05/29/2014 archive

United States of Secrets

“Sometimes You Have to Break the Law to Do the Right Thing”

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden met with NBC News’ Brian Williams in Moscow Hotel to talk about the revelations and his personal situation.

Edward Snowden: ‘If I could go anywhere that place would be home’

By Tom McCarthy, The Guardian

Snowden tells NBC it was his duty to reveal sprawling NSA surveillance but going home meant ‘walking into a jail cell’.

One year after revealing himself as the source of the biggest intelligence leak in US history, Edward Snowden appeared in a long network television interview on Wednesday to describe himself as an American patriot and to make the case that his disclosures were motivated by a desire to help the country.

In his most extensive public comments to date Snowden sought to answer critics who have said his actions damaged US national security or that the threat from the secret government surveillance he revealed was overblown. Snowden was interviewed by the NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who travelled to Moscow for the meeting.

Snowden defended his decision to leak documents to the press, instead of restricting his complaints to internal channels, and explained why he had decided for the moment not to travel back to the United States to face criminal charges.

NSA releases email in dispute over Snowden ‘internal whistleblowing’

• Leaker says he raised surveillance concerns internally

• Agency: email ‘did not raise allegations or concerns’

The National Security Agency has disputed Edward Snowden’s insistence that he made efforts to raise his concerns about its surveillance practices internally before he decided to go public.

Releasing an email exchange it claimed to be the only record it could find of such an effort by Snowden, the agency said on Thursday he was merely “asking for an explanation of some material that was in a training course he had just completed”.

Six months ago, the agency issued a statement saying it had “not found any evidence to support Mr Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention”.

Top NSA officials struggled over surge in Foia requests, emails reveal

By Jason Leopold, The Guardian

• Snowden leaks prompted thousands of open record requests

• Top agency officials discussed how to fend off Foia inquiries

National Security Agency officials wrestled for weeks with how to respond to an unprecedented surge in open records requests from members of the public in the wake of the first mass surveillance revelations from Edward Snowden almost a year ago.

Newly released NSA emails, obtained by the Guardian under a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) request filed last November, reveal that top officials discussed how to fend off journalists, advocacy groups and individuals who flooded the agency with more than 1,000 requests between 5 June and 25 June last year for classified data related to the former contractor’s disclosures. [..]

The NSA is one of the few US government agencies virtually exempt from open records laws because its activities are considered properly classified under a presidential executive order and many Foia exemptions.

But since details about the NSA’s vast surveillance activities were no longer a secret thanks to Snowden’s disclosures, the agency didn’t know how to respond to requesters.

Internal discussions took place between a newly formed media leaks taskforce, NSA’s public affairs office, the office of general counsel, the policy and records division and the Foia office.

A Fuller Story

NBC News Confirms Attempt by Edward Snowden to Go Through Channels at NSA

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Thursday May 29, 2014 10:51 am

One major argument from critics of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been that he did not go through “proper channels” in government before taking documents on top secret surveillance programs and providing them to journalists. But, during NBC News’ exclusive interview with Snowden, the network indicated that it was able to confirm Snowden had made at least one attempt to go through channels and the network is in the process of obtaining records showing other complaints were made to superiors.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams asked Snowden, “When the president and others have made the point that you should have gone through channels, become a whistleblower and not pursued the route you did, what’s your response?”

“I actually did go through channels and that is documented,” Snowden answered. “The NSA has records. They have copies of emails right now to their Office of General Counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks, from me raising concerns about the NSA’s interpretations of its legal authorities.”

After this portion of the interview played, Williams informed viewers that NBC News had learned from “multiple sources that Snowden did indeed send at least one email to the General Counsel’s office raising policy and legal questions.” It was working to confirm further details and had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any other records of Snowden going through channels.

Remarkably, during the post-interview analysis show that streamed on the web, NBC News anchor and correspondent Andrea Mitchell said in April 2013 he sent the one email to the General Counsel, which he talked about. She then acknowledged the NSA could be covering up “other emails” and Snowden could be right-that there is a “paper trail” showing he made “multiple attempts” to take his concerns to superiors.

“I asked one top official, do you think they could be lying to you and not turning it over to the legislative branch? And this person said I can’t be 100% sure,” Mitchell reported. “That is the degree to which what Snowden has revealed has affected supporters of the government surveillance program, their sense of the credibility, because we do think that people are lying to us about it.”

So don’t let people bullshit you.

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

New York Times Editorial Board: Adding Delay to Immigration Failure

President Obama asked the homeland security secretary, Jeh Johnson, in March to review the administration’s immigration enforcement policies. He was under intense pressure from immigrant advocates, frustrated at Congress’s inaction on reform, who were imploring him to act on his own to end or slow the pace of deportations. Now he’s backing off and asking Mr. Johnson to delay the review.

Mr. Obama has deported more people more quickly than any other president. When he said he would look for ways to make his deportation machinery “more humane,” that promise was a delaying action. He now wants to give Congress one more chance to work out compromise legislation, and he doesn’t want to give Republicans any excuse to block it.

John Nichols: Maya Angelou’s Civil Rights Legacy

Dr. Maya Angelou wrote in her tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, “A Brave and Startling Truth,” that “We must confess that we are the possible…. We are the miraculous, the true wonders of this world.” And Angelou was one of the wonders of the world. Her personal story was so rich, so varied, so remarkable in its diversity of experience that Walt Whitman must have imagined her when he spoke of the poet containing multitudes.

“To know her life story is to simultaneously wonder what on earth you have been doing with your own life and feel glad that you didn’t have to go through half the things she has,” my colleague Gary Younge wrote several years ago of the woman who danced with Alvin Ailey, cut a fine calypso album, sang at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, performed in the touring company of Porgy and Bess, appeared in the television mini-series Roots, wrote songs with Roberta Flack, compared notes with James Baldwin, earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her poetry and global acclaim for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the 1969 book that was the first of a series of genre-expanding autobiographies. When President Obama presented her with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he noted that Angelou had “spoken to millions, including my mother, which is why my sister is named Maya.”

Dean Baker: Don’t buy the ‘sharing economy’ hype: Airbnb and Uber are facilitating rip-offs

Dodging taxes and regulation isn’t just disruptive – it’s bad for the economy

The “sharing economy” – typified by companies like Airbnb or Uber, both of which now have market capitalizations in the billions – is the latest fashion craze among business writers. But in their exuberance over the next big thing, many boosters have overlooked the reality that this new business model is largely based on evading regulations and breaking the law.

For the uninitiated, Airbnb is an internet-based service that allows people to rent out spare rooms to strangers for short stays. Uber is an internet taxi service that allows tens of thousands of people to answer ride requests with their own cars. There are hundreds of other such services that involve the renting or selling of everything from power tools to used suits and wedding dresses.

George Zornick: Congress Could Slow Obama’s Push for a Longer Afghan War

President Obama announced Tuesday afternoon that 9,800 American troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014, a number that he said could be cut in half by the start of 2015. By the end of 2016, the last year of his presidency, Obama envisions a final end to America’s longest war.

The decision to drag out the war for two and half more years is an almost total surrender to many Pentagon officials who were pushing the president for around 10,000 troops to remain in the country; NBC News’s Jim Miklaszewski reported it was “exactly” what General Joseph Dunford, the top American commander in Afghanistan, had requested. [..]

But Obama still faces resistance to his desire for more war in Afghanistan-now, from Congress. The Nation has learned that there will be a push in the Senate to request a congressional vote on any troop presence in Afghanistan past 2014. It will come in the form of a proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which just cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Dave Zirin: Pure Poison: The UCSB Shooting, Ray Rice and a Culture of Violence Against Women

If a mass killing perpetrated by a deeply disturbed misogynist does not make us look at how our society promotes and perpetuates violence against women, I am not sure what will. Our culture has always looked the other way or even validated gendered violence, particularly against African-American women. Yet in an era of lightning-fast cultural transmission, this historic violence seems to be both mutating and becoming more perniciously commodified before our eyes. It’s a violence that seems to exist in its own cultural category, where it is not only excused but also treated as deeply humorous-and woe to anyone who says otherwise. It’s a violence that has become so normalized, so all encompassing, that it often feels that saying or doing nothing becomes an act of complicity.

It does not take any sort of genius to draw a line in between the weekend’s shooting, the torments faced by Marissa Alexander or other women who defend themselves, and the fact that the quickest way to invite a barrage of social media hate is to say something as simple as, “I don’t think rape jokes are funny.” These dots connect to create a gun pointed at the ability of women to possess the most elemental human right in what is supposed to be a free society: the right to be left alone.

Zoë Carpenter: Is Obama Moving the ‘War on Terror’ to Africa?

Despite talk of a pivot to Asia, the US military’s gaze has settled on Africa. That isn’t news for anyone who has followed the expansion of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) on the continent. But it’s a decisive shift that until now US officials have been loath to acknowledge.

The veil lifted slightly on Wednesday when President Obama asked Congress for $5 billion to train and equip foreign governments for counterterrorism activities. Most of the countries he cited are in northern Africa, including Somalia, Libya and Mali. US Special Operations are reportedly already training new counterterrorism units in Libya and Mali, as well as Niger and Mauritania.

The Breakfast Club 5/29/2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

Maya Angelou 1928 - 2014 photo master-class-maya-angelou-2-600x411_zpsaad07c35.jpg

Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014

May the Goddess guide Maya on her journey to the Summerlands. May her family and friends and the world find Peace.

Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns


This Day in History

On This Day In History May 29

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.

May 29 is the 149th day of the year (150th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 216 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1913, Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps makes its infamous world premiere

Some of those in attendance to see the Ballets Russes at the Théâtre des Champs-élysées on May 29, 1913, would already have been familiar with the young Russian composer Igor Stravinsky through his 1910 ballet L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird). But if they expected his newest work to proceed in the same familiar and pleasing vein as his first, they were in for a surprise. From the moment the premiere performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (Rite of Spring) began on this night in 1913, it was clear that even an audience of sophisticated Parisians was totally unprepared for something so avant-garde.


After undergoing revisions almost up until the very day of its first performance, it was premiered on Thursday, May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and was conducted by Pierre Monteux under the Ballets Russes.

The premiere involved one of the most famous classical music riots in history. The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario shocked audiences more accustomed to the demure conventions of classical ballet. Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography was a radical departure from classical ballet. Stravinsky would later write in his autobiography of the process of working with Nijinsky on the choreography, stating that “the poor boy knew nothing of music” and that Nijinsky “had been saddled with a task beyond his capacity.” While Stravinsky praised Nijinsky’s amazing dance talent, he was frustrated working with him on choreography.

This frustration was reciprocated by Nijinsky with regard to Stravinsky’s patronizing attitude: “…so much time is wasted as Stravinsky thinks he is the only one who knows anything about music. In working with me he explains the value of the black notes, the white notes, of quavers and semiquavers, as though I had never studied music at all… I wish he would talk more about his music for Sacre, and not give a lecture on the beginning theory of music.”

The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start, the audience began to boo loudly. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance. Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the premiére allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet’s opening bars (though Stravinsky later said “I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out of, the premiere.”) .

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted counts to the dancers, who were unable to hear the orchestra (this was challenging because Russian numbers above ten are polysyllabic, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat vs. seventeen: semnadsat).

After the premiere, Diaghilev is reported to have commented to Nijinsky and Stravinsky at dinner that the scandal was “exactly what I wanted.”