Daily Archive: 06/25/2013

Jun 25 2013

Spying on Each Other

The revelation of a federal program to “Keep America Safe” got little notice amidst the hullabaloo over the hunt for Edward Snowden. McClatchy News reported on The pervasive program created under the Obama administration to stop leaks and “security threats,” requiring “federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.”

President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage. [..]

As part of the initiative, Obama ordered greater protection for whistleblowers who use the proper internal channels to report official waste, fraud and abuse, but that’s hardly comforting to some national security experts and current and former U.S. officials. They worry that the Insider Threat Program won’t just discourage whistleblowing but will have other grave consequences for the public’s right to know and national security.

The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems.

in an unusual Sunday article at Esquire’s Politics Blog, Charles Pierce’s reacted to this program with these remarks:

(T)he Obama administration is the most fertile environment for paranoids since the Nixon people first cut a check to Egil Krogh. [..]

You want “Nixonian”? This, right here, this is Nixonian, if Nixon had grown up in East Germany. You’ve got the entire federal bureaucracy looking for signs of “high-risk persons or behaviors” the way Nixon sent Fred Malek out to count the Jews. You’ve got created within the entire federal bureaucracy a culture of spies and informers, which will inevitably breed fear and deceit and countless acts of interoffice treachery. (Don’t like your boss at the Bureau Of Land Management? Hmm, he looks like a high-risk person. Tell someone.) And this is the clincher.

   Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

And, out in Yorba Linda, there is a dark stirring deep in the earth, and a faint chuckling is heard in the midnight breeze. [..]

No, Mr. Current President, this is not business as usual. This is not even the NSA sifting through e-mails and phone calls. This is giving Big Brother a desk in every federal agency and telling him to go to work.



Transcript can be read here

For nearly two years, the White House has waged a program called “Insider Threat” that forces government employees to remain on the constant lookout for their colleagues’ behavior and to report their suspicions. It targets government officials who leak any information, not just classified material. All of this leads McClatchy to warn: “The [Insider Threat] program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations.” We’re joined by the reporter who helped break the story, Jonathan Landay, senior national security and intelligence reporter for McClatchy Newspapers. Landay also discusses his reporting that revealed how drone strikes carried out in Pakistan over a four-year period ran contrary to standards set forth publicly by President Obama.

This is what a police state looks like.

Jun 25 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson: The NSA’s Metastasized Intelligence-Industrial Complex Is Ripe for Abuse

Where oversight and accountability have failed, Snowden’s leaks have opened up a vital public debate on our rights and privacy

Let’s be absolutely clear about the news that the NSA collects massive amounts of information on US citizens – from emails, to telephone calls, to videos, under the Prism program and other Fisa court orders: this story has nothing to do with Edward Snowden. As interesting as his flight to Hong Kong might be, the pole-dancing girlfriend, and interviews from undisclosed locations, his fate is just a sideshow to the essential issues of national security versus constitutional guarantees of privacy, which his disclosures have surfaced in sharp relief.

Snowden will be hunted relentlessly and, when finally found, with glee, brought back to the US in handcuffs and severely punished. (If Private Bradley Manning’s obscene conditions while incarcerated are any indication, it won’t be pleasant for Snowden either, even while awaiting trial.) Snowden has already been the object of scorn and derision from the Washington establishment and mainstream media, but, once again, the focus is misplaced on the transiently shiny object. The relevant issue should be: what exactly is the US government doing in the people’s name to “keep us safe” from terrorists?

Dean Baker: Baffling Budget Numbers: Making Reporters Do Their Job

Polls consistently show that the vast majority of the public has almost no idea of where their tax dollars go.

They tend to hugely overestimate the portion of the budget that goes to items such as food stamps, public broadcasting and foreign aid, and to underestimate the importance of Medicare, the military and other core items in the budget. As a result, people are often ill-informed when it comes to political debates on budget priorities.

This can lead to absurd situations where large numbers of people tell pollsters things like they would like to see foreign aid cut. But then say they would like government to spend much more in this area than we are now spending.

John Nichols: Glenn Greenwald is “Aiding and Abetting” Democracy

Criminalizing investigative reporting may undermine and intimidate journalism, but it is even more devastating to democracy. Thomas Jefferson got it right when explained to John Jay that: “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

Jefferson’s friend and comrade, Tom Paine argued similarly that citizens must be informed in order to be free. “A nation under a well regulated government, should permit none to remain uninstructed,” he observed in The Rights of Man. “It is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support.”

Jefferson, Paine and their contemporaries often griped about the newspapers of their day. But they recognized, correctly, that the chains of ignorance had to be broken. They supported a free and freewheeling press as an underpinning of democracy in their day. As we should in ours.

New York Times Editorial Board: A Reprieve for Affirmative Action

By a vote of 7 to 1 on Monday, the Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling about a public university’s use of race as a factor in admissions. The good news is that the court affirmed major precedents going back 35 years. It asserted that a more diverse student body – and an admission policy that helps produce one – serves a compelling interest of government by achieving educational and social benefits. Diversity, in turn, helps realize what the court has called “the dream of one nation, indivisible.”

At the same time, the court sent the case at hand – Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin – back for review by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which had upheld the university’s use of race in its admissions policy. The court did not say that race could not be used to achieve diversity. It did say, however, that the appeals court must closely reconsider the university’s admissions process to determine whether a race-neutral approach could achieve the level of diversity it seeks.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: On Too Big to Fail, All the Warning Lights Are Flashing Red (VIDEO)

“Too Big to Fail” banks played a key role in causing the last financial crisis. Since then they’ve grown even bigger, without much discouragement from the government (and in some cases with government support). Not a single executive has been prosecuted, despite their rampant lawbreaking, which means that there’s been no effective deterrent against reckless and illegal behavior.

And, with millions still unemployed and hundreds of millions still suffering the economic after-effects of the last crisis, we’re just about due for the next one.  That’s why we convened a panel at last weekend’s Netroots Nation conference titled “Stopping the Next Depression: Ending Too Big to Fail.”  And that’s why our first question was, “What would happen if the 40 million people who live in underwater American homes went on a mortgage strike?”

Norman Solomon: The Pursuit of Edward Snowden: Washington in a Rage, Striving to Run the World

Rarely has any American provoked such fury in Washington’s high places. So far, Edward Snowden has outsmarted the smartest guys in the echo chamber — and he has proceeded with the kind of moral clarity that U.S. officials seem to find unfathomable.

Bipartisan condemnations of Snowden are escalating from Capitol Hill and the Obama administration. More of the NSA’s massive surveillance program is now visible in the light of day — which is exactly what it can’t stand.

The central issue is our dire shortage of democracy. How can we have real consent of the governed when the government is entrenched with extreme secrecy, surveillance and contempt for privacy?

Jun 25 2013

On This Day In History June 25

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 25 is the 176th day of the year (177th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 189 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1876, Native American forces led by Chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull defeat the U.S. Army troops of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer in a bloody battle near southern Montana’s Little Bighorn River.

Background

In 1875, Sitting Bull created the Sun Dance alliance between the Lakota and the Cheyenne, a religious ceremony which celebrates the spiritual rebirth of participants. One had taken place around June 5, 1876, on the Rosebud River in Montana, involving Agency Native Americans who had slipped away from their reservations to join the hostiles. During the event, Sitting Bull reportedly had a vision of “soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky.” At the same time, military officials had a summer campaign underway to force the Lakota and Cheyenne back to their reservations, using infantry and cavalry in a three-pronged approach.

Col. John Gibbon’s column of six companies of the 7th Infantry and four companies of the 2nd Cavalry marched east from Fort Ellis in western Montana on March 30, to patrol the Yellowstone River. Brig. Gen. George Crook’s column of ten companies of the 3rd Cavalry, five of the 2nd Cavalry, two companies of the 4th Infantry, and three companies of the 9th Infantry, moved north from Fort Fetterman in the Wyoming Territory on May 29, marching toward the Powder River area. Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry’s column, including twelve companies of the 7th Cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s immediate command, Companies C and G of the 17th U.S. Infantry, and the Gatling gun detachment of the 20th Infantry departed westward from Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory on May 17. They were accompanied by teamsters and packers with 150 wagons and a large contingent of pack mules that reinforced Custer. Companies C, D, and I of the 6th U.S. Infantry, moved along the Yellowstone River from Fort Buford on the Missouri River to set up a supply depot, and joined Terry on May 29 at the mouth of the Powder River.

The coordination and planning began to go awry on June 17, 1876, when Crook’s column was delayed after the Battle of the Rosebud. Surprised and, according to some accounts, astonished by the unusually large numbers of Native Americans in the battle, a defeated Crook was compelled to pull back, halt and regroup. Unaware of Crook’s battle, Gibbon and Terry proceeded, joining forces in early June near the mouth of the Rosebud River. They reviewed Terry’s plan calling for Custer’s regiment to proceed south along the Rosebud, while Terry and Gibbon’s united forces would move in a westerly direction toward the Bighorn and Little Bighorn rivers. As this was the likely location of Indian encampments, all Army elements were to converge around June 26 or 27, attempting to engulf the Native Americans. On June 22, Terry ordered the 7th Cavalry, composed of 31 officers and 566 enlisted men under Custer, to begin a reconnaissance and pursuit along the Rosebud, with the prerogative to “depart” from orders upon seeing “sufficient reason.” Custer had been offered the use of Gatling guns but declined, believing they would slow his command.

While the Terry/Gibbon column was marching toward the mouth of the Little Bighorn, on the evening of June 24, Custer’s scouts arrived at an overlook known as the Crow’s Nest, 14 miles (23 km) east of the Little Bighorn River. At sunrise on June 25, Custer’s scouts reported they could see a massive pony herd and signs of the Native American village roughly 15 miles (24 km) in the distance. After a night’s march, the tired officer sent with the scouts could see neither, and when Custer joined them, he was also unable to make the sighting. Custer’s scouts also spotted the regimental cooking fires that could be seen from 10 miles away, disclosing the regiment’s position.

Custer contemplated a surprise attack against the encampment the following morning of June 26, but he then received a report informing him several hostile Indians had discovered the trail left by his troops. Assuming his presence had been exposed, Custer decided to attack the village without further delay. On the morning of June 25, Custer divided his 12 companies into three battalions in anticipation of the forthcoming engagement. Three companies were placed under the command of Major Marcus Reno (A, G, and M); and three were placed under the command of Capt. Frederick Benteen. Five companies remained under Custer’s immediate command. The 12th, Company B, under Capt. Thomas McDougald, had been assigned to escort the slower pack train carrying provisions and additional ammunition.

Unbeknownst to Custer, the group of Native Americans seen on his trail were actually leaving the encampment on the Big Horn and did not alert the village. Custer’s scouts warned him about the size of the village, with scout Mitch Bouyer reportedly saying, “General, I have been with these Indians for 30 years, and this is the largest village I have ever heard of.” Custer’s overriding concern was that the Native American group would break up and scatter in different directions. The command began its approach to the Native American village at 12 noon and prepared to attack in full daylight.

Jun 25 2013

Around the Blogosphere

 photo Winter_solstice.gifThe main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.

We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.

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This is an Open Thread.

Paul Krugman has been in France the last week, at a conference and now hanging out on the beach in Normandy. The weather sounds pretty unbeach like.

At Beat the Press, Dean Baker schooled Robert Samuelson on inflation and and now gives him a lesson about supply and demand.

Over at Corrente, lambert has that found Margaret Thatcher has been living in Ottowa, Canada. He also doesn’t think that Edward Snowden is not a traitor despite what former VVAW medal-tosser John Kerry says he is. He could use aome advice about fencing to keep the woodchuck at bay.

Marcy Wheeler, proprietress of emptywheel, tells us that Senators Wyden and Udall sent a letter to the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander asking why the NSA is still publicly lying and dissects Alexander’s appearance on ABC’s “The Week with George Stephanopolis this Sunday.

The gang at FDL has been really busy. On the main page, Jon Walker gives us the skinny on the Massachusetts senate race to replace John Kerry. Democratic candidate Rep. Ed Markey has a solid lead over Republican Gabriel Gomez. Like anyone didn’t see that coming. He also reports that the Conference of Mayors who are asking the federal government to respect state marijuana laws.  

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Over at the News Desk, DSWright tells us, amazingly, that NSA Director Alexander doesn’t know “who WikiLeaks are other than this Assange person.”. Not only does Keith lie, he has a attention deficit problem. Or he’s just telling more lies. I’ll go with the latter.

Kevin Gosztola at The Dissenter has a round up of Week Three of Bradley Manning’s trial.

At Hullabaloo, digby isn’t as obsessed with Snowden, he’s not the story, but madder than a wet hen at the traditional MSM for now wanting to arrest Glenn Greenwald: “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.” She hasn’t read that huge formerly left wing liberal faded orange blog lately. That’ll set her hair on fire.

At naked capitalism, Bill Black reports how Ecuador won by defying the Neoliberal “Washington Consensus” Playbook. Yves Smith tells us that Administration Keeps Pretending Mortgage Servicing Has Been Fixed, Whistleblowers Say Otherwise.

From the Mike Masnick at Techdirt:

At Esquire’s Politics Blog, Charles Pierce came off his weekend hiatus the expound on a report from McClatchy News that the Obama administration has become “the most fertile environment for paranoids since the Nixon people first cut a check to Egil Krogh.” he has some rather unkind words for the president for creating “within the entire federal bureaucracy a culture of spies and informers, which will inevitably breed fear and deceit and countless acts of interoffice treachery. [..]  I continue to wonder precisely what Constitution of which nation this president taught back in his days in law school.” Ouch, indeed.

The last words got to Atrios at Eschaton: CRASH, BABY, CRASH

I don’t really want it to crash, but a crash is about the only thing which might cause Our Galtian Overlords to notice that maybe, just maybe, the economy isn’t perfect.

Jun 25 2013

More Video

A Public Service Announcement

The Young Turks (June 7th)

Brandenburg Gate (Full)