Daily Archive: 03/06/2014

Mar 06 2014

CIA May Have Spied on Its Overseers

In an article from McCaltchy, it was revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency may have been spying on Senate Select Committee on Intelligence members as they investigated the agency’s involvement and cover up of torture, rendition, and black op prisons. The allegation that the CIA hacked the computers used by committee staffers preparing the 6300 page report has led to the CIA’s Inspector General to request the Justice Department to open an investigation of the SIA’s actions which may have been a violation of an agreement between the committee and the agency.

In question now is whether any part of the committee’s report, which took some four years to compose and cost $40 million, will ever see the light of day.

The report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques that many experts consider torture, according to public statements by committee members. It also shows, members have said, how the techniques didn’t provide the intelligence that led the CIA to the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs.

The committee determined earlier this year that the CIA monitored computers – in possible violation of an agreement against doing so – that the agency had provided to intelligence committee staff in a secure room at CIA headquarters that the agency insisted they use to review millions of pages of top-secret reports, cables and other documents, according to people with knowledge.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, a panel member, apparently was referring to the monitoring when he asked CIA Director John Brennan at a Jan. 29 hearing if provisions of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act “apply to the CIA? Seems to me that’s a yes or no answer.”

Brennan replied that he’d have to get back to Wyden after looking into “what the act actually calls for and it’s applicability to CIA’s authorities.”

At the New York Times, Mark Mazzetti reports:

The origins of the current dispute date back more than a year, when the committee completed its work on a 6,000-page report about the Bush administration’s detention and interrogation program. People who have read the study said it is a withering indictment of the program and details many instances when C.I.A. officials misled Congress, the White House and the public about the value of the agency’s brutal interrogation methods, including waterboarding.

The report has yet to be declassified, but last June, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, responded to the Senate report with a 122-page rebuttal challenging specific facts in the report as well as the investigation’s overarching conclusion – that the agency’s interrogation methods yielded little valuable intelligence.

Then, in December, Mr. Udall revealed that the Intelligence Committee had become aware of an internal C.I.A. study that he said was “consistent with the Intelligence Committee’s report” and “conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report.”

It appears that Mr. Udall’s revelation is what set off the current fight, with C.I.A. officials accusing the Intelligence Committee of learning about the internal review by gaining unauthorized access to agency databases.

Marcy Wheeler explained the lead up to these new revelations:

In January, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall suggested that CIA was hacking into US computers.

   Wyden asked (43;04) John Brennan whether the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act applied to the CIA.

       

Wyden: Does the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act apply to the CIA?

       Brennan: I would have to look into what that act actually calls for and its applicability to CIA’s authorities. I’ll be happy to get back to you, Senator, on that.

       Wyden: How long would that take?

       Brennan: I’ll be happy to get back to you as soon as possible but certainly no longer than-

       Wyden: A week?

       Brennan: I think that I could get that back to you, yes.

   Minutes later, Mark Udall raised EO 12333′s limits on CIA’s spying domestically (48:30).

     

Udall: I want to be able to reassure the American people that the CIA and the Director understand the limits of its authorities. We are all aware of Executive Order 12333. That order prohibits the CIA from engaging in domestic spying and searches of US citizens within our borders. Can you assure the Committee that the CIA does not conduct such domestic spying and searches?

       Brennan: I can assure the Committee that the CIA follows the letter and spirit of the law in terms of what CIA’s authorities are, in terms of its responsibilities to collect intelligence that will keep this country safe. Yes Senator, I do.

The NYT’s notes that it appears the spying began after the committee members accessed documents that the CIA didn’t want them to see. The next question should be, how did the CIA know what documents were accessed if they weren’t already monitoring the members? What were in those documents that the CIA didn’t want to be seen?

One of the questions that Sen. Udall asked Brennan was if the Computers Crimes and Abuse Act (18 USC § 1030) applied to the CIA. This was part of Brennan’s response

The answer is the statute does apply. The Act, however, does not expressly prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity , , , of an intelligence agency of the United States,

It appears not only did the CIA violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the National Securities Act and EO 12333 but Brennan lied about it to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why does he still have his job?

Mar 06 2014

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Peter van Buren: Silencing Whistleblowers Obama-Style

Supreme Court Edition?

The Obama administration has just opened a new front in its ongoing war on whistleblowers. It’s taking its case against one man, former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Robert MacLean, all the way to the Supreme Court. So hold on, because we’re going back down the rabbit hole with the Most Transparent Administration ever.

Despite all the talk by Washington insiders about how whistleblowers like Edward Snowden should work through the system rather than bring their concerns directly into the public sphere, MacLean is living proof of the hell of trying to do so. Through the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to use MacLean’s case to further limit what kinds of information can qualify for statutory whistleblowing protections. If the DOJ gets its way, only information that the government thinks is appropriate — a contradiction in terms when it comes to whistleblowing — could be revealed. Such a restriction would gut the legal protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act and have a chilling effect on future acts of conscience.

John Nichols: Obama Administration Gets It Precisely Wrong on Trade Policy

It won’t get as much notice as his budget proposal, but President Obama’s “2014 Trade Policy Agenda,” which was released this week, sends an exceptionally powerful signal regarding the administration’s economic vision.

Unfortunately, it’s the wrong signal.

While the president – in his public pronouncements and his budget – is saying a lot of the right things about income inequality and investment in infrastructure and job creation, the White House has yet to recognize the harm that is done to the American economy-and to prospects of economic renewal that the president envisions-by failed trade policies.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Ukraine Crisis Calls for Less Neocon Bluster, More Common Sense

It is time to reduce tensions and create possibility with Russia, not flex rhetorical muscles and fan the flames of folly.

The escalating crisis in Ukraine has set off reckless missile-rattling and muscle-flexing in this country. My Post colleague Charles Krauthammer sees this as a Cold War faceoff, calling for the United States to ante up $15 billion for Ukraine and send a flotilla to the Black Sea. A front-page headline in The Post on Sunday said that the crisis “tests Obama’s focus on diplomacy over force,” quoting Andrew C. Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies decrying President Obama for “taking the stick option off the table.” Right-wing and Republican posturing fills the airwaves.

The Obama administration has responded to the crisis by flexing its own rhetorical muscle. When Vladi­mir Putin ignored Obama’s warning that “there will be costs” if he sent troops into Crimea, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the “brazen act of aggression,”vowing that “Russia is going to lose (and) the Russian people are going to lose,” suggesting “asset freezes (and) isolation with respect to trade (and) investment” while promising economic assistance of a “major sort” for whatever government emerges in Kiev. Cooler heads such as Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock described Obama’s warnings to Putin as “ill-advised” and argued that “whatever slim hope that Moscow might avoid overt military intervention in Ukraine disappeared when Obama in effect threw down a gauntlet and challenged him. This was not just a mistake of political judgment – it was a failure to understand human psychology – unless, of course, he actually wanted a Russian intervention, which is hard for me to believe.”

Ari Berman: Willie Horton Politics: Senate Votes Against Civil Rights

Today, the US Senate voted 47-52 not to confirm Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Every Republican senator and seven Democrats voted against Adegbile’s nomination.

Adegbile, the former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was superbly qualified for the position. He was endorsed by the American Bar Association and high-profile lawyers on both sides of the aisle, and presciently defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court last year. He would’ve made an excellent head of the Civil Rights Division.

But Adegbile was the victim of a vicious right-wing smear campaign, attacking him because LDF defended Mumia Abu Jamal’s right to a fair trial. All across the right-wing media echo chamber, on Fox News and conservative blogs, the words Adegbile and “cop-killer” were plastered in the headlines. The Fraternal Order of Police came out against his nomination, even though a court agreed with LDF that Abu Jamal had not been granted a fair trial-a basic right in American society regardless of whether he did or did not commit the crime.

Hina Shamsi: Death without Due Process

Obama violating the ideals he pledged to uphold

The White House is once again weighing whether to kill an American citizen overseas as part of its “targeted killing” program.

This extrajudicial killing program should make every American queasy. Based on largely secret legal standards and entirely secret evidence, our government has killed thousands of people. At least several hundred were killed far from any battlefield. Four of the dead are Americans. Astonishingly, President Obama’s Justice Department has said the courts have no role in deciding whether the killing of U.S. citizens far from any battlefield is lawful.

The president, it seems, can be judge, jury, and executioner.

This is not the law. Our Constitution and international law strictly limit extrajudicial killing, for good reason. In areas of actual armed conflict, killing can be lawful because of battlefield requirements. Outside that context, an extrajudicial killing is legal only as a last resort, and only in response to a truly imminent threat. This makes sense: If a threat is imminent, there is no time for judicial review. In every other context, the Constitution requires the government to prove its case to a court before it kills. After all, allegations aren’t evidence – the difference between the two is due process.

Mar 06 2014

On This Day In History March 6

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.

March 6 is the 65th day of the year (66th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 300 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1857, the US Supreme Court hands down its decision on Sanford v. Dred Scott, a case that intensified national divisions over the issue of slavery.

Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857), was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves (or their descendants, whether or not they were slaves) were not protected by the Constitution and could never be U.S. citizens. The court also held that the U.S. Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in federal territories and that, because slaves were not citizens, they could not sue in court. Furthermore, the Court ruled that slaves, as chattels or private property, could not be taken away from their owners without due process. The Supreme Court’s decision was written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.

Although the Supreme Court has never overruled the Dred Scott case, the Court stated in the Slaughter-House Cases of 1873 that at least one part of it had already been overruled by the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868:

   The first observation we have to make on this clause is, that it puts at rest both the questions which we stated to have been the subject of differences of opinion. It declares that persons may be citizens of the United States without regard to their citizenship of a particular State, and it overturns the Dred Scott decision by making all persons born within the United States and subject to its jurisdiction citizens of the United States.

The Decision

The Supreme Court ruling was handed down on March 6, 1857, just two days after Buchanan’s inauguration. Chief Justice Taney delivered the opinion of the Court, with each of the concurring and dissenting Justices filing separate opinions. In total, six Justices agreed with the ruling; Samuel Nelson concurred with the ruling but not its reasoning, and Benjamin R. Curtis and John McLean dissented. The court misspelled Sanford’s name in the decision.

Opinion of the Court

The Court first had to decide whether it had jurisdiction. Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that “the judicial Power shall extend… to Controversies… between Citizens of different States….” The Court held that Scott was not a “citizen of a state” within the meaning of the United States Constitution, as that term was understood at the time the Constitution was adopted, and therefore not able to bring suit in federal court. Furthermore, whether a person is a citizen of a state, for Article III purposes, was a question to be decided by the federal courts irrespective of any state’s definition of “citizen” under its own law.

Thus, whether Missouri recognized Scott as a citizen was irrelevant. Taney summed up,

   Consequently, no State, since the adoption of the Constitution, can by naturalizing an alien invest him with the rights and privileges secured to a citizen of a State under the Federal Government, although, so far as the State alone was concerned, he would undoubtedly be entitled to the rights of a citizen, and clothed with all the rights and immunities which the Constitution and laws of the State attached to that character.

This meant that

   no State can, by any act or law of its own, passed since the adoption of the Constitution, introduce a new member into the political community created by the Constitution of the United States.

The only relevant question, therefore, was whether, at the time the Constitution was ratified, Scott could have been considered a citizen of any state within the meaning of Article III. According to the Court, the authors of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as

   beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

The Court also presented a parade of horribles argument as to the feared results of granting Mr. Scott’s petition:

   It would give to persons of the negro race, …the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased, …the full liberty of speech in public and in private upon all subjects upon which its own citizens might speak; to hold public meetings upon political affairs, and to keep and carry arms wherever they went.

Scott was not a citizen of Missouri, and the federal courts therefore lacked jurisdiction to hear the dispute.

Despite the conclusion that the Court lacked jurisdiction, however, it went on to hold (in what Republicans would label its “obiter dictum”) that Scott was not a free man, even though he had resided for a time in Minnesota (then called the Wisconsin Territory). The Court held that the provisions of the Missouri Compromise declaring it to be free territory were beyond Congress’s power to enact. The Court rested its decision on the grounds that Congress’s power to acquire territories and create governments within those territories was limited. They held that the Fifth Amendment barred any law that would deprive a slaveholder of his property, such as his slaves, because he had brought them into a free territory. The Court went on to state – although the issue was not before the Court – that the territorial legislatures had no power to ban slavery. The ruling also asserted that neither slaves “nor their descendants, were embraced in any of the other provisions of the Constitution” that protected non-citizens.

This was only the second time in United States history that the Supreme Court had found an act of Congress to be unconstitutional. (The first time was 54 years earlier in Marbury v. Madison).

Mar 06 2014

Quantum Ad Duo

As the 2016 election approaches you will once again be subjected to endless exhortations to choose something called the “lesser of two evils”.

The current socio-political-economic environment is the result of people not only falling for that for decades, but also doing everything they can do after falling for it for decades to convince you to fall for it too, to justify their falling for it.

The alternative to being sucked in once again by the two party scam will be worse how?

The alternative to being sucked in once again by the two party scam is not being sucked in once again by the two party scam.

Your choice.  Choose wisely.