White House invokes ‘state privilege’

Shorter Question Everything

White House invokes ‘state privilege’ to halt inquiries into data mining. The Obama administration is invoking an obscure legal privilege to avoid judicial scrutiny of its secret collection of the communications of potentially millions of Americans. Civil liberties lawyers trying to hold the administration to account through the courts for its surveillance of phone calls and emails of American citizens have been repeatedly stymied by the government’s recourse to the “military and state secrets privilege”. The precedent, rarely used but devastating in its legal impact, allows the government to claim that it cannot be submitted to judicial oversight because to do so it would have to compromise national security.

Government likely to open criminal probe into NSA leaks: officials. The law enforcement and security officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said the agencies that normally conduct such investigations, including the FBI and Justice Department, were expecting a probe into the leaks to a British and an American newspaper. Such investigations typically begin after an agency that believes its secrets have been leaked without authorization files a complaint with the Justice Department. One U.S. official with knowledge of the situation said that given the extent and sensitivity of the recent leaks, federal law may compel officials to open an investigation.

Maher defends NSA data searches: It’s not because I’m brave, but because I’m scared. “We live in a world of nuclear weapons,” he said. “And there are religious fanatics who would love to get one and set it off here.” People who say that the Founding Fathers could not have anticipated assault weapons when discussing the Second Amendment, Maher said, should remember that the writers of the Constitution could not have seen nuclear weapons coming. “I don’t know that they would have been as absolutist about their love of privacy if there were nukes in the world,” he told the panel. “The fact that a city can be just demolished in 1 second kinda tips the scale for me. I’m not saying to look into your emails is the right thing, I’m just saying, I’m not gonna pretend it’s ’cause I’m brave; it’s ’cause I’m scared.”

Santa Monica Shooting

Santa Monica gunman kills four, injures at least five others in rampage that spilled onto college campus. A berserk black-clad gunman carrying an AR-15 assault rifle went on a bloody rampage in southern California on Friday, killing four people and injuring at least five others before cops shot him dead at a college library. The midday shootings took place about half an hour after President Obama’s motorcade passed through the area to bring him to a fund-raising luncheon about three miles away. The Secret Service said the rampage did not affect the President’s fundraising visit to Los Angeles, but his limousine was rerouted as a precaution.

Witness: Santa Monica shooting suspect ‘looked like a SWAT team member’. A witness described seeing the suspect in a string of shooting attacks in Santa Monica, California on Friday that left six people dead before police killed the suspect at a local college. “He actually kind of glanced up at me, and then he saw two cars pull up to the corner” Jerry Cunningham-Rathner told KNBC-TV. “He was just standing up in the street. He looked like an official kind of SWAT guy. Ammo belt, full black attire. He looked like a SWAT team member.”

In other news

Walking Dead actor arrested for allegedly sending ricin-laced letters. A pregnant Texas actor who told FBI agents her husband had sent ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has been arrested for allegedly sending the letters herself, law enforcement officials said Friday. It was not immediately clear what charges would be filed against Shannon Guess Richardson of New Boston, Texas, a mother of five who has played bit roles in television shows. Two US law enforcement officials confirmed her arrest to the Associated Press but spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly during the ongoing investigation. John Delk, who represents Nathaniel Richardson, told the AP on Thursday that his client had filed for divorce and may have been set up by his wife.

Feinstein, McCain head to Gitmo. Three weeks after President Obama pledged to renew efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are traveling to the prison in Cuba to observe conditions there four months after detainees began a hunger strike in protest of their continued detention. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough joins them. McCain on Friday announced the trip on Twitter, writing, “Headed down to review the situation at Guantanamo Bay prison today with @SenFeinstein and WH COS Denis McDonough.” Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokesperson, confirmed the trip. The senators and McDonough would be there, Hayden said, “to review the situation there and discuss the steps that we can take with the Congress to meet the president’s goal of closing the facility.”

• A two-star general who commands U.S. Army forces in Japan has been suspended from his duties for allegedly failing to report or properly investigate an allegation of sexual assault, the Army said Friday. Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison was suspended by the Army chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, and Army Secretary John McHugh, the Army said. It provided no details about the alleged sexual assault case.

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