fatter over the years while my sense of style declines at about the same rate.

Each photo comes with a record from a web-based system called the Customer Profile Management Service (CPMS), which stores all the photos of foreign nationals visiting or returning to the U.S. from a camera at port of entries.

Immigration officers and border officials use the Identity Verification Tool (IVT) to visually confirm my identity and review my records at the border and my interview, as well as checking for any “derogatory” information that might flag a problem in my case.

The government’s IDENT system, which immigration staff and border officials use to visually verify an applicant’s identity along with any potentially barring issues, like a criminal record. (Source: FOIA)

Everyone’s file will differ, and my green card case was somewhat simple and straightforward compared to others.

Some 90 percent of my file are things my lawyer submitted — my application, my passport and existing visa, my bank statements and tax returns, my medical exam, and my entire set of supporting evidence — such as my articles, citations, and letters of recommendation. The final 10 percent were actual responsive government documents, and some random files like photocopied folders.

And there was a lot of duplication.

From the choice files we are publishing, the green card process appears highly procedural and offered little to nothing in terms of decision making by immigration officers. Many of the government-generated documents was mostly box-ticking, such as verifying the authenticity of documents along the chain of custody. A single typo can derail an entire case.

The government uses several Homeland Security systems to check my immigration records against USCIS’ Central Index System, and verifying my fingerprints against my existing records stored in its IDENT system to ensure it’s really me at the interview.

USCIS’ Central Index System, a repository of data held by the government as applications go through the immigration process. (Source: FOIA)

During my adjustment-of-status interview with an immigration officer, my “disposition” was recorded but redacted. (Spoiler alert: it was probably “sweaty and nervous.”)

A file filled out by an immigration officer at an adjustment of status interview, which green card candidates are subject to. (Source: FOIA)

Following the interview, the immigration officer checks to make sure that the interview procedures are properly carried out. Homeland Security also pulls in data from the FBI to check to see if my name is on a watchlist, but also to confirm my identity as the real person applying for the green card.

And, in the end, two years of work and waiting came down to was a single checked box following my interview. “Approved.”

The final adjudication of an applicant’s green card. (Source: FOIA)

It’s no secret that you can FOIA for your green card file. Some are forced to file to obtain their case files in order to appeal their denied applications.

Runa Sandvik, a senior director of information security at The New York Times, obtained her border photographs from Homeland Security some years ago. Nowadays, it’s just as easy to request your files. Fill out one form and email it to the USCIS.

For me, next stop is citizenship. Just five more years to go.

Read more:

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Facebook taps Peggy Alford for its board, Reed Hastings and Erskine Bowles to depart

Facebook’s board is undergoing its biggest shakeup in memory. On Friday, the company announced that Peggy Alford would be nominated to join the company’s board of directors.

“Peggy is one of those rare people who’s an expert across many different areas — from business management to finance operations to product development,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said of the change. “I know she will have great ideas that help us address both the opportunities and challenges facing our company.”

Alford, currently Senior Vice President of Core Markets for PayPal, will become the first black woman to serve on Facebook’s board. She previously served as the Chief Financial Officer of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s massive charitable foundation.

Facebook announced some serious departures along with the news of Alford’s nomination. Longtime Facebook board members Reed Hastings and Erskine Bowles will leave the board, marking a major shakeup for the board’s composition. Both Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, and Bowles, a former Democratic political staffer, have served on the board since 2011. Both men have been critical of Facebook’s direction in recent years. Hastings in particular has clashed with fellow board member Peter Thiel over his support for the Trump administration.

Alford’s nomination will come to a vote at Facebook’s May 30 shareholder meeting.

“What excites me about the opportunity to join Facebook’s board is the company’s drive and desire to face hard issues head-on while continuing to improve on the amazing connection experiences they have built over the years,” Alford said of her nomination. “I look forward to working with Mark and the other directors as the company builds new and inspiring ways to help people connect and build community.”

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FAA proposal aims to ‘streamline’ regulations for future space launches

On Tuesday, the FAA and Department of Transportation published a proposal that greases the wheels for the commercial space industry, long bound by outdated regulations that were not created with a modern vision of private spaceflight in mind.

Last May, the Trump administration signaled its intention to ease commercial spaceflight regulations with Space Policy Directive 2. That directive called on Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to “release a new regulatory system for managing launch and re-entry activity.” That system, released in draft form today seeks to pave the way for an “industry that is undergoing incredible transformation with regulations that have failed to keep up.”

With less than a year of turnaround time, the FAA and DOT produced a document detailing “Streamlined Launch and Reentry Licensing Requirements” that will govern commercial space activity. As the document states:

“This rulemaking would streamline and increase flexibility in the FAA’s commercial space launch and reentry regulations, and remove obsolete requirements. This action would consolidate and revise multiple regulatory parts and apply a single set of licensing and safety regulations across several types of operations and vehicles. The proposed rule would describe the requirements to obtain a vehicle operator license, the safety requirements, and the terms and conditions of a vehicle operator license.”

“These rules will maintain safety, simplify the licensing process, enable innovation, and reduce costs to help our country remain a leader in commercial space launches,” Chao said of the 580 page document, embedded in full below.

The new regulatory guidance comes on the same day that Vice President Mike Pence declared that U.S. astronauts must return to the moon again within the next five years “by any means necessary.” That considerably hastened schedule would upend NASA’s existing timeline for a U.S. return to the moon at 2028 at the soonest.

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Mueller report sends a shocked internet into a hilarious frenzy

Robert Muller finally filed his report on Friday, and the internet had some takes.
Robert Muller finally filed his report on Friday, and the internet had some takes.
Image: REX/Shutterstock

It’s finally Mueller Time and no one knows what the fuck is happening. 

Special counsel Robert Mueller finally delivered his report to Attorney General William Barr on Friday. The report investigates Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and has been a point of contention in Trump’s two-year-long term. 

As soon as news broke late Friday afternoon, Twitter users went into full meltdown mode and began sharing their hot takes. 

While we’d all love to see what’s inside the report, don’t get your hopes up. Mueller’s report will not be released to the public, at least immediately. Barr, however, is slated to submit a summary of the report to Congress

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