Another Piece of the Snowden-NSA Leaks Puzzle Falls into Place

64 Gigabyte thumb drive

64 Gigabyte thumb drive

Another piece of the puzzle fell into place this morning when Ken Dilanian of the LA Times broke the news that Edward Snowden somehow managed to save stolen data on a thumb drive and walk out of the NSA facility in Hawaii with it.

Former National Security Agency contract employee Edward Snowden used a computer thumb drive to smuggle highly classified documents out of an NSA facility in Hawaii, using a portable digital device supposedly barred inside the cyber spying agency, U.S. officials said.

Investigators “know how many documents he downloaded and what server he took them from,” said one official who would not be named while speaking about the ongoing investigation.

Snowden worked as a system administrator, a technical job that gave him wide access to NSA computer networks and presumably a keen understanding of how those networks are monitored for unauthorized downloads.

On Tuesday the Guardian reported that Snowden arrived at Hong Kong airport carrying four laptops. From the article:

As he pulled a small black suitcase and carried a selection of laptop bags over his shoulders, no one would have paid much attention to Ed Snowden as he arrived at Hong Kong International Airport. But Snowden was not your average tourist or businessman. In all, he was carrying four computers that enabled him to gain access to some of the US government’s most highly-classified secrets.

This led a number of security experts to wonder if Snowden had absconded with four NSA computers, which would have been an incredible security failure for the agency. It’s not clear why the Guardian focused on these computers as carrying the stolen classified secrets, but the Guardian’s reporting on this story has so far been flawed by misinformation–perhaps because of a lack of understanding of the relevant technology.

Back to the LA Times article:

Officials said they still don’t know how Snowden got access to an order marked “Top Secret” from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or a highly-classified directive from President Obama authorizing a military target list for cyber attacks. Neither document would be widely shared, or normally available to a low-level NSA employee.

A larger number of NSA employees and contractors might have access to a PowerPoint slide show on PRISM, which uses online data from nine U.S. Internet and technology companies. Snowden said he provided the slides to the Washington Post and The Guardian.

There is another disturbing aspect to Snowden’s actions that is still mysterious. When did he decide to steal the data and when did he begin copying the classified documents? We know that Snowden first contacted journalist and film-maker Laura Poitras in January 2013, and he contacted Glenn Greenwald in February.

But Snowden did not begin working for Booz Allen Hamilton as an NSA contractor until either late March; because when Booz Allen fired him on June 10, they stated that Snowden had worked for them for less than 3 months. This strongly suggests that Snowden deliberately too the job with Booz Allen in order to steal government secrets.

In March of 2012, Snowden was apparently working for Dell, because there is a record of his donating $250 to Ron Paul’s campaign as a Dell employee living at an address in Maryland. When he gave an additional $250 to Paul in May 2012, he gave an address in Waipahu, Hawaii and listed his occupation as “Senior Advisor,” with no employer noted. So what was Snowden doing between May 2012 and March 2012 when he went to work as an NSA contractor for Booz Allen?

I guess we’ll find out eventually. Stay tuned.

This is an open thread.


Glenn Greenwald’s NSA Source, Edward Snowden, Outs Himself

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Another “bombshell” from Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian: the NSA whistleblower reveals his name, his reasons for copying classified material, and his plans for the future.

He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor [He is currently employed at Booz Allen Hamilton] that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

Snowden apparently decided to leave his life behind and begin a new one. He told the Guardian “I do not expect to see home again.” And if that isn’t dramatic enough, he has barely left his hotel room since arriving in Hong Kong because

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

OK, I’m in no position to evaluate the truth value of all this. It does sound a little paranoid, but look what has happened to Bradley Manning. Certainly the Feds will go after Snowden, whether his revelations are truly damaging to U.S. national security or not and despite the fact that other journalists than Greenwald are now pooh-poohing the revelations.

So who is Snowden? He has an unusual biography for someone in his position. He grew up in North Carolina. He was not a very good student and never graduated from high school, although he took computing courses at a community college. He went into an army special forces training program, hoping to go to Iraq, but he was badly injured and had to be discharged.

After that he worked at the NSA as a security guard, then somehow because of his apparent genius for computers he stepped up the CIA where he worked on IT network security. He eventually worked in Switzerland under diplomatic cover. He gradually became disillusioned and left the CIA to work for private contractors.

He thinks the

value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

You can read the rest at the Guardian.

I really don’t know what to think at this point. I’m not sure if we have learned anything new beyond what we have known throughout the Bush and Obama administrations–that we are being spied upon constantly, but government and corporations. I hate it, and I hope these revelations–whether they are new or not–may lead to change.

I’m going to add a few more links to add to the discussion.

Reuters: Senator seeks review of Patriot Act amid surveillance report

Bob Cesca: NSA Bombshell Story Falling Apart Under Scrutiny; Key Facts Turning Out to Be Inaccurate

ZDNet: The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism

Rayne at Emptywheel: Truck-sized Holes: Journalists Challenged by Technology Blindness

Reuters: Government likely to open criminal probe into NSA leaks: officials

Tim Shorrock: Who’s helping the NSA? A Look at Palantir

What are you hearing and reading? What do you think?


Thursday Reads: NSA Spying, Philly Building Collapse, MA Senate Debate, and Much More

Dog_needs_his_morning_coffee

Good Morning!!

Glenn Greenwald got a big scoop in the Guardian yesterday, and for once even the corporate media in the U.S. is covering it. Not that any of us is really safe from government spying, but if you’re a Verizon customer you now know that all of your phone records are being handed over to the FBI and the NSA. Here’s the top secret court decision. Greenwald writes:

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

Good thing they’re not recording the content of my calls with Verizon customers; because if the government spies had to listen to what we talk about, they’d probably be bored to tears.

From Charlie Savage and Edward Wyatt at The New York Times:

The four-page order was disclosed Wednesday evening by the newspaper The Guardian.Obama administration officials at the F.B.I. and the White House also declined to comment on it Wednesday evening, but did not deny the report, and a person familiar with the order confirmed its authenticity. “We will respond as soon as we can,” said Marci Green Miller, a National Security Agency spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

The order was sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under a section of theForeign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that regulates domestic surveillance for national security purposes, including “tangible things” like a business’s customer records. The provision was expanded by Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which Congress enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The order was marked “TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN,” referring to communications-related intelligence information that may not be released to noncitizens. That would make it among the most closely held secrets in the federal government, and its disclosure comes amid a furor over the Obama administration’s aggressive tactics in its investigations of leaks.

The collection of call logs is set to expire in July unless the court extends it.

The collection of communications logs — or calling “metadata” — is believed to be a major component of the Bush administration’s program of surveillance that took place without court orders. The newly disclosed order raised the question of whether the government continued that type of information collection by bringing it under the Patriot Act.

This morning the White House is defending the order for Verizon phone records. From Politico:

The Obama administration is defending itself against charges it secretly obtained records for Verizon phone calls made in the United States, arguing that the policy is a vital tool in monitoring terrorists and has the approval of “all three branches of government,” according to a senior administration official.

“On its face, the order reprinted in the article does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls,” a White House official said. “The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.”

Still, the White House official declined to confirm the legitimacy of the classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order published Wednesday by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, which described a wide sweep of Verizon calls both domestic and international by Americans by the National Security Agency.

“Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States,” the official said.

Six people are now reported dead and fourteen injured in the collapse of a building in Philadelphia yesterday, according to Reuters.

Six people were killed and 14 were injured yesterday when a four-story building under demolition collapsed in downtown Philadelphia, burying a neighboring thrift store in concrete and debris, officials said.

Search and rescue efforts continued into the night for more victims of the collapse, which occurred around 10:45 a.m. EDT, and Mayor Michael Nutter suggested at a late night news conference that the number of casualties could rise.

“We still do not know how many people were inside the thrift store or possibly on the sidewalk” at the time of the collapse, Nutter said. “If someone else is in that building, they will find them.”

Shortly after the mayor concluded his press briefing a 61-year-old woman was pulled from the rubble alive, more than 12 hours after the collapse, and taken to a hospital in critical condition….

Dozens of police and firefighters were still sifting through the chunks of concrete and splintered wooden boards past midnight, the scene lit by large spotlights as residents stood by watching. Several streets remained blocked off.

When I first heard about this, I thought it was a controlled demolition and wondered why the area hadn’t been cleared of people first. Apparently, the collapse was completely unexpected.

One witness, 31-year-old Dan Gillis of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, a construction worker on a job across the street, said he saw a crane remove a supporting beam from the front of the building and then the wall next to the thrift store started swaying.

Jeffrey Fehnel, 48, of Philadelphia, said a backhoe hit the rear side of the building at about the same time.

“The building came down. It was like a big blast,” Fehnel told Reuters.

It sounds really scary.

An 84-year-old retired woman from Maine collected the second-biggest Powerball jackpot in history yesterday in Florida.

When Gloria C. MacKenzie went to a Florida supermarket near Tampa last month to buy a Powerball ticket, another person in line did something nice for the 84-year-old widow.

‘‘While in line at Publix, another lottery player was kind enough to let me go ahead of them in line to purchase the winning Quick Pick ticket,’’ she said in a statement Wednesday.

The nice gesture turned out to be a life-changing one for MacKenzie and her family. She came forward Wednesday to claim the biggest undivided lottery jackpot in history, $590 million.

A retiree from Maine and a mother of four who lives in a modest, tin-roof house in Zephyrhills, Fla., where the lone winning ticket in the May 18 drawing was sold, MacKenzie took her prize in a lump sum of just over $370 million. After federal taxes, she is getting about $278 million, lottery officials said….

MacKenzie bought the winning ticket at a Publix supermarket in the town of about 13,300, which is 30 miles northeast of Tampa. It is best known for the bottled spring water that bears its name — and now, for one of the biggest lottery winners of all time.

The family of a dying ten-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis yesterday won the chance to live with an adult lung transplant after HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibilius declined to make a rule exception for her.

(CNN) – The father of a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl who desperately needs new lungs told CNN on Wednesday night the family was “very excited” after a judge’s ruling that could help his daughter get a transplant.

Sarah Murnaghan’s father, Fran, said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ that his daughter, who has cystic fibrosis, has declined slightly in the last two days.

“But we’re very excited with the news today, that she will have the opportunity to be equally judged and have the opportunity to receive lungs,” he said.

On Wednesday, the family asked a federal judge to issue a restraining order to block U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from having the agency that oversees transplants apply a policy that keeps children younger than 12 from being prioritized for available adult lung transplants.

The judge granted the injunction and ordered Sebelius to direct the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network to waive the rule in Sarah’s case. The injunction is valid for 10 days.

Last night Rep. Ed Markey and his Republican opponent Gabriel Gomez debated for the first time in the important Massachusetts Senate race. With so many Democratic senators retiring, there is a real danger that Republicans could take control of the Senate. From The Boston Globe: Gomez, Markey spar over D.C. gridlock, Benghazi

An aggressive Gabriel E. Gomez wasted no opportunity to mockingly highlight Democrat Edward J. Markey’s nearly four decades in Washington while Markey used the first debate of the US Senate race Wednesday to paint his Republican rival as dangerously out of step with Massachusetts values.

During an hourlong face-off, Gomez repeatedly sought to link his opponent to a Congress mired in dysfunction and deeply unpopular with voters. Markey countered those attacks by arguing that for all his claims of bipartisanship, Gomez would join a GOP that has lurched to the right on issues such as gun control and abortion.

Gomez had difficulty articulating a coherent position on abortion.

Gomez said he could support a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions, saying that “is not asking a lot.” He also said he could vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee who opposes Roe v. Wade.

“I don’t believe there should be a litmus test,” he said. “If a judge comes in front of me and they follow the Constitution, and they’re ethical, and they’re prochoice, and they’ve done a good job, I’ll vote for them. If they’re prolife, I’ll vote for them.”

At the same time, he sought to defuse the issue, saying that while he was “personally prolife,” he was not planning to go to Washington to make any changes in abortion rights law.

Markey scoffed at that assertion, arguing that the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who opposes Roe v. Wade could jeopardize legalized abortion. He said he would not vote to confirm Supreme Court nominees who oppose abortion rights, saying that was the same test espoused by senators Edward M. Kennedy, Kerry, and Elizabeth Warren.

The special election to fill John Kerry’s Senate seat will be held on June 25.

I came across this scary article at Truthout yesterday: America’s Secret Fukushima Poisoning the Bread Basket of the World

Early in the morning of July 16, 1979, a 20-foot section of the earthen dam blocking the waste pool for the Church Rock Uranium Mill in New Mexico caved in and released 95 million gallons of highly acidic fluid containing 1,100 tons of radioactive material. The fluid and waste flowed into the nearby Puerco River, traveling 80 miles downstream, leaving toxic puddles and backing up local sewers along the way.

Although this release of radiation, thought to be the largest in US history, occurred less than four months after the Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown, the Church Rock spill received little media attention. In contrast, the Three Mile Island accident made the headlines. And when the residents of Church Rock asked their governor to declare their community a disaster area so they could get recovery assistance, he refused.

What was the difference between the Church Rock spill and the Three Mile Island partial meltdown? Church Rock is situated in the Navajo Nation, one of the areas in the US sacrificed to supply uranium for the Cold War and for nuclear power plants. That area and many others in the Navajo Nation are contaminated to this day. Another sacrifice area is the Great Sioux Nation, a region in the western part of the country comprising parts of 5 states, where thousands of open uranium mine pits continue to release radiation and heavy metals into the air, land and water.

This poisoning of the people in the Navajo and Great Sioux Nations has been going on for decades and has had serious effects on their health. Even today, it is unknown what the full effects are and what the impact is on the rest of the nation and world because the contaminated air and water are not limited by borders.

Please go read the whole thing.

Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Fall is here, and suddenly, I find myself seeking out foods made with pumpkin, like pumpkin-apple muffins. I’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte, but I’m thinking of trying one. I found a recipe for pumpkin syrup on line.

Pumpkin Spice Syrup

INGREDIENTS
1½ cups water
1½ cups sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cloves
3 tbsp. pumpkin puree

DIRECTIONS

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Toss in the cinnamon sticks and whisk in the remaining spices and the pumpkin puree. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, without letting the mixture come to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth and store in your container of choice. Store in the refrigerator.

To make a pumpkin spice latte, combine 2 ounces of hot coffee or 1 shot of hot espresso (about 1-1½ ounces) with 5-6 ounces of steamed low-fat milk. Stir in 1½-2 tablespoons of the pumpkin spice syrup. Taste and adjust amounts accordingly. Top as desired with freshly whipped cream, ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce (optional – sort of).

I’ve also heard that pumpkin oatmeal is really good. I’m might try that with the leftovers. Now, let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

Yesterday, I posted about Romney’s crass exploitation of the death of former Navy Seal Glen Doherty in the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Last night I learned that Doherty was active in the fight to prevent right-wing fundamentalists from completely taking over the U.S. military. Mikey Weinstein, who has fought the good fight for years, wrote about it at Huffington Post.

I had the extreme good fortune, honor and privilege to work alongside Glen for years as a longtime member of the Advisory Board of the four-time, Nobel Peace Prize-nominated, civil rights charitable organization I founded and currently serve as president of called the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). We currently are assisting over 30,000 American military personnel fighting against Christian fundamentalist religious extremism in our own armed forces. Glen selflessly served as a passionate, ’round-the-clock’ supporter of MRFF based on his fervent belief in its mission to protect the secular nature of the U.S. Military and the imperative this secular nature has to our national security. Separation of church and state in the United States military was not a trivial matter for Glen. It was his mantra.

Based upon our profound, mutual working experiences with MRFF, I’m truly fascinated about what Mitt Romney actually “learned about him”. During his chance meeting with Glen at that Christmas party a few years ago, did candidate Romney learn about his close personal and professional relationship with MRFF? Other fascinating learning opportunities for Mr. Romney regarding Glen’s deep support of and belief in MRFF and what we stand for may have revealed to him some very “uncomfortable” facts about the life of this true American Hero.

Please click the link and read the list of initiatives that Doherty supported. Of Romney’s shameful use of Doherty’s story for political purposes, Weinstein writes:

As informed citizens of the United States, we are all too aware of the rampant grandiose hyperbole generated as a result of our political campaigns. This absolutely disgusting, opportunistic travesty however was so much more, and so much lower, than the usual political ‘pablum’ that courses through our normal campaign emissions. This “performance” was simply naked and shameful exploitation of the life and memory of an actual American Hero. Romney did not “know” Glen. His insinuation that he somehow had a connection to Glen is disingenuous at best and a naked lie at worst. It is bold and bald untruthfulness. As Alfred Tennyson said, “A lie that is half truth is the darkest of all lies.” A timely and heartfelt apology is truly in order here.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch the Warren-Brown debate last night, but I read a good review of it at Dailykos by Joan McCarter. Apparently the moderator this time wasn’t an idiot.

What a refreshing Massachusetts Senate debate. From the beginning, when moderator Jim Madigan (thank you WGBY and public television), announced that the questions would be from and based on what the public had sent in, there was hope. When the first question was not about Elizabeth Warren’s heritage, but instead about unemployment and job creation, you knew we were in for a debate of substance.

Without that initial attack on Warren to set Brown up, he came off a little discombobulated. Brown was often scattered, incoherent, and thrown off by the time clock, resorting to mixing all his talking points on “bipartisan” and “job creators” into a mish-mash of word salad when he found himself with extra time. That was regardless of the question asked of him. He also failed in controlling the nasty, taking several cheap shots at “Professor” Warren, including blaming her salary and benefits as a Harvard professor for the spiraling costs of higher education.

This debate featured a far more Republican-sounding Brown that any of the previous debates. He railed about tax hikes, on his fealty to Grover Norquist, on the job-killing Obamacare. It was a bizarre juxtaposition to see the guy the tea party was so excited to get elected in 2010 and the “second-most bipartisan senator” fighting for the same brain. The results were bad for Brown.

Read the rest at the link. I’m still glad I didn’t watch it. Watching Paul Ryan tonight will be bad enough for one week.

In another hard-fought Senate race in Missouri, Claire McCaskill has released three new ads in her battle with Todd Akin. Each ad features a rape survivor talking about Akin’s anti-woman policies. Here’s one of the ads:

You can watch the other two ads at the above link.

There’s another terrific war-on-woman ad released by Deb Butler, a Democrat running for the North Carolina state senate. The ad features a transvaginal probe.

North Carolina state Senate candidate Deb Butler has released a new ad that slams Republican incumbent Thom Goolsby for supporting anti-abortion legislation.

“He wouldn’t dare show you this, but this is Thom Goolsby’s contribution to women’s health,” Butler says in the ad, holding a trans-vaginal ultrasound wand. “A medically unnecessary and invasive procedure that is now required by state law. He promised us his first priority would be jobs, but instead he’s following us into the doctor’s office.”

The New York Times offers Trip Gabriel’s Six Things to Watch for in the Biden-Ryan Debate. Gabriel predicts:

1. Biden will hit Ryan (and Romney) with everything he’s got.

Expect Mr. Biden, who is able to deliver cutting sarcasm without seeming angry, to continue to make up for Mr. Obama’s passivity at the first debate by accusing Mr. Romney of dissembling about long-held policies.

2. Biden will attack the Ryan budget.

Republicans and Democrats both rejoiced when Mr. Romney picked Mr. Ryan because the ticket was married to Mr. Ryan’s audacious House budgets with deep cuts in federal spending.

Although the budget, which Mr. Romney has largely endorsed, does not specify how programs will be cut, Mr. Biden will happily fill in the blanks by saying that an equal, across-the-board cut would mean eliminating 38,000 teachers and dropping 200,000 children from Head Start.

The remaining issues are Medicare cuts, the fiscal cliff, foreign affairs, and possible gaffes, especially by Biden. Of course we’ll have a live blog of the debate tonight.

The Supreme Court yesterday refused to hear a suit against telcoms who received immunity for spying on American citizens.

The Supreme Court has ended a 6-year-old class-action lawsuit against the nation’s telecommunications carriers for secretly helping the National Security Agency monitor phone calls and emails coming into and out of this country.

The suit was dealt a death blow in 2008 when Congress granted retroactive immunity to people or companies aiding U.S. intelligence agents.

Without comment, the justices turned down appeals from civil liberties advocates who contended this mass surveillance was unconstitutional and illegal.

This month the justices are set to hear a separate case to decide whether NSA officials can be sued for authorizing this allegedly unconstitutional mass wiretapping.

That should be enough to get some discussion started. Now what are you reading and blogging about?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! Let’s see what’s in the news today.

Mitt Romney has been whining about the “liberal media” giving him a hard time, but a new Pew survey has found that the “liberal media” are friendlier to Mitt Romney than President Obama. Adam Serwer at Mother Jones:

The Liberal Media has consistently given more positive coverage to likely Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney compared to President Barack Obama, according to a new survey of media coverage from the Pew Research Center’s Excellence in Journalism Project.

During the early weeks of 2012, Romney’s media coverage was slightly negative—between January 2 and February 26, 33 percent of the stories about the ex-Massachusetts governor were positive and 37 percent were negative, according to Pew’s analysis. But Romney has received mostly positive coverage since then (47 percent positive to 24 percent negative). By contrast, according to the report, President Barack Obama “did not have a single week in 2012 when positive coverage exceeded negative coverage.”

Check out the full report at the Pew link.

Florida Rep. Allen West was booted from an NAACP fund-raiser because of his claim that around 80 Democrats in the House of Representatives are card-carrying members of the Communist Party.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) was supposed to be the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for his district chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) this past Saturday. But days before the event, the group canceled the gathering and asked West not to come back when they rescheduled. Why?

“There’s a certain statement he made about Communists,” Jerry Gore, president of the Martin County NAACP, told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. “That statement alone … we do not represent that type of atmosphere.”

But that didn’t keep West from making more ludicrous remarks. Yesterday, he claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood is “being allowed to influence strategy.”

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) criticized the FBI on Monday for removing nearly 900 pages of training material it deemed to be offensive, saying it showed extremist Muslim groups were influencing national strategy.

The FBI made the move after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) complained about some passages, including one that advised agents to “never attempt to shake hands with an Asian” and another that said agents should expect “outbursts” from Arab minds.

West said that by removing such passages, the FBI was committing “cultural suicide” and allowing groups like the Muslim Brotherhood to influence U.S. policy.

“We have to understand that when tolerance becomes a one-way street it leads to cultural suicide,” West told “Fox and Friends” on Monday. “We should not allow the Muslim Brotherhood or associated groups to be influencing our national strategy.”

When asked if he believed those groups were influencing U.S. strategy, West responded, “Oh, absolutely,” and cited the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting report that didn’t mention the suspect’s Muslim faith as a potential motive for the killings.

In another throwback to the McCarthy era, a few days ago Bill O’Reilly accused Robert Reich of being a communist.

Yesterday, Reich responded: Communist Accusations Matter.

For the record, I’m not a communist and I don’t secretly adore Karl Marx.

Ordinarily I don’t bother repeating anything Bill O’Reilly says. But this particular whopper is significant because it represents what O’Reilly and Fox News, among others, are doing to the national dialogue….

O’Reilly based his claim on an interview I did last week with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, in which I argued that because America’s big corporations were now global we could no longer rely on them to make necessary investments in human capital or to lobby for public investments in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D. So, logically, government has to step in.

Since when does an argument for public investment in education, infrastructure, and basic R&D make someone a communist or a secret adorer of Karl Marx?

Since the Tea Party crazies crawled out from under their rocks and took over the Republican Party, I guess. I sure wish they’d crawl back where they came from.

Now this is refreshing. Sen. Tom Harken defended Social Security in the Huffington Post yesterday, and proposed some solutions to future problems:

To strengthen America’s retirement system, my proposal would increase Social Security benefits and greatly improve the financial stability of the program. It does so by:

• Increasing the amount of earnings covered by higher replacement rates in order to increase benefits by approximately $60-70 per month
• Changing the way the COLA is calculated so that it better corresponds to the typical expenses of seniors
• Removing the cap, currently $110,100, that unfairly protects the highest earning Americans from paying into Social Security like the majority of hardworking Americans.

All told, according to the Social Security Actuary, this proposal would extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund to 2052 while cutting the long term funding deficit in half.

I’m sure Mitt Romney will explain to Senator Harkin why it would be wrong to try to raise payroll taxes on high income “job creators.”

Speaking of Willard, the LA Times had an interesting story on Romney’s health care plan–they call it “revolutionary,” and not in a good way.

In public, Romney has only sketched the outlines of a plan, and aides have declined to answer questions about the details. But his public statements and interviews with advisors make clear that Romney has embraced a strategy that in crucial ways is more revolutionary — and potentially more disruptive — than the law Obama signed two years ago.

The centerpiece of Romney’s plan would overhaul the way most Americans get their health coverage: at work. He would do so by giving Americans a tax break to buy their own health plans. That would give consumers more choices, but also more risk.

Critics and independent analysts say the impact would probably leave a larger number of Americans without insurance.

In addition,

While offering consumers more choices, Romney’s plan would give companies strong incentives to stop providing insurance to workers. It also would overhaul the 46-year-old Medicare and Medicaid programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

The plan could swell the federal deficit; a similar plan backed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the 2008 presidential campaign would have cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years, on par with the price tag for the Obama healthcare law.

Romney keeps claiming he’s going to cut the deficit. Somehow I don’t think privatizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will do that. Maybe he thinks he can end those programs completely.

Democracy Now has been running a series on NSA spying. A good starting point is this article at Alternet: Whistleblower: The NSA is Lying — The U.S. Government Has Copies of Most of Your Emails

National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney reveals he believes domestic surveillance has become more expansive under President Obama than President George W. Bush. He estimates the NSA has assembled 20 trillion “transactions” — phone calls, emails and other forms of data — from Americans. This likely includes copies of almost all of the emails sent and received from most people living in the United States.

While you’re at Alternet, here’s another article you should read: How Obama Became a Civil Libertarian’s Nightmare

When Barack Obama took office, he was the civil liberties communities’ great hope. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, pledged to shutter the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and run a transparent and open government. But he has become a civil libertarian’s nightmare: a supposedly liberal president who instead has expanded and fortified many of the Bush administration’s worst policies, lending bipartisan support for a more intrusive and authoritarian federal government.

Please go read the whole thing and then check out Glenn Greenwald’s take on the story.

As I’m sure everyone here knows, we don’t live in a democracy anymore.

So what are you reading and blogging about today?