Shorter Question Everything
• Chief Bill Blair: ‘I don’t answer to the mayor’. Grilled about Rob Ford, Toronto’s top cop refuses to rule out the possibility of raid evidence related to the mayor. When asked if wiretaps or any other surveillance turned up evidence of the video, the chief said he could not talk about it. “There’s an appropriate place for that evidence to be made public and it is through a court of law through a prosecuting attorney,” Blair said. In rapid succession, reporters asked Blair if any videotapes related to the mayor were seized (Blair said all evidence seized would come out in court); did the mayor or his staff come under wiretap or other surveillance? (Blair said, “I am not at liberty to disclose any evidence”); is there a criminal investigation in the mayor’s office? (Blair said he was “not in a position to disclose that”); and if the chief had any plans to update the mayor on the raid (“I don’t answer to the mayor,” the chief said.)
• Police put in unusual position when Mayor Rob Ford’s name popped up in wiretaps. When Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s name first surfaced on wiretaps in a lengthy guns-and-drugs investigation, the senior command at police headquarters had to figure out how on Earth they would handle it. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair’s line in the sand was a simple, “I won’t lie.” Postmedia has confirmed that Ford’s name came up in some of those wiretapped conversations, though the context isn’t clear. It’s also worth noting that merely being mentioned, or the alleged video being mentioned, in a wiretapped conversation doesn’t constitute evidence of wrongdoing against Ford. Project Traveller had genuinely bigger fish to fry when the mayor’s name popped up, like a bad smell, smack in the middle of it. But its mention was nonetheless immediately recognized at police headquarters as potentially explosive.
• Mayor Rob Ford says he has “nothing to hide” in the wake of massive Toronto Police raids that included a building tied to the crack cocaine allegations that have dogged him for a month. Project Traveller included dozens of raids across the GTA Thursday morning including at 320 Dixon Rd. — the building believed to be where the alleged video of Ford smoking crack cocaine was being stored. After being peppered with questions about the raid for half the day, Ford snapped at reporters at City Hall. “I’ve answered so many questions, I don’t know if you guys can’t get it through your thick skulls. Seriously?” Ford said on his way back into the city council meeting. “I’ve already answered all these questions. I have nothing to do with this.” Asked if he’s worried the alleged video is now part of evidence that will come out in court, Ford shook his head. “I can’t comment on something that I’ve never seen or doesn’t exist,” he said. “I don’t know how many more times I’ve got to say this.” The mayor also shrugged off not being notified about the operation.
• Teen arrested in Project Traveller denied bail. A 19-year-old man seen in a much-publicized photo with Mayor Rob Ford and a recent murder victim was denied bail Thursday after being arrested in the Project Traveller raids in Rexdale earlier in the day. The man is charged with charged with gang-related drug allegations including trafficking cocaine for a criminal organization. A publication ban is in place on his identity because he is a victim in a March 28 shooting outside the Loki Lounge on King St. W. in Toronto’s entertainment district.
• Police are expected to release more details Friday about the massive police investigation — dubbed Project Traveller — against suspected drug and gun traffickers that resulted in a series of raids across southern Ontario. As part of the operation, police raided at least one suite inside an apartment building at 320 Dixon Rd., which has been in the news lately because of the drug allegations against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. According to recent reports, the apartment building is where the alleged crack video was stored. Police also raided the house of one of the two men pictured alongside Ford in a now-infamous photo. The house is located in Toronto’s Rexdale neighbourhood on Mercury Road. Officers were seen leaving the Mercury Road home Thursday morning with what appeared to be evidence bags. The man from the photo was one of 35 suspects from the raids who were taken to a Finch Avenue courthouse for their first court appearance. CTV News reported Thursday that Toronto Police were investigating the existence of an alleged video involving Ford several weeks before the story first appeared in the Toronto Star. As part of the investigation leading to the raids on Thursday, officers obtained telephone wire-tap evidence. A highly-placed source confirmed to CTV News that on those wiretaps, persons of interest discussed that video in detail, and referred to the mayor’s alleged presence in the video.
• Syria: White House officials confirmed Thursday that the administration would send weapons and other aid to rebel Syrian forces after determining that leader Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against the opposition. “Following on the credible evidence that the regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, the President has augmented the provision of non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition, and also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC), and we will be consulting with Congress on these matters in the coming weeks,” officials said in a statement.
• Syria’s Use of Chemical Weapons Will Be Dealt With Obama Style. The warmongers aren’t going to like this, but the White House’s announcement that Syria has used chemical weapons doesn’t mean a Bush style regime change. Before anybody gets all crazy paranoid and screams that this confirms that Obama is just like Bush, there is one big difference. President Obama took a lot of flak from the hawks on the left and right, but he waited for the evidence before he acted. Unlike George W. Bush, this president isn’t manufacturing evidence as justification for a war that he wants. The sad part is that the Bush administration’s lies have even managed to stain the humanitarian justification for action even when a regime is using chemical weapons on its own people. The fact that Bush has sown a generation of doubt about foreign policy intervention has been, and likely was, one of the reasons why President Obama has been so cautious.
• Boasting: John McCain Jumps The Gun By Announcing That Obama Will Arm The Syrian Rebels. “The president also will announce that we will be assisting the Syrian rebels by providing them with weapons and other assistance. I applaud the president’s decision.” “It’s my understanding that the president has not made the final decision on arming but he has made the decision that chemical weapons have been used.”
• More on Syria: “A 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.”
• Bush’s NSA Director: Obama Has Been More Transparent On Surveillance Than We Were. Gen. Michael Hayden, former NSA director, praised Obama for resuming those programs. “We should just take a sense of satisfaction that what we were doing, once candidate Obama became President Obama, he saw that these were of great value and frankly, were being very carefully done,” Hayden told CNN. “National security looks a little different from the Oval Office than it does from a hotel room in Iowa.” Hayden applauded Obama for making the details of the NSA’s data collection available to members of Congress. “Frankly, the Obama administration was more transparent about this effort than we were in the Bush administration,” Hayden said. “I mean, they made this meta data collection activity available to all the members of Congress. Not just all the members of the intelligence committees.”
• How Did He Get Clearance? Responding to the news that the NSA whistleblower was a 29-yeard-old, high school drop-out, senators this week questioned how Edward Snowden was granted such broad access to classified information and considered the need to overhaul the entire security clearance system in order to prevent future leaks.
• NSA leak probe: “FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said Thursday that the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation of Edward Snowden, who declared himself the source of leaks on the National Security Agency’s sweeping electronic surveillance programs.”
• LA Times Contradicts Guardian Story of Snowden’s “Four Laptops”. Today the LA Times has a report on how NSA leaker Edward Snowden smuggled classified documents out of the Hawaii office in which he worked: with a USB thumb drive. This is interesting information because it flatly contradicts yet another detail in the Guardian’s reporting. The Guardian, on the other hand, claimed yesterday that Snowden somehow managed to smuggle four classified laptop computers out of the NSA facility and all the way to Hong Kong, and makes no mention whatsoever of a thumb drive: Edward Snowden: How the Spy Story of the Age Leaked Out. It’s possible the government is not telling everything it knows about the case, obviously, but it’s much more believable that Snowden used a tiny USB thumb drive to sneak out with the top secret information — and the Guardian’s claim seems to fit into a pattern of wild exaggerations that has characterized their reporting from the start.
• Acceptable Use Policy Which Bradley Manning Didn’t Sign Used By Prosecutors Against Him. During trial proceedings for Pfc. Bradley Manning on Thursday, his defense objected to the use of a sample Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) he had not signed, which the prosecution wanted to use to elicit testimony on whether Manning exceeded his authorized access on his government computer.
• Cummings responds to Issa’s jackass letter [PDF]: “I am attaching for your review a copy of the transcript of the Committee’s interview of the IRS Screening Group Manager in Cincinnati. In this copy, the names of individuals have been redacted to protect their privacy. In order to provide the public with the most comprehensive information possible without jeopardizing the Committee’s investigation, I request that you review this version of the transcript and identify any specific text you believe should be withheld from the American people, as well as thespecific reason you believe that text should continue to be concealed from public view. I request that you provide any additional proposed redactions on Monday, June 17, 2013.” [link]
Explosion at Louisiana chemical plant
• Explosion at Louisiana chemical plant kills 1, injures 79. Update 3:06 p.m. Eastern: Reuters tweeted that injuries now total 79 and one person is now dead after all workers have been accounted for. An explosion and fire tore through the Williams Olefins chemical plant in Geismar, Louisiana, on Thursday, injuring 33 people and leading authorities to order people within two miles to remain indoors. The blast created a huge fireball and column of smoke when it hit at 8:37 a.m. at the plant along the Mississippi River just south of Baton Rouge and about 60 miles up river from New Orleans. About 600 people were working at the plant at the time, and the fire was still burning three hours later, state police said. There were no immediate reports of fatalities.
• 1 dead, dozens injured in explosion at Louisiana chemical plant; cause unknown. State police Capt. Doug Cain said a hazardous material crew going through the plant in Geismar after the Thursday morning explosion found one person dead. Thirty-seven people were taken to area hospitals by helicopter or ambulance, while another 24 had minor injuries. The cause of the blast, reported around 8:30 a.m., was not immediately known. The fire was out by late morning. Early tests did not indicate dangerous levels of any chemicals around the plant southeast of Baton Rouge.
• Human genetic sequences cannot be patented, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday in an unexpected decision that is a tremendous public interest victory. “Myriad [Genetics] did not create anything,” the Supreme Court held, in a lawsuit that challenged the firm’s monopoly on two gene sequences used in expensive tests that reveal whether women have an inherited risk of breast and ovarian cancer. “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.”
• Roberts orders formal review: Supreme Court Justice John Roberts has become involved with the ethics complaint filed against a Texas judge for allegedly making racist comments. Roberts formally ordered that a judicial misconduct complaint against 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones be reviewed by officials in a different circuit. The complaint, filed last week, alleges that Jones said “racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime,” in a speech at the University of Pennsylvania earlier this year.
• Grassley’s poison pill goes down: “The Senate voted 57-43 on Thursday to table an amendment to the immigration reform bill that would have required increased border security before providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.”
• Utah: Police shot a young woman to death “assassination style” as she sat in her car, amid “widespread and systemic corruption” in the undercover drug force, the woman’s parents claim in court. Melissa Kennedy and Frederick Willard, parents of the late Danielle Willard, sued West Valley City, its police Officers Shaun Cowley and Kevin Salmon, Lt. John Coyle, Police Chief Thayle “Buzz” Nielsen, and 10 Doe officers, in Federal Court. West Valley City, pop. 125,000, is a suburb of Salt Lake City.
• Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC): Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail newspaper published a story saying that in 2011, Canadian Defence Minister Peter Mackay had okayed a similar type of clandestine eavesdropping program by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) to monitor the metadata of electronic communications. This program was previously approved in 2005 by Bill Graham, the defence minister at the time. Born during the cold war, CSEC began in 1941 as the Examination Unit, which fell under the National Research Council. In 1946, the unit was renamed the Communications Branch. It became the Communications Security Establishment in 1975, when it came under the umbrella of National Defence. After the U.S. attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, CSEC doubled its personnel and was given a broader mandate. Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed in late 2001, gave CSEC the ability to intercept communications of which one half was either sent from or received in Canada. CSEC “can only direct its activities at foreign entities located outside of Canada,” CSEC spokesman Ryan Foreman said in an email interview. CSEC spokesperson Ryan Foreman said that an independent commissioner, who is a retired judge, reviews CSEC activities “to ensure that all CSEC activities comply with the law.” The commissioner submits regular reports to the defence minister and an annual report to Parliament.
• Mike Duffy scandal: RCMP launches probe into payment by PM’s former chief of staff. The RCMP has launched a criminal investigation into the actions of Nigel Wright, the prime minister’s former chief of staff, in connection with the Senate spending scandal that led him to give $90,000 to Sen. Mike Duffy. The political bombshell exploded Thursday afternoon, as the police force released a carefully worded statement about the matter and opposition parties continued to press in the House of Commons for more details on the affair. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on a trip to Europe, was absent from the Commons.
• Turkish PM to delay Istanbul park project. Protesters say Recep Tayyip Erdogan told them in meeting he will wait for court decision before redeveloping Gezi Park. Turkish protesters who have met Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Edorgan to resolve anti-government demonstrations sparked by a plan to redevelop a city park have said he will delay the project until a court rules on it. Erdogan met overnight on Thursday with representatives of Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella protest group, as well as actors and artists. The talks came just hours after the prime minister said his patience had run out and warned protesters occupying Gezi Park to leave.
St. Louis shooting
• An argument inside a St. Louis home health care business escalated into gun violence Thursday when a man shot three other people before turning the gun on himself, police said. The shooting occurred at AK Home Health Care LLC, one several small businesses inside the Cherokee Place Business Incubator south of downtown St. Louis. The shooter gunned down another man and two women before turning his semi-automatic handgun on himself, Police Capt. Michael Sack said. Authorities said the shooter either owned or was a co-owner of the small business and his three victims were employees. The victims’ names have not been released.
• Maine Rep. Ken Fredette (R) and his ‘man brain’: After having watched it a couple of times, I’m still not sure what this state lawmaker is trying to say. Does he believe women are confused by federal-state partnerships in providing health care benefits? Does he think men necessarily oppose Medicaid expansion because of their male brains? Fredette certainly seems to be under the impression that he — with his “man’s mind” — is better able to understand health care costs that women apparently can’t see. And if that is what Fredette believes, there may be something wrong with his brain.
“As I listen to the debate today and earlier debate on this bill, I can’t help but think of a title of a book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And it’s a book about the fact that men sort of think one way in their own brain, in their own world. And women think another way in their brain and in their own world. And it really talks about the way that men and women can do a better job at communicating.
“Because if you listen to the debate today, in my mind — a man’s mind — I hear really two fundamental issues. From the other side of the aisle, I hear the conversation being about ‘free. This is free, we need to take it, and it’s free. And we need to do it now.’ And that’s the fundamental message that my brain receives. Now, my brain, being a man’s brain, sort of thinks differently, because I say, ‘Well, it’s not — if it’s free, is it really free? Because I say, in my brain, there’s a cost to this.’”
• Sarah Palin Takes A Pay Cut and Does the Walk Of Shame Back to Fox News