Daily Archive: 07/30/2014

Jul 30 2014

USA Freedom Act Still Won’t Protect Americans’ Liberties

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-NH) introduced the version of the USA Freedom Act on Tuesday.

Leahy’s bill, like the House’s, would still provide the NSA with access to enormous amounts of American phone data. Though it would require a judge to issue an order to telecos for “call detail records” based on a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of association with terrorism or a foreign power, the NSA will be able to use that single order to obtain the “call detail records” of a suspicious entity, as well as those of entities in “direct connection” with it and entities in connection with those.

While that would permit the NSA to yield thousands of records off of a single court order, on a daily basis for six months, the NSA and the bill’s architects contend that it bans “bulk collection.”

Leahy’s bill would go further than the House version in narrowing the critical definition of “specific selection term,” a foundational aspect of the bill defining what the government can collect. The House definition is a “term specifically identifying a person, entity, account, address, or device,” which privacy groups have lambasted as unreasonably broad.

Seeking to plug that loophole, Leahy would prevent the NSA or the FBI from accessing a service provider’s entire clientele or a wholesale “city, state, zip code, or area code.”

Although the Leahy bill has the support of several civil libertarian groups and major tech firms like Facebook and Google, it does not revive some privacy proposals that those organizations considered crucial but the intelligence agencies and their advocates in Congress stripped from the House measure.

There are still some really big loopholes, as noted by emptywheel’s Marcy Wheeler:

Leahy’s bill retains the language from USA Freedumber on contact chaining, which reads,

   (iii) provide that the Government may require the prompt production of call detail records-

   (I) using the specific selection term that satisfies the standard required under subsection (b)(2)(C)(ii) as the basis for production; and

   (II) using call detail records with a direct connection to such specific selection term as the basis for production of a second set of call detail records;

Now, I have no idea what this language means, and no one I’ve talked to outside of the intelligence committees does either. It might just mean they will do the same contact chaining they do now, but if it does, why adopt this obscure language? It may just mean they will correlate identities, and do contact chaining off all the burner phones their algorithms say are the same people, but nothing more, but if so, isn’t there clearer language to indicate that (and limit it to that)? [..]

I remain concerned, too, that such obscure language would permit the contact chaining on phone books and calendars, both things we know NSA obtains overseas, both things NSA might have access to through their newly immunized telecom partners.

In addition, Leahy’s bill keeps USA Freedumber’s retention language tied to Foreign Intelligence purpose, allowing the NSA to keep all records that might have a foreign intelligence purpose.

That’s just for starters. She is also concerned about the vague language will still be used to allow bulk collection. She doesn’t think it’s strong enough

The question is whether this “agency protocol” – what Chief Justice John Roberts said was not enough to protect Americans’ privacy – is sufficient to protect Americans’ privacy.

I don’t think it is.

First, it doesn’t specify how long the NSA and FBI and CIA can keep and sort through these corporate records (or what methods it can use to do so, which may themselves be very invasive).

It also permits the retention of data that gets pretty attenuated from actual targets of investigation: agents of foreign powers that might have information on subjects of investigation and people “in contact with or known to” suspected agents associated with a subject of an investigation.

Known to?!?! Hell, Barack Obama is known to all those people. Is it okay to keep his data under these procedures?

Also remember that the government has secretly redefined “threat of death or serious bodily harm” to include “threats to property,” which could be Intellectual Property.

So CIA could (at least under this law – again, we have no idea what the actual FISC orders this is based off of) keep 5 years of Western Union money transfer data until it has contact chained 3 degrees out from the subject of an investigation or any new subjects of investigation it has identified in the interim.

In other words, probably no different and potentially more lenient than what it does now.

And one more thing from Marcy: Leahy’s version still will allow the FBI uncounted use of backdoor searches:

I strongly believe this bill may expand the universe of US persons who will be thrown into the corporate store indefinitely, to be subjected to the full brunt of NSA’s analytical might.

But that’s not the part of the bill that disturbs me the most. It’s this language:

   ‘(3) FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION.-

   Subparagraphs (B)(iv), (B)(v), (D)(iii), (E)(iii), and (E)(iv) of paragraph (1) of subsection (b) shall not apply to information or records held by, or queries conducted by, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The language refers, in part,  to requirements that the government report to Congress [..]

These are back door searches on US person identifiers of Section 702 collected data – both content (iv) and metadata (v).

In other words, after having required the government to report how many back door searches of US person data it conducts, the bill then exempts the FBI.

The FBI – the one agency whose use of such data can actually result in a prosecution of the US person in question.

We already know the government has not provided all defendants caught using 702 data notice. And yet, having recognized the need to start counting how many Americans get caught in back door searches, Patrick Leahy has decided to exempt the agency that uses back door searches the most.

And if they’re not giving defendants notice (and they’re not), then this is an illegal use of Section 702.

While the Senate version may be a good enough reason for some civil libertarians, privacy groups and technology firms to back, it still falls far short of what is needed to protect Americans’ constitutional rights and privacy.

Jul 30 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

Katrina vanden Heuvel: Building a progressive alternative to ALEC

When it comes to moments in history, 1973 was not exactly a banner year for the Republican Party. The Senate Watergate Committee began its televised hearings in May. Spiro Agnew resigned in October. And President Nixon used a pre-Thanksgiving news conference at Disney World to unconvincingly assure the country that he was not, in fact, a crook. A tough year, indeed, for the grand old party.

But if you were a corporate conglomerate who dreamed of lower taxes and lax regulations and lesser rights for workers, 1973 was, ironically enough, a well-spring of new opportunity. That’s when a group of conservative activists joined together to engineer a different kind of burglary – one that involved forcibly entering cities and states with the intent to loot their working and middle classes.

The mechanism? A new organization dubbed the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. The idea? Don’t just lobby state and city governments; write the actual laws you want them to pass and then hand it out as model legislation. In the decades since its inception, ALEC has dismantled environmental regulations, pushed for school vouchers, compromised public safety by backing “stand your ground” laws and crippled unions with right-to-work legislation. [..]

Recently, the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange and the Progressive States Network announced a merger to build an organization that will be focused on moving a progressive policy agenda in the states. While the goals of the new undertaking may resemble those of ALEC, their methods are vastly different. They will operate transparently, use no lobbyists, and make their model legislation and resources available to everyone; their database already showcases 1,800 examples of progressive legislation. And they will engage with people, not corporations.

Ana Marie Cox: The problem with the Koch brothers isn’t their politics. It’s their copycats

Billionaire mega-donors care less about funding parties than enacting policies. Others are following suit

Did you see the “Creepy Carnival” from the Koch brothers on the Washington Mall the other day? Sponsored by the youth-outreach tentacle of the brothers’ operation, it featured Pennywise the Clown doppelgangers dunking millennials into “High-Risk Pools” – though, surely, they missed an opportunity to nail some old people to death panels. (There was no word about the presence of funhouse mirrors to artificially shrink the outsize influence of the Kochs on our national agenda.)

These two men have commanded center stage in the dark-money circus since the US supreme court started the political money free-for-all four and a half years ago. The Kochs have become the focus of electoral campaigns themselves.

But however effective they may be as conservative bogeymen, the real problem with the Kochs is not that they are ultra-conservative. The problem is that they are a leading indicator that our political system is morphing from elections based on ideology to elections based on the preferences of individual donors.Did you see the “Creepy Carnival” from the Koch brothers on the Washington Mall the other day? Sponsored by the youth-outreach tentacle of the brothers’ operation, it featured Pennywise the Clown doppelgangers dunking millennials into “High-Risk Pools” – though, surely, they missed an opportunity to nail some old people to death panels. (There was no word about the presence of funhouse mirrors to artificially shrink the outsize influence of the Kochs on our national agenda.)

These two men have commanded center stage in the dark-money circus since the US supreme court started the political money free-for-all four and a half years ago. The Kochs have become the focus of electoral campaigns themselves.

But however effective they may be as conservative bogeymen, the real problem with the Kochs is not that they are ultra-conservative. The problem is that they are a leading indicator that our political system is morphing from elections based on ideology to elections based on the preferences of individual donors.

Raina Lipsitz: Does feminism need men?

There’s no point in relying on men to rescue women

“A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle,” a phrase coined by Australian activist Irina Dunn in 1970 and commonly attributed to Gloria Steinem, expressed a primary goal of second-wave feminism: female independence. Liberal feminists of that era, including Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, spoke of men as partners and potential allies, not enemies and oppressors. Their kind of feminism wasn’t about rejecting men entirely; it was about freeing women to live without them (or, for those who wanted men in their lives, to enjoy their company on equal terms). Men were nice to have around, if you were straight and found a good one, but come the revolution, no woman would have to stick with a bad one out of economic, social or emotional necessity. [..]

Women who aspire to positions of power are today advised to marry well, not advocate for themselves too forcefully and garner the support of powerful men. This isn’t bad advice: Having a partner does make it easier to devote yourself to work; you are likelier to advance as a woman or minority if you’re not seen as a pushy whiner, and currying favor with men in power probably helps more than it hurts (unless you’re perceived as sleeping your way to the top). 



But relying on a man for money and power, whether he’s your husband or a senior executive at your company, is not a bold feminist act. It may or may not leave individual women stronger, but it leaves women as a group weaker.

Kari Lydersen: Is Rahm Emanuel doomed?

The Chicago mayor’s political capital is drying up, thanks to his autocratic style and unpopular education policies

In some ways, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Karen Lewis, the fiery president of the Chicago Teachers Union, are very much alike – profane, tough, outspoken, unapologetic. Both are Jewish, and both are ardent fans of ballet.

But a face-off between the two in the city’s 2015 mayoral election – should Lewis decide to run – would be a clear referendum on two wildly different versions of politics and views of the city’s future.

That such a contest might be on the horizon shows how Emanuel’s cavalier, steamroller style of governance has alienated Chicago voters, invoked racial and class tensions and made one of the country’s most feared political operatives potentially vulnerable to an unorthodox challenger out of left field.

A poll released by The Chicago Sun-Times on July 14 showed Lewis – an outspoken former chemistry teacher who has led the teachers’ union for four years – beating Emanuel by 9 percentage points in a one-on-one matchup, with 45 percent of voters choosing Lewis and 36 percent choosing Emanuel.

The result came as a shock to many political observers. Lewis, who is African-American, has no previous experience with electoral politics outside the union. Some are repulsed by her brash demeanor. [..]

That an unconventional contender such as Lewis is winning over people across the demographic spectrum shows just how upset Chicagoans are with Emanuel’s autocratic style, his dedication to Big Business and flashy downtown startups at the expense of regular residents and neighborhoods and – perhaps most significant, given Lewis’ standing in the teaching community – his drastic moves to restructure the public school system.

Donna Smith: Churning for Dollars – There Ought to Be a Law

Remember Liz Fowler? She was the Wellpoint executive who took a brief sabbatical from her direct paychecks from the private health insurance industry to write the Affordable Care Act while working for Senator Max Baucus. Once that project was wrapped up, Liz went to work briefly for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as she transitioned her way back to work as a lobbyist for health industry giant Johnson & Johnson. [..]

Now, in Colorado, we’re seeing Patty Fontneau, the CEO of the health insurance exchange, making her departure to return to private industry. Fontneau will take a position as president of health insurance giant CIGNA’s private exchange business. Prior to heading up the exchange, she worked for a law firm and in finance. No doubt her new role at CIGNA will provide her an income that supports the lifestyle to which she became accustomed while earning nearly $200,000 annually (plus bonuses) as the head of the Colorado exchange. It’s a safe bet she never had to apply for or worry about any tax credits or subsidies to cover her own health insurance premiums. [..]

Health care needs to be treated as a public good and a human right. CIGNA certainly is not in the business of providing that. Health insurance is not health care. Health insurance is a financial product sold to us to protect health and wealth which may do neither thing very well at all. So we weren’t duped by Fowler or Fontneau as they worked to help the health industry from the inside or as they left to do similar work more directly from outside the public administration of Obamacare. We patients and private citizens were always the means to an end – higher profits for the health industry and bigger salaries for those who help make it so. As an old adage goes and has ever stayed true, ‘Follow the money.”

Naomi Oreskes: Wishful Thinking About Natural Gas

Why fossil fuels can’t solve the problems created by fossil fuels

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy.  The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels.  We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel — even a “green” fuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth.

That truth is basic chemistry: when you burn natural gas, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced is, other things being equal, much less than when you burn an equivalent amount of coal or oil. It can be as much as 50% less compared with coal, and 20% to 30% less compared with diesel fuel, gasoline, or home heating oil. When it comes to a greenhouse gas (GHG) heading for the atmosphere, that’s a substantial difference.  It means that if you replace oil or coal with gas without otherwise increasing your energy usage, you can significantly reduce your short-term carbon footprint.Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy.  The Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels.  We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel — even a “green” fuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth.

That truth is basic chemistry: when you burn natural gas, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced is, other things being equal, much less than when you burn an equivalent amount of coal or oil. It can be as much as 50% less compared with coal, and 20% to 30% less compared with diesel fuel, gasoline, or home heating oil. When it comes to a greenhouse gas (GHG) heading for the atmosphere, that’s a substantial difference.  It means that if you replace oil or coal with gas without otherwise increasing your energy usage, you can significantly reduce your short-term carbon footprint.[..]

So if someone asks: “Is gas better than oil or coal?” the short answer seems to be yes.  And when it comes to complicated issues that have science at their core, often the short answer is the (basically) correct one. [..]

In the case of gas, however, the short answer may not be the correct one.

Jul 30 2014

The Breakfast Club 7-30-2014

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. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

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.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

Jul 30 2014

On This Day In History July 30

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

July 30 is the 211th day of the year (212th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 154 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966. In 1972, eligibility for the program was extended to Americans under 65 with certain disabilities and people of all ages with permanent kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant. In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which added outpatient prescription drug benefits to Medicare.

Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage to certain low-income people, was also signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act.

Jul 30 2014

Sexy Sadie

From wikipedia-

Lennon originally titled the song “Maharishi”, but changed the title to “Sexy Sadie” at George Harrison’s request. Lennon was disillusioned after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi had allegedly made a sexual advance at one of the female members attending the course the Maharishi was teaching at his ashram.

Leaders or spiritual gurus making fools of everyone….

There are entire political establishments that routinely screw the people they claim to be advocates for.

Jul 30 2014

“Torture Is Not a Public Relations Problem”

Here is message to the Obama administration, as well as, past and present high ranking members of the CIA from David Cole, constitutional law, national security, and criminal justice professor at George Washington University, in his op-ed at the Washington Post:

Torture us not a public relations problem. It is a grave human rights abuse and a war crime.

Yet, once again the Obama administration has enable the torturers to manipulate the narrative to cover up their crimes.

Back in April, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence voted to declassify part of its 6300 page report that concluded torture to be an ineffective intelligence-gathering technique and the CIA lied about its value. The committee also agreed to allow the White House to review the document with the CIA’s participating in approving what would be released to the public. Talk about a serious conflict of interest. This is tantamount to allowing an accused murderer to decide what evidence will be presented to the jury at his trial.

Up until Friday, a dozen ex-CIA officials were going to be allowed to review the report in a secure room at an undisclosed Washington suburb after signing a secrecy agreement. That now will not happened.

Then, on Friday, CIA officials called them and told them that due to a miscommunication, only former CIA directors and deputy directors would be given that privilege. Former directors Michael Hayden, Porter Goss and George Tenet have been invited to read it, as have former acting directors John McLaughlin and Michael Morell.

Senate aides familiar with the matter say Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, protested to the White House that it had no business allowing retired officials to read a Senate oversight report.

Apparently, the report is quite damning:

Several people who have read the full report, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss still-classified material, say it shows that the CIA interrogation programme was far more brutal than previously understood, and that CIA officials repeatedly misled Congress and the Justice Department about what was being done to al-Qaida detainees. The report asserts that no unique, life-saving intelligence was gleaned from the harsh techniques.

It’s long been known that the CIA used slapping, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other harsh tactics on several detainees and a near-drowning technique known as waterboarding on three of them. The CIA’s use of waterboarding has drawn particular scrutiny since it is considered the harshest technique on the list of those used, but the report asserts that the other tactics, as applied, were extremely harsh and brutal.

Torture is illegal under US law. CIA officials dispute that waterboarding amounted to torture.

To counter the negative press this report is bound to receive, former CIA Director George J. Tenet has quietly been working on a public relations response:

Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month. The effort to discredit the report has set up a three-way showdown among former C.I.A. officials who believe history has been distorted, a White House carefully managing the process and politics of declassifying the document, and Senate Democrats convinced that the Obama administration is trying to protect the C.I.A. at all costs.

The report is expected to accuse a number of former C.I.A. officials of misleading Congress and the White House about the program and its effectiveness, but it is Mr. Tenet who might have the most at stake.

The detention and interrogation program was conceived on his watch and run by men and women he had put in senior positions.

It was Mr. Tenet who requested the former CIA Directors and officials be allowed to review the report.

There is also some frustration coming from Democratic committee members:

“If the redacted version of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s study that we receive appears to be an effort to obscure its narrative and findings – and if the White House is not amenable to working toward a set of mutually agreed-upon redactions – I believe the committee must seriously consider its other option,” Senator Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat on the intelligence committee, told the Guardian on Monday.

It is believed that the White House will provide its completed redactions to sections of the Senate intelligence committee’s landmark torture report in the coming days. The committee will subsequently review the redactions as preparation for the report’s public release, something chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California, a Democrat, had wanted to happen in early May. [..]

Fuelling congressional suspicions, the White House placed lead authority for reviewing the declassification in the hands of the CIA, which struck critics as a conflict of interest.

Udall joins Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat and civil libertarian on the committee with whom Udall often votes, in pointing to the parliamentary rule, Senate Resolution 400, as an additional tactic to force disclosure. Yet the never-before-used rule portends an uphill struggle: a majority of senators would need to vote for additional disclosure.

Author and investigative reporter for The Intercept, Jeremy Scahill and New York Times reporter, Mike Marzetti, joined MSNBC’s “NOW” host, Alex Wagner to discuss the release of the report and recent events,

One more word from Prof. Cole:

The CIA’s response is about 10 years too late. The time to respond to allegations of torture, cruelty and disappearances is when they occur, not a decade later, when an official report finds fault. And when you learn such conduct is occurring, there is only one proper response – order it to stop and hold the perpetrators accountable. Both the Geneva and the torture conventions absolutely prohibit torture and cruel treatment of wartime detainees; the world has proclaimed through these laws that there are no circumstances that justify such acts. [..]

So what will the public relations strategy look like now? We can probably make some educated guesses, based on past assertions by Bush administration officials. “We didn’t think it was torture because the lawyers told us it wasn’t.” That defense doesn’t work for Mafia dons and ought not to work for the CIA. The practices involved – waterboarding, excruciating stress positions, slamming suspects into walls and prolonged sleep deprivation – plainly qualify as torture and have long been treated as such by the United States when other nations employ them. Just last week, the European Court of Human Rights held Poland responsible for complicity in the CIA’s crimes, finding that the conduct was so clearly illegal that Poland had an obligation to stop permitting it on its territory.

Poland, in other words, was an accessory to the crime. But the United States was the ringleader.

Let’s be clear here, the Obama administration, while it may have stopped torture, is now complicit in covering up the Bush administrations war crimes and allowing the criminals, who should be sitting in prison cells, to continue the cover-up in the hopes that someday it will all go away. No amount of spin will negate these facts.

Jul 30 2014

TDS/TCR (Wrecking Ball)

TDS TCR

Strategic Terror Attack

Ridged for your pleasure.

For tonight’s guests, the web exclusive Sonia Nazario extended interview and the real news join me below.