Shorter Question Everything
• “Trading credibility for the advancement of an agenda”: I know there are a lot of people who just want to have a discussion about the proper role of government in these areas and – as President Obama said – that is a conversation we should be having. But it has to be based on facts. And I have no desire to join a movement that wants to sensationalize and obscure in order to upend or destroy.
I’m interested in ending the war on terrorism and all of the awfulness that’s accompanied it. But I’m not interested in a counterproductive slash-and-burn approach, and I’m not interested in trading credibility for the advancement of an agenda. So I’m trying to get to the bottom of some of these rather shaky gaps in the story. [Bob Cesca]
Snowden is doing more than triggering a debate. I think it’s clear he’s trying to upend, damage – choose your verb – the US intelligence apparatus and policieis he opposes…He’s taking it upon himself to make certain things no longer possible, or much harder to do. To me that’s a betrayal. I think it’s easy to exaggerate how much damage these disclosures cause. But I don’t buy that there are no consequences. And it goes to the point I was making in an earlier post. Who gets to decide? The totality of the officeholders who’ve been elected democratically – for better or worse – to make these decisions? Or Edward Snowden, some young guy I’ve never heard of before who espouses a political philosophy I don’t agree with and is now seeking refuge abroad for breaking the law? [Josh Marshall]
• The Guardian quietly walks back their PRISM overreach without correcting previous reporting. Guardian goes from “The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems” to “a “dropbox” system whereby legally requested data could be copied from their own server out to an NSA-owned system”. Which is a whole different animal.
• Snowden Vastly Exaggerated Claims on NSA Leaks, Experts Say. Ken Dilanian and Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times’s Washington Bureau have some more important context for the extravagant claims made by NSA leaker Edward Snowden. According to their report, security analysts say Snowden’s claim that he could “wiretap anyone,” up to and including the President, is a “complete and utter falsehood.”
Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer at the NSA and CIA, called the claim a “complete and utter” falsehood. “First of all it’s illegal,” he said. “There is enormous oversight. They have keystroke auditing. There are, from time to time, cases in which some analyst is [angry] at his ex-wife and looks at the wrong thing and he is caught and fired,” he said.
• NSA Leaker’s Six-Figure Pay Should Spark Debate: Why Are Federal Workers Being Replaced With Pricier Contractors? Why is a 29-year-old high school drop-out making more as a low-level contractor than any senior manager in the federal government short of the President himself, and a very few other special category employees?
• Boehner: 9 out of 10 people in NSA briefings are lawyers to protect ‘privacy’. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) joined the chorus excoriating National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden in an interview with ABC News on Tuesday. “He’s a traitor,” Boehner told host George Stephanopoulos, according to a transcript released Tuesday morning. “The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk. It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are. And it’s a giant violation of the law.” Boehner told Stephanopoulos that, having been briefed on programs like PRISM, he agreed with President Barack Obama that there were enough safeguards in place for them to remain constitutional. “There’s no American who’s gonna be snooped on in any way, unless they’re in contact with some terrorists somewhere around the world,” Boehner said in the interview. “Every time that I’ve been in a briefing, 9 of the 10 people in a room are lawyers there to protect the privacy of the American people,” he said to Stephanopoulos.
• Booz Allen fires Edward Snowden, says they didn’t pay him $200K. Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton has fired Edward Snowden, the computer technician who acknowledged leaking classified documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post, the company announced. Booz Allen on Tuesday morning also called into question one detail Snowden gave about himself when it updated a statement it released Sunday evening with a single sentence: “Snowden, who had a salary at the rate of $122,000, was terminated June 10, 2013, for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy,” the company said. Snowden had told The Guardian that he had “a very comfortable life” that included “a salary of roughly 200,000.” He might have been also accounting for perks, bonuses or other income outside his work for Booz Allen — or he might have been exaggerating to make a point about the sacrifice he felt he was making by releasing the documents.
• The Wall Street Journal says Google transfers data to the NSA via FTP — but please note that they’re talking about SFTP (Secure FTP), an extension of the SSH protocol that uses strong encryption: How Google Transfers Data to NSA – Digits – WSJ.
• What South Park gets that Greenwald doesn’t. I know I’m not alone in not reading those terms that I regularly get asked about. So how exactly do we know that we all didn’t agree to be surveilled? We can get pissy that companies do it but we have no one to blame but ourselves for agreeing.
• Darrell Issa On IRS Investigation: Releasing Full Transcripts Now Would Be ‘Reckless’ [as in, it would wreck the narrative Issa has cobbled together]: One week after he released partial transcripts of interviews with IRS officials involved in the scandal surrounding the targeting of conservative groups, the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said releasing the full transcripts would be “reckless” and “irresponsible.” Responding specifically to criticism from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democratic member of the committee, Issa said that releasing full interviews conducted with IRS employees would hurt the ongoing investigation. “Your decision to publicly announce that the investigation should wrap up was irresponsible, but not surprising,” said Issa, in a letter to Cummings. “However, your push to release entire transcripts from witness interviews while the investigation remains active was reckless and threatened to undermine the integrity of the Committee’s investigation.” The position is a tenuous one for Issa, who during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” just over a week ago promised that the full transcripts would be released. The Huffington Post has sent four emails asking Issa’s office when the full transcripts would be made public. Not one was returned. When asked why Issa’s release of a partial transcript was fine but he opposed releasing the transcripts in full, a spokesman for the congressman referred HuffPost to another statement.
• Cummings condemned Issa’s refusal to release the full transcripts in a statement on Tuesday. “Chairman Issa changes his mind so fast that even when I agree him, we’re not on the same page,” he said. “I fully support responsible oversight, but cherry picking transcript excerpts to fuel partisan and unsubstantiated claims is not a credible or effective way to investigate.”
• More like ‘Make me look bad’: Oh, I see. When the chairman of the House Oversight Committee releases edited transcripts with cherry-picked quotes, that’s fine. When he accuses the White House press secretary of being a “paid liar” for no apparent reason, that’s fine. But if he were to publish a complete transcript of questions and answers between committee investigators and IRS employees, that would be “reckless” and “irresponsible.” Making matters worse, just 10 days ago, Issa specifically said, “The whole transcript will be put out.” Now it would be “reckless” and “irresponsible” for Issa to do what he already said he would do?
• Military sex assaults: Plan for outside prosecutor blocked in Senate. An effort to place military sex assault cases in the hands of an independent prosecutor was thwarted late Tuesday when Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin sided with the top brass – and against a fellow Democrat. Levin (D-Mich.) will strip a proposal by Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) from the policy-setting Defense Authorization Act and replace it with a measure that instead requires senior military officers to review decisions when commanders refuse to prosecute a case.
• White House Excoriates House Republicans For Military ‘License To Discriminate’ Amendment. Last week, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee advanced another “license to discriminate” amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, among many other amendments. This provision would limit commanding officers’ ability to discipline servicemembers for anti-gay bullying and harassment until after they “actually harm good order and discipline.” The White House responded to the myriad of amendments with a threat to veto, specifically addressing the “rights of conscience” measure as an area of concern: “By limiting the discretion of commanders to address potentially problematic speech and actions within their units, this provision would have a significant adverse effect on good order, discipline, morale, and mission accomplishment.”
• One of Libya’s highest military officers has resigned after clashes between protesters and a government-aligned militia he oversaw left 31 people dead in the eastern city of Benghazi. The army’s chief of staff Major-General Youssef al-Mangoush cited the unusually high death toll from the violence in his resignation. Al-Mangoush was due to be replaced soon, and the country’s Congress voted in support of accepting his resignation on Sunday.
• The GOP Talking Point On Obamacare’s Medicare ‘Cuts’ Bites The Dust. Conservatives regularly claim that Obamacare “cuts” Medicare, and will cause less seniors to enroll in private Medicare Advantage (MA) plans while forcing insurers to cut benefits. Now, the exact opposite of those dire predictions is occurring, as record numbers of seniors have enrolled in Medicare Advantage, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
• Just as extreme weather season kicks off, freshman Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) demanded that President Obama apologize to Oklahoma for allocating funding to climate change research. Bridenstine, a climate denier who serves on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, plans to introduce a bill that defunds climate change research. Bridenstine also recently accused Obama of “dishonesty, incompetence, vengefulness” in an unhinged speech on the House floor.
• An FBI investigation into money laundering, wire fraud, and mail fraud has not stopped Rep. Michele Bachmann from continuing to raise money for a reelection campaign that she isn’t running.
• Boehner admits Obama’s tax plan reduced the deficit. BOEHNER: “The deficit is coming down. Because the president got a tax increase on January the 1st.”
• Fox News host Gregg Jarrett says that George Zimmerman “has already been punished” for the killing of Trayvon Martin because he “looks like he’s put on a hundred pounds.”
• Mark Fuhrman should be in jail somewhere, but instead he’s the go-to guy for Fox News when it comes to criminal trials. Not just any criminal trial, either. No, former Detective Mark Fuhrman is the guy Fox News is using for commentary on the high-profile George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman, you may recall, is on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin, after a firestorm of protest was unleashed at law enforcement’s initial refusal to prosecute Zimmerman due to Florida’s ALEC-authored “Stand Your Ground” law. For those of you reading this who are younger than age 30 or so, Mark Fuhrman was the policeman who blew up the OJ Simpson criminal trial because of his deep, ingrained hatred of black people.
• Scott Walker Endorses Mandating Transvaginal Ultrasounds And Shutting Down Abortion Clinics. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has thrown his support behind an anti-abortion measure that’s currently moving through the state legislature, saying he will sign the bill into law if it makes it to his desk. SB 206 would require women to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion — which would mandate an invasive transvaginal probe for some of the women who seek early abortions in their first trimester — and force one of the state’s last abortion clinics to close its doors.
• Gosnell: A Philadelphia abortion provider already serving a life term in the deaths of three babies is due in federal court Wednesday to plead guilty to drug charges. Authorities say Dr. Kermit Gosnell ran a “pill mill” by day and a rogue “abortion mill” by night. His high-profile murder trial this spring came after federal drug agents raided his West Philadelphia clinic in 2010. They charged him with selling prescriptions for OxyContin and other painkillers to people who lined up at the front desk.
• ATF: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been without a permanent director for seven years. Apparently Republicans don’t mind if that continues. GOP Senators have accused the Democratic majority of “procedural defects” in Tuesday’s hearing with President Obama’s nominee to permanently lead the ATF. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley, said the Democratic majority should not even have scheduled the hearing, as the nominee, ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones, remains under federal investigation. Jones stands accused of “gross mismanagement” and “abuse of authority” including allegedly retaliating against a whistleblower, said Sen. Grassley. Sen. Chuck Grassley has previously accused Jones of having unspecified “ties to the Fast and Furious scandal” where ATF agents, who said they tracking arms flows, allowed gun transfers to Mexico. Sen. Klobuchar said that ATF Acting Director Jones has helped clean up the ATF since the scandal. Jones told Senators that all senior ATF personnel involved in Operation Fast and Furious have either resigned or been removed from positions of authority, and that some of the personnel have been disciplined. Both he and Sen. Klobuchar said that the ATF’s lack of leadership contributed to the scandal. The ATF’s last permanent director was Carl J. Truscott, who was confirmed by the Senate in 2004. Back then, during the Bush administration, Republicans stressed the importance of having strong leadership at the ATF.
• US diplomatic security accused in sex, drugs cover-up. In a new blow to the agency’s credibility, a watchdog has called in outside law enforcement officers to investigate its procedures, amid claims it tried to hush up allegations of the use of prostitutes by agents and even an underground drugs ring supplying contractors. An internal memo by the State Department’s Inspector General found eight cases in which inquiries into alleged criminal activity by diplomatic security agents or contractors were influenced or halted, CBS television reported. They included allegations that security agents protecting ex-secretary of state Hillary Clinton “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries,” CBS said, quoting from the memo, a problem the report says was “endemic.” It also revealed details of an alleged “underground drug ring” near the US embassy in Baghdad which was said to supply drugs to contractors working for diplomatic security. In one case, officials told the inspector general they were told to stop investigating an American ambassador “who held a sensitive diplomatic post and was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park,” CBS reported.
• Santa Monica Killer John Zawahri: A Familiar Profile. More details have emerged about John Zawahri, who murdered five people and wounded several others in a gun rampage on Friday before police shot him dead on the campus of Santa Monica College. He is the kind of mass killer we’ve come to see all too often in recent years, from his gender and age to the type of weapons he used to his mental health history. With our in-depth investigation of 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years we identified strong patterns among the killers, and Zawahri fits several of them.
• U.S. Hacks And Stops Publication Of Al-Qaeda’s Online Magazine. U.S. intelligence operatives hijacked and sabotaged the publication of an issue of al-Qaeda’s prominent English language online magazine, Inspire, in an apparant attempt to stop the organization’s online propaganda, officials told the Washington Post.
• American Bar Association may ban ‘gay panic’ defense: A proposal coming before the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section would permanently render the so-called “gay panic” defense inadmissible in court. According to the dot429 blog, if the proposal is ratified, it will ban defense attorneys from using the sexual orientation or gender identity of a victim against them in court. Too often, according to dot429, attorneys representing perpetrators of violent acts against LGBT people resort to accusing the victims of “bringing it on themselves” in order to defend their clients in court. The “gay panic” defense says that an LGBT brought violent retribution on themselves, up to and including murder, by sexually propositioning someone who was so enraged by the gesture that they had no choice but to react violently.
• Rockets from Syria hit northern Lebanon. Several rockets launched from Syria have hit the eastern Lebanese town of Hermel, a bastion of the Shia group Hezbollah, reportedly killing at least one person and wounding several others. Tuesday’s incident was the latest in a series of cross-border rocket attacks on Shia areas of Lebanon.
• Turkey protests: Clashes continue despite PM’s warning. Many protesters regrouped in nearby Gezi Park, where unrest continued into Wednesday morning. At dawn, bulldozers moved into Taksim Square to clear away debris, barricades and makeshift shelters. Thousands converged on the square as night fell on Tuesday and were repelled by water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas. Mr Erdogan defended the police action, saying that an environmental movement had been hijacked by people who wanted to harm Turkey. Protests have also occurred in the capital, Ankara, with smaller demonstrations in many other cities. Police in Ankara have used water cannon and tear gas to break up demonstrations almost every night.
• End-of-life bill to be introduced today in Quebec. Ménard commission recommended laws on euthanasia and assisted suicide to government. Even if it’s completely unopposed, the earliest the bill could be adopted would be late fall. If the bill passes, the law permitting medically assisted death will be the first of its kind in Canada.
• Canada is adopting a G8 initiative that would require companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Wednesday in London at a meeting with oil, gas and mining executives.
• The former head of Elections Canada says the agency has no authority to probe a secret fund in the Prime Minister’s Office, nor whether Conservative party money was in any way related to the $90,000 deal between the PM’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, and Senator Mike Duffy. The government has been telling Canadians there is no secrecy and no fund, and that in any case, all spending by political parties is subject to utmost scrutiny by Elections Canada. But in an exclusive interview with CBC News, former elections chief Jean-Pierre Kingsley says Elections Canada simply has no way of knowing how political parties spend the millions of dollars they collect each year from donors and taxpayers. “There is nothing that Elections Canada imposes on political parties concerning their expenditures between elections,” Kingsley says. The New Democratic Party recently wrote to Elections Canada, asking for an investigation of the secret PMO fund. But Kingsley says the agency can’t do that, either. According to Elections Canada’s mandate under existing law, “that authority does not exist.”