Monthly Archives: June 2013

What’s Up June 17, 2013?

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· NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants –  National Security Agency discloses in secret Capitol Hill briefing that thousands of analysts can listen to domestic phone calls. That authorization appears to extend to e-mail and text messages too.

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NSA Director Keith Alexander says his agency’s analysts, which until recently included Edward Snowden among their ranks, take protecting “civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day.”

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”

There are serious “constitutional problems” with this approach, said Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has litigated warrantless wiretapping cases. “It epitomizes the problem of secret laws.”

The NSA yesterday declined to comment to CNET. A representative said Nadler was not immediately available. (This is unrelated to last week’s disclosure that the NSA is currently collecting records of the metadata of all domestic Verizon calls, but not the actual contents of the conversations.)

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A portion of the NSA’s mammoth data center in Bluffdale, Utah, scheduled to open this fall.

Earlier reports have indicated that the NSA has the ability to record nearly all domestic and international phone calls — in case an analyst needed to access the recordings in the future. A Wired magazine article last year disclosed that the NSA has established “listening posts” that allow the agency to collect and sift through billions of phone calls through a massive new data center in Utah, “whether they originate within the country or overseas.” That includes not just metadata, but also the contents of the communications.

William Binney, a former NSA technical director who helped to modernize the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network, told the Daily Caller this week that the NSA records the phone calls of 500,000 to 1 million people who are on its so-called target list, and perhaps even more. “They look through these phone numbers and they target those and that’s what they record,” Binney said.

Brewster Kahle, a computer engineer who founded the Internet Archive, has vast experience storing large amounts of data. He created a spreadsheet this week estimating that the cost to store all domestic phone calls a year in cloud storage for data-mining purposes would be about $27 million per year, not counting the cost of extra security for a top-secret program and security clearances for the people involved.

NSA’s annual budget is classified but is estimated to be around $10 billion.

Documents that came to light in an EFF lawsuit provide some insight into how the spy agency vacuums up data from telecommunications companies. Mark Klein, who worked as an AT&T technician for over 22 years, disclosed in 2006 (PDF) that he witnessed domestic voice and Internet traffic being surreptitiously “diverted” through a “splitter cabinet” to secure room 641A in one of the company’s San Francisco facilities. The room was accessible only to NSA-cleared technicians.

AT&T and other telecommunications companies that allow the NSA to tap into their fiber links receive absolute immunity from civil liability or criminal prosecution, thanks to a law that Congress enacted in 2008 and renewed in 2012. It’s a series of amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, also known as the FISA Amendments Act.

That law says surveillance may be authorized by the attorney general and director of national intelligence without prior approval by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as long as minimization requirements and general procedures blessed by the court are followed.

A requirement of the 2008 law is that the NSA “may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.” A possible interpretation of that language, some legal experts said, is that the agency may vacuum up everything it can domestically — on the theory that indiscriminate data acquisition was not intended to “target” a specific American citizen.

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Rep. Jerrold Nadler, an attorney and member of the House Judiciary committee, who said he was “startled” to learn that NSA analysts could eavesdrop on domestic calls without court authorization.

Rep. Nadler’s disclosure that NSA analysts can listen to calls without court orders came during a House Judiciary hearing on Thursday that included FBI director Robert Mueller as a witness.

Mueller initially sought to downplay concerns about NSA surveillance by claiming that, to listen to a phone call, the government would need to seek “a special, a particularized order from the FISA court directed at that particular phone of that particular individual.”

Is information about that procedure “classified in any way?” Nadler asked.

“I don’t think so,” Mueller replied.

“Then I can say the following,” Nadler said. “We heard precisely the opposite at the briefing the other day. We heard precisely that you could get the specific information from that telephone simply based on an analyst deciding that…In other words, what you just said is incorrect. So there’s a conflict.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the head of the Senate Intelligence committee, separately acknowledged this week that the agency’s analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, acknowledged this week that NSA analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”

Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell indicated during a House Intelligence hearing in 2007 that the NSA’s surveillance process involves “billions” of bulk communications being intercepted, analyzed, and incorporated into a database.

They can be accessed by an analyst who’s part of the NSA’s “workforce of thousands of people” who are “trained” annually in minimization procedures, he said. (McConnell, who had previously worked as the director of the NSA, is now vice chairman at Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s former employer.)

If it were “a U.S. person inside the United States, now that would stimulate the system to get a warrant,” McConnell told the committee. “And that is how the process would work. Now, if you have foreign intelligence data, you publish it [inside the federal government]. Because it has foreign intelligence value.”

McConnell said during a separate congressional appearance around the same time that he believed the president had the constitutional authority, no matter what the law actually says, to order domestic spying without warrants.

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN last month that, in national security investigations, the bureau can access records of a previously made telephone call. “All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not,” he said. Clemente added in an appearance the next day that, thanks to the “intelligence community” — an apparent reference to the NSA — “there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past.”

NSA Director Keith Alexander said this week that his agency’s analysts abide by the law: “They do this lawfully. They take compliance oversight, protecting civil liberties and privacy and the security of this nation to their heart every day.”

But that’s not always the case. A New York Times article in 2009 revealed the NSA engaged in significant and systemic “over collection” of Americans’ domestic communications that alarmed intelligence officials. The Justice Department said in a statement at the time that it “took comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance” with the law.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, says he was surprised to see the 2008 FISA Amendments Act be used to vacuum up information on American citizens. “Everyone who voted for the statute thought it was about international communications,” he said. Story Continued

· U.S. spy agency paper says fewer than 300 phone numbers closely scrutinized

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The U.S. government only searched for detailed information on calls involving fewer than 300 specific phone numbers among the millions of raw phone records collected by the National Security Agency in 2012, according to a government paper obtained by Reuters on Saturday.

The unclassified paper was circulated Saturday within the government by U.S. intelligence agencies and apparently is an attempt by spy agencies and the Obama administration to rebut accusations that it overreached in investigating potential militant plots.

The administration has said that even though the NSA, according to top-secret documents made public by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, collects massive amounts of data on message traffic from both U.S. based telephone and internet companies, such data collection is legal, subject to tight controls and does not intrude on the privacy of ordinary Americans.

The paper circulated on Saturday said that data from the NSA phone and email collections programs not only led U.S. investigators to the ringleader of a plot to attack New York’s subway system in 2009, but also to one of his co-conspirators in the United States.

The paper discusses an NSA program that collects “metadata” – raw information that does not identify individual telephone subscribers – from major U.S. phone companies showing all calls made by those companies’ subscribers to phones within the United States and overseas.

It also mentions another NSA program, called Prism in leaked documents, that collects from internet companies what the paper says are emails of foreigners who might be of interest to counterterrorism or counter-proliferation investigators.

Millions of phone records were collected in 2012, but the paper says U.S. authorities only looked in detail at the records linked to fewer than 300 phone numbers.

A person familiar with details of the program said the figure of fewer than 300 numbers applied to the entire mass of raw telephone “metadata” collected last year by the NSA from U.S. carriers – not just to Verizon, which is the only telephone company identified in a document disclosed by Snowden as providing such data to the NSA.

The paper repeats assertions by administration spokesmen that NSA email and telephone data-collection programs contributed to the disruption of “dozens of potential terrorist plots here in the homeland and in more than 20 countries around the world.”

The paper says NSA collection of email and telephone data helped U.S. authorities track down Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant who in 2009 was arrested for plotting to bomb the New York City subway system. Zazi pleaded guilty to terrorism charges.

NSA monitoring of the email of alleged al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan led them to an unnamed person in the United States who was making “efforts to procure explosive material,” according to the government paper. The NSA gave its raw information to the FBI, which identified Zazi, who was then living in Colorado. After tailing him to New York, the FBI arrested him.

By cross-checking Zazi’s phone number with its giant data base of raw phone traffic, the paper said more leads were generated for the FBI. One of those leads took authorities to Adis Medunjanin, who was convicted last year in the subway plot and sentenced to life in prison. Story Continued

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· AT&T to Load iPhones With Emergency Alerts From Obama – That You Can’t Switch Off

Just in case you want more Obama in your life…

AT&T is loading iPhones with emergency alerts from Barack Obama…

That you can’t switch off.

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AT&T has begun rolling out Wireless Emergency Alerts updates for iPhone 4S and 5, so you won’t be the last folks to know if the entire northern hemisphere is about to be covered in ice à la Day After Tomorrow.

You’ll receive a notification from the carrier when your update is ready, but only if you’re using iOS 6.1 or higher.

Once installed, AMBER and Emergency alerts are automatically sent to your phone unless you switch them off via Settings. However, should you be tired of Obama, just know that there’s no way to switch off Presidential alerts. Story Continued

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What’s Up June 14, 2013?

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· Coulter: If the GOP is this stupid, it deserves to die

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Democrats terrify Hispanics into thinking they’ll be lynched if they vote for Republicans, and then turn around and taunt Republicans for not winning a majority of the Hispanic vote.

This line of attack has real resonance with our stupidest Republicans. (Proposed Republican primary targets: Sens. Kelly Ayotte, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio.) Which explains why Republicans are devoting all their energy to slightly increasing their share of the Hispanic vote while alienating everyone else in America.

It must be fun for liberals to manipulate Republicans into focusing on hopeless causes. Why don’t Democrats waste their time trying to win the votes of gun owners?

As journalist Steve Sailer recently pointed out, the Hispanic vote terrifying Republicans isn’t that big. It actually declined in 2012. The Census Bureau finally released the real voter turnout numbers from the last election, and the Hispanic vote came in at only 8.4 percent of the electorate — not the 10 percent claimed by the pro-amnesty crowd.

The sleeping giant of the last election wasn’t Hispanics; it was elderly black women, terrified of media claims that Republicans were trying to suppress the black vote and determined to keep the first African-American president in the White House.

Contrary to everyone’s expectations, 10 percent more blacks voted in 2012 compared to 2008, even beating white voters, the usual turnout champions. Eligible black voters turned out at rate of 66.2 percent, compared to 64.1 percent of eligible white voters. Only 48 percent of all eligible Hispanic voters went to the polls.

No one saw this coming, which is probably why Gallup had Romney up by 5 points before Hurricane Sandy hit, and up by 1 point in its last pre-election poll after the hurricane.

Only two groups voted in larger numbers in 2012 compared to 2008: blacks aged 45-64, and blacks over the age of 65 — mostly elderly black women.

In raw numbers, nearly twice as many blacks voted as Hispanics, and nine times as many whites voted as Hispanics. (Ninety-eight million whites, 18 million blacks and 11 million Hispanics.)

So, naturally, the Republican Party’s entire battle plan going forward is to win slightly more votes from 8.4 percent of the electorate by giving them something they don’t want.

As Byron York has shown, even if Mitt Romney had won 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, he still would have lost. No Republican presidential candidate in at least 50 years has won even half of the Hispanic vote.

In the presidential election immediately after Reagan signed an amnesty bill in 1986, the Republican share of the Hispanic vote actually declined from 37 percent to 30 percent — and that was in a landslide election for the GOP. Combined, the two Bush presidents averaged 32.5 percent of the Hispanic vote — and they have Hispanics in their family Christmas cards.

John McCain, the nation’s leading amnesty proponent, won only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote, not much more than anti-amnesty Romney’s 27 percent.

Amnesty is a gift to employers, not employees.

The (pro-amnesty) Pew Research Hispanic Center has produced poll after poll showing that Hispanics don’t care about amnesty. In a poll last fall, Hispanic voters said they cared more about education, jobs and health care than immigration. They even care more about the federal budget deficit than immigration! (To put that in perspective, the next item on their list of concerns was “scratchy towels.”)

Also, note that Pew asked about “immigration,” not “amnesty.” Those Hispanics who said they cared about immigration might care about it the way I care about it — by supporting a fence and E-Verify.

Who convinced Republicans that Hispanic wages aren’t low enough and what they really need is an influx of low-wage workers competing for their jobs?

Maybe the greedy businessmen now running the Republican Party should talk with their Hispanic maids sometime. Ask Juanita if she’d like to have seven new immigrants competing with her for the opportunity to clean other people’s houses, so that her wages can be dropped from $20 an hour to $10 an hour.

A wise Latina, A.J. Delgado, recently explained on Mediaite.com why amnesty won’t win Republicans the Hispanic vote — even if they get credit for it. Her very first argument was: “Latinos will resent the added competition for jobs.”

But rich businessmen don’t care. Big Republican donors — and their campaign consultants — just want to make money. They don’t care about Hispanics, and they certainly don’t care what happens to the country. If the country is hurt, I don’t care, as long as I am doing better! This is the very definition of treason.

Hispanic voters are a small portion of the electorate. They don’t want amnesty, and they’re hopeless Democrats. So Republicans have decided the path to victory is to flood the country with lots more of them!

It’s as if Republicans convinced Democrats to fixate on banning birth control to win more pro-life voters. This would be great for Republicans because Democrats will never win a majority of pro-life voters, and about as many pro-lifers care about birth control as Hispanics care about amnesty.

But that still wouldn’t be as idiotic as what Republicans are doing because, according to Gallup, pro-lifers are nearly half of the electorate. Hispanics are only 8.4 percent of the electorate.

And it still wouldn’t be as stupid as the GOP pushing amnesty, because banning birth control wouldn’t create millions more voters who consistently vote against the Democrats.

Listening to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus burble a few weeks ago on “Fox News Sunday” about how amnesty is going to push the Republicans to new electoral heights, one is reminded of Democratic pollster Pat Caddell’s reason for refusing to become a Republican: No matter how enraged he gets at Democratic corruption, he says he can’t bear to join such a stupid party as the GOP. Story Continued

· Obamacare? We were just leaving

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Dozens of lawmakers and aides are so afraid that their health insurance premiums will skyrocket next year thanks to Obamacare that they are thinking about retiring early or just quitting.

The fear: Government-subsidized premiums will disappear at the end of the year under a provision in the health care law that nudges aides and lawmakers onto the government health care exchanges, which could make their benefits exorbitantly expensive.

Democratic and Republican leaders are taking the issue seriously, but first they need more specifics from the Office of Personnel Management on how the new rule should take effect — a decision that Capitol Hill sources expect by fall, at the latest. The administration has clammed up in advance of a ruling, sources on both sides of the aisle said.

If the issue isn’t resolved and massive numbers of lawmakers and aides bolt, many on Capitol Hill fear it could lead to a brain drain just as Congress tackles a slew of weighty issues — like fights over the Tax Code and immigration reform.

The problem is far more acute in the House, where lawmakers and aides are generally younger and less wealthy. Sources said several aides have already given lawmakers notice that they’ll be leaving over concerns about Obamacare. Republican and Democratic lawmakers said the chatter about retiring now, to remain on the current health care plan, is constant.

Rep. John Larson, a Connecticut Democrat in leadership when the law passed, said he thinks the problem will be resolved.

“If not, I think we should begin an immediate amicus brief to say, ‘Listen this is simply not fair to these employees,’” Larson told POLITICO. “They are federal employees.”

Republicans, never a fan of Democratic health care reform, are more vocal about the potential adverse effects of the provision.

“It’s a reality,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas). “This is the law. … It’s going to hinder our ability with retention of members, it’s going to hinder our ability for members to take care of their families.” He said his fellow lawmakers are having “quiet conversations” about the threat.

Alabama Rep. Jo Bonner said the threat is already real, especially for veteran lawmakers and staff. If they leave this year, they think they can continue to be covered under the current health care plan.

“I’ve lost one staffer who told me in confidence that he had been here for a number of years and the thought of losing the opportunity to keep his health insurance on Dec. 31 [forced him to leave]. He could keep what he had and on Jan. 1 he would go into that big black hole,” said Bonner, who had already planned his resignation from Congress. “And then I’ve got another staff member that I think it will be a factor as she’s contemplating her future.”

Lawmakers and aides on both sides of the aisle are acutely aware of the problems with the provision. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have discussed fixes to the provision. Boehner, according to House GOP sources, believes that Reid must take the lead on crafting a solution. Since Republicans opposed the bill, Boehner does not feel responsible to lead the effort to make changes.

The Affordable Care Act — signed into law in 2010 — contained a provision known as the Grassley Amendment, which said the government can only offer members of Congress and their staff plans that are “created” in the bill or “offered through an exchange” — unless the bill is amended.

Currently, aides and lawmakers receive their health care under the generous Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The government subsidizes upward of 75 percent of the premiums for the health insurance plans. In 2014, most Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers are expected to be put onto the exchanges, and there has been no guidance whether the government will subsidize those premiums. This is expected to cause a steep spike in health insurance costs. Story Continued

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· Justices rule human genes cannot be patentedSupreme Court decision is a win for women with genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancers, as well as geneticists and researchers who had criticized a Utah company’s exclusive patent.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that human genes cannot be patented, a decision with both immediate benefits for some breast and ovarian cancer patients and long-lasting repercussions for biotechnology research.

The decision represents a victory for cancer patients, researchers and geneticists who claimed that a single company’s patent raised costs, restricted research and sometimes forced women to have breasts or ovaries removed without sufficient facts or second opinions.

But the court held out a lifeline to Myriad Genetics, the company with an exclusive patent on the isolated form of genes that can foretell an increased genetic risk of cancer. The justices said it can patent a type of synthesized DNA that goes beyond extracting the genes from the body.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the decision for a unanimous court. “Myriad did not create anything,” Thomas said. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”

The decision will allow other scientists and laboratories to provide genetic diagnostic testing, now that the patent on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes themselves has been lifted. That should lead to lower costs and greater access.

“It is splendid news for patients, for physicians, for scientists and for common sense,” Mary-Claire King, the geneticist who in 1990 discovered the abnormality on chromosome 17 that proved to be the breast cancer gene, told USA TODAY. “The marketplace will now be open.”

Myriad emphasized the bright side of the decision for the company — that cDNA, which is not naturally occurring, remains patentable. As a result, it said, 24 patents containing more than 500 valid claims remain in effect.

“More than 250,000 patients rely upon our BRACAnalysis test annually, and we remain focused on saving and improving peoples’ lives and lowering overall health care costs,” said Peter Meldrum, the company’s president and CEO.

THOUSANDS OF PATENTS INVALIDATED

The complex scientific case was perhaps the most important on the high court’s calendar other than its more celebrated cases involving same-sex marriage, voting rights and affirmative action.

And unlike those cases, which are expected to divide the court sharply along ideological lines, the controversial concept of gene patenting gave all nine justices something to agree on.

The decision was based on past patent cases before the high court in which the justices ruled that forces of nature, as opposed to products of invention, are not patent-eligible.

“Jonas Salk once said that the polio vaccine could not be patented — it belonged to the public,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., a microbiologist and leader on genetic issues. “I am pleased the Supreme Court has applied this same standard to all genetic material.”

Since 1984, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted more than 40,000 patents tied to genetic material. About one-fourth of the 22,000 human genes have been patented — patents that are now invalidated. That could open up competition in genetic testing for diseases ranging from Duchenne muscular dystrophy to inheritable heart arrhythmia.

Still, the bulk of the biotechnology industry’s products are not affected by the ruling, said Lawrence Brody of the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Armed with its patents, Myriad has tested more than 1 million women since the late 1990s for mutations that often lead to breast and ovarian cancer. Most women who want testing must pay its price — $3,340 for the breast cancer analysis and $700 for an additional test that picks up a genetic link in about 10% of women who test negative the first time. Myriad officials say about 95% of its patients receive insurance coverage, often without co-payments, so that most patients pay only about $100.

Myriad and a broad array of industry trade groups argued that without patent protection, research and development would dry up. Doctors, geneticists, women’s health groups and cancer patients contended that competition would lower prices, improve outcomes and lead to more discoveries.

“The court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, which filed the original lawsuit. “Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them.

“Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing, and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued,” Park said.

COST OF TESTING SLASHED BY 75 PERCENT

Harry Ostrer, a medical geneticist who became the last remaining plaintiff in the case, heralded the decision as “thrilling” and predicted it would slash the cost of breast and ovarian cancer testing for women with a genetic risk from $4,000 to less than $1,000. That will make it more available to lower-income women and those without quality health insurance, he said.

As if to make Ostrer a prophet, by late afternoon a Houston-based genetics testing company called DNATraits, a division of Gene by Gene, said it would offer the test for $995.

Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, hailed the decision as one that put “patients’ health before corporate profits.”

“This ruling makes a huge and immediate difference for women with a known or suspected inherited risk of breast cancer,” Jaggar said. “And it is a tremendous victory for all people everywhere. The Supreme Court has taken a significant stand to limit the rights of companies to own human genes by striking down Myriad’s monopoly.”

The two sides had battled to a draw in lower courts: A federal district court in New York sided with the patent’s challengers, while a divided court of appeals that handles patent cases ruled for the company.

During oral argument in April, the court was presented with opposite interpretations of Myriad’s contribution to genetic research. Christopher Hansen, the lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union representing the patent’s challengers, said Myriad had invented “nothing.” Myriad’s attorney, Gregory Castanias, said the company created “a new molecule that had never been known to the world.”

The justices generally agreed that Myriad deserved credit for its process of isolating the gene and its use — but not for the gene itself. “In isolation, it has no value,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “It’s just nature sitting there.”

Thomas’ decision was slightly more diplomatic. “We merely hold that genes and the information they encode are not patent-eligible … simply because they have been isolated from the surrounding genetic material,” he said.

The compromise that emerged Thursday was evident during that 65-minute debate. Several of the more conservative justices said a complete denial of patent rights could jeopardize investments by other biotechnology companies — and that could limit progress on a range of research, from agriculture to the environment.

University of Michigan professor Shobita Parthasarathy said that compromise is significant, since scientists still must contend with gene patents. “This will likely continue to have a deleterious effect on genetics research and access to health care in the United States,” she said. Story Continued

· AILES ON BENGHAZI: WHERE WAS OUR COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF?

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Fox News chairman Roger Ailes said on Wednesday that he would like to know what the country’s Commander-in-Chief was doing on the night terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last September.

“I have come to the conclusion that even I don’t care what the President of the United States was doing that night,” Ailes said in his remarks while accepting the prestigious Bradley Award. “However, I would like to know what the Commander-in-Chief was doing that night.”

Ailes noted Fox News Channel finished its 137th consecutive month in first place in cable news and said part of the reason for the network’s success is that it relentlessly covers news stories like Benghazi “we know others will not.”

“We covered Benghazi when four Americans were killed, even though no other network would touch the story,” Ailes said. “It’s an important story because it involves two hundred years of our military ethos, which is: If we ask you to go out in the middle of the night and risk your life for America, we promise that we will backstop you. And, try to get you out if it is humanly possible. In Benghazi we did not do that.”

Ailes and Fox News were ultimately vindicated when evidence came to light that the Benghazi attacks did not occur due to a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both implied that an anti-Islam video was responsible for the attacks even though evidence now suggests they both clearly knew that was not the case.

Four Americans lost lives last September due to a terrorist attack. The Obama administration, which was in an election year, immediately altered talking points and changed its story about when it knew the attacks may have been related to terror.

Obama’s schedule on the night of the attacks has not been released, and questions remain about whether he gave the “stand down” order to prevent troops from aiding Americans who were under attack, or if he was even briefed about the attacks in real time. Obama promptly attended a fundraiser and campaign events in Las Vegas the day after the attacks.

The Bradley Foundation awarded Ailes the Bradley Award, which honors visionaries like Ailes “who shape America” before a packed audience at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Ailes said he would match the $250,000 prize awarded to him and donate it to charity.

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, and National Affairs founding editor Yuval Levin also were honored this year. Past honorees include Jeb Bush, Thomas Sowell, and Victor Davis Hanson. Story Continued

· The Obama Family Trip to Africa to Cost $60 to $100 MillionPresident Obama and his family will be going to Africa later this month. But the trip won’t be cheap; it’s expected to cost American taxpayers $60 to $100 million, according to the Washington Post.

“When President Obama makes his first extended trip to sub-Saharan Africa later this month, the federal agencies charged with keeping him safe won’t be taking any chances. Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of emergency,” reports the Post.

“Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bullet-proof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.

“The extraordinary security provisions — which will cost the government tens of millions of dollars — are outlined in a confidential internal planning document obtained by The Washington Post. While the preparations appear to be in line with similar travels in the past, the document offers an unusual glimpse into the colossal efforts to protect the U.S. commander-in-chief on trips abroad.”

After the paper questioned the costs of a planned family safari, the White House nixed the plan. “The president and first lady had also planned to take a Tanzanian safari as part of the trip, which would have required the president’s special counter-assault team to carry sniper rifles with high-caliber rounds that could neutralize cheetahs, lions or other animals if they became a threat, according to the planning document. But the White House canceled the safari on Wednesday following inquiries from The Washington Post about the trip’s purpose and expense, according to a person familiar with the decision.”

The paper adds, “Obama’s trip could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years, according to one person familiar with the journey who was not authorized to speak for attribution. The Secret Service planning document, which was provided to The Post by a person who is concerned about the amount of resources necessary for the trip, does not specify costs.” Story Continued

· DUKE STUDENT URGES TRUSTEE NOT TO SELL TRIBUNE’S NEWSPAPERS TO KOCH BROTHERSDuke University student Lucas Spangher had a 40-minute phone conversation with Oaktree Capital Management CEO and Tribune chairman Bruce Karsh – a Duke grad and trustee – about the possible sale of Tribune’s newspapers to the Koch brothers.

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“The conversation was fairly unproductive or negative,” says Spangher, a former Duke Chronicle columnist whose interests include green energy technology. “His primary purpose for calling me [back] was to explain his side of the story rather than listening to my arguments.”

The Duke newspaper reports:

Spangher is personally opposed to the sale because the Koch brothers have given money to support scientific studies that will deny climate change. A group established by the brothers—The Koch Foundation—has been a significant funder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, which aims to address criticism of the planet’s temperature record.

Spangher says he told Karsh that “students are watching — Duke is aware of the situation.” He adds: “I appreciate the things he’s done for Duke, but if this goes down, there could be student action.” Story Continued

· Steven Spielberg Predicts ‘Implosion’ of Film Industry

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George Lucas echoed Spielberg’s sentiments at an event touting the opening of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts building, saying big changes are in store.

Steven Spielberg on Wednesday predicted an “implosion” in the film industry is inevitable, whereby a half dozen or so $250 million movies flop at the box office and alter the industry forever. What comes next — or even before then — will be price variances at movie theaters, where “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next Iron Man, you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln.” He also said that Lincoln came “this close” to being an HBO movie instead of a theatrical release.

Cannes: Oscar Rivals Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee Bury Hatchet for Jury Duty

George Lucas agreed that massive changes are afoot, including film exhibition morphing somewhat into a Broadway play model, whereby fewer movies are released, they stay in theaters for a year and ticket prices are much higher. His prediction prompted Spielberg to recall that his 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial stayed in theaters for a year and four months.

The two legendary filmmakers, along with CNBC anchor Julia Boorstin and Microsoft president of interactive entertainment business Don Mattrick, were speaking at the University of Southern California as part of the festivities surrounding the official opening of the Interactive Media Building, three stories high and part of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Lucas and Spielberg told USC students that they are learning about the industry at an extraordinary time of upheaval, where even proven talents find it difficult to get movies into theaters. Some ideas from young filmmakers “are too fringe-y for the movies,” Spielberg said. “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Lucas lamented the high cost of marketing movies and the urge to make them for the masses while ignoring niche audiences. He called cable television “much more adventurous” than film nowadays.

“We’re talking Lincoln and Red Tails — we barely got them into theaters. You’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theater,” Lucas said. “I got more people into Lincoln than you got into Red Tails,” Spielberg joked.

Spielberg added that he had to co-own his own studio in order to get Lincoln into theaters.

“The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller,” Lucas said.

Mattrick and Spielberg also praised Netflix, prompting Boorstin to ask Spielberg if he planned to make original content for the Internet streamer. “I have nothing to announce,” said the director.

Lucas and Spielberg also spoke of vast differences between filmmaking and video games because the latter hasn’t been able to tell stories and make consumers care about the characters. Which isn’t to say the two worlds aren’t connected. Spielberg, in fact, has teamed with Microsoft to make a “TV” show for Xbox 360 based on the game Halo and he is making a movie based on the Electronic Arts game Need for Speed. Story Continued

· Obama administration: Syrian regime used chemical weapons against oppositionThe United States and its allies have concluded that the government of Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons in Syria’s protracted civil war, leading President Barack Obama to broaden aid — including military support — to opposition groups.

The intelligence community concluded with “high confidence” that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons — including the nerve agent sarin — “on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.”

“The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete,” said Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes.

NBC’s Kristen Welker reports that Bashir Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons in Syria. The White House announced plans to increase U.S. aid to Syrian rebels.

The use of chemical weapons crosses the so-called “red line” first established by Obama last year, which he said would prompt the administration to alter its posture. The administration said on Thursday that Obama had decided to broaden support to the Supreme Military Council, a principal opposition group in Syria, and Rhodes said that assistance “will include military support.”

Rhodes declined to specify what kind of military support the United States would provide to the SMC, but noted that Obama had not decided to establish a no-fly zone, as some Republicans have demanded.

Rhodes cited the “great and open-ended cost” associated with establishing a partial or complete no-fly zone over Syria, seeming to suggest that the prospect of such action, for now, was unlikely.

Obama first laid out his “red line” in August of last year.

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” Obama told reporters at that time. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

The president noted earlier this year that there had been preliminary indications of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. But he resisted taking action until he said the intelligence community could conclude with certainty that such weapons had actually been used by Assad.

To that end, Rhodes said that the United States and its allies had begun acting in April to assist the SMC by providing increased support in response to Assad crossing a “red line.”

But Rhodes also noted that the United States had prepared for “multiple contingencies” — military, diplomatic, or economic — to help put pressure on the Assad government.

“We’re going to make decisions about further actions on our own timeline,” he said, later adding: “We’re looking at a wide range of types of support we could provide.”

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President Barack Obama speaks immigration reform, Tuesday, June 11, 2013, in the East Room of the White House.

The topic of Syria is sure to loom large next week as the leaders of the world’s largest economies gather for the G8 conference in Ireland.

The Obama administration had come under pressure from hawkish Republicans in Congress to take a more active role in ousting the Assad regime, either by directly arming rebels, or by enforcing a partial or complete no-fly zone in Syria.

“I applaud the president’s decision and I appreciate it,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one such hawk, said Thursday on the Senate floor.

“But the president of the United States had better understand that just supplying weapons is not going to change the equation on the ground [or] the balance of power. These people – the Free Syrian Army – need weapons, heavy weapons to counter tanks and aircraft, they need a no-fly zone, and Bashar Assad’s air assets have to be taken out and neutralized. We can do that without risking a single American airplane.”

Said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: “It is long past time to bring the Assad regime’s bloodshed in Syria to an end. As President Obama examines his options, it is our hope he will properly consult with Congress before taking any action.”

But there are delicate considerations involved in the administration’s decision to become more involved. Namely, the U.S. is worried about navigating a thorny relationship with Russia, which has been resistant to apply much pressure to the Assad regime.

Some U.S. officials have also expressed concern that arms supplied to rebels could fall into the hands of fighters who could eventually pivot to use those very arms against U.S. interests or allies.

And then there is the issue of scarce political appetite among most Americans for increased military involvement in Syria following more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Just 15 percent of Americans said in June’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that they favor U.S. military action in Syria; only 11 percent want to provide arms to the opposition. A plurality of respondents — 42 percent — prefer to provide only humanitarian assistance, and 24 percent believe the U.S. shouldn’t take any action. Story Continued

· U.S.: Syria used chemical weapons, crossing “red line”The Obama administration has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government used chemical weapons against the rebels seeking to overthrow him and, in a major policy shift, President Obama has decided to supply military support to the rebels, the White House announced Thursday.

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“The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition that will involve providing direct support to the [Supreme Military Council]. That includes military support,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.

Syria: The next front in the war on terror?

Focus on political resolution in Syria, says Sen. Reed

President Obama has repeatedly said that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that, if crossed, would be a “game changer” for more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

“The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States,” said Rhodes in a separate written statement.

“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” he continued.

In terms of further response, Rhodes said, “we will make decisions on our own timeline” and that Congress and the international community would be consulted. Mr. Obama is heading to Northern Ireland Sunday for a meeting of the G8 group of nations; Rhodes indicated the president will consult with leaders of those countries.

“Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity,” Rhodes said.

To date, the U.S. policy on Syria has primarily focused on offering the rebels nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who met with the rebels last month and has been a vocal critic of the president’s Syria policy said in a joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.: “We appreciate the President’s finding that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on several occasions. We also agree with the President that this fact must affect U.S. policy toward Syria. The President’s red line has been crossed. U.S. credibility is on the line. Now is not the time to merely take the next incremental step. Now is the time for more decisive actions.”

“A decision to provide lethal assistance, especially ammunition and heavy weapons, to opposition forces in Syria is long overdue, and we hope the President will take this urgently needed step” they added. Former President Bill Clinton this week, at a private event with McCain, also ratcheted up pressure for the White House to increase its support to the rebels.

McCain: Syrian rebels don’t understand why we won’t help

Syria death toll tops 92,000, U.N. says

However, Rhodes would not detail the type of military support the administration intends on providing. He said helping the opposition improve their effectiveness as a fighting force means helping with “nonlethal assistance” such as communications equipment and transportation. “These are things that allow them to cohere as a unit,” he said.

He added, meanwhile, that no decision has been made about enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria. “A no-fly zone… would carry with it open-ended costs for the international community,” Rhodes said. “Furthermore, there’s not even a clear guarantee that it would dramatically improve the situation on the ground.” Story Continued

· Whistleblower Edward Snowden claims, NSA has been hacking China since 2009

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Edward Snowden, the self-confessed NSA Whistleblower of secret surveillance documents, claimed Wednesday that the United States intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks around the world, especially Chinese targets since 2009.

Snowden alleged that the Prism program, which collects information on users of numerous technological services such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, targeted universities, businesses and public officials throughout mainland China and Hong Kong.

Out of More than 61,000 targets of the National Security Agency, there are thousands of computers in China which U.S. officials have increasingly criticized as the source of thousands of attacks on U.S. military and commercial networks. China has denied such attacks.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden claims, NSA has been hacking China since 2009 “We hack network backbones like huge Internet routers, basically that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” he revealed.

But why Snowden leaking all this information? He gave the reasons that this new information is to show the “hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries.”

Why Snowden Choose Hong Kong? “People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstood my intentions,” he said “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.” The US is exerting bullying diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him, but according to him Hong Kong’s rule of law will protect him from the US.

From last week, whole Internet is talking about NSA, PRISM and Edward Snowden and Snowden having a long list of supporters such as WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Anonymous and WE. More than 64,000 of Snowden’s supporters have signed a petition calling for his pardon in the United States while many have donated money to a fund to help him.

Several nations have offered Snowden asylum should he seek it, also Russia. A rally is being organized Saturday to support the 29-year-old former government contractor, who has been in the city since May 20. Story Continued

· U.S. Military Proposal to Arm Rebels Includes No-Fly Zone in SyriaA U.S. military proposal for arming Syrian rebels also calls for a limited no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced from Jordanian territory to protect Syrian refugees and rebels who would train there, according to U.S. officials.

Asked by the White House to develop options for Syria, military planners have said that creating an area to train and equip rebel forces would require keeping Syrian aircraft well away from the Jordanian border.

To do that, the military envisages creating a no-fly zone stretching up to 25 miles into Syria which would be enforced using aircraft flown from Jordanian bases and flying inside the kingdom, according to U.S. officials.

The White House is currently considering proposals to arm the rebels in Jordan, according to U.S. officials. White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment on the details of those deliberations.

The limited no-fly zone wouldn’t require the destruction of Syrian antiaircraft batteries, U.S. officials said.

Officials said the White House could decide to authorize the U.S. to arm and train rebels in Jordan without authorizing the no-fly zone recommended by military planners. A White House announcement could come soon, officials said.

Jordan has been inundated by a flood of refugees that Jordanian and U.S. officials say is a growing threat to the kingdom, a key U.S. ally in the region. The U.S. has already moved Patriot air defense batteries and F-16 fighter planes to Jordan, which could be integral to any no-fly zone if President Barack Obama approves the military proposal.

Proponents of the proposal say a no-fly zone could be imposed without a U.N. Security Council resolution, since the U.S. would not regularly enter Syrian airspace and wouldn’t hold Syrian territory.

U.S. planes have air-to-air missiles that could destroy Syrian planes from long ranges. But officials said that aircraft may be required to enter Syrian air space if threatened by advancing Syrian planes. Such an incursion by the U.S., if it were to happen, could be justified as self-defense, officials say.

Military planners believe it would be dangerous to set up a major operation inside Jordan to arm the rebels without creating a no-fly zone to hold Syrian aircraft back.

“Unless you have a good buffer zone inside Syria, you risk too much,” said a U.S. official briefed on the military proposal.

Creating even a limited buffer zone that Syrian airplanes cannot enter will be expensive, costing an estimated $50 million a day. Still, officials say that a full no-fly zone covering all of Syria would cost far more money. Officials said the U.S. hopes the operation would be conducted with other allies, who could help pay for the cost of a no-fly zone.

The U.S. planes involved in the no-fly zone would fly from Jordan and possibly from Navy ships in the Mediterranean or Red Sea. Jordan has offered the U.S. and its allies the use of its military bases to protect a safe zone inside the kingdom, according to U.S. officials. Jordanian officials in Washington had no immediate comment.

U.S. military officials believe it will take about a month to get such a limited no fly zone up and running, officials say. Officials say there may be a limited window to do so. If Russia decides to provide advanced, long-range S-300 air defense weapons to Syria, it would make such a limited no-fly zone far more risky for U.S. pilots. Story Continued

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What’s Up June 12, 2013?

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· Plan B: Obama allows morning-after pill for under-17s President’s reversal means emergency contraception drug will be available to women of all ages without a prescription

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The Obama administration will stop trying to limit sales of emergency contraception pills, making the morning-after pill available to women of all ages without a prescription.

The US justice department said in a letter on Monday that it planned to comply with a court’s ruling to allow unrestricted sales of Plan B One-Step and that it would withdraw its appeal on the matter.

The move is the latest in a lengthy legal fight over the morning-after pill, which was until recently only available without a prescription to women 17 and older who presented proof of age at a pharmacist’s counter.

Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the FDA said the limit unfairly kept women and girls from accessing the drug, which is most effective when taken within 72 hours of intercourse.

On 5 April US district Judge Edward Korman said the US Food and Drug Administration had been “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” in rejecting a citizen petition to make emergency contraception available over the counter to girls of all ages.

Korman ordered the FDA to make emergency contraception available without age and point-of-sale restrictions but said the agency could lift restrictions on only the one-pill version of the drug, Plan B One-Step, if the FDA believed there was a significant difference between that and the two-pill version.

The justice department will not seek to lift restrictions on the two-pill Plan B product, which it says is significantly different from the one-pill version.

The FDA in April granted a petition from Plan B One-Step’s maker, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, to make the pill available without a prescription to girls as young as 15.

The FDA said it would lift the remaining age restriction on Plan B One-Step once it received the appropriate application from Teva. Teva declined to comment.

Annie Tummino, lead plaintiff and co-ordinator of the National Women’s Liberation, said: “This decision by the administration affirms what feminists have been fighting for all along: the morning-after pill should be available to females of all ages, on the shelf at any convenience store, just like aspirin or condoms.”

Plan B has been a political lightning rod. In 2011, after the FDA decided to approve over-the-counter sales with no age limits, US health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius had ordered it to reverse course, barring girls under 17 from buying the pills without a prescription.

Barack Obama supported that restriction, invoking his daughters. But the timing, 11 months ahead of the presidential election, sparked criticism that he was trying to placate social conservatives. Story Continued

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· Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror TacticPublic Says Investigate Terrorism, Even If It Intrudes on Privacy

A majority of Americans – 56% – say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority – 41% – say it is unacceptable. And while the public is more evenly divided over the government’s monitoring of email and other online activities to prevent possible terrorism, these views are largely unchanged since 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, conducted June 6-9 among 1,004 adults, finds no indications that last week’s revelations of the government’s collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy.

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Currently 62% say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy. Just 34% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.

These opinions have changed little since an ABC News/Washington Post survey in January 2006. Currently, there are only modest partisan differences in these opinions: 69% of Democrats say it is more important for the government to investigate terrorist threats, even at the expense of personal privacy, as do 62% of Republicans and 59% of independents.

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However, while six-in-ten or more in older age groups say it is more important to investigate terrorism even if it intrudes on privacy, young people are divided: 51% say investigating terrorism is more important while 45% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible threats.

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The survey finds that while there are apparent differences between the NSA surveillance programs under the Bush and Obama administrations, overall public reactions to both incidents are similar. Currently, 56% say it is acceptable that the NSA “has been getting secret court orders to track telephone calls of millions of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism.”

In January 2006, a few weeks after initial new reports of the Bush administration’s surveillance program, 51% said it was acceptable for the NSA to investigate “people suspected of involvement with terrorism by secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails between some people in the United States and other countries, without first getting court approval to do so.”

However, Republicans and Democrats have had very different views of the two operations. Today, only about half of Republicans (52%) say it is acceptable for the NSA to obtain court orders to track phone call records of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism. In January 2006, fully 75% of Republicans said it was acceptable for the NSA to investigate suspected terrorists by listening in on phone calls and reading emails without court approval.

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Democrats now view the NSA’s phone surveillance as acceptable by 64% to 34%. In January 2006, by a similar margin (61% to 36%), Democrats said it was unacceptable for the NSA to scrutinize phone calls and emails of suspected terrorists.

Public Divided Over Internet Monitoring

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The public is divided over the government’s monitoring of internet activity in order to prevent possible terrorism: 45% say the government should be able to “monitor everyone’s email and other online activities if officials say this might prevent future terrorist attacks.” About as many (52%) say the government should not able to do this.

These views are little changed from a July 2002 Pew Research Center survey. At that time, 45% said the government should be able to monitor everyone’s internet activity if the government said it would prevent future attacks; 47% said it should not.

Young Differ on Principle, but Less on Practice

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Younger Americans are more likely than older age groups to prioritize protecting personal privacy over terrorism investigations. Among people ages 18-29, 45% say it is more important for the federal government NOT to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats. That view falls to 35% among those ages 30-49 and just 27% among those ages 50 and older.

There are smaller age differences when it comes to the specific policies in the news this week. When it comes to whether the NSA tracking of phone records is acceptable, nearly the same share of 18-to-29 year-olds (55%) say the program is acceptable as those ages 65 and older (61%). Younger Americans are as divided as the nation overall about whether the government should or should not monitor email and online activities in the interest of preventing terrorism.

One-in-Four Following NSA News ‘Very Closely’

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Roughly a quarter (27%) of Americans say they are following news about the government collecting Verizon phone records very closely. This is a relatively modest level of public interest. Only another 21% say they are following this fairly closely, while about half say they are following not too (17%) or not at all (35%) closely.

Interest in reports about the government tracking of e-mail and online activities is almost identical: 26% say they are following this story very closely, 33% not closely at all.

As with most news stories, interest is far higher among older Americans than the young: one-in-three (33%) Americans ages 50-and-older are following news about the government tracking phone records very closely. Among those ages 18-29, just 12% are following very closely, while 56% say they are not following closely at all.

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Attention to these stories is higher among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents: 32% are following reports about the government tracking phone records very closely, compared with 24% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. The partisan gap in interest is almost identical when it comes to reports about government collecting email and other online information: 30% of Republicans and Republican-leaners are following very closely compared with 20% of Democrats and Democratic-leaners.

Overall, those who disagree with the government’s data monitoring are following the reports somewhat more closely than those who support them. Among those who find the government’s tracking of phone records to be unacceptable, 31% are following the story very closely, compared with 21% among those who say it is acceptable. Similarly with respect to reports about government monitoring of email and online activities, 28% of those who say this should not be done are following the news very closely, compared with 23% of those who approve of the practice. Story Continued

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· Hillary’s sorry state of affairsProbes into her department’s sex scandals were quashed, memo says.

WASHINGTON — A State Department whistleblower has accused high-ranking staff of a massive cover-up — including keeping a lid on findings that members of then-Secretary Hillary Clinton’s security detail and the Belgian ambassador solicited prostitutes.

A chief investigator for the agency’s inspector general wrote a memo outlining eight cases that were derailed by senior officials, including one instance of interference by Clinton’s chief of staff, Cheryl Mills.

Any mention of the cases was removed from an IG report about problems within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), which provides protection and investigates crimes involving any State Department workers overseas.

US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, with his wife in Brussels, was investigated over claims he solicited prostitutes.

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“It’s a cover-up,” declared Cary Schulman, a lawyer representing the whistleblower, former State Department IG senior investigator Aurelia Fedenisn.“The whole agency is impaired.

“Undue influence . . . is coming from political appointees. It’s coming from above the criminal- investigation unit,” added Schulman, whose client provided the document with the revelations.

Some of the revelations were first reported by CBS News.

Among the bombshell findings:

* A DS agent was called off a case against US Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman over claims that he solicited prostitutes, including minors.

“The agent began his investigation and had determined that the ambassador routinely ditched his protective security detail in order to solicit sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children,” says the memo.

“The ambassador’s protective detail and the embassy’s surveillance detection team . . . were well aware of the behavior.”

Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy ordered the investigation ceased, and the ambassador remains in place, according to the memo.

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Gutman was a big Democratic donor before taking the post, having raised $500,000 for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and helping finance his inaugural.

* At least seven agents in Clinton’s security detail hired prostitutes while traveling with her in various countries, including Russia and Colombia.

Investigators called the use of prostitutes by Clinton’s security agents “endemic.”

The liaisons with prostitutes allegedly occurred in the same hotel where Clinton slept, according to sources familiar with the incident.

But the agents involved got little more than a wrist-slap. Three were removed from the security detail, given one-day suspensions and reassigned.

“No further investigations have occurred regarding the remaining four, despite the possibility of counterintelligence issues,” says the memo.

According to the memo, members of the Special Investigations Division (SID) approached the agent who was probing “and reportedly told him to shut down the four investigations.”

The incident in Colombia occurred prior to the scandal involving President Obama’s Secret Service detail in Cartagena, Colombia, but the State Department’s misconduct did not come to light until now.

The memo references a “rumor” that after the Secret Service hooker scandal broke, Clinton asked the agent-in-charge of her security detail whether any “similar activities” had happened. “The response was: ‘No,’ ” according to the memo.

* The case in which Clinton enforcer Mills allegedly intervened centered upon Brett McGurk, Obama’s nominee to be US ambassador to Iraq.

McGurk’s expected nomination fell apart after a computer hack exposed his racy e-mails and an extramarital affair with Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon.

According to the memo, the SID “never interviewed McGurk, allegedly because Cheryl Mills from the Secretary’s office interceded.”

“Without that interview, SID has been unable to close the case,” the memo concludes.

The memo cites an e-mail from Mills showing her agreeing to a course of action, “but then reneging and advising McGurk to withdraw his name from consideration for the ambassadorship.”

McGurk withdrew right before consideration by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

* The document states that a security officer stationed in Beirut, Chuck Lisenbee, allegedly engaged in sexual assaults against local guards.

A diplomatic security higher-up called the investigation a “witch hunt” and gave agents only three days to look into the charge, the memo says.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the agency was conducting internal investigations of all the cases that have come to light, and wouldn’t ignore serious charges against top officials.

“We take allegations of misconduct seriously and we investigate thoroughly,” she said.

“The notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct in a case, in any case is preposterous.

“And we’ve put individuals behind bars for criminal behavior,” she said.

“Ambassadors would be no exception.”

Psaki said State has brought in outside officials with law-enforcement backgrounds to assist in the investigation. The agency that conducts internal investigations is bringing in “experienced law-enforcement officers” to conduct a review, she said.

Officials at The State Department declined to comment on the specific allegations.

Gutman said today in a statement, “I am angered and saddened by the baseless allegations that have appeared in the press and to watch the four years I have proudly served in Belgium smeared is devastating.

“I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity.”

Still, even the IG, which is supposed to be independent, bowed to pressure to remove mention of these embarrassing cases, according to internal documents.

At a December 2012 meeting to prepare the report, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell said he was “stunned” by the findings, and requested that the cases should be omitted.

“He proposed that the subject ‘should be withheld’ from the inspection report until INV’s process determines if ‘there is something there,’” according to notes from the meeting.

“Boswell said putting the subject in the report would ‘generally damage [Department of State],’ would ‘probably damage the Department,’ and would be used by ‘every defense lawyer around,’” according to the notes.

They further said that he wanted to wait to see if something “came of it.”

Fedenisn, the whistleblower, did not take the notes but was charged with keeping them, according to her lawyer.

The draft report marked “Sensitive but Unclassified,” cites several examples of undue influence “from the top floor of the department, raising serious concerns about the quality and integrity” of investigations.

That statement was removed from the final report issued March 15.

The final report also removed mention of “an ambassador accused of pedophilia and another such senior official had [Diplomatic Security] stop an investigation of an ambassador designate.”

“Hindering such cases can result in counterintelligence vulnerabilities and can allow exploitive criminals to continue their activities,” said the draft report.

“Moreover, the interventions frustrate, even demoralize,” dedicated agents, it went on.

Fedenisn’s lawyer, Schulman, said that his client came forward after a long career as a State Department special agent and IG investigator because she was “thrust into this.”

“She did it because it was the right thing to do,” he said. “Aurelia courageously has come forward with nothing to gain at all . . . Nobody gives you a prize for this.”

He said that Fedenisn, who retired in December, has been threatened by State Department officials with criminal charges.

“She wants to go back to her life,” said Schulman. “She’s not looking for fame.” Story Continued

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· Franken ‘Very Well Aware Of’ NSA Tracking Phone Records –  ST. PAUL (WCCO) — US Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., says he’s not surprised by revelations that federal security agencies collect phone and computer data on American citizens.

The National Security Agency secretly gathered personal data on Americans since 2007, including their internet use and cell phone service. It’s something Franken says he “was very well aware of.”

“I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people,” Franken said.

Franken, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he got secret security briefings on the program and he says it prevented unspecified terrorist acts.

“I have a high level of confidence that this is used to protect us and I know that it has been successful in preventing terrorism,” Franken said.

Franken’s comments come one day after a former U.S. government intelligence worker, named Edward Snowden, identified himself as the person responsible for leaking documents about the program to a British Newspaper.

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison told ABC News he has deep concerns and that very few members of Congress knew the extent of the secret surveillance.

“We need to peel it back and we need to make sure congress is considering the constitution when we write these laws,” Ellison said.

But Franken defends the secrecy of the program, saying the government is trying to strike a delicate balance between public right to safety and the public right to privacy.

“There are certain things that are appropriate for me to know that is not appropriate for the bad guys to know,” Franken said.

Franken said he believes it’s proper for the Justice Department to investigate the government worker who leaked the existence of the NSA program.

However, Franken did not answer our question on whether he thought the leaker should be extradited from Hong Kong and prosecuted. Story Continued

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· US: No plans to end broad surveillance program WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration considered whether to charge a government contractor with leaking classified surveillance secrets while it defended the broad U.S. spy program that it says keeps America safe from terrorists.

Facing a global uproar over the programs that track phone and Internet messages around the world, the Justice Department continued to investigate whether the disclosures of Edward Snowden, 29, an employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, were criminal.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament planned to debate the spy programs Tuesday and whether they have violated local privacy protections. EU officials in Brussels pledged to seek answers from U.S. diplomats at a trans-Atlantic ministerial meeting in Dublin later this week.

The global scrutiny comes after revelations from Snowden, who has chosen to reveal his identity. Snowden has fled to Hong Kong in hopes of escaping criminal charges as lawmakers including Senate intelligence chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California accuse him of committing an “act of treason” that should be prosecuted.

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(AP) In this June 6, 2013 file photo National Security Agency plaques are seen at the compound.

Officials in Germany and the European Union issued calm but firm complaints Monday over two National Security Agency programs that target suspicious foreign messages – potentially including phone numbers, email, images, video and other online communications transmitted through U.S. providers. The chief British diplomat felt it necessary to try to assure Parliament that the spy programs do not encroach on U.K. privacy laws.

And in Washington, members of Congress said they would take a new look at potential ways to keep the U.S. safe from terror attacks without giving up privacy protections that critics charge are at risk with the government’s current authority to broadly sweep up personal communications.

“There’s very little trust in the government, and that’s for good reason,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. “We’re our own worst enemy.”

A senior U.S. intelligence official on Monday said there were no plans to scrap the programs that, despite the backlash, continue to receive widespread if cautious support within Congress. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive security issue.

The programs were revealed last week by The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers. National Intelligence Director James Clapper has taken the unusual step of declassifying some of the previously top-secret details to help the administration mount a public defense of the surveillance as a necessary step to protect Americans.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was considering how Congress could limit the amount of data spy agencies seize from telephone and Internet companies – including restricting the information to be released only on an as-needed basis.

“It’s a little unsettling to have this massive data in the government’s possession,” King said.

One of the NSA programs gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records to search for possible links to known terrorist targets abroad. The other allows the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies and gather all communications to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

Snowden is a former CIA employee who later worked as a contractor for the NSA on behalf of Booz Allen, where he gained access to the surveillance. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine said, it was “absolutely shocking” that a 29-year-old with limited experience would have access to this material.

FBI agents on Monday visited the home of Snowden’s father, Lonnie Snowden, in Upper Macungie Township, Pa. The FBI in Philadelphia declined to comment.

The first explosive document Snowden revealed was a top secret court order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that granted a three-month renewal for a massive collection of American phone records. That order was signed April 25. The Guardian’s first story on the court order was published June 5.

In a statement issued Sunday, Booz Allen said Snowden had been an employee for fewer than three months, so it’s possible he was working as an NSA contractor when the order was issued.

Snowden also gave the Post and the Guardian a PowerPoint presentation on another secret program that collects online usage by the nine Internet providers. The U.S. government says it uses that information only to track foreigners’ use overseas.

Believing his role would soon be exposed, Snowden fled last month to Hong Kong, a Chinese territory that enjoys relative autonomy from Beijing. His exact whereabouts were unknown Monday.

“All of the options, as he put it, are bad options,” Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first reported the phone-tracking program and interviewed Snowden extensively, told The Associated Press on Monday. He said Snowden decided to release details of the programs out of shock and anger over the sheer scope of the government’s privacy invasions.

“It was his choice to publicly unveil himself,” Greenwald told the AP in Hong Kong. “He recognized that even if he hadn’t publicly unveiled himself, it was only a matter of time before the U.S. government discovered that it was he who had been responsible for these disclosures, and he made peace with that. … He’s very steadfast and resolute about the fact that he did the right thing.”

Greenwald told the AP that he had more documents from Snowden and expected “more significant revelations” about NSA.

Although Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S., the document has some exceptions, including for crimes deemed political. Any negotiations about his possible handover will involve Beijing, but some analysts believe China is unlikely to want to jeopardize its relationship with Washington over someone it would consider of little political interest.

Snowden also told The Guardian that he may seek asylum in Iceland, which has strong free-speech protections and a tradition of providing a haven for the outspoken and the outcast.

The Justice Department is investigating whether his disclosures were a criminal offense – a matter that’s not always clear-cut under U.S. federal law.

A second senior intelligence official said Snowden would have had to have signed a non-disclosure agreement to gain access to the top secret data. That suggests he could be prosecuted for violating that agreement. Penalties could range from a few years to life in prison. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the process of accessing classified materials more frankly.

The leak came to light as Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was being tried in military court under federal espionage and computer fraud laws for releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other items. The most serious charge against him was aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence. But the military operates under a different legal system.

If Snowden is forced to return to the United States to face charges, whistle-blower advocates said Monday that they would raise money for his legal defense.

Clapper has ordered an internal review to assess how much damage the disclosures created. Intelligence experts say terrorist suspects and others seeking to attack the U.S. all but certainly will find alternate ways to communicate instead of relying on systems that now are widely known to be under surveillance.

The Obama administration also now must deal with the political and diplomatic fallout of the disclosures. Privacy laws across much of Western Europe are stricter than they are in the United States.

“It would be unacceptable and would need swift action from the EU if indeed the U.S. National Security Agency were processing European data without permission,” said Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian member of the European parliament and a leader in the Alde group of liberal parties.

Additionally, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters Monday that Chancellor Angela Merkel would question President Barack Obama about the NSA program when he’s in Berlin on June 18 for his first visit to the German capital as president. In Germany, privacy regulations are especially strict, and the NSA programs could tarnish a visit that both sides had hoped would reaffirm strong German-American ties.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague was forced to deny allegations that the U.K. government had used information provided by the Americans to circumvent British laws. “We want the British people to have confidence in the work of our intelligence agencies and in their adherence to the law and democratic values,” Hague told Parliament.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama was open for a discussion about the spy programs, both with allies and in Congress. His administration has aggressively defended the two programs and credited them with helping stop at least two terrorist attacks, including one in New York City.

Privacy rights advocates say Obama has gone too far. The American Civil Liberties Union and Yale Law School filed legal action Monday to force a secret U.S. court to make public its opinions justifying the scope of some of the surveillance, calling the programs “shockingly broad.” And conservative lawyer Larry Klayman filed a separate lawsuit against the Obama administration, claiming he and others have been harmed by the government’s collection of as many as 3 billion phone numbers each day.

Army records indicate Snowden enlisted in the Army around May 2004 and was discharged that September.

“He attempted to qualify to become a Special Forces soldier but did not complete the requisite training and was administratively discharged from the Army,” Col. David H. Patterson Jr., an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said in a statement late Monday. Story Continued

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What’s Up June 10, 2013?

· NSA Whistleblowers: Spying Operation Has Been In Place For Years, Involves All Major U.S. Phone CompaniesNEW YORK — Former employees of the National Security Agency say the publishing of a court order asking Verizon to hand over all its phone calling records for a three-month period opens a new window on an operation that has been in place for years and involves all major U.S. phone companies.

“NSA has been doing all this stuff all along, and it’s been all these companies, not just one” William Binney told news program Democracy Now on Thursday. “They’re just continuing the collection of this data on all U.S. citizens.”

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Binney, who worked at the NSA for almost 40 years, left the agency after the attacks of 9/11 because he objected to the expansion of its surveillance of U.S. citizens.

British newspaper The Guardian late Wednesday released an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, requesting Verizon to give the NSA the details on every phone call on its landline and wireless networks on a daily basis between April 25 and July 19.

Binney estimates that the NSA collects records on 3 billion calls per day.

“These are routine orders,” said Thomas Drake, another NSA whistleblower. “What’s new is we’re seeing an actual order, and people are surprised by it.”

“We’ve been saying this for years from the wilderness,” Drake told Democracy Now. “But it’s like, hey, everybody went to sleep while the government is collecting all these records.”

Drake started working for the NSA in 2001 and blew the whistle on what he saw as a wasteful and invasive program at the agency. He was later prosecuted for keeping classified information. Most of the charges were dropped before trial, and he was sentenced to one year of probation and community service.

The NSA’s original charter was to eavesdrop on communications between countries, not inside the U.S. That expansion of its mission appears to have happened after 9/11, but the agency has continuously denied that it spies on domestic communications.

In March, for instance, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines, emailed an Associated Press reporter about a story that described the NSA as a monitor of worldwide Internet data and phone calls.

“NSA collects, monitors, and analyzes a variety of ***FOREIGN*** signals and communications for indications of threats to the United States and for information of value to the U.S. government,” she wrote. “***FOREIGN*** is the operative word. NSA is not an indiscriminate vacuum, collecting anything and everything.”

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile USA, three of the largest phone companies, said they had no comment on the matter. A representative from Sprint did not respond to a message. Verizon’s general counsel emailed employees Thursday saying that the company has an obligation to obey court orders, but did not confirm the existence of an order.

James Bamford, a journalist and author of several books on the NSA, said it’s very surprising to see that the agency tracks domestic calls, including local calls. In 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA was secretly collecting a database of domestic call information. However, some phone companies denied any involvement in such a program.

Bamford’s assumption was that the uproar over a separate, post-9/11 warrantless wiretapping program and the departure of the Bush administration meant that the NSA had been reined in.

“Here we are, under the Obama administration, doing it sort of like the Bush administration on steroids,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “This order here is about as broad as it can possibly get, when it comes to focusing on personal communications. There’s no warrant, there’s no suspicion, there’s no probable cause … it sounds like something from East Germany.”

Bamford believes the NSA collects the call records at a huge, newly built data center in Bluffdale, Utah. Story Continued

· NSA snooping has foiled multiple terror plots: Feinstein –  A secret National Security Agency program to collect vast amounts of phone records has foiled multiple attempted terrorist attacks inside the United States, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee told reporters on Thursday.

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein did not specify how many attempted attacks had been prevented, or the nature of the threats, but the California Democrat said there had been more than one.

The remarks were made to reporters following a meeting with senators who were concerned over a report in a British newspaper that the NSA had requested phone records from a division of telecommunications giant Verizon. According to Feinstein, 27 senators attended the meeting and voiced concerns about the policy.

“We are always open to changes. But that doesn’t mean there will be any. It does mean that we will look at any ideas, any thoughts, and we do this on everything,” she said.

Earlier in the day Feinstein defended the surveillance as a legal and long-standing government program.

“It began in 2009 – what appeared in the Guardian today, as I understand it, is simply a court reauthorization of a program. The court is required to look at it every three months,” she said.

And while Republican Senator Rand Paul called the surveillance of Verizon phone records described in the report “an astounding assault on the constitution,” other GOP lawmakers including Senator Lindsey Graham disagreed.

“I have no problem. I am a Verizon customer. You can have my phone number, and put it in a database,” Graham said. “If they get a hit between me and some guy from Waziristan,” officials should investigate, he said.

House Speaker John Boehner said President Obama should “explain to the American people why the administration considers this a critical tool in protecting our nation from the threats of a terrorist attack.”

The practice was first revealed by the British newspaper The Guardian on Wednesday, which obtained and published a highly classified court order that requires the production of “telephony metadata” by the telecommunications giant.

Sen. Lindsey Graham addresses Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday over a recent report that the NSA is collecting people’s Verizon phone numbers.

The order marked “Top Secret” and issued by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, instructs Verizon Business Network Services, a subsidiary that provides internet and telecommunications services for corporations, to hand over data including all calling records on an “ongoing, daily basis.”

“On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls,” the official said.

The NSA, Department of Justice, and Federal Bureau of Investigation have issued no formal comment on the report or purported practices described in it.

While declining to say how long the particular order referenced in the Guardian article has been in place, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that a “robust legal regime” reviews government powers under the Patriot Act “to ensure that they comply with the Constitution.”

“This strict regime reflects the president’s desire to strike the right balance between protecting our national security and protecting constitutional rights and civil liberties,” Earnest said.

Attorney General Eric Holder said he could not discuss the report regarding NSA information gathering today while appearing in a previously scheduled open budget hearing. Members of Congress have been “fully briefed” on the issue, he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged caution, saying the program “isn’t anything that’s brand new.”

“It’s gone on for some 7 years,” Reid said. “We’ve tried often to make it better and make it work.”

Signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, the order requires the “production of certain call detail records,” and is set to expire on the evening of July 19, 2013. The order pertains to information including the phone numbers making and receiving the call, as well as the time the call was made and how long it lasts. It does not include the “name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer,” according to the order.

The order “does not require Verizon to produce telephony metadata for communications wholly originating and terminating in foreign countries,” according to the document.

Earlier on Wednesday, an Obama administration official defended the policy of gathering phone records from American citizens while neither confirming nor denying a report that the National Security Agency is collecting information regarding communications by Verizon customers.

Such information has been “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats,” the senior Obama administration official said.

While not confirming any particulars of the report, the administration official said that data such as that described in the article “allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”

Verizon said it had no comment Wednesday on the accuracy of the story published by the Guardian or the document the report was based on, the company’s chief counsel Randy Milch said in note sent to the company’s employees.

“Verizon continually takes steps to safeguard its customers’ privacy,” Milch said in the note. “Nevertheless, the law authorizes the federal courts to order a company to provide information in certain circumstances, and if Verizon were to receive such an order, we would be required to comply.”

The disclosure of the order, which has not been independently verified by NBC News, comes after the Obama administration has taken fire for a Justice Department subpoena of Associated Press phone records.

Holder told NBC News Wednesday that he has no intention of stepping down from his job despite calls by some congressional Republicans for his resignation, citing the AP seizure.

Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, called the collection of call data as described in the Guardian report “an outrageous breach of Americans’ privacy” in a news release Thursday. “This bulk data collection is being done under interpretations of the law that have been kept secret from the public. Significant FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court opinions that determine the scope of our laws should be declassified.”

Verizon had 98.9 million wireless customers at the end of the first quarter this year, according to an earnings report released in April, as well as about 11.7 million residential and 10 million commercial lines. It is not clear whether other parts of Verizon might have received similar orders. The order explicitly prohibits any person from disclosing that the NSA or FBI Investigation has sought records under the order.

“Now that this unconstitutional surveillance effort has been revealed, the government should end it and disclose its full scope, and Congress should initiate an investigation,” Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “This disclosure also highlights the growing gap between the public’s and the government’s understandings of the many sweeping surveillance authorities enacted by Congress.”

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the “business records” provision of the USA Patriot Act.

Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a March 2012 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that most Americans would “stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the Patriot Act.”

“As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows,” the senators wrote in the letter. “This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”

Former vice president Al Gore called the practices described in the order “obscenely outrageous” in a message posted on Twitter Wednesday night. “In digital era, privacy must be a priority,” Gore wrote. “Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous.”

The order is the first concrete evidence that U.S. intelligence officials are continuing a broad campaign of domestic surveillance that began under President George W. Bush and caused great controversy when it was first exposed, according to Reuters. Story Continued

Sadly this story is the truth and what the current administration is doing is what Bush people did while they were in office. The reason this becomes so problematic is that Obama promised changes that have not even appeared to be considered once he was in office. PdC

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· President Obama’s DragnetWithin hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.

The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.

Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. We know that this particular order was a routine extension of surveillance that has been going on for years, and it seems very likely that it extends beyond Verizon’s business division. There is every reason to believe the federal government has been collecting every bit of information about every American’s phone calls except the words actually exchanged in those calls.

Articles in The Washington Post and The Guardian described a process by which the N.S.A. is also able to capture Internet communications directly from the servers of nine leading American companies. The articles raised questions about whether the N.S.A. separated foreign communications from domestic ones.

A senior administration official quoted in The Times online Thursday afternoon about the Verizon order offered the lame observation that the information does not include the name of any caller, as though there would be the slightest difficulty in matching numbers to names. He said the information “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats,” because it allows the government “to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.”

That is a vital goal, but how is it served by collecting everyone’s call data? The government can easily collect phone records (including the actual content of those calls) on “known or suspected terrorists” without logging every call made. In fact, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was expanded in 2008 for that very purpose.

Essentially, the administration is saying that without any individual suspicion of wrongdoing, the government is allowed to know whom Americans are calling every time they make a phone call, for how long they talk and from where.

This sort of tracking can reveal a lot of personal and intimate information about an individual. To casually permit this surveillance — with the American public having no idea that the executive branch is now exercising this power — fundamentally shifts power between the individual and the state, and it repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy.

The defense of this practice offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be preventing this sort of overreaching, was absurd. She said on Thursday that the authorities need this information in case someone might become a terrorist in the future. Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the vice chairman of the committee, said the surveillance has “proved meritorious, because we have gathered significant information on bad guys and only on bad guys over the years.”

But what assurance do we have of that, especially since Ms. Feinstein went on to say that she actually did not know how the data being collected was used? Story Continued

– Now the Republicans will say that Obama has over reached while the Democrats will say that he is doing just what Bush did and it was legalized during the Bush administration by Congress as the Patriot Act. Politics as usual. When will they stop nick picking and do the Government’s business? PdC

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· NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others

Top-secret Prism program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook

Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007

Obama orders US to draw up overseas target list for cyber-attacks

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The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

In a statement, Google said: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said.

An Apple spokesman said it had “never heard” of Prism.

The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.

Disclosure of the Prism program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.

The participation of the internet companies in Prism will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.

Some of the world’s largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Your privacy is our priority” – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.

It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.

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The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.

Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.

The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

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The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.

The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organization, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

The presentation claims Prism was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a “home-field advantage” due to housing much of the internet’s architecture. But the presentation claimed “Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage” because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.

“Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them,” the presentation claimed. “It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all.”

The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines “electronic surveillance” to exclude anyone “reasonably believed” to be outside the USA – a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.

The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities’ requests.

In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorizations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.

The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming “access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning”.

In the document, the NSA hails the Prism program as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA”.

It boasts of what it calls “strong growth” in its use of the Prism program to obtain communications. The document highlights the number of obtained communications increased in 2012 by 248% for Skype – leading the notes to remark there was “exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype”. There was also a 131% increase in requests for Facebook data, and 63% for Google.

The NSA document indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider. The agency also seeks, in its words, to “expand collection services from existing providers”.

The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired.

Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware specifically warned that the secrecy surrounding the various surveillance programs meant there was no way to know if safeguards within the act were working.

“The problem is: we here in the Senate and the citizens we represent don’t know how well any of these safeguards actually work,” he said.

“The law doesn’t forbid purely domestic information from being collected. We know that at least one Fisa court has ruled that the surveillance program violated the law. Why? Those who know can’t say and average Americans can’t know.”

Other senators also raised concerns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted, without success, to find out any information on how many phone calls or emails had been intercepted under the program.

When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a “report”. According to the NSA, “over 2,000 Prism-based reports” are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.

In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.

“It’s shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this,” he said. “The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.

“This is unprecedented militarization of domestic communications infrastructure. That’s profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation.”

A senior administration official said in a statement: “The Guardian and Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.

“The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.

“This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.

“The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target.” Story Continued

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· Obama orders US to draw up overseas target list for cyber-attacks  Exclusive: Top-secret directive steps up offensive cyber capabilities to ‘advance US objectives around the world’

Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals.

The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) “can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging”.

It says the government will “identify potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power”.

The directive also contemplates the possible use of cyber actions inside the US, though it specifies that no such domestic operations can be conducted without the prior order of the president, except in cases of emergency.

The aim of the document was “to put in place tools and a framework to enable government to make decisions” on cyber actions, a senior administration official told the Guardian.

The administration published some declassified talking points from the directive in January 2013, but those did not mention the stepping up of America’s offensive capability and the drawing up of a target list.

Obama’s move to establish a potentially aggressive cyber warfare doctrine will heighten fears over the increasing militarization of the internet.

The directive’s publication comes as the president plans to confront his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a summit in California on Friday over alleged Chinese attacks on western targets.

Even before the publication of the directive, Beijing had hit back against US criticism, with a senior official claiming to have “mountains of data” on American cyber-attacks he claimed were every bit as serious as those China was accused of having carried out against the US.

Presidential Policy Directive 20 defines OCEO as “operations and related programs or activities … conducted by or on behalf of the United States Government, in or through cyberspace, that are intended to enable or produce cyber effects outside United States government networks.”

Asked about the stepping up of US offensive capabilities outlined in the directive, a senior administration official said: “Once humans develop the capacity to build boats, we build navies. Once you build airplanes, we build air forces.”

The official added: “As a citizen, you expect your government to plan for scenarios. We’re very interested in having a discussion with our international partners about what the appropriate boundaries are.”

The document includes caveats and precautions stating that all US cyber operations should conform to US and international law, and that any operations “reasonably likely to result in significant consequences require specific presidential approval”.

The document says that agencies should consider the consequences of any cyber-action. They include the impact on intelligence-gathering; the risk of retaliation; the impact on the stability and security of the internet itself; the balance of political risks versus gains; and the establishment of unwelcome norms of international behavior.

Among the possible “significant consequences” are loss of life; responsive actions against the US; damage to property; serious adverse foreign policy or economic impacts.

The US is understood to have already participated in at least one major cyber-attack, the use of the Stuxnet computer worm targeted on Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges, the legality of which has been the subject of controversy. US reports citing high-level sources within the intelligence services said the US and Israel were responsible for the worm.

In the presidential directive, the criteria for offensive cyber operations in the directive is not limited to retaliatory action but vaguely framed as advancing “US national objectives around the world”.

The revelation that the US is preparing a specific target list for offensive cyber-action is likely to reignite previously raised concerns of security researchers and academics, several of whom have warned that large-scale cyber operations could easily escalate into full-scale military conflict.

Sean Lawson, assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Utah, argues: “When militarist cyber rhetoric results in use of offensive cyber attack it is likely that those attacks will escalate into physical, kinetic uses of force.”

An intelligence source with extensive knowledge of the National Security Agency’s systems told the Guardian the US complaints again China were hypocritical, because America had participated in offensive cyber operations and widespread hacking – breaking into foreign computer systems to mine information.

Provided anonymity to speak critically about classified practices, the source said: “We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world.”

The US likes to haul China before the international court of public opinion for “doing what we do every day”, the source added.

One of the unclassified points released by the administration in January stated: “It is our policy that we shall undertake the least action necessary to mitigate threats and that we will prioritize network defense and law enforcement as preferred courses of action.”

The full classified directive repeatedly emphasizes that all cyber-operations must be conducted in accordance with US law and only as a complement to diplomatic and military options. But it also makes clear how both offensive and defensive cyber operations are central to US strategy.

Under the heading “Policy Reviews and Preparation”, a section marked “TS/NF” – top secret/no foreign – states: “The secretary of defense, the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], and the director of the CIA … shall prepare for approval by the president through the National Security Advisor a plan that identifies potential systems, processes and infrastructure against which the United States should establish and maintain OCEO capabilities…” The deadline for the plan is six months after the approval of the directive.

The directive provides that any cyber-operations “intended or likely to produce cyber effects within the United States” require the approval of the president, except in the case of an “emergency cyber action”. When such an emergency arises, several departments, including the department of defense, are authorized to conduct such domestic operations without presidential approval.

Obama further authorized the use of offensive cyber-attacks in foreign nations without their government’s consent whenever “US national interests and equities” require such nonconsensual attacks. It expressly reserves the right to use cyber tactics as part of what it calls “anticipatory action taken against imminent threats”.

The directive makes multiple references to the use of offensive cyber-attacks by the US military. It states several times that cyber operations are to be used only in conjunction with other national tools and within the confines of law.

When the directive was first reported, lawyers with the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request for it to be made public. The NSA, in a statement, refused to disclose the directive on the ground that it was classified.

In January, the Pentagon announced a major expansion of its Cyber Command Unit, under the command of General Keith Alexander, who is also the director of the NSA. That unit is responsible for executing both offensive and defensive cyber operations.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon publicly accused China for the first time of being behind attacks on the US. The Washington Post reported last month that Chinese hackers had gained access to the Pentagon’s most advanced military programs.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, identified cyber threats in general as the top national security threat.

Obama officials have repeatedly cited the threat of cyber-attacks to advocate new legislation that would vest the US government with greater powers to monitor and control the internet as a means of guarding against such threats.

One such bill currently pending in Congress, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa), has prompted serious concerns from privacy groups, who say that it would further erode online privacy while doing little to enhance cyber security.

In a statement, Caitlin Hayden, national Security Council spokeswoman, said: “We have not seen the document the Guardian has obtained, as they did not share it with us. However, as we have already publicly acknowledged, last year the president signed a classified presidential directive relating to cyber operations, updating a similar directive dating back to 2004. This step is part of the administration’s focus on cybersecurity as a top priority. The cyber threat has evolved, and we have new experiences to take into account.

“This directive establishes principles and processes for the use of cyber operations so that cyber tools are integrated with the full array of national security tools we have at our disposal. It provides a whole-of-government approach consistent with the values that we promote domestically and internationally as we have previously articulated in the International Strategy for Cyberspace.

“This directive will establish principles and processes that can enable more effective planning, development, and use of our capabilities. It enables us to be flexible, while also exercising restraint in dealing with the threats we face. It continues to be our policy that we shall undertake the least action necessary to mitigate threats and that we will prioritize network defense and law enforcement as the preferred courses of action. The procedures outlined in this directive are consistent with the US Constitution, including the president’s role as commander in chief, and other applicable law and policies.” Story Continued

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· Google, Facebook, Others Deny Giving Gov’t Broad Access To Data –  SILICON VALLEY (CBS/AP) — Google CEO Larry Page and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg are denying reports that depict two of the Internet’s most influential companies as willing participants in a secret government program that gives the National Security Agency unfettered access to email and other personal information transmitted on various online services.

The rebuttals issued Friday in blog posts expand upon earlier statements that the companies issued in an attempt to distance themselves from a government surveillance program that is raising questions. At issue is whether the NSA has constructed a direct pipeline into the computers that run some of the world’s most widely used online services.

Each of the statements issued by Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and the five other companies linked to the program has been carefully worded in ways that doesn’t rule out the possibility that the NSA has been gathering online communications as part of its efforts to uncover terrorist plots and other threats to U.S. national security.

“I think a lot of people are spending a lot of time right now trying to parse those denials,” said Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital rights group. “The top level point is simply: it’s pretty hard to know what those denials mean.”

Google and Facebook were tied to a clandestine snooping program code-named PRISM in reports published late Thursday by The Washington Post and The Guardian, a British newspaper. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence for the Obama administration, subsequently confirmed PRISM had been approved by a judge and is being conducted in accordance with U.S. law.

But Clapper didn’t identify what companies fall under PRISM’s broad authority, leaving the reports by the Post and Guardian as the only windows into the spying program. The newspapers based their reports on confidential slides and other documents about PRISM.

Besides Google and Facebook, those documents cited Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc., AOL Inc. and Paltalk as the other companies immersed in PRISM. The NSA program also is getting data from Google’s YouTube video service and Microsoft’s Skype chat service, according to the PRISM documents posted on the Post’s website.

All of the companies have issued statements making it clear that they aren’t voluntarily handing over user data. They also are emphatically rejecting newspaper reports indicating that PRISM has opened a door for the NSA to tap directly on the companies’ data centers whenever the government pleases.

“Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period,” Page asserts in a blog post co-written with Google’s top lawyer, David Drummond.

In his post, Zuckerberg lambasts the media accounts as “outrageous.”

All the companies but Microsoft and Yahoo said they had never heard of PRISM before the name was revealed Thursday.

All of the statements could be technically true. At the same time, they could mean the companies have been turning over user data when served a legally binding order issued under a program that they didn’t know had a code name until they read about it like the rest of the world.

It’s all part of a linguistic tango that’s often performed when the cover is blown on a top-secret operation, Tien says. “The person could say `That story is not true’ and then say `We have never done X,’ pointing to the 5 percent that was in fact, inaccurate,” he says. “A company could say “‘We’ve never heard of the PRISM program.’ Well, maybe the government didn’t call it that. Or the company could say “‘We don’t allow backdoor access!’ Well, maybe they allow front door access.”

The companies tied to PRISM also are limited by law in how much they can say. They are prohibited from disclosing their compliance with orders issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. That law hatched the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose activity is considered to be classified.

Microsoft began turning over data in 2007 on the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to the PRISM slides obtained by the Post. The documents list the following start dates for data collection at the other companies and services: Yahoo, March 2008; Google, January 2009; Facebook, June 2009; Paltalk, December 2009; YouTube, September 2010; Skype, February 2011; AOL, March 2011; Apple, October 2012.

In their posts, both Page and Zuckerberg seem to be telegraphing to the world that Google and Facebook are doing their best to limit the amount of user data that’s being handed over to the U.S. government.

To do so, they both cite disclosures earlier this week that Verizon Communications has been providing the NSA with portions of the calling records for all its U.S. customers since late April. The disclosures being made under court order cover an estimated 3 billion calls per day.

“We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist,” Page writes in his post. “Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.”

Zuckerberg also points out that Facebook has never received a government order covering as much user data as the one that Verizon received. “If we did, we would fight it aggressively,” he says in the post.

Both Page and Zuckerberg conclude their posts by imploring the government to be more forthcoming about the steps that it is taking to protect the public’s safety.

“The level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish,” Page writes.

Google is no stranger to defying the federal government’s requests. The company recently received a setback in its challenge of the FBI’s warrantless demands for customer data. In a ruling written May 20, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston rejected the company’s argument that the government’s practice of issuing so-called national security letters to telecommunication companies, Internet service providers and banks was unconstitutional and unnecessary.

Illston ordered Google to comply with the FBI’s demands. But she put her ruling on hold until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can decide the matter. Until then, Google must comply with the letters unless it shows the FBI didn’t follow proper procedures in making its demands for customer data in the 19 letters Google is challenging, she said. Story Continued

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What’s Up June 7, 2013?

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· What Big Ears You Have –

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· NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers dailyExclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama –

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Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time 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.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.

The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.

While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.

The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.

For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on “secret legal interpretations” to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be “stunned” to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.

Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.

Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: “We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretense of constraint or particularized suspicion.” The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called “business records” provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration’s extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.

In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that “there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”

“We believe,” they wrote, “that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted” the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited “metadata” is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens’ communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.

Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual’s network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.

The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on 4 October 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furor erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had “been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth” and was “using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.” Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.

These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA’s mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest at the agency’s focus on domestic activities.

In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.

At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: “The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.” Story Continued

· U.S. Is Secretly Collecting Records of Verizon Calls  WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is secretly carrying out a domestic surveillance program under which it is collecting business communications records involving Americans under a hotly debated section of the Patriot Act, according to a highly classified court order disclosed on Wednesday night.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The order does not apply to the content of the communications.

Verizon Business Network Services is one of the nation’s largest telecommunications and Internet providers for corporations. It is not clear whether similar orders have gone to other parts of Verizon, like its residential or cellphone services, or to other telecommunications carriers. The order prohibits its recipient from discussing its existence, and representatives of both Verizon and AT&T declined to comment Wednesday evening.

The four-page order was disclosed Wednesday evening by the newspaper The Guardian. Obama administration officials at the F.B.I. and the White House also declined to comment on it Wednesday evening, but did not deny the report, and a person familiar with the order confirmed its authenticity. “We will respond as soon as we can,” said Marci Green Miller, a National Security Agency spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

The order was sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under a section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that regulates domestic surveillance for national security purposes, that allows the government to secretly obtain “tangible things” like a business’s customer records. The provision was expanded by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which Congress enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The order was marked “TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN,” referring to communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to noncitizens. That would make it among the most closely held secrets in the federal government, and its disclosure comes amid a furor over the Obama administration’s aggressive tactics in its investigations of leaks.

The collection of call logs is set to expire in July unless the court extends it.

The collection of communications logs — or calling “metadata” — is believed to be a major component of the Bush administration’s program of surveillance that took place without court orders. The newly disclosed order raised the question of whether the government continued that type of information collection by bringing it under the Patriot Act.

The disclosure late Wednesday seemed likely to inspire further controversy over the scope of government surveillance. Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil liberties advocacy group, said that “absent some explanation I haven’t thought of, this looks like the largest assault on privacy since the N.S.A. wiretapped Americans in clear violation of the law” under the Bush administration. “On what possible basis has the government refused to tell us that it believes that the law authorizes this kind of request?” she said.

For several years, two Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, have been cryptically warning that the government was interpreting its surveillance powers under that section of the Patriot Act in a way that would be alarming to the public if it knew about it.

“We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” they wrote last year in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

They added: “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”

A spokesman for Senator Wyden did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the Verizon order.

The senators were angry because the Obama administration described Section 215 orders as being similar to a grand jury subpoena for obtaining business records, like a suspect’s hotel or credit card records, in the course of an ordinary criminal investigation. The senators said the secret interpretation of the law was nothing like that.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act made it easier to get an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain business records so long as they were merely deemed “relevant” to a national-security investigation.

The Justice Department has denied being misleading about the Patriot Act. Department officials have acknowledged since 2009 that a secret, sensitive intelligence program is based on the law and have insisted that their statements about the matter have been accurate.

The New York Times filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2011 for a report describing the government’s interpretation of its surveillance powers under the Patriot Act. But the Obama administration withheld the report, and a judge dismissed the case. Story Continued

· Obama administration defends massive phone record collection

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The Obama administration on Thursday defended its collection of a massive amount of telephone records from at least one carrier as part of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, re-igniting a debate over privacy even as it called the practice critical to protecting Americans from attacks.

The admission came after Britain’s Guardian newspaper published on Wednesday a secret court order related to the records of millions of Verizon Communications customers. The surveillance appears to have involved the phone records of millions of Americans.

Privacy advocates blasted the order as unconstitutional government surveillance and called for a review.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not specifically confirm the report, but noted the published court order pertains only to data such as a telephone number or the length of a call, and not the subscribers’ identities or the content of the telephone calls.

The order requires the government to turn over to the National Security Agency so-called “metadata” such as a list of numbers that called other U.S. or international numbers as well as other transactional information on the time and location of calls. The NSA is the main U.S. intelligence-gathering agency tasked with monitoring electronic communications.

“Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” the senior administration official said.

The revelation renewed concerns about the intelligence-gathering effort – criticized by human rights and privacy advocates – launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and raised questions about its oversight.

It also drew fresh attention to President Barack Obama’s handling of privacy and free speech issues. His administration already is under fire for searching Associated Press journalists’ calling records and the emails of a Fox News Channel reporter as part of its inquiries into leaked government information.

Verizon has declined to comment. It remains unclear whether the practice extends to other carriers, though several security experts and at least one U.S. lawmaker said that was likely.

AT&T Inc declined to comment. Representatives for other major carriers, including Sprint Nextel Corp and T-Mobile, could not be immediately reached or had no immediate comment.

BOSTON BOMBING

The three-month court order, dated April 25, directs Verizon’s Business Network Services Inc and Verizon Business Services units to hand over daily electronic data until July 19.

It was issued one week after U.S. law enforcement officials tracked down the two brothers accused of carrying out the deadly Boston Marathon bombing. Investigators in that case had been looking into calls made from their phones and had been searching for one brother’s laptop.

Another U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said this particular surveillance order was not necessarily issued in reaction to the April 15 bombing. A third official said some data collection was stepped up in the aftermath of that attack.

The April order expressly compels Verizon to turn over both international calling records and domestic records, and refers to mobile and landline numbers, according to the Guardian’s copy, which was labeled “top secret” and issued by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The four-page document does not lay out why the order was given or whether it was linked to any specific investigation.

Thursday’s admission highlights U.S. intelligence officials’ ongoing and controversial campaign of domestic surveillance launched under President George W. Bush’s administration after the 2001 attacks. A 2001 U.S. law known as the Patriot Act allows the FBI to seek an order to obtain “any tangible thing,” including business records, to gather intelligence.

‘ROBUST LEGAL REGIME’

Although the order revealed on Wednesday does not allow for the government to listen in on customer’s conversations, it still raises questions about what authorities hope to learn sorting through millions of transactions.

The senior administration official said that “there is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities” like the one outlined in the order and that “all three branches of government are involved in reviewing and authorizing intelligence collection.”

Terrorism financing expert Jimmy Gurulé said although the court did not need to find probable cause under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the order goes too far.

“The question is how the phone data of tens of millions of Americans is ‘relevant’ to a terrorism investigation. This is clearly an overreach by the NSA and an apparent rubber stamp by the FISA court,” said Gurulé, a former assistant U.S. attorney general and now a law professor at University of Notre Dame.

Additionally, it is also unclear how aware members of Congress were about the extent of the data collection.

Administration and congressional officials said that members of the House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees had been briefed in detail about collection activities under the law on multiple occasions.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he was not concerned about the monitoring, which he said was more limited in scope, adding that he is also a Verizon customer.

“I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist’s phone with somebody in the United States,” he told Fox News Channel. “I’m glad the activity is going on, but it is limited to tracking people who are suspected to be terrorists, and who they may be talking to.”

Still, some other lawmakers have expressed growing concern with broad intelligence gathering methods for years.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been critical of sweeping surveillance, declined to comment on the report but called on the White House “to respond immediately.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, among other groups, has called on Congress to investigate the scope of the effort, which it called “alarming” and “unconstitutional.”

“It’s a program in which some untold number of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents,” Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director, said in a statement. Story Continued

– Now we know, the Democrats are as destructive as the Republicans. Perhaps we need to clean out Washington, D.C. and start over. PdC

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· Mainstream Media Fail to Break Even One of Four Obama Scandals

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Well, if it is Thursday, there must be a new Obama scandal. But one thing is for damn sure, whatever that scandal is, you can bet the American mainstream media will be playing catch up and not carrying the glory of breaking a story about a major White House scandal.

Fact: Over the past few weeks, four major scandals have broken over the Obama administration, and it is a very sad (and frightening) truth that our pathetic, American, lapdog mainstream media is not responsible for breaking even a single one.

Verizon? Nope, not our guys. That was the Brits over at The Guardian.

IRS? Nope, not our guys. The IRS broke their own scandal with a planted question.

The Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press phone records? Nope, not our guys. Believe it or not, the Associated Press didn’t even break that story. Like the IRS, we only found out because the Justice Department ousted itself in a letter notifying the AP of what it had done.

Benghazi? Are you kidding? With a couple of rare exceptions (Jake Tapper, Sharyl Attkisson) the media has spent the last 8 months attacking those seeking the truth (Congress, Fox News) not seeking the truth. It was the GOP congress that demanded the email exchanges around the shaping of the talking points, not the media.

Left up to the media, we wouldn’t know anything about Libya. All of the media’s energy was collectively poured into ensuring the truth was never discovered.

And do you want to know what makes this realization especially pathetic? In three of the four scandals (the AP being the exception), had our media been less interested in protecting Power and more interested in holding Power accountable, these huge, career-making stories were right there for their taking.

For over a year now, conservative Tea Party groups have been complaining about IRS harassment. But because Obama told them to, the media hate the Tea Party. So in the face of these complaints and even a few Congressional inquiries, the media either ignored the harassment reports or openly sided with the IRS.

Obviously, you can say the same about Libya. All the dots were there to connect: Security failures, two weeks of lies, the midnight arrest of some hapless filmmaker… But rather than connect the dots, the media played goalie for Obama against Fox News and Darrell Issa. Besides, there was a re-election to win and Todd Akin got something wrong about The Woman parts.

Moreover, there are still plenty of dots to connect about Libya. But the new SQUIRREL is OVERREACH and already the lapdogs are back in goalie formation.

As far as the Verizon story, members of Congress, specifically Democrat Senators Ron Wyden (OR) and Mark Udall (CO), have been hint-hint-wink-winking to the media that something is horribly amiss going back to December:

In a Senate floor speech in December, Wyden hinted at classified information he had received but could not share due to Senate rules that indicated the law “on Americans’ privacy has been real, and it is not hypothetical.”

“When the public finds out that these secret interpretations are so dramatically different than what the public law says, I think there’s going to be extraordinary anger in the country,” he told The Huffington Post the following month.

That is from today’s Politico report on the Verizon scandal. Apparently, Politico knew of this back in December but had all their investigative researchers digging into why those short-skirted Tea Partiers had it coming, so they missed another one of the biggest stories of the year.

Politico shouldn’t feel bad, though, because when it comes to missing the four biggest scoops of the Obama administration, they have plenty of lazy, lapdog, sycophant company in that department.

Our media is not only biased, it is an utter and complete failure and embarrassment. And although there are plenty of remaining table scraps to make meals out of, the media is already losing interest in the IRS, Libya, and AP scandals, but for only one reason–they are absolutely terrified of where they might lead.

During the Bush years, it was the New York Times, Washington Post and Sy Hersh breaking story after story after story about the White House. And yes, some of that reporting was–ahem –overreach, but at least Power knew it was being watched; our democracy was safe because an overzealous media is what you call a luxury problem.

Today, it is the complete opposite and the result is an administration run amok.

Get down on your knees and thank your Maker for conservative New Media, Roger Ailes, and for the few true liberals left in the media, like Glenn Greenwald–who works for the Brits. Story Continued

· Welcome to the Bush-Obama White House: They’re Spying on Us

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Welcome to the era of Bush-Obama, a 16-year span of U.S. history that will be remembered for an unprecedented erosion of civil liberties and a disregard for transparency. On the war against a tactic—terrorism—and its insidious fallout, the United States could have skipped the 2008 election.

It made little difference.

Despite his clear and popular promises to the contrary, President Obama has not shifted the balance between security and freedom to a more natural state—one not blinded by worst fears and tarred by power grabs. If anything, things have gotten worse.

Killing civilians and U.S. citizens via drone.

Seizing telephone records at the Associated Press in violation of Justice Department guidelines.

Accusing a respected Fox News reporter of engaging in a conspiracy to commit treason for doing his job.

Detaining terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, despite promises to end the ill-considered Bush policy.

Even the IRS scandal, while not a matter of foreign policy, strikes at the heart of growing concerns among Americans that their privacy is government’s playpen.

And now this: The Guardian newspaper reports that the National Security Agency is collecting telephone records of tens of millions of customers of one of the nation’s largest phone companies, Verizon.

If the story is accurate, the action appears to be legal. The order was signed by a judge from a secret court that oversees domestic surveillance. It may also be necessary; U.S. intelligence needs every advantage it can get over the nation’s enemies.

But for several reasons the news is chilling.

Verizon probably isn’t the only company coughing up its documents. Odds are incredibly strong that the government is prying into your telephone records today.

Issued in April, the NSA order “could represent the broadest surveillance order known to have been issued,” according to The Washington Post. “It also would confirm long-standing suspicions of civil liberties advocates about the sweeping nature of U.S. surveillance through commercial carries under laws passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

This appears to be a “rubber stamp,” order, reissued every few months since 2001. As is the case with all government programs, the systematic snooping into your telephone records is unlikely to ever expire without public outcry.

Congress is full of hypocrites. Liberals who criticized Bush are less incensed with Obama. Republicans who bowed to Bush are now blasting Obama. The next time your congressional representative criticizes Obama for curbing civil liberties, ask if he or she would vote to repeal the Patriot Act, the post-911 law that handed unfettered power to the intelligence and military bureaucracies. Most won’t.

The Bush-Obama White House hates transparency. President George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, were justifiably criticized by Democrats (none more successfully so than Obama himself) for their penchant for secrecy. Obama promised that he would run history’s most transparent administration. By almost any measure, on domestic and well as foreign policies, Obama has broken that promise.

It is the lack of transparency that is most galling about the security versus civil liberties debate under Obama, because it shows his lack of faith in the public. Americans know a high level of secrecy and dirty work is needed to keep them safe. Most trust their president. Many approve of his job performance.

Still, they expect and deserve an open discussion about how to fight terrorism without undermining the Constitution.

Obama started that conversation with a recent address on the drone program, media leaks and the need to move American off a constant war footing. It was a compelling and well-considered argument for the balance he is claiming to strike.

But he made the speech under pressure, and reluctantly. It only came amid new revelations about the drone program and the disclosure of newsroom spying (the Guardian may well be in Obama’s sights next). Under Bush, the warrantless-wiretap program only stopped after it was publicly disclosed. In that way, the Guardian story is not a surprise, so why didn’t Obama long ago acknowledge, explain, and justify such an intrusion into privacy?

Obama has promised to adjust the drone and leaks investigation policies, essentially acknowledging that his administration had gone too far in the name of security. Do you believe him?

One thing we’ve learned about the Bush-Obama White House is that words don’t matter. Watch what they do. Story Continued

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What’s Up June 5, 2013?

· Rash of Kentucky lawyer suicides concerns colleagues

Varied reasons cited for deaths in recent years; bar president urges lawyers to watch out for each other

One was a former University of Kentucky basketball player who practiced in Leitchfield, Ky. Another had been commonwealth’s attorney in Kenton County.

A third was a Louisville lawyer who helped battle the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville over cases of priest abuse — and whose Facebook photos still show him snowboarding, scuba diving and sightseeing with his family.

Jim Dinwiddie, Harry Rankin and Ross Turner all died in a similar way: They killed themselves.

So did Michael Jamison and Brent Travelsted of Bowling Green, Tod Megibow of Paducah, William P. Whalen Jr. of Fort Wright, Finis Raymond Price III and Dan Thomas Schwartz of Louisville, David Andrew of Crescent Springs, Leroy “Lee” Rowland of Lexington and Brad Goheen of Calvert City.

They are among at least a dozen lawyers in Kentucky who have committed suicide since 2010, including three in Louisville and three in Northern Kentucky. Half died in the past 12 months. All were men, their average age 53, and most were trial lawyers.

Kentucky doesn’t track suicides by occupation. But citing his recollection from 38 years of practice — and amid studies that show lawyers are six times more likely to kill themselves than the general population — Kentucky Bar Association President Doug Myers said the number of suicides among the state’s 17,500 lawyers is “disproportionate” and “disconcerting.”

Myers, who was so concerned that he wrote about the issue in a recent edition of the bar association’s quarterly journal, said in an interview that he doesn’t remember any similar spate of suicides by lawyers earlier in his career.

In a recent post, legal blogger Shannon Ragland, publisher of the Kentucky Trial Court Review, called the suicides by “middle-aged trial lawyers” an “apparent epidemic” and said the issue deserves serious attention and study by the KBA and the Kentucky Justice Association, the state trial lawyer group.

‘Broken-hearted idealists’

The KBA’s Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program offers confidential help to attorneys with depression, but citing its confidentiality rules, director Yvette Hourigan said she couldn’t say how many — if any — of the lawyers who have killed themselves in recent years had sought its aid. Story Continued

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· ‘I’m going to pitch a show for Bravo. We can call it Project Pantsuit’: Hillary Clinton takes aim at her own signature style at CFDA Fashion Awards

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Hillary Clinton had America’s fashion elite in stitches last night, during her hilarious speech at the CFDA Fashion Awards.

The former Secretary of State, who got a standing ovation as she took to the podium at New York’s Lincoln Center, took aim at her penchant for pantsuits.

She told the assembled crowd: ‘I’m going to be pitching Andy [Cohen] on a new show for Bravo… we can call it Project Pantsuit.’

Presenting Project Pantsuit: Hillary Clinton had the style set in stitches with her speech at the CFDA Awards

Mutual appreciation: Mrs Clinton presented longtime friend Oscar de la Renta with the Founder’s Award. He said in his speech that he hoped she would be America’s next president

Mrs Clinton was in attendance to present Oscar de la Renta with the prestigious Founder’s Award.

The jokes continued when she turned her attention to the veteran designer, who has been dressing her since she became First Lady in 1993.

‘I was then, as I am now, such a fashion icon,’ she quipped.

In all seriousness, she had warm words for her longtime friend.

The lady and her pants: Mrs Clinton looked sensational in Oscar de la Renta trousers with a long, embellished navy coat and dazzling blue earrings

‘His name alone evokes elegance and timeless beauty,’ she said. ‘And his designs give each of us a chance to feel like we’re special, too.’

In turn, Mr. de la Renta had nothing but praise for Mrs Clinton.

Bravo! Andy Cohen hosted the CFDA Awards and made plenty of jokes at designers’ expense

‘I hope that she’s going to be our next president,’ he said, as he accepted his award.

Mr. Cohen, who hosted the event, is likely to have been both delighted and relieved by Mrs Clinton’s witty retort.

Earlier, during rehearsals, he tweeted: Rehearsing for the @CFDA Awards tonight. No pressure – I’m sure Mrs Clinton will enjoy my routine about her! #SeemedFunnyWhenWeWroteIt [sic].’

Naturally, Mrs Clinton, 65, was wearing one of her friend’s designs. She sported a pair of Oscar de la Renta pants with a long, embellished navy coat and dazzling blue earrings.

Guests at the event who might have hoped to party with Mrs Clinton afterwards though, were left sorely disappointed.

According to WWD, CFDA organizers were forced to rearrange the evening’s itinerary in order that she and Mr. de la Renta could leave early to join their respective spouses at the 90th birthday party of Henry Kissinger.

As far as the style set was concerned, the rest of the event was worth sticking around for. The designers behind Proenza Schouler took home the Womenswear Designer of the Year title for the third time.

Design duo Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, who also won the award in 2007 and 2011, had their award presented to them by Kerry Washington.

As they picked up the award, they told the crowd: ‘We were not expecting that.’

Hat trick: Lazaro Hernandez (left) and Jack McCollough (right) pose with Kerry Washington after winning the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award for the third time

Winning teams: Accessory Designer of the Year Phillip Lim pictured with Rose Byrne (left) and menswear designer of the year Thom Browne with actor Dan Stevens (right)

Also among the big winners at America’s ‘fashion Oscars’ were Thom Browne, who won the Menswear Designer of the Year award, and Phillip Lim, who won the Accessory Designer of the Year title.

Vera Wang was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award, by her former mentor Ralph Lauren.

According to the the DKNYPRGirl Twitter handle, Mr. Lauren was holding his one-time protégée’s hand all night because she had been so nervous.

She told him in her speech: ‘I thank you for always believing in me. To all the women and men I dress, thank you for your trust.’

Trophies are the new black: Pamela Love triumphantly holds up her Swarovski Awards for Accessory Design (left); Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci (with actress Jessica Chastain, right) won the International Award

While the event honored design talent, it was wall-to-wall with supermodels and A-listers.

Among the guests in attendance were Jessica Chastain, Rose Byrne and Sofia Vergara. Models included Victoria’s Secret beauties Karlie Kloss, Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel and Alessandra Ambrosio, as well as their former Angel-mate Miranda Kerr.

The Olsen Twins and Nicole Richie were among the more famous fashion designers on the red carpet, as well as Tory Burch, Betsey Johnson and Jenna Lyons. Story Continued

Obama nominations set up potential Senate battle over judgesBy Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News – Setting the stage for what is likely to be a months-long struggle with Senate Republicans, President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated two attorneys and a judge to fill the vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – considered to be the nation’s second-most powerful court since so many federal regulations are litigated before that court.

Accusing Senate Republicans of obstructing his judicial nominees with “blatant” political maneuvers, Obama called for an up-or-down vote on the three. “The Senate is tasked with providing advice and consent,” the president said in remarks at the White House. “They can approve a president’s nominee or they can reject president’s nominee. But they have a constitutional duty to promptly consider judicial nominees for confirmation.”

Noting that his first-term nominees overall waited three times longer to receive confirmation votes than those of former President George W. Bush, Obama said, “time and again, congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay, and even block, qualified nominees from coming to a full vote.”

During his nomination of three judges to fill the remaining vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, President Obama calls Republican opposition to confirm his judicial nominees “political obstruction.”

“I recognize that neither party has a perfect track record here,” Obama said but added, “what’s happening now is unprecedented. For the good of the American people it has to stop.”

Obama’s picks for the D.C. Court of Appeals are:

Cornelia “Nina” Pillard, a former Justice Department official in the Clinton administration who now teaches at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington;

Patricia Ann Millett, an appellate lawyer who has argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court. Millett served in the Justice Department for years before joining a law firm in Washington.

Judge Robert Wilkins, a federal trial court judge in Washington and a former public defender.

Last month, the Senate unanimously confirmed Sri Srinivasan, Obama’s nominee to the D.C. Circuit, and with eight active-duty judges, some Republicans argue the court now has enough judges to handle its workload.

In March, Caitlin Halligan, another Obama nominee to the court, withdrew after Senate Republicans blocked her from a getting a confirmation vote. The National Rifle Association opposed Halligan due to her involvement while Solicitor General for the state of New York in a lawsuit against gun manufacturers.

Prior to the Srinivasan confirmation vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “You have a majority on that court that is wreaking havoc with the country,” Reid adding that with further GOP delays perhaps the judges on that court will issue more opinions in the next couple of weeks favorable to the Republicans – as that court did in January when it ruled that Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional.

Commenting Monday on reports that Obama would nominate three people to fill the vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, Sen. Charles Grassley, R- Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said, “It’s hard to imagine the rationale for nominating three judges at once for this court given the many vacant emergency seats across the country, unless your goal is to pack the court to advance a certain policy agenda. No matter how you slice it, the D.C. Circuit ranks last, or almost last, in nearly every category that measures workload.” Story Continued

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· Michelle Obama confronts protester, threatens to leave fundraiserFirst lady Michelle Obama experienced a rare face-to-face encounter with a protester late Tuesday – approaching the activist and threatening to leave a fundraiser if the person did not stop interrupting her speech.

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Obama was addressing a Democratic Party fundraiser in a private Kalorama home in Northwest Washington when Ellen Sturtz, 56, a lesbian activist, interrupted her remarks to demand that President Obama sign an anti-discrimination executive order.

Obama showed her displeasure – pausing to confront Sturtz eye to eye, according to witnesses.

“One of the things that I don’t do well is this,” she said to applause from most of the guests, according to a White House transcript. “Do you understand?”

A pool report from a reporter in the room said Obama “left the lectern and moved over to the protester.” The pool report quoted Obama as saying: “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.”

Obama’s suggestion that she would leave was not included in the official White House transcript.

The audience responded by asking Obama to remain, according to the pool report, which quoted a woman nearby telling Sturtz, “You need to go.”

Sturtz was escorted out of the room. She said in an interview later she was stunned by Obama’s response.

“She came right down in my face,” Sturtz said. “I was taken aback.”

Sturtz said she told Obama she was happy to take the microphone to plead her case, which, Sturtz said, appeared to fluster the first lady.

“I said I want your husband to sign the executive order,” Sturtz said. “Her husband could sign this order tonight and protect 22 percent of the work force in this country.”

Sturtz said she paid $500 to attend the fundraiser, part of a protest cooked up by the gay rights group GetEqual, which gained notice in Obama’s first term for hectoring him during speeches and demanding more action on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Sturtz, who gave $5,000 to the Democratic Party and Obama’s campaign in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, said she was devoting herself to full-time activism now pressing the White House on the employment discrimination issue.

The proposed executive order that prompted Sturtz’s outburst would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT activists, many of whom hailed Obama for his vocal support for same-sex marriage rights in the months leading up to his reelection in 2012, have been increasingly dismayed that the White House has not yet acted on the proposed order.

The issue has been building for years, pushed by gay rights advocates who argue that more than 20 percent of the U.S. workforce is employed by federal contractors. Advocates for the executive order have attempted to exert more quiet pressure, highlighting cases of discrimination by some firms and connecting workers to administration officials to make personal appeals.

White House officials have said they back legislation to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but have declined to say whether the executive order is pending.

Metro Weekly, a gay newspaper, reported in 2012 that, as a presidential candidate in 2008, then-Sen. Obama had pledged to a Houston LGBT group that he would support a “formal written policy” of non-discrimination. Story Continued

· Secret Man Caves Found in EPA Warehouse

A warehouse maintained by contractors for the Environmental Protection Agency contained secret rooms full of exercise equipment, televisions and couches, according to an internal audit.

EPA’s inspector general found contractors used partitions, screens and piled up boxes to hide the rooms from security cameras in the 70,000 square-foot building located in Landover, Md. The warehouse — used for inventory storage — is owned by the General Services Administration and leased to the EPA for about $750,000 per year.

The EPA has issued a stop work order to Apex Logistics LLC, the responsible contractor, ensuring the company’s workers no longer have access to the site — EPA security officials escorted contractor personnel off the premises on May 17 — and ending all payments on the contract.

Since awarding the contract in May 2007, EPA has paid Apex Logistics about $5.3 million, most of which went to labor costs. Conditions at the facility “raise questions about time charges made by warehouse employees under the contract,” the report said.

“The warehouse contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces created by and for the workers that included televisions, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and couches,” the IG report said. “These spaces contained personal items, including photos, pin ups, calendars, clothing, books, magazines and videos.”

The agency has completed an inventory of the warehouse’s contents and segregated all surplus furniture. EPA has committed to conducting an agency-wide review of all warehouse and storage facility operations.

In addition to the secret rooms, the IG found an incomplete and inaccurate recordkeeping system; numerous potential security and safety hazards, including an open box of passports; and “deplorable conditions” — such as corrosion, vermin feces and “pervasive” mold.

EPA acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said in a letter to the inspector general the agency has taken “immediate, aggressive actions” in response to the findings.

“The EPA is committed to addressing the previous conditions at the warehouse and implementing institutional protections to ensure those conditions do not recur at this facility or any other used by the agency,” Perciasepe wrote. Story Continued

– The government has reached a size where this happens along with the current IRS scandals and the implication is the government is too large. PdC

· Obama appoints Susan Rice as national security adviser

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Hailing her longtime role as a “trusted adviser,” President Barack Obama formally named U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his next national security adviser on Wednesday.

Obama tapped Rice, a target of Republican criticism in recent months, to succeed Tom Donilon; the president also nominated Samantha Power, a longtime foreign policy adviser, to take over Rice’s role at the United Nations.

“I am absolutely thrilled that she’ll be back at my side leading my national security team in my second term,” Obama said of Rice, a longtime confidant whose role in publicly explaining the administration’s initial assessment of last year’s terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, has made her a lightning rod for criticism.

President Barack Obama stands with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, his choice to be his next national security adviser, right, current national security adviser Tom Donilon, who is resigning, second from right, and Samantha Power, his nominee to be the next UN Ambassador, left, Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at the White House.

“I’m deeply honored and humbled to serve our country as your national security adviser,” Rice said at a White House event to formally announce the shake-up, just the latest instance of staff turnover on Obama’s foreign policy and national security teams in his second term.

Rice also told Obama she was “deeply grateful for [his] enduring confidence,” a seeming nod toward the whirlwind of controversy around her role in the Benghazi explanation, which helped scuttle her chances of becoming secretary of State.

Republicans who targeted Rice over the handling of the 2012 attacks in Benghazi reacted with the knowledge they have no role in confirming her for the post. “Obviously I disagree [with Obama’s] appointment of Susan Rice as Nat’l Security Adviser, but I’ll make every effort to work [with] her on [important] issues,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, one of Rice’s foremost critics on Benghazi, wrote on Twitter.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican with designs on seeking his party’s presidential nomination in 2016, was sharply more critical.

“I can’t imagine that we would be keeping Ambassador Rice in any significant position, much less promoting her to an important position,” he said on Fox News.

Power is not without controversy, either. She stepped down from the Obama campaign after referring to Hillary Clinton, then Obama’s opponent in the Democratic primary, as a “monster.”

NBC News’ Chuck Todd joins Morning Joe to report on the breaking news that Susan Rice has been tapped by President Obama to replace Tom Donilon as National Security Adviser.

Republicans have vocally criticized Rice for emerging on the Sunday morning talk show circuit on the weekend following the Benghazi attack, where she asserted that the attacks were the spontaneous outgrowth of protests related to an anti-Islamic video. In the months since then, senior Republicans have demanded more information about how the talking points provided to Rice were drafted; many in the GOP have suggested the talking points were motivated by electoral politics, since the attack occurred during the height of last fall’s presidential campaign.

The furor was enough to prompt Rice to withdraw her name from consideration to become Obama’s next secretary of state earlier this year.

Had the president nominated Rice to become secretary of state, she would have been forced to undergo bruising confirmation hearings; her new appointment as national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation. She complained about the “very prolonged, very politicized, very distracting and very disruptive” process of confirmation hearings.

Last month, Vice President Joe Biden praised Rice and her role in the Obama administration, saying she had “the absolute, total, complete confidence of the president.” Story Continued

· AP source: Obama to name Samantha Power to UN post 

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House official says President Barack Obama will name former aide Samantha Power as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Power will replace Susan Rice, who will take over as Obama’s national security adviser. The official says Obama will announce both appointments from the White House Wednesday afternoon.

Power is a longtime Obama adviser who worked on his 2008 presidential campaign and ran the human rights office in the White House. She left the administration in February but was considered the favorite to replace Rice at the U.N.

The official insisted on anonymity in order to confirm the appointment before it was publicly announced. Story Continued

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What’s Up June 3, 2013?

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· Obama was pushed by Clintons into endorsement of Hillary in 2016: Book – President Obama made a secret deal to support Hillary Clinton when she runs for president in 2016, campaign sources say, payback for the support her husband gave him in 2012.

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Bill Clinton’s animosity toward Obama is legendary. A year before the last election, he was urging Hillary to challenge the sitting president for the nomination — a move she rejected.

According to two people who attended that meeting in Chappaqua, Bill Clinton then went on a rant against Obama.

“I’ve heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I’ve heard from Obama,” my sources quoted Clinton as saying. “I have no relationship with the president — none whatsoever. Obama doesn’t know how to be president. He doesn’t know how the world works. He’s incompetent. He’s an amateur!”

For his part, Obama wasn’t interested in Bill Clinton upstaging him during the presidential campaign. He resisted giving him any role at the convention.

But as last summer wore on, and Democrat enthusiasm waned, chief political strategist David Axelrod convinced the president that he needed Bill Clinton’s mojo.

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A deal was struck: Clinton would give the key nominating speech at the convention, and a full-throated endorsement of Obama. In exchange, Obama would endorse Hillary Clinton as his successor.

Clinton’s speech was as promised; columnists pointed out the surprising enthusiasm in which he described the president. It also lived up to Obama’s fears, as more people talked about Clinton’s speech in the weeks following than his own.

But after his re-election, Obama began to have second thoughts. He would prefer to stay neutral in the next election, as is traditional of outgoing presidents.

Bill Clinton went ballistic and threatened retaliation. Obama backed down. He called his favorite journalist, Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes,” and offered an unprecedented “farewell interview” with departing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The result was a slobbering televised love-in — and an embarrassment to all concerned.

It is just one of the debacles that have marked Obama’s second term, from Benghazi to the IRS scandal. While he was effective on the campaign trail, once in the Oval Office, he becomes a different person, one who derives no joy from the cut and thrust of day-to-day politics and who is inept in the arts of management and governance.

Obama has made a lot of promises — and nothing ever happened.

He once boasted that he’d bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table and create a permanent peace in the Middle East. Nothing happened.

He said he’d open a constructive dialogue with America’s enemies in Iran and North Korea and, through his special powers of persuasion, help them see the error of their ways. And nothing happened.

He said he’d solve the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and put millions of people back to work. And nothing happened.

He may yet try to back out of his promise to Hillary Clinton. But as Obama’s presidency sinks deeper into scandal and inaction, the question is — will Clinton even still want his endorsement? Story Continued

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Brokaw: ‘It’s Tough to See How’ Holder Keeps His Job TOM BROKAW, FORMER NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: I talked over the weekend to a very, very senior ex-intelligence official from United States government, and he laughed. He said, “Look, this administration and all prior administrations have used classified material when it’s been to their political advantage.” And he was astonished by the way that Eric Holder, the chief legal officer of the United States, has recused himself in the Associated Press case. So we still have a way to go here, David.

DAVID GREGORY, HOST: Do you think– you’ve seen these kinds of investigations before meaning the Judiciary Investigation Committee, investigation of the Attorney General, this could be elongated. You have this morning on The New York Times government officials talking off the record or on background about his effectiveness. Does he stay in the job?

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BROKAW: Boy, I think it’s tough to see how he does at this case, but it’s up to the president. That– what we’re seeing in The New York Times today is that familiar Washington two-step. Officially, getting the endorsement of people like David Axelrod and– and the spokesman for the president, but at the same time, there’s another part of that two-step that is going on which people are saying it would be better if he left. It would be better for the president to get this cleaned up.

He has become obviously the lightning rod for a lot of the criticism just on this panel and certainly in Republican circles. From a political point of view, one of the ways that you can measure the impact of all of this and the fairness of it is think if this had happened in the Bush administration with John Ashcroft as the Attorney General. You know full well that the Democrats and the left would be going very hard after them with these issues that are in play.

To be sure, Brokaw is no Walter Cronkite, but if Holder has lost him, the Attorney General’s in a heap of trouble.

Also interesting was Brokaw’s final comment concerning how the left would be reacting if the players in this scandal were named Ashcroft and Bush.

Indeed, it would be far different particularly in the media.

Why might that be? Story Continued

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· Two-Thirds of Americans Don’t Know If They Will Insure Under Obamacare   There’s no assurance folks will be buying insurance under Obamacare, and that could spell trouble for the Affordable Care Act.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans who currently lack health insurance don’t know yet if they will purchase that coverage by the Jan. 1 deadline set by the ACA, a new survey revealed Monday.

And less than half of those in the survey released by InsuranceQuotes.com think they’ll get better health care after Obamacare takes full effect. Nearly 50 percent believe the ACA will make it more difficult for them to get tests and procedures done in a timely manner, according to the phone survey of 1,001 adult Americans conducted in early May.

And a whopping 68 percent of low-income Americans aren’t sure they qualify for tax credits that would subsidize their purchase of health insurance—despite they fact that they almost invariably will qualify, the survey found. That population is most likely to benefit from government subsidies under the health-care reform law.

Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com, said public uncertainty about Obamacare—particularly a lack of commitment to signing up—could end up driving up health-insurance costs under the program because not enough healthy people will participate to offset benefits payouts.

“I was really shocked that 64 percent [of uninsured adults] said they haven’t decided if they will purchase insurance by the Jan. 1 deadline,” Adams said. “I was definitely surprised by the high number of people who really have no clue what they’re going to do next year.”

“We don’t want these consumers to miss this key deadline,” she said, adding that new heath-care exchanges under Obamacare will begin accepting applications for insurance in less than four months. “They’re going to potentially go without health care for the entire year.”

In other findings of the survey, more than 60 percent of Americans said they fear Obamacare will lead to increased health-care costs.

Just 26 percent predicted such costs will go down under the program, according the survey by Insurance Quotes, which provides an online marketplace for consumers and insurers to seek and provide quotes for insurance coverage. The web site is part of Bankrate Insurance, an online network owned by Bankrate.com.

A total of 61 percent of the uninsured they don’t having insurance because they can’t afford it, the survey found. And a total of 58 percent of all adults—insured or otherwise—didn’t know if they will be eligible for tax credits to offset their purchase of health insurance, even though a married couple with two kids could make up to $94,000 and still qualify.

The survey, which was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, had an overall margin of error of 3.6 percent. At total of 83 percent of those surveyed currently have health insurance, while 17 percent were uninsured—which tracks that national proportions.

Under the ACA, uninsured Americans have until the beginning of 2014 to purchase insurance through health-care exchanges being set up nationwide or other venues—or face a financial penalty. That penalty is equal to $95 per adult, and $47.50 per child, up to a maximum of $285—or 1 percent of household income, whichever is greater.

Those penalties will escalate in future years.

Adams of InsuranceQuotes.com said uninsured people might be holding off making a decision on buying health insurance because “folks are saying that the penalty is low.”

“But I have a feeling that it’s more that they’re not educated,” she said.

“It’s not surprising that people are confused and uninformed,” Adams said. “It’s a complicated system. It involves a lot of detail that the average person, unfortunately, is not going to grasp.”

That confusion not only could hurt individuals’ wallets—by making them pay out-of-pocket for health care as needed—but also put financial pressure on insurers offering coverage through exchanges set up under the ACA.

That system is predicated on the theory that enough healthy people will enroll and buy insurance so that their premiums will offset the costs of benefits for less healthy people in the same plan. If not enough healthy people sign up, Adams noted, insurers will be on the hook for the benefit payouts regardless, cutting into, or erasing their profits.

“If only the sick enroll,” Adams warned, “it could be very precarious for the industry and the cost of insurance.”

Adams said ignorance could hit lower-income Americans particularly hard.

“There were 68 percent of people who are earning under $30,000, who are not sure what they’re going to do,” Adams said, despite the fact that “they are certainly eligible” for tax credits to offset the costs of buying insurance under the ACA.

“They should” sign up, she said.

Adams noted that if poor adults without dependents live in states that are not expanding their Medicaid programs under Obamacare, they risk not being covered by that health-insurance program despite making the same low wages as adults who have dependents. Story Continued

· Court: Police can take DNA swabs from arresteesA sharply divided Supreme Court on Monday said police can routinely take DNA from people they arrest, equating a DNA cheek swab to other common jailhouse procedures like fingerprinting.

“Taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court’s five-justice majority.

But the four dissenting justices said that the court was allowing a major change in police powers.

“Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said in a sharp dissent which he read aloud in the courtroom.

At least 28 states and the federal government now take DNA swabs after arrests. But a Maryland court was one of the first to say that it was illegal for that state to take Alonzo King’s DNA without approval from a judge, saying King had “a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicion less searches.”

But the high court’s decision reverses that ruling and reinstates King’s rape conviction, which came after police took his DNA during an unrelated arrest. Kennedy wrote the decision, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Scalia was joined in his dissent by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Getting DNA swabs from criminals is common. All 50 states and the federal government take cheek swabs from convicted criminals to check against federal and state databanks, with the court’s blessing. The fight at the Supreme Court was over whether that DNA collection could come before conviction and without a judge issuing a warrant.

According to court documents, the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System or CODIS – a coordinated system of federal, state and local databases of DNA profiles – already contains more than 10 million criminal profiles and 1.1 million profiles of those arrested.

In the case before the court, a 53-year-old woman was raped and robbed but no one was arrested. Almost six years later, Alonzo King was arrested and charged with felony second-degree assault. Taking advantage of the Maryland law that allowed warrantless DNA tests following some felony arrests, police took a cheek swab of King’s DNA, which matched a sample from the 2003 Salisbury rape. King was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison.

King eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault from his arrest, a crime for which Maryland cannot take warrantless DNA samples. The state courts said it violated King’s rights for the state to take his DNA based on an arrest alone. The state Court of Appeals said King had “a sufficiently weighty and reasonable expectation of privacy against warrantless, suspicion less searches.” But the high court’s decision reinstates King’s conviction.

Maryland stopped collecting DNA after that decision, but Roberts allowed police to keep collecting DNA samples pending the high court’s review. Story Continued

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· GOP sees reasons for optimism in 2014 for Senate; retiring or vulnerable Democrats open door

It’s early — 17 months early — but Republicans have reason to be optimistic about the way the 2014 Senate races are shaping up around the county, especially in South Dakota and West Virginia, where Democratic incumbents are retiring.

Republicans also have solid options emerging in Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina, red states where Democratic incumbents are considered vulnerable.

Almost a year-and-a-half out from the 2014 midterm elections, when 35 seats — 21 now held by Democrats and 14 by Republicans — will be up for grabs, a GOP road map for picking up the six seats needed to retake control of the Senate is taking shape.

A key stop on that map is South Dakota.

Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson’s decision to step down at the end of his current term has created an opening for either former Republican Gov. Mike Rounds, who has declared his candidacy, or freshman GOP Rep. Kristi L. Noem, who is flirting with a bid.

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Whoever emerges as the GOP nominee is thought to have the upper hand after former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin opted out of the race, leaving long-shot Rick Welland, a former aide to retired Sen. Tom Daschle, as the likely Democratic nominee.

Two more promising pickup possibilities are in Louisiana, where Rep. Bill Cassidy is off to a strong fundraising start in a GOP primary race that could get crowded, and West Virginia, where Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is holding a lead in a state that strongly backed Mitt Romney last year.

Outside those three states, the map is less clear.

In Nebraska, two prominent Republicans passed on a run for retiring Sen. Mike Johanns‘ open seat — opening the door for a dark horse like Ben Sasse, a former George W. Bush administration official the GOP may turn to in hopes of offering voters a fresh face who could keep the seat in its corner.

And in Montana, Democrats are waiting to see whether popular incumbent Gov. Brian Schweitzer will jump into the Senate race, which could seriously damage GOP hopes of grabbing that seat.

Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said the 2012 presidential election shows where the Republican opportunities can be found. They need to recapture six seats in seven states that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried last year.

The party’s problem, one observer said, is getting the right people to run.

“Their recruiting has gone poorly so far in places like Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia,” Mr. Kondik said. “So, despite having a big map to play offense on, in reality the Republican road appears to be narrowing to the red presidential states: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. Luckily for them, Republicans can capture the Senate without winning a single seat in Obama states.”

Part of the challenge is to find new faces the party can turn to as it continues to shed the image it had during the Bush administration and to meld tea-party enthusiasm with candidates who bring campaign experience.

Seeking a challenger to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, the GOP is eyeing former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown, who lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 election and has not ruled out a Granite State run. Story Continued

· Center For American Progress President Shares Part In Obamacare: “I Helped Write The Bill

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT OF CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: If I were a conservative, I would just say, ‘I won.’ Okay? They have a centrist plan, there’s competition.

JAMES POULOS, HUFFINGTON POST & FORBES : You have everything that’s wrong with capitalism and everything that’s wrong with big government. Big business and big government partnering together to create this hodgepodge of a thing —

TANDEN: Why is that a hodgepodge? Why do you keep saying these words like hodgepodge?

POULOS: Have you read the bill?

TANDEN: Yes. I helped write the bill. So yes, I read the bill. I read all 2,200 pages of the bill. And you know like Dodd-Frank and the immigration bill? These are all long bills. The number of pages don’t matter to how complicated it is. There’s been a lot of rhetoric for years. When you have people who can afford healthcare for the first time. When we have a country where you no longer have to go bankrupt because of your healthcare costs. (HBO’s Real Time, May 31, 2013) Story Continued and to watch the video

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